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The Luxury of Outsourcing (Why I Don’t DIY)

February 18, 2023


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.

 

Stepping back

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.

Why?

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!

 

Final thoughts

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.

10 Comments

10 Replies to “The Luxury of Outsourcing (Why I Don’t DIY)”

  1. Greart article that lines up pretty well with how I’ve always looked at things. I pay others to do the stuff I can’t do myself or don’t want to. I’ve lived in my house for 20 years and have never mowed the lawn – in fact I’ve never owned a mower or a trimmer. This means I didn’t have to buy, store and maintain that equipment but the real reason is that I just don’t like doing it. For me, having always been frugal with money has meant that I’ve had enough of it available to largely do/not do what I want even before FIRE.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Steve. I think the mental hassle and cost involved in ownership and management of extra tools etc is almost never spoken about.

      Great way to summarise it too – you can still live a perfectly reasonable cost life while outsourcing a bunch of stuff, and still have plenty of money leftover. The better you are with money overall, the more you can afford to make those choices of how you want to spend your time. Which is the whole point of this blog in the first place 🙂

  2. I think there is a lot of useful food for thought in this post. DIY isn’t always the way to go. Recently I had a technician in to put up a new TV antenna and to adjust an existing one. $460 for about 75 mins work seemed to be a bit over the top to me, but what was the alternative? I don’t have a suitable extension ladder and it it would cost about $1500 to buy one, new. Then I’d have the problem of storing it; we just don’t have a suitable space for something that large. Getting on the roof raises a safety issue too; apparently plenty of older people have accidents doing just that.

    1. Interesting example, appreciate you sharing that. Quite often certain jobs seem like poor value for money, but then when the time, effort, tools, skills, risk is involved, it starts making more sense why outsourcing is better in many cases.

      Regarding the older people having accidents/injuries from DIY stuff, I think it’s probably a male pride thing too. None of us want to feel like we’re getting older, and older blokes have a yearning to be useful and taking care of stuff around the house is one way they do that. So it’s a tricky tradeoff.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the article with plenty of valid points for outsourcing vs DIY.

    I do as much as possible DIY except jobs which requires licence tradies like for example electricians. The reason is I have plenty of time and there is always something new to learn. Also somethings I question the quality of outsourced work and the follow up is quit time consuming.

    Looking foreword to meet you at Kings Park.

    1. Cheers Bruno 🙂

      Great to hear you enjoy the DIY approach. You also raise a good point – it’s not always certain that we’ll get a good job done even if we outsource it!

  4. Great article. I find it also depends on your relationship and your network of friends. I have found people in a relationship or have a wide range of friends need to outsource less.

    My partner and I, both bring different skillsets to the relationship. I think this really helps keeps costs down as I know we DIY more as a couple vs if we were solo.

    She is great at sewing, cooking, gardening, crafts. I am better at DIY, Flat Packs, Technology and Car repair. Over the years I it amazing what we have done how much we can do we look at these tasks together.

    Also knowing a few mates who are a trades helps too.

    1. That’s awesome!

      Excellent point. Combining skillsets and trading skills with spouse or friends is super useful and a great way to get the benefits of both sides. Sounds like you’re a good team!

  5. I think you’ve always got to look at these things in the context of your own situation. There are lots of tradies out there who might say well of course you’d do all your home improvement renovations yourself and/or get your mates to help out, you save such a huge amount of money. But a lot of us aren’t good at that sort of stuff and don’t necessarily have a bunch of tradie mates. Just because it’s easy for them doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone.

    We do some stuff ourselves, like installing some shelving or Ikea cabinets where we saved a couple thousand dollars in exchange for a few hours work (thankfully we mostly manage to do this stuff without the screaming matches that some people can have when assembling Ikea!). But we’d never do big home improvement/renovation projects ourselves because it’s not likely to be up to the standard that we want and the cost savings aren’t worth it.

    There are also some areas where we’ve gone a third way and just removed the need for outsourcing or doing it ourselves. We have artificial turf out the back and packed earth out the front, so there is no need to mow the grass every week or two. Yes there is some occasional weeding required, but that’s a tiny amount of time and money compared to the alternatives. Also I absolutely loathe mowing the lawn and my wife doesn’t want to do it either, so even though it cost a fair amount of money it’s worth it to us.

    Something else I think people need to consider is what is the money they have saved for if not to buy them the life that they want? Sure you probably want to do some stuff yourself. But if you’ve retired early because you have enough money but you’re still doing a bunch of jobs you absolutely hate, do you really have enough money?

    1. Absolutely mate, it’s all person-specific. I appreciate you fleshing out your thoughts!

      Removing the need altogether where possible is a fantastic point too, something I hadn’t even thought of. As you correctly summarise, hopefully people are making these decisions clear-headed and with an eye to creating a life they’re happy with, rather than one based on maximising money or minimising costs.

      Cheers mate 🙂

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