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To Promote Happiness, Choose Time Over Money

Ashley Whillans and Elizabeth Dunn: To find out whether people who use this strategy are better off, we surveyed more than 6,000 adults in Canada, Denmark, the U.S., and the Netherlands. People who spent money on time-saving purchases reported greater satisfaction with their lives. We also conducted an experiment with 60 working adults living in Vancouver, Canada. On a summer weekend, we gave them $40 to spend in any way that would save time. Because just getting spending money might be nice, we also gave them $40 to spend on a different weekend, but this time we told them to buy a material thing, like books or clothes. On average, people were happier after spending $40 on a time-saving purchase than after spending the same amount on a material thing, and the happiness benefits of “buying time” were explained by reductions in feelings of time pressure. Of course, spending money on time-saving purchases is not the only effective way to navigate trade-offs between time and money.

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