Despite what you've been told, there's one way you really can 'buy happiness'.

Yes, you can buy happiness – especially if the money saves you time.

People who dole out cash to save time on things like housekeeping, delivery services and taxis are a little bit happier than those who don’t, new research finds.

Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and also ran an experiment, giving people $US40 ($A50) for two weeks. One week, they had to buy something material, like a shirt. The next week, they paid to save themselves time. People said they felt happier after saving time than buying stuff.

“Money can buy happiness if you spend it right,” said University of British Columbia psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn, co-author of a study in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The right way is paying someone else to do the time-consuming drudge work that you don’t like, said study lead author Ashley Whillans at the Harvard Business School.

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When people do that, they report feeling greater life satisfaction in general and happier that day. But when they buy material objects, it tends not to bring people the happiness they expect, she said.

Earlier research found that using money to help others or have good experiences – like a spa day or travel – also make people happier than buying things, Dunn and Whillans said.

Income doesn’t matter. Rich or poor, spending money to save time seems to make people happier, Whillans said. And if anything, the data suggested that people with less money were able to get a bigger happiness boost from time-saving purchases than those with more, she said.

The survey was done in the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Do you spend money on to save your time in your day-to-day life?