There are many reasons why marriages fall apart. For example, infidelity or drifting apart are known to be the top 2 reasons for divorce, according to a study cited by Harvard Business School. While these sound like reasonable reasons, you might be surprised to learn that "disagreements about housework" is the 3rd reason why people get divorced, accounting for 25% of marriages that end. Cleary, when both spouses are busy and tired from working, tensions can arise at home for silly reasons like who has to wash the dishes after dinner. In a busy city like Singapore, where many couples work to provide for their families, "disagreements about housework" could be one of the reasons why number of divorces has been rising.
Divorcing for the Wrong Reasons Can Be Expensive
However, disagreements about houseworks seem to be a rather expensive reason to file for a divorce, both financially and emotionally. Emotionally, the couple would have to endure separation from each other and from their children without having done anything that would completely invalidate their marriage. Financially, a divorce can easily cost thousands of dollars in lawyer cost. Bearing all of these damages because you couldn't agree on who should wash the clothes, cook dinner or put the baby to sleep could be rather excessive at times.
Outsourcing House Chores to Reduce the Relationship Stress
Luckily, the same study from Harvard Business School cited above showed that couples can improve their relationships by making "time-saving purchases" to take care of these house chores. For example, hiring a housecleaner or a nanny can enable couples to spend more quality time together and prevent the tension around these chores from intensifying.
In terms of actual house chores, there are actually quite a few that could be outsourced. If you cannot afford a foreign domestic worker, who can easily cost S$13,000 annually, you can still hire helpers on-demand at an hourly rate of S$20 or S$30-S$40 per session to clean your house, cook your dinner or even to babysit while you are out for a dinner. When you find yourself overworked and too tired to argue with your spouse about who should be cleaning the bathroom, you can now leverage these online services to easily get help instead of hiring someone full-time with all the other things like lodging, insurance and salary to worry about.
How to Afford Time Saving Purchases on a Budget
Of course, not all couples may be able to afford these services to outsource their house chores. However, there are still a few ways that married couples can save time for more meaningful activities without breaking their bank. For example, you could save time on grocery shopping by making your order online. With the heightened competition in e-commerce industry, many supermarkets now offer free deliveries for orders more than S$50-S$60.
Furthermore, even on-demand help can be optimally managed to maximise the bang for your buck. For example, you could keep your bedroom and living relatively organised on a daily basis, and hire a cleaner for arduous parts like cleaning bathrooms and kitchens every 2 to 4 weeks. For cooking, you could ask them to spend an hour or two making enough food for the whole week, instead of asking them to cook a meal for your family, wait for you to finish eating and then washing the dishes. As you can see, utilising these services selectively for difficult tasks or by batching similar types of work into one hire are effective management techniques that can allow you to outsource as much housework as possible so you can spend more quality time with your spouse and your children. Also, to put this cost in perspective, hiring a help for 2 hours every 2 weeks for a whole year would cost about $1,000, far lower than the legal cost of getting divorced.
Lastly, you should make sure to use a good rewards credit card when booking these online services. Many cards provide cash back or miles on online expenditures, including those that occur inside a mobile app. If you can use them effectively, these rewards can help you shave up to 5-10% off your purchases. To put it another way, if you hire a help once a month for a whole year, using a good credit card can help you save enough to afford at least one booking.
This was first published at Value Penguin's website, "How Small Investments Can Improve Your Marriage Without Breaking Your Bank."