VANCOUVER — Can money buy happiness? Perhaps so, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School surveyed over 600 adults in four Western countries, including the U.S. and Canada, hoping to measure how having a little extra cash can help improve life satisfaction.
Contained within the survey were questions on whether one spent money on goods or services that freed up time — and if they did, the amount they spent on such luxuries.
In addition, respondents were asked to indicate their overall level of life satisfaction, along with the degree to which they felt a shortfall of time.
Regardless of income, individuals who spent some of their wages on time-saving solutions reported greater levels of life satisfaction, the researchers found.
“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” says Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the school and the study’s senior author, in a press release. “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.”
To test their findings, the researchers also set up a field experiment with 60 adults.
Some participants were instructed to spend $40 on a time-saving purchase on a given weekend, while others were told to spend $40 on a material good.
Those who used their hard-earned cash on a time-saving purchase were more satisfied, the researchers found.
Despite this study’s rather unequivocal findings, not so many consumers actually use their money on time-saving purchases. Separate research has found that only half of millionaires are partial to spending money to outsource tasks.
:Although buying time can serve as a buffer against the time pressures of daily life, few people are doing it even when they can afford it,” says Dunn. “Lots of research has shown that people benefit from buying their way into pleasant experiences, but our research suggests people should also consider buying their way out of unpleasant experiences.”
As for the average individual, only two percent would use $40 in spending money toward a time-saving product or service.
The study’s findings were published online last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.