Housing, Personal Finance, Saving Money

Sometimes It’s Worth Paying

I recently wrote about services that we never would have purchased forty years ago but which now are commonplace expenditures. Indeed, I suggested (or at least implied) that there was no real reason to ever use services such as a lawn service because most domestic services we could and should handle on our own.

I confess, however, that I was setting all of you up. Although the reasons for not using a lawn care service, a home security service, a swimming pool service, or any of the other services that I sited, might be valid, there are also a lot of good reasons to pay good money to have other people do some work for you. Indeed, I pay monthly fees to a yard maintenance worker, a home security company, and a swimming pool company, a lawn and shrub service. I also pay to have very basic services performed on my car.

I know that many of you may scoff at my expenditures and, agreeing with my first article, feel that I am being wasteful. That said, I have good reason for all of my spending. Perhaps you will agree with me?

Yard Maintenance: I love being outside. I love working in my yard. If I could, I would be happy to spend several hours per day working in my yard. Unfortunately, I do not have the time and, even if I did, it would cost me more per month to maintain my yard than to have my “Tony” take care of it for me. Tony is (i) a great guy, and (ii) my “yard guy.” Every Tuesday he comes to my house and mows my lawn, edges my lawn, “whacks” my weeds, applies weed control chemicals and, as needed, trims my shrubs.

If I were to handle all of those chores on my own, I would need to purchase all of the equipment, maintain all of the equipment, and spend approximately twenty hours per month doing the needed work. Tony charges me $115 per month. There is absolutely no way that I can compete with Tony. If I do the work on my own, I will lose money. I will also lose twenty hours per month that I could spend helping my kids with their homework or helping my wife with other chores. Perhaps even more importantly, I know from experience that I cannot make my yard look nearly as good as Tony can. If you can find a “Tony” it is better to hire him and take a part time job with all of the time that you save than it is to give your time to your yard and lose money.

Home Security: I may be a victim of the media or I may just be sensitive to the risks of being home alone. I do not worry about my home or my family when I am home, but I do worry if I am out – even if it is the middle of the day. I want to feel that my family is safe and to know that my family feels safe, even when I am not there to protect them. I live in a good neighborhood but there have been plenty of burglaries here over the years. Even if the odds are one in a thousand that someone might break in while my family is home, even one in ten thousand, I prefer the odds of having a security system. What I spend in a monthly fee, I more than make up for in peace of mind.

Swimming Pool Service: I use a swimming pool service for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I tried to handle the pool on my own and it turned green. Perhaps my swimming pool service was visiting my house at night and dropping green food coloring in the pool but I tend to believe it was my own incompetence! Also, I have a son with asthma and if I store chlorine and other chemicals in my garage, the fumes will be very unhealthy for him. I do not need to keep any chemicals at my home because I am willing to use a service. More importantly, by using a service, I am relatively assured that my pool is safe every time my family takes a swim. That is worth the added cost, even if I have to work a bit harder to pay for it.

Lawn and Shrub Service As with pool care, I do not want to store pesticides and commercial fertilizers in my garage any more than I want to store chlorine. My kids and wife just don’t need to breathe it. When I was growing up, we did not store our car in our garage so there was no need to go into the garage very often. It was a fine place to store fertilizers. Now our cars are in our garage and my kids enter and exit our house through our garage – they just don’t need to inhale the fumes from lawn care products.

Basic Automotive Maintenance: I recall a post several weeks ago in which a reader noted that people should handle auto maintenance without going to a garage or calling AAA. As I also recently noted, however, Americans have lost a lot of their pioneer spirit and the do-it-yourself mentality of our forefathers. I readily admit that I do not have any pioneer spirit when it comes to mechanics. If I try to do anything to my car other than put gas into it, I will be creating a road hazard. No one has taught me how to maintain a vehicle and I do not feel that a self-training approach is safe. Accordingly, I pay my auto-shop to do everything for my car. I do not feel that I have any alternative, no matter how easy it may be to learn.

When my kids are grown and out of the house, I may feel that I have the time to handle some of these projects on my own (but I hope I never lose Tony!). I may be wasting money now, but I can’ think of it that way when I am saving time and making my home safer. What other household services do you feel are worth the cost?

16 thoughts on “Sometimes It’s Worth Paying

  1. Tony is a rare exception. He can provide better service at a cheaper price than if you were to do it yourself. A keeper. The pool service and auto-shop is nothing you couldn’t learn from reading a few web-sites. Paying them is the same principle as me paying a CPA when I can get the same results from a little leg-work at the library and reading this site. The home security thing is nothing a few window locks and dead-bolts won’t fix. You having a monthly Brinks bill isn’t going to keep you’re valuables from being gone when you get home if someone really wants to break in. Having the alarm connected to the Police station doesn’t make much difference either. Ever had to call 911 and waited to see how long it took for them to get their? By the time the cops arrived, a burglar could have everything they wanted and be gone. It might be worth the peace of mind to you, but from a practical sense, unless you save more on your home-owners insurance than you pay for home security, it’s not worth it.

  2. Disagree with you on auto maintenance and yard maintenance … both are completely doable without paying. Even if you need specialized tools to pull an oil filter or an air filter, those tools pay for themselves the third time you use them.

    The only time I found it useful to pay for a service is when there’s absolutely no way I could do it for whatever reason … Take painting the rooms in the house, for instance … I could certainly paint, but I have only a vague idea of which colors to choose and how to make them work and match other stuff in the house stylistically-speaking. So we hired an interior designer to help us with paint — but as far as oil changes go, it’s all hands-on for me 🙂

  3. Max — Many thanks for your comments! Your comments raise an interesting point — what we decide to delegate to others does largely become a matter of personal preference. I am very comfortable painting (because whatever color my wife chooses is the color I am going to use!) but I am more or less terrified of automobile maintenance (although I did manage to change a burned out directional light a few weeks ago, and found it quite empowering!).

    I also understand why you would not hire someone to mow your lawn. It took a while for me to accept that Tony could maintain my yard for less than $30 per week — meaning that for less than $30, I save 4 hours plus of effort.

  4. You set us up! LOL!!

    Re: home security. I have a dog – a BIG DOG!! Of course, the cost to feed & vet the dog probably averages the same as a home security system, but she’s a whole lot more cuddly. Note to burglars: She isn’t very cuddly if she doesn’t know you…beware!!

  5. When it comes to home security, I’m more concerned with when I am home vs. when I’m gone. If someone comes into my home, trashes the place and steals everything in sight, insurance covers that. But if I or my family are home, that’s a whole different situation – someone could get hurt or worse. I say that home security systems are essential these days, especially with the recession. There are break-ins everywhere now.

    I wouldn’t personally hire lawn maintenance because that’s an expenditure that I don’t believe is necessary for my household and we can’t afford to do it. That money is better used elsewhere. But others can afford it, and if it saves them time, which is more valuable to them, that’s their business.

    Car maintenance – well, sometimes my husband does small things like change the oil or filters, but I usually end up hiring someone to check and change all the fluids. It’s easier that way, especially because he’s so busy and I don’t know how to do it, nor do I care to. I suppose if we were harder up financially, I would learn to do it and suck it up out of necessity. Sometimes we all need to do that, with one thing or another.

  6. I disagree with most of your points. I can’t imagine we’d ever pay someone to care for our lawn and it takes him about 10 hours a week, not 20 In fact, my husband isn’t a “yard guy”, but he has been hired by some of our friends to care for their lawns, too. He also cares for our trees and shrubs and does our pest control.

    He does all the basic maintenance and some of the more substantial repairs to our vehicles, but we do take them in if it’s a repair he thinks is over his head or one that may void a warranty (although now all of our vehicles are past warranty).

    In the past we’ve had small “easy-set” pools and either of us were able to handle both the cleaning and the chemical adjustments.

    We don’t have a security system and don’t plan to get one. We do have outside motion sensor lighting and a security camera in place, all of which my husband installed.

    We don’t hire out our housework (I do the bulk of it) and if there is aesthetic or structural remodeling to be done, my husband and I do it together. The only job my husband would “hire out” would be major electrical work. He does minor electrical work, however.

    For us, to hire out these things when we are capable of doing them ourselves would be a waste of money.

  7. A housekeeping service is a good idea if you work a lot (though my husband would disagree). My husband, though usually a practical person, thinks that a cleaning service is a waste of money. When I did work professionally, I worked over 60 hours a week. Coming home to a dirty house was overwhelming at times. Add children to the mix and at times I was downright depressed. I should have spent the money on a housekeeper to at least clean the bathrooms.

    What do you think? Are there situations that justify the admittedly huge expense of a cleaning service?

  8. My sister has a pool and used a service. She decided to go to the saltwater method. The initial cost up front is expensive, but she barely has to touch it & none of those pesky chemicals. It is awesome!

  9. For the most part I agree with you. I too have a home security system and the cost more than pays for the piece of mind I have, especially when I am away from home. For me, this is the most important of the items you listed. The other items, such as lawn care and auto maintenance, we do ourselves in these tough economic times.

  10. The lawn and shrub service depends greatly on the size of your yard. Certainly, if you have a smaller yard, such as we do, I would feel wastefull to have someone drive out to work on our small yard. That said, some of our neighbors do just that.

  11. Ten hours per week to care for your lawn? Where do you live, Augusta National? Takes me about two hours per week to mow and trim my 1.1-acre lawn.

    Paying for lawn care and swimming pool care is excessive. It’s easy to do and doesn’t take much time.

  12. Hmmm… you are tricky with the set-up, but great blog – could not be more timely.

    As someone living in Manhattan, I have no car or pool or yard. I also have no time. So the money I spend on my house cleaner is completely worth it to me. I want a clean and apartment and I am willing to pay someone to ensure I have one. This year I also used a CPA for the first time after years of doing my own taxes. He saved me $1500, making his fee more than worth it.

  13. I do my own lawn work but only because I have the great luck of having a father who upgrades things regularly and I got his downcasts…so I have all the fancy tools. Home security, I have covered with great insurance, digital and paper photos of everything of value that may be a target, and a doberman, or worst case scenario a Glock .357, in case it happens when my family is home. Car care, I take no chances with I have a regular mechanic who services all my vehicles…my wifes new van, my old truck, and my older jeep. I don’t have to worry about pool service because I have 6 months of winter!

  14. I think that having a home security system is a wise investment. A home security system adds an extra layer of protection around your family and home. Especially if you have a system that can be accessed remotely. That way, you can see what is happening at home whenever and where ever you like.

    Joe Strada

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