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7:22 am - Tuesday September 16, 2014

Outsourcing Our Chores – Do We Overvalue Our Spare Time?

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by Numan

Outsourcing chores to free up more spare time is a good idea but more often than not laziness is the real reason while the spare time just generates more expenses

I just finished cleaning my house. I try my best to thoroughly clean it at least once a week. There’s something about starting the weekend with a fresh, clean home which I greatly enjoy.
Having started working over 50 hours a week, as of late, I find the weekend to be the only time left for tending my personal affairs. Sometimes I wonder whether I should be “spending” the time cleaning by myself.

Many of my friends pay for housekeeping services which mostly include cleaning and maintenance. Cleaning takes, on average, 3-4 hours for a small apartment (like ours) and it’s needed 3-4 times a week. A quick multiplication amounts to paying hired help for 9-16 hours each month.

Outsourcing Chores is an Industry

It doesn’t end there though. Apparently many of the people I know value their spare time so much they’ve found paying for other such services worthwhile. Chores take up a significant amount of our spare time and it’s truly a delight handing them away.

  • Eating out – Many of us have already outsourced food, at least a couple of lunches every week. Buying groceries and cooking takes some time and it much easier eating out. The time saved adds-up quickly, think of the time saved on grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning the dishes, packing a lunch and getting up 10 minutes earlier every morning…
  • Laundry – A relatively new initiative, at least in our neighborhood. Pack up your dirty clothes and send them away. They return fresh, scented and folded. Again, the time saved is very significant.
  • Ironing – A whole other successful initiative is outsourcing ironing. This back-aching and frustrating endeavor which I never get done right. For a decent amount of money you can have your shirts and pants ironed to perfection and delivered to you as well.
  • Shopping for groceries online – I’ve recently wrote a post on the many merits of shopping for groceries online. We obviously pay for them extra.

The Subjective Math

Still, my wife and I are set in our old ways and refuse to “outsource” our chores. We both try our best to limit eating out to twice a week at most (including lunches and dinners). We do our own laundry and ironing. We’ve tried shopping online but the produce wasn’t satisfactory and we clean our apartment on our own.

I can attribute our behavior to the education we got at home according to which no one should clean our mess. There’s something intimate, in my opinion, in chores but that’s not the reason we’re haven’t outsourced them. I believe many of us overvalue our spare time.

Many of us do a simple math trick. We calculate how much our working hours are worth and boldly make the claim our spare time is too precious to waste on chores. A very wrong conclusion, naturally, as the alternative “cost” to the time we spend on our chores is not work or income but spare time and leisure.

Valuating spare time is subjective and difficult but I do have the feeling we often overvalue it. As I’ve already mentioned I’ve recently started working for a different, private corporation. I’ve went from 40 hours a week (which was quite dull but enabled me to invest more time writing here, at The Personal Financier) to 50-60 hours work weeks. The difference is astounding as my spare time dramatically reduced.

Naturally, a scarce resource is worth more and I’ve considered the thought of outsourcing my chores to create more spare time. I must say I’m pretty convinced chores are a good use of my time, as paradoxically as it may sound.

Working 12 hours a day leaves me at least 3-4 hours to myself (Riding my scooter from work to my home takes about 10 minutes – Consider this as a great alternative to create more spare time).

It’s more than enough to get two posts done a week, spend time with my family, catch up on news, exercise and read. The chores themselves take up 3-6 hours every weekend which I usually try to get over with when the weekend starts.

The financial comparison is pretty much straightforward and tilts the balance in the direction of performing our chores ourselves. The monthly expense required to outsource all our chores (a couple) is surely greater than $500, an under estimation I believe (without the cost of eating out).

  • Ironing – $2 per business shirt and $3.5 per pants – At least $60-$80 a month and frees up 10 hours a month.
  • Laundry – $0.75 per pound – At least $100-$150 a month and frees up 15 hours a month.
  • Cleaning – $20 an hour – At least $300-$350 a month and frees up 15 hours a month.
  • Eating out – A whole different game – anywhere from $500-$1,000 a month and frees up 25 hours a month.

The average cost of each spare hour is approximately $20 an hour.

End up shopping in your spare time?

There is another element to the comparison which is I believe is rarely considered. What do people do with so much spare time? My answer (and that of the western civilization as a whole): Shopping! Spare time? Let’s go to the mall, go to the movies, drive somewhere or just sit and watch TV. We need new ______ (choose: furniture, clothes, gadgets, games, etc… ). Spare time incurs more costs.

We’re not only paying to get more spare time but we spend more during our spare time. I truly believe our spare time is overvalued.

I also believe very few people really plan out their spare time rather than wasting it away idling somewhere. The main motivator behind outsourcing chores is probably laziness. It is important to note that I believe having a big family, with two kids and more, changes the basic premises. The time required to properly tend to several children is obviously much greater and changes considerations.

Still, I would carefully consider and balance everything before I go outsourcing my chores.

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