Yes, money can buy happiness. Here's how.

Spending money to buy yourself time makes you happier, but few actually make the investment, reports a new study by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Harvard Business School (HBS).

Researchers gave 60 people in Vancouver $40 to first spend on material things and then on a time- saver. When participants purchased something material, like clothes or a bottle of wine, they reported an average happiness score of 3.7 on a 5 point scale, writes Seth Borenstein for the New York Times. But when people were asked to purchase time-savers, like getting a taxi or having someone mow their lawn, participant reported an average happiness score of 4, reports Borenstein.

"Money can buy happiness if you spend it right," says study author, Elizabeth Dunn, a UBC psychology professor. To spend money the right way, pay someone to do the "time consuming drudge work" you dread, says study lead Ashley Whillans at HBS.

Dunn theorizes that time-saving tools protect from stress that comes with being pressed for time. The benefits of buying time aren't restricted by income, says Whillans. She notes that people with less money got "a bigger happiness boost" from buying time than those with more.

Yet, only 2% of the group reported that they would purchase time-savers, writes the Canadian Press.

The older you get, the more likely you are to value time over money

Researchers found this aversion towards buying time outside Vancouver as well. After surveying more than 6,000 people in Canada, the United States, Europe, and the Netherlands, researchers found that only 28% spent money to save time, writes Borenstein.

The aversion to treating yourself to time-savers is likely because "people feel guilty spending money on things they could do themselves," says Dunn. While spending money to outsource disliked tasks may feel frivolous, Dunn says "it's a pretty smart decision."

Lynda Jones, a retired nurse who hired a housekeeper to ward off burn out, echoes Dunn's sentiment saying "you can always get money but you can't buy back time" (Borenstein, New York Times, 7/26; Canadian Press, 7/26).

Why Harvard opened a center for happiness

Next in Today's Briefing

Forestry 101: A college's quirky take on orientation

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague