People, especially women, are increasingly buying time at a significant cost. We are hiring people to do housework, care for our children, have personal chefs cook for our families, maintain our cars, furnaces, etc… Wherever there is a need, there is likely to be someone willing to perform that task for you in exchange for your money.

Some discussion points include:

  • effect on our basic skill set if we don’t perform these tasks yourself. What happens in an emergency or if we can no longer afford these services? Will we feel confident enough to act in these capacities if we need to?
  • are we getting better net results from these tasks as we have people who specialize in these particular areas do them for us?
  • are we actually getting more time back? I know someone who has a housemaid come in, but she spends an hour before she arrives to “prepare the house” (which means a pre-cleaning so she doesn’t feel like a slob).
  • what is worth more to us? Having that extra time to spend with children, spouse, hobbies, etc. Or would we be better served to reduce our debt stress and pay off some debts? Or save that money and plan a big bag vacation.

For me, I try hard to strike a balance between emergency preparedness and convenience. I do farm out some services, but try to keep what I consider essential skills at least somewhat practiced so I won’t panic if something bad happens. But there’s no denying that paying for mundane services is very desirable.

To take this discussion in another direction… there are some techniques to save time doing regular everyday things. Grouping is a good way to do things. This idea is explained well in the book “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferris. The idea is, for example, rather than do a little laundry every day, do it once a week or once every 2 weeks. The reasoning is that for each task there is some setup time, at least mental preparation to shift into that activity. Task switching is a known time waster for project planners. The same principle applies here. The longer you can group activities, the better for time efficiency.

Of course, for things where efficiency isn’t the goal (such as spending time with your kids) this principle doesn’t apply, but for things like laundry, accounting, responding to email, etc. this can really save time. I can’t tell you how much time I waste checking email every day. When I tried grouping my email processing to twice a day, it was like I was addicted, and had withdrawal symptoms. Wow… who knew. And it DID save me tons of time and allowed me to focus on the task at hand rather than constantly switching my focus to the topic of the latest email.