Thinking about the time/money swap

I thought that once I went into business for myself, I’d do the same kinds of money vs time vs enjoyment calculations that other people have done, and I’d probably end up making similar decisions such as signing up for a housekeeping service, eating out more often, or having either meals or groceries delivered.

It turns out that even though I know that:

  • my time is worth $X-Y/hour
  • my earnings are flexible (I can work more hours and earn more money)
  • it’s possible to hire people to do some of the things I do for much less than X an hour

… I’m still pretty comfortable with doing many things myself. I think it’s because I enjoy those chores more than other people do.

For example, W- and I spent the Good Friday holiday doing our spring-cleaning. I moved my warm-weather clothes into my drawers and chose a few for donation. W- and I emptied the fridge and scrubbed the shelves. He made the glass doors all sparkly-clean.

Cleaning was social bonding time. We chatted, laughed, planned. It’s cheaper than therapy. I suppose we could hire someone to do it, but we would want to spend time together anyway, so it made sense to spend that time doing something useful.

Chores become fun when we do them together. Same with cooking. During our cooking sprints, the two of us chop and laugh and stir and joke. Picking up groceries is a good excuse to go for a walk together.

Because I get a lot of intangible value from doing these activities with W-, I’m not particularly drawn to the idea of outsourcing them so that I could spend more time on the business. I like the break from work, the space to breathe and play around with different ideas. I like the time we spend building relationships.

So yeah, it didn’t turn out to be a straight “I can earn $X/hour so I should outsource anything I can have done for much less than that amount” sort of decision. I’m happy to outsource accounting at least for this first year, and probably for later years as well – it can be complex, and I’m buying peace of mind as well as time. I’m investing more in tools that I like and webapps that I use. But I’m still looking for areas where I can practise delegation and management skills, and I haven’t quite found a good fit yet. No worries – maybe someday!

  • Linda Ristevski

    As always, I love reading your blog! Tim and I have had these discussions before. At one point, he considered having a cleaner help us out when we are busy. We discovered that the intrinsic pleasures the everyday. Picking out the groceries, deciding the meals for the week, and making dinner — all done by Tim because he enjoys these activities the most. I take up the design and organization of the home — and yes, cleaning with elbow gusto! We do our own laundries. We don’t always enjoy all aspects of the work, but we found the division of labour that doesn’t suck. Tim really takes pride in his cooking. Where else is he going to hear, “Mmm. This is amazing — what did you put in it? It’s my favourite”? When he notices how clean the house is he’ll say, “Did the cleaning gnome visit? Looks great.”

    Glad to hear that you’re outsourcing the accounting. What about the gardening? I wonder if you need a pair of hands — love gardening!

  • http://susanzheng.wordpress.com/ SusanZ

    Indeed. Knowing and being clear of the priority in life is very important. Family and marriage are certainly weighs a lot more than money.

    Thanks for the sharing.

  • Priya.D

    Thank god, as like you, I also got a loving and caring hubby, who will love to do house hold works..Mean time, he is taking extra care on parenting also..Many men were not like that in India..!!!

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Linda, Susan, Priya: Yeah, totally! =) A good relationship is a wonderful thing, and well worth nurturing.

    Linda: I could certainly! Do you grow things from seed, too? We can swap, and maybe you can help me get the hang of growing things. The peas are doing okay, but I’m still waiting for the bitter melon plants to come up. Maybe in fall I’ll plant more bulbs so that we can enjoy spring flowers next year.

    I’ve been thinking about whether I should experiment with outsourcing more household chores now, or wait until we need it. If we get to the point of being frazzled and sleep-deprived, that’s probably not the best time to introduce something new, hence the potential value of finding a reliable service earlier rather than later – but there are no guarantees they’d be available when we need them, or that we’ll be able to anticipate our needs well. Ah, planning and experimentation! =)

  • http://www.cheekyboots.com Emma McCreary

    I’m similar – I think it’s a scanner/polymath thing. Some people really *want* to focus on only one thing, or are only good at a few things so they want to spend their time doing that. Some of us want to do everything, and we actually do most of it pretty well–often better or more efficiently than someone we could hire. Plus we enjoy the variety and thrive on diversification rather than specialization.

    The other issue is that anyone you hire you then have to manage. Sometimes it really is easier to do it yourself than to train and manage someone. Those calculations have to take the training and managing time into account–including the mental energy of switching hats into “management” mode.

    Areas where I think it makes sense to outsource are entire projects involving skills you don’t enjoy, aren’t good at, or don’t feel like using. For example, I set someone else up to create content for one of my sites–she required minimal management, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do myself. But I don’t outsource my accounting because I’ve designed an efficient system that works for me but would be pointless to explain to someone else. Plus I didn’t mind reading a (short, well-written) book on accounting to make sure it was set up correctly.

    So it varies by person and situation. No rules.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Emma: Oh! That explains a lot. =) I enjoy these other tasks, like baking — they’re a good break from the other things I do. Thanks for sharing your experience. That made things make more sense for me!