After living abroad for my third year, I have learned many things. But I am convinced of only one
I will have a housekeeper for the rest of my life.
I have hesitated to write this post because I am a doctor's wife. I fear that people will look at me and say, "Well of course you will. You are a doctor's wife."
Firstly let me say that I am the doctor of a military wife. Big difference. I am also the wife of a family practice doctor. Another big difference. We are not rolling
in the dough.
Do we have money? Yes. Are we more well off than the vast majority of the world? Yes. I am not ignorant to this by any means. So please keep that in mind.
Both Sides of the Financial Spectrum
In addition, my mother was a housekeeper for most of my childhood. Another small caveat that I believe is worth noting. Part of this caveat is the truth of how both JB and I grew up. I grew up with a family living paycheck to paycheck. We skipped Christmases sometimes. We lived in a trailer park. JB's families faced the same financial stresses. There was always enough for the needs but seldom enough for the wants. So I understand both sides of the financial spectrum.
But let me tell you that the amount
of money we are making has almost nothing
to do with my decision to have a housekeeper. Instead it has everything
to do with the priorities I am choosing for my life.
A Warped Perspective
Americans see having a housekeeper as something only the rich do. This is so very contrary to much of Europe and other parts of the world. For them, a housekeeper is a way to free up more of their time. It is a way to spread the wealth and provide jobs.
I find it especially interesting that we as Americans are so against
housekeepers and yet we spend money on items that are so
much more frivolous than a housekeeper. Leases on cars? Cell phones? Television? Dryers? Gas? These are all luxuries that most people outside of the western world would not even consider.
I have come to believe that we as a society are truly spending money on ALL
the wrong things. Our priorities have gotten majorly screwed up, and as a result, I believe that we as a society have begun to make choices that just do not make sense.
So I scoured the Internet for some data. Please note that I know these numbers cannot possibly represent every American family. Your family may be very different. The numbers may not be correct. I don't have hours to scrutinize minutia. Let's not argue the little things. Let's look at the overall picture and the theme
of what I am getting at.
What We Americans are Spending
Let's start by taking a look at the things Americans spend money on:
The average cost of a housekeeper is between $75 and $100 a week. This would work out to approximately $400 a month.
- $91 a month on coffee ($1,092 annually)*
- $123 a month on gas ($1,476 annually)*
- $731 a month on automobile costs ($8,776 annually) -- includes insurance, gas, depreciation, and other expenses*
- $58 a month on Christmas gifts ($700 annually)*
- $88 a month on gifts in general ($1,067 annually)%
- $50 a month on cell phone ($606 annually)*
- $118 a month for electricity ($1,419 annually)*
- $158 a month for iPhone users ($1,900 annually)*
- $128 a month for pets ($1,542 annually)*
- $30 a month on shoes ($370 annually)*
- $8 a month for watching sports ($100 annually)*
- $70 a month on soft drinks ($840 annually)*
- $225 a month on eating out ($2700 anually)+%
- $67 a month on alcohol/tobacco ($804 annually)%
- $52 a month on fees and admissions ($628 annually)%
- $81 a month TV/radio expenses ($975 annually)%
An average American spends approximately 13 hours a week cleaning their house.# That works out to 52 hours a month. So if the average cost of having your house cleaned is $400 a month that means that you are paying someone approximately $7.69 an hour to do your cleaning! In addition, you could hire someone only every other week for only $200 a month.
Items in Red
I look at that as 13 extra hours a week that I can spend with my family. And that is what I do with the time. Now let's look at the items in red above. It is my belief that these items are completely unnecessary for our lives. And these things equal $534 a month. This means that you could pick one or two of these items to keep
have enough money for a housekeeper. Would you be willing to give up TV, eating out, coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol/tobacco to have 13 more hours a week with your family?
Items in Blue
Now let's take a look at the items in blue. Firstly let's take the cell phone/iPhone. Americans now seem to believe that these are mandatory items for their life. I completely disagree. I have not had a cell phone for the last three years of my life and have enjoyed every single minute of that freedom!
But even if these items are considered mandatory
, I am sure we could all decrease the amount we spend on those items. Either downgrading or having a phone with prepaid minutes that is truly "only for emergencies" is possible.
Electricity is another thing that I think we take for granted in America. We can't cut that out altogether, obviously. But let's take people in both Turkey and the Azores. Most have electricity. But they do not have dryers. A dryer takes up an incredible amount of electricity and is considered incredibly wasteful. I would much rather use a clothesline and have a housekeeper. Would you?
And then there is an automobile. It is not usually considered frivolous in the U.S. to have a second vehicle or to lease a better vehicle than you really need. How many people spend $400 a month (or more!) to lease or make payments on a vehicle. Wouldn't you rather drive a lesser vehicle and have more time each month for your family?
Here's my point. You can choose not to have a housekeeper. If this is not something that stresses you out and you feel that you have enough time for it, by all means, keep cleaning your own house. But I am sure we all feel that there are things we just don't have enough time for in our life. We want to exercise more. We want to eat better. If you had an extra 13 hours a week, you could exercise every day. you could spend time cooking a healthy meal. But I do think we are spending our money in the wrong places. While a family vacation is a wonderful thing, the average family vacation costs approximately $1500. Most families take two vacations a year. I would gladly give up one of those family vacations to have a housekeeper come every other week. In my opinion the time at home with my children is of much more value than the opportunity to take a trip.
Just my two cents. I'd love to hear from you on the topic. I grew up thinking that housekeepers were only for the rich and famous. But leasing a car was for everyone. Fast food was for everyone. Cell phones were for everyone. Cable was for everyone. I think that is quite backwards. I think a housekeeper should be for everyone. It would help provide jobs, and it would help us spend more time where we really should. Get rid of the cell phone and cable today and a vehicle you can't afford, and hire someone to help.
I'd love to get some dialogue going on this. Comment away. (Joy, I got this done as quick as I could. Your husband needs some resources ... fast!)
Housekeeper Part II
+ The Spending Habits of the Average American
* How Much You Spend Each Year on Coffee, Gas, Christmas, Pets, Beer, and More
% Top 10 Things Americans Waste Money On
^ The Average Cost of Maid Service
# 2012 Leap Year study by CLR: How much time do people spend cleaning house?
@ Average American Summer Vacation Costs over $1,600
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