I’ve been living in suburban America now for my entire adult life. My first house was built on what looked like an old airfield on the outskirts of a military town in eastern North Carolina. There was no HOA, we had roaming packs of dogs that would knock over your trashcans right after you took them out on Thursday evening, and only about 20% of the yards were decently maintained at any given time. Even if you don’t like doing yardwork, I’m about to make a solid argument that you should save money by cutting your own grass.
Suburban Lawn Standards
Fast forward a bunch of years and I now live in a neighborhood that could be considered the polar opposite. Strategically placed poplar trees lining the streets, immaculately maintained yards, and neighbors that adhere to the leash law! I love dogs, just not wild packs of Carolina yard dogs. One thing has not changed though -I still enjoy cutting my grass.
I was a little intimidated when I moved into the neighborhood, especially because the house across the street from me had the nicest lawn I’d ever seen in my life (I’m not exaggerating). Not to mention, the house we’d just bought had two huge Bradford pear trees sucking up any bit of moisture in the front yard, leaving it half dead, and in need of more than a little attention.
Luckily my neighbor across the street was awesome – he shared some tips and reminded me that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the street (but it was, and it always confused me that he’d say this). He cut his grass once a week or so, put some water on it in the spring into early summer, and added a little bit of seed in the fall to replace whatever dried and died the summer prior. The guy also didn’t worry too much about how green it was, if it looked better than the neighbors, or if he was doing enough. He did the basics and he had a gorgeous yard because of it.
Keeping up with the Jones’
As we settled in, I noticed that every day of the week there was a different pickup truck hauling a different trailer with different lawnmowers operated by different landscapers at each house on our street. I understand that landscaping is a profession and I’m not discounting their work – remember, I’m here talking about practical ways to save a few dollars, and this is one of them. CYOG! Just cut your own grass. My neighbor across the street and I were the only houses on our block that cut our own grass. Mine was still not as green as his, although he often insinuated that his was not as green as I thought it was (still confuses me), but there was no serious difference between our yards and the “professionally maintained” yards on our street.
The HOA didn’t send us a dirty letter for not keeping up with the status quo, and our housing value did not plunge because we refused to hire someone to do it for us. We just cut our own grass. Again, I realize there are situations where you cannot, due to physical ability, time constraints, or any other anomaly that life throws at us from time to time. I’m not saying that this is the only way, just one way to save you some bucks. Check out my cost analysis below!
140cc gasoline push mower from store of your choice – $369
2-gallon gas can from same store of your choice – $17
87 octane E-10 Gasoline – $5 / gallon
Scroll Down if You Don’t Like Math!
For gasoline estimate, I used Brake Specific Fuel Consumption, or a measure of fuel efficiency in internal combustion engines to estimate the amount of fuel needed per year.
Yard takes 1 hour to cut (this is about the case with my 0.3-acre property)
0.5 lbs/hp-hr corresponding to the fuel efficiency of 87 octane gasoline
Adding 50% to the fuel consumption estimate – the BSFC estimate does not account for the load the grass puts on the output shaft of the engine.
140cc engine making 3.25 horsepower
1 gallon of gasoline weighs 6.25 lbs
3.25 HP X 0.5 lbs/hp-hr X 1/6.25 lbs = 0.26 gallons per hour X 1.5 (conservative) = 0.39 gph
So, we have your typical push mower using about 0.4 gallons for every hour of use. Let’s say you cut your yard 40 out of 52 weeks, your using 15.6 gallons every year – costing you somewhere in the neighborhood of $78.
Your first-year investment is $464.
Assuming the lawnmower will have a service life of 10 years, let’s see what the 10-year investment looks like.
Assume the lawnmower will incur maintenance costs of 10% per year and gas will follow a meager 3% inflation year on end (laughable right?)
The 10-year lifetime cost for the lawnmower of $957.
The gasoline will cost you $894 over the 10-year period.
So, What Does it Cost?
So, over a 10-year period, cutting your own grass will cost about $1851.
Professional Lawn Care
Now, what does professional lawncare cost?
From a quick google search, I found a conservative figure of $30 for a quarter acre.
I’ve noticed that some of my neighbors get their lawn cut once every two weeks, while others every week. For this estimate, we’ll use 25 weeks out of the year – again, trying to be conservative.
$30 / cut X 25 cuts / year = $750 / year X 10 years = $7500! But we all know inflation affects living costs, which in turn drives up service costs.
With 3% year over year inflation, the cost of your lawn service is $8597.
THE BOTTOM LINE
By cutting your own grass, you’re reducing your costs by 364% over 10 years – or about $6750.
Go ahead and put that $6750 in your IRA and thank me in 20 years.