Smart or silly? Households spend $53K a year outsourcing chores

Jun 23, 2021
A new study has suggested we're sick of wasting our free time on chores, opting instead to hire someone to do them for us. Source: Getty

Very few of us enjoy spending time on household chores, and it seems more and more of us are opting to hire other people to do them for us, as time-poor families shift towards a “do-it-for-me” mindset. While money can’t buy happiness, research has shown that using money to buy free time – such as paying to delegate household chores such as cleaning and cooking – is linked to greater life satisfaction, so are people getting lazier or smarter?

A recent report by Australia’s Ruthven Institute showed that an average family is now spending tens of thousands of dollars every year on tasks we were once doing personally, revealing that, prior to the pandemic, we were spending as much as $52,900 a year — or $1,020 a week — on outsourced household activities, equating to an eye-watering total of $510 billion in 2020.

From specialised skill sets such as hairdressing, health services and financial services — which for most of us are a necessary outsourcing expense — to cooking, cleaning and home maintenance, the Ruthven report revealed exactly which tasks we no longer want to do ourselves.

Entertainment and recreational costs were the average family’s most commonly outsourced expense (20.4 per cent), while the outsourcing of financial services — such as investment advice and funds management — came next (20.1 per cent). Health services were the third most common expense (17.8 per cent) for a family to outsource, while tourism costs (including transport such as Uber, car rentals or finding accommodation) came in at number four (15.5 per cent).

household chores Ruthven Institute
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, spending on outsourced household activities was
estimated to total $510 billion in 2020 – around $53,000 per household. Source: Ruthven Institute 2020

While the highest figures were spent on unsurprising costs that were fairly essential for most families to outsource, it seems the chores we once did ourselves, like cooking and cleaning, were next on the list, ranking higher than education, childcare and hair and beauty services.

According to the data, our fifth most commonly outsourced activity was cooking, with 8.8 per cent spent on meal deliveries through the likes of Uber Eats, MenuLog or other local takeaway. Next it was cleaning and household maintenance, with 5.9 per cent spent on getting someone else to tidy the house or clean our yards. Interestingly, at the bottom of our outsourcing expenses were education (such as pre-school, university and adult education), childcare and hair and beauty.

The rise of the ‘do-it-for-me’ mindset has raised some criticisms online, with money guru Noel Whittaker taking to Twitter to question how people are affording to spend $52,900 a year on outsourcing when they can’t afford a house. “Australian households spending $52,900 a year on outsourcing chores we once did for ourselves, as time-poor families move to a mindset of DIFM (Do-It-For-Me), according to Ruthven Institute founder and respected economic futurist, Phil Ruthven. AND THEY CAN’T AFFORD A HOUSE!” he wrote.

However, many other Twitter users disagreed, saying most people who outsourced chores would probably be homeowners already. One user said outsourcing a cleaner or childcare would allow many families to work an extra day, thus countering the money spent.

“I think you’ll find paying $50/week for someone to clean the house, actually allows people to work an extra day, thus earning an income. I also suspect that +$50k must include daycare. Also servicing the car,” the user wrote.

Another joked that he “outsourced” his chores to his wife, writing, “I must be bucking the trend. Does getting the wife to do the lawns count for “outsourcing” and, no, she doesn’t get ‘paid’.”

Do you think people are getting lazier, or just choosing to use their time more wisely?

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