Spending Money to Save Time: On Outsourcing Chores

Still life painting of candles, soap dispenser, bowls

A few months ago, I read about a study indicating that people are happier when they spend money to buy themselves free time (by outsourcing chores) than when they spend the same amount of money on material goods.  (The study was widely covered; you can read more about it here, here, and here.)  The authors reported that the reduction in time-stress resulting from paying others to perform daily tasks and routine chores led to greater life satisfaction across a wide range of income levels.  In other words, even people who are not wealthy benefit emotionally from spending their discretionary money on services rather than goods.  Given this information, why am I, like so many people, still cleaning my own house and weeding my own flower beds?

We Americans take pride in doing things for ourselves.  I like to think of myself as fairly self-sufficient.  I also struggle a little with expenditures that don’t result in a tangible item.  As I’ve achieved greater financial security, I’ve become more comfortable with spending money on experiences like travel, eating out, and spa treatments.  Yet for some reason, I’ve had trouble overcoming the notion that paying someone to do something I can do myself, like cleaning or yard work, is wasteful.

Admittedly, this is a silly belief.  Of course, paying someone to do time-consuming, unrewarding, unenjoyable tasks IS paying for an experience — the experience of having more time to devote to creative pursuits, social gatherings, exercise, leisure reading, meaningful work, and even just relaxing.  And as I look around my house at all the unnecessary items I own — too many clothes, numerous books, rarely used gadgets — I can see how trading those tangible things for stress-reducing, time-saving services would be a net positive in my life.  It’s also important to note that even in two-career marriages, women still carry a disproportionate share of the domestic workload, and our resistance to outsourcing chores is not exactly helping us to achieve an equal division of labor.

I do outsource some tasks.  When we bought our house, I hired a cleaning service to do a deep cleaning and a painting company to paint the walls, ceilings, and doors rather than doing it myself.  I knew that these professionals would do I better job than I would, in much less time, and that I didn’t have the right equipment for those tasks.  Outsourcing those jobs to people better equipped to do them allowed me to focus on packing and let us move into our new house much more quickly.

I occasionally pay to drive through an automatic car wash rather than going through the hassle of washing my own car, and I’ve previously written about my experiences with outsourcing meal planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation.  I also try to automate much of my shopping for consumables using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service, and I bought one of those robotic vacuums last year to cut down on the need to sweep and vacuum my floors so often.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Between local services and virtual assistants, you can outsource just about any task these days.  These seem to be some of the more common outsourcing options, in no particular order:

  1. House cleaning
  2. Lawn care
  3. “Handyman” services
  4. Laundry
  5. Pet care
  6. Wardrobe styling and clothing & accessories shopping
  7. Personal finance and accounting
  8. Grocery delivery
  9. Take-out meal delivery
  10. Birthday cards and gifts

I would love to hear about readers’ experiences with outsourcing everyday tasks.  What chores do you outsource?  Have you hired individuals through word of mouth, or have you relied on websites like TaskRabbit or Thumbtack?  How has buying time improved your life?  Do you find that the time and energy required to select and manage hired help offsets some of the time gain?

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: