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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.


The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found “buying time" makes people happier than buying material things.

In other words: Hiring help around the house is going to make you happier than anything you can buy at the mall.

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“People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they're being lazy," study lead author Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, said in a press release. “But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money."

For the survey, more than 6,000 people in the United States, Denmark, Canada and the Netherlands were asked if they spend money to buy themselves free time, and, if so, how much per month. The researchers also asked them about life satisfaction and stress.

Those who spent money on time-saving purchases reported greater levels of life satisfaction.

More good news: The researchers found that even those on tight budgets can benefit from time-related purchases. In the press release, Elizabeth Dunn, a UBC psychology professor and the study's senior author, said, “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum."

In addition to the survey, the researchers also tested the theory by giving 60 people an assignment: Spend $40 on a time-saving purchase one weekend (like paying someone to mow their lawn or grabbing a cab instead of taking the bus). The next weekend, spend $40 on a material object (such as a bottle of wine or new clothes). The time-saving purchases made people happier, and the team behind the study hopes more people take advantage of what the participants learned.

“Although buying time can serve as a buffer against the time pressures of daily life, few people are doing it even when they can afford it," Dunn explained.

That may be especially true for many of us moms. (It's hard to pay someone to do something you theoretically could do—if only you had 30 hours in a day.) But, the researchers assure that people can feel an uptick in happiness by spending less than $100 per month.

If you still aren't sold, there may be another route to happiness: Spending money on things that save you money in the long run is linked to increased levels of happiness. In her book, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, Dunn described how a couple with two toddlers and bunch of pets upgraded their vacuum to save time cleaning floors—and immediately felt more satisfaction.

For parents, here are a few ideas we love: Consider upgrading a complicated old coffee maker to a push-button model, which could buy you a few minutes in the morning. And a Swiffer-style system may be more expensive than an a basic old-school mop, but you'll get the floors done quicker, too. Or maybe that instant baby bottle warmer is worth a few extra bucks.

So, if you're on the fence about hiring a housekeeper or investing in a tool to help you track down those car keys (for the tenth time today), we say to go on ahead: It turns out that money can buy happiness—and a few extra minutes of sleep, which is basically the same thing.

[This post was originally published July 25, 2017.]

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Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)

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Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This article was sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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