Editorial Policy

Is the cost of hiring for chores worth the money?

Allie Johnson

May 28, 2014

There are two things Americans never seem to have enough of: time and money. So, how do you decide whether to save money by doing a task yourself or save time by hiring it out?

As a frugal freelancer with a job that can easily stretch beyond traditional working hours, I often struggle with this. Just in the past few months, I’ve had to decide whether to hire out various tasks: interior house painting (I was going to hire a pro but decided to do it myself), yard work (I hired a landscaper to get my wild yard under control, but plan to do the upkeep myself), and exterior painting (I’m hiring a pro due to lead-based paint issues.)

So, sometimes, deciding whether to outsource involves more than a simple numbers calculation. Here are four tips on how to decide whether to save money by tackling a task yourself:

  1. Hire someone if you can use the time to make more money. If you’re self-employed or have a side gig, consider outsourcing chores, then use that time to earn more money than you spend, the blog Suburban Finance points out. I’d add a caveat: Be honest with yourself. Will you really spend the extra time making money? Or will you park in front of the TV with old episodes of “The King of Queens” and a tub of cookie dough ice cream?
  2. Ask yourself: How well can you do the task? If the chore you’re considering outsourcing is easy, like mopping the floor, it’s a no-brainer. But what about fixing a leaky faucet or changing your brake pads? If you’re confident that you can do a competent and efficient job, you might consider DIY. But if you don’t have the skills, you could botch the job, end up outsourcing it and lose even more time and money. In my case, part of the reason I chose to paint the interior of my house is because I like painting, and I’m pretty good at it.
  3. Gauge your stress level. Maybe your to-do list is so overloaded that you feel you can’t take on one more thing. In that case, it might be worth it to hire a pro. Suburban Finance recommends you outsource if you’re not carrying debt, and if you have trouble fitting personal items like exercise or family time into your schedule.
  4. Look at your financial picture. This is critical: Don’t pay for a non-essential service with a high-interest credit card if you can’t pay your bill in full right away. If you’re struggling to get out from under high-interest debt, rolling up your sleeves and doing something yourself might be your best option. When my husband and I had high-interest credit card debt and he had a flexible schedule, he took on many tasks — such as yard work and growing some of our food — that we sometimes pay for now. Personal finance site Money Crashers notes that you can save $50 by washing and detailing your own car and even more by filing your own taxes.

When I was growing up, I learned the value of DIY from my dad, a guy who still changes his own oil and brake pads and recently fixed a 20-year-old vacuum cleaner by watching how-to videos on YouTube. So, outsourcing chores I could do still feels a tiny bit decadent to me, and I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to hire someone to clean my house.

But I’d argue that hiring a pro often has its place, despite the price tag.