If you scrub your own toilets and fold your own clothes, and you've just never found a way to enjoy it, this study's for you. Researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that buying services to save time and avoid unpleasant experiences boosts happiness—and that this holds true no matter one's income. But they also found that most people don't spend their money in this way. "Few people are doing it even when they can afford it," Elizabeth Dunn, the study's senior author, says in a Science Daily news release. "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."
The team surveyed more than 6,000 adults in the US, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands about their budgets. They also studied groups of subjects who spent money on either material goods or services to save them time. In both cases, and across incomes, they found spending money to save time made people happier. And yet, in a small sample of 98 working adults, only 2% chose to spend a $40 windfall to save time. Among a larger sample of 850 millionaires, far more said they hire help for the things they don't like doing, but it still only amounted to roughly half of the sample. Dunn tells the CBC this doesn't only involve outsourcing chores; even little things, like shopping at a grocery store that's closer to home even if it costs more, has an impact. "What we think is that buying time protects people from the negative effects of time stress in daily life," she says. (Most kids are happy regardless of material wealth.)