I’ve been asked this by some couples who are full-time professionals, and my opinion on this is somewhat unconventional among my peers. I grew up in the West, and having a live-in maid was only an option for the very wealthy. This is because domestic workers in the West get the same employment rights as other workers, such as overtime pay, paid time off, sick leave, health insurance, Social Security (similar to CPF), and regular holidays. Having a maid in Singapore, however, is far more affordable as cheap migrant labor is abundant in Southeast Asia, and they don’t have the same employment rights.
Although the salary of a maid is very affordable here (typically between $450 and $600 per month), there are other costs in having a live-in maid, including insurance costs, levies, bonds, medical expenses, and of course, room and board. Just by providing a room for a maid would mean a missed opportunity cost since you could have rented the room out for income. And as with everything else, there are also intangible costs, such as privacy and potential conflicts. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are also issues with parents outsourcing their parental duties to maids, who end up raising what some refer to as “spoiled brats”. With all this in mind, it may not be frugal for some households to hire a maid.
But there is another alternative that may be frugal for some households. If you need weekly house cleanings, you can hire a home cleaning service. Many companies, like Helpling.com.sg, allow you to book a cleaning online with just a few clicks (Helpling.com.sg even has a free mobile app). All employees of these companies have been vetted and are insured. Typically, the payment is done online, and some companies will only process your payment after the service is rendered. These cleaning services can be very cost-effective and do not lend themselves to the potential downsides of having a live-in maid. There are quite a few companies that offer cleaning services, but few let you book a one-time cleaning online (and many require the purchase of “packages”). PROMO: Helpling will give you $20 off your first cleaning with them (equivalent to one hour) if you use the code “frugal20” (expires 18 Sept, 2015).
If you need someone to do your grocery shopping, you can also hire a grocery delivery service that will deliver your goods to your doorstep at a specified time slot. Honestbee.com allows customers to order from seven major retailers, including Cold Storage and Four Seasons Organic Market, and have their groceries packed and delivered for free if the order is above $30. And their prices are identical to the retailer’s price, with no additional mark up. This means that so long as you order $30 or more, you incur no additional expense while someone else spends the time to gather your goods and deliver them to your door. I am aware that other supermarkets offer delivery services too, but many of them charge a delivery fee and have a much higher required minimum purchase amount. PROMO: For a limited time, you can get $10 off your first order (no code required).
If you need someone to do the cooking, there are a lot of tingkat delivery services available which you can also order from online. Foodline.sg has 8 caterers to choose from, each with menus that vary daily. These caterers can deliver to your workplace or home 4 or 5 days a week. Foodline.sg even has a “best price” guarantee, which means if you find a cheaper price elsewhere, they’ll match it. There are also many other caterers online that offer tingkat delivery services, but I like using Foodline.sg as it provides a platform for people to rate and give feedback, and for restaurants and caterers to give special discounts. PROMO: If you submit a review of the caterer, Foodline.sg will give you $10 back.
These services allow you to free up more of your time so that you can do the things that matter more to you. These services give you the flexibility to specify the exact day and time you want the service rendered (I wish there was a courier service that did this!). Additionally, they provide part-time jobs to fellow Singaporeans. These services, I believe, can be good (and frugal) alternatives to having a live-in maid.