“Come on, man. You don’t have time to be doing all of that. You have a daughter now. Just outsource.” This was the closing statement of a recent conversation that I had in my office with a coworker. This came up when he asked me about the various cuts and scratches on my forearms that I earned by trimming the trees in my backyard the previous day.
A quick poll of my friends and neighbors taught me that about 65% (13 out of 20) of them have a landscaper or a “lawn guy” that does their yard work for them. According to the trusty folks at Angie’s List, the average landscaper costs $45-$50. I get the arguments in favor of having someone do this work for you. You save time, it’s pretty cheap, you don’t have to worry about it, on and on. But for me, the benefits of doing my own yard work far outweigh the drawbacks.
The previous owner of our home left me with contact information for his landscaper. He paid the guy $45 per week to mow and rake the yard and paid an extra $100 once per month to trim the trees and bushes. This That’s $3,540 per year. I’m sure that some people pay less for their landscaping and I’m sure that if I paid for it, I would find a better deal. Regardless, let’s use the $3,540 per year figure.
If you compounded that annually over just 10 years at the average S&P 500 rate of return, you are looking at $71,242.18. This is rough math, obviously. But still, it’s amazing! Simply getting outside and maintaining your own yard can add up to over $70,000 over a 10 year period. Keep that in mind when you don’t feel like raking the leaves.
This doesn’t even factor in what I’ll call the negative opportunity cost. When you are outside working on your lawn for four hours, do you know what you are not doing? Going to the mall. Shopping online. Paying for an expensive Saturday morning brunch. It is almost impossible to spend money while you are outside working on your lawn, so if nothing else, it decreases your risk of needless spending.
Pride of Ownership
So here’s the deal. I have a pretty big yard. Last year, my wife and I bought our “forever” home so that our daughter can be in a good school district, she can have a safe place to play, etc. When we moved in, I set a goal to transform our grassless yard and overgrown trees into a beautiful place that my daughter could play by the time she’s able to walk. We chose to make this home purchase and make this the place that we live. For me, this comes with a responsibility to make the home best place that it can possibly be.
Every time I go spend time in the yard, I know that I’m maintaining the biggest investment that I’ve ever made. I am proud to own our home and I am proud to keep our yard looking great. Looking out at a beautifully maintained yard feels much better when you personally put in the time and effort to keep it that way. It doesn’t make sense to me to outsource the ability to feel this sense of pride and accomplishment.
It takes me about four hours per week to maintain my yard, with an easy week being an hour or two and adding in a day of tree trimming and general cleanup about once a month. I could easily justify this cost, knowing that the time I save is worth a lot to me. But why would I pay someone else to come to my house and get exercise?
Most people will hire someone to come do their yard work, then head off to an $18 yoga class, or pay $100 per month for a CrossFit gym membership. Others will complain about how they can’t find enough time to work out, or how they don’t have the strength of flexibility that they once had. I’m not saying that maintaining your yard will turn you into a world class athlete. However, an extra 20 hours a month of physical labor where you are walking, reaching, bending, pulling and lifting sure can’t hurt. If you want to look at it from a pure calories burned standpoint, it’s pretty promising as well.
Calories burned doing yard work:
- Mowing the lawn: 250-350 calories per hour
- Heavy yard work: 400-600 calories per hour
- Gardening: 200-400 calories per hour
- Raking leaves: 350-450 calories per hour
Being outdoors in the sunshine, for even a few minutes a day can improve your overall quality of life. There are dozens of studies that show that being outdoors has a number of health benefits, including everything from improved mood and concentration to a lower risk of cancer, depression, heart attack and stroke. Mowing the lawn and bagging up leaves seems like a small price to pay for this type of win.
This one won’t come into play every day, but it’s important nonetheless. A well maintained lawn can give you the satisfaction of knowing that you will receive top dollar for your home. It’s certainly not the only factor, but if all other things are equal and your house has a beautifully maintained lawn, you are probably going to be the winner. With some simple effort and consistency, not only will you impress your neighbors, but you can have a few extra dollars in your pocket when it comes time to sell.
Millions of people in this country live in places where they do not have the luxury of a big, green lawn. This includes people in low-income housing, metropolitan high-rises or apartments, condos, etc. Regardless of why people can’t have a lawn, I’m sure that there are hundreds of thousands of people who would love to be able to walk out in their backyard barefoot and have a cup of coffee in the morning. I am grateful for this every day. I love that I have the ability to watch rabbits run across my yard in the morning. I love that I can see trees grow and blossom through the year. I love that I can see leaves and pine needles falling on my yard during certain times of the year.
To me, paying someone else to maintain my lawn feels like an insult to the people who are not as fortunate as me. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who would gladly come mow the lawn.
I’m not going to judge anyone for choosing to outsource their yard work. I get that it takes time. I get that some people don’t enjoy it as much as I do. But for me, I get so many benefits (money, health, fitness, happiness, pride) out of maintaining my lawn that I will never be talked into saving a little time by hiring a landscaper.