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Should You Outsource Household Chores?

Posted By Jim On 04/22/2013 @ 7:15 am In Personal Finance | 10 Comments

A 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?

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