Does it make financial sense to hire a cleaning service?

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Considerations for Selecting a Cleaning Service

If you've ever wondered if you should hire a cleaning service, the answer is almost a no-brainer. Of course you should. Who wouldn't want to have someone come in and clean their house or apartment?

But cleaning services aren't cheap. Angie's List members pay between $120 to $150 for biweekly house cleanings, according to company data. The average cost, per HomeAdvisor.com, is $151. RedBeacon.com, another site that helps people find home-improvement professionals, puts the average cost at $121. Care.com suggests around $100 to $175 per cleaning. What you pay, of course, depends on how many rooms you're asking a cleaning service to tackle.

So, again, it's more than obvious that a cleaning crew would be nice to have, but should you get one? Is it worth the money? Here are some reasons to consider enlisting professional help to clean up your life.

It may reduce stress brought on by your family. Maybe your spouse is a neat freak, always complaining about your slovenly ways. Or maybe your in-laws often visit, and you think a cleaning service might curb the catty remarks.

Meghann Timmins, a 24-year-old public relations professional in Atlanta, hired a cleaning service for family-related reasons.

Six months ago, her parents were coming for a visit, and while she was happy to have them over, she began to fret; she'd been away for a weekend and had been busy with work.

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"I desperately needed someone to come clean according to their impossible standards," says Timmins, who found a cheap but effective service through an app called Handy.

The cleaning crew charged $85 to clean her two-bedroom town house, and since Timmins and her roommate were splitting the cost, they decided it was definitely worth it to keep the cleaners coming every four weeks.

"They take the time to clean things that I don't have to touch and that my other roommate doesn't think about. It is absolutely worth the money and saves us so much time," Timmins says.

It may reduce self-induced stress. Maybe your family isn't giving you grief for your messy house. Maybe you're the one berating yourself.

Graeme Seabrook, a vacation rental manager in Charleston, South Carolina, says she hired a cleaning service after her second child, a daughter, was born.

"My time is worth more to me than the cost of the service. I also had dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety after my son was born, and we were looking for ways to make the transition to a family of four as smooth as possible," says Seabrook, who now blogs about maternal mental health.

For her, the $125 she spends every other week is worth it. "The time I spent cleaning, feeling guilty about not cleaning, worrying about how bad my house looked and stressing about how we would get it all done – I have all of that time back now," Seabrook says.

You hate cleaning. Few people would likely choose vacuuming over going to the beach, but some people claim to at least enjoy certain tasks like folding laundry while watching TV or vacuuming while daydreaming. But others can't fool themselves into thinking cleaning is anything but a grind.

Dana Todd, an executive in Chicago, seems to be somewhere in the middle of indifference and despising it.

"I hate housework," Todd says. "I don't mind keeping the house tidy, but for scrubbing and doing detail work, it would literally take me a full day because I'm inefficient at it."

You would lose money by cleaning. Todd has done the math, and she feels that she comes out ahead financially by paying for a house cleaner.

"Back when I was just starting out in the workforce, one of my female peers explained the concept of opportunity cost with respect to hiring a cleaner versus doing it myself. She asked me to do a simple calculation of how much time it would take me, and my hourly rate based on my salary versus the cost of hiring a professional," Todd says.

In other words, let's say you make $100 an hour. If it would take you five hours to clean your house, you are, in a sense, spending $500 when you clean your home. Instead, you could spend $150 for a two-person cleaning crew to do the same work, or even better work, in two hours.

But if you make $10 an hour, and it takes you five hours to clean your home, you are, in a sense, spending only $50 to clean your home for five hours, and you may decide spending $150 on a cleaning service simply isn't a good deal – even if you're just as time-starved as the person making $100 an hour.

You aren't a complete slob. It sounds counterintuitive, but for a cleaning service to work well, and for you to get the most out of your money, you have to at least be making an effort to be clean.

Now, if you completely channel your inner Oscar Madison, you risk undermining the cleaning service you're paying. But many cleaning services ask clients to do some pre-cleaning before they get there. That may sound crazy, but it makes sense. If you leave a bunch of clutter on the floor, either your cleaning crew won't vacuum or mop your floor or they'll pick it all up, which takes time – time you're paying for.

Another way to look at it: If you're spending $150 to have several rooms, or all of the rooms, in your house scrubbed, dusted and vacuumed, you probably don't want, say, a third of the time being spent on your dirty dishes.

Of course, you can undermine your cleaning service in other ways that make it less cost-effective. Amy Bates, who owns a Merry Maids franchise in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and writes a cleaning blog, DontLookUnderTheRug.com, has seen her share of rookie mistakes.

For instance, if you have an aggressive pet who likes to chase the cleaning crew around, consider having the crew come on grooming day, Bates suggests.

And you certainly want to tell your cleaning service what your priorities are or any pet peeves you have. "If you never want water on your wood floors, you should communicate that," Bates says.

It's also smart to really think about what day is best for your cleaning service to come over.

"A lot of people like cleaning services to come on Fridays, but for me, I like Mondays," Bates says. "There are a million children at my home every weekend, and if I can start the week with a clean house, that's a game-changer. But if I have someone come on a Friday, and the kids make it a mess over the weekend, by Monday, I might feel that's a waste of money."

And how you feel about the money is really the best way to tell if the cleaning service was worth it, just about anyone who has ever used a cleaning service will tell you. If within hours or days, you regret spending the money (and especially if that's how you feel after the second and third time), a cleaning service isn't for you. But it's probably money well spent if not only your house is clear of cobwebs, but your mind is, too.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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Does it make financial sense to hire a cleaning service?

TOSS WHAT YOU DON'T USE

This should be an obvious one, but if you haven't even opened an item, definitely don't buy more. If you think you can use it, look around for a fun recipe. If not, toss it or donate it.

LEFTOVERS

Leftovers make for a great lunch, but they can only last so long. Toss ones that smell or look funny.

"LOW FAT" ITEMS

Make sure to check the nutritional label on "low fat" foods. In many instances, sugar replaces the fat.

PROCESSED FOODS

Super processed snacks are convenient, but not very healthy. There are a lot of recipes for snacks that don't come out of a box. Try making popcorn for a satisfying crunch.

CANDY

There's no need to keep unhealthy candy around as a sweet temptation. Swap sugary candies out for dark chocolate to satisfy any springtime cravings.

SODA

Soda is okay for a treat, but it's not necessary to enjoy at home every day. In addition to hurting your teeth, soda has actually been found to increase appetite (even the diet kinds).

WHITE BREAD

By now you've probably heard refined flour isn't the best for your health, so the white bread can go. Whole grain bread is a lot healthier and keeps you satisfied for longer.

MYSTERIOUS FROZEN FOOD

If you can't tell what it is anymore or don't even remember freezing it, toss it. Make room in the freezer for things you'll actually eat, and try out a marking system to identify how long different foods have been in the freezer.

FLAVORED WATERS AND SPORTS DRINKS

Unless you're a serious athlete or working out constantly, water is a perfectly acceptable post-workout drink. Sports drinks and flavored waters can have a deceptive amount of sugar in them, which can send you way over your recommended daily intake.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Sure, they have fewer calories than regular sugar, but many artificial sweeteners are filled with chemicals, and since they're lower in calories, sometimes you end up wanting to eat more.

HERBS    

Sadly, herbs older than six months begin to lose their flavor. So if you've been storing that parsley for a while, it's probably best to let it go.

MARGARINE

Margarine can have high levels of trans fats, which experts believe raise cholesterol.

MOLDY PRODUCE

Unlike certain cheeses where you can cut off the moldy portion and continue eating, you should probably avoid eating produce with mold on it. Definitely throw out fruits and veggies that have started showing signs of mold.

DELI MEAT

Many studies have found that meat isn't always good for you. Deli meat is particularly unsavory because it often contains nitrates.

ENERGY BARS

While bars can be great quick snacks, it's generally better to stick to real food. Like other processed foods, energy bars can contain a lot of hidden sugars and fat.

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