Time Versus Stuff: What Would You Choose?

If a recent study is to be believed, your happiness quotient can be upped by spending your money on services that save you time instead of stuff.

You know that afternoon slump when all you want to do is curl into a ball and take a nice long nap? Or treat yourself to a Tall Caramel Macchiato, no whip?
Maybe you choose option two. You strap the kids in and drive off to your closest Starbucks drive-thru for a cup of joe that promises an afternoon pick-me-up and a happier mama.
Well, if a recent study published in a BBC article is to be believed, your happiness quotient can be upped by passing up the macchiato (and other indulgences) and spending your money on services that save you time instead.
Researchers conducted a two-week experiment with a group of working individuals. In the first week the participants were given about $40 each to spend on services that would save them time. The money was spent on things like grocery deliveries and cleaning services. The following week the group was given the same amount to spend on any product they fancied. Think clothes, wine, and books.
The research concluded that people were happier when they saved time as opposed to when they bought stuff.
In a survey of about 6,000 adults in the US, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands, it was found that those who spent money to buy themselves more time reported greater life satisfaction than others.
As a mom, though, I feel like I’ve been hearing a different message – one that says that if I want to be happier, I need more stuff. Advertisers love moms. We’re told: Buy that purse because it’s going to make you feel like a million bucks.
Sure it does. For a few days. Then the glamour fades and you’re just looking for room in your already-stuffed closet for a $350 blessing from Kate Spade.
Stuff. It’s the great American epidemic. It consumes us and our time. I haven’t conducted a scientific survey, but from my very cursory glance at my own life and the lives of friends here is what I’ve discovered: More stuff equals more stress. We spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out where we’re going to put the stuff we buy, organizing by season and size, and shuttling things to Goodwill.
But what if we were told a different story? What if we’re told that that we deserve more time, not things?
I’m going to suggest that if you have the funds to indulge, get help with something that stresses you out. For me that would run the gamut from cleaning the bathroom to doing the dishes. Pass up the new purse. Forgo a month of overpriced coffee and the bottle of Portuguese vino. Instead, hire that babysitter so you can take a few hours for yourself to read or nap. Hire a cleaning service so you don’t have to wipe down that toilet seat. Get on Amazon Fresh and have groceries delivered without having to navigate a crowded store with a wailing toddler and a trail of Cheerios to mark your path.
It’s not just a matter of freeing up a few hours, although that does sound delightful. According to the BBC article, stress over lack of time causes insomnia and anxiety. No one understands that better than moms who are at any given time juggling 13 balls in the air. Websites and self-help gurus offer time management advice to moms who are already at the receiving end of information overload. They tell us to make lists and organize and prioritize. But what if we prioritized time itself?
When you can pick between more time and more things, what do you choose?