Save Money by Cutting Your Grass

Photo by Nechama Lock on Unsplash

 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!

Initial Investment

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.

Some assumptions

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.


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.

LED Lights for Energy SAVINGS

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

When I was young, my dad got really good at yelling “TURN OFF THE LIGHTS!”. Eight-year-old me had absolutely no concept of energy consumption or money, or how the two were interconnected. Here I am 30 years later and I’m still trying to find a way to repent my energy sins, although LED lights have made it easier for me.

Types of Light Bulbs

Over the years there have been some improvements to the old school incandescent bulbs that we abused as children. For a while people were buying compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) – they were a bit more efficient but create light by sending electricity through a gas mixture of argon, which is inert and totally cool with the environment, and mercury, which is not totally cool with the environment. When broken, these bulbs are toxic to both the environment and the health of you and your pets. But you’re not supposed to break the bulb!!! Life happens.

Then there were halogen bulbs – efficient but delicate. Getting your greasy finger prints on a bulb could cause it to self-destruct – and don’t knock over the lamp! The filaments in these things tend to break or burn out when jolted. It was cool though, at least the gasses inside them didn’t ruin the planet.

Then one day your favorite box stores decided it was time to bless us with the light emitting diode! Let’s take a look at what an LED is and why you should replace all of your lightbulbs with the immediately.

LED – Light Emitting Diode

A light emitting diode (LED) is a semi-conducting material that emits photons (light) when an electrical current is passed through it. The diodes themselves can be tiny – the size of a pin head, and emit a relatively large amount of light compared to legacy light bulbs. LEDs can also emit different color light – the type of semi-conducting material used to create the diode dictates the light wavelength that is emitted. What’s even more interesting is that the typical white light you get from your LED bulb is most commonly a product of a blue LED and a yellow phosphor (a phosphor is a solid that emits light when exposed to blue or ultraviolet light).

Benefits of Switching

LED light bulbs use less energy = LESS $$$

The average LED light bulb you’d use in your house uses about 8 watts of electrical power compared to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. What does that mean to your wallet you ask? If you kept 1, 60- watt incandescent bulb lit 24/7 for an entire year, it would cost you about $76 (assuming electric power costs about $0.145 per kilowatt hour – average for the U.S.). The LED bulb in contrast would cost about $10! Now I understand your probably not using your lightbulbs 24/7, but either way you’re seeing a 600% savings over traditional light bulbs.

LED Lights Last Longer

The average LED light bulb has a lifetime of about 25,000 operating hours while an incandescent bulb will last 4% of that time – or about 1,000 hours. Over a 10-year period, you may not ever have to replace a LED light bulb, while you’d need to replace the incandescent bulb 18-20 times! LED lights cost about 5x more than incandescent bulbs, but last 25x longer. This one is easy to remember – LLLL!

LED lights are better for the environment

Materials aside, longer lifespan = fewer light bulbs to manufacturer and less light bulb waste in the landfills. This residual effect may not seem important now, but will make a difference in the future.

LED Retrofit

Manufacturers produce every kind of LED light that you could think of. There are LED lights to replace your standard light bulbs, LED light fixtures to replace countersunk lighting in your ceiling, and even LED chandeliers! Many LED fixtures also have settings where you can change the “temperature” of the visible light (different diodes that put out different wavelengths of light). Some even have multiple different colors. Replacing your standard light bulbs and fixtures with LEDs gives you more options to customize your living space.

Make the switch today

Now that LED lights are on the market, switching to them seems like a no-brainer. Switching to LED lights will not only save you money, but allow you more flexibility in customizing your living space and in turn, you’re helping the environment by cutting back on light bulb waste.

If you’re worried about the initial cost of LEDs , look no further than your local power company. Many companies will provide LEDs to customers for free.

LED lights also make great gifts! A few years ago, I replaced all of my LED bulbs and afterwards, my power company sent me a free box of them. This made for a great Christmas present to my dad!

Keeping Your House Cool in the Summer

Photo by Josh Rakower on Unsplash

In the southeast part of the U.S., air conditioning is an important part of life. I’ve spent a few summers in the desert and I refuse to subject myself to that discomfort if I have a choice. I understand that air conditioning is a touchy subject to some – my father in-law has certain times during the day that correspond to certain settings on his thermostat. He will never divulge the proprietary algorithm that dictates the comfort of his home, and I don’t care because I have my own! Either way – we both like to keep our house cool.

But seriously, everyone has their own comfort level and there are so many variables that go into the energy efficiency of your home – I’m not going to dive deep into the details. I do want to paint a picture for you though as to what is happening when your A/C is running.

The Basics

In the United States, your typical air conditioner is rated by cooling tons. These are not your typical U.S. Tons, you know 2000 pounds to a ton – no. These are specifically COOLING TONS. 1 ton of cooling is equal to 12,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per HOUR.

British Thermal Units

And what is a BTU you ask? This is an important unit when describing how to keep your house cool. A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. We can keep going down the rabbit hole but just know this is a measure of how much heat can be transferred via the refrigeration (vapor) cycle from the inside of you house to the outside environment. The A/C professionals size the units depending on your region, size of your home, number of windows and doors, height of ceiling, and some other stuff.

Refrigeration Cycle

The refrigeration cycle is at the heart of keeping your house cool!

SEER Calculation

Every air conditioning unit also has an energy rating – SEER is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. This is the ratio of the cooling output in BTU to the energy input in watts. Local governments usually specify a minimum SEER that can be installed when buying new units. The higher the SEER rating, the more cooling you’re getting for your money. The SEER rating is essentially comfort divided by money!

Don’t Waste Money

The sun radiates the earth’s surface with about 1.3 kilowatts per square meter – the same heat that you are actively removing from your home with your A/C. While it seems the A/C is doing all of the work, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you are not throwing your hard-earned money out the window.

Seal Windows

Even if your windows are older and not the most efficient, there are some things you can do to help. Look to see the condition of the caulking around the window. Many times, the think strip of caulk is the only thing keeping that hot air from coming inside. If it is yellowed or cracked you should scrape it out and replace it. Yes, this is something that YOU can do! No need hire someone – a tube of caulk and a caulk gun will cost you about $10 at a hardware store. Another really simple way to keep heat from entering your house through the windows is to upgrade your window covers. Heavy curtains, black out shades, or wood / faux wood blinds do a great job of keeping the heat out and ensuring that your A/C isn’t working too hard.

Seal Doors

As you might expect, your doors are another weak spot in your house when it comes to energy efficiency. Look for cracks between the door and the door frame. If you can see daylight shining through, it’s time to replace the weather strip! You can pick up replacement weather strip at your local hardware store for less than $20 per door. The old stuff pulls right out and the new slides right in (you may need to cut to length with scissors). If you want to step up your door game even more, install storm doors. Storm doors add another level of insulation as well as give you the option to allow some of that sunlight in during the cooler months.

Attic Insulation

Check the condition of your attic insulation. This is something that many people overlook because, well, it’s in the attic. Many homes have blown in insulation – it can either be itchy fiberglass or more commonly now, shreds of organic material known as cellulose. Over time, this insulation compresses under its own weight and its effectiveness, or “R” value, decreases. Take a look at your local building code and see how many inches of insulation there should be in your attic. If it has compressed, or is missing in some areas, you have some options.

Hiring a contractor to come out and upgrade your insulation is probably the easiest way to handle this. Contractors that specialize in this have all of the equipment on hand and can have the job done in no time. I personally recommend this as blown in insulation can make a mess. Your other option is to rent the equipment and blow the insulation in yourself. Some people prefer to do this themselves – whether it be because of cost or they simply like working in their hot attic. Either way, get some estimates and choose your path to energy efficiency! This is a great way to keep your house cool.

Replace Filters

Replace your filters and get have your equipment serviced regularly. Normally there are filters inside your home that filter out dust and particulates before it is passed through the evaporator coils. Not replacing the filters regularly will cause the evaporator coils to collect dirt, reducing it’s heat exchanging efficiency. Furthermore, a dirty filter reduces airflow, again effecting it’s efficiency. As far as servicing the A/C unit, everyone has different views on this. I know people who have never had someone out to look at their HVAC system – only when it breaks! That should tell you something. I had a someone come out this spring, they washed the condenser coils, checked the capacitor and the refrigerant charge – gave me a piece of mind that the unit won’t break down this summer.

Run Fans to Feel Cool

This last item may not be for everyone but it can help you FEEL cooler when the summer heat is relentless. The thing is, a fan does not technically keep your house cool.

Turn fans on in the room you’re sitting in – the increased airflow will help your body to cool faster through convention and evaporation! This isn’t making your A/C run more efficient, but it may allow you to give it a break once in a while. Just remember to turn the fans off when you leave the room, they are not cooling your house off.

Reduce Cooling Costs

The average 3-ton air conditioner in the U.S. can cost upwards of $100 per month to run – this cost will vary depending on how much you pay for electricity, how cool you keep your house, how energy efficient it is, and even what region you live. But just using $100 per month as an example, that’s a lot of money! Take some of these tips and make sure that you’re getting the most comfort for your money!