How to Buy Yourself More Time

Can money really buy you happiness? According to researchers – yes – it can buy you time, which in turn can boost your happiness!

Last summer, a group of researchers published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they found when people spend money on time-saving services like a house cleaner, lawn care, or grocery delivery they experience a boost in happiness. In contrast, when they spend money on things, it didn’t boost their happiness in the same way.

Time is an incredibly scarce and limited resource. No matter how hard we try we can’t earn ourselves more time and we can’t really save it either. We can only use the time we have to the best of our ability. What would you pay for an extra couple of hours to spend with the people you love doing the things you love?

And yet, most of us seem unwilling to pay for it. Why would we pay someone else to do something that we could do for ourselves? Doesn’t that make us lazy, or even entitled?

My experience this summer has really changed my perspective on this. I’ve always been someone who’s valued experience over things. But I’ve also been someone who’s naturally unwilling to pay for the things that we could do ourselves. After my husband’s accident, we didn’t have a lot of choices. We had to begin accepting help from our community and paying for services we wouldn’t have paid for otherwise.

We started this process by having our groceries delivered. As long as you put in an order of over $100 our local grocery store will deliver your groceries to your home – all you owe is a tip! I always assumed this service was reserved for people who really needed it – the homebound, busy families, mom’s with small children – but in fact it’s available to everyone. And, at a time when I couldn’t leave the house except to pick up my husband’s prescriptions, it was a lifesaver and a timesaver.

We also hired someone to mow our lawn. It has allowed us to have a nicely manicured lawn without having to think twice about it. It’s also given me back countless hours of my life, and saved my husband countless hours of feeling guilty for not being able to help me. It’s one less thing we have to worry about. And, we can take pride in our good-looking lawn.

While we started out buying these services out of necessity, it will be interesting to see if we keep the services because of the extra time (and happiness) they’ve brought to our busy lives.

I realize this is a strategy that won’t work for everyone. Maybe your budget is so tight that you can’t imagine paying someone to do something you could do yourself. But there are plenty of ways that you can save time with minimal investment. One example is a grocery pick-up service from my local grocery store. As long as your order is over $100 they will do your shopping for you and you can pick up your groceries for free. Looking to place a smaller order? It’s just $2.50 – less than a cup of coffee.

But one of my favorite discoveries that has saved me both money and time  - not to mention stress and anxiety - is taking public transit. Instead of buckling in for a frustrating bumper to bumper traffic drive – especially in the winter, I settle into my seat on an air-conditioned coach bus that’s wi-fi enabled. Taking public transit buys me an extra hour of time for myself every day. I actually write most of my blog articles on the bus on the way to work in the morning. Taking public transit has encouraged me to walk more, become more connected to my community, and saved me a lot of money on parking in downtown Minneapolis. As an introvert, that extra hour each day is precious – it helps me to be more present with others (at home and at work) when I get off the bus.

Looking to buy yourself more time? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

·      What do you wish you had more time for in your life? As a type-A introvert, I always wish I had more time for my to-do list items. These items keep me from being fully present with my husband when I’m at home and distract me at work. I’ve also longed to have more time to myself to write, read, and meditate. And I’d like to have more uninterrupted time with my spouse to talk, play games, and just enjoy our time together. Maybe you’d like to have more time with your kids? More time in your garden? More time to spend on hobbies? Consider this question and really visualize for yourself – what would you do with an extra hour in your day if you had it.

·      What tasks are taking away from that time? Before I started working downtown, one of the biggest routine tasks that seemed to soak up a lot of my time and detract from my overall well-being was driving in rush hour traffic. What gives one person joy may cause another person stress. For me, cooking each and every day brings me joy and helps me to destress after work. For others, it’s a source of frustration. For me, cleaning my house is an annoyance. For some, it reduces anxiety and gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment.

·      What would you pay to have that time back? Let’s get down to the numbers. What’s that time really worth to you? An extra hour to play with your kids before bed - $25, $50, maybe even $100? An uninterrupted afternoon out in your wood shop - $200? Be honest and then take a look at your budget – what can you really afford? Is this a priority? Will this extra time increase your overall happiness and help you focus more intentionally on what’s important to you?

·      How might you get this time back? Take a look at what’s available in your area – grocery delivery, lawn care, home cleaning, public transit, meal delivery services, etc. Don’t overlook those opportunities to buy time that won’t cost you anything. One of my coworkers realized she was already working more than an eight hour day and wanted to spend more time with her kids after school so she started leaving work early two days a week. She would log back in right after they went to bed to finish out her day. Even as someone watching on the sidelines, the increase in her happiness and well-being was palpable.

Leave a comment below – what’s one thing you wish you could have more time for? Or, what are some services you’ve used to buy back time that you would recommend to others?