Musings of an Outsourcer

Musings of an Outsourcer

As I am sitting in the living room writing this post, my new lawn service is outside diligently edging, weeding, and mowing. And it is glorious.

Ever since I moved to Florida, I’ve been mowing the lawn myself. As a financial analyst, I usually arrived at 9am and left at 4:30pm every single day, and the latest I could expect to leave was around five. I never had to stress about whether or not I’d be home in time for enough sunlight to see the yard I was mowing, and could always mow a day later if it was raining.  As I transitioned to a new department as a project consultant, my hours were really still a core 9am to 4:30pm. I enjoyed mowing the lawn and jumping into the pool after.

In my new position as a business manager, I’m still trying to fake it until I make it. My qualifications include blogging about money sometimes, running a small Airbnb business from my home, three years of basic analysis and customer service experience from my first role, one year of analysis and basic automation in excel and access from my fourth year, and … well, that’s it. There was a huge risk I wouldn’t work out, but here I am, managing financials for 40% of our IT organization’s financials, while 15% is essentially unmanaged depreciation of assets and projects, and three people are managing the other 45%.

How did I even end up here? How did my colleagues with 20 to 30 years of experience not land this role before I did? Part of it was being in the right place at the right time, and the other part is volunteering when no one else well. My manager used to manage the 40% before he was promoted, and he needed me to step in and assist where I could. I stepped up and did the job for four months, formally landing the promotion. During that time, I would work late most nights of the week between learning about the organization, trying to bandage the lack of tools and add transparency to make sure we had what we needed to run the organization. Meanwhile, my grass was still growing.

When I was just starting in the new role, I would make sure to hustle home at least one night to mow the lawn. It wasn’t as bad because the grass doesn’t grow as fast in the winter, so twice a month was enough.  Now we’re into summer months, when grass grows twice as fast thanks to the rain and has to be cut weekly.  Half the week has been spent stressing about leaving at 4:30pm so I can mow the yard, ultimately feeling frustrated because I just don’t get home with enough time to mow before the sun goes down. Then the one day I do manage to leave earlier, I’m stuck mowing the yard. If I can’t make that one day during the week, or if it’s been raining when I get home, I have to give up part of the weekend to mow the lawn. My lack of attention to the yard has been obvious.

Meanwhile, I’m still in a spot where we don’t have the tools we need to do our job. I don’t have reports, I haven’t been able to reconcile, I have very little in the way of financial management history to fall back on, but all the while, I’ve been learning and volunteering and putting in the time to make sure that we have the information that we need for my part of the organization. I’ve been mulling ways to streamline, mulling ways to teach, mulling ways to increase accuracy, and just letting it all simmer as I’ve been learning all about my organization from the ground up. This is where I want to be focusing, and putting my attention and focus on these things will far outweigh the cost of the Lawn Service come bonus time and raise time.

My quality of life had needlessly gone down from unnecessary stress about the lawn.  Now here I sit, comfortably in my living room, watching the new Lawn Service hard at work to do a far better job than I have ever done for $115 a month.  It’s more financially frugal to mow it myself, but it’s important to be frugal with time as well. I want to be doing the things I prioritize.  I enjoy yard work, and now I will be able to focus on pretending to grow vegetables, maintaining the flower beds, trimming the trees, and furnishing the back porch.  I haven’t been able to do any of these things lately because I’ve been so busy just trying to maintain the lawn.  Outsourcing for the win!

7 Replies to “Musings of an Outsourcer”

  1. It took me a while to let my husband convince me to hire people to do stuff, but I’ve come to really appreciate the value of time to relax, do things I enjoy more etc. How much we can outsource varies with our financial situation, but it’s something I’m now willing to budget for.

  2. It’s all about the value, baby! It seems like it made far more sense for you to hire someone, and therefore it is absolutely worth it. Naturally I’m all about the DIY, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. This is an important point to bring up for sure.

  3. The notion of DIY in the FIRE community is quite prevalent but it completely contradicts what economics tells us (competitive advantage): that even if I am slower at producing X and slower at producing Y than you are, but I’m faster at producing X than Y and you vice versa, that collectively we will produce more of X and Y by producing what we’re good at and and trading. By this logic we should spend our time on what we excel in (e.g. our jobs) and just buy services from everyone else.

    The only problem is that that argument kinda falls apart when we are paid salaries as opposed to hourly. Still though, the argument can be made that putting in more work at our jobs can lead to future raises.

    DIY is great and all, but it’s not exactly economically sound, and I think the FIRE community needs to be better aware of that.

    1. Right?! It’s all a balance. The balance is often lost as people race to the finish line. Michael reminds me all the time that it’s a marathon. 🙂

    2. I have gone back and forth on the DIY mindset. I’m fully on board with Frugally Reckless’s choice to outsource doing her lawn. I think the decision is more nuanced than what are her best skills relative to the people she can hire though.
      First, people need variety in their lives and if she spends all day working, an hour mowing the lawn might seem more pleasant than an additional hour of work.
      Second, even if the landscaper is more capable than her currently, she can develop the skills for her specific lawn better (works better on different examples like cutting hair)
      Third, the landscaper has additional costs of getting to and from her house that she doesn’t have.
      Fourth, she pays for the landscaper with after-tax dollars and after work expense dollars. Most peoples’ incomes are far lower than their gross when you subtract out taxes and commute expense and add in commute and preparation time.
      By filling her saved time with productive activities other than work and not wasting it watching tv, I think she is making a good choice until her work hours slow down.

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