opportunity costs?

When we started this experiment roughly two weeks ago, we foresaw it as a part-time exercise. We had just left our jobs with the intention of starting up on our own and figured that a month was the perfect duration of time to do some business planning. But 17 days into our  ‘average living’ we have hardly done anything related to our venture. No doubt, we were initially tired and hungry from the nutritional/caloric deficiencies, which prevented us from having the energy to do much. However, even after acclimating ourselves to the lifestyle, we found that there was simply not enough time left in the day to do any start up related work. The primary reason for this was that we didn’t have a ‘houseperson’ at home.

Who exactly is a houseperson? It’s a gender neutral term for someone who stays home and does the various chores (our definition). And, trust us, there is no scarcity of chores – cleaning dishes, sweeping/mopping floors, getting rid of the gunk on the stove and counter-tops, cooking food, washing clothes… We spend an average of 3 hours a day on these activities (for sure, we are just starting out and are terribly inefficient at many of these tasks). Oh, and we didn’t include the time and effort spent to go out and buy groceries on a regular basis.

Before we started the experiment we had a maid who would come by 6 out of 7 days for about an hour at a time to do the various at-home chores, except cooking. We had a guy coming about once a week to do our laundry. With all that pampering, we had no clue how long it took to do the various tasks. Both of us have lived on our own before without various individuals providing help for household chores. But those living arrangements were in western settings in which there were appliances – dishwasher, washer/dryer, Roomba? – to do virtually everything in and around the house. Furthermore, we ate out often, which reduced the need for a fridge/cabinets full of groceries and repeated  cleaning of dishes. And, cleanliness of the apartment or the room – let’s be honest here – depended on the tolerance of roommates and the frequency of the visits by people who we had to impress.

Living on the Indian average income, doesn’t provide most, if not all, of these luxuries that we had or an average income earner has in the developed world. Second, as we have noted earlier, eating out is expensive and this means it is imperative that an average household cooks and consumes food at home. Third, as they have limited or no access to a refrigerator, those making the mean wage have no choice but to make frequent purchases of perishable items (It is possible that this doesn’t take too much time as most of these people live and work within the 5 Km radius we hypothesized about here). Fourth, the amount of work that needs to be done is significantly higher for these people as they live in houses that have chores to be done in the yard – as opposed to us who live in an apartment complex – and have more people in the household (children, extended family, etc.).

All this translates to someone – a houseperson, if you will – having to stay at home at all times to maintain the house. This means (s)he has to forgo other opportunities, which may be available to them outside the home, or doing household chores in addition to a regular job – an exhausting scenario to say the least. Moreover, because a large number of Indians are housepersons, it is quite possible that this type of ‘self-employment’ is leaving out a large chunk of contribution to GDP – something that is perhaps true for all developing countries – out of the official calculations. Given how much time and trouble it is costing, the household chores certainly bear a high opportunity cost for us. Maybe we need to give our maid a huge raise when she returns to work after the month! Maybe we all should end our middle class hypocrisy and do the same!

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7 Comments to “opportunity costs?”

  1. Love the Roomba shout-out!I know some people. Maybe I can suggest a version that would work in India

  2. read Gandhi’s autobiography, if you haven’t already and while you are at it, I think it will be great for you guys.

  3. this is like totally amazing..i hope the Indian government takes your research properly and curb poverty, otherwise you guys are never going to beat China (also how democracy is going to help, I wonder)

    So Rs100 is like 6 bucks in my currency, and food alone costs minimum 4 bucks..i don’ know how you can do it, but if it were me, I’d have given up by end of day 1…costs me 1500 a month for rent and my car payment and petrol (yay to subsidization!)

  4. their r lot people in our society , they where speak lot of thing but they do nothing
    but u the people taking no head on the consequences changing the situations
    i really proud of u being an Indian
    BHARAT MATHA KI JAI

  5. Yes. The amount contributed by house wives are never counted to the GDP. And instead of praising them for their selfless cashless work, most of us look down upon them.

  6. The amount contributed by housewives to GDP is never calculated. And instead of appreciating their free service, we often look down upon them.

  7. I recommend that you research “One pot meals” and “intermittent fasting.” I am also a frugal person who cares about efficiency, and so to limit the amount of time I spend in the day dealing with food preparation, cleaning, and other associated time costs, I eat one very large meal in the evening. There are a lot of unforeseen benefits to this, such as increased concentration throughout the day, and a cooler body temperature when the day is at its hottest. Of course there are health benefits as well, but you will come across many of those in your research. You may also wish to design a solar box cooker out of cardboard and aluminum foil which will be able to cook your “one pot meal” for you on sunny days without using electricity or gas.

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