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Services That Save Time Decrease Stress

If you are interested in decreasing your stress and thinking about indulging in some “retail therapy” to feel better, you might want to think again. Recently, the results of a series of studies indicate that people feel better when they spend money on something that ultimately provides them with more free time than when they buy a material item.

The Study Results

Researchers visited a science museum in Vancouver and offered visitors $80 to spend over the next two weekends. They were instructed to buy something for $40 on the first weekend that would save them some time. Examples are a housecleaning service, grocery-delivery, an errand service, or buying a premade dish to take to a weekend gathering rather than preparing one.

On the second weekend, participants were to spend $40 on material items for themselves. People bought many things, including books, wine, and board games.

At the end of each weekend, the researchers asked the participants how much free time they had and how happy they felt. They found that people were happier when they spent money on things that freed up some time.

The researchers also surveyed 6000 people from several countries and found that people reported greater happiness levels when they consistently bought time-saving services or items.

People Tend Not to Buy Time-Saving Services and Items

Though people involved in this research consistently showed higher happiness scores when they paid to have disliked services performed for them, freeing up time they could spend on more enjoyable things, most people do not routinely spend their money that way. Instead, they are more likely to buy material things when they have extra money.

People cited guilt as an explanation; they feel guilty handing over disliked tasks to others, even when those people are paid to do the tasks.

Consider Freeing up Some Time with Your Money

The next time you feel the urge to indulge in some retail therapy and help yourself deal with stress by spending some money, consider doing your own experiment:

Take half of the money you’re planning on spending and use it to free up some time for yourself. Hire a neighborhood kid to mow your lawn or run a few errands that you’re dreading, pay someone to pick up your groceries and bring them to you, or simply settle for a pre-made veggie tray for a party rather than doing all the cleaning and chopping yourself. With the other half of the money, buy yourself a material item. Afterward, sit down during some quiet time and evaluate how the two ways of spending money made you fee; which provided more stress relief?

Remember, there are people who find tasks you dislike enjoyable, and they will be happy to earn money to do them for you. Prioritize how you spend your money so that you end up with the most time to do what you really love to do.


  1. Norton, A. W. (2017, Sept. 10). If You Want to Feel Better, Spend Money on Saving Time. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal.

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