As a supposedly frugal man, I have a guilty confession to make:
I outsource a lot!
Despite being someone who enjoys keeping my personal expenses low, I have a curiously anti-frugal habit of doing almost zero DIY.
Several readers have reached out over the years inquiring about the following:
“Do you manage your rental properties?”
“Service your own car?”
“Are you going to do your own painting, tiling, etc at your new house”
“Do you make your own beer?”
“What about general home maintenance/handyman work?”
The answer to all of these is, no.
Then, of course, there are countless other tasks one can outsource, like house cleaning, meals, lawn care, taxes, and so on. The list is never-ending. Some things are relatively easy, others less so.
In this article, I’ll explain exactly which tasks (if any) I choose to do myself and why. We’ll also dive deep into the pros and cons of DIY vs Outsourcing, the ideas for and against, why the tradeoffs are different for everyone, and how to decide which approach is right for you.
Let’s get stuck into it, starting with why DIY is a great strategy.
Why you should DIY
- It’s possible to save a good chunk of money, reducing your ongoing expenses and helping you build wealth faster.
- Learn and gain additional useful skills which you can use in the future, or even turn these into a side income stream.
- You get to spend your spare time productively in a way you might actually enjoy.
- Adding more DIY tasks means your life is filled with greater variety of activities, giving you a mental break from work.
- Spend more hours being physically active (depending on the task), which can provide a nice boost to your health.
- Because Mr Money Mustache said so. By following the DIY approach, you’ll be pleasing the master of frugal living and efficiency himself.
These are some pretty impressive benefits, many of them hard to quantify. How do you put a price on a more varied lifestyle, or the feeling of having an extra skill?
Not only that, but I’d certainly like to avoid an infamous punch-in-the-face from old Mustache 😂
So why would I disrespect someone I greatly admire and turn down such a great collection of benefits? What’s the deal?
Well, let’s talk about some of the reasons to outsource, and why I’m a fan of it.
Why you should Outsource
- It may cost you more money if you do a shit job, meaning added stress, wasted time, and additional expenses than if you outsourced it from the start.
- You may find certain tasks to be painfully difficult, or simply unenjoyable, or you have no interest in learning.
- Saves time so you can focus on doing things you deem more important.
- It may be more profitable to outsource tasks if you earn a higher rate than the service you’re paying for.
- Makes life simpler. Knowing there are less things to do can provide greater peace of mind and the mental space to truly relax when not at work.
- You can get a happiness boost from being able to offload things you don’t care about and focus on what you really enjoy.
- You need less possessions like tools and equipment to own, maintain and replace.
Alright, so we have a balance of benefits on either side. You might now see, especially if you know me, why I lean more towards outsourcing.
But let’s get more specific.
What I do and why
I think when most people think of DIY we think of home maintenance and renovations, and other technical or physical jobs that are commonly outsourced. In that sense, I do basically no DIY.
On the other hand, we do certain tasks that could be outsourced (and commonly are).
Taxes, lawn mowing, tree pruning, financial planning and investment, cooking, cleaning, haircuts, errands and life admin.
Writing it down, that’s actually more than I thought!
So, what don’t we do? Everything else. Things like car servicing, home repairs and improvements, and probably some other stuff I can’t think of right now.
Now, depending on how you frame ‘DIY’, I either do very little or quite a bit. Regardless, here’s my rationale…
- I like simplicity, peace of mind, and having less things to do.
- I’m not handy or technically minded, so I’d need to spend a lot of time to build up these skills, while spending most of it in a state of impatience and frustration 😂
- I’d rather spend my time on other things.
- I’m probably lazier than I am frugal. The cost savings don’t seem worth it for the tradeoffs, especially since we don’t currently have a shortage of money.
It also depends how much you value ‘nothing time’. I value my free time extremely highly.
My greatest moments of contentment and my best ideas seem to come when I’m doing absolutely nothing at all. When my mind is at rest and my to-do list is empty. This is where peacefulness and creativity comes from.
So, even if I don’t use my free time for anything outwardly productive, I don’t want to give it up. Having more space in my day and less things that I have to do means greater freedom and is a more enjoyable way to live.
Yes, I could learn a bunch of new things, save money, and so on. But for the most part, it’s just not what I want to be doing.
In fact, I actually make decisions like this (and many others) by removing money entirely from the equation: is this really how I want to spend my time?
By framing it this way, I’m far less swayed by the idea of saving or making extra dollars, and able to make better quality decisions.
But hey, this whole article could just be a convenient way to justify my laziness. I’ll leave that for you to decide 😉
A healthy approach to outsourcing
At this point it sounds like I’m all for outsourcing.
But I’m not suggesting you allocate $5,000 a month to outsourcing all your household chores and personal tasks while you bask in the sunshine with a cool drink as a trio of beautiful ladies or men fan you with palm fronds and feed you exotic fruit.
That might be a step too far.
You still want to lead a relatively grounded, happy and healthy life with a variety of activities. Hell, even billionaires are known to continue doing some of life’s most basic tasks despite being able to outsource their own breathing if they wanted to.
Ultimately, there are strong arguments on both sides. And I think there’s something to be said for outsourcing things you don’t like, which is the typical wealthy-person approach.
This connects to my recent article about spending more while becoming richer. Too often in the FI community we can fall into a scarcity mindset around spending – relentless saver syndrome, as I put it – and forget to put things in proper perspective.
There’s a reason rich people outsource a lot: their time is more valuable to them. Not only that, but the cost is miniscule relative to their wealth.
Keep this in mind as you progress up the wealth ladder. Rather than assume you have to do everything yourself, regardless of how much it annoys you or what other important things need doing.
However, it’s important to be honest with yourself too! This stuff – like any type of lifestyle inflation or luxury spending – can easily get out of hand to the point where you don’t do anything because you don’t feel like it.
You can easily become soft, weak and lazy by outsourcing an increasing number of tasks. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, all this (like basically everything else) sits on a spectrum.
Some people want to DIY everything. Others nothing. And most of us sit somewhere in between.
It really is possible to outsource almost anything! Especially with sites like AirTasker and Fiverr. In fact, it’s kind of fun to think about.
I can imagine scenarios where I’d happily outsource some cleaning, cooking, shopping or errand-running. It just depends on the context of where else I’d spend that time, and how wealthy I am.
How to decide what’s right for you
In choosing whether outsourcing makes sense, think about the following:
- Which things suck up the most time?
- What do you find stressful or frustrating?
- Which jobs could be profitable to outsource, where you work an extra 2 hours, outsource a task and create 3-5 hours of free time?
- Which tasks are affordable enough to justify outsourcing, where you can genuinely use that time better elsewhere?
You may decide to outsource certain things for efficiency (pay someone $40/hr while you earn $80). But after leaving work perhaps you take on more tasks yourself. That can make a lot of sense.
However, later you may become so used to that lifestyle and having things done for you. So, those cost savings from DIY may never eventuate in retirement because you enjoy outsourcing too much 😁
Think about each task and weigh up the pros and cons of DIY vs outsourcing for that particular thing.
Whatever it is, each week you’re investing both your time and your money. Where do you see it providing the greatest benefits to you?
Why it’s different for everyone
If you currently have a sedentary lifestyle and waste a bunch of time watching Netflix or reading too many blogs and forums, then it might be worth adding some DIY to your life.
But maybe your lifestyle includes a draining job (50+ hours per week), a busy family life, running kids around and little free time. If so, going the DIY route is a tough choice.
To those considering outsourcing more: will you really use the extra time effectively?
And for those considering adding more DIY: are your days open enough to take on additional tasks without it negatively impacting other areas?
There’s no right answer, because of the following…
- We each earn different hourly rates.
- We each have different skillsets and natural aptitudes.
- We each enjoy spending our free time in different ways.
- We each have different levels of busyness and tasks that need doing.
- We each value our time vs money differently.
- We each have different levels of spare income and wealth.
All of these things determine what tasks could be worth outsourcing, how long they’ll take to become proficient at, whether we’ll find it enjoyable or painful, and whether it’s financially prudent to do yourself or outsource.
What are your top priorities right now? Saving money? Family time? Growing your business? Reducing your work demands and simplifying your schedule? Trying your hand at new hobbies and projects? Spending more time on your health?
Depending on one’s situation, the trade-off is completely different.
What’s your time worth?
Make no mistake, going the DIY route often saves money, and is also a way to ensure more of our spare time is spent productively.
But is this really what you want to spend your time on? Is there something more valuable you could be doing? Maybe not in monetary terms, but in terms of life satisfaction.
Most people are already living stressful lives. And trying to fit in too many things to our schedule is one reason why.
Reducing stress is done through simplifying, finding time for relaxation and reflection, focusing on the most important things and letting go of everything else.
The need to always feel productive is something we should question.
Not because it’s necessarily wrong. But it can lead to a compulsive type of hyperactivity, where we are afraid to sit still or be alone with our thoughts, always focusing on getting more done for the sake of it.
Let’s zoom out for a minute. This whole blog is about using money to buy time.
Financial independence is just one massive purchase of free time that we call freedom.
We seem to be completely on board with the idea of using $1,000,000 or more to buy our freedom. We’re also fine with the idea of taking 2 months off and living on $10,000 of savings.
But then at the micro level, we shy away from the idea of using $100 to gain a few extra hours.
Now sure, they aren’t exactly the same thing. And the tiny version can make it harder to achieve the bigger one.
But we should still be open to the idea, because when done correctly, it’s an equally valuable way to exchange our money for time.
The reality is, while we’re working full-time and pursuing FI we don’t have a whole lot of free time. So, each hour is even more precious.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of buying free time. As you amass more money, your time-freedom increases. Not only by reducing your need to work, but increasing the amount of things you can outsource.
Time is our greatest resource, which is (sadly) depleting as I write this and you read it. So doesn’t it make sense to carefully consider just which things are worth our time and which aren’t?
The luxury of outsourcing
Outsourcing is something which business owners know well. In the beginning, you can do everything yourself quite easily. In fact, you probably should to keep your costs low.
But at some point your time is better spent outsourcing certain tasks and focusing on what you’re best at. It’s hard to build a bigger business when your attention is sucked up by a bunch of small things.
In your personal life, you could also use the approach of bartering with your friends instead of exchanging money. Help someone with their taxes in exchange for car servicing. Or help someone paint their house in exchange for borrowing their caravan for a road trip, or a free weekend at their Airbnb.
There are tons of ways where both parties benefit using their specific assets – whether it’s knowledge, labour, time or a physical asset.
At the end of the day, this discussion around DIY vs outsourcing is a rich person’s problem. The fact that we can even contemplate outsourcing all these different tasks points out that we have PLENTY of income at our disposal here in modern day Australia.
And remember, as you become increasingly wealthy, buying extra services also creates valuable employment for others. Which is arguably much better than buying extra consumer goods!
DIY has a lot of benefits, but so does outsourcing.
Where you sit on the spectrum depends on the many factors we discussed, including your priorities, wealth, skillset and schedule.
Now, we could’ve gone into specifics and debated which tasks are worth outsourcing and which aren’t. But as I said, those tradeoffs look different for each person.
That’s why I’ve focused this discussion on the various ways to think about it instead. Then, like everything else I write, you can adapt it to your own circumstances 🙂
Ultimately, having money gives you the freedom to do whatever you want to do, and freedom to opt out of what you don’t want to do.
Not by running away from grown-up stuff like a whiny child not wanting to clean their room.
Like a wealthy person, from a position of freedom and abundance, thoughtfully prioritising their time to make the most of their one life.