If you want to avoid divorce, who does the dishes may be more important than your spouse’s religion or political beliefs. Over half of married couples Pew Research surveyed said sharing household chores was “very important” if a relationship was to succeed. Splitting cleanup duty was seen as more critical to a happy marriage than sharing the same faith, having kids, earning an adequate income, or agreeing on political issues.
Anyone who’s ever sparred with their partner over whose turn it is to unload dishwasher or silently stewed about taking on more than their share of household tasks knows how much an equal division of labor can matter in a relationship. And research suggests how a couple handles the chores can predict how smooth their relationship will be. A University of Missouri study found that couples who share both household and parenting responsibilities were happier and, presumably, more likely to avoid divorce.
Despite the benefits of divvying up chores, many families still struggle to figure out how to assign household tasks fairly. Though half of parents with kids surveyed by Pew said they split household responsibilities 50-50, another 41% said moms do more. Fathers are more likely than mothers to claim chores are split evenly; moms tend to think they’re doing more than their share of cleanup and household management tasks.
To avoid an all-out war over day-to-day chores, some families opt to outsource. For them, hiring a cleaning person or dropping off the laundry is worth the extra cost if it means more family time and fewer fights about who needs to do what. But paying someone to do all your chores is expensive. If you and your spouse are struggling to divide household tasks, from financial management to basic clean up, and can’t afford to hire someone to do it all for you, check out these tips, which will help you avoid divorce and save money at the same time.
1. Automate when possible
Automating certain household tasks will not only save money and time, but can also help you steer clear of arguments about who forgot to pay the gas bill or pick up toilet paper. Setting up bill pay for credit cards, car loans, utility bills, and more can save you from penalties and late fees, which can be as high as $37 on your credit cards. (You’ll still want to review your statements to make sure all the charges are correct.)
Bill pay isn’t the only household chore you can automate. You can also sign up for scheduled prescription refills, use Amazon’s “subscribe and save” services to get household essentials delivered to your door (and get a discount on recurring purchases), and use apps like Tody to keep track of what needs to be cleaned when, so your house stays spic and span even if you don’t have a maid.
2. Let a gadget do it for you
“Rosie the Robot Maid” from The Jetsons may not be a reality just yet, but there are gadgets that will do some of your housework for you. Some will even save money over hiring someone to perform a similar service. Investing a few hundred dollars on a Roomba may be worthwhile if it means you don’t have to pay someone to come to your house to vacuum. Ditto for tools that will automatically wash your windows and mop your floors. You can even buy a robotic lawn mower, though with a price tag of $1,000 to $2,000, you’d have to be spending a lot of money on a lawn service to generate any savings.
3. Do your own taxes
The typical taxpayer forks over nearly $300 every year to have a pro complete their taxes, according to the National Society of Accountants. You can save a few hundred bucks by doing your own taxes, and you may even help your marriage in the process. Fights about finances are a leading cause of marriage stress, and while sitting down with a pile of receipts and a form 1040 might seem like a recipe for a major blowout, it could be a good thing if it gets you and your spouse to start talking about the money issues that concern you.
Even if you do decide to hire a professional at tax time (which may be worth it if your tax situation is complicated) you and your spouse should still set aside some time to go over the return and talk about your financial situation. Sharing financial responsibilities and talking about money can keep you both happy and help avoid divorce.
4. Outsource meal planning and shopping
Sometimes, it pays to let someone else do the hard work. Last-minute grocery runs can cost your family a lot of money, as can heading to the store without a list and a meal plan. Grocery delivery services aren’t free, but the delivery charge could be balanced out by what you save by avoiding impulse purchases and being able to find the best deals. As a bonus, neither spouse has to brave an after-work supermarket run.
Not sure what to pick up at the store? Free meal-planning apps take some of the effort out of cooking dinner and can save you money. With BigOven, you can drag-and-drop recipes onto your calendar, automatically create grocery lists, and even get suggestions for how to use up leftovers. Other apps like Plan to Eat, Paprika, and Pepperplate offer similar features.
5. Get a personal assistant
Having a personal assistant to take care of life’s little to-dos is the ultimate form of outsourcing, and you don’t need to be a movie star to have one. EasilyDo is a free app that acts as your virtual personal assistant. It can monitor your emails and keep track of appointments (even if they’re not on your calendar), will read your Facebook and post birthday greetings to friends and RSVP to events, track packages, send you copies of receipts, and will even text your spouse when you’re running late. Having your digital life organized in one place makes household management easier, so neither you nor spouse ever forget a birthday, kid’s playdate, or doctor’s appointment ever again. That might not save money, but it will definitely reduce stress and lead to a happier home life.