The hassles of hiring out your chores

I’m a big supporter of DIY tasks that are minimal risk to yourself and saves you from unnecessarily spending after-tax dollars. Understand that I am a big supporter that money does buy happiness, but throwing money at a problem can sometimes be more hassle than its worth.

Case in point: one of the smoke alarms in my rental started chirping. I am the tenant. The fix is a simple replacement of a low 9V battery…except that the alarm happened to be in the foyer where the ceiling was 12 feet high. I did not have a ladder that high, and it’s unclear whether I should risk falling off a ladder and ending my career over a 9V battery.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t snap my fingers and have a handyman replace the battery at a moment’s notice. In reality, it took many steps to outsource this simple task:

  1. E-mail the landlord listing the items requiring repair.
  2. Wait for e-mail reply stating that it is okay for my to contact her handyman to schedule a repair.
  3. Call the handyman several times to schedule.
  4. Handyman no shows for the repair twice, and does not call back to reschedule.
  5. Handyman shows up 1 hour late, and tells you that the smoke alarm is actually defective.
  6. Handyman takes the defect smoke alarm, and never calls back to finish the repair.

While this process consumed approximately only one hour of my time, having the incomplete task of the smoke alarm looming over my shoulder likely distracted me from other tasks. Moreover, the repair still has not been finished!

Would you hire a handyman to replace a 9V battery on a smoke alarm on a 12-ft ceiling?

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The cons of outsourcing tasks.

Reliability. This is the key factor in determining how efficient you can pay someone to take care of errands for you. I don’t remember the last time I had a reliable handyman who showed up on time, actually knew what he was doing, and took care of the problem quickly. Most of the time, I actually lost productivity by outsourcing minor tasks! If you’ve had a great experience with handymen, comment below!

Theft. Obviously if you leave your belongings out for the taking, you are tempting your housekeeping staff to steal your belongings. I have never used a housekeeper, but I have heard horror stories of my colleagues being robbed by their cleaning staff. Think about it. Most housekeepers are compensated at a mid-low hourly rate. They may only earn $50 pretax for a 5-hour cleaning job in your house. If you leave out your $5,000 Omega watch lying on the counter, you are tempting your $10/hour cleaner to take it.

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Pros of outsourcing tasks.

Manual labor. You are a busy professional. Your livelihood depends on you being able to do a colonoscopy or throw a central line. It would be a shame to become disabled from throwing out your back while mowing the lawn. Yard maintenance, house painting, and furniture moving are all straightforward tasks that are physically taxing. It’s a no brainer to outsource these tasks if you are too tired at the end of the day to be mowing your lawn that needs a trimming every week.

Have someone deal with tasks that you have absolutely no interest in dealing with. This is human nature. I know people who choose to pay for a $150/month gym membership to exercise than to rake leaves in the back yard. I know plumbers who choose to pay another plumber to replace their toilet. I have had a financial advisor tell me that they hire financial advisors to manage their own money! To each his own.

Do you consider yourself to be handy?

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