The saying goes that money can’t buy happiness, but new science has proven that old adage wrong.
While research shows it doesn’t take much money to improve your mood, it does need to be spent on just the right thing.
A global study, published in the prestigious PNAS journal in the US, found that working adults reported greater levels of happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase rather than on a material purchase. This helped them to alleviate what the researchers called the “time famine of modern life”.
Increasingly fast-paced and stressful lifestyles are affecting life satisfaction, but by targeting spending on small things which help buy back some time, people are able to harness a greater sense of control over their time and can boost their wellbeing.
The report’s authors wrote: “These results suggest that using money to buy time can protect people from the detrimental effects of time pressure on life satisfaction.”
And the outcome was the same for people on low and high incomes, the researchers said, suggesting that “people from various socioeconomic backgrounds benefit from making time-saving purchases”.
Australian researchers agree
Western Sydney University’s Professor James Arvanitakis, of the Institute for Culture and Society, told The New Daily money can help free up more time by, for example, paying a cleaner, driver, cook or nanny to complete everyday tasks.
“Time is so valuable that sometimes the most decadent thing we can do is take our time to do things like sleeping in, reading the paper over a cup of coffee or going on a date night with your partner,” he said.
“Because we have so little spare time, there is an amazing amount of enjoyment. It gives us time to rejuvenate, think, reflect and enjoy being alive.
“Rather than looking at being busy and successful, we should look at success as having the time to do all the things we want: career, family and time with ourselves.”
Time is ‘increasingly valuable’
Dr Melissa Weinberg of the Australian Centre on Quality of Life at Deakin University said the two most important aspects to our happiness include feeling a sense of achievement in life and satisfaction in relationships.
“This study isn’t about saving time, it’s about the freedom to choose how we use our time,” she said.
“Time is a precious resource and the busier we are, the more valuable our time becomes, so it’s important we feel that we are in control of how we spend the time we have.
“If you can afford the luxury of being able to pay somebody to do a task that you find mundane or unfulfilling, you’ll have more time at your discretion to spend on the things that do make you happy.”
But social scientist Brian Martin from the University of Wollongong said that the study’s focus on money may not be the best option, given that other research has shown that those with more money can in fact be less happy.
“There are lots of ways to improve happiness for which money is a minor consideration, including deepening one’s relationships, expressing gratitude, being optimistic, helping others, exercising, practising mindfulness and practising forgiveness,” he told The New Daily.
“It may be better to change habits concerning these before worrying about money matters. Most importantly, these options are far more likely to increase happiness than spending lots of time and effort trying to make more money.”
All of which brings to mind another old saying – ‘time is money’.
Recast for modern times, it may be more accurate to say ‘money is time’, which has become one of the scarcest and most valuable resources we have.