Outsourcing Household Chores: Cost-Effective Move or the Ultimate In Anti-Frugal?

By Staff

When I was growing up, and too small to mow the lawn at the house my mom and I rented, my mom hired someone to cut the grass, edge and trim the hedges. It was the only household chore she outsourced as she tackled all inside work, often worked 50-60 hours a week, cooked a hot meal nearly every night for the two of us, and was an all-around great mom.

One day I asked her how we could afford to pay the man to cut our grass. Mom said she could probably get out there and do it herself, but it would take her all day and her allergies would suffer the next couple days. To her, it just wasn’t worth it.

It wasn’t long before my grandfather convinced her I was plenty old enough to push that mower around the yard, and so I did, happy to be doing my part. As I got older, I seem to have inherited those same allergies…and no, that’s not just an excuse to get out of yard work!

These days I wear a mask to prevent inhaling dust and grass clippings, but my eyes still swell to the point I look like I’ve lost a fight. The next day, my sinuses are completely clogged. My wife, probably weary of hearing me complain about my allergies, recently asked the valid question, “Why don’t you just hire someone to handle the yard work?”

Outsourcing the Yard Work?

Honestly, I had never considered it, because it seemed more frugal for me to do it myself. In fact, despite the allergies, I’ve always enjoyed yard work. Well, for the most part. But maybe my wife was on to something. Maybe I should scout out local service providers at Angie’s List and give one of them a try.

I could hire someone to do the lawn, freeing up more family time, and maybe even giving me an opportunity to write more. Instead of spending Saturday mornings in the yard, and the rest of the weekend paying for it (physically), it might make sense to outsource the work and free up that time for something else.

Naturally, I’m reluctant to do it, because it is hard for the do-it-yourselfer in me to hire someone to do something I can do myself. But at some point you have to recognize that your time is valuable, too. Would I rather be enjoying more time with my kids, and/or pursuing more entrepreneurial endeavors, or working in the yard in 100-degree heat on a Saturday. Well, when you put it that way, it seems like a pretty easy decision.

However, I’m also careful to avoid lifestyle creep – something I’ve mentioned a couple times here lately. I haven’t quoted landscape pricing, but I imagine it would add $100-$200 to maintain the yard each month, maybe more. That doesn’t factor in other special projects I’ve completed like planting trees, pruning trees, spreading mulch, etc.

Maybe a compromise would be to outsource the regular mowing and trimming, but continuing to take on special projects myself.

Other Chores to Outsource

Yard work seems to be a popular chore to outsource, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Cleaning services seem to still be in demand, despite the tough economy. Assuming they have the disposable income, I know many people who are happy to pay someone else to perform the weekly maintenance inside the home: vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, dusting furniture, sweeping porches, etc.

Most cleaning services offer a variety of package deals and an a la carte option, and will come up with a schedule that fits your needs (weekly cleaning, every two weeks, once a month, one-time deep clean, etc.).

My wife and hired a cleaning service to deep-clean our old house when we moved, because we were so occupied with getting our stuff settled in the new home. It added a couple hundred dollars to our moving budget, but we both agreed it was the best couple hundred dollars we ever spent!

Sure, it would have been cheaper for us to spend a couple days there scrubbing the place down after the furniture was moved out and the walls were painted, but at the time we were exhausted, I had to return to work, and my wife spent much of her time caring for our kids and my grandfather, who lived with us, all the while trying to unpack boxes in the new house.

I’m still weighing the decision to outsource the yard work, but for now I’ll keep wearing masks and taking Claritin on yard days. Maybe I could ask for service every two weeks to give myself a weekend off (the yard has to be cut just about every week in the peak of summer growing).

I’ll keep you posted on what we ultimately decide, but I guess the takeaway lesson here is that just because we are frugal, we shouldn’t be against spending money just for frugal sake. Sometimes it makes more sense to buy the more expensive, higher-quality option, or in this case, trade some amount of money for your time, which should also treated with value. After all, time is the most important non-renewable commodity we have.

What are your thoughts on outsourcing household chores? Have you ever thought about hiring someone to perform yard maintenance, or to help clean your home?