A new study suggests if want to be happier, we’ve got to spend money to save ourselves time
The American work ethic is intense. We pretty much never stop working–even when we’re not at work–and we typically hate to pay other people to do tasks we are perfectly capable of doing on our own. Even if doing so would make our lives easier, and thus make us happier. So what can we do about it? Well, according to a new study, we should start spending money to save ourselves some time.
Think about it. Most of us–especially parents–spend such a significant amount of time playing catch-up on housework and doing other tasks we hate doing, but they have to be done. So we do them. How many times do we set our kids up with the iPad so we can get some long overdue housework done? Or when we cook dinner? Have you ever been out enjoying time with your family, but harbored anxiety about your messy house or piles of laundry that await you at home? Sure you have.
According to the study, we’re all doing ourselves a disservice by not spending money to dole out these tasks. The main takeaway suggests that if we spend money to save time, we’ll reduce stress about the limited time in the day. Which alleviates many worries and improves happiness.
“People who spent money to buy themselves time, such as by outsourcing disliked tasks, reported greater overall life satisfaction,” Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and lead author of the study, told the New York Times.
In one round of the study, thousands of people from the United States, Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands were surveyed on money spent on well-being and time-saving purchases, like hiring a housekeeper, ordering takeout, taking a cab, and paying people to run errands for them. Those who made such purchases reported “greater life satisfaction” than those who didn’t.
Interestingly, the financial status of those surveyed didn’t impact the results of who outsources tasks. Everyone benefits from making things a little easier on themselves. If spending money on something improves your life and makes you happier–even if it’s something small–you can find a way to do it. If hiring a housekeeper or ordering out isn’t cost-friendly for your family, it’s important to find other ways to lighten your load. Ordering groceries online, for example, and using a free pick-up service, can save time and money because you’re not wandering around the store, adding a bunch of things that aren’t on your list into your cart.
Now many of you are probably still thinking, Oh a housekeeper? Must be nice. That’s for rich people. Which, sure, it can be. But it doesn’t have to be. For example, one of my best friends budgets very wisely and cuts back on certain things (like trading in her fully paid-off 2008 Ford Focus, for instance) so she can afford a bi-weekly housekeeper. She agonized over whether to hire one for months and months, because she too suffers from the serious condition of Mom Guilt. But once she realized how relieved she was to have a little help–and how happy it made her and therefore her family–she became a firm believer in spending money to save time. Time better spent with her two kids, or even on herself sometimes, anxiety-free.
We all want to seem like we’ve got it all together, that we can handle everything ourselves. But when it comes to improving your overall life happiness, it seems we can also handle spending a little money on some self-care.