Does Your Attitude Toward Time Affect Your Spending Habits?

Your view of the past maybe impacting your financial future.

Posted Mar 01, 2012

Every day more and more people are trying to understand the relationship between money and happiness. The old adage has it that time is money, and it is certainly the case that when we go to work, or when we pay others for their work, we are often engaging in a direct exchange of time for money. However, research currently underway in my lab suggests that the relationship between time and money may run even deeper. To better understand the connection between time and money, we are examining how people's attitudes toward time affect how they spend their money.

Prior research has shown that people differ in the way they think about the periods (past, present, and future) of their lives. For instance, we all know people who seem constantly to be reminiscing about the good old days, while others seem to view the past as something to be buried and forgotten. In contrast, some people live for the moment, grabbing all the pleasure they can in the here and now, while others are constantly preparing for a future yet to come.

When researchers measure these differences (known as time perspectives) what they find is that people's view of time is closely linked to health-related behaviors (such as alcohol and drug abuse) and overall happiness. Early results from our lab suggest that people who have a positive view of the past are more likely to spend their discretionary money on life experiences as opposed to material possessions. In general, people who are more likely to spend their money on experiences as opposed to possessions report better relationships and higher overall life satisfaction and wellbeing.

In contrast, people with a negative view of the past are more likely to pursue happiness in life by acquiring material possessions. Psychologists believe that people who feel they have been deprived in childhood attempt to guard against deprivation in adulthood by surrounding themselves with material goods. Unfortunately, pursuing happiness through materialistic pursuits generally results in lower, rather than higher, satisfaction with life.

While these results are preliminary, they suggest that maintaining a negative view of the past leads to unhealthy behaviors and spending habits that do not result in happiness.

At BeyondThePurchase.Org we help people understand the relationship between money and happiness. To better understand the benefits of specific consumer choices, we continue to investigate the relationships between consumer preferences, psychological needs, happiness, and values at our website by allowing people to take tests on personality. To learn about what might be influencing how you think about and spend your money, register with Beyond The Purchase, then take a few of our personality quizzes:

Do you tend to make decisions considering the past, future, or more immediate needs? Take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory and learn how time perspectives have been linked to a wide variety of human behaviors.

How materialistic are you? Take the Material Values Scale and learn about your spending habits. We think you may learn a lot about what causes you to part with your hard-earned money.

Can money buy happiness? Take our experiential buying survey and on your feedback page you will learn how to spend your money to be happier.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness. Responses to these surveys will also help researchers further understand the connection between money and happiness.