Outsourcing my life: Why I pay others to do tasks I could do myself

Outsourcing my life: Why I pay others to do tasks I could do myself

When people talk about saving money, DIY is one of the first things that comes to mind.

Do all of this (and more) and you could save hundreds of dollars a year.

And that’s great. I know lots of folks that enjoy growing a lush garden resulting in delicious produce (that can be canned or frozen) in due season. There are people in my life that find doing laundry calming, and others that will happily take on any domestic project that comes their way. Personally, I enjoy doing the dishes.

While I’m happy spending time on the things that I like, there are certain things that I hate doing — and that I will happily outsource to others.

Am I perfectly capable of cleaning my home and mowing the lawn? Sure. But why should I spend the time doing these things when I can pay someone else to do them? Here are some reasons I spend money to outsource parts of my life.

Why I Outsource Tasks I Could Do Myself

I Can Make More Money

The number-one reasons I outsource tasks I could do myself is that by doing so, I make more money. Wait, what?

When I talk about spending $200 a month on lawn care or $20 an hour on house cleaning services, many people are surprised to find that I make money by outsourcing these mundane chores.

I’m a freelance writer, so any time I free up can be used to write an article, interview a source, or work on edits. Rather than spending two hours cleaning the house, I can pay someone $40 to do it instead — and make $500. That’s a net gain of $460 each week, or about $1,840 per month.

There have been times that I take my laptop with me to get the oil changed. Jiffy Lube takes care of it for $65 and I can do work amounting to about $200 in the time I’m sitting there. That’s a net gain of $135.

In the past, I’ve used services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh to plan my meals and deliver the ingredients. That saves me the time and hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping, and allowed me to focus on other things. However, with my travel schedule, these types of services haven’t been meeting my needs.

Instead, with Instacart now available in my area, I’ve switched to getting someone else to do the shopping, while I use a service like $5 Meal Plan to plan my meals and provide me with an ingredient list.

No matter how I do it, though, the cost of these services is much less than what I can make doing a little extra work. Whether you want more time to work on a side gig, or take action to grow your business, the investment you make in outsourcing can yield dividends later.

I Have More Time with My Son

I’ll be honest. I don’t spend every minute I save by outsourcing on work or business activities. I also use the time I save on things that matter to me.

In the past, my son and I spent a portion of each Saturday cleaning the house. That’s not a super fun way to make memories with your teenager. Now, instead of spending time on chores, we can go to the museum, take a hike, or ride our bikes. It’s possible to spend the whole afternoon playing board games if we want.

J.D.'s note: I once played Exploding Kittens with Miranda. When she saw that I liked the game, she simply gave me her personal copy. Wow. How cool is that?

Miranda and JD playing board games

Plus, now that my son is doing more with his friends and has the independence of a car, being able to spend time when we can is especially important. We can go out to lunch, and he can still have time to go to the movies with his friends later. Sometimes we work on our small herb garden together in the morning, and he plays video games with his friends in the afternoon.

When my son wants to talk, I don’t have to cut him off because errands are weighing on me. Instead, I can focus on my son, knowing that I’ve outsourced tasks like grocery shopping and cleaning to others.

I Have More Time (and Money) for Self-Care

Freeing up time also means I can make more money while having more time for me.

Let’s use my above example of cleaning the house. If I used all the cleaning time to work, that would get me an extra $1,840 per month. However, I don’t use all that time to work. I probably use about half the time to work. That’s still an extra $920 per month — and an extra four hours.

I can do what I like with those four hours. Maybe I get two manicures in that month. That’s two hours gone, and $100. I don’t have to worry about it, though, because I used half the extra time already to make extra money.

Miranda's manicure

Sometimes all I really want to do is just lay in bed for an extra hour and read. Or go to a movie by myself. Or, instead of work in the evening, binge-watch Netflix. Because I outsource mundane tasks that would otherwise fill my time, I can use half that saved time to make more money, and the rest of the time to do more of what I want, whether it’s baking cookies with my son, going out to lunch with a friend, or spending a Wednesday volunteering with a local service organization.

Outsourcing gives me more freedom and flexibility in my hours and in my spending. In fact, I recently discovered that the time I save (and the money I make) by having someone else handle the grocery shopping is just enough to cover personal training sessions each month. So now outsourcing has freed up the chance for me to improve my health.

Investing Extra Time and Money

I see outsourcing as a way to buy more time. And that makes it valuable. After all, time is a nonrenewable resource. That makes time more valuable than money. Purchasing that time allows me to make more choices and make the most of my time. Rather than spending time mowing the lawn or cleaning the house, I can make more money in a fraction of the time.

Take the lawn care, for example. It takes me about two hours a week to mow the lawn, trim the edges, and manage the weeds. That’s about eight hours a month from May through September, or five months. That’s 40 hours. I pay $200 per month, so $1,000 total. If I work half those hours, I can make about $5,000 extra dollars — and still have 20 hours left over to spread across those five months.

Because I outsource, I have extra time and extra money. I can use the extra time to invest in relationships with my loved ones, and to take extra time for myself. Those things pay dividends in goodwill with people I enjoy being with, as well as mental and physical health dividends for me.

The extra money can be invested as well. I might spend some of it on a trip to the spa, or to buy new camping gear, but a lot of it goes into my investment portfolio. Now that money is earning money, without the need for me to do more work for it. Or, I could take some of the money and invest it into my business, growing it so that it offers better returns down the road.

The benefits outsourcing has brought into my life by allowing me to buy more time — and use it in ways that are more profitable — have increased my quality of life, as well as improved my overall financial health.

Outsourcing in My Business

I’ve also found outsourcing helpful in my business. Over time, I’ve gradually outsourced social media posting, scheduling, podcast editing, tax preparation, and other tasks. Some of these tasks are outsourced to people, while others, like scheduling, are outsourced to free or low-cost software tools.

Just the time I save in posting on social media alone provides me with the ability to earn enough money to pay my social media manager and still have time and money left over for investment in other activities.

When outsourcing business tasks, it makes sense to identify your weaknesses. Rather than trying to turn your weaknesses into strengths, outsource your weaknesses and leverage your strengths into better profitably and improved outcomes.

J.D.'s note: This is precisely what's been going on behind the scenes at Get Rich Slowly for the past six months. My strength is writing. That's what I like to do, and that's what I'm good at. The rest of modern blogging isn't my forté. So, I brought on Tom to take care of marketing and monetization. We're working with other folks to handle social media, etc. I'm focusing on my strengths and outsourcing the rest. Speaking of Tom, he interviewed Miranda about this very topic on his MapleMoney Show podcast.

How to Start Outsourcing

I didn’t start by outsourcing everything all at once. I couldn’t afford it.

Instead, I chose one thing to outsource — one thing I could afford. At first, it was house cleaning every other week, while my son and I continued doing the weekly cleaning in between. However, after a few months of making extra money with the freed-up time, I was able to expand to the weekly house cleaning service.

Review the time you spend on various tasks. What could you be doing instead? Could you use the time more profitably? If so, consider outsourcing the task and using your newly-freed time to make extra money. Pretty soon, you could discover that the extra money allows you to outsource the next time-consuming and mundane task.

However, if there are things you like doing, even if they take up time, there’s nothing wrong with continuing to do them. Do what makes you happy. And outsource the mundane tasks that hold you back from a better quality of life.

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Dave @ Accidental FIRE
Dave @ Accidental FIRE
1 year ago

It’s all a balance and everyone has to pick if they should pay to have a certain thing done. For me it all comes back to health. I purposely don’t pay to have my house cleaned or my grass cut because doing those things gives me a great reason to be on my feet, burning calories, and not sitting. We who work white collar jobs usually sit on a chair all day, then when we get home most watch TV or play on a computer even more. That much sitting is really bad. The average American now watches 5 hours… Read more »

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit
1 year ago

Oh for sure. It’s all about what works for you and what makes you happy. I love that you’ve found a balance that works for you and your lifestyle.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Joe
Joe
1 year ago

I’m horrible at outsourcing my chores/work. I guess I’m a control freak. Other people never do a very good job and it’s expensive to hire out. If it was affordable, I wouldn’t mind so much. For example, it would have cost $2,000 to paint my old condo. That’s too much. I did it myself in about a week, a few hours per day. That’s more than I make on my side gig.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe

That’s a good point! It’s all about that tipping point between time and money and what you prefer to do. It’s about personal calculation and what works for you.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
1 year ago

it depends on your goals I think. The conventional wisdom among many people in the personal-finance community is that the goal is to spend as little time working as possible. that is the time you are trying to buy back. So doing tasks yourself reduces the amount of money you have to earn to support yourself and frees up time you would otherwise spend working. Additionally, particularly if you are a freelancer, your work could dry up at any time. or if you have a regular job you could be fired. if that were to occur, how long would you… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago

I’m all for picking how you want to spend your money and time, but the example given states that you earn $250 per hour and that no matter how many hours you choose to work, you are earning at that rate. Am I crazy to think that for most people that’s not how their income works? I have a full time job with my employer. I work in IT. I don’t get OT pay though my role requires OT work frequently (sometimes I get comp time). So for anyone that is an exempt salaried worker, outsourcing gets you time, but… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

Fair enough, but the tradeoff of goods vs leisure is a little different than the goods vs. goods tradeoff. Both I think are a bit undifferentiated in the piece. In the goods vs leisure trade (free time), clearly it’s up to your means and preferences. You give up goods (pay housecleaner) to enjoy leisure (free time). Americans tend to prefer more goods (buy more stuff for bigger house) while Europeans prefer more leisure (six weeks paid vacation). But put that aside for a moment. In the goods vs goods trade though, even if you can’t freelance at lawyer rates (lol),… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Sure. Like I said, everyone can pick what they value. I’ve never used my personal time for those things because I was raising a family and didn’t want more time away from them once my long work hours were done. But I certainly understand the concept. I think the “freelance at lawyer rates” is just not something most people can relate to. If you substituted a person making $40/hour in a regular salaried job ($83k/year) . Would everyone think that spending $1000 on lawn mowing and $2000 for house cleaners makes sense? Even if they were freelancers who could earn… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

Well, we all perform mental accounting one way or another.

The interesting proposition for me is trying to do it with more clarity and intention.

We all face opportunity costs regardless of income level.

The question for me is not if I should make the same trades the writer makes. (Clearly not, I have a different life).

The real question is how to look at my own opportunity costs, and how to optimize my own trades.

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Sure — another popular calculation is “how many hours do I have to work to buy ______” Is that worth it if it’s just a “want”?

Perhaps if the post included some of the trade-offs you mention that aren’t “make $250 or make $210 per hour” it would have been more interesting?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Yeah but comparative advantage is not the same as budgeting for purchases. Budgeting is pretty straightforward and doesn’t take an economist to explain it. All it takes is basic arithmetic, Comparative advantage is a lot more interesting. It’s not so evident, and it took a historical figure to formulate it as a theory. Comparative advantage says that you’re better off specializing, and trading, than producing everything yourself, *even if you’re better at everything.* And this makes everyone richer. That to me is the important principle at work here, even if it was not clearly conceptualized. The concept is more interesting… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I was just responding to your “mental accounting”. That covers a lot of ground.

One could decide 4 hours of work is worth buying a camera lens…or enrolling in a class…or saving to pay someone to free up time so you can work your side hustle, etc….

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Oh, that. I see what you meant.

Actually, mental accounting is know for producing all kinds of problems and inaccuracies, like… snacking. (People don’t budget snacks because of their small size. Then snacks add up, ha ha ha. Mental accounting fail.)

But I meant mental accounting for comparative advantage—even more difficult and prone to failure than the usual, because it’s a counterintuitive (yet very powerful) notion.

SaharaRose
SaharaRose
1 year ago

Maybe it’s just a psychological block, but I’ve always had a hard time personally justifying the financial savings since I’m not a freelancer/entrepreneur/business owner. I work a salaried job and I can put in extra hours, but it’s not going to effect my paycheck. For me, the idea that “my time is worth X dollars an hour” so it makes more sense to outsource chord just really doesn’t apply to my situation. Other than taking a really long term optimistic view (if I keep working hard eventually I’ll get a raise/promotion) I find it extremely hard to justify why it’s… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  SaharaRose

Yes, this resonates with me (and probably every salaried person). JD’s example makes sense to me because he’s recognized that hiring out that specific “job related” work will get the job done, probably faster, and perhaps better. That’s not the same as real-life tasks that anyone can do. I think for most people, if they made $250/hour, they’d probably pay people to do stuff too, because you make a LOT of money. I mean, even if you work 20 hours per week, this person makes $260,000 per year. Shorter version of this article: If you make over $250k per year,… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  SaharaRose

It depends on the type of tradeoff. See my reply to Eileen above.

Would you pay someone else to clean your house so that you can read industry publications, or take an online course, or clean up your LinkedIn, or spend time networking with people in your industry?

You’re a business owner in the sense that you sell your services (labor) labor to a customer (employer). Pursuing your comparative advantage still makes sense in the labor market.

The tradeoff calculations are of course up to you, but the principle is the same.

SaharaRose
SaharaRose
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Agreed, if I buy in to the idea that taking a class, cleaning up my LinkedIn profile, etc will eventually result in making more money, then sure, this makes sense. I’ve spent a long time focusing on my career and the older I get the more I find myself realizing that this line of thinking may sell a lot of things (classes, LinkedIn Premium subscriptions) and there sure are a lot of stories out there about people who just buckled down and focused on marketing themselves and now make a ton of money – but they are all selling the… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  SaharaRose

Ah yeah, that’s trading goods for leisure.

Different story from trading goods for goods (i.e., deciding what to produce).

I’m all for maximizing leisure, btw. Life’s real value, ha ha ha.

It’s also the real reason why I seek to optimize production…

…because it pays for more leisure. 😀

infmom
infmom
1 year ago

Working or not, I did almost all our grocery shopping for 40+ years. I got so burned out on it that it was a struggle to muster up enough energy to go to the store. My daughter told me about Instacart. At first I was reluctant to spend the money on something that I could, however reluctantly, do for myself and probably do better. Once I tried it, though, I was an instant convert. No more slogging through a job I’d come to hate. I am happy to pay someone to go get my groceries and I always tip the… Read more »

Michael King
Michael King
1 year ago
Reply to  infmom

Just fyi, a lot of places are offering similar services for free or lower price with the catch you still go to store but someone else already bags up the groceries.

G
G
1 year ago

Even though I’m salaried, I still feel the same way about outsourcing various tasks that are either mundane or waste time that could be better spent doing other things. If I look at my task list and can outsource some when the time and money balance works out, I can get more done in less time. Leaving more time for either additional tasks or opening up more family and leisure time. That to me is worth more than money. Even buying a robot vacuum applies. It’s an upfront cost, but then no ongoing fees outside of maintenance and now my… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

I understand the argument and I think it’s important to point out different ways of thinking about money in conscious ways. But there’s so much more to it. I agree with others that $250/hr is an unrealistic number. I doubt even the author earns this. It translates to over $500k per year at a full time job. It just doesnt translate, though it might be literally true for her highest paid work and/or what she’s paid for literal writing with no consideration for hours of unpaid work. For me so much comes down to what the time spent on the… Read more »

hello
hello
1 year ago

This is horrible advice for 95% of Americans, and it’s extra-dangerous because too many people wrongly use this sort of thinking to justify luxury spending on luxury services they really can’t afford. First, almost no one uses the time they save on paying a housekeeper or gardener to actually work more themselves. We are not such rational creatures, and most people’s lives and jobs aren’t structured like that. I know I get my housekeeping done in random tidbits whenever I have a moment and something needs to get done. I do it regardless of whether I worked 40 hours or… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  hello

95% of Americans (more, I assume) are already outsourcing the production of the vast majority of what they need for their consumption. We pay someone else to grow corn and butcher hogs and cure pork bellies instead of doing all that ourselves. We pay someone else to generate electricity and bringing it to our homes instead of spending our days chopping and burning wood. We pay for someone else to make our clothes instead of making them ourselves. (And the people who make the clothes outsource the fabric and buttons and zippers, etc etc). We pay someone else to build… Read more »

olga
olga
1 year ago
Reply to  hello

Hello, I am with you on all points, and I am not even going to put any more words.
EL Nerdo, the “outsourcing for growing crops” is as weird as it gets example. Sorry.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  olga

“Weird” and yet you do it every day 😉

olga
olga
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

When I think of “outsourcing”, in my mind it is for things I can physically and otherwise do at the time, but CHOOSE not to. If we live in the city, we can’t grow crops and have a mill to grind wheat etc. Of course, the argument is, one could choose to live in the country. But alas, as I said, “at the time”. I can ALWAYS clean, grocery shop, do yard work, cook, do my nails (and even cut hair) right where I am (unless I am physically disabled). I am fine with those who CHOOSE to outsource (babysitting… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  olga

“Outsourcing” is a confusing term. Think of trades instead. We all specialize on some thing or things, and trade for the rest. Preferably we should specialize in what we do best. That is our comparative advantage. From your description, it sounds like you have a comparative advantage in housekeeping, where you can create more value than in your job. Congrats! But not everyone has the same skills or preferences or comparative advantages. In this house (it’s not even big) it takes us about 1/2h for 2 people to vacuum and clean from start to finish. Plus the time to let… Read more »

Dan
Dan
1 year ago
Reply to  olga

No, El Nerdo’s point is well made. I live in an apartment, where landscaping and snow removal is all included in the rent. I pay someone to change my oil, and I pay someone to produce the food I eat, although I still go to the store and pick it up myself. When I think hard about El Nerdo’s point, I’m trying to figure out what I produce for my own consumption and that I *don’t* exchange cash for in some way shape or form. I’m drawing blanks. I have a niche skillset that is well compensated. I rent an… Read more »

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  hello

250 an hour after taxes? Does the writer account for the amount time she spends on deluding herself?

Barb
Barb
1 year ago

This works for those who can, or want to, pick up work (or do activities that may increase work productivity) on demand. For salaried folks, folks who are unwilling to add to those 40 hours or have other issues, not so much. I am retired, but for years I did the diys when I could. Because I was not interested in leaving the house or doing g more work related stuff. The other thing that deserves at least a mention is most dyi tasks are not done in a vacuum or one at a time. They are often done with… Read more »

cindi
cindi
1 year ago

From what I can gather from this post is that the author wasn’t a good time manager. I worked full time. So did husband with guaranteed OT almost weekly. The only two things we agreed on, as to hiring out was a once monthly deep cleaning husband and wife team to clean our home @$40 per hour ($240 monthly total) for the both of them and a twice monthly lawn mowing at $125 total. This was simply because of one reason and one reason alone: we couldn’t handle it. My two daughters and I would get up early Saturday morning… Read more »

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