There are a handful of problems you can't solve by throwing money at them. Happily, money can still solve plenty of them. That's what this post is about -- that and how paying for a housecleaner is one of the best things I've ever spent money on.
Photo by Chi King.
I'm historically a very cheap human being. I do it myself when I can. I avoid frivolous purchases. I even avoid non-frivolous purchases. Some people don't have this problem, and instead of steering clear of all but the most sensible purchases, they buy everything they've got the impulse to buy. And then they regret it.
A much more sensible middle ground exists for cheapskates (like me) and spendthrifts: Spend your money where it's going to actually (maybe even measurably) improve your life.
"Improve" Is A Relative Term
Hmm. So upgrading your iPad might improve your life by shaving seconds off load times when you launch Angry Birds. That's something, I guess. But I'm talking more about real improvements. Case in point:
My wife and I spent years arguing over the base-level clean state of our home, both before and after we were married. By almost anyone's standards, I'm a very clean person. Her standards are higher. Bi-monthly arguments ensued.
When you enter situations where the only point of contention is personal preference, arguments quickly turn into absurdist plays. We'd have the same argument ever few weeks, and the outcome was almost always the same -- that is, we'd argue enough about it that we'd tire ourselves out then agree to disagree (until next time). After watching this play for literally years, we came to a conclusion: Rather than having the same argument every two weeks, we might actually benefit from hiring someone to clean our house for us. So we did.
It's been a life-changing revelation. I honestly don't think there's anything better we could spend $75 on every two weeks. $150 a month is a big commitment, right? Well, as childless urban professionals, it's within our budget, it saves us time, it's put an end to our ridiculous "disagreement" cycle, and I would happily give up any number of recurring expenses before this one. (We don't have cable and don't miss it. We would without a doubt miss our housecleaner.)
So You're Saying I Should Hire A Cleaner?
No, I'm not saying you should go out and hire a cleaner. (Though if my situation sounds familiar and you can afford it, you might want to.) But the point should be pretty obvious: When you're budgeting how you spend your money, don't ignore something just because it seems like a luxury. Luxuries are relative, and your money will go a lot further toward making you a happier person if you focus it on the things that actually improve your life. (This idea is also at the core of Jason's Comfort Principle.)
If money can solve a problem, you have the money necessary, don't be afraid to use it.
All personal finance caveats apply. Don't be irresponsible. Don't use your money for evil. If you'd be inestimably happier if your boss went missing, that doesn't mean you've got the go-ahead to hire that hitman.