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Time Management: Outsource to Save Money and Time

This article was written by in Career and Work. 20 comments.

This article is presented by Kelly Whalen, Consumerism Commentary staff writer who bought a second car with her husband last weekend.

As a busy mom of four and work-from-home parent, I often get told people don’t know how I do it all. It’s simple, I don’t. These are some of my techniques to save time, which means more money in my pocket, and more time for my family.

Whether you are a busy parent or a single person with a demanding job, most of us have a few items on our to-do list that stay there endlessly. After a hard day’s work the last thing we want to do is clean the soap scum off the shower walls or spend an hour cooking a healthy dinner.

While most of us think having help is only for people making six (or seven) digit salaries, there are ways to make your life run smoother without costing you all your hard earned cash.

Start by making a list of all the obligations, errands, and chores you do in a week. The best way to do this is personal finance style. Write down what you are doing as you go. You’ll want three columns: one for description, one for time (include driving time), and one for cost.

After a week or two you will have a solid idea of what you are doing, and how much money and time it takes. Now you can go through and order them from most to least important. I don’t know about you, but scrubbing the floor is usually the last thing on my list.

Now we start Round One of eliminations. Take anything extraneous, say that extra trip to the grocery store, and cross it out. Errands that can be combined should be grouped together.

Next, you want to look at what is costing you the most that you value the least. Value here isn’t referring to money, it’s referring to what you care about. For me that might be dry cleaning. For you it may be the car wash you get every week.

To Do ListNow here’s where the tricky part is. You want to save say ten hours a week so you can earn more at your side gig (ahem) or spend more time with your kids. How do you do that without breaking the bank?

Hire help

The most obvious way to lighten your load is to hire someone to help you. While the cost may seem prohibitive, it can be cost effective if the payoff (time, more work hours) is worth it. Examples: hiring a babysitter, virtual assistant, or house cleaner.


Consider trading your services for something else you need. You can find people to barter with in your neighborhood, church, at your kid’s PTA, or on Craig’s List. For instance I have traded organizing services for pet care.

Bank on it

Have you heard of Time Banks? They are organizations that are aimed at helping members find free help in exchange for services performed. Think of it as bartering on steroids. For instance I could do some bookkeeping for one member, and in exchange I get time banked, and can use it to have another member fix my leaky faucet. Don’t have a local Time Bank, consider starting one.

Drop it off the list

Maybe you are an over-volunteerer like me, or maybe you have been doing the same thing for awhile and are looking for a change. Consider dropping everything off your list that you aren’t passionate about. Don’t be afraid to say no if new opportunities arise.

Reduce your needs

Try cutting back. If you go to the dry cleaners once a week, try cutting back to every other week. Next time you are shopping look for clothes you can wash and wear at home. Instead of getting an oil change every 3,000 miles check your car’s manual which likely tells you that you can wait until you hit the 6,000 mile mark.

Automate it

Have you considered trying to get your toiletries delivered? You don’t even have to think about it when you need toilet paper, it arrives on your doorstep at regular intervals. If you sign up through my affiliate link you get a $10 credit after you spend $50. Other examples include getting a coffee subscription, and of course automating paying your bills.

Partially outsource

Another time saver is partial outsourcing. This could be ordering groceries online so that you can pick them up, signing up for a CSA, or getting the USPS to pick up your packages and drop off stamps.

I’ve found success in all these methods, and it has been eye opening to see how easily I can outsource some of my obligations, and get rid of others, while improving my bottom line, and my quality of life.

What about you? Have you outsourced some of your obligations? Tell me what you did, and what worked and didn’t in the comments.

Photo credit: Still Thinking

Published or updated February 11, 2010.

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About the author

Kelly is a mostly stay-at-home mom to four kids. You can more of her articles about personal finance at The Centsible Life. Also, you can follow Kelly on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Luke Landes

I’m planning to outsource some of the chores like house cleaninjg, but I have to deal with two requirements first: getting a good recommendation and making sure the place is in a cleanable state. I’ve considered outsourcing meal preparation but that’s further down on my list.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Hi Flexo,

Good that you’re considering it–but you may be throwing up some artificial barriers. I remember you said something similar a couple months ago. If I were in your situation, here’s what I would do:

1) Call or talk to at least 3 people in my local area who get housecleaning services. Take the recommendation that’s most enthusiastic. Call that company and schedule your first cleaning. (That can be done today.)
2) Accept that my house will never be in a “cleanable state” as I see it. Pay house cleaner extra for first cleaning (you’ll probably have to do this whether your house is in a “cleanable state” as you see it or not.) Be OK with this.

You should have a house cleaner by next week at the latest. Seriously! Make it a goal as you would a business goal, and accept that it probably won’t be perfect.


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avatar 3 Luke Landes

I appreciate the attempt at motivation. :-) I’m fully aware of the artificial barriers… I’m sure I need to get empty boxes put away, organize my papers, put books back in bookcases, etc. before I bring someone in. I’m not looking to hire someone to clean up after me and put away my “toys” because I don’t take the time to do it myself — I’ll be looking for someone just to clean the apartment. I’m not in a rush right now. I don’t know a lot of people in the town. It’s a nice place but in my area people keep to themselves. I asked someone I know for a recommendation. She said she’d ask around and let me know but I haven’t gotten an answer yet. It’s not the biggest thing on my list right now.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I agree with Erica.
Spend 15 minutes a day doing the things you need to do to ready the place for someone to clean it, and in less than 2 weeks you should be ready. If that still seems overwhelming, you should consider hiring a professional organizer. They can get things organized and then you can hire cleaning help.

With a full time job, and the site, and the goals to have a cleaner house and eat better it makes sense to spend some money on hiring help, IMO.

While it may not be top on your list you would be surprised I think to know how much time and energy goes towards those to-dos, and hiring help would give you freedom from thinking about it, or procrastinating. :)

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avatar 5 Anonymous

*chuckles* This one will probably get a better reception than my article yesterday at Get Rich Slowly. ;)

I think we (Americans) tend to want to do everything ourselves, and I encourage outsourcing wherever possible. The easiest thing to outsource is probably housecleaning. Next I would say any type of house maintenance–from the yard on up. Both of these jobs are well-defined, and cleaning and yard maintenance are fairly inexpensive.


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avatar 6 Anonymous

Crazy! I just read your article. I of course agree with you 100%, but the comments were really interesting!

It is a very American value to “do it yourself.” We had a neighbor whose sister and mother both raised their children in South America, and they both had household help even as stay at home parents. It was socially acceptable, and affordable.

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avatar 7 Smithee

I’m reading the Four Hour Work Week and I just finished the chapter on outsourcing, and to be honest it freaks me out a little. I wonder how much is because I grew up thinking that having hired help is for “other people” (like people who get to go to Broadway Shows and eat caviar).

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avatar 8 Anonymous

LOL. Hired help doesn’t have to mean a full time staff! It can be someone mowing your lawn, or a babysitter. The point is we really try to do too much sometimes, and then we have no time to relax, or be with our loved ones.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

Nice road map to figure out what can be outsourced! – There is one thing that I used to outsource but that I am “insourcing” again: shoveling snow. It is pretty expensive to have my snow removed by somebody else, but the most important reason for canceling my snow removal service is very simple: I enjoy being outside in the snow. I even enjoy shoveling snow. So, this chore is work that I really enjoy. When I enjoy the work, can we really call it work? Should I ever quit or outsource it?

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I’ve been toying with the idea of outsourcing some of my mundane busy work at my day job but alas corporate rules get in the way of my virtual assistants helping me out. But we are moving towards the outsourced house cleaning next month. My wife is kicking off a new business and we agreed that it just makes good sense.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

I think this is a great just takes effort to list all the things we do….I’ll bounce the idea off of wife and see where it goes….any advice for a ‘never say no” wife? If so, pass it on..Good post.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

I worked with a virtual assistant for a while who handled some of my business-related tasks. That was pretty nice, and I intend to work with one again when I have a steadier stream of tasks for them. I’m seriously tempted to hire someone to clean, but we’ll see about that.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

Just checked out Time Banks website and it looks great. I’m having an idea to start one in my community. We don’t have Time Banks in Australia although I think there is one barter community that people use here. Anyway, thanks for the information.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

Ohh this article is great, thank you for these good tips. I especially like the idea of bartering. You can also use it to get clothes for your kids, so you don’t have to buy anything new. Children grow so fast and need new clothes. And as you mentioned you can exchange services, too. It’s a great way to save money and time. I can recommend you a very user-friendly barter website:, you can barter goods, services and real estate there for free! It’s a lot of fun, try it!

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avatar 15 Anonymous

When I first got married I proposed the idea of hiring a house keeper, but my wife, who holds off on doing the cleaning until the last minute, is absolutely and galacticly opposed to the concept.

We have a small place and I’m sure it would be cheap, but it’s a pride thing for her.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

I loved this post. I am always curious to see what encouragement or criticism this approach gets. As Erica saw, her similar post struck a nerve and hit some negative criticism.
Outsourcing can take many forms, and inspired by these two articles as well as Wojo’s at Fiscal Fizzle, I’m putting pen to paper (can I still use that metaphor?) and planning to share my own thoughts.
Good job, Kelly.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

Seems this is on everyone’s mind lately. :)

I love the idea of Time Banks, and wish someone with more time than me could start one locally! I think they will catch on more and more as people have less and less money with this continuing recession, and trading services is an awesome third alternative. Great post!

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avatar 18 Anonymous

I like your idea of the third “cost” column when tracking tasks. I didn’t realize that some task take a lot of time which I can outsource.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

Great article Kelly! I love your ideas and I wish we also had “time banks” in our area. Hmm, maybe we can start one …

I also like your idea of tracking tasks – this is very helpful, especially for people who don’t know how to delegate. A lot of our clients don’t know what and how to delegate. I’ll refer them to your post.

Thanks! :)

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avatar 20 Anonymous

It’s surprising and a bit funny that even regular household chores can be outsourced now? Wow. I thought this only apply to business, like finance and technical support outsourcing.

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