New Study Suggests Splurging on a Cleaning Service Could Save Your Marriage


Couple with kids


Maricar Santos via Working Mother
Maricar Santos via Working Mother
April 25, 2024 at 2:6AM UTC
While there's probably now a service out there to tackle each and every one of our most tedious household duties, many of us don't hire help because of the costs involved—or because we feel guilty we have to outsource anything in the first place. If getting that task off your to-do list still isn't enough to persuade you, these findings might: According to a new working paper, paying money to save time may also improve your relationship with your partner.
Researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia took a look at seven studies of co-habitating working adults in committed relationships, involving a total of over 3,000 people, to see if buying time can enhance a couple's relationship. The findings were similar across all seven studies: Those who spent more money on time-saving purchases felt happier about their relationship, since the purchase protects the couple from the negative impact of relationship stress and enables them to enjoy more quality time together, The New York Times reports.
Sure, splurging on housecleaning and lawn care may seem like an obvious solution to relationship squabbles, but it's not a minor concern: The paper points to a study that found 25 percent of people who split up named “disagreements about housework” as the top reason for getting a divorce.
Interestingly, the best use of couple's cash may be on routine chores. "We find evidence that time-saving purchases are most likely to enhance happiness when couples are faced with controllable (vs. uncontrollable) stressors," the paper states. "Thus, the happiest couples might most likely be couples who spend their discretionary income in a way that helps them better cope with everyday hassles."
Time-saving expenditures don't just make for happier marriages—they make for happier people too. A 2017 study found that people reported being in a better mood after spending $40 on a time-saving purchase rather than spending the same amount on a material purchase for themselves. (Curiously, there's a ceiling on satisfaction from outsourcing tasks. Researchers discovered spending $100 to $200 per month on services maximized satisfaction, but spending more actually started to reduce it.)
What's most startling about the findings is they were consistent even when controlling for income. In fact, there's a stronger relationship between satisfaction and buying time among lower-income groups. The results suggest that even when money is tight, it may be worth budgeting a bit to take unpleasant chores off your plate.
While not completely surprising—who wouldn't feel happier with their partner if they didn't have to feel stressed out about deciding how to split chores?—the findings may be useful to employers when determining how they can help the families of busy employees. Study authors wrote, "Building on the insights from the current research, companies might want to consider providing employees with time-saving vouchers that employees can give to their partners during work trips, as a way of providing social support to their spouses while they are away. These benefits could be particularly helpful for reducing conflicts pertaining to work and family life."
Sounds good to us.

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