Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Pay yourself to mow the lawn

Not everyone is physically able to push (or even ride) a lawn mower. If you can, though, why not fire the yard guy?

By Donna_Freedman Jun 4, 2010 12:05PM

One of my house-sitting responsibilities is to mow the homeowner's lawn. The property isn't huge but it's hilly and lumpy and I was unfamiliar with the equipment. After I trimmed I realized I'd forgotten the small side yard, so I had to get the lawn mower back out.

Even so, it took me only about 45 minutes from starting the mower (the first time) to closing the garage door afterward. I'm wondering what it costs to pay someone to do it.

Anywhere from $35 to $50, according to Smart Spending message board readers.

"I would expect a homeowner could save $500-$1,000 a year or more by doing their own yard work," wrote one who posted as "T Skeeter."

Skeeters were, in fact, the only downside of the mowing -- once the breeze died down, Alaska's "state bird" came out. Still, I agree that anyone who could care for his own lawn should give it a try.

Sweating and sneezing

Not everyone can, of course. "MollyMouser" is severely allergic to grass and her husband has been on maneuvers or deployed on a regular basis. That's why they pay $160 a month for mowing.

"Cdarrow" has about half an acre of hilly property, and pays $42 to get it shorn every few weeks. "If I had a level lawn I would definitely do it myself," the reader says, "but since it's not, what I pay is worth it to me."

A couple of people cited exercise as a benefit along with the cost savings. I thought the same thing as I walked back and forth, and nudged the mower up those slopes. It wasn't a horribly strenuous effort but it was a nice little workout.

Of course, it doesn't get really warm here in Anchorage. Mowing the lawn for 45 minutes in a hot and humid climate would leave me pretty wilted.

But homeownership sometimes entails a little discomfort. Cleaning and maintenance aren't much fun either, but you do them anyway.

Sweating and saving

Or maybe you pay to have these things done, too. That's great if you can afford it. But if your budget is starting to creak, why not fire up the mower yourself? Think what you could do with that weekly $35 to $50:

  • Add to your emergency fund.
  • Beef up your retirement savings.
  • Start an account for something you'll need eventually, such as a replacement vehicle or a new furnace.
  • Create a college fund for your kid.
  • Plan a vacation with the "found" money.

(Don't own a mower? It would pay for itself after a couple of months. I'd go for an electric one, because they're quieter and you don't have to worry about gasoline storage. Start your "shopping" on Freecycle or Craigslist if possible.)

Cutting the cable or cooking at home aren't the only ways to trim the fat from your budget. If you live in a cooler area, yard work is a relatively limited sacrifice, maybe five months out of the year.

In warmer areas, just consider it a doubly frugal workout: Not only are there no gym fees involved, you actually save money.

You'll get a little exercise and the pride of ownership that comes with a job well done. And it may just leave you (a) too pleasantly weary to miss those cable channels and (b) ravenous for whatever's in the fridge. Even leftovers taste swell after a good morning's work. The après-mow shower feels delightful, too.

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