We all outsource certain tasks in our lives, even the most handy do-it-yourselfers. Things that I would definitely want to outsource include surgery, drafting up an important legal document, insuring a house, the production of my ice cream, etc. When I was a teenager, maybe in high school, I remember being taught that you should outsource things that would cost less per hour than you make. At first, that seemed to make sense to me.

In my mind there are three main reasons to outsource a task. One, because it is a specialty that requires years of training, and would potentially be illegal to perform unlicensed. Things that would fall in this category would be surgery, legal proceedings, dental procedures, etc.

Second, would be a task that would take a person way too long to perform themselves. There have been some articles floating around about how long it would take one person to build a pencil from scratch. It would basically take like a decade. Or you could just buy a pencil for 10 cents. How about building a house? Some people do it alone, but they are mostly on those Alaska wilderness shows.

Third, you can actually earn an income or do something that brings you more joy (at not too great a cost) than that activity. Say you’re a nurse that makes $40 an hour. You can pick up an extra shift here or there when needed to increase your income. Paying someone to clean your house or mow your lawn might make sense if you don’t enjoy those activities and would rather be working.

Another example is a unionized teacher making $50,000 a year and receives pay increases each year that mirror cost of living increases no matter their performance or how many hours they work. This person gets paid $50,000 no matter what. Would it make sense for them to outsource their cooking, cleaning, yard maintenance, etc.? Not if they want to retire before their 70’s. Unless the teacher despises the task, or is physically unable to perform it, it probably doesn’t make sense to outsource the tasks they have the ability to perform. But what if that teacher tutors in their time outside of their teaching job? They earn $30 an hour tutoring and love it. It brings them joy, and they feel fulfilled when the people they are tutoring ace a test or pass a class they were previously flunking. Then sure, things like taking your car to the Jiffy Lube for an oil change or paying the neighbor to mow your lawn might actually be good ideas if they chose to tutor during those times instead.

If expenses are tight for you, or you have a money goal, but you make more money than the cleaning person you want hire, that doesn’t give you a free pass to outsource your house cleaning. If the time you save would be spent crushing some Netflix, it might not be the best use of your money. If you’re earning a masters degree that will significantly increase your income in two years, and you want to free up some studying time by outsourcing certain things over the next 24 months, well then that sounds like a wise financial decision.

Don’t blindly look at the numbers when considering what to outsource. Think about what you would do with that time you would be freeing up. If you will just “waste” it, however you want to define that, then maybe you should think twice about outsourcing a task. In the end, a little elbow grease never hurt anyone. I’ve also been told it may build some character.

7 thoughts on “Outsourcing

  • I loooove this! The line for outsourcing is different for everyone. I’ve seen bloggers rail against hiring cleaning services, but it honestly depends on a person’s situation. I don’t hire a maid because I clean the house fine myself and it enables me to save more money to put towards debt. But for people with kids or crazy jobs, I can see how a once a week cleaning would be a godsend.

    • Thanks! I go back and forth all the time about if we want someone to come by a couple times a month to help cleaning, but haven’t made the jump.

  • Only one comment to make, oil changes. I honestly don’t think they make financial sense for anyone to do themselves. This coming from someone who is a car nut. Going to the right place costs like 20 bucks or less. Buying the oils will cost you 14-17. Saving three bucks is like picking up pennies to most people when you consider jacking up the car, disposing of oil, and such takes at least an hour. Most businesses make money on the up sell, not the oils change.

  • In addition to the list of jobs you shouldn’t do for yourself (usually any unlicensed professional service or trade), I would add a happiness quotient test. If paying for the service or item would result in a net increase in happiness to you over doing it yourself, then paying someone else is the right thing to do. Because everyone is different and has different needs or wants, it is a strictly personal decision. For someone, hiring a house cleaner might make them feel lazy or guilty and so would make them unhappy. For another, the cleaning might be, to them, a boring task that is better hired out and that time used to work or play (whatever brings the most utility to that person). Increasing your happiness should be the goal in every FIRE decision you make, and that decision will be a personal one for each of us.

  • I agree to this. There are tasks that needs outsourcing, there are tasks that don’t. However, outsourcing has more benefits that downsides. It is just in the person if he or she thinks it would benefit him/her more if he/she outsource or not. Anyways, thanks for the idea Fervent Finance. Cheers! 🙂

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