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How to buy happiness even if you're not rich

Buying time may be the best way to find happiness.

We’ve been told, time and time again, that money cannot buy happiness.

But a new survey theorizes that using money to free up time can dramatically improve a person’s level of contentment.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), talked to 6,000 adults in four countries (United States, Canada, Denmark and The Netherlands), and found that people were still stressed out despite rising incomes.

The United States is a perfect example. Glassdoor says the median salary for U.S. employees was $51,272 in April 2017. This was a 2.9% increase from February 2016. In larger cities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, salaries were even higher, rising 4% in the same time period. Still, despite earning more money, people were frustrated with their scarcity of time, according to PNAS.

A shortage of time, it should be noted, has been connected to our mental health. According to the Stress and Health report, a lack of time can be linked to lower well-being, reduced happiness, increased anxiety and insomnia. In other words, regardless of your income, happiness will continue to be elusive if you don’t make time to enjoy the life you’ve built.

How to buy happiness

Since there are only 24 hours in a day, people must get creative with how they make time, and PNAS found that that best way to accomplish this is to pay other people. In fact, they found that respondents who spent money on time-saving purchases felt fewer negative effects of time pressure on life satisfaction.

Specifically, 50% of participants said they spent $80-$99 a month to buy time. Most say they spend this money to avoid cooking, shopping and household maintenance.

But before you rationalize buying a big-screen TV to conjure happiness by binge watching, think again. Part of the study required people to make a time-saving purchase one weekend, and a material purchase the next. What they found is that positivity and satisfaction were higher after the time-saving purchase. So that new watch you bought yourself might give you a shot of dopamine, but it’s not doing to increase your overall happiness.

If you don’t have time to do chores, pay someone to help.

We know what you’re thinking — buying time only applies to millionaires who can pay dozens of people to do their bidding. It’s true that having more money makes it easier to buy time, but it’s also possible for the average middle-class person to do it, as well. In fact, the continued growth of the sharing economy has made finding affordable help as simple as downloading an app.

For instance, paying for an Uber or Lyft could theoretically increase your happiness. Let’s say you have some work to do, but you know that you’ll be stuck in traffic on the way to the office. Why not call an Uber and let them drive, so you can get some work done? This way, when you get into the office you will be less stressed and will have more time to work on another project or relax with a cup of coffee before your presentation. Make this a daily occurrence and the costs will get exorbitant. But buy time when you really need it, and it can be a great tool to decrease stress and improve your mood.

If you spend a lot of time on errands, consider hiring someone to help.TaskRabbit is an online community where you can hire someone to do almost any task that stresses you out. From assembling furniture to grocery shopping, you can buy time like it’s going out of style. Payment varies, but Task Rabbits are usually paid hourly. Some workers even set their own rates, so you can find someone who fits in your budget.

Or it can be simpler than all of that. Don’t feel guilty about ordering in if you really don’t have time to whip up dinner; pay the kid down the street $10 bucks to mow your lawn while you read the paper; or pay for a sitter if you just really need some time away from the kids to complete your to-do list.

In the end, happiness cannot be bought. But time can, and it’s usually money well spent.

Brittany is a reporter Yahoo Finance.

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