Study: Spending money makes you happier, but there\'s a catch

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COLUMBIA -  New television or cleaning service? New shoes or lawn care? A new study suggests time-saving purchases make people happier than spending money on material goods.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was done by researchers who wanted to address the “unexamined route from wealth to well-being.” 

"Around the world, increases in wealth have produced an unintended consequence: a rising sense of time scarcity,” researchers said. "We provide evidence that using money to buy time can provide a buffer against this time famine, thereby promoting happiness.”

 The study was a compilation of eight different experiments, with sample groups from the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.  

 Researches gave one group two payments of $40 to spend on two weekends. The first weekend they could only spend it on time-saving services. The second weekend they could spend it on material purchases. 

“You can definitely infer cause and effect from this particular study. They found that spending money on saving time led to a higher level of happiness," psychologist Milla Titova said. 

Titova said the way the researchers measured happiness came down to something pretty simple.

"People just felt better at the end of the day," she said. 

People in Columbia had different opinions when asked what purchase makes them happier. 

Grace Shemwell said she believes in spending on time-saving services. 

“Time is very important to me. I don't have a lot of it, and what I do have I like to spend with people and with friends or sometimes just home alone. So you know, if I can turn my dry cleaning in somewhere else, I would rather do that,” Shemwell said. 

 Omar Bilal said saving time is not a priority for him.

"I do it myself. It's not really that hard."

Then there were those who felt their choice could go either way depending on circumstances.

Bryce Null said, “If my bank account looks really good one week, then yeah I may spend the extra money on the time-saving service. If the bank account is a little bit lower then I'll probably do something myself.”

Researchers said they did take income into account.

Psychology Professor Kennon Sheldon said it's an important factor.

 “As a concrete example, my wife swears she gets a giant boost from paying somebody to clean our house. But you might ask: is that just a result of the fact that we now have enough money to pay for house cleaning, whereas we were broke for a long time?” 

Titova said the researcher's methods were solid.

 "Some of their samples were representative. Technically when you get a representative sample it should match the overall demographics of the country. Their representative sample was American, so it should be the same level as overall average income in America," she said. 

While the study did pass both psychologist's income test, Titova said one thing was left to note. 

“Time-saving service should target something that we really dislike to do. So it's not only saving us time, which is precious in itself, but also helps avoiding a disliked activity. So it's kind of a two-in-one here. You're avoiding doing something you dislike, and you felt a lot less stressed because you don't have that time-crushing experience," Titova said.  

 

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