According to the Mom Salary Survey, a stay-at-home mom in 2016 was worth $143,102. That’s because the moms surveyed took 33 discrete roles (janitor, nutritionist, groundskeeper, etc.) in their 92-hour workweeks. Working moms performed fewer household tasks but still put in 19 hours of overtime on household roles.

The survey (which is in its 16th year) is meant to show the value of the unpaid and often invisible work that many mothers do. Yet mothers who hire out some of that work may feel embarrassed or judged for spending on services that feel like luxuries.

 

What if we viewed paying for household services not as spending but as contract negotiation? This breakdown of six household chores  –ranked on a scale of ♦ (bad) to ♦♦♦ (good) – can help you determine which tasks you will benefit spending your time and energy on and which are worth leaving to experts.

benefits of paying or doing housework, laundry

Home cleaning

D-I-Y

Time Spent = 3.5 Hours

According to the American Time Use Survey, women spend an average of 29 minutes doing “interior housework.” That figure excludes laundry and food preparation, which are counted separately.

Weekly Cost = $2.50

The expense of home cleaning is mostly tied up in cleaning supplies. Statistic Brain puts the cost of household cleaners at $42 per month, but that figure includes all household cleaning supplies (dish and laundry soap, for example), not just those associated with bi-weekly house cleaning. Assuming that even 25 percent of the cleaning supplies are used in bi-weekly cleaning, that’s about $10 per month and $2.50 per week.

Hire-it-out

Weekly Cost = $50-$75

Angie’s List users put the cost of professional bi-weekly cleaning between $100 and $150. If your house is large or if you are scheduling cleaning for the first time, you can expect that price to be higher.

Time Saved = 3.5 hours

If you pay for biweekly cleaning, you can eliminate all your typical vacuuming, dusting, and surface cleaning.

The time saved by hiring household cleaners is entirely dependent on how comfortable you are having things cleaned differently than how you clean them. If you’re the type of person who will re-vacuum the carpet to get the lines just so, a cleaning service won’t save you that much time.

Household Helper Rating ♦♦

Paying people to clean your home will cost you between $13.50 and $20.50 per hour of free time, making house cleaning one of the cheaper household chores to hire out.

Could you put in a little elbow grease and get the work done yourself? Sure. But when you employ people to clean your house, you haven’t just bought dust-free surfaces and a floor that lets you go sock-less. You’ve bought time. You can use that time to tackle much bigger and more rewarding home projects, like organizing an overflowing pantry or designing your dream closet.

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benefits of paying or doing housework, laundry

Laundry

D-I-Y

Time Spent = 2 hours

Women spend an average of 17 minutes per day doing laundry, for a total of approximately two hours per week. That figure includes all women, regardless of family size, so a large family will need to adjust this figure to include time spent emptying pockets of crayons and rocks and re-washing loads forgotten in the washer.

Weekly Cost = $10

To know how much it costs you to do laundry, you need to know a lot of things. If you’re washing at home, you need the number of gallons used in a washing cycle, the cost of water per gallon, the electricity used by your washer and dryer, and the cost of detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softener. This handy calculator can help you make a reasonable estimate of your yearly laundry spending.

Assuming that you use a front-loading washer, that you wash half of your clothes on cold, that you pay $.15 per kWh, that your water cost is $5.50 per 1,000 gallons, and that you spend $.20 per load on detergent and dryer sheets, your average weekly cost of 10 loads of laundry is $9.75. That’s not including depreciation on your washer and dryer.

Hire-it-out

Weekly Cost = $58 – $192

Angie’s List puts the average rate for laundry services at $0.90 to $3 per pound. Assuming you do an average of eight loads per week, and that each load is about eight pounds, you’d pay somewhere between $58 and $192 per week.

Time Saved = 1 hour per week

Having laundry service saves you about an hour in folding as well as the time spent moving loads from washer to dryer. But you still have to gather the laundry. You still have to check the pockets. You still have to pretreat stains. You still have to remember to have it ready for laundry day or else you’ll be washing it yourself. You still have to get kids to put theirs away. Considering all of these factors, you may save even less than one hour per week.

Household Helper Rating 

If you’re paying top freight for laundry delivery services, an hour of free time is going to be very expensive: between $48 and $182. And that price won’t eliminate your laundry workload, either. You still need to run a load when someone says, “I need to wear that shirt tomorrow” or you change a blowout diaper on your duvet.

Before hiring out your laundry, consider the potential cost to your kids, who need to learn the character-building mistake of a red sock in a load of whites.

benefits of paying or doing housework, lawn careShirt laundry

D-I-Y

Time Spent = 1 hour

The time it takes to wash and press a shirt changes dramatically with your skill level. Some can iron a shirt perfectly in three minutes. Then there are the rest of us, who pull crumpled piles of laundry from the dryer and spritz them into submission. Assuming that a shirt will take you closer to 10 minutes to iron and that you wash five shirts per week, you’re looking at 50 minutes of ironing. But shirts often require special care, like pre-wash treatment around the neck as well as occasional sewing, so you can expect about an hour per week per family member.

Weekly Cost = $1.00

Assuming you wash your shirts separately and that you’re using the washing machine conditions described above, the cost will be about $1.00.

Hire-it-out

Weekly Cost = $12 – $15

Angie’s list puts the cost per men’s shirt between $2.40 and $3.09. Your average cost will be between $12 and $15 per person.

Time Saved = 1 hour

If you use a laundry delivery service, all you have to do is put your delivery bag on your doorstep.

Household Helper Rating 

At $11-$14 dollars per hour, hiring out shirt laundry is one of the cheapest ways to buy yourself some free time. You’ll also buy less stress. There’s no low-level panic about whether or not a kid or pet will tip over the ironing board. There’s less opportunity for panic that a specific shirt isn’t ironed in time for a special occasion. And there’s less of a chance you’ll damage your favorite garments.

Hiring out shirt laundry may also buy you more workplace success because you’ll have bought a crisper, more professional-looking wardrobe.

benefits of paying or doing housework, lawn careLawn Care

D-I-Y

Time Spent = 2 hours

Lawn sizes, driveway lengths, and homeowner association agreements all impact how much time you’ll spend doing yard work.

Weekly Cost = $1.11 – $1.84

Unlike the other home care services included in this list, this weekly cost includes power and equipment, because unlike household tools such as a vacuum or mop, if you are hiring out lawn care you do not have to own lawn care equipment.

If the average lawnmower has a lifespan of eight to 10 years, and you purchase a relatively inexpensive one for $200 and use that lawnmower 22 weeks per year, the cost of the lawnmower is about .90 per use, excluding power. The Simple Dollar puts the average power cost per acre at $1.04 for electricity and $4.70 for gas. Assuming your lawn is the national average size of one-fifth of an acre, that’s $.21 to $.94 in power per week.   

Hire-it-out

Weekly Cost = $30-$80

Home Advisor puts the cost of weekly lawn service between $30 and $80.

Time Saved = 2 hours

Like shirt laundry, lawn care is one of those services that doesn’t require any additional work on your part.

Household Helper Rating 

Paying for lawn service will cost you between $15 and $40 per hour of free time. If your lawn is bigger, you can expect to be on the higher end of that scale.

You’ll get less exercise and less Vitamin D if you don’t mow the lawn yourself but you can put that time toward a new outdoor hobby, like building a patio, planting an herb garden, or starting a bee colony.

benefits of paying or doing housework, meal service

Meal Planning

D-I-Y

Time Spent = 4.5 hours

According to the American Time Use Survey, women spend an average of 37 minutes per day on food and drink preparation.

Weekly Cost = $146 to $289

Your grocery bill is hugely impacted by where you live and where you shop. The USDA puts weekly grocery spending for a family of four between $146 and $289 per week.

Hire-it-out

Weekly Cost = $259 – $374

The prices of meal kit delivery services are much closer to restaurant pricing than to home cooking. Blue Apron and Hello Fresh both charge $8.74 per serving for their family packages, for a total of $139.84 for four 4-serving meals. That price tag leaves you just shy of the USDA’s lowest average food budget, but with seven breakfasts, seven lunches, three dinners, and all snacks and desserts unpaid for. If your family spends closer to the USDA’s lowest budget, you will need to spend another $119. If your spending is closer to the top, you’ll spend another $234.

Time Saved = None

Unless you pile up more meal kit delivery services, you’ll still have to grocery shop to fill your fridge. So it’s unlikely that you’ll save very much time on shopping.

Many of the popular meal kit services advertise prep time of 30-45 minutes per meal, which is not significantly different from the time it would take you to cook without a service. In fact, if your usual entrees are kid-friendly staples like pasta, a meal kit delivery service is likely to cost you time each week.

Household Helper Rating 

A meal kit delivery service is less of a timesaver and more of a hobby. Think of it like a four-night at-home cooking school for you and your family. But like all hobbies, it will cost you and likely take up more of your time. If you’re trying to buy yourself some free time, meal kits may not be the best choice.

If you’re a family of four, a delivery of four meals per week means you’ll have to go to the store. What you might really want to outsource is grocery shopping.

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benefits of paying or doing housework, groceries shopping

Grocery Shopping

D-I-Y

Time Spent = 2 hours

The American Time Use Survey found that women spend an average of 45 minutes grocery shopping each week. That figure only includes time spent in the store. Add in loading and unloading groceries, travel to and from the store, and 15 minutes of getting the kids to get dressed, that’s two hours.

Weekly Cost = $146 – $289

Those are the averages the USDA provides for a family of four.

Hire-it-out

Weekly Cost = $161 – $304

Services like Instacart,  Peapod, Green Bean, and Door to Door Organics let you shop virtually in an app or online and receive your groceries at home on your scheduled delivery day. Augmented with Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program, you may be able to outsource most of your weekly errands.

Assuming that the groceries themselves cost the same amount, you’ll be paying for processing, delivery, and in some cases, a tip. With a $5 delivery charge and a tip, you might be looking at an extra $10-$15 per order.

Time Saved = 1.5 hours

Setting up a grocery delivery is basically making a shopping list. You can do it 24 hours a day, making it easier to squeeze in menu planning into your spare moments. Grocery delivery will save you about an hour and a half. You’ll still have to put away groceries. Both the D-I-Y and the Hire-it-out plans assume you’ll also have to run out for an ingredient you forgot.

Household Helper Rating ♦♦♦

Hiring out your grocery shopping will only cost you about $10 per hour, making it the cheapest chore to hire out.  If you have small children, that’s an excellent value. You’ll avoid fighting with kids to put shoes on, saying no to constant snack requests, and making impulse buys as you near the checkout.

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How to decide when to hire it out

1 | Can you share the chores more equitably? If you are doing all of the chores, perhaps the first solution is to farm out some of that work to other family members, then determine what is the best value outside of the home.

2 | Can time away from chores help you at your paid work? For parents who work part-time and can pick up additional work, this is a no-brainer: time spared from chores can mean more time for paid work. And for all parents, hiring out a hated chore can mean more time for something more fulfilling.

3 | How willing are you to let go? Will you be bothered if the house isn’t cleaned to your exact standards? If the kids miss a crayon while collecting the laundry? If the produce in your grocery order is bruised? If your shirts aren’t starched to your liking?

4 | How do your chores work as a group? For example, if you grocery shop in person and your dry cleaner is inside the grocery store, home dry cleaning delivery doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if you get both the groceries and dry cleaning delivered, perhaps you can shave off a few hours per week.

What’s important here isn’t the specific cost of a free hour; your costs may vary greatly depending on where and how you live. What is important is this way of thinking, which can help you value your time and make household-management choices based on the value they add to your life.