Hired Help vs. Elbow Grease: What's the most affordable way to clean?

Is a maid really worth the money?
Is a maid really worth the money?

Cleaning house can be a big chore. It can also be discouraging. Those spider webs on the ceiling may take some stretching and creative problem solving to remove, but a few months from now they'll be back again -- that you can count on. When you don't want to make housework your new hobby (and who does?), finding an alternative to the cleaning grind has some real allure.

You could just move every month or so and hope the dirt doesn't find you. Another option is to bribe your kids to do the cleaning for you. (They may be too smart to take the bait, though.) You could also hire a maid service to do the honors. This last option is becoming a popular choice, especially in two-income households where discretionary time is a precious commodity -- too precious to spend it cleaning baseboards and swamping out the bathroom. That's settled. Hire a pro and free yourself from cleaning duty forever.

Can hiring a pro to clean be more affordable than doing the job yourself? The short answer is no. You may be able to find a neighborhood cleaning service willing to cut some corners and clean your home on the cheap, but the bill will still likely outstrip the cost of supplies -- which is the extent of the basic cost of doing it yourself. Your time has value, sure, but hiring a professional involves more expense than the labor and materials necessary to do the job. Cleaning agencies typically maintain retail and possibly warehouse space. They also carry liability insurance and bond their workers -- at least the reputable ones do. That translates to a safer service for you but also a more expensive service overall. So, how much will it really cost you?