Erin Lowry of weighs in on when to outsource, and when to do it yourself.

“I’ve got to stop trying to handle everything myself,” I said to my dog as I pushed open the door. It was 8 p.m., I’d just gotten home from work, and an all-night-long to-do list awaited me. I dropped my bag on the floor, leashed him up, and headed out for our walk. He’d been home alone for nearly nine hours and deserved some quality exercise.

I returned home, fed him, then made a quick dinner for myself. By 9:15, it was back to sitting in front of my computer and squeezing in a few more hours of work before stopping to prep my lunch for the next day, tidy up the apartment, and get to bed.

All the clichés about work-life balance kept going through my mind:

“You’re burning the candle at both ends.”

“No one on their deathbed wishes they worked more.”

“Stop and smell the roses.”

Which were then delightfully counteracted by possibly more clichéd tropes about hustling:

“You can’t have a million-dollar dream with a minimum-wage work ethic.”

“It’s not about money or connections. It’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone when it comes to your business.”

“I’d rather hustle 24/7 than slave 9 to 5.”

Working a full-time job to pay the bills and get health insurance while also trying to build a brand, bring in some extra money freelancing, and write a book felt completely unsustainable. Something had to go. Given that the work outside of job fueled my long-term career goals, those needed to stay, so I turned my sights on outsourcing mundane tasks.

How to Decide When to Spend Time or Money

To properly outsource chores, I needed to spend the time generating revenue—or at the very least not open a bottle of wine and watch some Real Housewives. The latter would mean I really wasn’t actually earning money by saving that time and therefore just foolishly throwing money at a perceived problem.

I could only justify outsourcing a task if it truly freed up my time to focus on building my business. One can argue outsourcing tasks fosters work-life balance—but as a 20-something career-driven woman with no kids, I decided against that rationale. It seemed too convenient to say, “Well, I’ll just drop off my laundry and use Fresh Direct this week because I want to be able to make it to a couple of happy hours and have a date night.”

What to Outsource and When to DIY

It’s simple to hire someone to handle almost any chore when you live in an urban metropolis like New York. Laundry, grocery shopping, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment, even reading and sorting my emails could all be easily outsourced to a third party—well, third parties. Instead of logging onto a site like TaskRabbit and offloading all errands I deemed a nuisance and roadblock to hustling harder, I decided which tasks made the most sense to outsource.

The idea of training a person felt too time-consuming for now, such as hiring a virtual assistant to handle business-related tasks, so I honed in on chores that would require little to no instruction: laundry, cooking, and grocery shopping.

Even though it’s my #lifegoal to be rich enough to hire a chef and never deal with cooking again, I quickly nixed the option of using meal delivery services like Blue Apron. The price points for the meals seemed high considering I still had to take time cooking myself. Laundry and grocery shopping, however, were obvious ways to start saving time.

Paying for drop-off service with laundry meant I could haul in my dirty clothes and return the next day to find them clean and folded, saving me about one-and-a-half hours. The cost of buying groceries online versus in-store turned out to be a wash; any savings gained from shopping digitally got lost with the delivery surcharge. However, it saved me 45 minutes of walking to the store, shopping, and hauling my groceries home. It also meant I could buy everything at once instead of making multiple stops throughout the week because, as a city girl with no car, I had to limit my shopping to what I could carry.

Examine the ROI

It felt painful to start funneling more money than normal into budget categories that were previously relatively cheap. Laundry usually only cost me about $8, but drop-off service could be $30, and grocery shopping jumped from $85 a week to about $125. That was almost $250 extra dollars a month.

This is why it’s important to run the numbers and examine the return on investment.

Spending $250 a month by having other people do my laundry and my grocery shopping saved me roughly 12 hours of time. Assuming those 12 hours were actually put to good use, I could easily net myself an extra $2,000. Of course, those hours weren’t always spent working and occasionally went towards socializing or sprawled out on the couch watching wealthy, overindulged women take luxurious vacations and get into cat fights. (Hey, we all need our ways to recharge.) Even if the time saved meant I could generate $1,000—that still covered four months worth of outsourcing. Not a bad ROI.

On weeks my budget feels overextended, or I don’t have quite as many freelance tasks to do, I often resort back to being a DIY kind of woman. Sometimes, I’ll even use doing chores as an excuse to catch up on TV shows without that little voice whispering “you should be hustling” in my ear.

Lowry FINAL_0638 (1)
Erin Lowry is the founder of,
where she uses sarcasm and humor to explain
basic financial concepts to her fellow Millennials.
Erin lives and works in New York City.

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