Personal Finance 

Should You Outsource Household Chores?

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VacuumA few months ago, we started using a cleaning service to help clean around the house. We had them come in basically once a month for three hours to clean some areas we often neglect. When you clean your own home, you generally get the major areas – vacuuming carpets, sweeping floors, cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen. You miss some of the little things like dusting, wiping windows, and things that don’t accumulate dirtiness as easily. In doing so, we learned that a lot of people “outsource” cleaning because it’s a labor-intensive task where there is a small range in terms of expertise (and it’s fairly easy task).

It led me to think of other places where we might outsource some work in order to focus on things with greater importance.

What Should I Outsource?

If you approach this question as a business, the answer is simple – outsource all cost centers. A cost center is any part of the business that doesn’t itself generate revenue but is necessary to the business’s operation. The prime example of this is accounting or IT services. It’s absolutely crucial for any business to have a good accounting department and a good IT department. The departments don’t generate any revenue though, despite their importance, and so they’re considered cost centers.

Outsourcing doesn’t mean that you hand it off and don’t ever review it. You’re ultimately still responsible. Outsourcing simply means that you give it to someone else to execute while you focus on other things.

The problem is you can’t outsource all cost centers. Outsourcing all cost centers won’t be financially feasible (nor would I want to) and there are some tasks that, despite their lack of added value, must be done by you. A prime example is paying the bills. Paying bills is not fun, you can “outsource” some of it with automatic bill pay, but it’s still something you need to review every single cycle.

High Effort, Low Value Add

Think of the tasks where your expertise offers the least amount of value. Now order those by the ones that require the most effort. These are the ones that you should outsource first. I can’t clean better than average and cleaning is something that consumes time at a prodigious rate. The nice thing is that you can clean a little here and there so the task is easily segmented but you still need to spend the time doing it. Cleaning is a prime example.

Doing your taxes is another high effort, low value add task and one reason why most people use tax software. The most value you can add is in organizing the documents you need (since only you know your tax situation) and so if you were to use an accountant, spend the time to put together all the documents you need and let the accountant fill out the forms (it’ll save you money too). They’ll also be knowledgeable about tax law and so it’s often better to have an expert do it if you have a complicated situation (complicated enough that tax software can’t handle).

Quality of Life

Finally, are there tasks that you dread? Things that you hate to do? Sometimes you should just outsource those, if you can, simply because it improves your quality of life. I have a friend who absolutely hates cleaning his toilet and so he hires a cleaning person to do it. It’s not so much the act of cleaning the toilet that bothers him, it’s having the brush around afterwards. Even if you get a nice pail to hold the brush, I think the thought of it being there disgusts him (which I understand). He can afford a service to come clean his toilets with their own brushes and take those brushes out of his apartment afterwards – so he does. It improves his quality of life in a meaningful way and so it’s not simply a trade of money for time.

Do you hire folks to do “routine” tasks? How do you decide what to outsource and what not to?

(Photo Credit: twicepix)

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10 Responses to “Should You Outsource Household Chores?”

  1. Barb says:

    My parents are constantly fighting about the landscaping/cutting the grass. I think it is time now that they are both in their 60s to get a service.
    This is why older people like to live in condos/high rises as they are no longer responsible for these types of tasks around the home.

  2. Michelle says:

    We decided to outsource our lawn mowing. The cost is only $28 per week, and that saves us the hassle from spending an hour every week mowing the lawn. Plus, we’ve had problems with our brand new lawn mower that we JUST bought. We bought a warranty with it and it hasn’t worked correctly since we bought it but the place won’t take it back even though it cost $300 and it was their fault that they sold us something broken.

  3. This is something we have toyed with the last number of months as my wife and I run our own business. There are some things like cleaning the house which can fall by the wayside because we lack the time. I think it comes down to the value added (in regards to time) you get as well as being something you can afford.

  4. Shirley says:

    Outsourcing some household chores eventually becomes a necessity for seniors. Climbing a ladder to clip tree limbs is no longer safe for us and and washing windows makes arthritic shoulders scream for days. We have been fortunate so far in haviing a grandson close by to hire for these chores.

    We will do what we are able to do for as long as we are able (because we do have the time) but I have no qualms about hiring someone to do deep cleaning when the need arises.

  5. huskervball says:

    I have a lady who comes in every two weeks and cleans my house. We can keep it up with her help. We are seniors and her service helps us enjoy life a little.

    Reading previous comments I think I should investigate mowing–it would help my husband.

    I had some success hiring students from the local community college to do yard clean up. My patience was greatly tried but man, they got a lot done–tree trimming, edging and mulching.

  6. I’ve had housecleaners off and on when I’m super busy with work (meaning that I’m making more than usual) or very sick. I think I can definitely say that I do clean bot better than average and faster than average. I was somewhat flabbergasted by Nora Roberts’ not even having a cleaning service when I found out about it (most novelists making more that $1 mil a year have a full-time assistant and a housekeeper), but after a few years, it make sense to me!

  7. My outsourcing consists of having friends and family come over to help with large yard projects or painting. Fortunately, I don’t have to pay for those, just have to return the favor at some point. I try to automate everything when it comes to paying the bills but other than that we do everything around our home ourselves when we can.

  8. I would love to outsource cleaning the bathroom in our house that I use, my least favorite task. But I think I’m too tight with the money ever to do it. Maybe that will be my luxury in retirement!

  9. Dave says:

    I outsourced mowing our lawn for years, until it dawned on me that I’d spend an hour on the treadmill and let someone else mow the lawn. I think of it as some exercise and saving money at the same time.

    I think the next thing to get outsourced is house cleaning. With two little kids, and both my wife and working full time, there just never seems to be enough time to just take a few hours and clean the house. I’m not sure how much a cleaning service costs, but it might be worth the peace of mind.

  10. I have a relative who outsources almost all her household chores because she believes it’s a good way to give herself more time in life to do the things she wants. Granted, she can afford it, but it’s not for any reason other than those things are “mundane” and thus she would rather be doing fun things 🙂

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