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Exchanging cents for seconds : the happiness benefits of choosing time over money Whillans, Ashley

Abstract

Most North Americans report feeling increasingly pressed for both time and money. When attempting to maximize well-being, what should people do: give up money to have more time or give up time to have more money? To answer this question, I assess whether and how trading discretionary income to have more free time promotes happiness. First, I develop a new measure (the Resource Orientation Measure) and use this measure to assess whether people’s general orientations to value time over money are associated with greater happiness (Studies 1-5; N = 7,196). Across five studies, I find evidence that people’s general orientation to prioritize time over money is associated with greater happiness, and that this finding holds controlling for materialism, current feelings of time and material affluence, financial security, and demographic characteristics such as income and marital status. Building on this work, I narrow my investigation to one specific instantiation of choosing time over money: using money to buy time by delegating disliked tasks. In Studies 6-11, I document a positive association between buying time and happiness (N = 4,217). Again, these links hold controlling for possible third variables such as discretionary income, the amount of money that people report spending on leisure activities, income, age, gender, and marital status. In Studies 9 to 12 I document a mechanism for these results: buying time protects people from the negative impact of time-stress on happiness. I then provide evidence that buying time causes happiness (N = 60; Study 13). Working adults report greater end-of-day happiness after spending $40 on a time-saving purchase than after spending $40 on a material purchase for themselves. The benefits of buying time are driven in part through reductions in perceived time pressure. Finally, I develop a novel paradigm to demonstrate a key factor that can undermine the benefits of buying time: guilt (Study 14). This work provides the first empirical evidence that buying time can promote subjective well-being.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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