I'll admit it: If I can pay someone else to do a chore for me that I hate doing myself, I'm willing to cough up the dough.
That's why I have a monthly housekeeping visit worked into my budget, as well as a few Blue Apron deliveries for those weeks where I just can't muster the strength to brave grocery store crowds. (If you've ever hit up Trader Joe's in New York City after work, you know what I mean.)
There are times I feel bad dishing out for these little luxuries, but research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has assuaged my guilt: Apparently, people who pay for time-saving services are happier than those who don't.
Researchers surveyed working adults in the U.S., Denmark, Canada and the Netherlands on how much money they spent to outsource tasks they disliked doing, then asked them how satisfied they felt with their lives. Slightly more than 28% of respondents spent money on things like house cleaning, grocery deliveries and taking cabs, spending an average of $147.95 per month.
The conclusion? Those who chose to spend money on these services reported higher life satisfaction because they were less stressed about time. The study also found that the more money people made, the more likely they were to feel "time famine" — i.e., feeling like you never have enough time to do all the things you need to.
But, before you retool your budget and start outsourcing every part of your life (I mean, who really needs to do their own laundry?), researchers did notice a U-curve that showed life satisfaction dips again when you start reaching the higher end of the spending spectrum. The authors believe this may be because once every part of your life is handled by someone else, you start to feel less in control.
So it sounds like the "everything in moderation" advice applies to your Lyft rides, TaskRabbit requests, and AmazonFresh deliveries, too — especially if you notice that these services are creeping up in your budget. If you're finding it too hard to figure out what is worth paying for and what you should give up, try applying the "cost per happy" method — take the total cost of a time-saving service and think about how many hours of happiness it brings you. A weekly $50 Blue Apron delivery that saves you several hours of grocery shopping, food prep and cooking could be well worth the cost.
As for me, I have some wiggle room in my budget, so I may start researching some laundry services in my area that'll help add a few hours back to my week — and ramp up my happiness factor tenfold.