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Am I Too Cheap for Doing Yard Work?

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Am I too cheap for doing yard work?Is it just me or have gardeners became ridiculously expensive? Personally, I hate paying for yard work. Why pay when you can do it yourself? Besides, yard work builds character. I pity the kids who have never done yard work. How else do you learn that physical labor pays very little? Anyway, I’m letting off some steam today because of our shared backyard at the rental duplex. Apparently, we’ll pay $360 for a “lawn guy” to come blow the leaves and haul them away. I think this price is ridiculous, but I’m trying to be a good neighbor and I’ll just vent here instead doing it in person. Am I too cheap for wanting to do yard work? The back yard arrangement is a bit unusual so read on…

Shared back yard

At our duplex, we have a shared back yard. This space is shared between 4 houses. We purchased the duplex in 2014 and this arrangement has been in place long before that. All 4 homes pay $240 per year into a backyard fund which is saved for tree trimming. There is a huge old willow tree there, for which the small HOA is named.

I’m fine with paying $240 per year for tree trimming and usually we don’t have to pay for anything else. However, one of the neighbors has their own lawn guy. I’m not sure what this lawn guy does exactly because I’ve never seen him. We don’t live there now and only drop by occasionally. That’s one of the issues here. The living arrangement is atypical.

  1. We’ll call our duplex – Duplex1. Currently, it is rented out. The tenants rarely (if ever) use the backyard. We plan to move in when the tenants leave.
  2. Duplex2. The owner lives in one unit in the summer and winter break. The other unit is rented out. I have never seen the tenant.
  3. House3. A single family home which was sold in 2016. Currently, the owner lives in California. House3 is undergoing a major basement remodeling.
  4. House4. A single family home which is owner occupied. This house is also getting a major renovation. They are the only family onsite year round and they use the backyard pretty often.

Whew, that’s complicated. The main point is only one of the owners live there currently. House4 is the one that has a lawn guy. Actually, I think House3 and House4 shared the lawn guy before House3 was sold in 2016. I’m not sure about the current arrangement. Anyway, the lawn guy must not be a very good at his job because the lawn is in terrible shape. It doesn’t get much sun back there and it is pretty scraggly. I really don’t mind it because I’m not a big fan of lawns. They take a bunch of water and they are pretty useless. I prefer low maintenance landscape, but I digress. The scraggly lawn is fine with me for occasional uses.

I hate leaves

I hate leaves

Now we come to the point. House4 proposed paying the lawn guy to haul away the leaves for $360. Since we don’t live there, I tried to be a good neighbor and replied “sure.” The next day, I dropped by to turn off the external water faucet for the winter and check the backyard. House4 already raked some leaves and the rest doesn’t look that bad. To me, it is not worth paying $360 to get rid of them.

So I came home and proposed that I’ll blow the leaves into a big pile and we’ll put them in the yard debris bin as time permitted. Of course, it was too late and the lawn guy was already scheduled. So, that’s the reason for this long gripe. The price seems insane to me.

 

Am I being too cheap to not want to pay for yard work?

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By the way, we didn’t contribute to backyard leaf hauling in previous years. I’m not exactly sure why, but this issue never came up before this year. I suspect this is mainly due to House3 being sold.

Alternatives to paying the lawn guy

Fine, I’ll kick in 90 bucks this year, but never again. I’ll remember this and put it on my 2018 New Year resolutions. It’s not like there aren’t any alternatives to paying the overpriced lawn guy. Let’s explore a few of them.

  1. Leaf pickup day. Ironically, we could have avoided this whole issue if we dumped all the leaves in the street. Unfortunately, the leaf pick up day was 2 weeks ago… The city charges $30 for leaf pick up day and I blew all the leaves from the front yard and sidewalk into the street. The city truck came by and swept the whole neighborhood. Next year, I’ll dump the leaves from the backyard into the street as well. The city encourages this in their newsletter so I’m not breaking any rules.
  2. Pay the kids. Collectively, there are at least 5 kids in these 4 houses. Once we live there, I’ll propose paying the kids to rake/blow and bag the leaves. I can haul them to the recycling center, dump them in the street for leaf pickup day, or put them in the bins gradually. I’m sure they will be happy with 25 bucks each, probably even less than that. Let’s build some character instead of playing with their devices.
  3. Get a lawn mower. We could pool the money and invest in a good lawn mower. It’s better for the yard to just mow and mulch all the leaves anyway. Leaves fall in the forest and nobody has to haul them to the recycling center.
  4. Day labor. I’m pretty sure it’ll cost 120 bucks at the most to get 2 day laborers to do this same job. I’d have to haul the leaves to the recycling center, though.

Let me know if you have a good alternative to paying the lawn guy $360 to haul off the leaves. That seems ludicrous to me.

The downside of having rich neighbors

Man, that’s the downside of having rich neighbors. Money is the solution to everything. Well, I think they are rich anyway. $360 is probably nothing to them. I’m sure a few hours of their time is worth much more than that. It’s different for an early retiree like me. I have time and I don’t want to spend frivolously. I don’t mind spending a few hours doing yard work. It’s good exercise.

Also, $360 seems very excessive. What the heck does this lawn guy do anyway? Hand massages the lawn and sprinkles mineral water? The results sure don’t look impressive.

All right, that’s already over 1,000 words. I’d better stop for now. Someday, my ultimate goal will come true and we’ll get our 5 acres on Hawaii. We’ll have privacy then and neighbor problems will be a thing of the past… Besides, I really shouldn’t complain about our duplex this year. It will generate about $11,000 in 2017 so we could splurge a bit on the yard work. I guess the leaf guy needs to buy Christmas presents too.

What about you? How much do you pay to have someone haul the leaves away? Any complaints about your neighbors? Here is the chance to air your grievances without repercussions. (I’m pretty sure my neighbors don’t read this blog. If they do, then they’d know how I feel about their lawn guy…)

Update

WTF, this is after $360! Wow, this must be the easiest $360 the lawn guy ever made. He only did half the yard. Now I remember, it was done like this in previous years. Duplex2 then rake up the leaves on our side when they’re in town for the holidays.

lawn guy

I spent an hour blowing and raking the rest into 2 big piles. Check it out. Personally, I think we could get rid of all the leaves in 2-3 weeks if we put them into 4 bins every week. No need for hauling. Maybe I should unretire and become the neighborhood yard guy. I’d make way more money than blogging, that’s for sure.

overpriced lawn guy

Final update: It seems there was some miscommunication with the lawn guy. House4 called and he came to do the rest of the yard. I still think this guy charges way too much. Next year, I’ll see if the neighbors will pay me to get rid of the leaves.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 88 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako December 14, 2017, 2:28 am

    $360 does seem like way too much Joe! I’ve never paid for a law guy in my life, and I’m not going to start anytime soon. That’s ridiculous! Maybe $100 would be believable, but $360 is just crazy.

    A lot of my neighbors hire people to do their yard work too. I guess they’re too wealthy to mow their own lawn?

    Apparently a lot wealthier than me! I can’t imagine ever being that lazy. Everybody needs more exercise!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:12 am

      Inconceivable! But like Indio Montoya said, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
      I’ve never paid a lawn guy in my life either. We’ll DIY when we live there.

  • Lily @ The Frugal Gene December 14, 2017, 2:48 am

    Hahaha what a rant Joe! I prefer low maintenance landscape too. Lawns are the most useless thing to be popularized in California :p

    If I was an early retiree, I would have done it myself too. $360 is pricey! Try out the leaf blowing side hustle Joe! That’s a great idea ahaha.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:12 am

      Ugh… I hate lawns. They are such a terrible waste of resources.

  • Bob December 14, 2017, 2:54 am

    I have a philosophical question – would you do it yourself if it was $10? In our country labour is so cheap that we would pay $10-$15 for a labourer for the entire day. They don’t always speak very good english so you’d have to watch occasionally to make sure things don’t go wrong, but labour is very cheap. However, I like yard work, but it would be far cheaper to pay, would you just pay the cost and maybe an extra 5 staff for other things, and have people serve your whims every day?

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:13 am

      I’m not sure. Maybe I would do it if I don’t have much else to do. It wasn’t that difficult. But if it was $10, I wouldn’t gripe about paying. I’d rather pay for other tasks I hate – like clearing the gutters.

  • David @iretiredyoung December 14, 2017, 3:12 am

    I’ll come and sweep the leaves for $360! What time do you want me to come over?

    You’re not being cheap, and it’s not just about the money either. I could get someone to clean the house for us, but why shouldn’t I do it, after all, I have the time, and it seems a pretty normal thing to do.

    I’m not sure whether it’s about having too much money or simply people being too lazy – I suspect the latter.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:14 am

      No kidding. $360 is excessive. We’re getting ripped off here.

  • Caroline December 14, 2017, 3:14 am

    The beauty of having older kids, I get my 16 year old to do it:) And he gets room & board!
    $360 seems expensive , I would shop around but wouldn’t do it myself if it is a rental property.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:15 am

      Next year, I’ll make RB40Jr help me. 🙂

  • Zach @ Four Pillar Freedom December 14, 2017, 3:19 am

    “What the heck does this lawn guy do anyway? Hand massages the lawn and sprinkles mineral water?”

    I cracked up at that line. I personally have done plenty of yard work in my life, but it’s not something I have ever enjoyed. I live in an apartment now and don’t have to worry about yard work, but if I did have my own yard it’s something I would seriously consider paying for. Although, $360 does seem outrageously high and I would be on the fence about it. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:15 am

      I don’t mind some yard work. The problem is I don’t want to be stuck in the garden when the weather is nice. Fall is a good time to do yard work.

  • John C December 14, 2017, 3:51 am

    I can understand wanting to have the leaves removed in that setting. I’m personally on a 3 acre lot that backs up to the woods, so leaves aren’t a big concern for me. Too large an area to imagine cleaning them all up. I just mow and mulch.
    Personally a shared backyard would be an absolute nightmare for me. From the size of what the yard looks like I think $360 is about $260 over priced. I love the idea of getting the kids to do some work and earn some $$$.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:16 am

      I like mow and mulch. That’s a lot more natural.

  • TJM December 14, 2017, 4:16 am

    That was indeed a rant! 🙂 $360 was far too much, but maybe he has to pay to dump the leaves at the recycling centre, since he is a business? Get the kids to do it next year. Or get your neighbours to pay you!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:16 am

      He probably has to pay to dump the leaves, but it can’t be much more than $25. I should check it out.

  • Hermann December 14, 2017, 4:42 am

    Why not just offer to do it for $260 and split the cost with the people who pay the lawn guy. If they think you do a worse job agree to go back to the $360. If you do a better job agree to increase to $360. Then you can tinker with doing it yourself, finding a cheaper alternative, paying kids, etc. Sort of like Godfather II offering to pay off the local crime boss and pocketing the difference 😛

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:17 am

      I’ll try that next year. It just caught us by surprise this year. Next year, I’ll be prepared to do it. I can just dump everything in the street on leaf day.

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify December 14, 2017, 4:51 am

    Joe, I have a personal philosophy I follow on this stuff. I’m not handy and do not care to be. Anything that takes a little DIY skill (electrician, plumbing HVAC, handyman etc. etc.), I hire a professional and pay the high price. For unskilled work like house cleaning, mowing the yard, removing leaves, cleaning the gutters, shoveling the drive etc. etc. I do it myself. I can accept the cost for skilled contractors, but not unskilled laborers. I’m with you on this one. Understand your gripe. Tom

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:18 am

      I like your philosophy. Unskilled labor just takes time. It wasn’t difficult to blow the leaves into 2 piles.

  • Pennypincher December 14, 2017, 4:57 am

    Most of my leaves come from all the neighbors properties! I keep an eye out for their “lawn services” blowing the leaves into our yard-yes! We catch them doing it and “educate” them on NOT blowing leaves our way. I see trees as “dumpers” now, and the yard work is just cleaning up “messes”. Hate it, but refuse to pay a “service” to do it. I do hope they are paying taxes on all that income!
    Fact: My plumber saw how much these lawn guys make, quit the plumbing business and went into the lawn bu$ine$$. What does that tell you? Joe, just blow all the leaves, avoid raking, onto big old sheets or tarps. Wrap and twist tie, haul off to the dump, so much easier. Yes, an hour a week of work and eventually it’s all done. Winter’s break is your reward. Also, get at least 3 bids for tree trimming-costs vary widely. There’s power in shopping around!
    Lastly, my old Toro mower lasted 20+ years, pays for itself the first year of use. The new models are SO nice, they push themselves, you are literally jogging behind them. Excellent product. I could get your lawn green and lush in one season, Joe. No chemicals!
    Ps- I would call the lawn service and complain if I saw how many leaves were left after he was there. You must supervise these services, easy to get ripped off. One time I mailed 7” blades of grass to my lawn service, saying- you did NOT mow my lawn yesterday, here’s proof. Fired!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:31 am

      Thanks for sharing your tips. You know the lawn guys are raking it in if the plumber quits. Plumbers make good money too.
      Actually, the yard work is fine with me. The big problem is that the leaves clog the gutters. I have to keep cleaning them in the fall. At least that’s over with. One of those new self propelling mowers would be great. I’ll check them out.

  • Apathy Ends December 14, 2017, 5:01 am

    I would do it myself for $360 – I don’t know if that is expensive to have someone come out and do it though, especially if it takes 3+ hours.

    I have been going back and forth on a monthly maid type service to do the things I can never find time to get done (dusting for example)

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:32 am

      I seriously doubt it took 3 hours. Maybe adding the commute time and driving to the recycling center time. The actual yard work couldn’t have taken more than 2 hours. It was easy because it’s been dry.

  • Budget on a Stick December 14, 2017, 5:02 am

    We just mulch the leaves into the grass (super easy).
    I told my wife I’m sick of the hastas we have because they are more high maintenance than the rest of the landscaping (maybe they will accidentally meet their demise next year).

    I’ve never understood the neighbors with the yard service if they are physically able (the older people that should get a service are doing the work themselves). Makes me wonder if I should offer to mow their yards. Sounds like I could easily undercut the price and make it worth it!

    • Karin December 14, 2017, 9:13 am

      Budget on a Stick:

      Hostas are pretty easy to take care of! I live in CA and the big issue with hostas here is slugs and snails. I have to put down snail killers or crushed eggs shells to keep them away. In the winter they just die to nothing and they come back on their own in the spring. They get bigger on their own. Nothing to it!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:33 am

      That’s what we did at our old house. That’s way better for the environment.

  • Accidental FIRE December 14, 2017, 5:29 am

    Judging by your pics $360 is way too much. You’ve got the right attitude, most yard work is an easy opportunity for a nice light workout.

    And if folks in that neighborhood are willing to pay that kind of money for that little bit of work, then I think you found your next side hustle.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:34 am

      Yeap, I’ll do that next year. It sounds like a lucrative side hustle.

  • [email protected] December 14, 2017, 5:30 am

    That price seems excessive. All your alternatives seem better. I had a similiar gripe when I owned a condo, we ended up paying $2K a year for snow removal. The area in question could be shoveled in 15 minutes per storm. Maybe you can suggest to them that you handle the leaves and they can pay you $50 each. They would save them money and they would not have the responsibility of doing it. At the same time, you can actually make a few bucks.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:35 am

      That’s nuts. But I could understand in a condo. You don’t want anyone to fall down and sue. That’s a safety and liability issue. I’ll make that proposal next year.

  • Adam December 14, 2017, 5:41 am

    Our backyard is pretty small — the entire lot is 6200 sq ft — and there are five large mature hardwood trees that dump quite a few leaves each autumn. Aside from clearing out gutters, I just ignore it all. It’s not like we can use the yard back there for anything between October and April anyway. The first mow of spring takes care of it. But I guess that isn’t the answer you were after.

    Our city public works department vacuums up curbside leaves every couple of weeks between October and mid-December, all included in local taxes. So even the thought of paying someone to round ’em up and haul ’em away is jarring.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:36 am

      Nice! That’s what we used to do at our old house too. It worked just fine. The lawn is going to be mossy no matter what we do. It doesn’t get much sun.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire December 14, 2017, 5:50 am

    Haha, love the venting! That does sound like a lot of money.

    For me, it would be a time versus money thing. If I had the time, I would do it. If not, I’d have to weigh the cost on if it makes sense to just pay someone for it.

    I know that for my residence, I just using a mulching mower. For my properties, I’ve been lucky that the tenants handle it themselves and seem to do a pretty good job keeping up with the task.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:37 am

      Yeah, I think it’s a time thing for the neighbors. They’re probably too busy to DIY.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher December 14, 2017, 5:55 am

    Welp it looks like that was $360 wasted, judging by the leafiness of the yard! And no, I would never, ever pay that much money for leaf-hauling. We paid $900 to get an entire tree removed and ground down into mulch.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:38 am

      I’m all for cutting some trees down, but that’s frowned upon in Portland.

  • Linda December 14, 2017, 6:03 am

    Wow $360! That is excessive. Also, $30 for leaf pick up day is outrageous. We live in an expensive area outside of Chicago and leaf pick up is free every week. What city fo you live in?

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:39 am

      We live in Portland. I don’t like the $30 either, but that’s okay. There are a lot of leaves in the street and it’s a big mess.

  • Dave @ Married with Money December 14, 2017, 6:06 am

    $360 is insane. I won’t even hire somebody to mow my lawn right now – not until we get our budget with the new house in order and get a better feel for how much wiggle room we have. If you’d say you wanted to hire someone to mow the lawn, okay that’s fine.

    But at that price for just taking care of some leaves, it seems a bit ridiculous to me.

    Also new side gig opportunity!!!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 9:39 am

      Thanks for validating my view. 🙂

  • Michael December 14, 2017, 6:09 am

    With the exception of fertilizing/aerating, I do all my own yardwork. The only reason I no longer do that is my guys cost about $10 per service more than I was paying at the big box store and their stuff is much better quality because they have to pass special licensing. While I pay more for their service, it means I pay less for ongoing weed maintenance, so I wager its probably pretty much break even, and it does mean a ton fewer chemicals.

    Uh, I would gladly rake someone’s leaves for $360. I mow mine up and either dump in the tree lawn for the city to clean up (they do it from the end of October until snow starts), or I dump them, in my slightly wooded area. My “job” in high school and college was mowing lawns in my upper middle class neighborhood; even though I only charged $20 or $25 (depending on if I was using my dad’s mower), I made a KILLING, and it was still $10/15 less than the “professionals.”

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:51 am

      Great job in high school. I’ll keep this in mind for when our kid is there. I didn’t realize lawn care is so lucrative.

  • insourcelife December 14, 2017, 6:12 am

    If it’s permitted, I’d put a fence around my yard and be done with it.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:53 am

      Good fences make good neighbors, right? I don’t know if that would be an option. Anyway, I like having a backyard in the city. It’s like a hidden oasis.

  • Mr. SSC December 14, 2017, 6:25 am

    Yeah that’s a steep price for what you got! Sheesh… We used a lawn guy for a couple of years and I’ve just been doing it myself the last 3. It’s only $25 to get the lawn mowed and trimmed each week, but still, I just do it because the last guys ended up wrecking the backyard with their big mowers.

    I heard of some of our neighbors paying ~$350 for people to clean up “flood debris” after Harvey. Umm, the only debris was a few sticks and leaves at the water line midway up our yard. I was like, “I need to go around offering “flood debris” cleanup for $200/yard and make a killing, lol.” Some people have more money than brains.

    I’d offer to have them pay you a smaller fee next year or just use the curbside pickup by the city.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:54 am

      Pretty crazy, right? Why pay so much money when you can DIY in just a few hours. Maybe just one hour if everyone pitch in. City slickers…

  • Martin December 14, 2017, 6:50 am

    When I retired 3 yeas ago, I stopped the guys coming in to do the yard work. That saves $1,200 per year, keeps me in shape and is fun.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance December 14, 2017, 6:52 am

    $360 for lawn work does sound expensive. I don’t think you are cheap at all. You’re just being wise with money. I like your alternative solutions and would probably take the money from all 4 houses to do the work myself.

  • Darren @ Learn to Be Great December 14, 2017, 7:00 am

    Joe,
    We’re in the wrong business. Apparently, landscaping, contracting, HVAC, etc… is where the money is if we can provide quality customer service. Maybe I’m way off but other than landscaping, all the contractors I’ve hired act like they have too much business to care about the little business I provide them. End of rant.
    Darren

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:55 am

      No kidding. All the contractors act like they’re doing us such a big favor when they accept a job. The economy must be doing darn well.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks December 14, 2017, 7:25 am

    Jeez, the guy didn’t even do the whole yard? Seems like a steep price to me. I find that if I try and hire things like this out I spend more time agonizing over prices and setting up appointments than I do just doing the work myself. Although I will have to hire someone to shovel our snow while we’re in Costa Rica. Luckily I have my neighbor doing it. Hopefully it works out for both of us 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:56 am

      Actually, I got a final update. The guy came back and did the rest. I’m with you. I’m spending way too much time agonizing about this. I could have done everything myself in a few hours and be done with it. Good luck with the snow.

  • Steve @ familyonfire.org December 14, 2017, 7:42 am

    Wow. One of the nice surprises when we moved to Portland was having a separate yard debris bin. We like you just raked up a bin full each week (prioritizing parts of our property that are more public) and had everything clear in 5-6 weeks.

    When we lived in Houston we did have a yard guy who mowed and did leaf blowing (which is very bad for the environment apparently) who charged us $25 a week. But it is hot and humid all year in Houston so felt it was money well spent.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:58 am

      It’d take a while to get all the leaves into 1 bin, but if we all do it, the leaves would be gone pretty quickly. Rich people has more money than time.
      My blower is electric so it’s not too bad at all.

  • Financial Samurai December 14, 2017, 7:44 am

    Paying the kids sounds like the best solution! Always looking for teacheabke moments. I used to rake leaves in high school for $4/hour.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 11:59 am

      Next year… Yeah, why pass up a teachable moment. They are just teaching their kids to solve any little problem with money. I guess that is a kind of lesson.

  • Amy Doyle December 14, 2017, 8:12 am

    That price is outrageous! Our backyard is about 1/2 and acre, and we have a small forest (about 15 large trees) and it cost 105 bucks to have the leaves removed!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 12:00 pm

      Wow, that’s dirt cheap. 15 trees must dump a ton of leaves. We have 3 trees in the back… Crazy!

  • Karin December 14, 2017, 9:16 am

    Joe I love to see you fired up!!! That was a pretty funny post today. Your neighbor and their lawn guy is all ridiculous. I’d go ahead and tell your neighbor in a nice way that you finished the job that the lawn guy started and that next year you’d like to find an alternative, such as paying the kids who live in the neighborhood. If he/she gives you a hard time about it, tell them you’re not paying for it.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 12:02 pm

      Heh heh, thanks! At least the whole leaf ordeal gave me something to write about.
      Next year will be different, for sure. I’ll be on top of it.

  • Nick December 14, 2017, 9:36 am

    Definitely pay the kids.

    They’ll end up spending half the day playing in the pile of leaves they raked up and then get paid on top of it. That’s what my brothers and I did when we were younger.

    Teachable moment and a day worth of entertainment. Win-Win.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 12:02 pm

      EXACTLY! We had a nice dry stretch and they would have fun playing with the leaves.

  • Justin December 14, 2017, 9:49 am

    Glad to see your share is “only” $90. That’s not outrageous until you see how small the area is and how few leaves there are (and how tiny the leaves themselves are!). Around here we have huge oaks and maples dumping 10x that many leaves all over. I haven’t gotten a quote for a yard guy but I imagine the guy a few houses down that has a small landscaping company probably charges $40-50 max for a quarter acre with tons of leaves (our yard doesn’t have any big trees so we don’t rake). It’s probably an hour’s worth of legitimate work for someone with professional grade equipment to gather up the leaves and get them into a trailer (or throw them in a mulcher or have a suck-up thingy on a trailer like my neighbor the landscaper).

    Those piles of leaves at the end – so tiny!

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 12:03 pm

      Maybe your neighbor should move here and make a killing. It’s nuts.
      Your price is darn good.

  • Joe December 14, 2017, 10:40 am

    You’re retired. Hopefully you won’t let a $90 expense get you too upset, just enjoy! It’ll be one less thing to think about, and give you more time to do what you want, unless you really enjoy raking leaves.

    I am early retired and have a regular gardener. Saves me two hours every week, wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d rather use that time to make more money or save in other ways. For example, I can make a few thousand just changing brokerages from all their incentives.

  • Laura December 14, 2017, 11:18 am

    Cripes – email me next year as I’m sure my teen(s) would love to earn that much for a couple hours work. Even half that.

    For whatever reason, our neighborhood is one of the ones the city no longer does the leaf sweep at (similar w/ a friend that has a TON of leaves) so it takes quite a while to get rid of them all, even when putting through a mulcher and setting out the bin each week.

    • retirebyforty December 14, 2017, 12:05 pm

      Maybe I’ll do that. 😉
      That’s strange. I thought the city do all the neighborhoods. There were a ton of leaves in the street here. It’d be a huge mess when it starts raining again. Last year, the storm drains were clogged up all the time.

  • Eric December 14, 2017, 1:04 pm

    Joe, thanks for the thought provoking article, it certainly has garnered a lot of attention! We should always be mindful of the difference between frugality and being cheap. Despite attempts of forces in our consumerist society to convince us otherwise, frugality is the positive personal value of being economical and wise in the use of money/assets. Being cheap is a negative personal attribute which generally means using or preserving assets unwisely or in an unethical way (e.g., buying clearly inferior/inadequate products based on price alone, not paying your fair share at a group dinner, stealing condiments at a restaurant, etc.). Your example in this post is clearly a case of being frugal and not being cheap. Keep encouraging your readers to be frugal as it is one of the cornerstones of being able to retire early!

  • Felipe December 14, 2017, 2:49 pm

    In my world, money is no object on that subject. I’d pay for the privilege to work in the yard. I love yard work, gardening, being outside. In Boston I used to shovel the old lady’s driveway for free across the street. I wouldn’t take money from her. I just wanted to be outside. During the downturn, I mowed three yards at foreclosed homes on my block just so the block didn’t look so abandoned. The banks would never do it. I think it kept squatters and homeless from moving in. If I had a big estate in Beverly Hills, I’d pay housekeepers all day long but save the gardening for myself. What a great problem to have!

    • retirebyforty December 15, 2017, 9:55 am

      That’s great! I enjoy working outside sometime, not all the time. It really depends on the weather. 🙂
      On the other, Mrs. RB40 can garden in any weather.

  • Kris December 14, 2017, 2:49 pm

    $360 to do some yard work? I’ll do it! What time you want me to be there??
    Your not being cheap, $360 is a lot for cleaning up the backyard. It’s better to buy a lawnmower and do it yourself. And having the kids involved will make it a fun activity for them.

  • Greg December 14, 2017, 2:55 pm

    For $200 you can get a decent mower with a mulching blade. Run the mower over the leaves which cuts them into little pieces and allows them to compost into the soil. The soil improves too. I’ve never bagged a leaf in my life. No reason for it.

    • Greg December 14, 2017, 3:00 pm

      Also, Even as a multi millionaire I will always do my own work. The reason I became successful is because I didn’t give my money to others mindlessly like this $360 example. It amazes me when people become wealthy then just throw it away to others. Mindless.

      • retirebyforty December 15, 2017, 9:56 am

        Right. $360 is ridiculous. I agree 100%. I could invest the $360 or donate to charity. It’s crazy to pay that much for unskilled labor.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life December 14, 2017, 5:22 pm

    I’m so happy we don’t have trees! I mean, we don’t have trees anymore. We paid a group of gardeners a lot of money to rip out and haul away all the stuff from the previous owner that was left to grow wild. Worse, some of the larger plants were planted right next to the house so the roots were going under the foundation of the house. I don’t know whose brilliant idea that was but we had to get that out ASAP before those roots cracked the foundation.

    We didn’t want a lawn either at first but now I’m willing to have a small one just for the dog to enjoy. He’s old, and such a good dog, it’s worth the trouble to give him a place he can enjoy.

    Like other commenters, I’ll pay for skilled work to be done because right now we don’t have the time to learn those skills but we usually try to muddle through unskilled labors on our own.

  • Nicoleandmaggie December 14, 2017, 6:15 pm

    We compost. But we also pay $50/week in the summer to have our lawn mowed because it is hot and since the Bermuda grass took over DH can no longer use a reel mower before it gets too hot in the morning and our gas mower is too loud for the wee hours.

  • Dividend Diplomats December 14, 2017, 8:09 pm

    $360 is a lot to remove the leaves. With the amount of leaves you have, I would say it would be worth $100 because that would take a long time to rake. ALso, is that $360 for the season? Don’t forget, the person would come once and get rid of the leaves at that time. But you know that a nice gust of wind will blow a fresh set of leaves on your lawn that will also need to be cleaned up. It is a lose, lose situation.

    Then again, if you enjoy being outside and find the work therapeutic, then that’s a different story. For me personally, I mow them at the end of the season, bag them, and then watch the city pick them up.

    I like the idea of paying the kids, if you are going to spend money. Help them possibly get motivated to start a mini landscaping business and become entrepreneurs. One other item I forgot about. To me, the tree trimming is worth it. By the time you get the equipment, coupled with the risk factor, it is just worth having an expert do it unless you have the experience doing it yourself.

    Good luck with your decision.

    Bert

    • retirebyforty December 15, 2017, 9:59 am

      The $360 is just for that one job. The leaves are all down so we’re good for the year. Thanks goodness. I dislike trees every autumn… 🙂
      I agree that tree trimming is worth it. The huge willow in the back needs special care.

  • Lady Dividend December 15, 2017, 2:57 am

    This situations reminds me of some insurance claims I work on where there are 4 different parties and one makes a suggestion. Often the others agree to go with the group to be easy going.

    However I have been inspired by my colleague who doesn’t follow the group. He will critically think through every decision and will pipe up if it’s stupid, no matter how little interest we have. I think it would have been momentarily hard to say no to the leaves raking but easier on you in the long run. I think your gut was right and this showed you to follow it more often!

    • retirebyforty December 15, 2017, 10:00 am

      Exactly. This is even more difficult because we’re neighbors. I’m willing to go along just because of that. I’ll go with another alternative next year.

  • mary w December 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    I suspect that part of the issue is that there is only one resident owner. The renters don’t think its their responsibility – especially if they don’t use the backyard. The other owners don’t want to bother to drive over and do “their share” of the work. Maybe in past years with two resident owners they did the work together. But with only one he wanted to share the work/cost.

  • J Walt December 18, 2017, 6:27 pm

    I have never paid for hauling leaves from my property, but then again I have my own leaf vacuum (DR Power), so I shred and compost leaves for my vegetable garden.

  • Ryan December 19, 2017, 7:37 pm

    I am not sure if the price is unreasonable (and remember it is a business expense so you can deduct the cost from taxes) but you should refuse to pay your “share” since he never did your section of the yard.

  • Steven December 20, 2017, 12:20 am

    I moved into a new property around 12 months ago. The last owners hadn’t done a THING to the front garden, and it was a real mess! I knuckled down through the summer and improved it no end! I just wish I’d taken the “before” photo and I’d post it up here! Please dont hire anyone, you can do it!
    Steve.

  • CashflowKat December 26, 2017, 9:19 am

    Oh Joe, I feel your pain…and I’m sorry to say but that price is NOT unusual for leaf clearing or lawn maintenance. We’ve got several rental properties and we pay a lot of lawn care and tree people on both coasts of the country, and the prices have been increasing exponentially. Unfortunately, the high prices sometimes tempt my busy husband to do some of it himself, even though the rentals have room in the budget to hire it out (as with your duplex). DIY Landlords are always in that boat, the shock of the expense makes it painful to pay for the “professional” service, especially when the result is nothing special. I try to let it go as a cost of doing business and forget it about it. Just write it off on the rax return, ha! Anyway, better luck next year!

    • retirebyforty December 26, 2017, 10:42 am

      Wow, that’s normal price? It’s crazy. Thank you for the feedback. At least, we split it 4 ways and it’ll be write off. Happy New Year!

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