You’ve most likely heard the saying, “money can’t buy happiness,” but a new piece of research suggests otherwise.

A study, conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, found that those who spent their money on time-saving purchases, such as a housecleaner, report an overall improvement in their well-being.

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“People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy,” lead study author Ashley Whillans said in a statement. “But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money.”

In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Whillans and her colleagues surveyed more than 6,000 adults in the United States, Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands. They all answered a number of questions, including how often they spend each month to buy themselves free time, how they felt during feelings of stress due to time, and how satisfied they felt with their life.

The survey results revealed that regardless of a person’s income, those who reported spending more money on time-saving purchases reported greater life satisfaction.

“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” the study’s senior author Elizabeth Dunn said. “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.”

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To further test their findings, the researchers conducted a small experiment involving 60 adults. The participants were randomly assigned to spend $40 on a time-saving purchase, and on another occasion, they were told to spend $40 on a material purchase. In line with the authors' original findings, the experiment results revealed that when people spent money on a time-saving purchase they reported being happier than when they bought a material item. Interestingly enough, other research conducted by the same study authors revealed that a majority of people do not spend their funds on time-saving purchases.

“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,” Dunn said. “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.”

In the future, Dunn hopes to study why adults are hesitant to make time-saving purchases, even when they have the means to do so.

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