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We all know how precious time is, and as we get older our appreciation of this fact is heightened. We each have an equal amount of time allotted to us – 168 hours a week to be exact. However, while our weeks contain the same number of hours, our bank accounts don’t contain equal funds. But where does our bank balance figure in our quest for happiness?

Does money make us happy, or is it simply the case that the more money we have, the more problems we can expect? Interestingly, when it comes to money and happiness, it’s how you use your money – not how much money you have – that matters.

Money can boost happiness if you use it to buy things that facilitate pleasant experiences. These experiences later become fond memories – continuous wells of pleasure from which we can draw mental sustenance. Importantly, cherished memories aren’t subject to the diminishing returns of happiness that physical objects usually are.

By way of an example, a child given a new toy will initially be excited to play with it. After a while, though, she will likely grow bored and stop using it. In other words, it will stop bringing her joy. In contrast, if you buy a tent and then use it to go camping, that tent may bring you lasting happiness. Why? Because you will forever remember the starry nights and campfires of that trip.

Additionally, if money is used to boost our happiness, we must rethink how we measure such happiness. When we consider how happy we are, we often think only of life satisfaction, which refers to how well we think our life is going in general.

So, if you have a great business or career and a good house, or simply getting on with retirement, you may consider yourself happy. However, this life satisfaction may not be the best measure of your happiness. Indeed, your moods are often much more driven by your hour-to-hour experiences than by your overall life satisfaction.

For instance, your mood may often be depressed if you have a gruelling daily workload or alternately literally too much time on your hands.

With this reality in mind, we can begin to assess which of our daily activities bring us happiness, and which make us miserable. We can then strategically use our money to either enlarge or minimize these activities. Research has shown that commuting to work is often the unhappiest time of a person’s day. If this is true for you, too, then you could use your money to move closer to the office, thus reducing that commute and boosting your mood.

The same could apply to moving closer to family or to a location that allows more time to do the things that really make you happy. Though this may cost a significant amount of money, it would be an important investment in your future wellbeing.

Laura Vanderkam, in her book Off the Clock, shares five tips on how to make the most of your time

Do you ever feel like time just slips from one end of the hourglass to the other? No one can make more time, but a few simple strategies can make the time we have feel richer and fuller.

1. Figure out where the time really goes. People tell themselves plenty of stories about where the time goes (“I’m so busy! I have no free time at all!”) but why not find out for sure? Try tracking your time for a week. You can use an app, a spreadsheet, a notebook – whatever works. Most people discover that they have some pockets of time that can be redeployed for meaningful activities if they wish.

2. Plan in little adventures. When time isn’t memorable, we don’t remember it. That’s how whole years can disappear into memory sinkholes. Try planning in little adventures to make the days stand out from each other. These adventures don’t have to be elaborate. Grab friends or colleagues for a picnic lunch. Take the children or grandchildren for a day out. Just do something to switch up the routine.

3. Be careful with “yes.” If you want to have time for adventures, you can’t pack your schedule with things you don’t want to do. When asked to do something in the future, ask yourself if you’d do it tomorrow. That makes the opportunity costs clearer. If the answer is that you’d move things around or cancel things to fit in this new obligation, then by all means say yes. But if the answer is absolutely no for tomorrow, probably that should be your answer for the future, too.

4. Slow down. Rushing just makes you feel rushed. Try noticing a moment when all is calm. Consciously call your attention to sights, sounds, details. Take deep breaths. Savouring good moments makes them seem longer – and that can stretch the experience of time.

5. Put friends in your calendar. People who spend lots of time with family and friends actually feel like they have more time than people who spend equivalent quantities of time watching TV or perusing social media. A dinner party takes effort, but it’s more rewarding than looking at photos on Instagram of other people’s dinner parties. Aim to schedule in relaxed time with friends this week. You’ll look forward to it – and feel like you’re the kind of person who has the time to get together with friends. That will make you feel less busy right there.

We all have the same amount of time each week, but our mind-set can greatly influence our perception of that time. Spending time with family and friends, and making fond memories, makes us feel as if we have more time. In contrast, worrying about our productivity and going through the motions of a boring routine can make us feel like we have less. In order to make the most of our time, it’s important to stop worrying, ditch the routine and start having adventures with those we love.

We have been helping people retire well and make the best use of their time and money for over 20 years. If you would like to investigate how we can help you do gain a better return on life please come a have a coffee and a chat.

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