Happy People Tend To Value Time Over Money

Are you willing to drive farther for cheaper gas? Your answer says a lot about you.

Meet Maggie and Tina.

Maggie is willing to work longer hours in exchange for a fatter paycheck. Tina is willing to take a smaller paycheck so she can work less and have more free time.

Now that we’re all acquainted, who do you think you are more like: Maggie or Tina?

Researchers used questions like this to figure out what people valued more -- time or money -- and whether that preference affected an individual's overall well-being.

Turns out, it does.

According to a study involving more than 4,600 participants recently published by the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, people who value their time more than their money tend to be happier than those who value their money more than their time.

Reza Estakhrian via Getty Images

To figure this out, researchers from the University of British Columbia surveyed working American adults, students at the University of British Columbia, and adults visiting a Vancouver science museum who volunteered to participate in the questioning.

Slightly more than half of respondents valued their time over money, and, on average, those individuals were also more likely to report higher levels of happiness than those who valued money over time.

"Imagine that the world is made up of Tinas and Maggies," Ashley Whillans, the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post.

"We’re seeing that the Tinas of the world are walking around a little happier than the Maggies of the world because they are making everyday decisions that lead them to prioritize time over money."

The participants' income and gender did not affect their answers, although the researchers note that the study did not include participants living at the poverty level, who may need to prioritize money in order to survive.

Setting Up The Surveys

Each survey included at least one trade-off question that involved a major life decision (like the one at the top of this article) in order to determine the individual's overall preference of time or money.

Participants were then given a series of questions that involved more mundane, everyday decisions, such as if they were willing to drive farther to a cheaper gas station, or settle for a closer, more expensive option. Another survey entered the participants into a lottery, where they were asked to choose between two prizes: $50 cash or a $120 voucher for a time-saving service, such as housecleaning.

The answers to these questions were then compared to how the participants rated their general happiness or well-being at the start of the survey.

While the results show that valuing time is linked to greater levels of happiness, Whillans said more research needs to be done to strengthen that connection.

The Takeaway

Whillans said she hopes the study's findings will inspire people to sacrifice money if it means more time to do things that will make them happier in the long run.

"All these kinds of everyday and major life decisions often require a trade-off between time or money that most people don't always recognize," Whillans said.

"Having more free time is likely more important than having more money," Whillans said in a statement. "Even giving up a few hours of a paycheck to volunteer at a food bank may have more bang for your buck in making you feel happier."

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