Nobody likes waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles or negotiating their cellphone bill, but fortunately there are now services that allow you to outsource these mundane tasks. And while it may seem extravagant to pay someone else to handle the drudgery of everyday life, depending on your situation, it may actually make financial sense.
"People have money and people have time," says Laura Vanderkam, author of the "What the Most Successful People Do" book series. "The two can be traded for each other. Some people are at a stage of life where they have more money than time or more time than money." For instance, if your priority is spending time with a new baby or building a new business venture, then your time might be better spent doing those things and letting someone else handle household minutia for you.
"Outsourcing makes sense from a dollars and cents perspective, if somebody doing that task for you is cheaper hourly than it would be for you to do it yourself," says Leah Ingram, money-saving expert and author of "The Complete Guide to Paying for College." Say you're a consultant who bills clients at $150 an hour. At first blush, you might have a hard time justifying a housecleaner who charges $100 an hour. But as Ingram points out, "You could be better off spending that time earning money that will end up equaling more in the long run."
The numbers are harder to quantify if you don't have an hourly rate you can weigh against the cost of outsourcing, so Vanderkam puts it another way. "What do you really hate doing?" she asks. "Look at the things that you find most draining or unenjoyable or interfere with your enjoyment of your downtime. Maybe you love to cook, but you hate to do laundry." Or maybe you make a mean lasagna but tend to lose socks or shrink sweaters when you do laundry, so you know someone else could do it better.
You probably know you can send out your laundry or hire someone to scrub your toilet, but here's a look at other dreaded tasks you could outsource.
Waiting in line. There are a variety of line-sitting or line-standing services available. For $25 for the first hour, New York-based Same Ole Line Dudes, LLC will send someone to wait in line for "Hamilton" or "Saturday Night Live" tickets or even at the DMV. Priced at $40 per hour, the District of Columbia-based Washington Express is a similar service that will wait in line for you at a congressional or judicial hearing. Alternately, you may be able to hire a local person to wait for you via TaskRabbit.
Negotiating bills. Services such as BillCutterz and BillFixers will call your cellphone or internet provider, gym or trash service to negotiate a better deal. If it succeeds, the service charges 50 percent of savings for the first year. If it doesn't, you pay nothing, so there's no upfront cost to you.
Handling a name change.After you get married or divorced, services such as I'm a Mrs. and HitchSwitch can help you with the laborious task of updating your last name on bank accounts, subscription services and more.
Dealing with medical bills.Medical billing errors are common. Thankfully, services such as Mebex and Copatient can scan your medical bills for errors or negotiate a lower fee to help you minimize medical bills.
Putting up holiday decorations. Don't have time to deck out your house with holiday lights Griswold-style from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"? Fortunately, you can hire someone via TaskRabbit or a handyman service to do it for you.
Wrapping presents. If wrapping gifts isn't your idea of fun, you can always outsource this task via TaskRabbit or one of the gift wrap kiosks that pop up at shopping malls during the holiday season.
Selling your stuff for you. If you've been meaning to host a yard sale or list your record collection on eBay but haven't found the time, there are services that will handle this for you. For instance, eBay Valet uses professionals to sell your items for you. But before you enlist help, ask yourself if your stuff is worth enough to justify the cost of a pro. "You can donate the stuff, you can dump it. The truth is a lot of stuff is not going to pay you back enough [to justify the cost of hiring help]," Vanderkam says.
Setting up and caring for your backyard beehive.Nowadays, as backyard apiaries gain popularity, you no longer have to be an expert beekeeper to have your own hive. Companies like Bee2Bee Honey Collective in Houston will set up and maintain a backyard hive for you.
Writing a toast or breakup letter.Creative writing services like Anything with Words will ghostwrite your wedding toast, eulogy or breakup letter for you. "If words are not your forte, I really don't have a problem with that," Ingram says. That's fine for wedding toasts and eulogies. But etiquette experts might draw the line at hiring someone to write and deliver a Dear John letter because you're too chicken.
Researching care options for an older relative. Those with aging parents or relatives often find it daunting to figure out the best in-home caregiver or residential program, so a geriatric care manager can help. Ingram and her family hired one to help them figure out next steps when her mother-in-law was in a rehab hospital. "They're like a health care navigator that you hire," Ingram explains. "In a couple of hours of his or her time, that person is able to help you navigate this whole world of geriatric care."
Of course, just because you can outsource disliked tasks doesn't mean you should or must. "It costs nothing to lower your standards," Vanderkam points out. "Rethink what is required. Putting something in a festive bag with a bow on it serves the purpose [of gift-wrapping]." Whether it makes sense to outsource these tasks depends on your budget, priorities and available time.
Another question to consider before outsourcing: What are the potential safety or privacy concerns? "Anytime you invite someone into your life for any reason, you're putting yourself at a degree of risk," says Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com.
Of course, not all outsourcing poses the same risks, so it's up to your own discretion and common sense. There's more trust required to give someone access to your medical bills (and possibly your Social Security number) than, say, waiting in line for you at an event, but you might decide that the possible upside outweighs your concerns.
These concerns haven't stopped Siciliano from outsourcing several aspects of his life. "We are an interdependent species," he says. "We require trust and we have to in order to function in society. You can always do your own due diligence and search them out on social media." Calling references is another strategy, though not foolproof. Of course, you could always hire someone else to run a background check for you.