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The simple mental trick that can make you twice as happy

Sure, we’ve all known that “money can’t buy happiness” but we all need money to live. So how do you balance paying your bills and making time for what’s really important?

How you answer that question may be the key to your happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Social Psychology & Personality Science. Researchers found that people who make it a point to prioritize time over money are twice as happy as those who don’t.

Most people don’t say “I love money more than people and experiences” but in reality it’s all too easy in our consumer culture to get caught up in the daily minutia of earning and spending our cash.

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However, time is its own currency. We spend it and save it, budget it and blow it. And we definitely only get a limited amount of it. Once you realize that, it becomes easier to decide how exactly you want to use it. According to the study, genuinely happy people know this and make a conscious decision to make time for important people and events, even if that means making less money over their lifetimes.

Making that mental shift can be easier said than done. After all, money pays for the basic necessities of life plus a lot of the fun stuff too. It isn’t about trading one for the other but rather learning how to balance both. So I asked real women — wives, girlfriends, mothers, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, daughters, and athletes — how they prioritize time in their busy lives. Here’s what I learned:

1. Hire someone to clean your house. If you’re someone who hates to clean then letting a pro take care of the dirty work (literally) can free up your time for other activities that feel more worthwhile to you. Plus, clutter and dirt take a psychic toll on you that you may not even realize until you’re no longer living in it. If you can’t afford it on a weekly basis, try hiring someone to come once every six weeks or so just to do the big stuff.

2. Quit a job you hate. Just do it. Sure, a girl’s gotta pay her bills, but so many of the women I talked to had stories about taking that scary leap and how it had paid off in happiness and time with their families and friends. Even if the pay is slightly lower, as long as you can meet your basic needs, the trade-off may be worth it.

3. Cancel cable. Watch what you want on-demand from streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Not only will you get less (or no) commercials sucking up your entertainment time but it will likely be cheaper too. Pro tip: Turn off the auto-play feature so you don’t get sucked into binge-watching whole seasons at a time!

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4. Make dinners ahead of time. Prepping a week’s worth of meals may sound daunting but it’s very doable once you get started — especially if you go to one of those places or services that has all the ingredients and instructions on hand for you, like Let’s Dish. That way, you can use those precious dinnertime minutes catching up with your kids or spouse instead of slaving in the kitchen.

5. Spend your money on experiences instead of things. This tip came up a lot, with women sharing how they took their child on a scavenger hunt or took their boyfriend to a ballgame. And don’t forget to treat yourself too: Take a painting class, catch a concert in the park, join a flash mob, or find a running group. No toy or gadget will ever be better than amazing memories! Just make sure to take pictures to help with the storytelling later.

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6. Plug in your phone in a different room at night. We’ve all been there: one last check of our e-mail inbox or scan through our favorite sites turns into an hour of mindless finger tapping. To avoid this timesuck, charge your phone at night downstairs or at least in a separate room so you won’t be tempted. It may even open up more time for other, ahem, nighttime activities. Bonus: You’ll sleep more soundly, too.

7. Make “no plan” plans. Schedule one day a month where you make plans — write it in your calendar! — to have no plans. You’ll be amazed at what fun things you and your family can come up with unprompted. (A surprising winner at our house was playing “blind taste test” with random things in the kitchen. My kids still talk about eating dry stuffing as if it were a trip to Disneyland.) Plus playing tag, making cookies, watching home movies, playing board games, and taking walks are all free.

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