Frugality vs. Sanity: The fine art of creative rationalization

I was raised by parents who were children during The Great Depression. This has served me well in many ways… My parents instilled in us kids an appreciation for hard work and frugality that has put me into a relatively comfortable financial situation. However, it’s had an interesting side effect on my psyche and that is a knee-jerk aversion toward paying for services that I can do myself for much cheaper. A prime example: House cleaning. As one of nine kids, you can bet I was taught how to clean. However, once my career started to take off, I hated spending my limited free time cleaning—yet hiring someone else to clean seemed so “elite.” It felt like a slap in the face of my mother and mother-in-law, both of whom maintained large family households without any domestic help (well, except for the help provided by the aforementioned large families–did I mention I know how to clean?).

feather dusterA discussion with a coworker at the time changed my view. She relayed some advice from an executive in the company who had similar concerns over hiring a lawn service. He asked himself whether his limited free time was better spent mowing the lawn or focusing on his career, and he chose the latter, knowing his executive salary would more than offset the cost of the lawn service. This perspective made economic sense, as well as career sense. I had found the perfect rationalization to alleviate any guilt I felt about hiring housecleaners: I wasn’t a lazy slug or spoiled princess–I was a competent working mother making a strategic investment in my career. Bam!

Over the years, I was able to apply a similar rationale to a few other paid services. For example, hiring a plowing service is easy to justify with my husband’s disability and I creatively rationalize my rather expensive hair cuts/color by going to my niece who is a senior stylist at a local salon (because I’m supporting a relative in her career, haha).

The one line that I could not cross—until recently—was paying for a gym. This is most directly related to my upbringing. Thankfully, my Dear Old Dad is still on this planet, but if he weren’t, the thought of me paying a company money for the privilege of sweating would make him roll over in his grave. Actually, exercise for the sake of exercise would confound him when there is a world of productive exercise—in the old days we called them chores—just ripe for the pickin’… (And if the “chore” is weeding the yard, that’s a very literal analogy!)

I figured what my Dad doesn’t know can’t hurt him. And I knew that a lack of exercise could have much more expensive consequences down the line–in the case of my parents, consequences like diabetes, joint problems, high blood pressure–things that can be prevented or lessened through exercise. So guess what I decided to do?

I’ll tell you about my fitness adventures in a future post. Meanwhile, they say everything has its price… So I’m curious: What are the jobs that are most worthwhile for you to outsource?

9 responses to “Frugality vs. Sanity: The fine art of creative rationalization

  1. I have the opposite problem from you – I would outsource just about anything. I can always find a justification to hire someone else – just not the means. If speaking in wishful terms, I would give up the constant job of emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry.

  2. I’ve nominated y’all for an award 🙂 Hope you like it! You can see it here: http://annaleawest.com/2013/01/16/versatile-blogger-award/ Congrats!!

    • Wow, Anna Lea! As newbies to this whole blog space, we’re honored. Thanks for the vote of confidence and providing a great example of how to let one’s voice shine through. Hopefully we can continue to build off this auspicious foundation. 😉

  3. I can’t tell you two how much I’m enjoying your blog! It is like I get a little bit of the best parts of my days of being in the office again. Miss you both! Oh, and by the way, I recently checked out a few David Bowie songs on YouTube…I’m okay with my ignorance on the subject. I’ll stick with my Dave Matthews Band. 🙂

    Regarding the question at hand about outsourcing, I am in KitKat’s boat. I’d hire everything out if I could, but lack the funds to do so. In my perfect world, the first thing I’d hire out would be a cook. I hate everything to do with cooking except eating!

    • Funny, Anna, I was just thinking of you when this topic came up! I remember you and KitKat both being shocked that I had never paid anyone to do my eyebrows…Still haven’t, btw. And you’re dead wrong about David Bowie–Changes? Space Oddity? Young Americans? Modern Love? Classic!

  4. Melisa L Standish

    Funny! I am a stay at home mother of 2. Well, really 3 because I include my husband in the 3 and what the hell I will count my 85 pound lab Ginger and 10 pound Rambo in the mix and make it 5!!

    I have discovered over the years I am my best housekeeper! Why? I can not tell you the number of times I have written a check to the latest best cleaner and as they leave thinking they just gave me there best clean ever, I am horrified at what I discover. I could of just written a check to myself and went out for cocktails and my house would have been cleaned to my standards.

    I might not have any money to leave to my kids when I die but they will never say I didn’t take care of myself or dress well! 😉

    Melisa Standish

    • Well, I have to admit, Melisa, the cleaning is of a very basic level–but it’s enough to keep us from slipping into squalor, so I count that as a victory. BTW: I have a sister-in-law whose name is Melisa (one s). 🙂

      • Melisa L Standish

        Another 1 s Melisa! Wow!! I feel like her and I should form a club. 😉 I hate cleaning. I did have a housekeeper that I hate to admit did a better job then me. The issue was I never knew if she was ever going to show up. I do however like to organize. 🙂

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