It has been a year since we bought our new home on an acre-shy lot. I am not a particular fan of gardening over my life so far, and hence for most of last year, I had conveniently outsourced the yard work to my gardener for $330 a month, including tax. He is a good young man who bought an established lawn care business and does adequate work. I even introduced him to our neighbor across the street, from whom he won the lawn maintenance business too. By November we mutually agreed to pause the service until grass will grow again in March. I also sent him a Christmas gift card for appreciation.
March has come with a heartburning message from my gardener. Two weeks ago, I received a new proposed contract requesting a price hike of almost 50%, to $490 a month for year-long service.
I know I had a good deal in only paying $330 a month for my big yard -- I did some comparison shopping earlier in 2013 and I was quoted anywhere between $450 to $600 for comparable services. This young gentleman was just resetting his service to the market price so it is nothing wrong with him.
But still, a 50% price hike is a lot to stomach.
After all, $490 a month for 12 months, plus year-end gratuity, is over $6,000 a year. And that's only on an after-tax basis -- at my current marginal tax rate, that's easily over $8,500 pre-tax money.
So here comes this late new year resolution: I plan to take care of our lawn myself, with some enlisted help from my boy at 12.
My whim was inspired by the book Early Retirement Extreme, which I recently finished. The book argued that to maximize one's happiness (which can consist of health, family connection, curiosity as well as career ambitions, among many other things), it's a doomed approach to keep working harder on the corporate ladder and make a few more bucks, only to outsource more daily chores to others or more sophisticated gadgets, and in the process losing the balance of personal happiness.
It's very true in this case. It would take a lot of effort to make $8,500 extra in my mid-career job. And by paying a gardener to do the work, I hardly set foot on my lawn for more than a couple dozen times last year. It is a missed opportunity -- by doing the yard work myself, I will learn something, have more physical exercise, enjoy my lawn more, and have a better sense of achievement.
Financial wise, I expect my annual spending on the lawn care can be reduced to about $1,000, and this will be a huge source of savings for us this year.
So I have taken a few baby steps toward this late-coming new year resolution: I have read most of the book Lawn Care for Dummies, completed the first round of fertilizing and seeding for half of my yard. A riding lawn mower is also on its way from Home Depot.
Life in good.