We’re Thinking About Hiring a House Cleaner …

Soooo… my wife and I are having a debate right now (actually, it’s not so much a “debate”… it’s more like “we have decided, just discussing the pros and cons”) about hiring a *regular* housekeeper to clean our house.

This is a new area for us, because we rarely outsource tasks.

In the past 12 years living together, we’ve probably hired a cleaner maybe 10 times max. These have been times when we’re extremely busy or in a transition and need a deep house clean before hosting important guests or something. Apart from that, we’ve always found time ourselves to sweep, mop, dust, clean the bathrooms, do our own laundry, and all the other adulting stuff.

BUT… life is about to get pretty busy for us. On top of all our current stuff, we anticipate a little kid or two entering our home soon – and these kids will come with their own full schedule of appointments and activities.

Hiring a house cleaner will let us prioritize work and kid stuff, as well as protect some of our dwindling free time.

It’s not that I’m against hiring cleaners… I just want to consider the long-term effects of this decision before we commit. To me, this feels like lifestyle inflation that could potentially be a one-way street. Once we get a regular cleaning service, it might be hard to give up later.

Financial Considerations of Hiring a House Cleaner

We’ve found a cleaner that can come every 2 weeks, and will charge ~$150 per cleaning.

That’s $3,900 per year. 😳

BTW – we would still need to clean ourselves in the off weeks. (Our German Shepherd alone sheds heavily and we already sweep a couple times a week). So hiring a cleaner could actually cost us more if we need more than every other week.

We can afford an extra $3,900 per year, but there are a few ways to consider the costs:

First, the weekly cost breaks down to $75 per week. Luckily, one of my contracting gigs pays $75 per hour. So if I worked just 1 hour extra per week, this could fully cover the cost without impacting our cashflow. Sounds easy!

Next, if we think about the time savings, it’s probably a cost of ~$20 per hour that we pay the cleaner to save our time ($150 for 8-ish hours work). 

  • Is me and wifey’s work time worth more than $20 an hour? Yes, I think it is.
  • Is our FREE TIME worth more than $20 an hour? At the moment I would say maybe, but next year with a full schedule I would think Yes, it’s definitely with it.

Lastly, I’m considering the overall impact of our FI number. If this new annual cost continues *forever,* then it’s something that will need to be replaced eventually by passive income.

Given the 4% rule, an extra ~$4k per year of living expenses adds $100k to our FI number. That’s a pretty huge increase to think about! 

There are also opportunity costs (because we’ll be spending $4k instead of investing it each year before reaching FI) which could be another $100k+ of missed growth over the next 10 years.

Again, I’m not opposed to increasing our expenses (we planned for increased costs when we have kids). It’s just a little sticker shock seeing the numbers written down. Somehow a basic bi-weekly cleaning service has a ~$200k impact on our overall financial life!

Lifestyle Considerations

Money aside, I have some weird emotions going on about hiring someone to clean my house.

First, I think I have a pride issue that I need to swallow. Almost every one of my friends here in LA has a regular hired house cleaner. The fact that my wife and I do all of our cleaning ourselves makes me feel great. I’m proud to be a hard worker. And switching from hard work to smart work is more difficult than I thought. It involves releasing control.

Next, I’m scared this lifestyle inflation will be a “creep” that keeps growing and growing. I’m worried that a cleaning service twice a week will soon lead to every week, and then maybe we’ll start to hire help in other areas of life. I guess the unknown future costs are starting to freak me out.

Lastly, I’m worried about getting lazy. When someone else is cleaning, it means I will stop cleaning. This change in my behavior may lead to me stopping other types of chores and looking to outsource more stuff.

Even worse, what will our kids be learning by seeing someone regularly clean for us? When I was a kid, my siblings and I helped with ALL household chores. Cleaning the house was one of the ways my parents taught me to be independent. I’m worried that if our kids grow up with a cleaner, they’ll expect that as the normal thing when they reach adulthood.

All Things Considered …

Am I crazy for thinking this way? Am I being a tight-ass for not jumping at the chance to outsource chores?

Would love to hear from you all. If you have a regular house cleaning service currently, all in all, is it worth it?

Love,

Joel

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45 Comments

  1. Jason January 21, 2022 at 6:55 AM

    Hi Joel. We have our cleaner come once a month and just focus on deep cleaning (toilets, bath tubs, showers, base boards. And the we still do vacuum and mopping and laundry and the other stuff. Seems like a decent compromise. I feel like that’s the easier stuff anyway.

    The yearly cost and impact on your FI number is a good way to think about it. As for the the hourly cost also of one hour of $75 contract work a week, that’s also comes to 52 hours of extra work every year. Which is possibly a full week of work for most people. Trading a full week of your life for 26 cleanings may feel a little different.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:32 AM

      Once a month seems like a good idea. Maybe we should start there and then increase if need to.

      Reply
  2. Crystal January 21, 2022 at 7:52 AM

    I always said that hiring a house cleaner, nanny etc is cheaper than a divorce!

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:35 AM

      haha! My wife and I have the opposite problem of most people. We’re like, “let me sweep today, you should take a break”… and the other person is like “No, you rest — let ME sweep!”.

      Reply
  3. IM-PCP January 21, 2022 at 8:18 AM

    When I was a single gal, I had a house cleaner for a short time. The first one was great, and totally worth the money. Then I moved, and eventually found one for my new place; she was OK, but never could stick to a regular schedule. Once I married, for various reasons, we decided not to continue with an outside cleaning person. We have saved money but the house isn’t nearly as clean as my prior place was.

    You can always go back to cleaning everything yourself, which is a fair plan in case the house cleaner doesn’t suit you (reliability, quality of the job, etc). But especially with 1-2 new kids in the home, it is a nice break to have 2 days a month when your house is clean and you didn’t have to do all the work. And don’t worry: with a dog and a few kids, your children will have plenty of time to practice their cleaning skills in between visits from the house cleaner.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:38 AM

      Good call — having 2 kids means 2 little cleaners! My Mum already told me to make a chore schedule for the fridge. She says, “if you live in the house, you have to help clean it” :)

      Reply
  4. Tracy January 21, 2022 at 8:20 AM

    What if you hired a cleaning service for a specified amount of time? I had a really hard pregnancy and my poor husband picked up the vast majority of ALL THE THINGS. It wasn’t fair to make him cook and clean and shop and work and do everything so we decided that we had the money and could afford a cleaner for twelve months. And would reevaluate after that. We had the service come in from the time I hit six months pregnant until the child was six months old. And at that point we felt confident that we could take that chore back on ourselves and cancelled the service. I think that was one of the best decisions we ever made and would make it again in a heartbeat if the circumstances were there.

    You are about to go through a major lifestyle change and if you could offload this work for 6 months or 12 months I wouldn’t judge you at all. You need to be there for the kids as they are also going through lifestyle changes. And then reevaluate what works and what doesn’t.

    PS – You aren’t actually getting rid of the chore completely. People everywhere joke about having to clean before the cleaner comes. And they aren’t wrong. Our cleaner at least wouldn’t pick up stuff to put it away or to dust underneath it. So we had to put everything away in order for her to clean. Which is a great way to teach young ones how to put their stuff away!

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:44 AM

      Thank you. I’m feeling much better about it when you mention priorities. Kids and wife come first, so it’s OK to outsource stuff to leave room for higher priorities and life changes. Fostering/adopting is going to be very challenging.

      I was also thinking of taking a 3-6 month sabbatical from work when kids get here. Like unpaid paternity leave.

      Reply
  5. Liz January 21, 2022 at 9:13 AM

    Mom and I were chatting about if we won a large lottery, what we’d do with the money. We have enough stuff in general, or the things we might still want are purchases we’ve been putting off but can afford now. What we’d spend on were having someone else do things…like getting the ‘sea grass’ bushes at mom’s swapped for something she prefers to look at. Or a personal chef to help prepare healthy meals. We are at a point of ‘enough’ ness, that tasks we’d rather not, with millions, we wouldn’t AND we’d be providing a work opportunity for someone else. That is the other way to look at it. You won’t have the 4k, but the cleaning person, or team will. You are probably helping out a small business owner.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:45 AM

      THAT is an awesome way to look at it! Plus, if I pay them in cash, they can avoid taxes. And maybe I can also sneak in some personal finance and investing tips for them to make sure their saving/building wealth, too.

      Reply
      1. John January 21, 2022 at 12:23 PM

        Helping people (illegally) avoid taxes on their income? Not cool.

        Reply
        1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 12:48 PM

          Good point. Maybe I’ll just pay a higher gross wage to them so that when they claim their cash as income they still walk out with a decent after-tax compensation for their help.

          Reply
          1. Eric January 21, 2022 at 2:07 PM

            You are still paying illegals and your home country of Australia would never support that or the CA open borders approach. Do the right thing by hiring a cleaning service that hires American citizens and pays taxes like the rest of us.. Lead by example for your kids by hiring Americans. If you can find any citizens in LA.

            Reply
  6. Andrea January 21, 2022 at 9:44 AM

    It sounds to me like you’ve answered your own question……lifestyle bloat (“all our friends have one,”…aka “keeping up with the Joneses”), cost to your retirement (remnants of Your Money or Your Life), relinquishing of your pride in a job well done. IF, like others here have mentioned, you can use this service to help you through a defined period before balancing things back out, then this would be a great *tool* to achieve that *goal*. Just remember, though, that just like cable/second car/diaper service…….it’s a convenience, not a necessity! Also remember……kids don’t care if your house is clean as long as they get to spend quality time with YOU! Consider the priority here. Good luck! (p.s. maybe consider a middle ground like investing some bling in cleaning *convenience* tools to automate some of the work on your own……like a Roomba???)

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:51 AM

      Thank you! It definitely helps to think of this as a short term tool to help solve a temporary problem. We’ve thought about a Roomba — are they good!? Our doggy hair might clog that sucker up pretty quickly though?

      Reply
      1. Andrea January 21, 2022 at 11:18 AM

        Good luck to you in your decision making process! So tough.

        As far as the Roomba goes…….I don’t know much about them other than I have always waaaannnnnnted one and love the idea of automating my very very least favorite household chore (even below toilet cleaning!). Then I take a look around my house and see that there’s not a lot of open floor space, sigh, and do it myself. :-)

        Reply
        1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 12:56 PM

          I’ll be honest I kind of want a Roomba just so I can watch my dog freak out when it moves around. He is scared of things that move robotically and I think it’ll be hilarious to watch :)

          Reply
          1. Claire January 22, 2022 at 7:25 AM

            Forget the roomba with pets, you’ll spend more time cleaning and removing hair from the roomba wheels than you gain time. Roombas are great if there’s only a little dust, not hair

            Reply
            1. Joel January 22, 2022 at 9:19 AM

              Good to know!

              Reply
              1. J January 28, 2022 at 5:15 PM

                I’ve had a roomba for about 2 yrs now. It doesn’t completely eliminate the need to sweep/vacuum with an actual broom/vacuum cleaner every once in awhile, but it has drastically reduced the amount of times that I need to do it. I have wood floors through most of the house, and then carpet here in my office. I also have 3 cats and a husband in here. I mostly just sweep the wood floors sometimes before I clean those with the wood floor cleaner so I don’t grind anything into the cleaning cloth and floor (or if roomba misses any cat food pieces that Senior Kitty decides to share with the floor). Yes, you will have to empty the bin/shake out the filter every night, and occasionally you will need to remove any hair that may have wrapped around the end of the rollers, but it’s really not that bad. My husband and I both have long hair and don’t seem to have a real problem with that. I like to walk around barefoot, and I CANNOT STAND stuff sticking to my feet. Roombas may not be as perfect as I would like them to be, but looking back overall, I would still buy it again. The positives are still outweighing the negatives (especially with 3 cats). We do need to pick up certain cat toys so they don’t get caught in the roomba, though (soft mice toys). You might need to think about the same with certain small kid toys if they will be in the same room. I can’t speak from experience there. Best of luck with your decisions. I’ve struggled with the thought of getting a house cleaner again, myself. I had one for about a year when I traveled all the time for work, and it was nice to come back to a place that wasn’t trashed every weekend. Like you, I have both qualitative and quantitative hang ups to going back to it again.

                Reply
                1. Joel January 28, 2022 at 7:54 PM

                  Thanks for sharing your experience, J. I’m a barefooter too — know what you mean about stepping on little stuff!

                  Reply
  7. Shaun January 21, 2022 at 9:45 AM

    we’ve been using a housecleaner for years and ours sounds exactly like what you are looking at – they come every 2 weeks and charge $155. I think it’s definitely worth it. The time it frees up is priceless.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:52 AM

      Thanks Shaun, good to hear this!

      Reply
  8. Michael O January 21, 2022 at 10:46 AM

    In my case, my wife wanted to get a cleaner. I put my foot down and said a hard no! So we negotiated and now we have a cleaner.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 10:56 AM

      HAHA!

      Reply
      1. Andrea January 21, 2022 at 11:20 AM

        Is this “hard no” hubby the new cleaner? Hahahaha!!!!

        Reply
      2. Andrea January 21, 2022 at 11:21 AM

        Is original poster, “hard no,” the new cleaner?? Haha!

        Reply
  9. Mark E January 21, 2022 at 12:04 PM

    I think you have to balance your FI journey with ‘live your life now and enjoy”. That is another lesson that your kids need to learn – that balance. None of us know when the end will come. You can give your kids chores in the off weeks, just make sure that you and your kids treat the housekeeper like a real person. I have friends who own cleaning businesses, they work hard! But many people and clients treat them like lesser human beings. Conversely some people treat them well and love them, but others….. it is sad.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 12:53 PM

      Great point. Ideally, the person who helps us clean would become a part of our family. I don’t care who you are — if you enter my house you will be treated with respect, love, and it’ll be mutually beneficial. Hopefully my kids should understand this, as they will have joined our household in a similar way :)

      Reply
  10. Olaf, the Mile High Finance Guy January 21, 2022 at 12:32 PM

    Joel,

    I have been trying to break the ideology of a dollar not saved is a dollar wasted. I have made considerable progress, but I still have battles here and there, panicking if something will lead to lifestyle inflation or a waste of my cash.

    My advice to you is that if you can afford it and if it will provide true value to both of your lives, then go for it! Anything can be looked through the perspective of 10 years from now it will have costed me $XYZ. Learning to be okay with that is the next step because once you reach FIRE, you will have to learn how to spend your money anyhow.

    Not every dollar needs to be optimized, sometimes the emotional aspect must be weighed.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 12:55 PM

      You’re a legend, Olaf. Thank you sir. Time for me to practice what I preach and enjoy the journey a little. I can always earn more dollars, but time I can never get back.

      Reply
  11. Allyson January 21, 2022 at 12:34 PM

    We have cleaners come once a month and consider it a part of our ‘utilities’, much like others consider cable TV, which we don’t have. For me it was a relationship thing, I knew how my partner lived before we moved in together and his level of ‘acceptable clean’ was way lower than mine. I did not want that to be the hill our relationship died on!
    We do pick up before they come so they can clean. (They can’t vacuum effectively if there are clothes on the floor.) When covid hit, we cancelled visits for a time, but still paid them to support the small business. Now they are back monthly, but masked, and our house us always the better for it.
    We still do our yard work even though many of our neighbors use a service. Maybe when we are older or traveling more we will consider it but for now, while its not my favorite activity, it gets us outside and active.
    I like the suggestions of trying it out for a limited time period that others have mentioned. Then you can reevaluate. Also, try once a month initially. It may be sufficient, at least until your numbers increase.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 1:00 PM

      Glad to hear you do a pre-clean yourself before the cleaner comes. I hear this often, actually, and it’s a great way to allow the cleaner to go a bit ‘deeper’ on stuff. And I’m 100% with you on yard work. My wife and I actually love rolling up our sleeves and doing yard stuff — it makes us enjoy the yard more!

      Reply
  12. Laura January 21, 2022 at 12:48 PM

    My husband and I have had a cleaning service for years. We first hired one when I was working full time, going to school part time and volunteering at a library to get experience in my field. There was no way to do all of that AND do housework so we hired a cleaner for several years. When I graduated and went back to just ONE job, we got rid of the cleaner and I did it myself for a while. But then I got a job in my field with an hour commute each way and we decided to get the service back so I didn’t have to do all the cleaning on the weekends. We justified the cost since my salary increased with the new job.

    For us, it’s totally worth it. We are both in our mid-50s and are debt-free so have been able to put aside a lot for our retirement. I don’t mind spending on this service to free up my precious free time. It’s worth every penny to me to be able to just relax on the weekends and not have to worry about cleaning.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 1:12 PM

      Great to hear, Laura. I think we’ll experience the same thing as you guys… we can tailor the amount of help we get to how busy our lives are over time and eventually settle on the perfect balance later :)

      Reply
  13. Lonelle Minesinger January 21, 2022 at 1:39 PM

    We have one and it was one of the best decisions every. She comes every other week and does the deep cleaning. It makes it so our weekends are not catching up and cleaning, but being able to enjoy our time off from our day jobs.

    For us it was time vs money, we both work full time day jobs, plus our side businesses (a physical jerky store, an online jerky store, and 2 etsy stores). We can make more money concentrating on our businesses than cleaning house.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 2:08 PM

      Plus, I bet you have more FUN working on your side hustles vs. cleaning! That’s awesome you have the jerky businesses :)

      Reply
  14. JoeHx January 21, 2022 at 1:51 PM

    We have a house cleaner – she stops by once a month and charged $125.

    We normally clean the night before she comes – it may sound counter intuitive, but we want her to focus on the stuff we’re not good at – the deep cleaning stuff.

    My wife always feels so much better after the cleaner cleans – that alone is worth the $125.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 21, 2022 at 2:05 PM

      That’s a great deal, Joe. I’d pay $125 to make my wife feel better, any day of the week, even if it means I have to work harder/longer for it!

      Reply
  15. Beth January 22, 2022 at 9:40 PM

    We have had every other week service going on 12 years. We aren’t lazy. We are working and building our lives. There is still plenty to do, especially since adding two kids to the mix. Growing up our mothers stayed home and oversaw such tasks.

    When at least one if us retires we might scale back that service.

    I don’t care how much it costs….it is so worth it to just not have to scrub toilets and clean bathrooms. You still have to clean the kitchen daily and do laundry.

    Reply
    1. Joel January 23, 2022 at 12:56 PM

      This might sound weird, but I kind of like doing our own laundry… Monotonous tasks help me zone out sometimes — folding, sorting, and organizing helps me relax. Sometimes kitchen cleaning, too. So having someone do the rest of the house is perfect :)

      Reply
  16. Sar January 24, 2022 at 7:51 AM

    I enjoyed reading this, because I frequently consider a cleaner. Some of my concerns are as you or others mention. For one, our household needs a general daily maid vs a periodic cleaner, which isn’t practical. Second, I’m particular and would be concerned about potential damage, due to processes, cleaning solutions, furniture dings from vacuum, etc.
    I recently bought a robovac, but unless floors are picked up, it can’t vacuum.
    I live with a husband and sons who don’t value cleaning, so it’s hard to enlist their help.
    My solution is to do it myself, and reward myself. If your family helps, you could reward your family, which would be fun!

    Reply
    1. Joel January 24, 2022 at 9:17 AM

      Glad to hear you have similar thoughts. I’ll be sure to do a follow-up post with experiences and stuff after we give it a try :)

      Reply
  17. Silke January 26, 2022 at 9:10 PM

    You do not have to decide this now. You can wait for the kid(s) and try to do it yourself. If you then get the feeling you can not handle it, go for help.
    Maybe you will realise, that cleaning is no problem, but something else is difficult for you. Then you look for help in that field.
    Until then you save the money. The money gives you options at times when you really need them.
    Wait and see what comes the way.

    Reply

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