5 Top Household Chores: Should You DIY Them or Hire Help?

hire or DIYSoon after marrying my husband, it became abundantly clear that there are two types of people in this world: those who hire help, and those who don't. My husband's family fell into the latter category. They orchestrated moves from house to house themselves, did all their own cleaning and gardening, fixed appliances, sewed clothing, and even handled their own plumbing. In my family, we hired people to do everything.

When we were first married, this disparity caused huge fights for us, but after living together since 2001, we have wised up a bit. As both of our careers have become busier and we have had one, two, then three children, it's become clear that some household needs simply have to be outsourced.

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My husband still harbors fantasies of building things in our garage, but when we need appliances fixed, landscaping done, or the house cleaned, we have learned our time is now more valuable spent doing other things. It's a cost benefit analysis all people must do within their own budgets.

"It all depends on the value you assign to your OWN time!  If you're a salesperson, and hiring someone to do any of these projects frees you up to land a huge sale -- well, the answer is obvious," says Terry Savage, co-author of the The New Love Deal: What You Must
Know Before Marrying, Moving In or Moving On. "Sometimes a few extra hours sleep, or the chance to play with your children, is priceless."

But let's say, like many people, you are not able to afford to outsource EVERYTHING. Which tasks are better to outsource and which are more economical to do ourselves? I rated the following based on which ones are the most bang for your buck, so to speak, and which are worth doing yourself with one being the most worth hiring out and five being the least.

1.) Cleaning:

Cost: This is a range that depends on where you live in the country and how large your house is. I pay $100 a week, but I've heard quotes of far more and far less.

Explanation: For me, this was an absolute no-brainer. My husband and I nearly came to blows over cleaning on a regular basis. When our daughter was born eight years ago, we hired a cleaner once a week and have never looked back. Financial experts agree.

"My wife was a stay-at-home mom for nine years before getting back into teaching last August," says Danny Kofke, author of How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher's Salary. "To help make this transition easier, we hired a cleaning lady to come twice a month. If my wife is happy, my life is happy." 

Outsource rating: This is one I'd give a thumbs-up to. It costs the least for the most reward. Unless you like to clean, I'd rate this number one.

2.) Landscaping:

Cost: Depends. We pay about $3,000 annually for a big clean-up twice a year and weekly maintenance through the warm months.

Explanation: This is really something you can and should do yourself if you have the time. It is easy enough to deal with as long as you can carve out the space for weekly projects.

"I mow my own grass and we also plant our own flowers and lay mulch," says Kofke. "If we wanted more elaborate projects done, we would hire someone to do them."

Outsource rating: This chore gets the lowest rating of 5 when it comes to hiring help to do it.

3.) Fixing:

Cost: This obviously depends on what needs to be fixed. I recently paid a man $150 to fix my dryer.

Explanation: This is one where if you do something wrong, you can really destroy things. My husband did manage to fix a water line to our fridge last year even as I begged him to hire someone. But when it came to the dryer, we hired a pro. Kofke agrees. "I am not handy at all, so we either have my dad help me or hire someone to do repairs around our house."

Outsource rating: If you mess this one up, you could end up owing a lot more money, so this gets a 2 rating when it comes to outsourcing.

4.) Moving:

Cost: This is probably the most expensive of all the ones here and the most opportunity to save. It can cost upwards of $20,000.

Explanation: You can hire low-cost movers, but you get what you pay for. When we moved from Boston to the New York City area, our entire move (covered by a relocation package) was $25,000, which included storage, packing, unpacking, and moving things in and out as well as insurance. "When we moved from Florida to Georgia eight years ago, we did it ourselves using a Pod to store our belongings before we bought a house in Georgia," Kofke says. "I think the cost was around $2,000 at the time, which is a lot cheaper than hiring movers."

Outsource rating: If you can, this is a place to save. I give it a 4.

5.) Painting/Sprucing Up:

Cost: This can be a $10,000+ job depending on how much needs to be painted. We did our living room and den last year with pros for $2,000, but the outside can be a serious, serious amount of work.

Explanation: Kofke says: "I painted the entire exterior of my house three years ago. I got a quote for someone to do it and it came in around $5,000. I did it for under $1,000."

This is a place where you really can save a lot of money, and painting, while a huge job and quite time-consuming, really is something people can do themselves as long as they are careful.

Outsource rating: I'd give this one a 3 since it's time-consuming, but easy enough to do.

All told, hiring help vs. doing it yourself is about carefully balancing your budget against your time and skill level. The decision is really an individual one and is different for every family.

"If you work for hourly wages, taking time off or weekends to do these kind of projects is easily measured," Savage says. "Just don't forget to include the cost of 'wear and tear' on your own body and mind!"

Do you do things yourself or hire them out? How would YOU rate these?


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