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Money really can buy happiness, ‘if you spend it right’

A new study reveals that "buying time" rather than material goods promotes happiness.
Paying for someone to run errands for you might make you happier than purchasing this hammock. Photo: ISTOCK

Would you rather have a new shirt, or an hour to yourself? A new study finds that paying people to run your errands brings you more happiness than if you spent the same amount on material goods. 

Being able to cross off the boring, time-sucking items on your to-do list without actually making that trip to the pharmacy or the dry cleaners yourself does sound more satisfying than, say, purchasing a lamp, right? 

If being sooo busy is the new status symbol, then outsourcing the tasks you just don’t have time for, from waiting on line for "Hamilton" tickets to picking up your kid from daycare, is the new leisure time. 

In the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers polled over 6,000 people in four countries. In the U.S., Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, folks across income brackets reported that they felt happier when they spent money to “buy time,” rather than things. 

"Money can buy happiness if you spend it right," said study co-author Elizabeth Dunn, a University of British Columbia psychology professor.

The researchers also conducted an experiment, in which they gave 60 people an extra $40 for two weeks. In the first week, they were told to buy something for themselves, and in the second week, to pay for a service. Participants said they felt happier about their decision during the second week compared to the first. If the amount of spending money were significantly higher, say, a couple hundred bucks, would people feel the same way? 

Ideally, you’d have money to buy yourself things and have people run your errands for you. But if you’re strapped for cash and have to choose, go with dropping off your laundry over buying a new scented candle.