8 Chores That Aren't Worth Your Time (So Outsource Them!)

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cleaning
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When I was in high school, my best friend and I tried to change the oil in my car in his parents' driveway. After a few hours, we finally accomplished the simple task. And it didn't save me any money after having to clean the oil spill we made.

But the lesson has stuck with me, a reminder that maybe I'm not good at everything. And that's OK. I don't need to be. I should pay someone else to help me with certain tasks.

Can I change my own oil? Can I mow my own grass? Of course I could, but I choose not to. I understand what my time is worth and the tradeoffs associated with completing certain tasks myself versus farming out those that are too time-consuming, tricky or unproductive.

It's Important to Understand Opportunity Costs

There are costs associated with everything we do. Business leaders understand the power of these opportunity costs. They have to make tough choices everyday about how they will spend their businesses' money and efficiently use their labor forces. The same calculations apply in our daily lives as well.

Opportunity costs aren't just about the stuff we buy or the investments we make. Your time is valuable. Choosing to do one task limits your ability to complete others, and many times, those other tasks are more profitable. You should decide to forgo some tasks that aren't the best use of one of your most valuable resources -- your time.

8 Tasks That May Not Be Worth Your Time

When it comes to these takes, someone else may be able to do them cheaper and faster than you ever could.
  1. Mowing your grass
  2. Cleaning your house
  3. Fixing your car, such as changing the oil
  4. Cutting your hair
  5. Doing your own taxes
  6. Financial planning
  7. Building on your own website
  8. Cleaning your swimming pool
Do You Know the Value of Your Time?

Do you know how much you earn per hour? The answer will a no-brainer for those of us paid by the hour. But many of us are salaried employees, and we may not have done the math in a while. It can be an eye-opening experience to examine what you spend through the lens of what you earn for your time.

For example, if you are a salaried employee and take home $2,000 every two weeks and work a 40-hour work, you earn $25 per hour after taxes. Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples, either before or after taxes. Knowing that it takes you an hour of work to earn $25, it makes you stop to think about how you spend money. Do you really want to use that hard-earned hour of work on something frivolous?

If you start to measure a lot of your decisions against that hourly figure, you can begin to make smarter choices about which chores to do yourself, and which you ought to farm out to someone else. Do you have a hobby that earns you a little bit of side income? Could you spend your time better by working on that hobby instead of doing a task like cleaning your home or vacuuming your swimming pool?

Understand Your Own Knowledge and Skill Set

We are all biased to a certain degree, and we exhibit certain biases more than others. One such bias is overconfidence. We think that we know more than we really do. Being overconfident can hinder your ability to determine what tasks are worth your time and which ones you should outsource to a professional.

Handling your finances is very similar to working on your car. Some people have a lot of knowledge and only want help when something major goes wrong. But a lot of people don't know much of anything about managing their personal finances and could greatly benefit from the help of a professional.

"[The decision to seek financial help] is all about being honest with yourself about how versed you are in the field of financial planning and how much time you want to spend on the task," said Scott Halliwell, a certified financial planner with USAA. "If you have a passion for this subject and your situation isn't too complex, you may very well be able to go it alone for a long time and do just fine. What's important is to be completely honest about your ability. If you over-assess your skills in this area, you could be doing more harm to your long-term financial well-being than good."

The eight items I picked out above aren't an exhaustive list, of course. Which did I miss that you think should be on it? Are there some I named that you disagree with? Let me know in the comments below.

Hank Coleman is the publisher of the popular personal finance blog Money Q&A, where he answers readers' tough money questions. Follow him on Twitter@MoneyQandA.

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14 Comments

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logikbuys

If I can do it myself, chances are that I will. Once you learn how to do something it only takes a fraction of the time afterwards to actually do it, and you can typically mess something up about 2-3 times by the time you reach a break even point for paying someone else to do it. I could spend $40 for someone to take care of my lawn, and I save what an hour? To do what? I spend an hour doing it, and I can take my family out to dinner later and spend that $40 better.

- It took me about an hour to learn how to change my own oil. I can now do it in about 5 minutes if you don't count the time it takes to drain everything. I don't have to leave my house, and it costs less.
- I have a pretty bad back, but have managed to do my own lawn care. Just don't let it go to to the point that it becomes a hassle.
- My wife cut my hair for several years. She had no idea how to when she started. Don't be afraid of a shaved head, it will grow back, and you can do incremental length until you get it right. (Also leaves more money for her to go get her hair professionally done.)
- House cleaning is more about constant maintenance than a goal of a "clean home". Keeping your house tight is easier that tightening it up.
- I usually only pay to have taxes done if I have sold a home or something strange has happened that year. This can be pretty complicated, and I have to agree with this one. It's just not worth the headache for me unless it's a simple TurboTax on-line thing I can do myself.

Recognize your own abilities and talents. Some of this stuff is easier for some people than others. You might even consider taking care of someone else's lawn for the occasional oil change or something like that. It builds a sense of community.

July 21 2014 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cwpamp

When giving the gift of Advice to a large Group, it is important to realize that there is a wide Range of individual Circumstances that the effects the Application to them. So it is wise to include a paragraph listing Details HOW to Pick and Choose what their own outsources would be. Don't set up your list to be the mantra for everyone, but just give a few of your own examples (Keep out the obvious variables like mowing your lawn. The lawn mower industry is huge because many of your readers bought their own lawn mower to use them.)
Many Comments offer you some of those details how they pick/choose to outsource, first one being if it is even financially affordable based on income and payment of primary expenses first. As for hiring someone to do the work, it would also depend on Personal Circumstances, such as Family or Adults with no children, type of housing, Old age, health, amount of other responsibilities, support system, ...… in addition to Finding Dependable, Competent and Cost-Effective Service you are paying to do the work. Unfortunately, instead of sorting out what info, in the article, applies to them/adjusting their own specifics, many readers trash All the message, if some details don't fit them as if they are the only one it is written for.

July 13 2014 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fred1004

As for hiring someone to do the work, it would also depend on the circumstances. Like a death of a loved one (husband passing) and leaving the widow to do it all. Also, age and the persons health could come into play in the decision. All must be considered in making this type of decision.

June 18 2014 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lorepod

If you are just going to waste your time and do nothing, why not save yourself a little cash by doing these extra chores. I know people who hire their lawn done and go to the gym to work out. I do everything that I can but I know when to hire professionals.
The tax rules change to often and as for the haircut, most of us need to look presentable in public.

June 18 2014 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
crrunch

Several of the items include actual energy expenditure. Who can afford not to do at least some of that? Can't say I know anyone that cuts their own hair, tho. For most of us, that's a disaster waiting to happen.

June 18 2014 at 12:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vlady1000

I can change the oil in our 4 cars in less than 1/2 the time it takes to drive to place and wait for it. Not too mention I know what type of oil and filter was used, if the filter was even changed, it is properly filled, the drain plug was not stripped, cross threaded, or over tightened in an aluminium oil sump, etc. Not to mention take care of a few other checks/maintenance items while under it. I do not trust some slob making $12/hour and does not care about your car. And I do save a little $$ too.

June 17 2014 at 7:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vlady1000's comment
lorepod

I agree and for some of us it is enjoyment or like a hobby. If you hate it, hire it.

June 18 2014 at 12:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mikco99

I just plain like doing some of these things. Does not matter putting a value on fresh air, exercise, and sense of accomplishment. Stupid article.

June 17 2014 at 2:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
familyeldredge

I think it really depends on what you would do with your time if you weren't doing those chores and if that is really worth the amount of money you'd have to put out for someone else to do the chores. If I could bill more time than it makes more sense but if I would just end up on the couch watching more tv or playing more video games it's probably better to do the chores, feel good about what you've accomplished, get a little more exercise and keep a little more in the bank. Just my two cents.

June 17 2014 at 1:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
littlewhootsie

I agree w/the one poster who said to teach children to do chores and that they are NOT a punishment, but a way to just live and get on in the World. Chores are a learning mechanism (look at it that way); something that when the child is older, they can USE and not just pass on cleaning the toilet to the maid or think that they are "better" than someone who cleans the toilet. That sort of thing. So, there is much more to this "outsourcing" than just hiring someone to clean your pool or to clean your house--it's about teaching children life lessons. And if it is just an adult, who can afford someone to hire someone to do stuff for them, then, well, yeah, if I could afford it, I would hire ppl to help me in the yard and in the house (it would have been done already), but alas, I cannot afford it at all : (

June 17 2014 at 1:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Tom and Tanya

rudniski didn't really read the whole article. The writer says to evaluate how much your (and also in rudniski's case, his/her children's) time is worth per hour.
This article was very helpful to me. It confirms the money I spend on home repairs with a handyman is more cost efficient than if my husband did the repairs. Also, maybe I don't know enough about financial planning and spend too much of my own time preparing for retirement. But then should I take a course on financial planning (and pay myself) rather than hire an expensive planner?
I already outsource the writer's 8 suggestions, not necessarily in the same order, but suggest adding one more: home repairs. A handyman at under $80/hr can get my list of minor repairs done quickly as long as I agree to his/her written cost estimate for the work before hand.
Also, I think the writer could mention, depending upon how much you're spending to outsource (the more professional, the higher the cost) whether you will need to micro-manage or not.

June 17 2014 at 12:14 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply