For years I have mowed my own lawn and done my own yard work. We have lived in houses with tiny and easily manageable lawns (California) and houses with huge lawns and lots of trees (Virginia).
Our current house is the biggest yard we have had so far, in southern Virginia. The lawn grows fast here and for about 8-9 months per year. So it is almost always lawn mowing season. There are some periods during the summer when mowing the lawn once a week isn’t enough to keep it in check.
Being the “Lawn Guy”
I have always taken care of our yards at all the places we have lived, whether we rented or owned the place. For our current house, that means mowing the lawn at least once per week and trimming the lawn edges at least once every two weeks. It also means a HUGE leaf cleanup during the fall season.
The benefit is that I get to burn my yard debris, like the huge piles of leaves I rake up. We have a big fire pit and I burn leaves for many weekends during the fall and winter. It’s a great workout and gets me outside. As a man, it also provides me with the built in ability to escape from the family, listen to podcasts for hours, be the “fire guy” by tending to the fire pit, and an excuse to drink beer and smoke cigars. There are a lot of jealous neighbors.
Anyway, I’m the guy who does it all with my yard upkeep, much like most of my neighbors. The big difference, though, is that all of my neighbors drive ride-on mowers while I use my push mower. That’s a huge difference in effort! I sweat buckets and they cruise.
I am mostly indifferent to the yard work. I don’t love it…I don’t hate it. The only part I really enjoy is seeing a freshly raked yard, cleared of leaves…and the fire pit where I get to burn them all. That means that I don’t mind the leaf raking. I look at it as a great workout. However, the lawn mowing and other yard upkeep…I’m indifferent to.
I’ve gotten lazy over the years at our house when it comes to keeping up the yard. I let the lawn go for a few extra days before mowing. I don’t pick out the weeds from the flower beds all summer long. I skip the weed whacking on the lawn edges for months. It’s all gotten so tiresome.
Finally, this year I did something that is generally considered blasphemy by most frugal types or the greater personal finance blogger community. I paid a guy to cut my lawn.
What? Why would I pay someone to cut my lawn when I can obviously do it myself? Seems ridiculous. Well, let me show you a comparison.
Hiring the “Lawn Guy”
I hired a “lawn guy” early this summer. Actually, I hired a “lawn kid” who lives in my neighborhood. He’s 17 years old, but a mature kid for that age.
My neighbor is often away, so they have used a lawn service for years to get their lawn cut. They would have the professional guys with the big truck and trailer come by once a week. Two or three guys jump out and in about 15 minutes the whole yard is looking good.
Last year, my neighbor got rid of the big professional guys and hired this local kid to cut their lawn. He would drive his old ride-on mower to their house, carrying his weed whacker on his shoulders. It was funny to see this mower driving down the block.
So this year I talked to my neighbor and asked how much the kid charges. She said it’s $35 per week for her yard and she gave me the kids’ phone number. The kid came over to see me and after an awkward conversation that you would expect with a teenager, he gave me his price…$35 per week for his lawn service.
I signed him up, said let’s do this. I showed the kid the hot spots to hit with the lawn and he was all set. Off and mowing.
The kid bought a new mower with all the business he signed up and he does an excellent job. It takes him about 30 minutes to mow and do the edging on my lawn. I’m very happy with him.
Being the spreadsheet and numbers nerd that I am, I decided to do a comparison of the costs for mowing the lawn. A comparison between what it cost me to do the lawn myself and what I pay the kid to do it. Here are the numbers…
Mower = $46 per year
Gas = $35 per year
Weed Whacker = $20 per year
Weed Whacker Spools = $52.50 per year
Mowing Gear Total = $153.50 per year
Seems reasonable. The assumptions here are that I bought a new lawn mower and used it for 5 years and would likely replace it for year 6. Same with the weed whacker. So I am accounting for the replacement cost each of the five years. The ongoing costs are the gas for the mower and the spools of line for the weed whacker. I made some quick assumptions on conservative usage for those items.
Now there is one more addition needed for the comparison…the cost of my time. And that is the crux of the comparison. I couldn’t decide what to value my time at for mowing the lawn, so I went with a range of $15 to $20 per hour. This is very conservative in my estimation, a number that is only low because mowing the lawn is a basic thing I need to do around the house. I would go much higher in my value if this were a more complex task.
@ $15/hr = $1,575 per year
@ $20/hr = $2,100 per year
I estimated that it takes me about 3 hours to complete the entire lawn with my push mower and weed whacking. The kid is done in about 30 minutes with his super fast ride-on mower.
When I add in my time to the cost of the gear, I get a total cost for me to mow the lawn ranging from $1,729 to $2,254 for the entire year.
Now that we have a range for what it costs me to mow, let’s compare that to the cost of hiring the kid.
Hiring The Kid
$35 per week
$1,225 per year
Then we compare my cost to the cost of hiring the kid to mow the lawn. If I have the kid mow the lawn for the entire year, it will cost me $1,225.
The result of the comparison shows that I am saving myself $500-1,000 by hiring the “lawn kid.” That’s amazing!
Hiring this local kid to mow my lawn has been great this summer. The first benefit is the savings I get, about $500-1,000 for the year, based on the conservative value I put on my own time. That’s the fun part, the cost savings.
The next great benefit is the feeling of seeing a young kid make money with his own business. He drives a truck with a trailer and he bought his own ride-on mower this year, cost him $6,000. But he also signed up about 20 houses for lawn services this summer, all in our area. He did it all with word of mouth and had to turn people away.
Another benefit for me is the time that I free up from my head. I don’t have to think about the lawn…ever! I don’t worry about mowing before it rains…or worry about the grass getting too long because I haven’t mowed…or getting a notice from my home owner’s association about long grass. I don’t worry anymore.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy not mowing the lawn this year. Well, yes I can. This is a blog, after all. There’s a ton of white space to fill.
Anywho…I love the fact that I don’t have to mow my lawn. No more looking at the overgrown grass and dreading that I haven’t mowed yet and today is 100 degrees outside. No more feeling like the “bad neighbor” for not edging the lawn and having the worst looking lawn on the block. No more…anything. I don’t worry about any of it any longer. It’s all gone. What an amazing feeling!
I’m actually looking forward to raking the leaves this year. It will be a chance to get outside and actually enjoy yard work again.
The final benefit is the actual time that I save every week. I save at least 3 hours of time, the time it took me to mow and weed whack. Plus all the time worrying and preparing to work on the yard. That’s a considerable amount of time I got back for myself. If I can then put that time back to things like family time or working on my entrepreneur side gig, I gain so much!
So yes, I am very happy to write a check every month this summer for $140 to a local kid. I am very happy to look out at my yard and see a freshly cut lawn and know that it was worth the price.
Do you mow your own lawn or hire someone to do it? What is your yard work time worth to you? I’m curious to see what others value their time at.
The inspiration for this post came from the website I Am 1 Percent, where they talked about outsourcing work to others because it saves you money. Thanks to Edwin for the inspiration!
As always, join me on Twitter to interact and see what I’m up to lately…like hanging out with my kids at the bus stop.