Homeschoolers are a unique brand of people. For various reasons, we have chosen to educate our children at home rather than sending them to be educated by others. It’s like the ultimate DIY project. Because many of us live on one income as a result, I’m guessing we tend to be interested in saving money where we can, often by doing more things ourselves – making more meals at home, doing our own home improvements, growing gardens to help with the food budget, even making our own clothes.
I don’t do anywhere near all these things, but I do try to save money in similar ways when I can. I don’t make my own clothes, but I do hem my own pants. My husband and I built our own patio a few years ago. I do a little gardening and cook most of our meals from scratch. I am often happy with the results of my own handiwork and proud of the fact that I can save a few bucks here and there.
Yet there are also times when trying to do something myself has backfired. When I was a bridesmaid in my sister-in-law’s wedding recently, I wasn’t keen on spending an extra $50 or so to alter my already-pricey dress. I decided the bodice was beyond my ability to fix, but I figured the hem shouldn’t be that difficult. …Ha! Three layers of tricky fabric, several stitching revisions, and many, many hours later, I was positive it would have been worth the extra money to get it done by a professional. The end result looked fine, but projects like these can tend to use up a vast amount of a certain resource that I don’t have in unlimited quantities: TIME. And when time is in short supply, every moment I spend on one thing is a moment I have to put off something else.
With everything else on my plate, one thing that I often tend to put off until later is (gulp)…cleaning the house. I mean, a person can still function when the carpet needs vacuuming, right? And at least the bathtub isn’t growing things, right? Okay, I don’t generally let things get to the point of fostering a science experiment in the toilet, but I am certainly not very good about keeping things tidy.
As it turns out, some people don’t function very well in an environment like this – my husband being one of them. He’s no neat freak, but he likes to keep things more tidy than is my habit, and he works hard to help with that goal. Unfortunately, he’s not the one at home all the time…I am. And so I make yet another overambitious plan: to get the house sparkly clean before he comes home…only to have my plans laugh in my face as I only finish a fraction of what I intended. Yes, it’s a fraction more than was done before…but it’s rather disheartening to have this happen over and over again, never getting anywhere close to fully clean.
So, as my gift for our anniversary this year, I decided to quit trying to do everything as cheaply as possible. Instead, with some of the money saved up from my own work projects on the side, I hired a company to do a deep clean of the house. Granted, it took a lot of effort just to get all the clutter out of the way…The kids and I worked on and off to get things organized for several weeks beforehand. But when the day finally arrived, we took off school and went gallivanting around town – grocery shopping, the library, the playplace at the mall – and returned to house cleaner than it has been in years. More work had been done in one day than I would have managed in at least a week or two. It was glorious. My husband was thrilled. I was thrilled to finally feel as close to “caught up” as I’ve ever been.
My point here is not that hiring a company is the magical solution for every messy house. I realize that not every family has a professional cleaning in the budget when some are just struggling to make ends meet. Some still have babies and toddlers, who can make it difficult to even get the house picked up, much less thoroughly cleaned. Also, given time (much less than I would wish), the house will just get messy again. We will still need to come up with a long-term plan for maintenance.
Rather, the moral of my story is that, while frugality and ingenuity are certainly assets, sometimes it’s worth it to outsource certain tasks that we can’t seem to manage on our own. Yes, you will usually pay more (unless you can barter with a friend!), but when there are those who specialize in the thing you want done – many of whom are just trying to make ends meet for their own families! – it can save a lot of time and frustration to invest in their services.
This can also apply to areas of our children’s education. If you are struggling with a particular school subject, there may be a co-op or an online class that can help. I have not run into this problem too much so far since my kids are still young, but I am thankful to know that these things are available in my area to help with certain subjects that I may find difficult or just “not my thing” in the future (science, anyone?).
When there’s a task you can do yourself, it is very often the best thing to go ahead and do it. But when there just doesn’t seem to be time for everything, getting outside help for certain tasks can be a real lifesaver.
What is one task you would outsource if you could? Can you think of a way to accomplish this?
Photo Credit: All images courtesy of Jessica Cole.