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Home economics: Why outsourcing to a house cleaner makes more sense

House cleanerSomeone (likely an American) asked Quora, “how do Canadians clean their homes?” and the answers were epically Canadian. Responses ranged from “a real Canadian wipes down their house with a live polar bear twice a week” to more in-depth explanations like: 

“Once a week we open our back door and let a tide of Lemmings sweep through the house. They gobble up any crumbs and dust mites as they rush towards the front door on their way to the sea.” 

Or you could try the Rain Method, like this Vancouverite: “Once a week, I open all the windows. The rain pours into my apartment and washes everything clean. I just sit on my couch, wearing my waterproof jammies, and admire nature at work.”

But joking aside, one astute commenter also posted “cleaning one’s own house is a last resort” and that is a sentiment worth exploring. Because beyond reducing your stress, hiring a house cleaner is often a much bigger decision than simply choosing to pay someone to help. For many Canadians, it’s a highly loaded choice tied to built-in societal and cultural beliefs around having “a cleaning lady.” 

But what if, instead of getting lost in that side of the equation, you explored another perspective: Economics. What if you let empirical calculations, not cultural misnomers, drive your decision to hire a house cleaner?

Use your economist hat to assess your house cleaning options

In this 2022 Statistics Canada report, experts estimated the value of unpaid housework (aka, the house cleaning you do yourself) by calculating how much it would cost a person to someone else to do that same cleaning. The result? If every Canadian over the age of 15 were paid for the house cleaning they did in a single year, they would earn a whopping $23,240.

 

“The way an economist would look at this decision is: How much could I make per hour if I were working rather than cleaning my own house?”

– Dr Gigi Foster, economist

House cleaning is work. Hard work. That you don’t have to do. And in fact, there are strong economic arguments that you shouldn’t do it. 

“The way an economist would look at this decision is: How much could I make per hour if I were working rather than cleaning my own house?” Dr Gigi Foster, economist with the University of New South Wales Business School, told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation

Economic theory holds that production is highest when everyone specializes in what they are best at. So, by hiring a house cleaner, you’re actually creating wealth “because [that] work counts towards GDP,” explains Foster. 

“And it might have a double impact if it releases the person who would otherwise be cleaning [i.e. you] into the labour market.” In other words, keep your day job and use your downtime to recoup and re-energize. And create a job for someone else at the same time.

Calculating your time premium

Here’s where some simple calculations come in. These numbers are based on the going rates for house cleaning services in Canada. In economics, we’re talking about opportunity cost (the loss of potential gain from other alternatives – or what you’re giving up by spending time on house cleaning) and premium (an amount added to basic price, like the added cost of buying organic, for example).

Your time is precious, so you need to add a premium to account for that time spent on home cleaning. House cleaning prices for quality, professional home cleaning services in Canada ranges from $50 to $75 per hour. Adding your time premium bumps that rate up by 20%, putting it somewhere between $65 to $90 per hour. And we know the average Canadian woman spends 16 hours per week on basic home cleaning so if we go with a median average cost per hour, that breaks down to:

16 hours X $75 per hour = $1,200 per week

By paying a professional home cleaning service, you can drastically reduce the number of hours per week down to about 6. For an average 4-bedroom, 5-bathroom home in Canada, Scrubbi charges a flat-rate starting at $400. 

So your personal time-related cost for house work goes down to $450 per week and your calculation looks like:

6 hours of your premium time X $75 = $450; 

$450 per week + $400 for professional cleaning 1X per week = $800 per week

… which is $400 less than if you had done all the work yourself. Any way you slice it, it pays to hire the bulk of the routine cleaning out. So, now that the general economics are clear, you need to apply this to your own financial circumstances.

The brass tax of outsourcing housework to a pro house cleaner

It’s time to ask yourself two critical questions:

  1. What is your time worth?

  2. And do you want to spend it keeping your home clean?

If you’re answer are “a heck of a lot” and “absolutely NOT”, here are some helpful tips from CTV to help you figure out the finances of saying yes to bringing on a cleaning pro:

    • Use 50/30/20 rule: Spend 50% of your income on needs (think housing and food), 30% on wants (like a cleaner), and 20% on savings and debt repayment
    • Consider opportunities to pick up extra income from a side gig. It’s a great way to earn more money doing something you love, which not wasting time doing things you don’t (cleaning house)
    • Start with professional house cleaning services once a month and see how it fits. If you have room to spare and could use maid services more frequently, bump up your cleaning schedule to biweekly or weekly
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