What does it cost to outsource household chores?

One of the most fascinating -- and I must say, often simply reflexive -- lines of feedback I've gotten about the concepts of 168 Hours is that outsourcing household chores is expensive, and therefore you have to be extraordinarily wealthy to get these things off your plate.

Of course, having money makes outsourcing household chores easier, but often, people don't know what various things actually cost, and since women are often willing (or culturally conditioned) to do them for "free," we view them as optional expenses. I don't think it's a coincidence that lawn care, which is a "male" job (traditionally) is the most outsourced household chore! When men work a lot for pay, they don't feel like spending their weekends mowing the lawn. So they pay someone else to do it.

Anyway, here we go. Grocery delivery costs $5-10 depending on the store and the metro area (if you've purchased the goods online). This needs to be compared to the cost of gas, the danger of making impulse purchases when you're in the store if the bread smells heavenly, and your time. If the federal minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour, almost everyone comes out ahead on this one. There are also other ways to outsource food chores. For 168 Hours, I interviewed a young man who hired a personal chef to do bulk frozen meals for him. It was $60 a week plus the cost of groceries, but kept him out of the store, which turned out to be really padding his credit card bills.

Laundry: We aren't really outsourcing this in my house right now because my husband does it. But if you drop it off at a wash&fold (with your dry cleaning) it tends to be 50-75 cents per pound. If it's full service (they pick it up and deliver it), you're looking at $1-1.50/pound. I've had a few people keep track of laundry weight, and if you're not using fresh towels daily, and you re-wear jeans and such, a family of 4 can get by on 25-35 lbs. So that comes out to a max of $52.50 per week for outsourcing this completely. This is not a small amount of change (though if you're dropping it off with your dry cleaning at 50 cents per pound, it will be a lot less). On the other hand, the average American spends about $35 in restaurants per week, so for a family of 4, that comes out to $140 per week, or way over the cost of laundry. We spend about 4% of our income on apparel overall, so another option is to buy fewer new clothes, and outsource the laundry half the time.

Cleaning service: This is apparently considered the height of decadence by some folks -- the dividing line that makes one rich -- though again, you have to build the opportunity cost of time into the equation. A residential cleaning service will probably come out to around $100/cleaning ($50 a week if it's done every 2 weeks, or $200/month). In some places it's less, particularly if you have a smaller space. Again, this is not a small amount, but the average cable bill is now about $100 a month. So that's half of it right there -- though most people don't consider cable nearly as optional as cleaning.

The point is that time, like money, is a choice -- and often, these are related choices. If you really hate one particular household chore, it might be worthwhile to see how you can find the money to outsource that by cutting something you don't care so much about. I think these things are also a matter of changing attitudes. Very few Americans sew their own clothes anymore. Few do their own auto repair, or grow their own food. We outsource almost all these things -- and dry cleaning! -- but somehow outsourcing laundry is perceived as different.

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3 Responses to What does it cost to outsource household chores?


  1. Hello there. I would like to find out if you have an RSS Feed so I can subscribe to it. I absolutely enjoyed your post and I wanted to maintain current. Continue the great work and thank you in advance.

  2. Hi, I just want to add one usefull cleaning tip here. For more effective dishwashing, add a few tablespoons of vinegar along with the dishwashing detergent when washing dishes. The vinegar cuts the grease and leaves dishes sparkling. Happy Cleaning )

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