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I saved $2,500 by ignoring my inner child

An offer of 10% off and 0% financing nearly sucked him in, but his adult voice prevailed.

By Karen Datko Apr 16, 2010 7:39AM

This guest post comes from Jason at Frugal Dad.


On a recent night I was mowing when the lawn tractor died. This wasn’t the first time it had failed me mid-mow, but the new-to-me symptoms of this latest casualty had me thoroughly angry. The mower is only seven years old, but has had one problem after another.


I pushed the mower back into the garage and went inside to vent. My wife agreed that maybe it was time to look for a new mower. The next day I spent my lunch hour “test driving” a Toro zero-turn model that boasted reduced cutting time, better maneuverability, and other such marketing speak.


The summer between freshman and sophomore years of college I worked for a landscaper running a crew to mow residential and commercial lawns. He had one of these mowers and I always thought it would be “cool” to own one. Red flag No. 1. 


While I was checking out the mower, the store associate pointed out that if I opened a store credit card account I would save an additional 10% off my purchase, and get 0% interest for 12 months. Naturally, I thought this might be a good idea -- save essentially the cost of sales tax and pay it off for free over the next year. Red flag No. 2!


Taming the inner 5-year-old

Nothing against 5-year-olds -- after all, I am the parent of one -- but they are impulsive personalities. If my son breaks a toy, he wants to buy a new one. If he loses something, just buy a new one. Adults are a little like 5- year-olds sometimes, myself included. My trip to the tractor store was in line with the behavior of a 5-year-old, well, assuming they could drive.

This is what makes being in debt such a slippery slope to slide back on. Just six months or so after paying off our debt, I was actually considering opening a new credit card to save $250 on a lawn tractor, or deplete my savings $2,500 for same. As I sat there, I went through all sorts of rationalizations.

  • My current mower is seven years old.
  • This new mower would reduce the time I spend mowing the lawn.
  • This new mower would be much more fun to drive.
  • It is a pain to take my current mower in for repair, or try to work on it myself.
  • I don’t want to sink any more money into that old mower.

Sounds a lot like the rationalizations we make when buying a new car, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I took my own advice and decided to walk away. That night, I dragged the old mower out of the garage, removed the mower deck, and took a look underneath. This time I was lucky -- just a broken traction drive belt.

With the help of a search engine, YouTube, and the remnants of my owners manual, I was able to replace the belt myself. While I had the deck off, I put on a new set of blades (I’ll sharpen the old ones and save them to rotate in when the new ones need sharpening), put on a new mower deck belt, replaced the worn-out deck wheels, greased the spindles, changed the air filter, changed the oil, and gave it a good cleaning.

When the tune-up was complete, I have to say I sat back and admired the old mower. I almost felt a little guilty for wanting to get rid of it. When I consider that it saved me $2,500, I really felt affection for the old tractor. Good thing I ignored that inner 5-year-old.


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