A Story About a Riding Lawnmower

By Patrick

Today, I’d like to do something different and talk about my experience with a riding lawnmower. Some of you may think I’m crazy for talking about this, but I think my last two years and experience with my tractor has taught me some valuable lessons (or at least demonstrated how effective certain principles can be).

It all started two years ago when my wife and I moved in to our house on a one-acre lot. I was excited about moving in to a bigger house after spending close to a year in a smaller house with two active dogs and a toddler running around. We finally were going to have space, and since we had recently combined two households, we had a significant amount of furniture to fill all the rooms. I hardly gave a second thought to the yard, and that ended up being a big mistake.

You View Life Through Your Own Experiences

The previous homeowner hadn’t done a great job maintaining the yard, so we had tall grass on the first day we moved in. Since we were so focused on getting our furniture in the house, I hired someone to mow it that first week. A week later, it was time for me to tackle the job. I busted out the trusty mower and got to work. It became apparent very quickly that my prior suite of yard tools was going to make the weekly task of doing yard maintenance much lengthier and more stressful.

You see, in my prior house, the idea of yard work was based on a much smaller yard. While I knew this yard was going to be bigger, I was more focused on the idea of having a spacious yard than I was on the work that it was going to take to maintain it. My prior experiences were informing my future reality, and once I started to get my hands dirty, I realized I was going to have to get a riding lawnmower.

You Sometimes Need to Test the Water First

Now before I went all-in and bought a brand new John Deere riding mower, I had to make sure this was a decision I wanted to live with. At this point, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do yard work on a regular basis. I thought about hiring it out, but not having to pay money every month to someone else seemed like a nice idea for a couple who had just bought a new house. We also had a variety of other expenses immediately after moving in, so I didn’t feel it would have been the best decision to buy a new mower.

It was at this point that I realized I needed to test the waters. I looked on Facebook Marketplace for a used riding mower, and ended up finding a Craftsman mower that met my needs while also taking a very small hit against our budget. This turned out to be a great option. Over the next two years, I ended up learned a whole bunch about maintaining a tractor (a used one is going to give you some problems), and over two years I’ve been able to watch with satisfaction as my hard work has transformed our yard.

Invest in Areas that Matter

If that last two years has taught me anything, it’s that your investments should reflect areas of life that matter to you. We are all bound to spend money somewhere, and it’s important that when we do it’s an investment in an area of life that is important. After two years of using my craftsman mower, I decided it was time for me to step up to the big leagues. I posted my Craftsman on Facebook Marketplace and sold it for a reasonable price factoring in my two years of ownership. I ended up paying about $75/year for the use of that tractor. I then took these funds and bought a highly-rated John Deere E130 Tractor.

After my first mow, it became clear that I was spending almost double the amount of time I needed to due to a wider turning radius, slower speed, and increased maintenance my old tractor had. This is valuable time I now can spend with my family and doing yard work doesn’t cause the same level of stress anymore. You see, over the last two years, yard work became a bigger part of my life, and as such, was now something worth investing in.

While some of you may not resonate with the “yard work” component of the story, the lessons are applicable to all. We all view the world from our different mixture of backgrounds and life events, so sometimes, we need to step outside of our box and into another one. We are faced with challenges where there is no clear course of action, so sometimes, we need to test the waters and make a compromise. We have areas of our lives that matter to us, so sometimes, we need to make investments in them.

At the end of the day, it was just a tractor purchase, but I got a lot of satisfaction out of thinking about all the lessons it taught me about life.

Eric’s Thoughts:

There are two really important points Patrick makes above that I want to underscore:

  1. Invest in Areas of Life Important to You
  2. The Concept of Annualized Net Cost

Invest in Areas of Life Important to You

Patrick spoke to the idea of investing in areas of your life that are important to you when he spoke about his decision to “step up to the big leagues” and buy a John Deere. In some ways, he was investing in a new lawnmower. But more importantly – and I underscore this point so it isn’t missed – he was investing in time.

Let’s assume Patrick paid the MSRP of $2,000 for the John Deere. That is certainly a large sum of money – but he didn’t simply buy a lawnmower. He bought a faster mower, a mower with a tighter turning radius, a mower that required less fuss to get running. By his estimates, he cut his yard work time in half. If we assume he used to spend 3 hours per week on yard work, he’s now spending only 1.5.

That 1.5 hours saved is real time that he can spend with his family, with his friends, on his hobbies, or writing content for Thriving Millionaires. And when taken yearly over the course of the useful life of the mower (I’ll take a stab in the dark and say riding mowers last 6 years) – what Patrick really bought was 468 hours of time. And $2000 for 468 hours given back comes to less than $4.50 per hour.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to pay $4.50 for an extra hour with my family or friends!

Annualized Net Cost

When Patrick described the transactions of buying and selling his old lawn mower, he mentioned, almost in passing, that he ended up paying about $75 per year for use of the mower. While I don’t know the exact details of his transaction, let’s assume he purchased the mower for $900 and sold it for $750. That $150 of value that came out of the mower over two years gets you to the $75 per year for use of the mower.

Most people would see this transaction as paying $900 for the old mower, and decide how to justify the purchase of a $900 mower. However, when you take into account how long you plan to own an item and the potential re-sale value, you can calculate the annualized net cost of an item.

This concept can be applied well beyond the world of lawn mowers.

For example, if you’re in the market to make a car purchase, you can view buying the car as a $15,000 expenditure. Or, if you plan to sell the car in 3 years, and expect to get $10,000 for the car when you sell it – you can view buying the car as paying about $1,700 per year for use of the vehicle.

But it isn’t all about things with engines – you can think through this lens with much smaller purchases as well. Say you were planning on buying a $70 pair of jeans that you thought you’d wear for 24 months. At the end of the year, you plan to donate the jeans to a charity and take a $30 deduction on your taxes (or sell to a used clothing store). This deduction could take ~$7 off your tax bill, which would mean your annualized net cost for these jeans would be $31.50 – or $2.63 per month.

I’m not suggesting you use this logic to justify every purchase your heart desires to make, but it’s worth thinking about when this mindset can be constructively applied to think differently about purchases – especially when you’re investing in areas of your life that matter!


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