Happy Friday – Happy Money: Buy Time

This is part 3 in our series on the recently published book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, by behavioral scientists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. Their tagline is:

“If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.”

According to their research, there are five basic ways in which money can be spent that increase happiness for the average person.

  1. Buy Experiences
  2. Make It A Treat
  3. Buy Time
  4. Pay Now, Consume Later
  5. Invest In Others

And we’re hitting these main points one-by-one. Feel free to start at the beginning (links above) or hop right into this week’s.

Part 3 – Buy Time

Unlike the first two credos espoused by Norton and Dunn, buying time for increased enjoyment is often a less accepted method of gaining happiness because of the wide variations in how it can be implemented.

Heck, we like DIY-ing things around the house and perform way more of our own renovations and improvements than the average person.  But when we found out that it was about the same price to hire someone to take care of our pool than to do it ourself, that was a no brainer.  The pool costs exactly the same, but we enjoy it so much more now that we’re not spending time fretting over it.

And that’s what gets to the heart of the matter – the more unpleasant the task you are outsourcing (and pool maintenance is pretty high up there on the unpleasant scale for me), the more happiness you are going to get out of the money spent in that manner.

But a minute saved is not a minute gained since it depends how you use it.  If you’re wasting the purchased time on something that’s not going to increase your happiness, then you’re not actually getting much of a value for your money.

Think About Tuesday

Their advice for buying time is simple, yet highly effective.  When considering a major purchase, think about Tuesday.

“Take the time to consider what you’ll be doing from morning to night this coming Tuesday.  How will the purchase affect you on Tuesday? This … helps us make less biased predictions about how much any one thing will influence our happiness.”

This lesson, more than any other, focuses on getting the most happiness out of our everyday lives and routines.


Mr PoP

Isn’t the whole Financial Independence thing just a way of buying ALL of our time? Every penny we plant, every dollar we save is just basically spent on buying time  on the behalf of our future selves! We actually do a lot of uncomfortable, time consuming things now to save money because eventually we’ll have enough of it to buy back the rest of our lives. I sure hope my future self appreciates what a great deal he is getting…

Mrs PoP

My absolute favorite part of this book was when they talked about Roomba, the robotic vacuum.  “With a price tag of over $300, a Roomba costs more than your run-of-the-mill vacuum cleaner.  But a Roomba offers something that even high-end traditional vacuums do not: the opportunity to change the way you use your time.”

Full disclosure, we bought a Roomba while we were working on the duplex.  We were so crunched on time back then, I was literally having minor breakdowns at the thought of spending the tiny amount of free time I had – after working full time and putting tons of hours of manual labor in at the duplex – sweeping our floors, one of the tasks that tops my list as the most unpleasant household tasks ever.

For someone who finds sweeping or vacuuming calming (do such people really exist?), a Roomba would be an awful waste of money.  But for me, it took one of the things I hated the most and removed it from my life.  My Tuesdays are much more awesome knowing that they NEVER include sweeping.  Roomba’s been worth EVERY CENT.  Seriously.  Every. Last. Penny.


What have you done to buy time recently?  Was it worth it?

47 comments to Happy Friday – Happy Money: Buy Time

  • Having time is my dream too, whether that’s at the Financial Independence stage or just having the mortgage paid off so that I’ve got flexibility in my job/working hours.

    And I’m with you on the DIY projects, I paid to have a privacy fence built earlier this year. It was something I didn’t want to spend months of my weekends working on, and it’s really benefited the sanity of my wife and two kids, and made them more comfortable in our small house. Instead of driving to a park they have a private back yard to play in and feel safe in. Well worth the money!
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..October In Review – Income/Expense and Net WorthMy Profile

  • Julia

    I felt so incredibly guilty when I first hired someone to clean my house. I mean I live in a townhouse with no animals. It shouldn’t be that difficult. However, the cost to clean where I live is incredibly cheap. $50. And George is so amazing. He moves the couch every time to clean behind it!! My house would never be as clean as he makes it.

    Now I treasure the fact that I am scuba diving on Sat mornings instead of cleaning.

    • How do you find someone good? I always worry about letting someone into my house. I’d love to hire someone to scrub my bathroom and the floors.

      Also, how often do you have a cleaner come in?
      Leah recently posted..Feeling like an adultMy Profile

      • I think frequency varies a lot – I have some friends that just have someone come in once every month to scrub toilets and bathrooms, and others that have someone come every week to do regular vaccuming and stuff. I think it depends how big your place is and how often you like things scrubbed.

      • I think you could use one of those paid services like Angie’s List to see ratings and reviews for house cleaners, but it might be better to just try asking around for recommendations. A referral from someone I know would probably mean more to me than a website rating.
        Renaité recently posted..Daily Prompt: ConflictedMy Profile

    • You are not the first person I have heard have this sentiment, and scuba diving instead of scrubbing sounds like an amazing way to spend your Saturdays

  • My coworker swears by the roomba but it didn’t make sense for me with such a small apartment. I would totally consider getting one for when the babies come, because I’d rather spend time with them than vacuuming!
    Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) recently posted..Adjusting Part 1: The Grocery Store IncidentMy Profile

    • I can definitely see it with babies – speaking of hiring cleaners above, babies were one reason that some people wanted cleaning services since they wanted a higher level of cleanliness after they had someone crawling around licking the floor.

  • So, the Roomba works well then? They have intrigued me, but I have yet to pony up the money for one. Actually, it may not be good for us because Roomba would eat the childrens’ wayward Lego*. Hmmm, but have you ever stepped on a Lego? &^%$!!!! Maybe we will get a Roomba after all…

    *I feel weird typing this word, but the plural of Lego is Lego.
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..Thursday Anti-Rant: Show me the WorldMy Profile

    • I had some of the original Roombas and they work great as long as you keep up their batteries – follow directions in the package *to the letter*. I had to buy a few too many extra batteries that I sold them (I had 3 – one for each level of the townhouse I was in….)
      Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..More decluttering, donating, and sellingMy Profile

    • Ahh, so lego is like “moose” with the plural. Who knew!?!

      Roomba is great in our single level all tile house. Ours is an older version with no timer, so I like to pick bigger stuff (like cat toys or wayward shoes/socks) off the floor in a room each morning and run it in one room each day when I leave for work. It keeps the house from feeling like it’s overrun with cat (and my!) hair, as well as picking up dirt and other stuff that we all track in.

      It’s not perfect with corners, so sometimes I go around with a hand broom and dustpan and get the corners… but admittedly, most of the time I just ignore the corners. As for stuff like legos they probably wouldn’t break it, but if something gets stuck in the brushes it makes a sad beep (Roomba has emotions, I swear) and says, “Open Roomba brush cage and clean brushes.” As soon as you flip it over it’s usually very obvious what the complaint is about.

      We just replaced our battery for the 1st time after a little more than 2.5 years and I was reading more about it. Apparently the more often you use it, the longer the battery lasts, and it lasts longer if you let it hang out on the docking station and on tile all the time (which is what we do exactly). There are some hacks at trying to DIY your own replacement batteries, but seemed like you might get what you paid for in those cases. We ordered OEM from iRobot, which was expensive but hopefully lasts another 2.5 years.

  • I agree with Mr. PoP’s philosophy. I am hoping that saving money now will enable me to get back time once I’m able to retire early. I don’t own a house yet, but I really hope I inherit my dad’s penchant for fixing things himself. At least the non-dangerous things. Does Kitty PoP ever hop on the Roomba? I think I’d have to get it if my cats did that; I’ve seen hilarious videos.
    E.M. recently posted..The Process of Leaving A JobMy Profile

    • I think we’re all going to appreciate all the work we put into our finances when we’re old and grey… at least that’s the hope!

      As for Roomba, Kitty PoP was freaked out by it when we first got it, but now he mostly ignores it. Recently I watched Roomba head straight for Kitty PoP and Kitty PoP stood his ground and swatted at Roomba once. Roomba kindof bounced off Kitty PoP’s side as though he was a piece of furniture and went around.

  • I try to enjoy life now instead of putting it off until later. They key is to just enjoy life for its beautiful simplicity. You can enjoy your friends and your kids without having to spend money to do it.

    For me, having money just provides an antidote to stress and worry, but it doesn’t equate to happiness in and of itself.
    jefferson @See Debt Run recently posted..Project: Free Play SetMy Profile

    • Yup, and I think that meshes with the authors’ message in this section. Paying money for things that make your life simpler and easier day in and day out can reap dividends in terms of overall happiness.

  • Anne

    I would love a roomba, but how does Kitty PoP handle it? Our kitties hate Hate HATE our current Dyson, they seem to be convinced vacuums are kitty killers. When I just had an apartment (and a roommate with two wonderful but very hairy dogs) the Dyson was a sanity saver and only took a few minutes to run, but now that we have a large house I would love to be able to get that time back.

    • See my comments above to EM about Kitty PoP and roomba. It didn’t take Kitty PoP all that long to realize that he could just go in another room and Roomba couldn’t follow. I did make sure that the first few times it was run I was home to supervise and see if Kitty PoP was freaking out.

  • While I don’t sweep enough, I do find sweeping calming. Vacuuming, not as much (I’m allergic to dust), but I like to sweep. So the roomba thing is weird to me, but it’s totally a ymmv purchase.

    When I had a lot of disposable income in high school and early college, I would get my legs waxed. I hate worrying about shaving, dealing with shaving, etc, but I do like nice looking legs. When I kept up with waxing, the time investment was minimal to keep my legs looking really nice. Even now, I don’t have all that much hair.

    These days, I just wear leggings under my skirts rather than worrying about shaving. Still a time saver, but it’s much cheaper.
    Leah recently posted..Feeling like an adultMy Profile

    • I fully get that some people find sweeping calming – I am so not one of those people. But I would also never get my legs waxed – that sounds tortuous and like far too much effort. That said, I’m also ridiculously bad about maintaining shaven legs so my level of “give a damn” is definitely not high enough in this category. Definitely YMMV. =)

  • I think there’s an interesting balance to strike between putting in time now to free up for later, and paying to enjoy your time today. Both are important, and you really can’t live a healthy life only doing one or the other. I’ve paid for plenty of “roombas” where the convenience of something was worth a little extra cost. Some of those were probably out of laziness, but some were definitely worthwhile.
    Matt Becker recently posted..What I Did With My Old Car After Buying a New OneMy Profile

    • I think the distinction that the authors were trying to make was between buying conveniences that were ongoing and likely to make all of your Tuesdays better vs conveniences that were one-offs or the result of poor planning. I guess I look at this as the difference between paying for a roomba or for fast shipping on a gift to a friend since you planned poorly and didn’t get to the post office far enough in advance. One is going to keep bringing you happiness again and again, where the other one is more of a one-time avoidance of unhappiness so has a low ROI even though they could both be put in the “convenience” category.

  • Debbie M

    I don’t mind sweeping or vacuuming. It’s mopping I don’t like. Even then, I don’t dislike it enough to pay someone, just enough to not do it that often.

    I’m with Mr. Pop–when I think of buying time, I think of financial independence.

    What I’m normally buying with money is not time so much but either expertise (someone else is better at doing what I want than I am), efficiency (someone else can do something less expensively than I can), or getting rid of unpleasantness.

    I don’t enjoy car maintenance and repair, and my boyfriend does, so I pretty much let him do everything (except fill my tank and wash the car).

    Another thing I really hate is yard work. I’d really like to pay someone to dig up all the weeds and work with me to put in a low-maintenance perennial native garden, possibly with the underground automatic watering system. But first I want financial independence.

    Actually, my favorite strategy for using money to save time is to make sure that what I’m buying is low maintenance:

    * One of my classic quotes at stores or looking through catalogs is “I’m not cleaning that.” There’s also “I’m not dusting that.”

    * I don’t get anything that requires dry cleaning unless there’s no other way (suits).

    * I like dishes that are dishwasher safe. (Not that I have a dishwasher yet, but one day I will!)

    * I don’t want tile countertops or floors–flat ones are much easier to clean.

    * My plants get watered once a week; only those that can live like that survive. (Another strategy I’ve liked is to have a spokesplant–a peace lily I had would melodramatically droop when it wanted water, while my other plants remained stoic–I knew they all needed watering.)

    * I buy only cars that are super reliable (above-average reliability is not good enough). I also check reliability on electronics and appliances. I’m done with the cheapo furniture too–all new and replacement furniture is durable.

    * I like a job with a good commute and casual dress (and I don’t have to wear make-up).

    * My clothes are “classic” rather than trendy so it’s not so horrifying that I refuse to replace them until they wear out.

    Occasionally I do find something that is worth extra trouble, but it really has to be something.

    • Mopping isn’t fun… there’s actually a robot for that, too but I have yet to try it. It’s roomba’s cousin called Scooba, but you’re really only supposed to use it right after a vacuum, so I don’t think it works for our current purposes.

      One of our favorite terms for random knick knacks is “dustcatcher”. Makes you a lot less likely to want to bring it home.

  • We pay someone to come clean the house once a month (she should really be coming more often, but I can’t bring myself to double the expense yet), and pay a company to do our yard (mowing in the summer, leaves in the winter). Both Dad and I *hate* cleaning, so it was never getting done, and the cost was a marriage saving tactic in that case, and once our daughter was born, we hired someone to do the lawn for us.
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..More decluttering, donating, and sellingMy Profile

  • How does the Roomba do with hair? Mine gets everywhere, and while I don’t mind sweeping it up (I actually do find it a bit relaxing, especially with little crevices where crumbs get into), I’ve for sure ruined some great vacuums.
    anna recently posted..Half-Marathon and November/2014 GoalsMy Profile

    • On tile (can’t vouch for carpet), roomba does well with hair – cat hair and long female hair.
      I actually think it’s easier when it comes to hair than my parents’ old school Hoover vac growing up since the brushes are totally removeable and the Roomba comes with a nifty little combing tool that you run over the brush to clean the hair out of it. Takes just seconds. I do this every few times I run roomba and switch out the small particle (non HEPA on our model) filters. This is basically the routine every time I empty the tray. I clean the brushes, take out the dirty filter (put it in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean) and pop in a new one after emptying the tray – usually about every 3 runs.
      Every 2-3 months I do a 10-minute clean to remove hair in the tiny places (under the wheels, under the brush spin bearings, around the spinbrush and other random spots). Sounds like more effort than it is once you get used to it. Someone who doesn’t have LONG hair probably would not have this problem since it’s very clear that it’s my hair that gets wrapped around the tiny crevices, not Mr PoP’s or Kitty PoP’s.

  • Mama PoP

    As you know, we like DIY and Papa Pop is a master at it. However, when I went back to work full time, we found someone who would clean for us biweekly. I look at it that she comes over to do what she does best and I go to work to do what I do best. With so many kids, animals, and a husband who can’t/won’t stay clean, I found that all my time was taken up with simply putting things away and there was never enough time to really clean the house the way I thought it should be done. Susie comes in and for $50 she cleans the whole house. Could I clean it better myself? Yes, but it would take me forever and I would never get through the whole house. As far as the house is concerned, my time is better spent “redding up”. Besides, when Susie is coming the next day, everyone knows they need to put things in their proper place so that she can clean. She’s the bad guy, not me!

    I don’t count having a cleaning lady as a huge extravagance or even as time saved to use some other way. It really counts as a marriage saver and mother/son relationship saver, because without Susie I would have had to pester the family to keep things cleaner and help me with the cleaning. Not fun for anyone.

    In the early days, we did only have a cleaning lady during the academic year. In the summers the kids had to help me clean because I wanted them all to know how to clean and I needed the help. Mixed reviews. Now we have Susie come in all year because we know that she counts on the income. We even consider her pay as “helping out” someone who needs the money more than we do. She is like a part of the family.

    On the Roomba – I borrowed Mrs. Pop’s Roomba and decided against getting one. For me, the constant noise while it runs was a huge downside. I think I would possibly have one if I was going to work on a regular schedule and could set it to work while I was away the way Mrs. Pop does. Instead, I got a nice stick vaccuum that is cordless and runs for 20 minutes on a charge. I can do a “lick and a promise” regularly and the house looks fine with that.

  • I completely agree with the assessment that money should be used to buy time and eliminate those things we consider unpleasant – with the caveat being, if you can afford to do it. We’ve hired out housecleaning and yard work before to free up time for more valuable activities like being with our kids or pursuing further education. But we couldn’t have done so if our budget did not allow for it.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..How One Shoebox Can Change A Life This ChristmasMy Profile

    • I think that is a universal caveat for anything we post here. Planting pennies doesn’t work if you’re frittering stuff away that you can’t afford. =)

  • We <3 the scooba. Except tiny cat. She is not a fan.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Ask the grumpies: When to tell about a pregnancy?My Profile

  • How well does the Roomba actually work for sweeping and vacuuming. I had a co-worker who bought one (he’s a techie geek) and he said the thing just pushed the dirt around more than anything. Of course, he might have just gotten a bad model. I do agree though that the whole frugal existance now is just an investment in more time for future you. I have to say with the work I’m putting in now, future me (and his potential children) better be very appreciative of my sacrifices so he have more time in his day.
    Micro recently posted..How credit cards workMy Profile

    • I think it’s awesome on our tile, can’t vouch for other surfaces. You do need to empty the tray and keep the air filters clean. When it’s full or the filter is dirty it does just push dirt around. =)

  • CincyCat

    After our second kiddo was born, I made a miraculous discovery that a laundromat up the street offered drop off service for $0.90/pound. The heavens parted, a beam of sunshine poured over me, and I swear I heard angels singing. I could drop off a week’s worth of laundry, head to the grocery, and before I got to the checkout, I had a phone call that the laundry was all done, folded & on hangers!

    • “The heavens parted, a beam of sunshine poured over me, and I swear I heard angels singing.”

      best comment of the week!

    • Haha! When I lived in Mexico I would spearfish for a few hours every day and grill the pescado for dinner. Then one day I did the peso/dollar conversion and realized I could get a cold beer, fresh salsa and chips, and a 8 oz steak for about 2.50 USD. And I never went spearfishing again…
      Mr. Pop recently posted..Happy Friday – Happy Money: Buy TimeMy Profile

  • Yup I’m one of those weird people who loves to clean! I would probably pay someone to grocery shop or do my laundry for me. Unless I had a w/d unit in my place then that would be a totally different story. But I loathe those errands. I’m not sure what I pay for other people to do. The only thing I can think of would be car maintenance. I have no desire to learn anything about doing it myself-like an oil change. I will gladly pay someone for that.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..November GoalsMy Profile

    • CincyCat

      When I was 18 years old, and getting ready to leave home for college, my dad sat me down in the driveway and made me change the tire on our family car to the spare in the trunk – unassisted. I have never actually had to put spare tire on a car in pinch, but now, 20-something years later, I’m VERY glad he gave me that lesson.

  • I don’t actually know. Floor cleaning is men’s work.
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  • I love the idea of outsourcing but I am bad at the application. In a lot of ways, my approach to financial independence is to do the opposite: to insource the cooking of meals, cleaning of my house and yard, etc. etc. I wonder if I am, in a sense, trading a degree of happiness for more financial freedom.

    Like Mr. Pop says the ultimate goal is to gain freedom of time but the path there (and even in the period of FI itself), I’ll be spending time to save money.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Net Worth, No Auto October, and No Ad NovemberMy Profile

  • When you published the list of 5 ways to spend money, this was the one I was most curious about. Because I don’t have family, or any major responsibilities that take up my free time, I don’t feel guilty wasting on menial tasks. In most cases I’d rather save money and learn a new skill than save time. I’m sure this will change over time, but for now I enjoy doing most tasks myself.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..Setting new fitness and blogging goalsMy Profile

  • I hate washing the dishes…a dishwasher later and I couldn’t be happier! Certainly opens up my time to focus on better and happier things like picking up a skill, reading an interesting book or planning travel! Worth every penny as it is.
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