For centuries, we’ve been taught that money doesn’t buy happiness. “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants,” the great Benjamin Franklin once said. However, a new study suggests this old adage may have a caveat—money can buy you happiness. It just depends on how you spend it.
Researchers from Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia conducted a two-tiered study about using money to purchase free time instead of material things. For example, would you be happier if you paid for someone to clean your home or if you bought a new pair of jeans?
First, the researchers surveyed over 6,000 adult subjects in Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States. They asked respondents how much they spent monthly on buying free time, and also how they rated their life satisfaction. Those who spent more on stress-relieving, time-buying activities were happier with their lives. And, this was regardless of income level.
To further confirm the results, the researchers launched a field study in which 60 subjects were given $80 to spend over the course of two weekends. On the first weekend, they were tasked with spending $40 on a time-saving activity (like hiring a landscaper or a maid). On the second weekend, they spent the remaining $40 on a material purchase. Overall, the participants reported greater happiness on the weekend in which they purchased a time-saving activity.
Unfortunately, research reveals that very few of us spend our money on purchases that can reduce our stress. In one survey, almost all of the 98 respondents reported they would spend $40 on material things.
For so long, we’ve viewed money as a barrier between our current state and personal happiness. However, if we refocus our energy (and our spending habits), money can indeed buy us happiness.
If you would like to pursue the original study, go to:
Ed Diener, Sarah D. Pressman, John Hunter, Desiree Delgadillo-Chase. If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2017; 9 (2): 133 DOI: 10.1111/aphw.12090