Should you outsource your grocery shopping? Your taxes? Here’s how to decide

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Should you outsource your grocery shopping? Your taxes? Here’s how to decide


There’s a growing trend to outsource as much of your life as possible, if you can afford it.

The theory is that outsourcing gives you your time back, which you can direct towards higher-value activities that either make you money, or bring you greater joy. If you are a diehard DIY person, like I am, it’s a huge mental and financial shift to release control over the way you’ve always done things, and to pay for what you could do yourself.

Common items that households outsource include house cleaning, tutoring, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, filing taxes, building a personal website and ironing shirts. But, not everyone has the money to outsource or, in the opposite case, the skills and tools to effectively DIY. Here’s how to strike a balance between outsourcing and DIYing.

Questions to ask to determine if outsourcing is the right fit for you

Do you procrastinate? Usually procrastination is a result of not having the resources, knowledge or tools to get the job done. So, if the task is important to your financial, personal or professional well-being, and you don’t know how to do it, outsource it. If you’re short on cash, save up and then outsource.

Are you excellent at performing the task? If you know how, but aren’t very good at doing the job (eg. patching your leaky roof or rebalancing your DIY stock portfolio), outsource it.

Can you afford to outsource the task? Some jobs are extremely expensive to outsource, while others are free or low-cost. Review your overall finances to determine if you should outsource, DIY or simply wait until you can afford to outsource.

Outsource these no-brainer items

There are a number of items that should be outsourced because they are low-to-no cost:

  • Automatic monthly bill payment. This saves time going to the bank or paying each bill individually online the day they are due. And you won’t forget to pay them.
  • Free fraud alerts through your bank will save you from constantly monitoring your accounts.
  • Expense tracking through online banking helps keep track of what’s going through your accounts.
  • Grocery shopping. Online grocery shopping and delivery allows you to scan for the best prices, avoid travelling to the store, and if you complement this with meal planning, it will lead to less food waste.
  • Depending on whether you are an active or passive investor, you may also want to consider a low-cost ETF portfolio that automatically rebalances.

Essentially, if outsourcing is free or extremely cheap, consider dropping your DIY approach. Another way to keep costs down is bartering your services in exchange for the job.

How to tell if you should outsource your taxes

If your tax situation is straightforward, as in you have a traditional job that issues you a T4, you make regular RRSP contributions and you don’t qualify for many tax credits or benefits, the DIY approach could easily work for you. But, here are a few scenarios when it makes sense to outsource to a pro:

  • You are not sure how or you don’t have time to prepare your own taxes. If you file your taxes incorrectly or late, there can be penalties and adjustments.

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  • You have experienced a major life event. If you have moved, married, divorced, had a child or experienced death or disability within your family, your tax considerations are more complex. Hiring an adviser will help you navigate the details.
  • You own a business, or have multiple streams of income. If you’re running a business from your home, own a business, work multiple jobs, own rental properties or have freelance income, there are unique tax rates, rules and writeoffs associated with these forms of income.

  • You have experienced a major change in your financial situation. If you won the lottery, filed for bankruptcy, are being audited, made or lost a significant amount of money your tax rate, benefits and legal obligations may have changed.

If you’re feeling disconnected from critical aspects of your finances, career or relationships, or if you’re over budget, dial back your outsourcing. If you have nothing but time on your side and you aren’t engaged in a side-hustle (one that actually makes money), DIYing will save money. Ultimately, outsourcing comes down to where you feel your time, money and skills are best used.

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