How to Buy Time and Experience Greater Happiness

a year ago   •   5 min read

By Zero Machina

We all want more time — time to spend with our families, time to travel, and time to just live life unbothered. However, the reality is that most of us are too busy working to ever really get a true break.

What can we do to change this? A good place to start is by buying extra time.

That’s right. You can buy time and make yourself happier as a result.

Read on to learn how to buy time and improve your quality of life.

What Does It Mean to Buy Time?

Put simply, buying time involves paying for something that makes your life easier and frees up your schedule. The following are some ways that people buy time:

● Paying for a housekeeper.

● Paying for a nanny or daycare for your children.

● Paying for a lawn care service.

● Paying for grocery delivery, premade meals, or meal prep kits.

When you invest in these things, you’re essentially buying back the time you would have previously spent taking care of them. Instead of dedicating 3 hours to cleaning your house, you can take your kids to the park and spend some quality time with them.

Benefits of Buying Time

Research shows that buying time and investing in things that make our lives easier can make us happier.

This study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at thousands of people from across the world (in the United States, Canada, The Netherlands, and Denmark) and found that those who spent money on time-saving services had a greater sense of life satisfaction compared to those who spent money on material goods.

The results of the study were also consistent regardless of economic status. Wealthy people who spent money to buy time were happier than wealthy people who did not. The same was true of people on the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Research by Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School and the author of the article “Time for Happiness,” reveals similar conclusions.

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review podcast host Curt Nickisch, Whillans talked about the benefits of using money to “buy ourselves out of negative experiences.” She explained that “subtracting negative minutes” from one’s day—such as time stuck in traffic, extra and unproductive work hours, or housecleaning—has a positive impact on one’s happiness.

Whillans also discussed the fact that it can be hard for people to buy back their time because North American culture, specifically, values busyness and sees it as a “status symbol.”

She noted that even though people technically work less and have more time for leisure now than they did in the past, many people feel more stressed. The reason why is because people tend to fill their free time with commuting or tackling other tasks like cleaning, cooking, lawn care, etc.

To combat these issues, her research suggests that buying time and using it on things we truly enjoy can be more beneficial long term.

How to Buy Time

Most of us can agree that we would love to have more time to do things that enrich our lives. You might be wondering how you can make this happen for yourself, though.

Perhaps you think that you don’t have the money to buy time, or maybe you don’t know what kinds of investments to make to see greater returns.

If you’re not sure how to buy time so you can feel happier, follow these steps:

1. Make a Conscious Decision

The first step to buying time is making a conscious decision to do so. If you want to be happier and experience the benefits discussed above, you need to sit down and commit to buying time and free up your schedule.

2. Prioritize

The next step is to make another conscious decision. Specifically, you should decide what tasks or responsibilities you’re going to pay someone else to handle.

Think about the tasks that take up the most space in your schedule. Do you spend several hours per week cleaning your house? Do you spend a lot of time shopping for groceries and preparing meals for your family?

Consider which investments will provide you with the greatest returns as well. In other words, what time-saving service can you spend money on that will make your life easier and happier?

If you love cooking, you might decide that you don’t want to spend money on a meal-delivery kit. If you hate cleaning, though, it might be better to pay a housekeeper who comes once a week to help you maintain order.

3. Evaluate Your Budget

Some people are hesitant about buying time because they assume they don’t have the money to pay someone to do things for them.

You might not have the budget to pay for a housekeeper, a meal delivery service, a nanny, and a lawn care service. However, you may have enough money to pay for one or two of these services.

Look at your budget and be honest about what you can afford. At the same time, remember the benefits you can experience by buying time. This may encourage you to make certain sacrifices so you can have more of it.

For example, in her interview with HBR, Whillans referenced paying more money per month for an apartment closer to her job so she didn’t have to spend time commuting each day.

4. Use Your Newly Purchased Time Wisely

Once you outsource certain tasks, make sure you’re using your newly purchased time in meaningful ways.

Rather than using the extra hours you bought by paying for grocery delivery on additional work, you’d likely be better served going on an outing with your kids or spending an hour at the gym.

Don’t forget, there’s no right or wrong way to use your time. You get to decide what is meaningful to you.

5. Beware of Excessive Outsourcing

Whillans research also reveals that people who outsource too much experience lower levels of happiness.

This is because excessive outsourcing makes people feel as though their lives are out of control, to the point that they can't do basic tasks like laundry or grocery shopping on their own.

She added that most people want to feel that they can do it all—especially in North America.

6. Focus on How It Benefits Others

If you think that you’ll feel guilty about outsourcing, pick just one thing to start with—cleaning, lawn care, etc.

Whillans also recommends reminding yourself about the benefits that buying time provides. It frees up your schedule, makes you happier, and benefits people in your life. This gives you the freedom to spend more quality time with your partner, children, friends, and other loved ones.

Keep in mind, too, that buying time benefits the lives of the people you’re paying. When you pay someone to clean your house or care for your lawn, you’re supporting a business—likely a small and local one—that could use more customers.

Next Steps: Better Control Your Time

Now that you know how to buy time, are you ready to pull out your credit card and make some wise investments? Follow the strategies listed above and you’ll start seeing improvements in your life.

If you’re looking for tools you can use to take back control of your schedule, you should also check out Undock.

Undock is a tool that helps you find time and control it. Instantly propose times or share your calendar while texting, writing emails, messaging on Slack, sending social media DMs, and more! It's the fastest way to schedule, anywhere.

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