Defining a healthy dose of lifestyle inflation

On April 1st, I got an unpleasant surprise, and it wasn’t an April Fools joke or gag. I found out that one of our renters didn’t have enough money to pay all of his rent.

Since nothing like this has ever happened before, I was definitely caught off guard. Still, it wasn’t the end of the world. Since I pay all of our mortgages ahead of schedule, waiting a few weeks for payment wasn’t going to affect my bottom line. And after talking with my tenant, I agreed to accept partial rent on the 1st and the rest of the money on the 17th of April.

I usually wouldn’t make such a big exception. However, this particular tenant is a responsible man who treats our property with incredible respect and care, even going as far as fertilizing and edging the lawn. Since he and his wife have lived in my property for four years and never paid late, I was more than willing to break the rules just this once without giving them any grief. No big deal.

But once our tenant left, my usually frugal husband, Greg, had an idea that shocked me. “We should just let him mow our grass this summer and forget about the $400 he owes.” Our renter did work in landscaping, after all, and he had expressed interest in mowing our yard in the past. However, I wasn’t fully sold on the idea.

We aren’t saving extremists by any means, but we’ve always been the kind of people who do everything ourselves. We clean our own house, do our own yard work, and manage our own rental properties. Greg does our taxes and accounting and I even color my own hair. We rarely farm out any of our responsibilities, and we have saved a lot of money by choosing to be self-sufficient. In fact, that is basically how we dug ourselves out of debt. Some of our first steps toward a healthier financial situation included cutting out unnecessary services and becoming more self-reliant. Since adopting a frugal lifestyle is what got us where we are today, I was extremely hesitant to hire out any of our responsibilities. It seemed like a giant failure on our part and I felt like we were taking a step in the wrong direction.

An unsustainable future

Still, trying to do everything ourselves can sometimes take its toll. A few weeks ago, Kristin Wong wrote a post about being a workaholic, and I could definitely relate. Greg and I both work full-time and have various side hustles and freelance writing gigs. We also have two small children that require a lot of energy and care. For the past year, we have easily worked 55-65 hours or more per week, in addition to doing all of our household chores and being parents. It’s been great for our pocketbook, but it has been extremely hard to maintain a high level of productivity at work and keep everything else running smoothly.

Occasionally, something has had to give. And to the likely disdain of our neighbors, that something has usually been our yard. Last year, we were unable to find time to mow on several occasions, and the result was that our home stuck out terribly on our quiet street of beautifully manicured lawns. Whenever that happened, we were stressed out and overwhelmed until we finally found time to get the job done.

Is a reasonable amount of lifestyle inflation okay?

Considering the circumstances, paying someone to mow our grass started to sound amazing. But, would that really be a responsible decision? Or would we just be giving in to the chief sin of frugality: lifestyle inflation? My husband assured me that this arrangement would work out great for everyone involved. Our tenant wouldn’t owe us the rest of his rent for the month, and in turn, we would have an entire warm season free from yard work. He reasoned that we just cannot keep working so hard without burning out. And, as usual, he had a point.

“It’s time to stop trying to do everything ourselves. We need to find a way to have more free time or we will eventually go crazy.”

He spoke the truth. Aside from vacation, we haven’t had much free time in the past few years. We had been working so hard, had paid off all of our debts, and were able to secure various streams of income. However, we were running short on time to get anything else done. And while working hard wasn’t a problem in itself, the hours we were putting in meant that our other responsibilities were often neglected. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to get carried away by our new penchant for lifestyle inflation. It was important to determine what we really wanted to hire someone to do, and what we would continue to do ourselves.

My husband made another thoughtful suggestion, “let’s just do the math and see if it really makes sense.” So we did. Our tenant currently owed us $400, and we figured that we probably mowed our grass fifteen times last year. That works out to about $25 per mow. And since it typically takes either of us about two hours to get our yard mowed, we would only be paying $12.50 per hour to buy our time back. Looking at the numbers from that perspective made me feel completely different. Was it worth it to pay someone $12.50 an hour to complete a task that we could rarely find time to do? Without a doubt.

We decided to call our tenant and see if he would agree to our suggested arrangement. He was thrilled to have the opportunity, and I was relieved that we would have summer free of yard work after all. And even though my husband suggested that we also hire someone to clean our house, I’m still mulling that suggestion over. I’m just not willing to make several changes at once, and I don’t want to end up paying someone to do everything.

A healthy dose of lifestyle inflation

Even though I was feeling like a failure for not being able to do everything, I am learning to accept that fact that it may make sense to occasionally hire help. And the truth is, I used to clean houses in my early twenties, and the people I cleaned for weren’t lazy at all. They were busy. They knew that their time had become worth more than what they were paying me to clean their home, and I now realize that they were wise to delegate those responsibilities.

In the end, we decided to do what felt right. And since we are finally debt free and starting to earn more, it was time to start reevaluating the way we have been living. Time is our most precious asset, and we needed to spend more time living instead of always cramming in as much productivity as possible. It’s become against my nature to pay for services, but I’m coming around, slowly but surely. And this summer, when my kids are playing in the dirt and I’m enjoying the last hours of the evening, I’ll probably wonder if the money was worth it. I can only hope that the answer is yes.

Do you do everything yourself? Or do you hire out certain responsibilities? What factors do you take into consideration when making those decisions?

More about...Frugality, Home & Garden, Planning

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There are 100 comments to "Defining a healthy dose of lifestyle inflation".

  1. Beth says 18 April 2013 at 05:54

    Wrt to having a cleaning person – Maybe you could have someone do a specifica task, like washing the windows, every few months. You would still have to do the day-to-day cleaning, but at least you would have some help. And they will likely take less time than you, as they are pros and have it down to a science!

  2. Michael says 18 April 2013 at 06:07

    We also place a high value on our time and have taken to outsourcing some of the more mundane tasks around the house. It’s well worth it to us as we can afford it and it affords us more family time. The kids are only young once.

  3. Skaapie says 18 April 2013 at 06:09

    I outsource my cleaning and gardening. But I don’t just see it as freeing my time – I’m providing two people with a job that helps to support their families.

  4. rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) says 18 April 2013 at 06:09

    Before I retired early, we hired somebody to do our yard work. Since I retired, I now do all the yard work because I have much more time.

    I think the time versus money trade-off is very dependent on your individual situation. The trick is to get the most VALUE for any money that you spend. You have to think long and hard about what really constitutes value for you.

  5. partgypsy says 18 April 2013 at 06:31

    It sounds like you made the right decision. That you both want your yard to look good, and don’t really have the time to do so, while the tenant had the opposite problem (not enough cash flow while being someone interested and conscientious about yardwork).
    It’s good to hear stories like this, and I’m sure your tenant is appreciative of the chance.

    Ourselves, although we have a micro lot, the front area is still often unmanicured. What we are doing is replacing the small amount of yard with perennials. Though it does not look as immediately nice as a yard, the plan is it will be more maintenance-free in the long term.

    There were a couple years I really wanted a cleaning service (working full time, 2 small children). We are past the worst of it. We are now working on alternative strategy of teaching kids to pick up after themselves and also do small chores around the house. Again, slower to establish but the payoff is more permanent.

    • Kacie says 18 April 2013 at 10:20

      Agreed — it’s win/win. The guy is probably really relieved to have this opportunity, and it will save you that headache. Good move. I don’t really think this situation constitutes lifestyle inflation. More of a smart landlord decision.

  6. Johanna says 18 April 2013 at 06:36

    “Or would we just be giving in to the chief sin of frugality: lifestyle inflation?”

    This whole post, and that sentence especially, disturbs me. Frugality is not a moral issue, let alone a religion. There are no “sins of frugality,” figurative or literal. If you’re saving adequately for your future needs, there is NOTHING wrong with spending money you have on things that you want. (And even if you ARE neglecting future savings to spend money now, that’s not morally wrong either – it’s just a bad idea.)

    • Anne says 18 April 2013 at 09:18

      Johanna,
      I think that “sin of frugality” was a little tongue in cheek.

      The issue of lifefstyle inflation itself is certainly worth exploring.

      • Johanna says 18 April 2013 at 11:00

        It’s more than just the word “sin” that bothered me, so thanks for giving me the chance to elaborate. 🙂

        As I see it, when you’re up aganst the question of “Should I pay someone $400 to mow my lawn this summer?”, the very first question to ask is, “How does that $400 fit into my bigger budget picture?” Getting back to the title of the post, it seems obvious to me that the definition of “a healthy dose of lifestyle inflation” is “one that you can afford.” But that aspect of the situation is barely addressed in the post at all.

        When a moral or quasi-moral framework starts to replace arithmetic as the basis for personal finance decisions, you can go wrong in two different ways. You can start pinching pennies that you don’t need to pinch even though it makes you miserable, OR you can start justifying purchases that you can’t afford on the grounds that you “deserve it” because you “work so hard.” They’re two sides of the same coin.

        Reread the section “Is a reasonable amount of lifestyle inflation okay?” and imagine that, instead of being financially sound, the author is struggling to make ends meet. It takes on a very different tone, doesn’t it?

    • Suzanne says 18 April 2013 at 09:25

      I agree with this. It struck me as odd that “the sin of (really, against) frugality” is in itself considered a bad thing by the author. They clearly have the money to pay for the lawn care, so what is the problem?

      Is the author seriously questioning her moral fiber by agreeing to pay for a service that she can afford and the other party can offer? I would argue that she couldn’t really come up with a good reason why this article is important and so threw that in to justify writing it. I actually think it was a good solution to a problem and could be justified on those grounds alone. The “moral dilemma” part was unnecessary.

      • Anne says 18 April 2013 at 14:38

        Of course we may ALL be reading too much into this and picking the very tiniest of nits.

        But, for me anyway, I think spending my money in responsible ways DOES have moral overtones.

        At the very least I hope not to be a burden on my family, or my government, if at all possible. Also, the less I spend in other areas the more I can give to charities or individual people in need. And I do both of those things.

        But we may just be arguing semantics here.

        • Johanna says 18 April 2013 at 15:00

          Well, if you’re going to look at it that way, you could also say that by paying the tenant to mow her lawn, Holly is making less likely that HE’LL be burden to his loved ones or to the government, and maybe even making him more able to help others in need.

      • Eve says 19 April 2013 at 06:00

        It seems to me like the part of the moral issue that’s being neglected, by both the original post and the comments, is that the writer’s husband was trying to do something kind and generous by offering the renter a dignified way out of his debt. Forget frugality for a minute: would you give a guy you like and trust, who has always been previously financially responsible, $400 to help with his rent in a pinch? Now imagine you also receive a valuable service! Morally, to me, it seems like a no-brainer (provided one can afford the money).

  7. Laura says 18 April 2013 at 06:39

    Holly, when I was reading your post, I was struck by how you had framed the situation: our tenant owes us $400, he takes care of our yard, Greg wants to just have him do the yard in exchange for that $400, I don’t know, it could be lifestyle inflation, shouldn’t we just do it ourselves and collect the $400. While reading, I framed it differently: if I were in your shoes, I have a responsible tenant who has done excellent yard care out of his own pocket, saving me a ton of effort when time is precious. I value this tenant, so when he’s short this one time, a barter of his time doing something he obviously likes and which improves my property in exchange for $400 we don’t really desperately need tells him that we value him, we’re glad someone that responsible is our tenant, and we appreciate his care of our property. Win-win.

    You’re correct that time is valuable. So are our relationships with people. I realize he’s your tenant and not your friend, but you still have a relationship with him and it makes sense to cultivate that when he brings value to your life. I think J.D. called it investing in social capital.

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says 18 April 2013 at 07:21

      Yes, I agree. Ultimately, that is why we reached the conclusion that we did. Letting him mow our grass in lieu of rent was a win-win for everyone involved, and I am thrilled that yard work is now off my plate.

      With that being said, I definitely didn’t owe him that. I’m in the rental business to make money, not to make friends or to be in a position to dole out favors.

      But, you’re right. I do appreciate him as a tenant and want to show him that. They are amazing tenants, and I haven’t raised their rent in 4 years because I never want them to move =)

      • William Cowie says 18 April 2013 at 07:43

        I might beg to disagree just a little on that. Business is business, you say. the inference is: mercy is bad business.

        But what does a business do when a customer brings back something that’s in perfectly good order? You give them a refund, especially if it’s a good customer.

        Good business practice says there are times to bend a little. Not all the time, and not a lot, but now and then.

        Business relationships, good ones at least, are not just cut and dried. In the end it’s about people. And if they bend over backwards for you, it’s not bad business practice to return the favor…

        • Holly@ClubThrifty says 18 April 2013 at 07:49

          Which I did. =)

          Sorry, William, but there’s a big difference between returning a pair of pants that you don’t like and not paying your rent. What exactly is my customer returning here????

          But, I do agree that making an exception this time was the right thing to do! I also think that he will do a better job on our yard than we ever have. And it wouldn’t take much since we are terrible at yard work anyway.

  8. SAHMama says 18 April 2013 at 06:45

    We do what we know how to do. I do the family’s haircuts, for example, but we pay the plumber to snake out our sewer pipe once a year (tree roots).

  9. CashRebel says 18 April 2013 at 06:56

    I’ve done this math many times and it’s funny how I reacted differently when I heard you would be paying $12.50/hr. Because my time outside of work doesn’t make me much money, id do that any time, but that’s because we areat different points in life.

  10. TB at BlueCollarWorkman says 18 April 2013 at 07:05

    What surprised me was that the idea of one of you cutting back on your work hours never came up. I know we all want to make a bazillion dollars, but at what expense? Getting outside at my home and doing the yard maintenance and playing with our daughters is time spent better than making a buck at work. When I read your situation, I think that best solution is to have someone cut back to part-time work. Then your children get more attention which they deserve and you have time to care for your own home and hearth, as they say.

    Perhaps you yourself said it best: “Time is our most precious asset, and we needed to spend more time living instead of always cramming in as much productivity as possible.” Exactly.

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says 18 April 2013 at 07:24

      Funny that you mention that. I haven’t talked about it publicly yet, but I will be working from home starting May 1st. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point, and I am super excited to get to spend more time with my kids!!!

      Our life has been total chaos for some time now, and we decided that it’s finally time to make some changes. I wanted to make sure that I could replace my income from my full time job before I left it, and we have finally reached that point. I didn’t want to saddle my husband with the full financial burden of our household, and I didn’t want to give up any of our financial goals either.
      Luckily, we are finally there and I am sooooo ready to start my new life. Luckily, I get to make money doing what I enjoy doing, and I am going to have more free time to do things that I miss- like reading books, going for walks, making nice dinners, etc. Our life has been nothing but work for so long, I hardly remember what it’s like to have any time to myself.

      • LeRainDrop says 18 April 2013 at 10:25

        Congrats, Holly! This is exciting!

      • John S @ Frugal Rules says 18 April 2013 at 12:15

        Wow, congrats Holly! You’re going to love it!

      • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets says 23 April 2013 at 10:27

        WOOHOO! Nice work, Holly! Amazing news to hear!

      • Yamaneko says 02 May 2013 at 17:57

        BTDT regarding work from home.

        Your employers and clients will expect the same amount of work from you, if not more. You are now responsible for the maintenance of your equipment — if your office had IT services your home office has you. If you have children or pets, they will want your attention and have ways of getting it. You will be the go-to person if people in your family or among your close friends need an errand done.

        There is much to recommend working from home, especially if it saves you a long or expensive commute. Just do not expect oodles of time to appear from nowhere.

        • Holly Johnson says 03 May 2013 at 09:23

          I’m actually now completely self-employed. Also, my kids are going to daycare full time until I can figure out how much I can keep them home. After I get in a routine, I may keep them home one or two days a week- or maybe not. I’m staying pretty busy.

    • Mom of five says 18 April 2013 at 07:41

      Sure, most times I’d rather spend time with the kids than work, but no kidding, I’d rather work an extra hour than mow the lawn or rake the leaves.

      • CCH says 18 April 2013 at 10:56

        I thought the whole point of having kids was so they could mow the grass and rake the leaves for you.

        • maryd says 18 April 2013 at 15:31

          At 1 and 3 I don’t think her kids are quite up to the task.

  11. Ivy says 18 April 2013 at 07:09

    If it’s really stressing you out, and if it’s not going to break the budget, I think it makes absolute sense to outsource. We had cleaning for 4 years, when the kids were little and recently stopped it.
    Think of this not as lifestyle inflation, but as a good investment in your mental health, you wouldn’t skip on preventive health, right?

  12. My Financial Independence Journey says 18 April 2013 at 07:15

    I think that lifestyle inflation can be fine. So long as you make your savings goals, who cares how you spend the leftover money? The other thing to consider, as you have experienced, is stress. The psychologically stressful doing everything yourself becomes, the more reasonable outsourcing some of it becomes.

  13. Jacob@CashCowCouple says 18 April 2013 at 07:15

    This is a great post Holly. We aren’t there yet but someday we will have to make these same calls. Time is absolutely your most valuable asset and should be the priority. Geez! You and Greg are machines!

  14. Mom of five says 18 April 2013 at 07:24

    We have four easily identifiable areas of lifestyle inflation. They are in order of importance to us
    -lawn mowed/leaves raked
    -housecleaner
    -eating out two or three times a month
    -nice vacations

    We gave up mowing the lawn about 10 years ago. I don’t think we realized how much we detested it – not only for the job itself but also for the amount of time it took – until we gave it up for good. In the case of financial emergency the absolute last thing to go would be the lawn care. It averages out to $50 per month. It’s so important to us that we consider it part of our housepayment.

  15. Dona Collins says 18 April 2013 at 07:26

    I think it’s a great idea and very fair. The only thing I would wonder about (which I’m sure you know and is none of our business) is the reason your tenant didn’t have the money this month. Life emergencies happen and put us behind; things that might become ongoing may cause more late payments in the future. You obviously had enough information to make a fair decision that benefited both of you (and rewarded a good tenant who will probably STAY loyal to you)!

  16. Budget and the Beach says 18 April 2013 at 07:30

    Not only are you saving precious time, I think it’s a great relationship builder for your tenant. You are doing something really wonderful for him, and doing him a huge favor. If you were in bucket loads of debt yourself than yes, you need to watch out for your bottom line, but time is something you’ll never get back. I think you’re doing the right thing!

  17. El Nerdo says 18 April 2013 at 07:34

    balance:
    50 needs
    20 savings
    30 wants -> that’s for whatever non-survival no-obligation expenses you want to incur– be it fritos, trips, pirate-style pantaloons, good haircuts, a robot vacuum, spa days, old records, sporty car, organic chicken, babysitters, a butler, gambling on the stock market for the fun of it, a personal chef, etc.

    also it occurs to me you could give this tenant a permanent rent discount (or just pay him) to work on all your properties. i mean, you already have 60 hours of work, how many of those do you spend with landlord work? (this is just a rhetorical question).

    anyway– balance! bla bla bla, etc. yes!

    • Ms. W @ GrowingHerWorth.com says 18 April 2013 at 08:12

      I love that all of your very grounded advice always contains a touch of whimsy. “Pirate pantaloons” made me smile! I’m glad that you’re still around the sight in some fashion El Nerdo!

    • KSR says 18 April 2013 at 13:41

      I know (yeah, yeah, yeah) that I’ve said this before. The 50/30/20 is awesome and how even I started out (unintentionally via my accountant’s advice back in 1998). But, that 50/30/20 has to, at some point, do a switcharoo–where you’re saving 50, needing 30, and wanting 20. That should be the hope anyway–well the hope would be needing 20–cha-ching. There’s no way Holly has 50% of her budget going to life requirements. Not Holly. Probably around 35–my guess. And once people start extreme budgeting and seeing the benefits in spades–it’s addictive and hard to stop that mental cycle. Paying someone to clean MY house? Ha! For me–“NO WIRE HANGERS” just about sums up my style– so I’d pity the soul trying to shine up my abode! Plus, I’d end up cleaning before they got here (wouldn’t want to appear dirty)–then I’d redo what they did (cuz it’s not to my standard). Argh, I’ve got serious problems. Not to mention, I couldn’t be in my house while someone else was cleaning it. Holly you will have to schedule some play dates to get out o’ dodge so not to “feel” like I figure you could “feel” in that sitch. Congrats on the in-home switch Holly! That’s huge! Balance? What is that? Must require some contraption.

      • Holly Johnson says 18 April 2013 at 13:53

        That is EXACTLY why I haven’t hired someone to clean my house. I would have to clean before they got there, and they probably wouldn’t do it right. I, too, have problems!

        And I also agree about the balanced money formula. I think that it’s a great approach but my expenses aren’t near 50 percent so it wouldn’t work for me. My “needs” are at around 30 percent of our take home pay, although that may fluctuate some once I become self-employed next month.

        • KSR says 19 April 2013 at 20:18

          See–that’s why you and I don’t need burgers (not that we would, yum and ick at the same time, right?)! We’re cool. We are the people that other people would love to hire to feel all happy about their SUPER clean homes. But, life trajectories have taken certain paths and elevated careers emerged and you and I, thankfully, just take care of our own palaces–super well. It all worked out. Do I hear…Cinderella, Cinderella? Nerdo, if you ever need a dose of the dark side—let me know. Your prescription…uh, is maybe all about you, but may actually need some exposure to…us. There’s nothing better than sitting back after a hard day’s clean–just to gasp at the polish and buff. Knowing it will evaporate soon. To do it again. It’s really not that we enjoy it–we expect it. There’s a difference.

      • El Nerdo says 18 April 2013 at 19:59

        Haa haa haaa! You maniacs! You need to sit down with a nice cheeseburger and relax! Then take a nap. Then wake up and loaf around some. Do it as a daily workout! Eventually you’ll get to where it becomes an art…

  18. Barb says 18 April 2013 at 07:35

    Sounds like you made a good choice. There are no frugal rules that say you have to do everything yourself. Allyou need to do is be saving, have enough money for your needs, and after that its up to you.

    Personally if it were I, I would cut at least one of those jobs down to less than forty hours so that I could spend time with my kids. And yard work, house work and so on are perfectly good times to interact with your kids …………who are only young once

  19. Beth says 18 April 2013 at 07:46

    I had another thought while reading this article. Housework is a never-ending task that (for me, anyway) always gets pushed to the backburner because of working on my gigs and spending time with my family.

    Is there a way we could have an “Ask the Readers” type of article about housework hacks? If someone has an awesome way to clean windows or dust in a short period of time, for example, that would be extremely helpful.

    I think tips on housework dose help with frugality, as an organized home makes it easier to find what you need so you don’t spend money purchasing excess “stuff.”

    • Jen says 18 April 2013 at 09:01

      Hi Beth,

      That’s a great idea for an “Ask the Readers” post. I’ll see what we can do! Thanks!

      -Jen the Editorial Elf

      • Beth says 18 April 2013 at 17:29

        Awesome, thanks!

  20. Financial Black Sheep says 18 April 2013 at 07:50

    Mr. FBS and I do everything ourselves. We have a very small yard and spend a few hours here and there gardening, mowing, etc. My priorities are paying for school and future, so unless I make more money I won’t be hiring anyone to help. I would like someone to clean, but most of the time they vacuum, dust, clean counters, but don’t do dishes, or even pick up things. That’s where I would really want the help if I ever paid for it.

  21. Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says 18 April 2013 at 07:55

    For every new $10 we bring in, we try to put $5 toward charity, $2 toward savings, and $3 for lifestyle–that’s $2 of REAL inflation and $1 of actual lifestyle inflation.

    It’s been working for us. We don’t feel deprived, and we’re meeting our goals.

  22. anna says 18 April 2013 at 08:14

    That’s a great situation for both you and your tenant! We do most of our chores ourselves, but if we have kids I can definitely see outsourcing some chores as a way to spend more time with my loved ones. I think before you’ve stated that delegating might be a challenge for you, so I think this is a great first step in doing so since both of you seem so busy.

  23. Janice says 18 April 2013 at 08:16

    For me, the really important take on your dilemma was that you were willing to be flexible, which can be so difficult after living the “extreme” lifestyle of work, work and more work to reach financial goals.

    Working so much can really wear you out, weaken relationships and skew your priorities. Been there, done that. So I felt your pain when trying to reach this decision, but I assure you, when you look out at your beautiful yard that you didn’t have to touch while you’re relaxing on the porch with your husband and kids, you will be very happy you could let go of the “I have to do everything or else it’s wasteful” mentality. Bravo!

  24. Vanessa says 18 April 2013 at 08:28

    I must admit your post gave me heart palpitations. It stressed me out thinking how much it is you and husband do. Working over 55 hours!, parenting, housework, yard work, rental properties! Yikes!

    Is your time worth more than $12.50 per hour? I say you hire this guy and do it NOW! I think you have already done that so pat yourself on making a good decision. Do something nice for husband since it was his idea.

    Ironically thats what we pay our gardner to mow our postage size front yard. $12.50 flat rate. He does it once a month and it tskes him less than 10 minutes. No muss no fuss and yard looks clean. Worth every penny.

  25. krantcents says 18 April 2013 at 08:29

    I am very value conscious! I have hired out certain services because it makes better sense of time. I used to have a gardener, poll service and cleaning lady. I downsized to a townhouse 15 years ago and just have a cleaning lady. I max out all my savings and practically have no debt (small mortgage & car loan) and they will be paid off within 4 years. I have accumulated a very nice nest egg that provided financial freedom 28 years ago.

  26. Mark Lunde says 18 April 2013 at 08:33

    Before I would agree to this arrangement, I would want to seek assurance that this is absolutely a one-time-only event, and that in the future, your tenant is able and willing to pay the full amount of rent EVERY month. No exceptions.

  27. Lucas says 18 April 2013 at 08:55

    I don’t have a hard and fast rule with respect to outsourcing. I generally try to take on whatever I feel benefits me (either monitarily/time wise, learning opportunity, excersize, low risk to blow something up 😉 ). I typically do almost everything myself, but For example I outsource HVAC inspections as they have special gear and computers to hook up to stuff, but then do the repairs they suggest on my own. I do outsource oil changes on my car as it saves me time, and the cost is almost identical to doing it myself.

    Typically I view mowing as an excercise. So my main concern for you isn’t the economic one, but rather that if you are too busy to mow the lawn you are probably too busy to get any sort of excercise.

    I also echo the concern of overall business. Might be time to step back for a min and evaluate the return on your time for all your activities. If i am too busy to do something myself I take that as a warning sign of being too busy 🙂

  28. The Norwegian Girl says 18 April 2013 at 09:00

    I think you made a clever choice! I can understand that you want to do it all yourself, because that`s how I do things, but mowing during summer? that`s one thing I´d never do myself, mostly because I have pollen allergy, but also because I wouldn`t want to have that extra work on top of everything else.

  29. Kristin Wong says 18 April 2013 at 09:03

    Weird, I was just having this same convo with my mom yesterday. She’s ultimately decided that it’s for the best to have someone take care of her overwhelming yard for her, but she says she still can’t help feeling guilty.

    Congrats on working from home, Holly! Pajamas all day! (Not really, definitely don’t do that. It’s depressing.)

    Johanna commented about how frugality isn’t about morality. Most of me agrees with this, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who do value frugality as a virtue, and I think that’s okay, too. Oddly enough, I came across this excerpt in a book last night–it stuck out to me, and then after reading the comment I thought it worth sharing:

    “Advocacy in favor of thrift can be roughly divided into two types: traditional, religiously based appeals that classify consumption in terms of vice and virtue, and pragmatic appeals couched in the language of social mobility, budgeting, and financial management.” (Lauren Weber, In Cheap We Trust).

    Again, I’m not saying I live by the former, but I do think there are some people (like Ma Wong) who value thrift as a virtue. I dunno–I think that’s okay, but like anything virtuous, you can definitely take it to the extreme, too! (Example: My mom’s guilt over having the guys there is due to her viewing frugality as a virtue rather than a pragmatic means to an end. And unnecessary guilt is not a positive thing.)

    I certainly wouldn’t consider Holly’s situation to be a sin, but having been raised by someone who considers frugality a virtue, I can totally understand the mind-set.

    • M says 18 April 2013 at 09:17

      Kristin, For what it’s worth, I recently read the phrase, “The virtue is in the mean.” I interpret it as a bit Buddhist; that there is sacred value in finding balance. And each of must determine what balance works for us.

    • Holly Johnson says 18 April 2013 at 09:52

      Thanks for your insight, Kristin. Honestly, I think I have some deep-seated issues with regards to delegating responsibilities and being seen as a failure.
      It sounds like your mom carries some of the same unnecessary guilt as well. I wish I knew a solution to that problem. =/
      For now, I’m trying to “let go” little by little. It’s definitely hard.

      • M says 18 April 2013 at 10:59

        Holly,
        I can only speak for myself, but I must have been born with the notion, “I can do it myself!” Perhaps I’m stubborn or too proud. Dunno.
        Sounds like you’re coming to the point in your life where taking a risk and asking for help means more than dealing with feeling less-than. I suspect that once you do delegate, you’ll feel a great relief. And who knows? Maybe others have wanted to help all along.

  30. Veronica says 18 April 2013 at 09:03

    I own a duplex and have a roommate. Whenever I need help around the house/property I ask them first. I pay them $10-$15 / hour depending on the task, and they still owe the rent. The rent is taxable income and the amount I pay them is a tax deduction. I do this so there is never a question that they owe the rent and if they don’t get the promised work done, they don’t get paid. This way there’s no expectation and no resentment (ok, maybe a little, ’cause then I have to find someone else to do it, but it’s not like it would be if I had forgiven the rent in advance of the work being performed.)

  31. Peg says 18 April 2013 at 09:27

    Up until a year ago, I had a paid cleaning lady for more than 15 years. My husband had always been involved in a lot of activities, and I had reached a point where I was tired of spending my entire weekend cleaning, in addition to taking care of our kids, while working full time. Our life circumstances changed a year ago, due to a move that proved to be a huge mistake. We’ve since moved back to our home town. It’s actually been liberating to no longer pay someone to clean our house. By the time I had straightened the house before she arrived, I might as well have taken the extra step and finished it. However, a person needs to do what is necessary to maintain her sanity. And for me, it was paying someone to do something I was perfectly capable of doing.

  32. Matt Becker says 18 April 2013 at 10:03

    I definitely understand the emotional aspect to your decision. Glad you were able to work through it!

    I think with stuff like this, it’s important, if difficult, to try and remain goal-focused. Is it truly your goal to handle all of life’s chores on your own? My guess is no. In the past, doing all of the chores yourself sounds like it helped significantly in moving your towards your goals, but these days those same chores might be getting in the way of your goals. It’s a difficult transition to make mentally.

  33. LeRainDrop says 18 April 2013 at 10:14

    Just this Monday I actually hired a cleaning service to begin cleaning my home every other week, and I am feeling so relieved! I used to have a service, but their quality declined substantially over time to the point where it was obvious they came pretty much just to pick up the check (they “cleaned” while I was at the office). So, I went back to cleaning it all myself for about a year. But my allergies have been acting up (not to mention I will always be allergic to my cats!), my free time is scarce, and the cost is well within my budget so I decided to go forward with getting a service again. This time it’s a team that three of my neighbors highly recommend, and I was very impressed with the owner’s care and attention to detail when I met with her. The first cleaning was also done very well. In one word, I feel RELIEVED! 🙂

    • Riki says 18 April 2013 at 13:35

      I feel exactly the same way! I have somebody come in for 4 hours once per month and it’s the best thing I ever could do for myself.

      I feel significantly less stress and the house looks so amazing after a cleaning that I tend to keep it clutter free for much longer than if I were doing the cleaning myself. It’s literally worth every single penny.

  34. Pauline says 18 April 2013 at 10:55

    I have 5 people working full time at the moment and they are worth every penny. It took me a long time to go from “I can do everything and nobody will do it better than me” to “they may not do it as well but I can’t do it all and should focus on important stuff”.

  35. Jane says 18 April 2013 at 11:22

    “Was it worth it to pay someone $12.50 an hour to complete a task that we could rarely find time to do? Without a doubt.”

    It might be a great deal for you to do this; for him, however, it is a terrible deal. If it takes you two hours to mow your lawn, then I imagine it is pretty large. $12.50 an hour sounds incredibly low for such hard work, especially if you’re talking about a push mower. I imagine high school students make more than that when they mow.

    If this is for a riding mower, perhaps it’s fair, but even then you’re talking about two hours. I don’t imagine you could get someone professionally to mow your yard for anything close to that low. And I live in the reasonable Midwest as well.

    But of course this doesn’t take into account the fact that he is late on rent and you are giving him a break in that respect. If it were me, I’d rather pay the rent and a late fee than commit to moving someone’s large lawn all summer for $400. Or I would get really religious and pray daily for a drought like last year that would mean I would have to mow less or not at all. I think we mowed our lawn less than five times last summer.

    • Holly Johnson says 18 April 2013 at 11:28

      Ha,ha! We have a push mower so it takes us forever….

      Luckily, he has a riding mower since he does lawn care for a living. And actually, that’s what he said he typically charges. He also said that he mostly mows foreclosures and can get a ton of them done in a day. I have a fairly small yard, so it probably won’t take him long at all to do it.

      And remember, if he thought it was a terrible deal, he didn’t have to take it.

  36. @debtblag says 18 April 2013 at 12:02

    I’m working more and more to find lifestyle *deflation. The real interesting thing about it is that as soon as I find one thing that I think I “need” and turn it into something I simply want, before getting rid of it, I find that it’s easier to keep looking for more things to get rid of.

    And the money I save go straight to savings or paying down debt

  37. Crystal says 18 April 2013 at 12:04

    I don’t see a problem with lifestyle inflation at all IF someone is also inflating their savings and investments too. Splurging more is only dangerous if you don’t keep yourself realistic. Otherwise, if your bills are paid, and your future is being saved for, why not? 🙂

  38. John S @ Frugal Rules says 18 April 2013 at 12:27

    I don’t see a problem with it all and think it’s a very fair offer. I really don’t view it a case of lifestyle inflation per se, especially in your case. You guys are busting your humps and DO need free time so neither one of you burn out. For a simple thing you’re getting yourself extra free time this summer to be doing more things that previously you did not have time for. We tend to do most things on our own, but we are getting very close to doing something like this as there is only so much time in the day. You only have so much time and we don’t want to keep ourselves so busy that we have no opportunity to enjoy any of it.

  39. lmoot says 18 April 2013 at 12:52

    Currently I only outsource things I know I can’t do. I hope to one day be able to outsource things I could learn to do, but have no desire to learn how to do so. I hope I never reach the point of productivity that I outsource things I am very capable of doing.

    That’s not a judgement at all on anyone who does! I just can’t and don’t want to imagine a life where I’m too busy working, or even too busy having fun and dawdling around, to clean my bathroom or do yardwork. I like the idea of being active in as many parts of life as possible, including coming face to face with my messiness and communing with nature (the good, the bad, and the weedy). Even if I don’t LIKE it all the time. It’s character-building for me.

    When someone complains about how the weeds in FL grow a mile a day I’ve earned the right to say “Brother, don’t I know it!”. And we can commiserate together. Maybe I’m just a masochistic silly, but I can only take so much of family and friends, and travelling, and good times. I get enjoyment sometimes from knowing I did something I didn’t want to do…it makes me feel stronger, and more appreciative of the more enjoyable parts of life. I think if I was rich I’d be bored as….

  40. Punkinpye says 18 April 2013 at 13:21

    I can relate to your quandry. We are frugalistas. My husband and I have no debt except a mortgage ($850 a month including insurance and tax) and small car payment (long story behind that). It was very hard to let go of the money to have someone mow our lawn (20 dollars every other week) and to have someone come clean our home every other week (65 dollars each time) even though we do have the money. Outsourcing these chores made me feel guilty and hedonistic. But the reality is that I am in my sixth year of dialysis and my husband, who works full time, has severe back problems that cause him pain and limit his mobility. Before finally hiring a house cleaner I was constantly stressed out and felt like a failure because I could not keep up with the housework with my limited energy level. I finally had to realize that part of the beauty of frugality is flexibility. Every family has different needs and different talents. With housecleaning help, I can now concentrate on cooking, laundry, marketing, and couponing. I calculate that my couponing for groceries, clothes, and household goods alone saves us anywhere from $500 to $1000 a month.

    • Rose says 19 April 2013 at 13:30

      I’m genuinely curious about your last statement, there, because I’ve never understood the whole coupon craze. How do you save that $500-$1000 a month….I don’t even spend $500 a month on groceries/household supplies a month,so there is no way I could save that much unless I didn’t buy anything. What do you buy/what QUANTITIES that you are cutting costs that much?? (Clothing is separate in our house, but our budget for that is $50 a month)

      • Punkinpye says 22 April 2013 at 23:17

        Sorry for the confusion. I should have added a bit more detail in my comment but it was a dialysis day and I wasn’t at my best. The $500 to $1000 amount I mention includes any discount or savings I am able to get on any expenditure we make…not just groceries (I track on an Excel sheet). This includes savings on gas, prescriptions, entertainment (movie rentals and books mostly), home repairs and maintenance, clothing, haircuts, gifts and most any other expenditure you can think of. I just got my son’s graduation announcements for half price with a special coupon. By purchasing an announcement that included his picture, I also saved myself the cost of printing wallet sized pictures to include with the announcements.

        Using coupons stacked with store sales, it’s amazing the kinds of deals you can find. I just snagged 8-roll packages of paper towels for $1.99. I bought ten packages. I don’t usually buy this kind of volume, but I couldn’t pass up the deal. This week, I’ll be getting 12 double roll packages of toilet paper for $1.99. I do stockpile, but nothing like the quantities you see on “Extreme Couponing”. Most items are on a 12-week sales cycle, so I just buy enough to get us through. In addition, I used a credit card that gives me 6% cashback for groceries.

        Another strategy that has saved me a lot of money is discount gift cards. My husband works for a major retailer who gives him a 25% discount. I purchase discount gift certificates off the internet for my purchases there. This gives me an additional 25 to 28% discount. Add in the savings I get on clearance and sale items, and we get clothes and household items for thrift store prices.

        The internet is full of great couponing blogs that give instructions for beginners if you are interested.

  41. Gizmosdad says 18 April 2013 at 14:00

    Wow. I wish i could find a lawn service for 12.50/hr. my local rate is around 30/hr. maybe i can ask my tenants to barter their labor too…

  42. Jan says 18 April 2013 at 16:59

    Make sure your expectations are clear for his work- since you seem to have a perfectionist side. Lawn work on a foreclosure is way different then a cute little neighborhood. Bartering is taxable- BTW.

    Also—55- 60 hours a week and now you are going to work at home? Do you really think that your life will slow enough to read a book? I think you under appreciate what your child care providers do for you— or do you barter that as well?
    Remember that JD’s formula was for – basically- a single man (since when he was married they did separate finances).
    Unless you have something wrong with your health—you will have YEARS to get rich slowly.

    • Beth says 19 April 2013 at 14:44

      I agree with the part about staying home.

      I was a WOHM until my second child was about six months old. I decided to stay home with both (and they’re two years apart). It’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of days where I don’t get to start my paid work until 1 p.m. or later. Sometimes, I can’t start until after dinner.

  43. Carla says 18 April 2013 at 20:26

    For the most part I do everything myself: hair, nails, cook most meals from scratch, house cleaning, car washing, tailoring sometimes, etc. The only thing I don’t do is oil changes because free oil change for life is part of my warranty. I’m single, childless and a renter so my maintenance is pretty minimal for the most part.

    I DID hire someone to clean my apartment once a few months ago and it was a life changing experience. My apartment was much cleaner than it was even when I first moved in for one. I was also able to do so much more including rest – something I rarely give myself time to do but I really should given my health situation.

    In my opinion trying to do everything is overrated. I know we give each other pats on the back for working ourselves into the ground, but sometimes its just not worth it. Keep lifestyle inflation in check but still give yourself a break.

  44. Amy says 19 April 2013 at 03:42

    It sounds like you made the right decision, you didn’t just jump into it without carefully thinking it through and it definitely made sense.
    It isn’t a splurge, don’t feel guilty!

  45. Taylor says 19 April 2013 at 07:31

    Hi,

    I am sorry. The folks in the above comments are clearly not experienced landlords. I, myself, a single female, am also not experienced (only 10 years of owning rentals).

    That being said, it is VERY well known in the landlord world that hiring a tenant to operate machinery (with a blade!) is a very, very bad idea. What if he gets hurt? Who will he blame? Who will he sue? The rich landlord with the faulty lawnmower that she made him use to work off his debt, of course!

    If you want to have someone else do your lawn, hire a lawn guy. Have him send you a bill. DO NOT hire your tenant.

    Also, and I realize that I sound like a terrible and mean and awful, no good, not very nice person who is not encouraging like the other folks in your comments. My heart genuinely skipped a beat as I read your post. I read the comments – surely another landlord will speak up – surely!

    In addition to the tenant-chopping-off-a-foot-thing, the tenant will next stop paying the rest of the “portion” of the rent. He will then ask to do other chores in exchange for rent – why not? He is already cutting your grass. Why not let him repaint the facia board (ladders!) and trim the trees (chainsaws!) And then, before you know it, you have a full-time employee (do you have an insurance plan and health care package set up for him? Worker’s comp insurance paid up?) who is living rent free in one of your houses. Then you will need to evict him. How will you explain your arrangement to the judge when he asks you when the fellow last paid rent?

    Please, please, please, I beg you. Get yourself educated. There are landlord websites out there (I won’t post any here because I don’t know if the spam filters will let them go through). Experienced, knowledgeable landlords offer real life advice.

    I had to enter my email address to post this comment. If you want resources, please email me directly.

    • Holly Johnson says 19 April 2013 at 07:36

      Hey, Taylor-

      My tenant runs a landscaping company, and he is licensed, bonded, and insured. I wouldn’t feel comfortable hiring him to do anything other than lawn care.

      • Taylor says 19 April 2013 at 07:51

        My apologies. I was hyperventilating by the second sentence!

        It doesn’t change the second part of the analysis. How else can he shave off a bit more rent? When he stops paying rent entirely, what will you tell the judge when he asks how much you are owed in back rent?

        Also, again, I would not hire a tenant to work for me. There are other lawn companies – why take the chance? Your yard guy will understand – if he is licensed, bonded, and insured, then he obviously understands the risks of running a business.

        It’s just not worth it.

        I wish you well – I enjoy being a landlord, the profits far outweigh the crazy (and sometimes bad) stuff that keep most others away. I wish you the same! (and thank you for writing articles for us to read on GRS!)

        • Holly Johnson says 19 April 2013 at 08:03

          No problem! =)
          The second part of your analysis is just a series of hypothetical situations. I have no reason to believe that he would stop paying rent. Like I said, he has lived there for four years and has been nothing but forthcoming and responsible. I don’t mind hiring a tenant who is licensed, bonded, and insured to do yard work. I like to consider things like this on a case-by-case basis.

          I also enjoy being a landlord most of the time. It has proved to be a good financial move so far, and I don’t mind little hiccups like this every now and then.

          Good luck with your rentals!

        • Beth says 20 April 2013 at 11:11

          To echo what others have said, how does the OP know this is a one-time thing with this tenant? If he doesn’t have the money this month, how do you know he’ll be OK next month? I know he’s a “good guy,” and I’m sure Holly knows the situation, but still.

        • Carla says 20 April 2013 at 16:59

          That’s the risk you take being a landlord. You can’t know what one’s situation is going to be from one month to the next. I’m sure the OP’s landlord had a legitimate reason for being short given he’s had a good history so far.

  46. C says 19 April 2013 at 07:53

    While this does seem like a great solution for the author, I kind of question it’s presence on this site. Justifying lifestyle inflation in this manner is what eventually leads a lot of people into debt. I’m not saying that it wasn’t the right choice for Holly, who clearly has her finances way way waaaaay under control, but I do think these kinds of posts on a PF site are potentially “enabling” people who are more borderline.

  47. Ms. W @ GrowingHerWorth.com says 19 April 2013 at 09:10

    My initial thought when reading this article was much like “C”s above: Great! More justifying lifestyle inflation!

    The more I think about it, the more I think this sight just isn’t “put together” correctly right now to show how all of these articles apply to gaining financial independence. There are several staff writers who are at different phases of Getting Rich Slowly. IMHO, it would be helpful to have a short bio at the top of each new post, reminding people who each author is, what phase they are currently in, and what their short and long term financial goals are. Then encourage each author to write about what they are doing from the perspective of how it will enable them to reach their goals, instead of from a stance of trying to justify or find support for what they are doing.

    We all need support in our ongoing struggles to reach financial independence. And I support Holly in her internal struggles with the idea of outsourcing work she and her husband could otherwise do. But I would love to see more confidence in coming from the stance of stressing that they are out of debt, and are working towards growing their wealth. Therefore, trading money for time spent with their children is more in line with their values right now. It isn’t going to derail their financial plans, and it seems they will be gaining much more than they are losing.

    I just think with so many different authors on the blog, the “here’s where I am, and here’s how what I’m writing about is helping me move forward” part is missing on the site. That’s just my opinion though!

    • Carla says 19 April 2013 at 09:44

      I do get what you’re saying and I think the situation is a lot of readers “know” Holly, El Nerdo, April, Donna and some of the other staff writers just as they knew JD. There’s a familiarity and “knowing” in the comments that guest readers may not get or understand.

      I think a short bio at the top or bottom of the posts would be helpful for those of us who don’t know the writers children’s first names. I’m a long-time reader but I just don’t keep up. 😀

  48. David says 19 April 2013 at 09:16

    Really nice job walking readers through the calculation of how much your time is worth. You made the right call, especially since your tenant is a lawn “expert”.

    The goal of responsible finances is not to save as much as possible. It is to save as much as you need, spend wisely on the things you need, and don’t spend too much on things you do not need. Mowed lawn and clean house are needs — someone has to do it. The only question is whether you spend valuable time or valuable money.

  49. Jake Erickson says 19 April 2013 at 09:21

    Lifestyle inflation is inevitable and healthy as long as it’s managed. It sounds like you and your husband thought it through and made an informed decision. My wife and I are very self-conscious about our lifestyle inflation because we want to avoid it until we can actually afford it. That can be tough to do at times.

  50. Edward says 19 April 2013 at 10:42

    I don’t see this as “lifestyle inflation” or a frugal issue at all! I see this as a humanist thing to do. If you’ve had a good tenant for 4 years, why wouldn’t you cut him some slack in a barter arrangement? People aren’t good enough to their neighbours or each other anymore. When my dad went out and shovelled snow from the 75-year old widow’s driveway next door, was that an unfrugal choice? Should he have been spending his time in a money making endeavour instead? Or charging the pensioner a few bucks? Hell no. It was the decent thing to do.

    I’ve never understood why even good tenants always get rent increases. Every now and then they should get a discount because they didn’t punch holes in the walls or grow weed in the basement. If I had a tenant that paid on time for four years and did free yard work, I’d show up at his house on Christmas (a la Ebenezer) with a big goose for his family.

    • partgypsy says 20 April 2013 at 16:16

      My partner and I rented the same house for 6 years before buying our own house. During that time we didn’t bother them about the little things, just the big stuff, and was otherwise responsible. I think we had a $25 rent increase during the entire time. And when we told them we were moving out, they allowed us to be on a month to month basis until we were ready to move to our house. We appreciated that.

  51. Ivan says 19 April 2013 at 10:55

    Holly,

    I think the way you arrived at the $12.50 hourly rate is a really smart way to gain some perspective on the situation.

    You’re right that we all need to be conscious of lifestyle inflation. As frugal people, we can all relate to that! However, we also shouldn’t “cheap out” on things that really could improve our lives, even if it costs us a little extra money.

    You went through a thorough thinking process and came to a conscious decision. I think that’s what’s important here.

    There’s nothing wrong with hiring help. If your time is worth more than the cost of paying someone else to do the work, it just makes sense. Good for you for doing what works for you!

  52. Sara says 19 April 2013 at 12:12

    I guess I have to wonder at what point is it ok to experience lifestyle inflation? I mean, I could be a millionaire and live like a starving college student because of not “giving in” to lifestyle inflation.

    It seems that the term is used to imply spending money on frivolous things. I’m not sure I agree with that usage. And of course, wasting money on useless things is the very antithesis of frugality.

    I think any discussion of lifestyle inflation has to consider how frugality fits into your overall financial picture. If you’re heavily relying on frugality – focusing on the spend less part of the equation – then lifestyle inflation is something to be avoided at all costs.

    If you’re focusing on the other side of the equation – earn more – then lifestyle inflation isn’t inherently evil.

    And I do agree that for many people frugality and earning less are moral issues. People think that driving car that isn’t 15 years old or eating out is sinful – and it’s virtuous to darn your socks for the 10th time and compost your dryer lint. I don’t think this way, but many people do.

    I have to admit that I grew up thinking people who had a cleaning service must be rich and lazy. Yet I’ve been overwhelmed the last few years (work full time with a baby and an older child with special needs) and consider hiring help – although I run into my old prejudices against it – I’m not rich, and I’m not lazy. That mindset is holding me back from just hiring someone (I can afford it).

  53. Giddings Plaza FI says 19 April 2013 at 12:53

    I’ve been a lifestyle DEflation mission for a few years now, which is how I hope to be financially independent in about 4 years. I hear you on needing help taking care of an investment property–I don’t see an issue with that, as you’re essentially hiring an employee for a business. That’s different from farming out your personal chores (cleaning, cooking, fixing, landscaping).

  54. Mary says 19 April 2013 at 17:57

    I pay to have someone clean my house. I make enough money and I don’t have many indulgences–as a horrible housekeeper this is totally worth it to me. I think trading some chores and the time it takes to do them for some money is totally worth it when you can afford it.

  55. pB says 22 April 2013 at 23:12

    The Christmas before last we went from NZ to the USA to spend Christmas with my wife’s family. Christmas in NZ is the height of grass growing season (pun intended). The previous time we had gone away, my elder neighbor mowed our lawn a couple times, and I got the guilts.

    That last time I thought I would give the old guy some money before leaving and arrange for him to take care of it. It usually takes me an hour and a half. I figured $40 would cover it, but still felt guilty.

    I decided to get a price from a contractor. Fixed price for 3 mows while we were away, cash paid in advance. He came, looked around my split level yard, shrubs and sheds, sucked his teeth and said “It’s a big yard, and complicated, gas has gone up…” I braced myself for the price thinking “whatever at least it will be taken care of while I’m gone, I’ll consider it another cost of the holiday, like boarding the pets whose cost I don’t question.”

    He said “I can’t do it for less than $30”

    We agreed his price, and I paid him, thinking there was no way I could check on his quality of workmanship, or even if he would do the job, but left it to trust.

    When we got back, the lawns were quite long, and clearly in need of mowing. I realised my 3 mows had been done, and with a heavy heart knew that in the morning I would need to mow the lawn, as well as all of the other post holiday chores, and while dealing with the jet lag.

    The next morning while having a coffee to prepare myself to mow the lawns in the scorching heat, the contractors turned up – 3 of them, and started cutting the lawn. Turns out this was my third cut. I was ecstatic. They were done in about 25 mins.

    I went out when they were done and asked them to continue cutting my lawns. It helps to remember that while they get it done in 25 mins, it used to take me 90, adn if it rained on my weekends off, that was another week of letting the grass grow. I think it’s money well spent, I spend my time doing other yard work that I was always too tired to get to after finishing up the lawn.

  56. Marie says 23 April 2013 at 20:55

    I will never hire someone to clean my home, and it has nothing to do with budget, morality, or the price of tea in China. We have escape artists for pets, and I simply cannot have extra people coming and going. Despite sturdy fences and microchips, the furry little Houdinis just keep doing their best to bust out.

  57. Linda says 24 April 2013 at 23:04

    We do everything ourselves. My house isn’t emaculately tidy, but that’s fine.

    The only thing I would hire is someone to do a new lawn for us and then plant seeds for flowers around the front yardw and then maintain them.

    I thought i would do those things myself and I even bought seeds, but since half a year has gone by and I still haven’t done anything, I know I won’t do it.

  58. Jim F says 30 May 2013 at 08:25

    I take a different approach to arrive at the same outcome of letting go… Yard work doesn’t rate on our scale. They way I see it, nature provides its own mechanisms to handle this stuff. Like cars, “home improvement” stores and municipal ordinances or peer social pressures requiring “yard work” are a colossal waste of time and money.

    I wouldn’t do any of it. Let me take that back – I like burning prairie grass and flowers every few years, moving the fallen tree parts that are in my way, and composting for fertilizer for all of it, but thats about it! 🙂

    So, while I have to live in the city right now, I contract it out or lease a place where it is taken care of for me. I don’t want any part of it. Yard work is ironic, because land ownership and leasing land is a socio-economic holdover from kings and lords, and surfs and peasants. Yet now, the “lord” is supposed to do all the labor the peasants did? Tragic that the American Dream sells a life of living like kings, but conscripts us to be slaves to the Dream in the same breath.

    Not to mention the environmental catastrophe that lawns create.

    I used to be MR. Anal Suburban Homeowner. I’ll never do it again! I literally have back 5 hours of every week! That’s a ballgame every week! or a cycle ride! or a kayak paddle! Life is good! 🙂

  59. Paul Henta says 17 June 2013 at 12:56

    since I moved to the US from Europe, I had quickly adopted the us ways, working hard all the time, saving any pennies in case of something happen, like having 2 years of salary put in some low risk liquid investments by 6 month trenches to optimize the return, and i became a do it yourself addict. every savings was good to take and it worked. Paid off my mortgage in advance and i really appreciate the debt free life.

    problem was i was not indulging at all. the first best decision was to have a maid coming every two weeks and then a sport coach.

    I must say that i will not gave this away. this is the kind of sin that have absolutely the best ROI.

    are those a soudn investment, not at all, but it makes my partner happier and makes me happier so it is actually an emotional investment and those should be priceless

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