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Do the Math

Then do less, make more, and have more quality time with your family

by Dr. Debra Condren  |  2231 views  |  12 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Here's what I often hear from working moms:

“I love my career. That said, it demands a ton of hours. At home, I manage kids’ schedules, laundry, plus most nights I field the question, “What should we do for dinner?”.

"I’m overwhelmed. Basically, I need another me. How can I stop being stretched too thin?”

Sound familiar?

Do you have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, doing everything yourself so it’ll be done right, or to “save” money? (If you’re a woman, you’re 110% percent more likely to answer yes than are the guys in your life.) Have you ever calculated how much this is costing you? I’m guessing not.

Time to do the math.

First, figure out the real price tag for hiring someone to lighten your load.

Let’s say you clear $100,000 a year operating a small consulting firm; that breaks down to $48 per hour. Now let’s say you spend six hours a week running errands that anyone with a car and a sense of direction could do. Plus six hours a week doing household chores. That comes out to $576 (12 hours x $48/hour). You could hire a competent person to do the same work for $18 per hour ($216). So you’re losing $360 a week by doing the work yourself.

Right about now you may be thinking, “That’s easy to say for someone who makes $100,000; I can’t afford it, though.” Okay. Let’s do the math with $75K. That breaks down to $36 per hour. Now let’s say you spend six hours a week running errands that anyone with a car and a sense of direction could do. Plus six hours doing household chores. That comes out to $432 (12 hours x $36/hour). So you’re still come out ahead.

Every hour you needlessly burn up by failing to delegate is time you could be investing in your career, taking on exciting new project opportunities, positioning yourself for advancement, networking with colleagues, potential clients, and movers and shakers, and freeing up more time for yourself and for quality time with your family—and it’s one of the key ways women self-sabotage.

I’ve worked with hundreds of women who have trouble rationalizing outsourcing—and it doesn’t matter how much they earn. If you crunch the numbers, however, you’ll have objective figures that prove it makes sense to free up your time for what really counts.

Ask around and find yourself a good cleaning person, a part-time or full-time executive assistant, a computer whiz, and other support people that can complete tasks for a fraction of the time or money it would take you to do it yourself.

Stop wasting time thinking “I need another me” and spend the money for a “mini-me”. You’ll end up a lot richer—at home, and at work.

Dr. Debra Condren is the author of, amBITCHous (Broadway Books), a woman’s guide to earning her worth and achieving her dreams—with integrity. Ask Debra any question now at: Debra@AmbitionIsNotADirtyWord.com.

About the Author

Debra Condren, Ph.D., interviewed 500 women for her book, amBITCHous, a woman’s guide to redefining ambition as a virtue, not a dirty word, earning h

Read more by Dr. Debra Condren

12 comments so far...

  • I just hired a bi-weekly cleaner last month. After the $294 initial cleaning, the price is $94/cleaning. I had decided it was absolutely worth it, for the same reasons you had stated in the article. Now I have doubts. Why? Because I have 2 kids underfoot every weekend anyway. I could clean with them in my hair, but I still can't do anything else that seems value-added, like work on an extra work project or business plan. Also, the husband is remodeling the basement, so the house is dust-filled by the next day anyway.

    Okay, I'm spending time with the kids. . .I made cupcakes and practiced long division. But, my 3 year old likes cleaning toilets as much as frosting cupcakes & we would have squeezed in long division anyway.

    At the end of the day, I'm still on the fence whether this is worth it or not. If I could get paid for 3 hours work & save 6 hours cleaning, it would be a slam dunk, but the current cost-benefit analysis is still leaving me questioning whether I'm throwing money away.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 26th November 2007

  • Hmmm. Just as I suspected. I'll try and get it together to create a scientific poll. Until then, keep me posted.

    I'm off to the airport right now, heading home, and wishing that I had taken time to vet a new cleaning team myself, after having fired the old one last week. Well, there's always next week... Sincerely, Debra

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dr. Debra Condren on 2nd November 2007

  • Thank you for this interesting discussion!

    I think your question about "cleaning before the cleaner" would make for a very interesting survey... Just off the top of my head, out of 10 people I know who are able to outsource this chore, I know than 1 of the men tidies up before the cleaning person arrives, compared with 8 of the women do (for last couple, both the man and the woman leave all the mess as is).

    Looking forward to reading about your poll results sometime soon!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse on 2nd November 2007

  • "The stats you mention are very powerful, we can and should do better, we should model something different for the next generation. I agree completely. I'd like to point out that not once have I said that women shouldn't hire help; neither have I said that women are not worth it. I've only said that calling it a money-saver is inaccurate. That's all."

    Lylah, I do appreciate your comments and analysis. Your point is well taken. I've gone round and round with myself on this issue over the years, including the many years I was a divorced, struggling single mom--and even sometimes today, when I think, "Hmm...just what is the best use of my money?"

    I just want to get us thinking, pausing, considering, "What if...?" And looking at all the options, always.

    On a slightly tangential note, I have a new question I'm dying to turn into a poll, which is this. I wonder how many professional men who have cleaning people clean their apartments *before* the outsourcing person or team arrives? Vs. how many of us women spend time "cleaning before the cleaner"? If you think to ask your friends and colleagues--everyone out there, I'd love to hear what you uncover; I hope to include this question in some of my upcoming surveys.

    Thanks, again, Lydia for your stimulating points!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dr. Debra Condren on 2nd November 2007

  • Thanks again, for responding!

    I agree with you completely, and have all along, about the value of a woman's time and the fact that we're worth it. I also agree with your point that men don't parse our worth the way women do. That's certainly been my experience as well.

    My problem is the reality of my own situation, which many other women share: The time I spend (or, in some cases, waste) doing chores and menial labor around the house may indeed be worth $40 or more an hour, but, in realty, once I leave the office each day, no one is paying me that. Which means that no matter what my time is worth during those "off" hours, I am actually earning $0. It's not an assumption of my worth, it's a statement of my actual income. I can't pay the help using theoretical cash. So if I do pay someone in order to free up my time, I need to spend that free time earning more money, or else I am not saving money by outsourcing.

    That's my only point here.

    You're right, the stats you mention are very powerful, we can and should do better, we should model something different for the next generation. I agree completely. I'd like to point out that not once have I said that women shouldn't hire help; neither have I said that women are not worth it. I've only said that calling it a money-saver is inaccurate. That's all.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful and thorough comments. I appreciate your time!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse on 2nd November 2007

  • "Justify the cost in terms of saving time. Justify it in terms of saving your sanity. Justify it in terms of "you're worth it" or "you deserve the help." But don't justify it by saying "you're saving money." Unless you use the newly free time to earn more, you're not going to save money by hiring help.

    This assumes that our down time is worth $0. I disagree. What is the value of investing in outsourcing in order to be freed to work with more passion and focus, or to have more quality time with family, friends, or community, OR to have powerful solo time for self renewal and mental and creative rejuvenation? Why do we as women parse our worth? Men don't do that (and remember, my message emphatically doesn't blame the guys; rather, I support women, myself included, in reassessing our worth, in all aspects of life rather than waiting for others to validate our worth for us). It's up to us to increase our own sense of what we're worth--only then will we insist on earning our worth, including earning back lost time.

    We women can come up with endless reasons why we don't have the money (to outsource; or to go back and finish that undergraduate or graduate degree; or to invest in advanced training that will increase our love for our work and command of our industry. Many men--probably most of our male counterparts, in fact-simply don't put themselves through the feminine, mighty internal battle to justify investing in themselves. Here, we could learn from our male colleagues, friends, and loved ones.

    Why should we, as women, put our own individual priorities at the bottom of our priorities pile, to be met only after every single other priority has been tended to first? What if our turn never comes? Then what? Regret, longing, even resentment will rule the day. And, in fact, for many women, "someday" never comes. That breaks my heart--we can and should do better; we can and should model something different for our own daughters, nieces, sons, and nephews. We have the power to do just that.

    Women do two-thirds of the world’s work. Yet they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property. –Barber B. Conable, Jr., Former President of the World Bank.

    We have the power within ourselves to change this statistic. Now and every day moving forward.

    Consider:

    -75% of all women are in the paid labor force.

    -83% of all spending is controlled by women.

    80% of checks written in the U.S. are written by women.

    That's a lot of fire power. So I stand by my advice to "Do the Math". We're worth it.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dr. Debra Condren on 2nd November 2007

  • Thanks for responding Debra!

    I totally agree with your point... it does make sense to free up your time for the things that really count (personal and professional development, improved quality of life, etc.). I'm just having a hard time processing the math in your article.

    I understand that "saving money" is the #1 reason women give for shouldering the burden themselves. And that's a problem. But telling them that they can actually save money by paying to outsource the work is misleading.

    Justify the cost in terms of saving time. Justify it in terms of saving your sanity. Justify it in terms of "you're worth it" or "you deserve the help." But don't justify it by saying "you're saving money." Unless you use the newly free time to earn more, you're not going to save money by hiring help.

    YesMommy's situation -- crunching the budget to the penny every month -- is much more the norm. Like her, I'd love to be able to hire help. For many people, including myself, it's not an issue of scrubbing the floors to save money -- it's about not having that extra money in the first place.

    Again, I agree with the point you make in your article. And I appreciate the time you took to reply to my comment. Thanks.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse on 2nd November 2007

  • "But it seems inaccurate justify the cost in terms of saving money."
    -Saving money is the #1 reason women give for not outsourcing and, instead, shouldering the burden themselves. If we weren't scrubbing floors, how much more could we be making--or how much more time would we have for personal and professional development? Or improved quality of life?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dr. Debra Condren on 2nd November 2007

  • I would love to delegate... and I am the first one to point out how valuable my time is. That said... we crunch out budget to the penny each and every month. Every thing has an envelope and evey penny is accounted for. If I had the option to allow for an expense account to free up my time I definitely would. Even though we are in an upper middle class income bracket, the numbers just aren't reality for us! We set aside a specific dollar amount in our budget each month for kids sports, those little school fees that pop up... all the "unexpected" costs. Once that's done, it leaves only me to run errands, make appointments, handle IT issues and scrub floors!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Yes, Mommy has to work today on 2nd November 2007

  • Great article, and you're spot on about the perils of failing to delegate, but I'm not sure I agree with your number crunching. The only way the math makes sense to me is if one is running those errands and doing those household chores during time one would otherwise be at work.

    When not working, the person in your example is earning $0 per hour, not $48. Right? So, if she's paying an assistant $18 an hour to do things that she was doing herself when she wasn't at work, then she's paying an hourly rate of $18 on her own hourly income of $0. That's a loss of $18 per hour, not a savings of $30.

    Unless she's using that extra time to work even more -- which doesn't necessarily solve the "stretching herself too thin" problem -- she's not saving money by outsourcing those jobs -- she's saving time. And possibly her sanity. Which is important. But it seems inaccurate justify the cost in terms of saving money.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse on 1st November 2007

  • Mandy, see part two of my article, which is the how to piece. Coming up in a few days. I completely understand that feeling of, "Sigh, I'll just do it myself because it's so much work finding the right person/people, training them, managing them, firing them if they don't work out; I might as well do it myself." That said, we women deserve to have our time freed up so that we can attend to our ambition, to our friends, spouses/partners, to our kids--and to our Own needs (what a novel concept!). Sincerely, Debra Condren

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dr. Debra Condren on 31st October 2007

  • Oh, I'm sighing big over here. I got all excited for the first half then felt all let down for the second half of the article. Not YOUR fault, all mine. I'm everything you describe BUT I'm also married to the same. AND I've tried the outsourcing and am really, really working on getting hubby to understand the concept of "what is my time worth." That being said, the time I've spent finding said people, working out the pay arrangements (b/c I'm all about doing the taxes and in MA they are horrible), training, making up for, etc, etc, leaves me feeling like it did in the beginning: I'm just going to do this myself b/c I'm the only one who can. One the bright side that follows the tone of your article (b/c I certainly love that go-get-'em tone) I am thinking of outsourcing some of the business things I don't have the same time and energy for like web design and book keeping. Sighing again. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 30th October 2007

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