Word-Of-the-Week #681: Convenience

August 24, 2017 by  

Convenience – personal comfort or advantage.

Would you like to have more time to do the things you love? Are there certain tasks in your daily life that you really dislike having to deal with? Have you ever considered paying someone to do them for you?

Can Money Buy Happiness? Jill Schlesinger Jill on Money in the Sunday Union Tribune is a perfect follow up to last week on Choosing.

“Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make your misery a little more comfortable.”

Or so my father once said.

I have also come to believe that while money can’t buy happiness, it can buy you options. For example, with enough in savings, you may be able to make a different career decision, or you may have peace of mind that allows you to feel free from an employer’s whim or an industry’s downsizing. And, of course, money may allow you to retire early.

But what about the euphoria you feel when you sit in a brand new car or slip on a sparkling piece of jewelry? Psychologists and behavioral economists have conducted studies showing that such boosts of happiness do not last long. There is a concept related to this: the hedonic treadmill.

The root of the word “hedonic” is the same as the root of hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure. Both words are derived from the Greek “hedone,” which means pleasure. Social scientists often use the term hedonic treadmill (also known as hedonic adaptation) to illustrate that no matter what happens to you, good or bad, or what you buy, everyone returns to a so-called “set point” of happiness.

While a set point can change, it takes some effort and mindfulness. This is where fresh research comes in. “Money can buy happiness if you spend it right,” according to Elizabeth Dunn, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and co-author of a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences. Here’s how it worked: Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands and gave them $40 for two weeks. One week, the survey subjects had to buy a material good. The next week, they were required to spend the money to save time.

People said they felt happier after spending money on housekeeping services, delivery services or car services than on physical objects. Perhaps this helps explain why the gig/service/sharing economy has taken off so quickly. People are experiencing more happiness paying for time-saving conveniences rather than obtaining an elusive object.

Before you send me an email to complain that this is a “1 percent” issue, hear me out. While all four nations in which the research was conducted are in fact wealthy ones, the study found that the income levels of respondents did not change the results: Participants from upper, middle and lower classes found that spending money to save time made them happier.

In fact, those at the lower end of the income spectrum derived even more happiness out of timesaving purchases than those from the upper end. Maybe that’s because they don’t do it that much. Just 28 percent of the people surveyed spent money to save time, probably because to someone who is struggling to meet her various monthly bills, it could seem frivolous to spend money on a food delivery service than to go to the grocery store and prepare her own meal.

None of this is to say that you should be spending recklessly at the expense of being financially responsible. It is not an argument for outsourcing drudgery instead of saving for your emergency reserve fund, paying down your debt or saving for retirement. The research simply compares happiness benefits of paying someone else to do time-consuming tasks to those of buying material goods. When that’s the choice, you may be better off buying services than stuff.”

This week is all about convenience. Is the majority of your time spent on the hedonic treadmill? How would it feel to have more time to do those things your passionate about? What one thing could you pay someone else to do that would give you great pleasure?

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