Domestic Outsourcing: Practical or Wussypants?

A while ago, I had the pleasure of doing a guest posting a website called Frugal Dad. I noticed that the article that ran just before mine was about Outsourcing – Frugal Dad nicely illustrated his own battle between convenience and cash with a task he finds particularly unpleasant because of allergies – lawn mowing.

In the ensuing comments section, there was some interesting discussion on both sides, including some that expressed the attitude “Oh, I love outsourcing everything! My life is so clean and simple now, and it’s the best $500 a month I could ever spend!” And you’ll find similar chitchat on nearly every personal finance site.

I threw a comment of my own into that stream at the time, but the topic seems to come up in real life so often, especially among financially struggling high-income people, that it is time to proclaim this blog’s Official Position on Outsourcing.

Mr. Money Mustache does not outsource ANYTHING*. He believes it is more fun to go through life as a producer rather than a consumer, and while the Monetary Implications of this are secondary to the Life Satisfaction Implications, the money part of it is still HUGE.

Let’s begin with a historical tale. When I moved to Colorado in 1999 at the age of 25, I bought my first house. I met a friendly coworker who had just moved to the state as well, and he bought a house at the same time, right in the same neighborhood.

We each had big dreams for our houses, since they both were in need of some maintenance and upgrades to their fading original parts. We both started by tearing down unnecessary partition walls to open up the kitchen areas of the main floor. We celebrated with beers as we overlooked the sawdust and crumbled drywall chunks that littered the soon-to-be-removed ugly carpeting in our living rooms.

But then our paths diverged. I bought some drywall compound and a $25 texture hopper for my air compressor and set about learning how to patch the holes in the ceiling and match the existing finish. My friend paid $1200 to hire a drywall contractor to accomplish the same thing in his house (he later complained that cleaning up the dust and oversprayed plaster from this contractor took as long as I took to do the whole job).

The next summer, we each built a deck behind our house. Afraid of messing up the job, he hired a contractor to do the basic post work and framing, then he put the surface boards on himself. I borrowed a library book to learn to do the whole job myself.

The same pattern was repeated with flooring, exterior painting, lawn care, electrical upgrades, and kitchen renovation. We both had an interest in home renovation, but he just leaned slightly more towards convenience while I leaned towards stubborn independence. In each case, his hired subcontractors were a source of irritation, making mistakes and overbilling occasionally.

My own laborer was also relentlessly slow and imperfect, but his slowness forced me to pace my spending on materials: “No, Self, you can’t spend $2000 on hardwood flooring, because you need to install the trim around these new windows before you are allowed to buy anything more.”

And all of my old mistakes are still burned permanently into my current mind in the form of Useful Home Construction Knowledge I Will Never Forget.

Fast forwarding to the present year, I went on to build and renovate several houses as well as retire in part from the resulting earnings and lower expenditures, and my friend ended up scraping heavily against bankruptcy last year as debt and job loss caught up with him. (I’m not sure if he ended up escaping or going fully under as we are no longer on speaking terms – the subject of a future article on my Greatest Financial Mistake)

Even to this day, with my retirement income being more than enough to start paying people to do my work around the house for me, I still do everything myself.

A local tree-treatment company taped a card to my door that said, “The Maple tree in your front yard has yellow leaves because of an iron deficiency. Call us and we can save it!”

I ALMOST outsourced this task, because I love my tree. I called the company, but it turned out to be a big operation with a receptionist’s voice prompting me through a voice menu, and I hung up immediately, imagining the bureaucratic and potentially expensive debacle that might follow if I hired them. So I looked up yellow leaves on silver maple trees (“Iron Chlorosis”), learned how to diagnose and treat both the soil and leaves, and spent an hour that weekend drilling out narrow core samples of soil with my son and pouring the treatment mixture down into the roots.

The new knowledge also helped me diagnose several other plants in my garden with a similar problem and treat them too. The net cost of this little bit of Gardening School was about $15, versus $800 to have the tree company do it, and I have new skills and knowledge that will be with me for life.

When a warning light comes on in my car, I read the code with a $22 bluetooth car adapter (connected to an app called Torque) and then consult the service manual and the Internet to learn about what needs fixing. It’s usually a part that costs only a few dollars, so find that on Amazon and follow the wonderfully detailed instructions that people share on Youtube these days. I remove a few screws and clamps, put in the part, and then vroom, another year of trouble-free driving has been earned.

I feel that every time you do something for yourself, even if it’s just washing your own car, you learn new things and build a more balanced personality that learns to love hard work even more. And you build diversity into your day, which allows you to work longer without realizing you are working.

If you’re a graphic designer who works at home, you might charge clients $100 per hour for your work. So why would you take a break to cut your own grass, which takes 40 minutes and “only” saves you $25?

It’s because you can’t productively do your graphic design job every day from 7AM until 11PM. If you try, you will burn out after some number of hours, then need to switch to a non-productive activity to recuperate.

On the other hand, if you begin a day with pulling some weeds in your own garden, then crank out 7-8 hours of fantastically focused design work, then bike out to pick up your own groceries, and spend the evening cooking your own food, working on your own fitness program, cleaning your own dishes and reading library books and preparing for your next day of work, you have a routine that is free from outsourcing, free from unnecessary costs, yet so healthy and varied that you can do it forever without burning out.

In other words, domestic “work” may pay less than your day job when measured by the hour, but after you measure the lifetime personal benefits and the overall savings in after-tax dollars added up over an entire week, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Insourcing also provides a nice way to pace your spending. An outsourcer can quickly call a kitchen contractor, a landscaper, and an auto mechanic and get a whole fleet of workers on the job right away. But the outsourcer then racks up $20,000 in bills that need to be paid within a month.

A self-sufficient insourcer thinks about his kitchen design, his garden design, and his car project, and decides which is most important to him. He schedules his time and works through the projects one at a time, savoring the results as they are produced.  To an outside observer, they both get to the same place in the end, but the Insourcer has the added benefits of a deep satisfaction and a broad Money Mustache, while the Outsourcer simply has a higher outstanding loan balance to his creditors.

All of this will seem obvious to the most Oldschool Mustachians among us. But I can see the Outsourcing bug growing among the general populace, as the habits of the rich continue to trickle down to the middle class. To me, it’s an easy decision for those seeking lifetime independence in both the mental and financial senses – you should broaden, rather than narrowing, the range of your daily work.



* OK, I do buy food from stores and let the public school help out with my child’s education, which are technically forms of outsourcing, but here we’re just talking about household chores and a general life philosophy.

  • m741 September 13, 2011, 7:16 am

    Just gotta say – love the blog. As someone who is basically following the MMM/ERE model, and who is psychologically aligned with it, reading the comments on the ‘Frugal Dad’ blog was quite disappointing… people saying that they didn’t feel secure with $1mm in the bank, or that living for under $25k/year, you must have had rodent infestations and bars on your windows.

    Just goes to show that ‘frugal’ can have many definitions.

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 10:23 am

      Thanks, m741. Also, that Wolf logo you are using makes you look Extremely Badass!! Great work on selecting that.

    • Mr. Minsc May 31, 2013, 6:14 am

      When you’re in the standard “rush rush rush, daily grind” mode one tends to take on the practice of negative cognition. It wasn’t until I started to slow down and look at the other side I discovered many things are not bad as people make them out to be. Plus we all know people resist ideas which take them out of their perceived reality. I like to think of these “negative attacks’ as pre-programmed self defence mechanisms.

  • AMY September 13, 2011, 7:34 am

    I love to do all the work around my house. I find it fun. I only outsourced the reroofing on our house (took 6 guys 12 hours to do one day) and to trim and chop down a tree touching electrical wires. And sometime an oil change in the winter because I don’t want to freeze in the -20 degrees C weather.

  • Val September 13, 2011, 8:06 am

    But MMM… you are probably able to insource most anything because you are retired… don’t you think? For the rest of us still in the rat race (hopefully not for long if we keep following your blog!) it is not that easy. If I wanted to change my carpet for tile flooring myself during spare time… it would take weeks or months… and I would be as burned as the graphic designer working from 7am to 11pm. There are a lot of things that I insource (housekeeping, basic maintenance, some electrical work), but I usually outsource all work that involves drywall, concrete or glue ;-)

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 13, 2011, 8:57 am

      Hm. That may depend on the number of hours in your rat race. I’m still in the rat race of a 37.5 hour/week job. I took a couple of days off work to put hardwood in my basement.

      Thursday and Friday, with the help of the entire family (including the young’uns who can carry a square of DriCore if they work together), we laid out the subfloor, the waterproofing plastic wrap and started on the hardwood.

      By the end of the weekend, a good chunk of the floor was done and I finished up the hardwood on my own over the course of the week (using my evenings). The pot lights went in later and if I ever figure out a way to suspend a ceiling that doesn’t impinge on the ping pong overhead, I’ll do that, too.

      So with about four days of unskilled labour, in a handful of evenings, we had about 700 sq ft of hardwood, one door, baseboard, trim and lights – even though I’ve got a hi-tech job to go to during the day.

      Your mileage may vary, of course, if you happen to be more skilled than I am with tools or have the advice of someone with experience. You may also have also work lots of overtime or have other obligations, but it can be done even by non-retired people.

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 10:04 am

      You’re almost right, Val, but you got the terms backwards: I am retired because I never outsourced anything.. as opposed to not having to outsource because I am retired. All of the house renovations described near the beginning of this article were done alongside a very full-time job while I was working more than 40 hours per week and trying to advance in the corporate world. You still have every evening, and every weekend off.

      I can’t force everyone to get into home renovation, but I must say that laying down some tiles is a great balancing break from office work. A beginner can probably install about 5 square feet per hour, after factoring in all the time for preparation, cuts, and cleanup. So you could do a 150 square foot kitchen in 2 weekends. Then you would cease to be a beginner and your speed would grow for the next project (I budget for 10-20 square feet per hour nowadays, slow for small rooms and fast for big rooms of course).

      Even with all that said, your own level of insourcing already sounds fantastic compared to many, so congrats.

      • Kevin M September 13, 2011, 12:44 pm

        MMM is right, I did about 450-500 sq ft tile job in 3 days last summer by myself. (It was my first big job – I had done a small bathroom before.)

        Day one – materials delivered/start laying
        Day two – rent wet saw (now that is a fun tool), make all the cuts and lay those
        Day three – re-cut a few/cut tiles I missed previously/return wet saw/grout.

        The only thing I would do differently is lay the tiles offset instead of parallel with the walls – since some of our walls aren’t exactly square.

  • Kevin M September 13, 2011, 9:34 am

    Perfect example from this weekend – I spent $68 on new brake pads and rotors and changed them with the help of a friend who had done it before (and after watching some cool YouTube videos). Based on the fact that I paid around $400 for the same thing in 2003, I estimate savings of at least $350. Not bad for a couple hours work. (I did “pay” for my friend’s labor with a couple beers and bowls of chili – only fair.)

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 9:46 am

      Beer and Chili! That is a generous reward – I would have been willing to do the job for as low as Beer and Nachos.

      • Jan in MN September 21, 2011, 7:50 am


    • Jeff October 25, 2011, 9:49 am

      Almost no one should pay to change brakes. It’s seriously one of the simplest things to do.

      • Chris February 7, 2012, 9:22 am

        Agreed. Amazingly simple. I changed the brakes in my (very Mustachian) ’99 Civic last week… and taught my 6 year-old son how to do it in the process… he did all the work (after I broke the bolts loose for him, etc).

        Took less than one hour and $17.99 in parts *and* we had a great father-son bonding day *and* he learned a lot of valuable lessons about fixing things, working safely around cars, and, of course, the virtues of Mustachianism.

  • Weston September 13, 2011, 10:17 am

    Mr. Money Mustache. Is there anything he can’t do :-)

    Just a tip. If you get appendicitis, the appendix is located at the bottom of the cecum. Please try to not nick the bowel, and please, please, please sterilize your Exacto knife before proceeding with work.

  • Christine Wilson September 13, 2011, 11:30 am

    Good article. I do wonder when someone should consider outsourcing. There does come a point where you can’t handle all the extra work. Maybe this varies depending on what category of life we are discussing. For renovations the rule may be to do most of the work yourself. For your side business it may be that you need to outsource when you are getting a lot of work so you can focus what you are good on, outsource the rest? When do you think it starts to make sense to outsource? Or put another way: when does outsourcing add real value instead of piling debt? How do we calculate this?

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 12:35 pm

      That is a great point – business outsourcing is totally different than domestic outsourcing. If you have a business and you can profit by farming out to people who earn less than you, go for it! In that case, you are outsourcing in order to EARN more. For domestic work, people end up outsourcing so they can free up time to CONSUME more.

      In my own carpentry business, I still don’t outsource, however, just because I don’t want the added stress of being responsible for an employee’s income and finding ways to keep him busy. I like just turning on the tap of work when I am ready to work, and then turning it off for months at a time when projects in other areas of life come up.

      HEY! Clicking on your name took me to beautiful website about Tea. Very nice! Perhaps this is the side business of which you speak.

      • Jen February 11, 2018, 7:40 pm

        “For domestic work, people end up outsourcing so they can free up time to CONSUME more.” — This is just completely not true of almost anyone who owns a business. When I outsource domestic work, I use the time to expand my business.

        Also, virtually all of your examples are about home maintenance tasks that involve new learning and are sort of … butch.

        A lot of domestic labor that people outsource is the same mindless drudgery that Betty Freidan talked about 50+ years ago. Do you want to wax philosophical about mopping floors and scrubbing out sippy cups? Once you’ve mopped a floor once, you’ve got that skill; there’s no personal development involved in doing it for forty years.

      • Kiwi January 24, 2019, 1:35 am

        Not necessarily consume… when I’m in a better position I’ll outsource domestic drudgery so I can just… be. Less of the stuff I hate and more time to read, develop other skills, be with those I value. Because an hour of professional work can buy me 4-5 hours of this. I’m sure it’ll feel worth the exchange at some point.

  • Katie September 13, 2011, 11:46 am

    Great post. I think it’s good you pointed out that doing some of this work can act as a “break” from your day job (ie the graphic designer example), as it’s something that I think a lot of people forget. I often choose to do house or yard work when I’m too frazzled to get any job work done. I’ll probably still continue to walk the fine in/out-sourcing line, as I have fewer free hours than the average person (eg, not nearly every weeknight or weekend) and also because I really, really hate mowing ;)

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 12:13 pm

      Sounds like you have a good perspective on it – but your mowing comment reminded me of another principle I had meant to put into the article:

      “If you don’t like doing the work associated with a certain material possession, maybe you don’t even need that possession at all!”. In the case of lawns, you don’t even have to have one! Many people these days are just replacing them with low-maintenance rockscapes and hardy plant gardens. The same philosophy can work for powerboats, extra cars, second homes, etc. A simpler life takes less maintenance and gives you more time.

      I happen to love mowing grass (I use an old-school push reel mower so it is silent and non-smelly). But I hate fighting the relentlessly sunny climate I live in with constant lawn-watering (and wasting water). So I carve away at my lawn and convert it to other things over time that I enjoy more.. patios, gardens, etc.

      • Katie September 13, 2011, 12:18 pm

        I totally agree! I actually kind of hate lawns, for the most part. They are not particularly attractive and require a ridiculous amount of maintenance/chemicals/water. I remember seeing this adorable little house in my grad school city that had a wildflower garden as a front yard – when I own a house someday, that’s my plan. Though, I foresee having at least a small amount of lawn for dogs/kids/me to play in. But minimal is definitely best when it comes to lawns (and many things!).

      • Dancedancekj September 13, 2011, 12:50 pm

        I also hate mowing my lawn. It just seems like such a waste of space, literally. There is a whole anti-lawn movement out there that actually paints the lawn as an upper class luxury that for some reason America feels entitled to.
        I’m slowly eating up the yard as well with planting drought tolerant plants, native when I can. I don’t bother with too many water-intensive annuals, and mostly grow plants that I’ve either grown from seed or a cutting from someone else’s garden. Plants are pretty awesome. I might call my yard a plant ‘stash, since I can give volunteer seedlings, cuttings, and divisions to friends and neighbors.

        • MMM September 13, 2011, 1:05 pm

          Dancedancekj wins the Most Mustachian Comment award for today with this entry :-)

        • Kathy P. September 13, 2011, 3:05 pm

          Me too. My goal is to have no more lawn than I can mow in 20 minutes with an old-fashioned push (non-gas) mower. I plan to do that by way of a permaculture food forest, annual veggies, wildlife/habitat plantings, and more. I like the challenge and I hate mowing. With peak oil on the horizon (if it’s not here already), all of that will I think, turn out to be a “smart yard”. Besides, it will be far more beautiful than a monoculture grass crop.

          I used to outsource mowing (since I have A LOT of lawn) but have taken that over again. I figured I need the exercise, the guy was starting to have trouble maneuvering around my plantings with his monster mower, and it was costing me $800-$900 per year. I do find that doing it myself is not easy because work and weather sometimes mean the lawn gets waaaaay to long (like now, after hurricane Irene and TS Lee dumped about 8″ on us in 2 weeks’ time).

      • CheerfulAdventurer June 21, 2015, 8:21 am

        “If you don’t like doing the work associated with a certain material possession, maybe you don’t even need that possession at all!”

        I very, VERY often reflect over this principle while I’m ironing my shirts. :-)

        (So far I couldn’t quit wearing them ironed.)

        • speff October 8, 2016, 3:14 pm

          No-iron shirts from Costco are okay if you take them out of the drier while they are warm. Maybe not perfectly crisp, but neither am I.

  • Marcia September 13, 2011, 11:55 am

    Very good points in your post and in your comment above to Val – how you are retired because you didn’t outsource, not the other way around.

    I think it’s important to get into the in-sourcing habit early. I didn’t outsource much of anything when I was in my 20’s, except for the one big glaring “I didn’t know how to cook” thing. Oops. Luckily, my husband did. But our 2 years on opposite coasts were bad.

    We like doing house projects and such. I love to cook (now). When we remodeled our kitchen, (well, “He”), my husband built new cabinets, ordered cabinet fronts to match the existing ones, stained them to match, tiled the counters. We outsourced adding an electrical line for the garbage disposal and dishwasher and outsourced moving the gas lines. All in all, this meant we had plywood counters for months until we had time to tile. We have many bath photos of my infant son laying on the plywood (on a towel of course).

    But as time goes on, we’ve outsourced. I’m not terribly proud of it, but it works for now. We’ve outsourced cleaning. Our old plan of cleaning for 1-2 hours on Sat mornings is just painfully impossible with a small child. When he gets a little bit older, it should get easier. He was small when we started outsourcing cleaning, and I have to admit…for once, my house is clean. Larger projects such as replacing windows, blowing insulation into the outer walls, and insulating under the house are also things we outsourced. We could get these projects done over several days, but truthfully, we’d rather play boardgames with our kid or take him to the pool.

    There are only so many hours in the day with 2 working parents (one of whom travels), and we recognize our limitations. We recognize that this choice means we have to make choices on how to spend our “free” time, and our compromise is outsourcing some things. But when our orange tree started looking diseased, my spouse looked it up on the internet, found the stuff, bought it, and fed our tree.

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 12:25 pm

      Marcia, I find it interesting that your family is an intriguing combination of frugality and traditional US living.

      Most people use that statement “we have to make choices on how to spend our free time” as a justification for some pretty crazy spending, so even though you are using it well, I do get a little scared whenever it is uttered.

      I guess the real problem is when one or more parents would LIKE to have more free time – i.e., switching to part-time work or early retirement, but they feel they CANNOT because their lifestyle is expensive, because they have been spending $100 or more per week on lawn care, cleaning, gardening, tree trimming, take-out food and so many other things.

      In this case, I’d suggest they drop the whole program, and slow it all down. Start insourcing, live on half the income, and end up saving just as much money each year. Two working parents plus kids is already more than I want to pack in simultaneously, even without domestic work. But I’d rather cut down the career instead of cutting down cleaning my own bathrooms ;-)

      • Marcia September 13, 2011, 4:33 pm

        Yes, we are a weird combination of typical Americans and old fashioned frugality.

        We are both pretty frugal and like doing things ourselves. The only reason the typical US living comes in is because I like my job.

        I like my job MORE than I like cleaning the bathroom.

        We actually managed to save money while I was out on maternity. Not as much as when I’m working, true, but still some. And I worked part time for about 1.5 years, and I didn’t miss the extra money at all. We still outsourced cleaning, but life was much more relaxing.

        I’m still not quite sure how I got talked into going back full time. Yeah, I do. Dang President/COO pressure. I had to say “NO” to a promotion last year that would require 50-60 hr work weeks. (What, do I look crazy?) I should just start feeling out my boss on the part time thing again.

        One thing that helps is that I have a high tolerance for things being out of order. I don’t like clutter (which is a problem with a child and toys). But we started stripping our interior doors 6 years ago, and they are still half stripped. My husband just wants to replace them, and pay someone else to do it because he doesn’t have time. But…he hasn’t bothered to call anyone. So I just let them be (though sometimes I get out the heat gun and work on them – I still think we can strip the 8 layers of paint, sand them down, and repaint them).

  • Dancedancekj September 13, 2011, 12:44 pm

    I totally agree with insourcing. I like having a house because it is fun and empowering learning about and fixing things. The only thing I refuse to insource is painting/tiling anything out of reach of a standard ladder – the main reason being the potential for accidents (perhaps a bit paranoid on my part).
    I’m not close to retirement yet, and my job requires me to remain injury free since I use a lot of manual dexterity (and my disability insurance premiums would skyrocket if I got in any sort of accident). It isn’t worth the risk for me at this point in time.

    • locust September 13, 2011, 1:42 pm

      I’m with you, Dancedancekj. I can’t stand mowing either, so we are slowly replacing all of our grass with raised vegetable garden beds. We are nearly done filling the backyard and starting to plan the layout for the front. My thinking is, why waste time and effort (not to mention water) on something that I can’t eat? It really pisses me off to see people wasting a very precious resource (water) only to turn around and waste another semi-precious resource (oil) to cut it.

      • CheerfulAdventurer June 21, 2015, 8:25 am

        “Houses are surrounded by asphalt, unproductive vegetation, and artificial ‘lakes’ which cover
        valuable agricultural soil. The unproductive vegetation is specifically selected to be unproductive to avoid having to pick up fruit from the ground. Why get free fruit from the garden when you can pay for it at the supermarket 5-10 miles away? In addition, the vegetation is often nonnative, which requires significant amounts of intervention. Consider, for example, how lawns are first fertilized and watered, then once they grow accordingly, they are cut down.”

        (Jacob Fisker: Early Retirement Extreme)

  • Katie September 13, 2011, 12:52 pm

    A question, MMM – do you prefer chores to what you used to do at your job? Or is just that you enjoy the freedom of not worrying about employment and bosses and such, and are willing to do household chores yourself in order to not have to deal with that?

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 1:02 pm

      Haha.. nicely put! It is difficult to compare the two forms of work. I LOVED my corporate jobs for most of my career. At the time, they were the most interesting thing I could be doing. But I also loved having a balance, so I took care of my houses and cooked my own food when I wasn’t at work. I guess the biggest thing I am suggesting is that it is healthier to perform more than one type of work – a main job and all of the self-sufficiency jobs to support your out-of-work lifestyle. Because producing is more fun than consuming, and consumption can easily be extended beyond our financial means, whereas production cannot.

      Now the production (some of which could be considered “chores”) continues to be its own reward even without a job, which is why I continue not to outsource it.

  • Adrienne September 13, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I must admit instead of insourcing or outsourcing we mostly….don’t.

    So my house is not quite as clean as could be. And though I’ve mentally renovated several things in my mind I’m not willing to spend the time or the money on them. Being content with things as they are is even more frugal. That’s my excuse and I’m stickin to it.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache September 13, 2011, 2:55 pm

      Agreed, Adrienne! I was thinking the same thing.

      I don’t need my house to be super clean or my yard to be perfect. I tend to be content with things as they are as well. The only thing that I try to work on is clutter, as that can tend to bring me down, but you’ll hardly ever see my on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors. :)

  • Gerard September 13, 2011, 3:27 pm

    As a clumsy academic, I tend to fear the likely results of insourcing major home renovations (although, for some reason, I’m fine with cooking, knives and heat and all). But I’m starting to get motivated, largely by seeing the bills for minor work that I’m pretty sure I could have figured out myself with a library book.

    And the whole discussion reminds me of a joke:
    How many yuppies does it take to change a lightbulb?
    Two… one to mix the drinks and one to call the electrician.

  • Ealasaid Haas September 13, 2011, 5:14 pm

    I do the numbers this way:

    [value of my time]x[hours required for me to do the thing, including learning to do it and dealing with any mistakes] + [cost of necessary materials] – [cost of hiring someone else to do it]

    If the answer to that is a negative number, I do the thing myself. If it’s a positive number, I outsource. My time is valuable because I work several jobs and have to take time away from them to do anything beyond the basics (eat, sleep, get enough downtime to not punch anyone in the face when they irritate me).

    Looked at that way, it’s actually a bargain to me to fork over a couple hundred bucks to a mechanic to fix my car instead of spending hours figuring out what to do, doing it, and then dealing with the potential consequences of doing it wrong. On the flip side, I do my own cleaning, cooking, etc. because hiring someone is more pricey than just doing it myself.

    • MMM September 13, 2011, 8:22 pm

      Nice equation! The only place my math seems to differ from yours is in the value placed on learning new things – both in future savings in money and hassle, and in the enjoyment of gaining a new skill.

      For example, it was an absolute disaster the first time I changed my own car oil back in the year 2000 – I took a bath in it, stained the driveway, and spent a few hours in total. But now I can change the oil in about 5 minutes and the experience led me on to expand my mechanical skills to other parts of the car. My first home renovation projects on my parents’ house at age 15 were comical and slow, but the experience caused a good chain reaction worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.

      Basically, if I have a chance to learn something new without destroying my existing life, I take it!

      • Marcia September 13, 2011, 9:05 pm

        Yah, when we had the Saturn, the first time we tried to change the oil, my husband unscrewed something while I was looking under the car and I said “um, that’s red”. Yep. Transmission fluid.

        But we got better.

        The danger in that calculation is if you are a highly paid individual. At this point, it’s almost always cheaper to hire someone – that doesn’t mean we should do it for everything!

        • Ealasaid Haas September 14, 2011, 10:35 am

          Yeah, once my time becomes worth a jillion bucks an hour, the equation will have to change. As an upper-middle-class tech sector worker, tho, it’s not too bad. :)

      • Ealasaid Haas September 14, 2011, 10:33 am

        Ha, that makes sense. I guess I’m not thinking long-term enough! :) It’s definitely true that if I knew how to do some basic car maintenance myself it’d be worth a fair bit in the long run. I just haven’t gotten over the hump of the time/hassle necessary to learn it in the first place.

      • anonymous June 22, 2012, 8:08 am

        One key thing you haven’t taken into account, though: you enjoy construction and the entire family of tasks related to it. I don’t; I classify it firmly as “work”, not as “fun”. For the same reason, I also have no interest in doing construction for anyone *else*, as you’ve frequently discussed doing; that also means that I can’t justify any significant investment in construction tools, because such an investment would not pay off for me as it very clearly has for you.

        By contrast, I classify my day job, namely coaxing computers to do my bidding, as “fun that by sheer awesomeness also pays very well”. So, I can either spend time on fun that pays me very well, and pay someone else to do work, or I can spend time on work to save myself some money.

        I consider learning one of the most fundamental goals in my life, above nearly all else. In stating that I have no wish to learn enough to become an expert (or even an amateur) at tasks such as home or auto repair, I do not want to imply in any way that I don’t want to learn in general. Given all the time in the universe, I’d like to learn absolutely everything; however, I have to prioritize. My learning about home repair will not help me change the world. My learning even more about computers *will*, and *has*.

  • Adam September 13, 2011, 9:58 pm

    I think it was a past posting, but you said something about if you had become a wall street type, you could have retired earlier. My question is, how much of an impact did your 2nd job have on when you retired? It seems like living in a city, you would not have had the opportunity to fix up and sell/rent houses and your mustache would not have grown nearly as fast.

    • MMM September 15, 2011, 7:29 pm

      I’d have to guess that the renovation of houses contributed about 15% of my savings by the time we retired. Since then, it has been a much bigger portion of my fun and income, but that’s sort of a separate story. You can still do renovations in a big city – as long as you can get some sort of property that you own, like a townhouse or condo-style apartment.

      But with the Wall Street example, I suggested that the extra salary would be MUCH more than I could have earned with renovations. I’d be better off just maxing out the hours at the office to get to the finish line in just a few years, then move away. Of course some people actually love New York City and would thus take a different path – I just happen to be much more of a Western dweller at heart.

  • Momof4 September 14, 2011, 9:46 am

    Agreed! House is clean enough, home cooked is good enough, etc. etc. My (Irish) mom used to say…”If you’re hungry, you’ll eat it” and “You have 2 choices…take it, or leave it”. There are times I wish for more, but I am not willing to spend money/jeopardize our future for those ‘wants’.

  • Geek September 14, 2011, 10:15 am

    I think practical or wussypants is a bit too extreme. Some people have no interest in physical labor. Most ER types do, but perhaps someone wants to garden their 5 acres and they let the house languish. It’s about what’s important to you. That said, you should teach your kids to clean a bit as soon as they’re old enough. I hated it as a kid but I’m grateful now.

    As a renter, I outsource any number of things without thinking about it (home repairs, drain-snaking) and sadly some things I wish I could do myself (gardening).

    But I can do non-physical things just fine. For example I’m choosing to insource helping DH with his business (http://parallelwidget.com/) and I’ll be doing my own SEO.

    It really is a matter of how you’d like to spend your time. Some people even like spending their time watching tv. Or in my case, playing Xbox. It’s pleasant to have your mind buzz in a bit of escapism. No need to judge them wussypants! Once DH strikes it rich, I won’t need the career anymore :P

    • MMM September 14, 2011, 11:12 am

      Sorry, Geek, sometimes I must be extreme when expressing core values like this one: Outsourcing the mowing of a suburban lawn is ALWAYS Wussypants, no exceptions.

      And having no interest in physical labor is also always Wussypants. Your body needs hard physical work! Every single day! No Exceptions. Without keeping your body as healthy as it can possibly be, you are effectively become just a brain floating in a glass jar.

      This may be a valid position for other bloggers to express, but not Mr. Money Mustache.

      • anonymous June 22, 2012, 8:16 am

        I’d put it a slightly different way: I would very much like to live long enough to become a brain in a glass jar, and in order to do so I need to take care of the large, costly, high-maintenance appendage currently attached to my brain for as long as we don’t yet know how to become brains in glass jars. Sadly, that entails exercise, and other forms of obnoxious maintenance.

        On a different note, though, a third alternative exists, apart from mowing grass or paying to have grass mown: you could simply *stop having a yard*; unless you have some brain-damaged neighborhood association, nothing mandates that your plot of land be covered in grass rather than something requiring little to no maintenance. Seems like the sensible alternative if you have no interest in a lawn. (That or move to an apartment, or a managed condo.)

        • Geek July 21, 2013, 4:03 pm

          Almost 2 years later, and I’m mostly with MMM on this one now.(and originally, as a renter, I didn’t really have the option to mow the lawn anyway)
          We have a townhouse with a small yard that we mow with a push-mower from Freecycle! And there’s really nothing we havent been able to plan and handle ourselves… that said its still fairly new age-wise.

          I am sure i have a DIY limit line but since we don’t dump kitty litter down the toilet or anything, I’m hoping I don’t hit it.

  • elorrie September 14, 2011, 2:28 pm

    I hate lawn-mowing! Actually I’m not sure I can say that as I’ve actually never done it. Although I don’t think I’d mind the push-reel mower, but the gas powered ones, ick! Its not the manual labor, more the smell, noise, etc that bothers me. We rent now so don’t have to deal with it. DH would like a large yard in the future dream-house. I’ve already let him know he better be planning on doing all the mowing himself then because I’m not mowing an acre…

  • poorplayer September 14, 2011, 4:04 pm

    It is beginning to dawn on me that I am probably the “grandfather” on this blog (at least among commenters), as I am in my 60th year on this planet, and it is silly to talk about “early retirement” in my case. I’ve been in my current house now for 24 years, and I took the route of an earlier commenter – I have done next to nothing on my house. Frankly, it just flat-out bores me. Homeowning and home repair seems to be such a passion of my peers, and yet I can’t even stand to think about siding and paint and such. There is SO MUCH MORE to do in life, I’ve always felt. I only fixed things as necessary (i.e.they broke or leaked). It is only within the last three years that I’ve begun to outsource some home improvement, and I did that because physical labor is not as easy for me today as it was 30 years ago (how I envy all these strapping young insourcing bucks!), and I need some comforts I did not need 30 years ago. The “do nothing” route worked really well for me because I bought a sturdy, fine house in the first place, built by people who really, REALLY knew how to build houses well. I bought it from a widow whose own family had lived in the house for 30+ years before me, so in 55 years this house has seen only two families living in it. I mow my own lawn (and my children loved the lawn when they were young!), but I use an electric mower with assisted power now. DW only began to hire someone to clean after two partial knee replacements.

    I won’t bore everyone with all the details, but I think it’s safe to say that all the things you are talking about now are possible because you are young. I do not outsource anything I can do myself, but the sad fact of life is that a time will come when you’ll have to outsource. I used to be able to chop and stack 12 face cords of wood for a season. Now, I keep the thermostat low and wear sweaters. Such is life.

    • MMM September 15, 2011, 10:21 am

      Interesting, and equally valid take on the home renovation issue! As I sometimes admit, using a home as a source of artistic expression is both a strength and a weakness for me. I just love having every last detail optimized for living and visually blending with the whole. I sit on my couch at the end of each day and look around the two story living room area surrounded by Stuff I Have Made, and the satisfaction is immense.

      I also appreciate the biological limitations of getting older. But I’m trying to fight it as long as I can. In my area of the country, people in the 60-year-old age division in marathons routinely do just as well as top contenders in the 20-year-old division. And many years ago as a student at the age of 20, I remember being out-deadlifted in the basement weight room of the YMCA by a 75-year-old man (I was lifting 350, he did 365). So while we can’t change our genetics, we can sometimes, if we’re lucky, bend them and defy the social norms of aging. Either way, we can have fun trying.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple September 15, 2011, 1:28 pm

      You gotta use it or lose it! If you don’t keep up, you can go downhill fast. I’ve learned that and I’m only 41. I stopped running due to injury, and that only made my pain worse.

      But certainly, most people slow down as they age. I’ve got a friend who is 67. She can’t play tennis or tapdance anymore (too hard on the knees), but she still does the 60-mile Breast Cancer 3-day every year and recently tiled her kitchen floor by herself. On the flip side, my mom is that age and can’t go upstairs anymore so she sleeps on the couch.

      • poorplayer September 15, 2011, 6:29 pm

        I’ve begun doing long-distance hiking. Last weekend I did 20 miles over two nights with a 30 lb. pack. I’m in training to attempt the 560-mile Finger Lakes trail in NY next spring. So I ain’t dead yet! And I’m taking your advise – having fun trying.

  • bigato September 18, 2011, 7:11 am

    Thanks for this. I was struggling myself with the decision to outsource some building. The case is, we just moved to a very small house I bought very cheap (258 sq ft). The plot have more than enough space for a big house and a garden. But as we have three dogs (two big, one small) and two cats, and we have no house for the pets, we currently put them on the kitchen when it rains. I know, I know, bad decision to have all that pets. I was weak in the past. All of them were taken from the street. We have some urgency to build a room in the back where I can store things, let the pets sleep, and do carpentry soon. Wife is pressing me hard. I still have no experience in building. I could build a quicker shelter for the pets, but the problem is that one of them is a lovely pit bull that gets very angry when he is left alone. He just destroys everything with reach (not the other pets, only things. the cats love to sleep with him). He only respects steel and concrete. Probably I will build a little concrete house for them before building the room in the back of the house.

    The problem currently is that I have time only at weekends, and them I’m somewhat tired. I cycle 6 miles to work and 6 miles back from monday-friday. I moved to a smaller city some time ago and am starting a jiu jitsu training group there because there is no one teaching it and I don’t want to stop learning. The group is starting to grow and the city’s Mayor just signed the check to buy us the mat last week (we are training on a tarp over the grass in open air – when it doesn’t rain). We have 2 to 3 hours of training a day from monday to friday. I want brown belt by next year. Then when the Saturday comes, I’m too tired. I sleep till late and want to use my time to rest and read, like I’m doing now.

    But yesterday I took a decision to restructure my time so I don’t have to outsource the building. Starting this week, when I come home from the jiu jitsu training, I will stop surfing the web from monday-friday (I currently see mostly ERE forum, your site and some research on tiny houses). I will just quickly check the email to see if I sold some book that I should send. Then I will get a little more of resting. Saturday I will sleep as long as I want, to rest as much as I can. Will do the web surfing only on Saturday. Then Sunday I wake up really early, and work really hard until sleeping time. I’m glad I have a supporting wife that will make this possible. I hope to complete the more urgent pet’s house, then move to building the room for my shop in the back. Then I will be able to free space inside the house and (forget to tell that) paint the walls(never painted before), put some wood lining on the roof, do something better on the floor…

    Thanks for the help on keeping my decision.

    • MMM September 18, 2011, 10:50 am

      WOW, Bigato!! You are an Amazingly Badass individual! (since readers can’t see your email address, I should explain that I think you are in Brazil, is that correct?)

      Enjoy your new education in building things – I think it will pay off very well for you. Even more in a less rich country like Brazil, because self-sufficiency becomes even more valuable there. A Man who knows how to Pour His Own Concrete will never have a problem with Survival :-)

      • bigato September 18, 2011, 6:35 pm

        Thanks MMM, you are always so kind to your readers. Yes, I forgot to tell I’m in Brazil.

        One building here usually costs twice the material costs, being the labor half of the price.

      • juked07 January 19, 2015, 8:33 pm

        Can someone reach out to this badass for an update on how the work went?

    • Christine Wilson September 18, 2011, 11:53 am

      That’s awesome what you are attempting to do. Love to know the progress of these renovations and your martial arts business.

      • bigato September 18, 2011, 6:51 pm

        Thanks Chris. The martial arts isn’t exactly a business in the sense that it does not yield me money. But maybe I can ask the pupils to buy me a kimono when I need another one. At least I don’t spend money training. I had an offer from a gym to start giving classes, but I am in a small city (12.000 hab) and I think I would have less people to training than a free class. Wouldn’t yield much money either. And my target is mainly my own training. I also have more flexibility to teach the way I want, in the hours that are better to me, and to train as much as I can as long as there is at least one person there. When it become a business, some things are left behind.

  • Christine Wilson September 18, 2011, 11:47 am

    Hi MM,

    Thanks! This is one side business. The other is web design… very busy person! We just got through a home renovation project. We bought a house and managed to get renovation work tied to the total mortgage… bringing down the usual interest rate that a line of credit would have cost and the total due at the end of the month. It worked out quite well but we had to finance it first by our own means which was credit cards. We were largely able to do most of the work ourselves but got some contractors to help (we worked along side them) so we could get the more complicated work done quicker. I think it worked out in the end. A lot less went to paying other ppl and therefore went towards our house in materials and upgrades to the kitchen, bathroom, floors, etc. It didn’t cost a fortune either. I can’t believe we did this but we tiled our kitchen counter ourselves. Cut a hole for the sink in the plywood, and tiled it all. Our reliance on contractors was more because they wouldn’t give us the money first… so I was worried about having too much money on my credit cards and paying the monthly interest. We bought a small place (850 sq ft) townhouse in the country and used this money to fix it up cheaply. We share one car into the city – 45 minutes away. 45 minute commute is not that long where we live (Toronto) as our traffic is bad in the city. We take the country roads which end up being just as fast as taking the congested highways. We work north of the city so as not to get caught up in the crazy traffic. Living closer might be good on our commuting costs but I like the open space and quiet living.

    I’m hoping to learn through my side businesses how to work more remotely so I don’t have to rely on a big city as I prefer the quiet life. I’ve read how you’ve been able to save money and be financially independent. I hope we can manage to get ourselves there as well. I don’t know if it will work out but we put a high value on learning how to run our own businesses – not being reliant on a big company as much. My husband has learned so much about doing our home renovations that he figures he can offer his services to earn some extra money on the side. I suppose we are very much do it ourself-ers… but we do run out of time! I try to build systems – like websites, ecommerce, etc – that streamline our lives. I put a lot of work into making things easy… I’ll work many hours to shave off a few minutes from repetitive tasks… or eliminate them if I can. When I do send off some work to be handled by outsourcing… I know how to do the job the person is doing already. I find this helps as I can fix things up if anything goes wrong… or communicate clearly to what I want done for the project. It’s a long road but I find it’s more fulfilling than pushing papers from 9-5 and then spending all my money on consumerism after work.

  • Aelie October 13, 2011, 8:46 am

    I regularly look to insourcing as my first option. However, I do occasionally outsource, but I think carefully about it first. For example: I have allergies. Mowing my lawn in the early morning or late evening, in 90% humidity and heavy pollen, leaves me with a migraine headache that reduces productivity and enjoyment. I am also allergic to dogs. These are related: I could save the $45 a month I spend to have someone else cut my lawn, and reduce the migraines by not having the additional cost and allergens caused by a dog. However, my dog has brought most of my current friends into my life, and helped me create a positive, mutually helpful, supportive social circle. I am willing to pay the cost of outsourcing the lawn and of dog food/vet care for the multiple benefits of being embedded into a social network. However, I am not willing to outsource food production (i.e. eating out) on a regular basis. Instead, my neighbors and I get together and have dinners at each others’ houses — we have a regular clean-out-the-fridge potluck. Similarly, I know how to make my own clothes, and I will take the time to do so when my alternative is to make a full-price purchase. However, if I can outsource the clothing from a thrift or resale store for less than the cost of materials, I will do that. I also include into my calculation the quality and fit: is the more expensive (home-sewn) option better because I will wear it more and longer, or are two cheaper and maybe lower quality items going to be more usable?

  • Paul November 2, 2011, 11:35 am

    Great post! It’s really made me think of how I decide if I do something myself, or I get someone else to do it. I think my criteria are along these lines:

    – Compare the *true* financial costs – ie, looking at after tax income, and the reality of my marginal income for one extra hour, not my income per hour over all the hours I work.
    – My emotional experience of it – some tasks I really don’t enjoy, and I’m happy to pay someone else to do them, and focus on other, more enjoyable uses of my time. (Have to be very careful with this one!)
    – BUT, only if I’ve done them at least a few times myself, and could take them over at any point. And only if I don’t think the character benefits of doing it are outweighed by the opportunity to do something else.
    – Am I feeding my fear of delegation by doing this myself? As a small business owner with staff, this is a real one I need to deal with.

    After thinking about it, I see some changes I can make. I’m going to start doing my own ironing again, even if it’s only for a time. And I’m going to pass some work tasks that I have done exclusively on to my staff.

    Keep up the great writing!

  • DP November 11, 2011, 10:01 pm

    During my first year of law school, our clothes dryer (which I’d purchased used for $75*) stopped working. It took about two days tinkering underneath the beast, consulting the internet and several relatives over the phone, but I eventually diagnosed the problem (bad thermostat) and fixed it for under $40, which included the replacement part and the purchase of an ohmmeter. As a student in a very time-intensive program, I first considered outsourcing the task, but it turned out to be surprisingly satisfying to have done it myself. And who knows, in the current legal economy it may have been the most valuable part of my education that semester…

    * I later sold it for $100

  • Shanna January 22, 2012, 2:13 pm

    I know of husbands who use insourcing as a form of avoiding a more difficult task-being with their own small (or big) children. “Moneysaving” jobs tend to take up whole days of valuable daddy time with daddy away at a friends to work on a car (drinking beer) or looking for materials or busy working in the garage at something dangerous where the kids have to be kept away. Mommy is yet again stuck with all childcare responsibilities with no leg to stand on because husband is “saving money!”. Gosh, who could argue with that? Well a wife like me does not fall for that crap.

    Not that my husband would do this as we outsource the yard because he prefers to spend his free time with us. In this stage of life with 4 kids 6 and under, outsourcing=love. Later I am sure it could make sense in a time=money type equation.

    Not that I don’t often look back on reading Your Money Or Your Life and wish I had applied at least 75% instead of 25% effort when we had no kids!!!!! Especially now that I know how little sleep I can actually live on- I could have had 3 jobs! Note to youngsters-you are most likely NOT THAT tired.

    • Shanna January 22, 2012, 2:14 pm

      PS I like this Random button!!! Cool Mrs. Mustache!!!

  • msclydefrog February 28, 2012, 10:25 am

    I’ve found that cleaning = moving around = generating body head = I get to turn the thermostat down in the winter while cleaning around the house! In the summer time, I usually end up cleaning at night when it’s cooler and I’m more antsy due to my night owlish tendencies.

  • etown May 10, 2012, 9:46 pm

    Some things are hard to pass up. Time sensitive items like a re-roof can be outsourced for the right price because of the scale. However I am designing and building our deck since a half finished deck doesn’t have any impact to the integrity of the home. Whereas a half finished roof can lead to all sorts of issues.

  • Enid Melanie October 9, 2012, 12:09 pm

    Very inspiring as usual! I would just like to know if you have always been “insourcing” everything – which helped you retire early – or did you only start that AFTER retiring – to maintain the retirement (aside from that you find it fun).

    I’m asking because we do spend about $200/month on outsourcing a lot of house and garden work. Sure, as a stay at home Mom I could do all of the housework myself, but with my two kids who are both under 4 I already don’t have much time for myself. I LOVE being home with them and being there for them, but during the times when I do not have help with the housework it seems to me like that is all I do. I’m constantly telling the kids that I “can’t read/play now” because I have to finish some work first. Even though I love my day with them I am also happy when in the evenings I can sit down and read, blog or do anything else that is just about me and my hubby instead of taking care of the laundry pile.
    And my husband – he works the “usual” 9-5. He loves his job, but it is also stressful and he needs the weekends to do something that is relaxing for HIM. I know many people thrive on gardening and DIY, but he really hates it. Those are chores for him. In fact I do most of the handywork and gardening. I enjoy it, but on my own I can’t keep up. Our garden is not so big, but it’s still too much to maintain on my own (if it’s not the only thing I want to be doing).
    So what do you think? I suppose you just gotta know what your priorities are? Outsource and work forever or DIY and retire early?

    To get back to my first question – I think that if my husband was not working, he might be ok to do more himself. It’s just that he doesn’t want to spend his limited off time mowing lawns. Actually, thinking about it, if he didn’t HAVE to work, he would probably still be doing the same job for fun. He would never want to maintain the garden…
    We have already reduced these expenses from over $300 to $200. Once my daughter starts kindergarten, we may reduce even further. Still … it adds up (as you always so nicely demonstrate! :P )

    Looking forward to your opinion. Melanie

    • Chilliepepper December 1, 2012, 9:25 pm

      Hi, I see that there’s been no response to this comment, and I’m thinking it might be a topic that we could take up in the forums (or I wonder if it’s already been discussed there). But I just wanted to say that I am in EXACTLY the same place as you, Enid. We don’t outsource anything, but I HATE the fact that all I ever seem to do is tell my kids that I can’t play with them right now because I have to cook dinner / do the laundry / clean the floor / clean the kitchen / plan the menu / go to the grocery store / clean up the mess / make them the 5th (healthy and unprocessed, of course) snack that they’ve requested today / make their (healthy and unprocessed, of course) lunches for school / pay the bills / schedule the appointments / sort through the crap that piles up on my desk every day / and on and on and ON it goes. You would think that with two of them in school now and only the toddler at home, I could get a bit more done—and I do—but only enough to keep my head above water. And ok, yes I do spend some time each day at least reading to my kids, especially the toddler because he is at home with me. However, many a time, MANY a time I have toyed with the idea of hiring a mother’s helper once a week, so that I could just focus on my kids. Or what if I just let them buy their lunches at school. This would cost me $100 a month (maybe $50-$75 more than what I spend on the lunches I pack), but would save me a good 20 minutes a day by the time I prep everything, pack it all up, and deal with the (reusable of course) containers when they come home.

      Same story with Mr. Chilliepepper. 9-5 job, gets home and what with dinner and evening kid-wrangling, he has no time left for home projects. So weekends end up consisting of us, frantically trying to catch up on basic household stuff and POSSIBLY work on a small piddly home improvement project, or fix something that needs fixing, or changing the oil or whatever, while our kids either sit in front of a computer or wander around complaining that they have nothing to do. Ok, so yes we do do some stuff with them, but not enough. We just don’t have time. And when we do, we’re grouchy about it because of the stress of not being able to keep up with “stuff.” SO. FRUSTRATING.

      I do wonder what MMM would have done if he had kids before he retired, or if he had more than one child. Could the Mustaches still Do It All Without Outsourcing anything, and still be the kickass parents that they are, hmmmmm? And if so, how?

      Ok, I think I’ll post this in the forums. But not tonight. Must get a few hours of sleep before jumping on the treadmill once again.

  • Enid Melanie October 9, 2012, 12:31 pm

    OK, I read your comment on MortgageFreeBy30. I suppose that will be your answer. Mmmm… still I find it more valuable to have this time NOW for our kids than when they are ten or fifteen. I wouldn’t want to outsource too much because – among many reasons – the kids also have to learn how we look after ourselves and care for our home. My son loves to do gardening with me and my daughter is at the age when housework is the BEST, so I do try to encourage that. Doing things together is always fun!
    Sigh, yes yes, the moustachian sins we commit. Like the giant hairy non-edible animal that just let me know she has finished her food and would like to be let back into the house. But I just can’t imagine life without a dog plus I wouldn’t feel safe without one here in SA.
    Yes, yes, priorities again … One can’t have it all.
    Anyway – LOVE your blog. You haunt me nowadays. Almost daily I get this guilt provoking voice in my head saying “What would Mr. Money Moustache” say to that???” URG.

    • Erwin September 1, 2014, 2:40 pm

      That Voice is haunting me too— but loving every moment closer to that Golden word called retirement :D

      • Sylvie from Montreal February 16, 2017, 1:28 pm

        And I do hear BLEEEEEEH! each time I hit the brakes! Be careful of what you say, MMM, it can certainly stick! :)

  • Chris August 22, 2013, 7:00 am

    The Random Article button landed me here at the perfect moment.

    We just recieved the keys to our new home yesterday, and my wife and I had a discussion last night about what things to hire handymen/”professionals” for. I needed this little push. The answer will now be “nothing”

    Thanks MMM and readers, I needed that!

  • Nick October 22, 2013, 7:56 am

    Hi MMM,

    I read your replies to comments and mainly saw discussion about outsourcing physical labor (which I agree is unnecessary in most cases). However, I did not see any mention about outsourcing your taxes. I currently do mine because I am 25 and don’t own a house, so I just take the standard deductible and use turbo tax free. However, once I start itemizing, and investing in taxable accounts, is it really worth paying $30 for the software and spending hours trying to figure out what can be written off when the alternative is paying around $100 for an accountant? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    I am obsessed with your blog by the way, keep up the great work!

    • Nick October 22, 2013, 8:32 am

      I forgot to click on the “notify of response via email” button for my comment above. If you do end up replying, could you please reply to this comment instead?

      • Elaine March 15, 2014, 3:40 pm

        I think what you out-source and what you do yourself has to be for each person to decide. Last year we had the man who does the things we don’t do ourselves take down a massive pine tree. It was very close to our house, garage, shed, and forest behind our house, and one false move by us would have demolished something. It was worth every penny we spent on having him do it.

        On the other hand, one of my jobs is to prepare tax returns. Some people’s are simple enough for them to do on their own – if you have an employment slip and a charitable donation sort of situation. But, at least in Canada, if you have anything much more complicated than that you run the risk of missing a lot of possible credits that come out of filing your tax return. Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of people who have missed out on a lot of money as a result of having done their own, and I’ve been going back to retrieve money for them. I deal with a lot of sole proprietors who profit more by having more time for their businesses than messing about with financial admin they don’t understand and care about and paying me to do it.

        Age definitely has something to do with what you do. My 78-year-old husband isn’t going to be doing the same sorts of things he would have done when he was 20 or 30. But there again, all of us age differently.

  • Edith Esquivel June 25, 2014, 9:09 am

    I certainly feel better now that I clean my own house and car thanks to this blog. I dye my own hair too, and consult my dad in anything car-related stuff. I also did the indoor wall paint in my house. However, I am really afraid of heights, and I am extremely clumsy. I do think I will outsource my second floor outdoor painting. Besides, in the country I live in, these services are extremely inexpensive. I also wouldn’t dare doing serious plumbing stuff by myself.

  • Rollie October 22, 2014, 1:16 pm

    No doubt about it: learning to do things for yourself is the Ticket to Badassity. “Outsourcing” is just buying your way out of it.

    Actually if you think about it, “outsourcing” seems like a harebrained idea even in the larger macro-economy. The quality of the final product the end-user gets is inevitably degraded because it’s being produced by some third party without any real stake or ownership in it either way. About the only thing going for it, is that as a result of this “efficiency,” it’s slightly more profitable for the owner/seller. And of course the intermediary/”outsourcee” gets paid too.

    But if you’re both the owner and the end-user, you’re kind of screwing yourself. Your end-user self pays in terms of slightly degraded quality. Your owner self reaps the owner-efficiencies, arguably paying yourself back somewhat. But don’t forget you also have to give this huge inefficient chunk of cash away to the third party (in this case a contractor, auto mechanic etc.) It don’t make no sense Cletis!

  • Damian March 24, 2015, 1:09 am

    In some jurisdictions (Australia for one), Plumbing and Electrical work must be performed by a licensed contractor (and this basically requires completing a multi year apprenticeship, so you can’t just turn up and do a test), even running network cable requires you to have a cabling license.

    Building work must be certified by an Engineer and structural jobs require a registered builder. Even outdoor plumbing like drainage requires a licensed contractor…

    You can’t legally wire up a power point or a light switch, or fix a leaking waste pipe from the sink.

    Definitely limits the DIY options, but of course this depends on the Jurisdiction.

  • Jason Harrington August 3, 2015, 7:14 am

    I’m wondering what people do about things they aren’t comfortable with.

    I mow the grass (reel mower as well), my wife and I have changed our house ourselves, 2 bathroom remodels and a kitchen remodel, re-finished the deck. Many other personal tocuhes as well.

    But I’m not sure about painting the house. Or being 30 feet up on a ladder over and over. How do people decide then? I like pushing through and being a DIYer, but I also don’t want my hosue to look bad.


  • Erin K November 14, 2015, 3:25 pm

    I wonder what your thoughts are on condominium housing situations. I’m slowly working my way through your posts one by one. My husband and I bought a 1200 sqft condo townhouse 4 years ago for what we thought was a pretty good deal. The mortgage is almost paid off (and would be paid off already if our terms allowed) and is our only debt.

    We like our house but never really intended to stay for a long time. Condo fees are currently $317 a month which covers a portion of property taxes, exterior maintenance, lawn care, snow removal (Ontario), etc. Homes we would be interested in purchasing would require a modest additional loan (no more than the $160,000 we borrowed in the first place) but would require quite a lot of maintenance. We both currently work full time and have a small child so time is a major factor for us right now.

    We wrestle with the pros and cons of our current situation over true home ownership and care of our whole home. I plan to be “retired” as soon as our current home is fully paid off in 3 years IF we stay, if we move and take on the additional mortgage I would need to work longer. We are paying the current home off as quickly as the terms allow. So being “retired” would afford me the time to do more maintenance but with the additional mortgage & property taxes (at least double, possibly triple per year) it seems almost “free” to stay in our current home with exterior maintenance included.

    I wish we had found your blog in 2011 when this was written instead of 2015, we would have had our little mortgage paid off by now!


  • Megan C. March 30, 2016, 10:29 pm

    The thing that’s kind of a bummer about doing it yourself, is that with many things, you need to do them several times before you get good at it. But with a lot of home repairs, you only need to do it once (or once in a blue moon), so you don’t benefit from the practice. Case in point, I re-caulked my bath tub a couple weeks ago– it was my first time re-caulking a tub. I got the job done, but it sure isn’t beautiful to behold! So now I have to live with my ugly caulking job for however many years until I do it again. It’s not stopping us from the DIY lifestyle, but it’s something I’m thinking about as I gear up for a full-on kitchen reno that we’re doing ourselves…

    • Emily August 9, 2016, 11:53 am

      Agree – and some things create a much bigger cost if you do it wrong. I.e. if you caulked wrong, you can get moisture and mold. I wouldn’t DIY electricity or anything requiring structural engineering – that’s how you get the safety disasters you see in HGTV shows.

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 9, 2016, 12:18 pm

        These are valid concerns… and yet some people manage to get over them and still become great multi-skilled people. How do they do it?

        I think the secret ingredient is not worrying too much about what might go wrong – mistakes are part of learning, and learning is really the only worthwhile thing to do with your life. The second key is watching an expert do it first (an experienced friend, or a YouTube video), to bypass some of the most painful beginner stuff.

        I do all my own electric work (even the circuit panels and underground service wires) and even structural engineering when the project permits it, and it’s really not that big a deal. But I did get my work checked by an expert the first few times, and of course it gets inspected by the city later as well.

    • Ellen August 30, 2016, 8:29 am

      You bring up a key point. Practice gives you confidence, efficiency and much higher quality results. I had a bit of luck that got me started on a learning curve that has helped enormously on DIY. A decade or more ago, a work team with some time designated to go out and do bonding activities suggested that we volunteer at the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. This chapter, Richmond, VA, was building very simple, one-story houses. I came back a bunch over the following years. I learned framing, blocking, insulation, how to install stairs, siding, sheet rock, as well as finish carpentry. I’m now financially independent/ retired and work weekly at my local Habitat chapter with a peer group that is fantastic as well as being about 1/2 FIRE.

      At each work-site, Habitat team leads and Habitat volunteers with serious skills provided useful coaching, so I avoided some early mistakes and learned to correct others. And the projects provided the practice. I may have caulked for 50 or 80 hours by now and I’m pretty sure I’ll have that skill forever. When I work at home on an unfamiliar task (e.g. recent french drain installation), I also build in ways to go slow and correct mistakes. Caulk is cheap. After you look at your caulking job with dissatisfaction one more time, cut out the current caulk, pull out your caulk gun and give it another go!

  • Mac April 2, 2016, 1:57 pm

    Just a general tip for gardening: use grinded lava rock in your garden. Put it in the soil, put it in compost etc. It contains all types of minerals your plants need. You get healthier, tastier (for edible) and simply more gorgeous plants, any plant from maple tree to rose bush.

  • Erica November 20, 2016, 9:07 pm

    I remember having a debate with a co-worker about the value of time. If something wasn’t worth “his time” than he’d rather pay someone else to do it.

    Now, I haven’t always been as fantastically mustachioed as my partner, but I have always enjoyed being frugal and getting my hands dirty. Why some one would so willingly pay extra for the brand new car with warranty, or a housekeeper when they made less than $30k/ yr seemed ridiculous. I have always wanted a fixer upper home, partially for the challenge but also so I could own it faster. He valued the idea of financing a fancy condo and forever paying condo fees so he didn’t have to worry about maintenance, had a 24 hr gym, and free Starbucks coffee downstairs (I’m not shitting you).

  • Wes January 17, 2017, 6:40 am

    Do you have any thoughts on the cost of acquiring the tools and equipment to perform the task vs the cost of outsourcing? Do you feel there is a point where it makes more sense to outsource than buying or renting stuff used sparingly?

  • Tinian Crawford September 29, 2017, 11:54 am

    I love it! I just started a blog about DIY focused at the FI crowd (whom I have recently joined) and I believe the road to happiness is paved with sweat and swears.

  • Simon January 28, 2018, 3:13 am

    I painted my own house when we bought it ten years ago (2 story concrete building), and then we’ve just left the interior as is (definitely the cheapest option!) but being honest it’s partly because I’m intimidated by the more technical tasks (painting, by contrast, is easy, though the whole house took a long time…). I am inspired by this blog to start watching more youtube tutorials – on house, bicycles, and even cars – thanks for the inspiration!

    • Adam January 29, 2018, 11:58 am

      Our house painting story. A couple of years ago my wife noticed our neighbors painting their house on a Saturday, inexperienced and daunted by high gable ends. We offered to help, brought our ladders and brushes. Soon other neighbors joined. House painted in a weekend. Last summer we painted our house and the same crew crossed the street to help saving days of work and money (lowest estimate was $3500). We repeated the process once more in the fall at a third neighbors house! We all like saving the money, but the reinforcing our sense of community has been even more valuable.

  • Adam January 30, 2018, 8:23 am

    Our house painting story. A couple of years ago my wife noticed our neighbors painting their house on a Saturday, inexperienced and daunted by high gable ends. We offered to help, brought our ladders and brushes. Soon other neighbors joined. House painted in a weekend. Last summer we painted our house and the same crew crossed the street to help saving days of work and money (lowest estimate was $3500). We repeated the process once more in the fall at a third neighbors house! We all like saving the money, but the reinforcing our sense of community has been even more valuable.


Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets