The Unfair Competitive Advantage Of The Wealthy: Being Genetically Frugal

Getting my hands dirty painting and cleaning my own house
After a good morning of painting

Do frugal people have an unfair competitive advantage when it comes to accumulating a prodigious amount of wealth because they were just born that way? I'm beginning to wonder based on two things that happened recently.

1) Homejoy, a three year old housecleaning startup, decided to close its doors after raising about $40 million in funding. They ultimately failed to get sold or raise more money due to poor financials and lawsuits from contractors who wanted to be employees. It's always a sad day when a company closes because I admire entrepreneurs very much. The founders had the courage to try, which is more than can be said for many others.

I never would have used Homejoy because I always clean my own house. Doesn't everybody? Apparently not. Or apparently most people do, otherwise Homejoy wouldn't have gone under. I find cleaning to be both cathartic and rewarding.

2) I got in sort of an e-mail tiff with my new master tenant's roommate because she demanded an extra set of keys. It wasn't a nice ask, but an entitled demand as if she owned the place. She first said she needed the keys for convenience purposes when other people stayed over. Then she said she needed a key for her housekeeper. These keys aren't easily copyable. For security purposes, they have to be sent into a factory to be specially made. Each key has a specific embedded serial #.

My initial response was to ask her to just let the housekeeper in when she's around or clean more herself if she's got to wait an extra day or two. She wasn't too happy with my suggestions! She said she works a lot and it's none of my business how much she cleans (or doesn't). Fair enough, even though it's 100% my business for protecting my property from liability. I did end up spending a couple hours getting her that extra key, and am waiting for her to sign the addendum to take responsibility if the key gets lost or if the cleaner gets in a deadly fight with another condo owner.


From 1999 – 2012, I regularly worked 60-80 hours a week. Not once did I hire a person to clean my home. Not even in 2007 when it was raining money. I just made the time to clean my abode by myself.

So who gets a green pass for using cleaners? Busy parents, incredibly messy people, people allergic to dust mites, folks who live in mega mansions, elderly and the disabled come to mind. But for the rest of us, hiring a cleaner seems like a waste of money.

Here are some other reasons why I won't pay for a cleaner:

1) I don't feel comfortable having a stranger come into my house. It feels like an invasion of privacy.

2) Even if theft is rare, theft still happens. Many home robberies are perpetrated by those who've worked in your home. They might not rob you tomorrow. But they might rob you a year later when you least expect. My temptation to steal was greater when I earned less money as well.

3) I know how to clean. It's easy. Most things that don't pose physical risk, I do myself. This includes taking care of the yard, washing Rhino, and doing my laundry. Even though I can afford it, not doing these things myself feels like a waste of money. I eat out because my cooking is mediocre compared to world class chefs here in SF. Preparation also takes a long time. I paid a contractor to expand my bathroom because otherwise it would never pass inspection. I use an auto mechanic to fix my car because I worry about fixing things wrong and causing an accident.

4) I enjoy cleaning. There's immediate satisfaction because you can see an immediate difference. It feels very zen to wipe down the hard wood floors. I love my mop and I love to vacuum. Decluttering makes me happy. Spending 30 minutes to an hour cleaning once a week is cathartic.

5) Like many of you, I like to save money!

I know I'm going to piss off some of you who do use cleaners, so let me have it in the comments section below why I'm a donkey for thinking the way I do!


I've always thought that most people were like me, which is why it kind of annoyed me that my new tenant was demanding an extra set of keys for her cleaners. I can understand if she was a working mother with two kids. But she's in her early 30s, single, and really only has half an apartment to clean since she shares it with her roommate. Why couldn't she find time to just clean 500 square feet of space herself?

I asked my underemployed friend her viewpoint since she also has a cleaner. She said,

“Well, it's just like anything else. You pay for convenience or you do it yourself. I hire my friend for $20 bucks an hour for three hours a week to help her out and get a clean apartment as well. I'm so busy taking care of my son and working that my time could be better spent instead of cleaning.”

This makes sense. If my underemployed friend who is looking for ways to save money is willing to spend $240 a month on cleaning services, maybe I'm the outlier here!


If you don't do what you easily know how to do, I think that's just laziness. If you've got the finances to afford discretionary spending, there's nothing wrong with being lazy.  However, from an entrepreneurial perspective, I wonder whether you can really be successful doing a business that relies on other people's laziness.

What happens when the economy turns south and people have to take the bus, shop for their own food, wash their own clothes, pick up their own meals, buy their own underwear, and scrub their own toilets? Holy crap!

Let's briefly look at Homejoy's business model. For aspiring entrepreneurs like myself, it's important to learn from failures to avoid future mishaps.

1) They are the middlemen for cleaners and people looking for cleaners. They took a percentage of revenue for each cleaning session. Once they connect you with a low cost cleaner, why do you need Homejoy any more? Just make a side deal directly with the cleaner and save.

2) They charge ~$20 – $25/hour gross. Can you really make that much off a business where the client can simply cut Homejoy out if they like the cleaner?

3) Cleaning is a cash business. By becoming a 1099 contractor, the cleaner now has to pay taxes. Who the hell wants to do that? Anybody who has worked in the services industry knows that cash is king.

4) The product actually creates another layer of friction because you can easily find cleaners on Yelp, Craigslist or through referrals. You don't really need “on demand” cleaners. You need a trustworthy cleaner who can commit to a long-term schedule.

5) If the economy ever turns, paying for cleaning will probably be one of the first discretionary spending items to go. I'd rather invest in high growth and defensive companies (e.g. Samuel Adams Beer co) than a company that's highly cyclical.

6) Legal issues and high burn rate. $40 million is a lot of money to spend in three years, even with 50+ employees to pay. Clearly they were allocating money to legal costs, subsidizing clients with enticing offers, and spending money on signing up cleaners and customers.

In retrospect, all of this is easy to write, but I do wonder about the countless other businesses out there that delivery discretionary services on demand. There's even a company called Underclub, which delivers a pair of underwear to you for $22 a month!

Uber can win because its billions in funding is used to subsidize its drivers, thereby undercutting the incumbent taxi industry, fight lawsuits, and lobby the government.

The main takeaway from Homejoy's failure is to build a sticky service business modeled on what people don't know how to do well themselves. I once started an advertising business before with the Yakezie Network, and within a year my clients simply replicated my business model and kept the profits for themselves! In a way, it was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to create a new, safer way of earning revenue online. Those who took my idea are now floundering because they never changed and I never shared with them my secrets again.


I'd love to hear from all of you about whether or not you clean your own home and why. Are people who hire cleaners lazy or efficient? If I can spend two hours writing a post, isn't that time much better spent than spending two hours cleaning my house? I've really had a default assumption in my mind that the vast portion of people clean themselves, and only the rich spend money on cleaners.

I'm of the belief that frugal habits are mostly developed based on our upbringing. My parents were always frugal, so I adopted their frugal nature. Being frugal also became a necessity when I realized I couldn't depend on the government to implement an affordable health care system or give back my Social Security contributions in retirement.

Then again, even when I was making a healthy income when I had a full-time job, I'd often just drink water while dining out and drive a beater even though I could afford to spend more.

One of the biggest takeaways from all these finance-related surveys I've been conducting over the years is that most of you are super savers (25%+ savings rate). I'm trying to ascertain whether saving money and building wealth is an inherent attribute or a learned skill. If being frugal and building wealth is a genetic disposition, then perhaps those who've been able to accumulate outsized wealth or run a business have an unfair advantage!

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159 thoughts on “The Unfair Competitive Advantage Of The Wealthy: Being Genetically Frugal”

  1. Wow. I love my cleaner. She was also my babysitter and still pinch hits. I know all of her family and went to her daughter’s wedding (who also sat for us). If i’m home I enjoy her presence. If i’m not, I trust her absolutely. It make me happy to pay her because she does a great job and I admire her on a number of levels.

    I’m not one of those deluded people who pretends this not an employee/employer relationship but those can be rewarding emotionally too.

    It saves me time, but reduces marital tension (because my husband works his butt off but is a slob). Divorce is very expensive. So is marriage counseling. This is a total bargain!

    It’s a luxury, I know, and when I was young and single and not a mom I did it myself. But as a mother and wife, I’ll take coming home to a clean apartment without a hint of resentment over eating out any day of the week.

  2. I’d hire a cleaner to come once a week if I could afford to. I have terrible allergies and several cats, so cleaning is an endless cycle. Every day I sweep their food area, do the litter, and de-fur the furniture. I try to vacuum every other day, and I’m constantly washing blankets and curtains. Seriously, if someone would invent a housecleaning robot to do the unpleasant stuff, I’d buy it!
    I like organizing, just not cleaning!

  3. In my bachelor days I shared a nice downtown apartment with a fellow bachelor. Between the two of us we were able to afford a much nicer place than we would have been able to individually. Despite our best intentions, we couldn’t sort out a cleaning schedule that we could adhere to and we hated the sight of the other vacuuming or dusting. Dishes got done and laundry was done but the house lacked a woman’s touch. We brought in a elderly neighbour who agreed to clean two hours every two weeks for $20 a time. I don’t think she needed the money but she liked helping and chatting away to us as she wiped down the shelves and polished the mirrors. She used to get an amazing amount done in those two hours which made the difference between an ordinary bachelor pad and a nice place. Well worth it to avoid any disputes and to know that every other Friday the place would be in good order. I recommend it for anybody sharing a place with a non-relative who doesn’t especially like dusting or cleaning tile grouting.

  4. A) I think frugality can definitely be learned.
    B) There are many other measures of frugality that can be far more injurious to one’s monthly budget. Doesn’t it all come down to choices, and what you’re able to save each year from take home pay

    –Sam, you live in SF. Are you a member of the Bay Club or the Olympic Club? They’re both expensive. As for me, yeah….guilty as charged for one of those clubs.
    –Any suburbanites out there do their own yard work? I do the mow and blow, neither of which takes up much time given that brown grass in the SF Peninsula doesn’t accumulate much height. That saves $150 to $180/mo.
    –And the biggie…car payments? Ka-CHING!! I drive a 15 year old Subaru. Before I paid off her house boat disguised as a car after eight months of ownership because I was going to punch a hole in the wall, my wife’s payments were $700/mo. Absurd.
    –And another biggie: FOOD! I drink a lot of money in the form of wine. But we rarely eat out, except when it’s f’ing hot outside, which it is now…or when we’re on vacation…or three day weekends.

    Oh, and we (me, wife, kid, dog) do have a cleaner. Amazingly great expenditure.

  5. Frugal, cheap and thrifty are all the same thing. There isn’t any moral baggage with any of them.

    FS happened to pick housecleaning because he enjoys it. Other people might prefer renovating the bathroom, fixing the car or other tasks that Sam chooses to outsource. It’s not about laziness, frugality, skills (go watch some You Tube videos) or “I’m saving time to be more productive.” You pay other people to do things you don’t want to do for any number of reasons.

    More interesting is how the comments illustrate employee vs. business owner/entrepreneur mindset. Employees are far more likely to say “Why would I pay someone else to do something I can handle right now?”. Biz owner thinks “Why wouldn’t I pay someone $15 / hour to free up my $100 / hour time and work on more valuable?” Like Sam, I happen to enjoy cleaning my own home (and renovating), but you definitely won’t see me cleaning bathrooms in the office or at any rental property.

    FS: Do you also enjoy cleaning the rental properties after a tenant leaves?

    ~ Chris

    1. Chris,

      As an entrepreneur who works for nobody, don’t I dispute your theory?

      Building outsized wealth is a mindset. There will be elements of both frugality and cost/benefit optimization. But things you can easily do yourself, I encourage people to do themselves. It creates a level of discipline and hustle power that goes a long way.

      For my condo rental, I’ve painted it myself a couple times, and the tenants pay for a cleaner or clean themselves before getting their deposit back since they entered it clean.

      My house rental, I’m only on my second set of tenants. We cleaned it ourselves first, and the tenants paid task rabbit for cleaners to clean for 3-4 hours.


      1. In many ways, you’re the perfect example. You pay other people to free up your time in other areas.

        I think most people would say my analogy doesn’t hold at all. Entrepreneurs outsource in order to leverage their time and earn more money overall. Employees have a fixed income and think primarily in terms of keeping whatever cash they’ve already earned which leads to the DIY mentality. Nothing particularly wrong there (unless you truly hate the activity), but you can’t become wealthy just by cutting costs. It always requires generating income first.

        Thinking in terms of ROI on your personal time gives you a much different perspective, particularly time spent improving the bottom line of “My Life, Inc.”. That’s the big difference. Someone cleans their own house, saves $50 and immediately spends it on dinner instead of investing it. That really doesn’t help at all. It’s just cost-shifting.

        Being frugal, cleaning the house and writing a $50 check to an investment portfolio is a better idea. However, the best option is spending those extra two hours each week on planned activities that increase the overall household bottom line by either generating more income or increased savings. It might be researching investments, learning about tax planning, moonlighting, studying passive income strategies or meeting with like minded people. All of which are worth far more than the $50 out-of-pocket expense for house cleaning.

        I’m a work-at-home entrepreneur and two of the biggest impact changes for me recently have been establishing a company MERP and Solo 401K. Those are worth literally tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars and I never would have found them without explicitly putting aside time to learn more about money. Same with taking the time to refinance earlier this year. That’s a hefty monthly addition to savings instead of sending it to the bank.

        Everyone’s universal complaint is lack of time (along with lack of money), so they “don’t have enough time” for those kinds of things. Yet they’re fine with doing the cheapest possible grunt work in the name of frugality. It’s literally doing the work of a poor person who earns minimum wage. Unless you really enjoy the activity, that’s the very definition of penny wise and pound foolish and a great example of financial laziness.

        ~ Chris

  6. May I suggest you word the survey differently?

    As it stand I can agree with both answers without contradicting myself. I do not think frugality is a gene, I think it can be learned. So I should answer “no” to your survey. However, the other possible answer says
    “Yes. *If* you have an inherent desire to be frugal, you will likely accumulate more wealth over your lifetime.”
    And I agree with this as well. IF frugality were genetic, then I believe you would be more likely to accumulate wealth.

    1. Is not having the inherent desire to be frugal, someone who possesses the Frugal Gene?

      The interesting point is that 85% of folks believe being frugal can be learned, yet 25% don’t clean up after themselves. I’m assuming the majority of the 25% have extenuating circumstances for them to hire cleaners e.g. working parents, allergies, disability, etc. I’d like to bring out the minority of the 25% who don’t and hear their perspective!

  7. hi Financial Samurai! I haven’t commented on your blog before, though I have been reading it for a while. I agree with you about cleaners. I did once employ one for about a year, quite a few years ago now, but stopped because I felt uncomfortable having people come into my home and because I felt it cost too much. So now I clean my own home. I don’t do a brilliant job because I don’t have the time but I’d still rather do it myself. I am also frugal in general now, but used to be much less so, so I think it’s a habit that can be learned.

    Re cooking, I just wanted to say that cooking needn’t take a lot of preparation time – in fact, it takes me much less time than eating out would. It is also something I used to be bad at and have learned to be good at and now I love it. Also, it saves me money. :)

    1. Thanks for your comment Cathy. Wasn’t so bad, was it? :)

      I don’t mind cooking, especially if a company like Blue Apron delivers me all the ingredients. Yes, lazy, I know.

      I do have some fear over slicing my finger off when chopping carrots or onions though. I almost did when I was kid, slicing a finger to the bone as I tried to pull off a knife cover. Kinda traumatizing!

  8. Many poor people, sooner or later, live frugally by necessity, if not by design or inclination. For me, a lifetime low earner (max annual $17K), the realization that I will probably never be within shouting distance of the median North American income changed my relationship with money.

    Earning money is for me an arduous task; an $8 per hour wage does not go very far. So I pinch pennies and can’t afford to spend beyond bare necessities.

    For the average or even UMC earner, there are often tradeoff choices to be made between time and money, e.g. pay for a cleaner in order to spend more time with family, or DIY?

    As you get closer to subsistence level, those choices become easier to make; I without hesitation DIY.

  9. I’m lazy, I pay a cleaner every other week. Well not lazy I just hate to clean. So much so that I tended to not clean as much as I should. For the first 13 years of my working adult life I cleaned my own place. I decided with my last move to hire a cleaner. I’m extremely happy to come home from work every other week to a clean house that I did not do myself.

    On the other hand I don’t eat out a lot. I like to cook and am pretty decent at it.

    Even though I have a cleaner I consider myself frugal. I just spend money in this area where most frugal people don’t because I truly hate to do it.

  10. I think it can be learned, though I believe my biological father is frugal and I am. My mother is not. Maybe it’s a 60/40 shot?

    I wouldn’t hire cleaners at this point (single with 2 dogs) but if I had kids, perhaps I would hire someone to do the deep cleaning once a month.

    I do like to hire someone to mow the grass. I am allergic to all things outside and it’s not my body’s favorite task. I’m buying a home now and there’s no sod in the back yard (hallelujah).

  11. Sam,
    This is an interesting topic and I’m a little surprised by the judgmental tone you’ve taken. We use a cleaner (same one for years) and pay $80/week. They do a phenomenal job that my wife, kids and I couldn’t replicate unless we spent 3-4 hours. I look at the cleaning service as a time money trade off. Our time is worth more than the $80. You yourself make the same trade off with dining out (likely a more expensive one at that too). While I don’t disagree about your tenant, you could look at another perspective. Her willingness to spend on cleaning she could do for herself is also likely leading to her willingness to pay you rent when she could buy instead and invest in herself. It’s a disposable economy mindset that is becoming more common place. Lastly, she may feel like she’s helping you by paying someone to clean your property who will do a better job than she could. Just a thought.

    1. Hi Richie,

      I think it’s fine if you want to spend $320/month for cleaners, especially if you can afford to, and are happy with your wealth progression.

      Please read this part of the post:

      “So who gets a green pass for using cleaners? Busy parents, incredibly messy people, people allergic to dust mites, folks who live in mega mansions, elderly and the disabled come to mind. But for the rest of us, hiring a cleaner seems like a waste of money.”

      Maybe I need to bold the part or make it a different color.

      My judgement is with a single person, with no dependents, who lives in a not so big place, who doesn’t know how to properly ask for something in addition, who is new and shows disregard for the house rules she still hasn’t confirmed she’s read and signed per the lease, who is also paying 10% below market rent.

      You know how when you meet someone, you know pretty quickly whether they’ve got a good money sense or not? She does not b/c she doesn’t know how to properly communicate and doesn’t embody any sort of flexibility or frugality. Hence, the topic of this post which you are missing, as are a lot of other people.

      People tend to read into what they want to read. Which is fascinating.

  12. You would think hiring people for simple tasks would go first… I have a roomate who lives pay check to paycheck. He has been broke since the day he got fired, 6 weeks ago! He still refuses to canceled his weekly service for dog poop pick up, even though he can’t even afford food for his dog. I just don’t get it, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

    1. It doesn’t make sense, b/c the frugal gene is not in him. It’s not in his DNA, hence it is hard for him to change.

      It’s the same w/ my unemployed friend in this post I consulted with who doesn’t earn much but still spends money on a cleaner. The money gene isn’t in her either. Some people just have knack for making more money that others. We see this in people quiet clearly.

  13. Growing up with frugal parents, I acquired that characteristic as well. As an American living in Central America I have found that hiring a cleaner is very common (and even hiring someone to do laundry and cook, often the same person for all three tasks). However, amongst my colleagues and within my social circle (compromised of Latin Americans) I probably am one of the only individuals that does not hire someone to do any of the above mentioned chores. Many people seem surprised that I don’t hired anyone, and at first I found it surprising that almost everyone hired someone to do their household chores, but not anymore since it is so common. Many latin americans, both males and females, find it surprising that I know how to do laundry and cook for myself even. (And I think… of course I do!) Although I have been tempted to hire someone to clean my apartment since I don’t especially like to clean, I feel that it is my responsibility to clean up after myself and that I also don’t feel comfortable having a stranger in my house (especially being a gringo). I do find it interesting though the comparison of being in Latin America and hearing from many of my colleagues around the same age (30) that they don’t even know how to cook, and that they don’t do chores! (although i assume they could sweep and wash dishes if they had to). Maybe it’s because i grew up in a working class rural home, and now in Latin America, most of my colleagues went to some of the better universities here, and their families have money. Perhaps if I had grown up in a rich family in the States I would be accustomed to having hired help, but thats not the case…. Just some interesting comparisons I thought of after reading this post! Thanks Sam

    1. “I feel that it is my responsibility to clean up” – I feel the same way as an adult. As a kid, I was spoiled and had someone clean up after me. But it is interesting, that having help growing up didn’t lead me to want to hire people to do my chores as an adult. Which makes me believe there is a Money Gene or Frugal Gene in people. AH HA! I’ve come to a new realization from this post that I had never thought of before.

      The wealthy overseas, whether in Asia or Latin America all have helpers do everything for them. Help is inexpensive, even in an expensive place like Hong Kong. One live-in helper who will cook, clean, get groceries, drive, etc is anywhere from $600 – $1,000 a month.

  14. Sam, did you recently get married? I haven’t seen you mention a wife before. If so, congratulations!

  15. Just cannot agree with this.

    My wife and I both work. We earn 240K to 280K depending on bonus and what not. Both engineers. 3 kids under 5.
    We have a cleaner. I generally agree with Sam…even controversial ones such as the 1/10th car rule but for two busy parents to waste precious time that SHOULD go to their kids, scrubbing toilets is CRIMINAL unless they cannot afford to have a cleaner.

    We do save 25%. We do not waste money on crap. But time is not crap. Time is precious and we do not have enough of it.
    Sam…I love your blog…but I would consider that you be wary of crossing the “frugal” line with “cheap”.
    Another way to look at this is an old saying called “penny wise and pound foolish”.
    Cleaning bathrooms when you should be taking care of family is a great way to sleepwalk into a divorce….which will cost your family many, many multiples of pain and money compared to the “joy and money” of cleaning the toilet yourself.

    1. Did you miss this paragraph from the post,

      “So who gets a green pass for using cleaners? Busy parents, incredibly messy people, folks who live in mega mansions, elderly and the disabled come to mind. But for the rest of us, hiring a cleaner seems like a waste of money.”

      Your situation is very different from a single early 30s person with 500 sqft to her name.

      But more importantly, this post is not about cleaning. The post is about whether folks who are wealthy have this frugal gene, DIY attitude, that gets them there. Cleaning your own toilet is “criminal”? Really?

      $240-$280K in household income is fine. What is your household net worth at what age/work experience? Thx

    2. … an old saying called “penny wise and pound foolish”

      Thats interesting. And then theres another old saying called “learn to walk before you run”.

      In my experience and observation, people who have little motivation for saving in these areas of small expenses will also apply the same lack of motivation to large expenses, like finding the most competitive mortage/remortgage, holiday flights and hotels, new car vs old, off the plan flat vs second hand flat.

      In other words I believe that “penny wise and pound foolish” is usually the fool’s justification for spending pennies and spending pounds.

  16. I am not quite sure from my personal experience whether frugality is a learned or a genetic trait. I grew up in Russia, with my mom, my dad and my brother living in one small room, my grandma and my two aunts living in another, and my grandfather who was divorced from my grandmother living in the third room. All shared one bathroom (toilet and bathtub are generally two separate rooms, so that’s helpful!). Everyone cleaned and pulled their weight in helping.

    Although we lived in a tiny ass apartment in Saint Petersburg, we also had several summer residences to get away to. All basically plots of land with shacks on them, no plumbing and an outhouse. We learned how to garden, how to fix things up around the house, because you basically couldn’t rely on a third party service in Russia (things may have changed, I visit there once in a while, but it’s hard to tell without actually living there).

    Fast forward to about 13 years ago, when my parents moved us to the US to chase the American dream. We still had a frugal leaving thing down (we lived in a studio apartment, though my dad is a software engineer and made pretty good money, I got as many scholarships as I could to go through college, etc). But something happened when I graduated college and got my first job. All frugality went out the window. It’s not like I hired cleaners, but I didn’t know how to save all of a sudden either. I would always go on trips, would go out to concerts, bars, restaurants. It was insane that I have no savings to show from age 20 to age 25.

    I didn’t really start saving again till about 3 years ago. I am 28 now, my savings rate is at about 34% in my after tax salary. (I live in SF, and my after tax salary is ~$59,000). After reading your blog and numerous other financial blogs/savings blogs I am back to my frugal beginnings. Not as frugal as I can be, because my husband is not a 100% on board with a minimalist life style, but a nice compromise.

    1. At least you had a ton of fun spending your money from ages 20-25 right? Lots of people don’t realize the importance of savings until way later than age 25 when you started. So count yourself lucky!

      Nice job saving 34% in SF! It helps to have a spouse indeed.

  17. You have to draw a line between being frugal and being cheap.
    We have a cleaning person come 2x a month, which is the best thing ever.
    Once we did this the number of arguments in the family dropped by 75%. We never argued much, but most of the issues were around cleaning – both of us hated it.

    $200/month clearly provides a lot of value for us.
    Looking at it another way – I would take us 2-4 hours to clean the houses ourselves. So, on the low end $200/(2 hours * 2 cleanings * 2 people).. = $25/hour. With this it was never as clean as with a professional cleaning crew.
    Our time is MUCH more valuable then $25/hour.

    There is no reason to do any of these low-cost-labor activities, unless you like to do them.

  18. I’ve been frugal since birth. No one in my family is as frugal as me. The best example is when my mom would give me $20 to spend on cheap Christmas presents from this Santa thing at school. I spent $12 and pocketed the $8 thinking I did a good job buying presents for everyone. Apparently I was supposed to spend it all! lol.

  19. Pingback: It's OK To Love Money | Financial Samurai

  20. This is my first comment on the blog though I have been reading for a few months now.

    I am not sure about the frugal Gene as I don’t consider myself very frugal.

    In regards to the cleaning service. We use the service twice a month. I cleaned for many years and started hiring when I was pregnant and have been doing it since then.
    With both of us working full time and taking care of our son outsourcing cleaning makes a lot of sense.

    I plan to continue to use a cleaning service when my son is grown up and I retire early also as I hate cleaning bathrooms. Why retire from a job I like to do something I hate.

    On the other hand many of our friends outsource cooking or eat out many days in the week and that is something we would never do. I love cooking and enjoy it.

  21. My stance when I get a place is to focus my efforts on having an easy to clean home and not cluttering it up in the first place. Easier to clean if there is less to clean!

  22. When my wife was pregnant the first time (we now have 2 kids) her sisters gifted us a cleaning service for several months before/after our baby was born. Well, of course we got used to this and we have now continued the service for 8 years. They clean twice a month and it forces us to straighten things up in our 2100 sq ft. 3/3 home prior to their arrival. I feel guilty that we use the service since I was raised in a home where my mom stayed home and we pretty much employed the DIY strategy for everything. I rationalize it since my wife and I both work FT and we are very busy with the kids. I hope to cancel the service at a point when the kids are old enough to really contribute.

    I save in other ways like giving the kids hair cuts, cooking more, being smart when making purchases, limiting expensive vacations, etc.

  23. I’m with you, Sam. Why waste money on something you can do for yourself? I don’t hate cleaning (especially with some tunes and a beer as Chris said), but I won’t go as far as you do to say that it is cathartic. That being said, we have 3 kids 2 years and under, so I certainly understand the argument of spending your time in more rewarding ways. I just clean after we put the kids to bed, so I get the best of both worlds.

    I have only paid for cleaning twice: 1) For a deep clean when we purchased our musty foreclosed home 2) When I landed a Groupon for 1/2 price eco cleaning for 2 hours.

    I voted that being frugal can be learned, with the caveat that consistently acting on your knowledge is the key. Those with frugality wired into their DNA are likely more successful. Although, if it was raining money in our house, I would likely give into my wife’s request to hire out for cleaners.

  24. I agree it is unfair being genetically frugal, those who do – do prosper better than those who don’t. I am not genetically frugal, thus I try very hard to be frugal! Having kids helped alot, only because I need to take care of them. If I am alone with no kids, I don’t think I am motivated to save that much and would instead not only hire housekeeper, but also a gardener, cook etc…whatever money can buy!!!!

  25. I do my own cleaning. I don’t want some stranger wearing shoes in my house and using chemicals. Only vinegar and the like for me. Oh and perfume…if the cleaning lady wore anything scented, even clothes wahed and dryed with scented products bugs me. The scent lingers.

    The only cleaning I pay for is to go to a car wash. It’s better for the environment to have the water collected and specially treated instead of it going into a stream.

  26. Hi Sam,
    We clean our own place. Well, the wifey cleans and I’m the chef. Cleaning is a relaxing activity and we prefer not to pay someone else for it. I rather be home doing chores than spend extra time at work to pay someone else to do it for me. Great article.

  27. Hi Sam!

    My ex-flatmate and I had several different habits in this area and it always amused me to hear him complain that it was impossible for him to save money:

    – I cleaned myself. He hired a cleaner (at around £100 pounds every three weeks)
    – I drank tap water. He bought bottled.
    – I polished my shoes and retailored shirts/suits. He bought new shoes, shirts and suits.
    – I refurbished/maintained my 5 yr old laptop. He bought a new laptop every year.
    – I found free entertainment on the net. He paid for subscriptions.
    – I bought enough groceries during the week. He overbought and threw out what was spoilt.

    The list really goes on. People think that the only road to wealth is making more money, but the truth is there are so many different avenues through saving.

    I would recommend that you try home cooking more often. You can really build up a skill here and you get to control what ingredients are used, ensuring freshness and health, as well as saving a lot. I used to eat out all the time, but it really adds up – two meals out = one weeks groceries.

    1. Howdy Tuna,

      Very interesting dichotomy!

      One of the bad things about San Francisco is that the plethora of new startups is making everyone lazy. You do not ever have to leave the house to do ANYTHING anymore. There’s an app for that.

      As a frugal person, I’ve sometimes wondered like some other commenter: wouldn’t it be nice if we only had to eat once a day?

      Ever think this way?

      1. Well, I actually disagree because I really enjoy food and the time I spend with friends and family at meals, but each to their own I guess!

        I actually wish I didn’t need to sleep! Imagine how much longer our lives would be!

  28. I’m married with 2 small kids living in an almost 4000 sq ft home. My husband works long hours and I work 30 hrs a week. Honestly I don’t mind cleaning it’s just that I’d rather spend the time with my family, cooking, or exercising when the kids are asleep. We have a cleaner come to our house 1x/week for 2 hrs ($50/week). It’s sort of a hybrid arrangement where she doesn’t clean the whole house each time but just the high traffic areas. I do the tidying, organizing, and cleaning things that don’t require weekly cleaning. I also do the laundry and cook all of our meals.

    I grew up in a household where there was no housecleaner, and like you, took pride in doing the cleaning myself when I had my own home as a single person/DINK. We didn’t hire a cleaner until our kids came along and that’s because I couldn’t stand cleaning while my husband watched the kids. I wanted to play with them too! When kids come into the picture you are suddenly doing far more tidying and organizing that you wouldn’t normally do had you not had kids. My husband hates cleaning and simply won’t do it. It’s been a source of contention so this arrangement has brought us peace. Fortunately he’s not a slob.

    I will admit though that at some point in the near future I want our kids to start helping with cleaning. They need to learn responsibility for not only their own messes but for the general household. That’s why I think the hybrid cleaning arrangement works well. Some of the cleaning is still done by us but we still have time for other things.

    1. Nice family and big house! Having a cleaner sounds totally worth it for you guys, especially if the cleaner can create a happier marriage.

      Some commenters have discussed resentment with roommates for not cleaning. And if a cleaner can just do it all, and both just split the bill, that’s another win as well.

      I’m curious, would you still hire a cleaner if you lived in a 1,000 sqft apartment to clean your half as a single person with no kids? Do you think some people are just born to be more frugal than others?

      1. No, I wouldn’t and I didn’t. I cleaned on my own time back then, I wasn’t as constrained as I am today. I would still clean if we didn’t have kids and this big house.

        Frugality is not a born trait, it’s learned during your upbringing. Generally people who are frugal don’t care what others think of them and their frugality.

  29. Sam – although you were being a bit of a douche with your renter, you are on the right side of the law and she is asking for a favor beyond the lease. The entire exchange could have been more reasonable from both sides, but I’m guessing your direct nature is hard to subdue (I find myself in the same boat sometimes). Yes I’m judging, and I don’t really care.
    As to frugality being genetic, thats absolute nonsense. It’s basically something you learn or don’t learn growing up, usually from your parents, but perhaps also from people who influence your life.
    I value my free time more than anything, I believe enjoying it makes me an overall more productive, enterprising, profitable, nicer, relaxed person. The less time I spend on mundane and brainless tasks, the more energy I have to use on useful tasks and the more I can just enjoy life, people and the world around me. Being frugal (cheap) about every single thing can be a real disadvantage (penny wise, pound foolish). Take a look at most people you know you are truly rich (at least 8 or 9 or more figures) and try to find out if they got rich or are getting richer scrubbing toilets all Sunday morning. I hire a cleaner twice a month to take care of all cleaning and laundry, hence saving about 10 hours of work a month. With 2 children under 3, work, staying healthy and enjoying life, its a dirt cheap expense in my view, specially for those with high income. Plus you are providing employment to someone who needs this job to provide for their family or to go to college or start a business later on their life. It’s impossible to judge how much hiring a cleaning person is worth to any one person. Some might be physically weak, disabled, chronically tired and yes someone might be just plain spoiled lazy and entitled. As for trust, you have to be able to place your trust in anyone you employ for any service. I would trust my cleaner with my children, she is as honest as they come. As for invading your space, thats easy – just have the cleaner come in when you are not home.

    1. In a business arrangement, it’s important to have things in writing and question additional demands. Do not let people walk all over you. May I ask how long you’ve been a landlord and whether you’ve encountered some debatable exchanges?

      I hope folks don’t have to spend all Sunday morning scrubbing a toilet. It only takes me three minutes max.

      1. Thanks for schooling me on how to get a business arrangement right.
        And yes you are right, I let people walk all over me all the time, its obvious from my post.
        I have never been a landlord, but I suspect you knew that already. In fact I’ve never owned property, it is generally an illiquid investment fraught with headaches and I’ve made much much more money and higher returns for over a decade in liquid instruments. I am sure you disagree.

        Everyone’s standard for a clean toilet or apartment is different, so if you are happy with 3 minutes, good for you. Of course I think you have more than 1 toilet, bathtubs, tiles, rugs, plenty of furniture, a kitchen – add all that up and it takes far more than 3 minutes to do it properly. Add linens, laundry, etc. it starts to take over your entire Sunday morning.

  30. I roomed in a house once where the owner paid for a cleaning service (3 of us lived there, owner and 2 housemates); I remember feeling awkward when the cleaners were around, partly because I didn’t like the thought that they would be cleaning up my mess. On the other hand, I wasn’t about to take on full house cleaning duties in a 4600 sq ft house, though I still cleaned my bathroom and bedroom. I dislike cleaning, but I like clean spaces, so I look after it myself now that I have my own townhome (1 person, 1000 sq. ft is more doable). I would only hire a cleaning service if I were looking to sell the place and wanted a full scrub down in advance.

    To your point on frugality and wealth accumulation, that one’s harder. People can be frugal and not get ahead (if they leave money hiding under their mattress), or take a risk and reap a huge reward. Neither of my parents were fiscally responsible, yet I am very disciplined in regards to my saving and spending habits. It might be because they pushed me to work hard and plan ahead, but it might also be something about my nature. Skills can be taught, but living by those rules is another matter entirely (I think of your posts about how hard it is to live on ‘___’ salary per year; some of the underlying assumptions about reasonable costs like housing/vacation, etc don’t totally fit with notions of frugality).

  31. I recognize that this doesn’t jive with your narative.. But, when I was growing up (not me now) we had three full time staff members and one or two part time. Is that asinine, yes. But, it was it was. Try raising 5 Kids; Sam. Your perspective will go from occupy wall street to tea party in no time. Perhaps Berkley to Ole Miss is a better metaphor.

    1. Would love to read a guest post about growing up in a household with three full time staff members and another 1 or two part time! I’m most curious to understand how the transition to college and presumably living in just a dorm and graduating to make provide for yourself went. Would make a fascinating read!

  32. I was not raised frugally. I make $350k and have a very small net worth of only $5M because I spend it all. I also use maids to clean my place.

    Now I am 40 and feeling like I need to get on the stick. Frugality is probably the best path but you live and learn and can’t go backward. I could have been retired by now if I was smarter.

    Even though I am going to try to be more frugal going forward I am still going to have a maid. I will probably get rid of the bentley tho and expensive dates.

    1. I would argue that $5m is not a small net worth. Probably puts you in the top 3%.

      Some people don’t have to be frugal but do so anyway and focus their lives on non material things. Some people have a ton of $ and like to spend it. That is fine as well. Once you get to a certain point, it is a judgement call.

      Frugality worked for me. When I was 28 I had a net worth of -25000. I am now 49 and have a net worth of $1.9m. I consider that to be a solid net worth. Until 09, I really didn’t make serious bucks. I always looked for the bargain, used coupons and tried to be somewhat mindful.

      However, I don’t take it to an exteme. I see stories about people living on 10K a year and my first thought is that sounds like an awful way to live. Then again, if it works for them, fine. It wouldn’t work for me. My weakness is that I like an expensive car. I am working on that!

  33. Well it’s not a straightforward answer.

    Some people get to becoming wealthy by being frugal and investing (think of gym coaches, janitors in the papers/news).

    Then there are the wealthy who do it with large incomes (doctor, lawyer, engineer, consulting, banker etc). In this class they make a lot and usually have some extra bit lying around; which after awhile accumulates to sizeable amounts.

    Now I know wealthy and poor frugal folks. But the wealthy seem to share a common trait – they love money. Me for instance I consistently and have for the last 5 years saved 80-95% of my income depending the year. That takes me consiencly thinking about my frugality to accomplish and great discipline. But lets take a step back, why do I do this? Is it because I think things offer no value so I don’t purchase the object/service? No, it’s because I just love the money and to me it’s if I spend $1. I’m really spending $1e^nrt. So then for each dollar I see really spending future money I could have had and it’s hard for me to justify spending something I love so much and watching it grow for something I won’t want later?

    But I have a large advantage over say the gym teacher, because my salary allows me to save tremendously more which in turn equates to a larger percentage saved.

    So there is an advantage mathematically but not every frugal person is rich so they squander the time value of money and thus hurt themselves.

    As for how it is learned/taught. I think you learn from your parents, they teach you to be frugal on one extreme or on the other so bad with their money that the waste makes you sick. Mine were both engineers and squandered their money and it made me extreme on optimizing every 1 to maximize my wealth so now I have trouble spending another that can’t make me money at a future date. My co worker often talk about how we wish we didn’t need to eat to increase savings but we’ve taken savings to an insane level that will make you very wealthy very quickly… But you won’t necessarily be balling it up (though you will have the money to).

    As for the cleaner I don’t need a cleaner, I have hands and my job will only pay me to work 40 hours of week so to “increase” my salary I do the cleaning my self and hire very few people whenever I can do the work myself. Now, if they paid me for 80-100+ a week hours I’d work those extra hours and then hire a maid as my opportunity cost at that point of working less to do that work wouldn’t make financial sense. It’s all just a mathematical equation on maximizing profits (I live my life like a business. My income is my revenue, and if I spend less I maximize profits).

    Hopefully my insite was somewhat helpful as I tried to analyze and somewhat answer your question.

    1. Jon,

      I enjoyed reading your insight. You DEFINITELY have the frugal gene. And, I’m glad you admit you love money! Folks seem to thinking that loving money is bad. Why is it more bad than loving to eat good food?

      So isn’t it logical to conclude that if you love something, you will do everything in your power to get it, and get as much of it as possible?

      And if there is a frugal gene, then those who have it probably are much better savers naturally than those who don’t.

      When you say “increase your salary” by cleaning yourself, you are EXACTLY RIGHT given you are on a fixed pay. If you are an entrepreneur, or freelancer w/ a variable salary, that is a different story.


  34. It’s hard to say if frugality is genetic or learned. There are some people who seem to learn it, but there are some people–otherwise smart people–who don’t seem to be capable of learning it. If there is a frugality gene, I definitely have it. I don’t hire a housecleaner or a gardener, I clean myself and I chainsaw my plants back to normal about once or twice a year. I dye my hair myself ($4 a pop) and I even found a company that sells the Brazilian Blowout-type stuff online for cheap, so I can do that for myself for around $15-20 instead of paying $200-ish for a pro to do it. I get my hair cut once a year, if that, and purposely have it cut shorter than I like so it’s a reasonable length in the middle stages. I’m really sensitive to recurring costs, because while $75 for a housecleaner once doesn’t sound like a big deal, if you multiply it times 24 for a bi-monthly cleaning, that adds up to $1,800 in one year! I don’t understand the people who hire housecleaners and gardeners, get regular haircuts/dyes/treatments, and get their nails done. All told, that’s at least $5,000 per year! My used Suzuki Hayabusa cost less than that, and I’ve had it for 5 years already.

    As for the nature/nurture question, my mom is also pretty frugal (less so now as she’s accumulated quite a lot of money and is near retirement age), and she’s a CPA/MBA, so I probably learned a lot from her while growing up. Mom’s parents were REALLY frugal, as children of the Great Depression. My grandma had a $3 million home in Laguna Beach and she had her washing machine plumbed so it would drain into a sink, so she could hand-wash delicates in the leftover soapy water instead of filling the sink and wasting more water. Before you balk at the price of her house, she and my grandpa bought the lot in the late 60s for around $60,000, and he built the house himself.

    But if frugality is genetic, I wonder why many of my mom’s siblings didn’t get the gene. Of 9 kids, I would say 5 got the gene and 4 didn’t.

  35. Mysticaltyger

    I do think being frugal is mostly learned, but I do believe there is a genetic component to it. Most personal finance blogs are written by engineers/computer programmers. Most are introverts. Many early retirees are the INTJ, INTP, or ISTJ personality types. When you see the same type of people coming by frugality naturally, you have to think there’s a genetic component. Having a certain personality type is no guarantee, but does give you a leg up.

    1. Very insightful comment! Are you saying PF bloggers are NOT some of the sexiest people on Earth??

      If the desire for money, or the desire to save as much as possible is inherent, NO WONDER some people find not being able to save more than you earn absolutely ridiculous. No wonder some people find it easy to save 25% or more every year. No wonder why some people become so much more wealthy than others.

      I wonder how many people believe in genetic attributes that makes someone tic towards something more than others.

      Do you think I’m an introvert with one of those alphabet personalities?

  36. Couldn’t agree more with the therapeutic benefits of cleaning. Having just had our second child, I can see how some parents would hire a cleaner to help, but I actually look forward to that one hour I can spend in the zone cleaning away, away from the chaos, and seeing some instant rewards for my efforts!

    But for me it’s not about being frugal, its just comparing what I value and enjoy with the alternative cost. If I didn’t get that satisfaction from cleaning, I probably would want to pay someone to do it!

  37. +1 to sharing the wealth.
    I learned this lesson while in law school. Back in the 90’s I clerked part time to earn $25.00 an hour and gain valuable resume building experience. I hired a housekeeper at $10.00 an hour to clean my home. This gave me time to study, time to work, and Voila! A win-win for both of us and I was hooked.
    Today I work out of my 3400 square foot paid off home a few days a week in a large, home office. I run a small, private lucrative real estate investment company and work a few days a week. I actually feel on track savings wise, and am happy with my net worth’s upward trend.
    I found my housekeeper by running an ad in a Spanish newspaper and interviewing several applicants. I used the few words of Spanish I picked up in various classes over the years to communicate. I admire and respect my housekeeper, and am grateful to be able to support her and her family. She works HARD one day a week, every week, nonstop for almost 7 hours. She cleans windows, patios, porches, does laundry, etc. WOW! I and / or my assistant are home while she works. But I trust her completely, and to be honest, I don’t have anything that worthy of stealing in my home anyway.
    I love a having clean home every week, and the $85.00 I pay her is worth every penny. (I gave her a raise from $75 to $85 on her first anniversary.)
    I have several other activities I am passionate about. I have time to work out, time to serve on the board of a local nonprofit, etc. I find lots of things to do instead of cleaning.
    Every now and then I feel guilty! How can I have it so good? Well, this lifestyle did not just fall in my lap. I suppose it is earned. But that is a story for another day.

    1. Trust. Something I find to be the most important, but hard to earn. People need to earn their trust, and that’s hard if I don’t even know them.

      This is the disconnect I’m realizing. From my tenant’s POV view.. she trusts her cleaner, and finds it rude that I would ever question her cleaner. From my POV, how the heck am I supposed to trust someone I don’t know? At least with a tenant, I have a contract and contingencies and insurance in place in case something goes wrong.

      I hope people can spend time UNDERSTANDING the other side of equation before going off. You don’t have to write a 1,600 word post and write 3,000 words of comments like I’m doing to assess the situation. But spend time thinking about the other POV.

  38. Most of my life, I’ve cleaned my own place. It was quick and painless, with 2 exceptions.

    When I shared a 2 BR / 1BA place with a roommate we agreed to have a cleaner once a month and split the cost, mainly to clean the bathroom.

    Now that I have a toddler roaming the house, neither of us have much time to clean, and we’d much rather spend our time with our son than cleaning. We may get a cleaner for a few years until the child care load stabilizes. But we definitely want our children to grow up doing chores around the house, including cleaning, both to know how to do it, and to learn about how family members all contribute to the ongoing health and happiness of the family.

  39. Yes, it is true that frugality can be genetically passed on. The following anecdote illustrates, thusly.

    An Arab Sheik was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital for heart surgery, but prior to the surgery, the doctors needed to store his blood in case the need arose. As the gentleman had a rare type of blood, it couldn’t be found locally, so, the call went out to all the states. Finally a Scot was located who had a similar blood type. The Scot willingly donated his blood for the Arab. After the surgery, the Arab sent the Scotsman as appreciation for giving his blood, a new BMW, diamonds and US dollars.

    A couple of days later, once again, the Arab had to go through a corrective surgery. His doctor telephoned the Scotsman who was more than happy to donate his blood again. After the second surgery, the Arab sent the Scotsman a thank-you card & a jar of candies. The Scotsman was shocked that the Arab this time did not reciprocate his kind gesture as he had anticipated. He phoned the Arab and asked him: “I thought you would be generous again, that you would give me a BMW, diamonds & money… But you only gave me a thank-you card and a jar of candies”. To this the Arab replied: “Aye, but I now have Scottish blood in my veins”.

  40. Let’s be honest. People who use cleaners to clean their homes are indeed lazy if they have time to do it themselves!

    So much whining from those who do use cleaners. America is a shit show because people are so soft. All these stupid startups making it so you never have to leave your house. This bubble is going to end in tears. But, at least you’ll have someone come over and do your laundry!

  41. Having been both on the renter and owner side of the road, I find your reaction to the tenant’s request way over the top.

    You’re replied in a judgmental way to a request that is, in general, fairly reasonable from a renter’s perspective: getting a 3rd set of the keys.
    It’s not the renter’s problem that you (or the building owners) decided to go with some very fancy keys that are super tough to reproduce, it’s your problem. Maybe she didn’t even think about it. So, it is likely that she sounded “demanding”, but it is also very likely that she didn’t think it would be that big a deal.

    As a result, your reaction is pretty much worse than her initial demand. Did you seriously tell her how to handle her chores? Talk about some patronizing tone here…

    Renters don’t think about that kind of issue, because they haven’t been on the other side of the fence yet. As such, you should show some understanding, it does not come naturally to someone that making a copy of your keys is a huge task, so you shouldn’t assume they know. It’s equivalent to blaming a kid for not knowing how to drive a car.

    For what it’s worth, every single apartment bigger than a studio I’ve ever been into, as an owner or a renter, *always* had 3 sets of keys for the tenants. As a tenant, I’d be assuming the 3rd set already exists somewhere, and I just need to ask my landlord to give it to me.

    1. Thanks for the admonishment and judgement.

      I didn’t realize it was “way over the top” to suggest she meet the cleaners before she went to work, coordinate with her roommate, and perhaps tidy up more herself if she has to wait an extra day, or two, God forbid for the cleaners to come.

      I guess I should have been more fair to myself and published her email demands.

      Never assume. Read the contract. If you assume, that is how you get in trouble and think you deserve X when there is no X to be found. The lease is two keys.

      Also, given you are very opposed to my response and interested in the laws of keys in San Francisco, feel free to research what the law is for giving an extra set of keys and let me know.

      I have spent the time to make her a copy. I’m now waiting for her to sign the addendum. She was so in a rush to get the keys before, now that she’s read the addendum highlighting the responsibility of what happens if she loses the key, and if a third party causes trouble, suddenly she is in no longer a rush to sign.

      But beyond judging me for my suggestions to my tenant, what are your thoughts on the thesis of this post? Is it possible to focus on the bigger picture here? I need to figure out a better way to write to get to the point.

      Do you clean yourself? Do you think some are just born more frugal? Where are you a landlord now? And if you aren’t one, what happened? Did you never have any conflicts with tenants?


    2. It IS the renter’s problem, because the renter signed the contract and is paying rent. If the renter is being difficult, guess what happens? Rent goes up or they get asked to leave.

      How entitled can you actually be?

      Are you the person who defends bad behavior because they didn’t know better? Attitudes like yours are what’s wrong with this country! Your inability to see the forrest from the trees is seriously frightening.

  42. Frugality is a double-edged sword when it comes to wealth creation. It an also be correlated with a lack of materialism, and unfortunately, materialism is a great driver of revenue generation. People who are frugal may stick with a reasonably paying job, rather than jumping around and increasing income, or starting a business.

    1. True that. Here’s an example of many folks I’ve met in rent-controlled SF:

      A renter stays in his rental property because it’s so inexpensive (Below market). 20 years later, they are still paying below market, but they are still living in the same place, and the property market has priced them out.

  43. When I was living with a messy person, with the entourage of dog, fish, rabbit, duckling, chick, mine! mine! my!! … Poop and hair were everywhere. I’m a messy person, but messy doesn’t translate to dirty, I couldn’t keep up with the filth, so I hire somebody to clean. When the relationship was over, the house is clean again. Still a little messy, but clean! *phew!* I can relax in my own house again.

    My time spend working overtime or spend overtime hours cleaning up the house. And after you clean the house, and 1-2 days later, it’s back to where it was, or even worse, something got to change, or someone need to change … places :)

  44. There’s a Facebook group for residents of our city, and I’ll admit, when someone posts a question looking for recommendations on house cleaning services, my first thought is to snarkily respond “Yeah, I know someone. Do it yourself”.

    But really you never know the circumstances.

    Maybe someone works 60-80 hours per week and would rather spend their remaining time with their family.

    Maybe they are physically unable to take care of it themselves.

    Maybe they are older and see that their attention to detail isn’t there.

    When I take a breath and think about it, I avoid my snarky answer, because in the end, it’s really up to each person to make that decision. And, I also remember that if I were to judge that person, they might judge me for something that I choose not to do that they may see as a ‘do it yourself’.

    1. Hah! That’s funny.

      I’ve been taking some body blows from some folks who use cleaners even though I’ve written,

      “So who gets a green pass for using cleaners? Busy parents, incredibly messy people, folks who live in mega mansions, elderly and the disabled come to mind. But for the rest of us, hiring a cleaner seems like a waste of money.”

      We get very defensive or angry if someone else judges us for something we do, especially those things we do ourselves.

      So to all those who are angry, don’t worry! I don’t care how you spend your money. I’ve used the cleaning exchange w/ my tenant as an example of trying to see if there is a genetic predisposition for some people to be prodigious wealth accumulators or not!

  45. I don’t consider myself to be frugal, but I’m definitely not one to throw money around either. I quit my corporate job last year and decided to take some time to travel while I’m still a young 51! I thought I would really buckle down and watch expenses like a hawk, but it’s just not my style. I hate to clean but I love a clean house. I don’t use a service, I employ a person. My housekeeper is someone I’ve come to know, and enjoy. I’ve met her kids and been to her house when she needed someone to help her with a computer thing the kids were trying to do. She is honest and hardworking. And it honestly makes me feel good to not only come home to a sparkling clean house but know that I’ve given someone a half a day’s honest work for an honest pay. Share the wealth!

    1. That’s the best way, employing someone you know well and like. One of the reasons why Homejoy didn’t make it. The people were very ephemeral.

      I hope to only hire folks who I like and do a good job. I hired a friend to refinish my floors and stuff, which worked out OK. He made a profit, and it felt good my money went to a friend.

  46. Hi!

    I agree with 99% of this post, except for one part. I think that it is a little fucked up to assume that just because someone doesn’t earn a lot of money for a living that the temptation to steal from other people is greater. I made well under $25k for most of my adult life, and doing something like that would never have crossed my mind. There are honest people out there just trying to make a living and overcome their financial shortcomings, and to make the assumption that because they earn less that the potential for them to be dishonest is greater, is not only well off base, but incredibly rude.

    1. Hi Kara,

      You make an excellent point. Thank you for sharing, and I’m sorry that my paragraph came across as rude.

      I remember growing up and having a much higher temptation to steal stuff b/c I had no money. But this is just my own experience. I certainly don’t automatically think people who earn less money have a higher propensity to steal.

      I’m personally uncomfortable with anybody I don’t fully know cleaning my house and going through my stuff. And one of the fears is theft. It’s the same reason why I haven’t joined the AirBnB bandwagon to rent out rooms in my house. I’ve had bad experiences before as a younger homeowner when I did such a thing.

  47. fun in the sun

    The question really is, how much do you value your time? I don’t see hiring a service in the same vein of bling culture of buying depreciating assets such as cars, jewelry, etc.

    Every task you do, there is an opportunity cost on how you could otherwise spend that time (unless you really really enjoy cleaning). At $25 per hour, there are so many tasks you could be completing that add more than $25 per hour in value even if not direct cash flow.

    Many wealthy frugal people do not value their time highly enough. I am personally working on getting better at it. Work and side hustles easily earn me 3 figures an hour, but I still default to trying to save $50 per hour on a service. This is a flaw, not something to be proud of.

    If over 20 years, you spend 4 hrs a month cleaning when your time typically generates $100 per hour, where a cleaner costs $25 per hour, you have cost yourself $72,000 (not counting lost investment earnings on that money).

    1. Bryan @ Just One More Year

      We have used a cleaning service off and on over the years. Our logic has been justified the same as yours in that our time is worth more to us than the cost of employing a cleaning service. Taking that to the extreme one could say well why we don’t have our cooking, laundry, landscaping, and everything else outsourced? For us, we picked the one item we enjoyed the least.

      To carry on the extreme thoughts: Why not focus on building your wealth and outsource everything? Work 80 plus hours every week and investing heavily in your career or side hustle. I think it comes down to finding some kind of work/life balance.

      1. fun in the sun

        I have been working on outsourcing as much as possible the last couple of years.

        If you have a chore that you do not enjoy, and can outsource the job for less than half of your side hustle / day job earnings per hour, you really should outsource it. At least outsource to the point where you have too much free time, or start to feel bored.

        I think it comes down to where you are in your career cycle. In early 20’s, without skills/experience then time is plentiful. It is worth in-sourcing as much as possible. But, by mid-career cycle, there is more work than time. More money making opportunities than can be fulfilled.

        1. Yes, from a pure income optimization standpoint, I agree with you if you can make more than the cleaner. But, as I’ve written in my post, there are other things to get over/risk.

          So does the person who spends on a cleaner and optimizes their time for max money do better on a financial front, than someone who is more frugal? This is what I’m trying to figure out.

          How would you rate your savings rate/finances at your age?

  48. We use a house cleaner twice a month at $40 each visit. We find it valuable for a few reasons:

    – They do a way better job than I would.

    – 2-3 cleaners come and get the job done in one hour. Opposed to it taking me 3 hours.

    – the 3 hours I would spend on a Saturday or Sunday cleaning are better spent doing things I enjoy. This time is worth more than $40 to me.

  49. I used to do all my cleaning, but as I get older I find it more difficult to get on my hands and knees to do things like the bathtub and kitchen/bath floors, or dusting books on low shelves. So I now have a cleaning service that comes in once a month for $87 to do my 800-square foot condo. If I’m away, they get my key from the condo association office and know to return it there. They are bonded, they do a good job, and on the rare occasion of any damage they have reported it and compensated me. (Quite literally, the only thing that was ever broken in eight years was a hot-air popcorn maker, and they paid me for it.) I also each month take down and pack the 2 most valuable pieces of art I own, and shut down the computer. So on the whole, I consider this money well-spent. But I’m compulsive about straightening out, cleaning the stove and counters each night, etc., so my home is never a mess.

    On the other hand, I’m a decent cook and make many of my own meals. While I was still working, I got into the habit of making one day a week or every other week “cooking day” and preparing 2-3 dishes I could reheat without compromising flavor or texture. (Some dishes reheat well; others can only be served immediately.) Since I’d say that regularly eating out is much more expensive than a once-a-month cleaning service, I think I’m being pretty frugal.

    As for the general question about whether frugality is innate, I doubt it’s anything genetic, but who knows. I was raised to be frugal by parents who grew up in the Great Depression. Even at 90, when my father has loads of money, he will still scrutinize each restaurant check and quarrel with the server if he thinks he sees an error.

    1. Thanks for sharing Larry!

      I feel you on the achy knees actually! I just spent the past three days painting a room and touching up several window trims. I had to get on a wobbly stool and kneel to paint. So painful on my left knee, given it has a torn meniscus! Walking up and down stairs is proving a little more difficult too now, but I’ll solder on until I can’t go any longer.

      The one thing that eases my mind is the word “bonded.” As someone who doesn’t have experience hiring cleaners, and who is very sensitive about potential mishaps, learning about the insurance/bonding of 3rd party providers is very important. I don’t pay for an umbrella policy for nothing.

  50. I grew up in a humble household. I remember my single mom washing the floors after long days at work and vacuuming. She had a lot on her plate, but she never complained about cleaning – she just did it. And that made me want to help. I was tasked with things like washing dishes, doing my own laundry, and helping with other general cleanup as soon as I was old enough. Now as an adult, I still do all my own cleaning. My splurge was buying a dishwasher last year – prior to that I always washed dishes by hand.

    I’m also the type of person who loves to see the immediate rewards of cleaning from my own efforts. And I also don’t feel comfortable having someone else clean my home. I don’t love to clean, but that’s not a strong enough reason for me to pay someone else to do it for me. I just stretch out more time on the tasks I like the least like washing floors and using the big vacuum. And I keep dishes and counters clean regularly and use a handvac a lot, which is easier than the big vacuum.

    1. Love them handvacs! So gratifying to nudge the handvac in a dusty corner and suck up all that dust!

      I love how your mom never complained. She just did it. With that type of upbringing, how could you ever complain about cleaning or being too tired after a long day’s work? Our parents are so important! We kids observe and internalize everything growing up.

  51. I clean my house and cook my own food (unless I’m going out to dinner socially), so I’m hoping this will make me “wealthy” some day! If I could choose between the two, however, I’d much rather continue to cook at home and pay someone to clean my house, but neither seem necessary right now. In another life, when I was slaving at a law firm and making more money, I had a cleaning person, I regularly ate out, I had a huge dry cleaning bill, and I generally spent money on other things I didn’t need to save time. Now that I have a much better job with a slightly lower salary, I actually save more in absolute and percentage terms because I have enough time to DIY!

  52. Practical Patty

    I hire a house cleaner to come every other week. I really appreciate the convenience and I feel like I’m buying time at a discount because i earn much more an hour than what I pay her. With that time, i can do things that i enjoy more than scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. I also don’t have to buy and store cleaning supplies. I have terrible allergies and don’t have to deal with the dust. And there are no arguements about whose turn it is to clean the bathroom or if it has been cleaned well enough – nothing wrong with buying a little harmony in an area where you easily can.

    I had some of the same concerns that you mentioned before i hired my house cleaner, so i did a lot of research ahead of time. #1 – i picked a cleaning company that was bonded. If anything is broken, they have insurance to cover it. In the ~10 years, that I’ve had my house cleaned, only 1 thing has been broken and it was promptly reimbursed. #2 – i asked a lot of questions about the security of my keys and personal information. The company i use described their procedures for keeping all of the keys secure and separated from my address and security alarm information. They also assigned a consistent crew so i only had the same 1 or 2 people i trusted every time. #3 – I wanted only natural cleaning products to avoid bringing too many chemicals into my home and also for the safety of the cleaning professionals, who have to work with the products all day and all week long. #4 – i am willing to pay a little more for a company that supports minority women and pays them a living wage.

    I also hire a gardener to do some basic maintenance so that we can concentrate on the fun parts of gardening

    1. Thanks for sharing Patty!

      The research you’ve done is MUSIC to my ears as a landlord because it shows thoughtfulness. It’s not a “give me an extra set of keys because it’s inconvenient to only have one” statement.

      You’re the third commenter to mention hiring cleaners as a way to support a particular group of folks. I’ve never thought about it this way before this post, and I will now. A good way to look at helping other people! Thanks

  53. i hire cleaners for a few reasons. Both my husband and I work, we have 2 kids under 4 and no help with childcare on the weekend. It will take me 4 hours to clean the entire house (2000 sqft, 4 be and 3 bath). I would rather spend that time with my kids whom I only spend 2-3 h with during weekdays. Also, my cleaner can clean much more thoroughly than if I were to do it myself. My cleaners have done this for many years, it is their livelihood and they have long-term customers, I doubt they want to steal. Plus we don’t have much valuables at home. The priciest thing is our laptops. I trade offs not cleaning with bringing lunch to work everyday, never pay full price for clothing/shoes and buy my kids used toys.

  54. I’m like you, I don’t quite understand people that hire a house cleaner. Between work, looking after a toddler, and other things, life can get pretty busy. Even with our busy schedule, we manage to find time to clean our house. When you have two people working together, it really doesn’t take that long to clean the place.

    1. Unless you have a mega mansion! :)

      I love cleaning with the wife. I also like taking turns taking out the garbage and cleaning the kitchen. But I understand some people don’t, and that’s there prerogative.

      I just wonder whether we are just born DIY-selfers or frugal folks, and whether that leads to greater wealth than average.

  55. Great post, and I find myself thinking across the same lines all the time.

    I was recently having lunch with a few family members (not my parents or siblings) and my fiance. These family members happen to be fairly well-off (though not rich) and hire a cleaner for their house which costs $100 per week. My fiance wanted to hire a cleaner to clean our apartment before our wedding, since the photographer will be there to take pictures. My family members thought this was a great idea.

    When I responded that I would clean the apartment prior to our wedding day myself instead of getting a cleaner, it was as if I made a statement that I was opposed to animal rights, or something crazy like that. They could not grasp why I wouldn’t pay for someone to clean my apartment. “It’s not that much money, maybe $50 for your apartment” I heard.

    I replied, “I don’t care if it would only cost $1. I just can’t pay for something when I have the knowledge, time, and ability to do it myself.” Their reactions made me realize that perhaps I am the outlier.

    This mindset has made me change the oil in my car, repair things around the house myself, learn to cook, do my own landscaping, etc. It’s not as if doing these tasks takes time away from my earning potential, as a salaried W2 employee. I’ll clean my apartment on Saturday morning during my free time. I have never really had the chops to start a side-biz (at least not yet) since I value my time off work to turn-off mentally.

    YouTube also makes it possible to DIY for things you couldn’t in the past. It is such an amazing resource to learn things.

    1. Paul, I think you, sir, have the FRUGAL GENE!

      Doesn’t it make sense if that if someone possesses your desire to DIY, that they would accumulate wealth faster?

      I do think if you channel your inner DIY to a side hustle, good things could happen.

      1. Sam,
        I was just coming to a similar thought, expressed a little differently. In a way, DIY is a side hustle. But rather than working on the revenue side of things, it is working on costs.

        1. I’m all for DIY, as I just recently installed the blinds, tuned up the sprinkler system, installed a garage door opener, and so on in a house we just bought. I’ll be finishing the garage later with insulation, drywall, and paint. Drywall is pretty dang easy.

          However, there is definitely a time component to certain things that just dont bear out especially if you do not enjoy them. I do enjoy tinkering and such so those things were somewhat fun. If you’re a high wage earner and working a lot your time might be better spent doing almost anything else, even nothing. You do not get the time back. I dont think most people need cleaners though unless both are working or both hate it immensely. Its not worth friction in the relationship, it doesnt matter enough. When I was a resident I kept a spotless house, cuz I was never home.

          Still havent had a cleaner, and do my own yard stuff but only the simple and safe ones. The other thing you absolute must consider is safety and personal liability. Do you really want to risk injury doing something yourself and possibly hurt yourself to where you can put your livelihood at stake (was going through my head as I used an angle grinder to clean some stuff up, so much fun though)? I tend to not think of services in these areas as being lazy, etc…but insurance and liability costs. Just as using licensed and insured people to do things on remodels protects you even if it is rather simple, and most things are.

          Its a balance, sometimes it makes sense to do it yourself, but never just to say so. Sometimes it can be incredibly foolish if youre risking your career just to see if you can do something and save what turns out to be a very small amount of money.

          Frugality is learned.

        2. DIY is definitely a side hustle. We all have our own skills/abilities. The question I posit is: if you know how to do it yourself well, and you pay for someone else to do it, is there a correlation with wealth accumulation and such action?

  56. Agree with your tenant: Your personal opinion of her desire to hire a housekeeper should be kept to yourself. I also agree with other comments that if you don’t want to make extra keys due to hassle or security purposes, then specify “no third party services” in your lease, or require that the tenant provide proof of insurance for the service before you will release extra keys.

    I’ve hired a once-monthly cleaning service before, and I’d do it again. It has nothing to do with “laziness” but rather the opportunity cost of my TIME, plus physical limitations that make cleaning (especially dusting) unhealthy for me. I’ve even utilized a lawn service & drop off laundry service when I had a toddler & infant to take care of (while working full time) and my husband was traveling a ton for work. It was an incredibly efficient setup when I could drop off laundry, head to the grocery, then get a call that the laundry was ready for pick up as I was standing in the checkout. I would come home to a mowed yard. Sometimes hiring an extra pair of hands keeps you sane.

    1. Do you think the wealthy have a frugality gene that those who aren’t wealthy do not possess?

      That’s true. So here’s the thing:

      There’s a right way to ask for something extra, and there’s a wrong way. You don’t ask someone for something extra by demanding it. It’s also important to acknowledge my concerns about liability, instead of brush them off.

      I didn’t have a spare key lying around. I had to send a $50 deposit to management, who then had to contact the key manufacturer to get it made. Then I had to drive to pick up the key. Then I had to create an addendum for the lease with info on liability, what happens if she loses the key, etc. This takes time. Additional time that I won’t be compensated for.

      If the master building key is lost, what happens? Do all condo unit owners have to get new keys? Does the lock need to be changed? Will I, or my tenant be charged for the changes? Who will coordinate the meetup? Each key needs to be individually signed for. I don’t think she understands that her ask is not as easy as me giving her a key.

      1. Well, I think common courtesy is something everyone, wealthy or not, can learn and it sounds like your tenant was not very courteous to you at all. However I wonder if her request would have been more tempered if she had known all of the steps needed to be taken to obtain a new set of keys.

        1. It probably would have been. Given I’ve clearly pointed out the repercussions of losing one of the serial number keys, and asking her to pay/replace/deal with the situation if she loses it, she’s now no longer in a rush to have the key after I spent a couple hours procuring a new one. Funny how this is.

          It’s important to ask in a courteous manner and understand both sides of the situation. I spent time understanding her why. Now she understands mine, and is now hesitant.

      2. I agree that she should not have “demanded” something as if you were beholden to her. That is not OK. I also agree w/ Marie’s thought that simply explaining the process to her would likely have prevented the situation from escalating.

        To answer your question, though, no, I do not think “frugality” is a gene. It is learned behavior. I think it has more to do with response to environment/upbringing, and either accepting or rejecting what you grew up with. It’s the same as accepting or rejecting your parents’ child-rearing methods, religious beliefs, work ethic, etc.

        1. I didn’t write my post clearly enough. There was no situation where things were escalating. After she disapproved over my suggestions, I told her I’d look into getting the key and I have. This all happened within a couple e-mail exchanges. I’m just waiting for her to agree to the repercussions of losing this specially made key for her.

  57. We clean our house, but are leaning towards hiring this out. We both don’t mind cleaning, and find it cathartic as well. It’s not laziness that is driving us to hire it out, it’s priorities. With 2 kids and us both working, we’d rather spend time as a family or other priorities than cleaning. The cost of having someone clean vs. DIY isn’t all that great. We’d rather focus our attention on the kids or other DIY home improvement projects that offer longer term enjoyment.

    Here’s a devil’s advocate thought… you should have redone the master bathroom yourself. Most of the projects that don’t require licensed professionals you could have DIYed and anything that did you should have contracted directly. Why didn’t you? Tiling? Easy. Putting up light fixtures? Easy. Installing sinks and sink fixtures? Easy. All of these things you could have done, and likely more. Were you lazy or not frugal for not doing them yourself?

    1. Why not get your kids to clean your house for you and pay them a couple bucks! :)

      The building codes in SF are strict as hell. I would not pass plumbing, electrical, and building inspection and would probably have to rip things out and do it over again.

      I’m willing to bet you that at least 90% of the people in a survey would say building your own bathroom yourself is not “easy.” Are you really comparing tiling, putting up sheetrock, mudding to mopping a floor?

      1. Kids are too young to clean, but they will definitely be put to work as soon as they are ready.

        Yes, I am comparing those things in the sense that both can be done yourself. Things that require inspections and codes you can hire out, but anyone can tile a bathroom, install a light fixture or put up sheetrock. None of those require much skill, just a lot of time.

        My point is anything can be DIYed. Just because some people chose to hire out certain task doesn’t make them lazy or not frugal, it’s prioritizing what’s more important.

        1. Tom, I hate to disagree with you here, especially because you said you posted this as a way of thinking in extremes like Sam does. But honestly, putting up sheetrock and tiling isn’t as easy as you’re making it out to be. Sure, any idiot can hold a piece of sheetrock up to the studs and screw it in, even with minimal gaps between the sheets of drywall, but have you personally tried taping and mudding and having it actually look good? Or doing a big tile job, and getting the gaps perfectly straight between each tile, and getting the lines just right within the bathroom so you don’t end up with a teeny strip of tile along the wall, or worse, an increasing wedge along one wall because the bathroom walls aren’t 100% perfectly square (and they never are, btw)?

          I am a cheap-as-all-get-out DIY-er, but I still know my limits. I have tried scraping off all the texture in a bathroom and mudding it myself, and I will never do that again. It takes me 10 times as long as the pros, and it only comes out looking half as good. Same goes with tile: that stuff is pricey, and it’s going to be there for a looooooong time. If you get the layout just a little off, you’re hosed, and it’s going to be staring you back in the face forever. That said, I’d happily change out the angle stops and install the vanity and counter top and faucet myself. But if it’s a big job and you’ve got a contractor there doing the rest of it anyway, I’d probably just have the contractor do it while he’s in there, since it will take him less time to just get it done and at a minimal additional cost.

          1. Taping and mudding and SANDING to make the wall seem perfect is THE WORST. Dusty as hell, and hard to do right. Props to those who know how to mud and sand well!

            To compare that skill to dusting, mopping, and decluttering is ridiculous.

            1. It’s extreme, I admit, but it’s certainly not ridiculous. The ROI for home improvement DIY is 10x greater than cleaning.

              To answer the questions above, YES to all. Take the time to learn how to do it and do it right and your work will be just as good as any pro and you’ll save thousands on the labor.

              If someone doesn’t want to spend time DIYing anything, whether that’s home improvement or cleaning, who are any of us to question them? My examples were just extreme to make a point. Cleaning is easy, but time consuming just like any DIY project.

  58. I just moved into a 2500 sq ft house that was left filthy by its previous owners. Being 7 months pregnant, I had a few comments from family members that thought we were crazy not to hire cleansers. My reasoning, I have the time so why not? I’ve heard horror stories of homes being damaged by house cleaning companies, and I also think no one cares more about how your house looks than you so who is to say that they would do a better job. Currently, the house looks great and the $300 we saved on deep cleaning can go back elsewhere.

  59. SavvyFinancialLatina

    My mom is a housekeeper for families. When I was younger and in school, I use to help her during my vacations. Probably why I absolutely hate cleaning. However, I wouldn’t hire a cleaning lady. I clean my house. It might not be the cleanliest all the time but it’s only the two of us without pets, so really how bad can it get? I’m very frugal, it’s just how I grew up. My hubby is getting there, but he still has the mentality of let’s hire it out. I say no, and I just go figure it out. I just installed my own drip irrigation system by myself. You can’t beat a sense of accomplishment. Now there’s things like cars, that I can’t figure so we do take cars to the mechanic. It still pains me to pay for it though.

  60. Is it just me or has the site been acting weird lately? The posts aopear out of order and sometimes the latest post doesnt show at all, but then it does. Is it just me? I did just switch phones but have had no issues with any other sites.

      1. Agreed, it used to be that anything I post would show up immediately. Now there’s often a delay.

        1. Ah, that’s a different issue: comments vs. posts. Your comments still show, it just takes time to go through a comment spam filter b/c this site gets hundreds of spams a day.. maybe thousands!

  61. Ali @ Anything You Want

    I do have someone clean my home, and it is something that I have given a lot of thought to over the years. I was raised in a very frugal home and when I was a kid my parents didn’t hire out anything – they mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, cooked the food, etc. At some point, my mom went from working part time to full time, while raising two kids and being very involved in our activities, so something just had to give. At that point my parents hired a house cleaner and they still have one to this day. Even though my dad is now retired, and my mom is soon to follow, they plan always to have a house cleaner. They can afford it, and they like it.

    Because of this experience growing up, I always associated hiring a house cleaner with reaching a certain financial standing and position in life. I thought that one day, when I was mid-career and had kids to take care of, I would hire a cleaner too. And so I cleaned my own apartment for many years, until I lived with a roommate who didn’t clean. At some point, I became very resentful of having to clean for both of us. I was also frustrated that I was spending my minimal free time cleaning. I was working full-time and enrolled in a part-time MBA program, and I supposed I felt that my time was better spent in endeavors other than cleaning. So we hired a cleaner, and now that I live with my boyfriend we still have that cleaner. We can afford it, and we like it. I wouldn’t say that we’ve “earned it” the way I felt that my parents did, which still makes me a little uncomfortable at times.

    1. Hiring a cleaner to clean for the both of you (roommates) is a good solution if one doesn’t do jack, and you split the cost!

      Do you think wealthier people are genetically more frugal though?

  62. I use a cleaning service weekly, a lawn service and also get Blue Apron delivered to my house weekly. They are all awesome and free up my time to do things I’d rather do. I make 250$ an hour as my side job, so I figure I’d rather work an hour doing that. My time is to valuable and I do not find those tasks cathartic, I find them tedious.

    1. You will love SF then! You can have Washio pickup and deliver your laundry, Luxe to park your car, and Underclub to deliver you underwear!

      But I wonder, with your $250/hour side job and your desire to pay for these services, how is your wealth accumulation going? I’m trying to ascertain if there is a correlation. Please share!

      1. We are able to invest around 30% per year, which corresponds to a six figure rate, so wealth accumulation is going well. We max out our tax advantaged accounts and put a good chunk into a taxable.

        I find the little things like cleaning, mowing, food are worth it. We have 3 kids, so time is always a valued commodity. We save on our cars, paid off Honda and Subaru. We also choose to buy a moderate sized house which is about a half years salary.

        We could save more, but a figure 30% saving will get us where we want to go, and give me time to work the side job and see the kids!

  63. I think you stepped over the line on this one. You’re right to be concerned about having duplicate keys floating around, but you should have just said “for liability reasons I can’t give you extra copies” and left it at that. Telling her she should clean more herself is absolutely none of your business and I’d be pissed too if a landlord said that to me.

    Remember that although it’s your property, it’s also her home. Just because you’re renting to her doesn’t mean you get to control every little aspect of her life or force your own values on her.

    1. That’s true. So here’s the thing:

      There’s a right way to ask for something extra, and there’s a wrong way. You don’t ask someone for something extra by demanding it. It’s also important to acknowledge my concerns about liability, instead of brush them off.

      I didn’t have a spare key lying around. I had to send a $50 deposit to management, who then had to contact the key manufacturer to get it made. Then I had to drive to pick up the key. Then I had to create an addendum for the lease with info on liability, what happens if she loses the key, etc. This takes time. Additional time that I won’t be compensated for.

      If the master building key is lost, what happens? Do all condo unit owners have to get new keys? Does the lock need to be changed? Will I, or my tenant be charged for the changes? Who will coordinate the meetup? Each key needs to be individually signed for. I don’t think she understands that her ask is not as easy as me giving her a key.

      1. I agree with Daniel. You could have just denied her request for an extra set of keys due to liability issues and/or condo association rules and left it at that, since you feel so strongly regarding third parties in your unit. It seems like you really felt the need to pass on your judgments to her to prove your point and because she didn’t ask “nicely”. Whether you personally agree with hiring professional cleaners or not is meaningless. Ultimately though, I don’t think you did prove you point because you still gave her the extra keys!

        On a side note, my father is a landlord of several buildings (and extremely frugal!) and 2x a month he hires a cleaner to clean all of the common spaces (building entrances, laundry rooms, shared bathrooms, etc). Doing so has helped him maintain his properties over the years.

        1. Actually, it’s not meaningless how I feel because I own the property, and there are condo association rules I have to follow due to liability. There is a burglary it seems at least once a year, and we are all highly sensitive about safety and security.

          What point am I trying to prove? My thesis of this post is that wealthier people are at a competitive advantage because they are inherently frugal.

          I could have just denied her request, but I ultimately acquiesced after she thoroughly explained her situation and I wanted to be a amenable landlord. Finally, I haven’t given her an extra set of keys that she so desperately wanted and couldn’t live without. I’m waiting for her to sign back the addendum of her responsibilities if the key were lost e.g. paying for replacements, changing the entire set of condo keys and lock and paying for them if the board agrees she is at fault etc.

          Suddenly, she’s not in too hurry to agree to the liability. Maybe, she’s coping w/ my suggestions of coordinating w/ the cleaner, her roommate, or suffering through a couple more days w/out a cleaner now.

          But, my fascination is that so far, very few people have addressed the main topic of this post, or discussed Homejoy’s closing. People are stuck on an extra set of keys which I’ve already solved!

          1. They were an unnecessary service as you said, and the market bore it out. Im surprised they raised so much money. I need to think of a unnecessary thing that adds time, money, and frustration to a simple process and figure out how to charge for it. lol

            1. BINGO! Take advantage of the liquidity now before too many investors start losing their money.

              You can pull a Secretly and cash out $3 million from the VCs and shut your company down within 12 months after!

      2. Fair enough, I didn’t realize how demanding she had been in her initial request.

        This is one of the things I appreciate about your blog – even though I was critical of you, you still took the time to respond thoughtfully instead of just dismissing me.

  64. Another category where a cleaner would be helpful is the elderly. My 77 year old mother lives in nearby Fairfax (VA) in the single family home I grew up in. At this age, cleaning is just too much for her. I have a TH in McLean, so am 20 minutes away and work full time. I clean my own house, but would have trouble cleaning both our TH and her single family home. Too, when I do get free time to spend with her, I don’t want it to be spent cleaning.

  65. Very interesting post, Sam. Consideration of day-to-day costs is as important to financial independence as asset allocation or savings. That said, here are a few points:

    You yourself said you don’t like to cook, so you eat out. While you also say it’s because you don’t have skill in cooking, that is also something that can be learned. Why not invest in your cooking skills, to save that money? My real point in this is that everyone has personal chores they like and dislike: cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, mowing the lawn, managing their investments. It is a luxury to be able to outsource these, but everyone has their own mix, based on skill and their likes and dislikes.

    My wife is a very neat person, but we both hate to clean. So, we do have a housekeeper come in once a month. We do light cleaning ourselves throughout the month, and she goes through the house thoroughly. What this buys us is a day of “vacation,” where we can be together on a weekend day and do something fun, rather than chores–it’s a day-long date night. We feel this is a great enhancement to our relationship. But, we do understand the cost, and have approached it thoughtfully, not shallowly–it serves a greater purpose, not just to tick off a box.

    To take your idea of businesses based on laziness to an extreme, doesn’t this also fit the airline industry? Almost everyone knows how to drive. And even if you don’t have a car, you can rent one much cheaper than buying plane tickets. Unless you are flying intercontinental, then why don’t people just drive? And why are some of the busiest air routes also some of the shortest? New York to Washington, DC. LA to San Francisco. Those seem drivable, but people are paying quite a bit of money to save the time. The time commitment to such long drives is certainly more than some cleaning, but it occurred to me that airlines fit the characteristics you give these companies–that they are optional, and are the first to go in an economic downturn.

    It also occurs to me that there is a paradox here: as people go from being single to having a family, this price differential is magnified (four airplane tickets vs. same car) so busy families are more likely to choose the self-service transportation model, at least in popular lore–the famous family road trip. Of course, that route is also popular with broke college kids who still want someplace warm for spring break.

    1. Hi Matt,

      Yes, very good points.

      For food, given SF is one of the best cities for cuisine in America, the difference in food production by me and a chef is magnified. I do cook on occasion. If I lived in a smaller town, I’d probably cook much more often. Learning to cook well is harder than learning to bust out a mop. :)

      I like thinking in extremes to make a point, so thank you for your examples.

      There are great economies of scale for hiring a cleaner if you have a huge family. The number of rooms stay the same, but the mess is even greater!

      Hence, the more dumpier and cheaper the fixer upper, the better if I’m going to gut remodel anyway.


  66. Sam; I am very frugal and have the assets to back up that statement. I love a clean house but hate cleaning and have always employed cleaners 2x/mo. It’s worth it to me.

    On another note I think you should reconsider your position on providing your tenant with the flexibility to hire her own cleaners. Your property will be better off no doubt if your tenant uses professional cleaners and I would be willing to bet that at the end of your lease period your unit will be in better shape translating into more value and lower maintenance costs. We rent a condo every winter for two months in a warm climate. Our landlord requires that we pay the professional cleaners who are on site to clean the unit regularly. The landlord and others in the same complex believe that this type of requirement protects their investment.

    1. That’s definitely a positive I thought about. I was more annoyed with the way she demanded a third key, so I started judging her on the inability to clean her own space. What happened to One Team, One Dream where she can coordinate with her roommate.

      Maybe I will write a post on better communications, how to ask for something.

  67. i’ve never used a cleaning service in my life, but i agree with your tenant, it’s her right to hire one if she wants. If you didn’t want her using one that’s something you should’ve specified in the lease. Some buildings in NYC do just that, so every time i move to a new building i always ask if they forbid any third party services like cleaners, nannies, etc. before i sign the lease.

    1. This is good to know. I’m not sure tenants truly understand the liability risk they face, and the landlord faces when they invite a third party into their homes in an apartment building/condo association. How well do you really know somebody who cleans your house, unless it is your immediate family?

      The less 3rd party folks revolving in, the better.

      Renter insurance and landlord insurance are musts!

      1. Sam

        Someone I know who is a renter was actually renting out her place on Air bnb. The landlord got wind of it and, rightfully, out a stop to it. I had to explain to her that the owner has the right to rent, not the renter. She strongly disagreed but I told her there isn’t a court that I know of that would take her side.

  68. I am a physician, single, live in a 2600 square foot home alone and I work incredibly long hours. I also happen to be a super saver having learned that from my parents. That said, growing up, I watched my patents toil for long hours , save everything they earned yet subjected themselves to GREAT inconveniences, all in the process of trying to save a buck or two.

    I then make a vow to myself growing up that I will never ever live like that . While I am still a huge believer in saving , I also believe in spending money in cases where it can go a long way in providing comfort if such spending is a tiny fraction of your income. I hate cleaning however, I am very particular about maintaining a spotless home .

    My cleaner charges 70 dollars/month which is very negligible in my book so when it comes to such discretionary spending , it’s all relative . While you define yourself as being frugal, compared to my parents, you are not since you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a new bathroom . An expenditure my patents will balk at

    1. Regarding his remodel, he bought a fixer. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a fixer than to buy a newly remodeled home. There are frugality traits right there. Plus remodeling is an investment and increases the value of a home.

    2. I am impressed you are single and live in a 2,600 sqft house. I guess if I lived in that size house as well by myself, I’d require a cleaner, although… would anything ever be dirty since there would be so many unused rooms?

      Like Sydney said, the bathroom expansion was an investment. Spend $58,000, create $100,000+ in value due to the increased livable square foot of the house. Elbow grease to improve a fixer is on the frugal side imo.

      1. I think I know the house the you bought as we were looking in the same area at the same time as you and I recognize the views. I think saying that you bought a fixer is pretty generous since when we went through nothing in the house looked like it had been touched since at least 1950 including kitchen appliances. While we thought the house was a wonderful house the amount of work it needed was completely overwhelming for a first time home buyer about to have a baby! All that to say, I don’t think you were just doing the bathroom to upgrade something that was perfectly livable as it was.

        1. Ah yes, if you are a first time homebuyer with no builders connections and no experience remodeling/renovating, buying a fixer is daunting. But once you get your crew together, and realize everything can be rebuilt with time and money, it’s not so bad.

          Where did you end up buying?

          I look at fixers as a frugal opportunity to put in some elbow grease and create my own equity!

          1. We ended up buying in Midtown Terrace where prices are even lower still and while the views aren’t quite as good we do have a partial ocean view from our back deck and no power lines in the way.

            We found an amazing fixer opportunity in Sunnyside and I wish we could have done it, but as I said, at 7/8 months pregnant and without a really significant amount of extra capital in the bank I think it wasn’t the right financial decision for us. ) We didn’t buy a fully remodeled house, there is opportunity to do work and add value to ours, it just was in shape enough to move in and live with for a couple years while we built up the capital to do the work.

            I would love to get a fixer for our next property once we have more capital but I think on balance we made the best decision at the time.

            1. It is on the south side of the city close to Glen Park, so very easy freeway access, I work on the peninsula at a venture debt firm, and also good access to BART to get into the city.

  69. We pay a housekeeper to clean twice a month at 90$ each visit. I also hire her to help with tenant turnover in a rental as well on occasion. Husband and I both work FT, plus side hustles x2 and are raising a 7yo. The money is well-spent IMO and there are no arguments over who cleans the toilet. :)

    Just a suggestion, but have you ever considered installing a programmable code-lock on your rental door? No need to re-key with each new tenant. It’s a life-saver for me.

    1. Good suggestion! I think my HOA would have a aneurism. They are so anti-landlords, a programmable code-lock wouldn’t fly. There’s two locks: my unit, and the main door. The main door, it’s harder to track if there is a burglary. For keys.. we can find out which key is missing and do a better trace. No way to keep track of who gets to know the code.

  70. This is a tough one. My wife and I live in a very small house, and we’re both incredibly frugal. We also both work a lot of hours. Currently we clean our own home… but I’ll be honest – I hate it. I enjoy cooking and doing yardwork, but cleaning sucks. My wife loves cleaning, like you, but she can’t do it alone. Often we’ll get behind then have one mega-stressful day of cleaning, which sucks. Having said all of that, we have considered paying a cleaning service, but have never pulled the trigger.

    When it comes down to it, I just can’t bear to waste the money. I’d rather put on some music, crack open a beer, and spend the afternoon cleaning than pay someone to do something so simple.

    I also agree with your points about letting someone into the house – if I did hire someone I’d want to be there, which would defeat the purpose to some degree.

    Lastly, I actually think frugality is a learned behavior, and it comes heavily from how you’re raised. My parents were no good with money, and it wasn’t until I went to school for finance and met a girl who came from an incredibly frugal household that I myself changed.

    Great post, very thought-provoking.

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