Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Frugal Retiree "Hires It Out"

Common wisdom says that one of the best ways to save money in retirement is to "Do It Ourselves".  For most of us, retirement gives us more time than money, so that we can do our own cleaning, cook without having to grab fast food and more.  I've written about this one more than once, the first time as early as 2010.

Now, for the most part, I haven't changed that view. I feel pretty strongly that saving on expenses as opposed to earning income is the smartest frugal strategy-at a certain retirement income level anyway (seniors truly struggling will need to more and I have more on that topic to come).  Whenever possible my choice on a personal level is to save rather than spend. First because I think it's more efficient. Second, because it's possible to "live your retirement" while cutting expense (as opposed to sacrificing retirement time for a job). And frankly, saving rather than making or earning extra income is less expensive. Money saved does not pay a twenty percent tax.

Having said all of that, it's time to make some lifestyle changes.  I've decided that part of this year's lifestyle adjustments will include hiring others to do some basic (mainly labor) work for me.  It has taken me awhile to get here. Less because of the cost, frankly, than because of the idea that "I  can do that". That tends to be my kind of response,  just as when I go to craft fairs, I always say "I can make that myself", even though I know full well that while I CAN make my own jewellery, the chance that I will is well....slim to none.

But you know what?  It's time.  And not just from a physical perspective necessarily, although for me that's important. I mean, my body can simply not do what it used to do.  What does this mean?  It means that I live in a home where the laundry cannot be moved up, and I cannot move down. It means that while I can walk for three miles every day on the good days, I can neither kneel nor bend over for any period of time (and if I did kneel, the paramedics would have to get me up). In real life, this means that while I can scrub my kitchen and clean out the fridge, I cannot wipe the baseboards or kneel on the ground to clean out the oven after it's automatic cleaning. It means that I can clean the shower walls,  mirror, potty and sink. I cannot, however, do the floor or even scrub the tub unless there is a tool I have not found. And, if you relied on the two women in this house to shovel, we'd be stuck for days.

Now, physical deterioration is certainly not the only reason to get some help with various labor projects.  My priorities both in terms of time and money are home/family, health, travel, creativity and outreach/service. My goal is to have more down time at home and yet time for those other priorities as well. This means less time spent on shoveling, raking, floor scrubbing and yes, even laundry.

I've had some easy labor for awhile, with an older college living at home. Earlier on, he was taking less hours, and his landscaping business was part time. So raking and shoveling, or carrying my laundry to the basement and back was doable. Now, however, this same older student is working more than forty hours a week, taking sixteen credit hours in business school and working on an internship. Other than taking care of his own dog and room, we have a "hi......bye" relationship (which of course is as it should be).

Many folks might suggest that hiring out something that you CAN still do yourself is not frugal. If I  were truly frugal I would find a way to scrub the bathtub, wash my clothes in the sink and cook everything from scratch. My view of frugality is different. For most of us frugality is about spending on priorities and saving in other areas and I am no different (admittedly however, I am not a senior living in poverty or making those kinds of frugal and lifestyle choices). 

In my case, I've decided I'm willing to buy clothing at end of season sales, Walmart, and used markets like Swap online (In normal circumstances I would put a moratorium on clothes, but weight loss is a double edged sword), or even sew them. The same thing with decor and necessities for my house, and even for many of my creative and entertainment pursuits. On the other hand, I'm willing to spend more to have better health, less pain and more free time.

What spending in these areas looks like and feels like is different for everyone, I am sure. In my case, yesterday I arranged for a fluff and fold service to come once a week, take my laundry, and return it a couple days later-washed and folded. As a back up for big items or on those rare winter occasions when I've gone through five pairs of sweats I have a nice local suburban laundromat or my son on a rare Sunday.

I also hired a high school gal  last week to rake and bag the leaves even though we look to have a low snow winter, am lining someone up already to clear the large double driveway, sidewalk and walk way. I'm looking for someone to come into my house twice a month and do those basic deep cleaning and contortionist activities that are now lost to me.

I've already changed my cooking habits, as I shared on another blog post awhile back-with little additional cost, I've made friends with Schwans delivery service (over all a four and a half star rating from us, perhaps I will write a review), used our local downtown dinners, made a deep friendship with the deli/takeout section of my grocery and started cooking just once or twice a week in large amounts for freezing.  I live with plant whisperer, hence no hiring out of gardening  or yard clean up at this time, but I am prepared for it.

Life is about balance and priorities. At this point in my life when it comes to spending, my primary priorities are services, experiences and travel (although that's an experience as well). So I'm willing to spend more to have more time. I'm more likely to spend money on a glass blowing class to make an ornament or an overnight trip to the mountains than I am on possessions (except perhaps for fabric. fabric still has it's own category). I'm willing to pay to take exercises at the rec center, pay the medicinal price of pot to take care of the pain, and eat healthy food (albeit not cooked by me).

On the other hand, at this particular point in time, I am willing to get my hair cut at the ten dollar hair cut store, by most of my clothing at Walmart, thrift stores or end of season sales, make or purchase used gifts and home decor, enjoy mainly free entertainment and social pursuits and save money in other ways. I use the library for reading and entertainment, and I even have some little money making/ reward pursuits that take little time. Retirement is about balance after all.

I'm sure it's going to take me some adjustment, this hiring other folks to do what I've mainly always done at least since I left Germany (where I had a housekeeper).  But it's time for a change, so change it is.  I don't know how well I'll handle being a so called lady of leisure when it comes to laundry, yard work and cooking. But one thing I can say. The thought of never folding another pair of slacks or shirt? Of not having to lift heavy leaf bags? Of having a floor properly scrubbed instead of simply swifered?

Priceless my friends, priceless!


  1. This is a great post and I like the changes you are making. The fluff and fold service sounds necessary for you, and the twice a month house cleaning (to save your knees). I get my hair cut at Great Clips for $15 so I am with you on that.

  2. Making the money work for you instead of you working for it...sounds like a great plan to me!

  3. I understand what you are saying and if it wasn't for my husband, who does the majority of things now, I would be doing the same. It's a sensible approach when you've become limited with what you do.

    Joan (Wales)

  4. I absolutely no what you mean about taking care of things that require bending over or getting on your knees. I have no to leave those chores and on the other side, things I enjoy - by the way side as I reorganize and replan my life. But, so far, it is not getting me down.


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