Yes, money can buy you happiness – if it saves you time!

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By Sabrina Almeida

That’s what a new study discovered. So, if you’ve been depressed or less than happy despite your regular shopping excursions and the latest branded offerings or luxury vehicle, it could be because possessions are less gratifying.

According to recent research you might find that ‘buying time’ is more satisfying. Like having someone clean your house, do your groceries or give you a ride!

My husband raised his eyebrows when I told him this… because he has been trying to get me to outsource some of my household chores. I’ve been holding on firmly while dragging my irritated self around the house every weekend. Probably more out of misplaced guilt than the ‘free workout’ I claim it gives me. The same guilt that some study participants admitted drove them to continue with drudge tasks even if money was not the issue. A girl friend was of the same opinion and remarked how she was fitter than her neighbour who traded housekeeping for the gym. I felt vindicated at that time but am now seriously questioning our motivation.

We’ve all heard about the experience (like spa days, skydiving and travel) versus the belongings comparison but the new revelation about time-saving investments puts a whole new spin on happiness. And marital bliss too, I might add.

A friend told me many years ago that he had gifted his wife maid service. This was not so much to save her time and effort but to minimize the quarreling. Having observed that most of their arguments revolved around cleaning the house, he decided to eliminate the source of problem. It worked! And she was smart. She retained the maid. Unlike another who was so consumed with guilt and gave it up after a year.

Coincidentally the new research also revealed that doling out money for housekeeping chores did appear to make people happier than a trip to the local mall.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the said study surveyed spending habits of more than 6,000 men and women across Canada, the United States, Netherlands and Denmark. Participants were given $40 for two weeks. In the first they were instructed to spend it on materials things and in the second on time-saving services like housekeeping, taxis, delivery service, etc. The international team of researchers found that people were happier saving time and giving away mundane tasks than purchasing material items. Unless it was a gadget that saved them time and effort.

A lady who decided to live it up after a painful divorce will testify to this. The irony is that she did not have much to live on. But she hired a maid and enjoyed every minute of her free time.

Perhaps we ought to learn from the the millennials, Gen Y and Z who emphasize the value of time and experience. It would also take a lot of swallowing and choking on my part—considering how hard I’ve tried to get my 20-something and almost-18 to change their ways.

But I’m a work in progress and beginning to see the light… all be it in small rays.

For those of us who tend to think about saving money rather than time, crunching the numbers might prove us wrong. Especially if you substitute purchases that get pushed to the back of your closet with housekeeping services or the growing number of pills we ingest with a short holiday.

Reactions to the study revealed what most South Asian immigrants will agree with—that we are so bogged down with ‘housework’ when compared to the home country where maids, laundry and home delivery services are the norm. Imagine all that you could do with that free time.

The phrase ‘time is money’ has a whole new meaning after all!

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