Put a price on your time. Smith suggests calculating whether you could pay someone to do a task for less money than you earn. Douglass uses a similar strategy to decide what to outsource: Since she's self-employed, she puts an hourly rate on her time, which she recently raised to $150 from $50. If she can hire someone to do a task for less than that, then she does. (She uses websites such as www.oDesk.com to find people willing to perform tasks on a freelance basis.)
Invest in some upfront training. "You have to be aware you won't immediately get your investment back," says Douglass. But she says investing in some training, and writing down explanations for specific tasks, pays off. She spent an hour creating a binder to explain the weekly maintenance routine for her hot tub; now, she saves 15 to 20 minutes a week by not having to do the chore or explain to someone else how to do it.
Forget the guilt. After she got married, Stephanie Britton, 33, an engineer who lives outside of Atlanta, decided to hire a monthly cleaning service. Britton herself had been spending about four hours once a month cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, and mopping and waxing the hardwood floors in the five-bedroom house. "At first, I felt bad. Since there's only two people, it shouldn't be too hard to clean up after ourselves . . . but it was hard," she says. Now, Britton, who writes the Ms. Money Savvy blog, has more time for her volunteer work, and she says outsourcing also helps her marriage. "It keeps marital happiness. I'm not nagging my husband about cleaning," she says.
Prioritize your spending. Britton is frugal when it comes to eating out and wasting money in other ways, so she can afford to hire the monthly cleaning service, which costs around $100 per visit. Douglass adds that if she had to choose between less stuff and less time, she would choose less stuff. "I would rather give up my house and live in a small apartment and have a personal assistant. It's much more valuable to me to spend money on people and gain time," she says.
Don't forget to pay taxes. You probably don't need to worry about taxes if you pay for just the occasional cleaning service, but in general, if you pay a domestic worker more than $1,700 a year, you also need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. (In addition, unemployment taxes apply to anyone earning over $1,000 per year.) Some states require employers of household workers to pay unemployment insurance taxes and workers' compensation insurance. Be sure to check with the IRS and Social Security Administration when you file your taxes.