Lawn Maintenance Costs Revisited

Posted on Posted in DIY, Finance

One of the more popular series I have written on this blog is the “How Much Does It Cost” series of posts.  This time of year my post about the cost of mowing a lawn gets a lot of hits.  My scenario is different than most since I mow an acre of land in the middle of the city.  If you haven’t read my analysis, I suggest you give it a quick read before you go on…

In the year or so since I wrote the post a few other items have popped into my head that I would like to add to the conversation.  So it is time to revisit the topic…

Location, Location

My brother-in-law lives in a densely populated neighborhood where a good majority of the residents use a lawn service.  About a year ago he was out mowing his lawn when a service stopped by and offered him a quote.  They already did several homes on his street so every house they could add would increase their profitability.  Their 3-4 man crew can whip through his yard in about 5-10 minutes at a cost of $20 every other week.  You’d have to be CRAZY not to pay that minimal amount for a professional lawn service.

If you live in a densely populated neighborhood, consider asking your neighbors about the lawn service they use.  If you’re the type that enjoys negotiating, ask the lawn service if they’ll knock $5 off both your lawns since they’ll be doing two or more at one location.  A primary expense in the lawn service industry is transportation and time.  Multiple jobs at one stop really helps the bottom line.

The Voice of Experience

Click the pic for the full-size mower won't start pic-tutorial.
Click the pic for the full-size mower won’t start pic-tutorial.

Knowing someone who truly knows what they are doing is also amazingly helpful in saving time and money.  I recently wrote about the trick that I found out for fixing the fuel issue I had with several of our mowers.  If I hadn’t known where to go to ask about it I could have dropped a small fortune in engine repair or even mower replacement.  (The pic to the right is a simple graphic of how to clog a blocked main jet on side-mounted carburetor Briggs and Stratton engines.  Click for a full-page version.)

Someone who is a veteran of lawn maintenance can share some clever tips and tricks that will help you save a lot of time.  Watching the pros can also save you a lot of time.  I always used to trim and edge the yard after I mowed, but noticed that the pros almost always do the opposite.  One day I asked why.  The answer… clean up time.  Edging and trimming before you mow allows the mower to pickup a lot of the debris and blow it across the yard or bag it.  Time is money and the quicker you can get the job done the quicker you can get to other things….or out of the summer sun.

Find a neighbor with a beautiful lawn and try asking them some questions.  A conversation that starts with, “Your lawn is so beautiful! Could I ask you a question or two?” is rarely declined.  Professionals at independent hardware stores and nurseries are also a good source of help for speeding up the job and being efficient.

Know Your Value

I’ve seen people pinch a penny so hard that it costs them money.  A lot of people hate mowing the lawn, I happen to love it.  I wish I had more time to do it.  The old saying ‘time is money’ only gives us a glimpse at the big picture.  Time is money, family, friendships, accomplishment, and so much more.

I appreciate a tool that I stumbled across on Lifehacker.  The website Clearer Thinking put together a survey that is more than a simple calculator that determines your hourly worth based on income.  It factors in a number of items and helps users to think about spending versus saving time.  It is an interesting tool and I found it thought provoking.  You can try it out here

Concluding Thought

So, after thinking some more about lawn maintenance costs is it a good idea for you to mow your own or is it time to get some help?

My view for a good part of growing season.
My view for a good part of growing season.

Ready to get out and mow?  If you’re going to do it yourself make sure you protect yourself.  All the precautions on lawn equipment might seem stupid but they are there for a reason.  Keep that shirt on, wear some long pants, and at least some sneakers.  I much prefer my work boots and can’t imagine the fools who mow in a pair of flip-flops.  I’ve known a few people now who have lost a toe while mowing in flip-flops.  Keep your eyes covered with sunglasses or some other protective lens.  And if you like your hearing, wear some sort of hearing protection, especially if you’re listening to music.  Cranking the tunes over the roar of the mower engine can be amazingly damaging in the long run…trust me!  Nothing will make your lawn maintenance costs soar like a severe injury.