August 19, 2009

Major Landscaping Project

My wife recently finished up a major landscaping project. We got a lot of work done on the yard and it looks a LOT better. We first pulled out a couple old fur trees that were taking up half the yard. Then we got a sprinkler system installed and a new concrete walkway put in. Finally we had them put in new sod for the whole front yard and plant some new trees and plants. In total we spent over $7,000. That is a lot of money for sure but we got a lot of work done.

This wasn't a whim
My wife and I didn't just decide one day to pay someone $7000 to fix up our lawn. We got multiple bids and picked the cheapest among several qualified contractors. One contractor wanted to charge about $2000 more. We also discussed and consciously decided to pay people to do the work rather than do it ourselves. I figured the cost of materials and estimated the costs of labor and we both decided we'd rather pay someone to do the work than try and take on all or part of the project ourselves.

We could afford it: I wouldn't have put any money in the lawn if we didn't have disposable income to spend. If we were in credit card debt or otherwise in a poor financial situation then we wouldn't even consider such an expense. You have to be able to afford a luxury expenditure or you shouldn't do it. This kind of thinking is no different than any other major expense. If you're looking at buying a new car, remodeling a bathroom or going on a European vacation you should only do so if you are in a sound financial state.

We wanted to do it: My wife and I fully realize that this kind of expenditure is a 'want' and not a 'need'. We wanted the house to look nice and decided it was a priority to spend the money. My wife enjoys improving our home and she considers it a very high priority for our spending. Everyone spends money on their 'wants' in different categories and this is one area we want to spend our money. We've prioritized lawn improvement above other things like new cars, a expensive clothes or foreign vacations.

Added value to the home: This feature of the project is more of a side benefit. The sprinkler and walkway are permanent improvements that will add value to the home. The impact on the curb appeal of the home is considerable and I honestly think that if we were putting the home on the market today that we'd get most of that $7,000 back by selling the home quicker and easier at a higher price. But I should emphasize that this wasn't the primary reason we got the work done. If making our home look nicer wasn't the priority then I wouldn't have done it just as an investment on the property. But again, increasing our home's value is more of a nice side bonus and shouldn't be used as a reason to do it.

Why did we pay someone instead of doing it ourselves?
You can almost always save money by doing home improvement projects yourself. So why didn't we do the work ourselves to cut the bill? Most of the work is beyond our capability. Cutting down trees, pouring a concrete walkway and installing sprinklers systems are all things we don't know how to do and are probably best left to experts. I could figure out how to do those things but it would take a lot of time to learn how to do them. I'd have to buy or rent specialized equipment like a chain saw, concrete forms and trench diggers. I have to be honest that I don't trust myself to do it all properly. One small error like having the tree fall on our fence or improperly pouring the concrete could easily negate any savings we get from doing it ourselves. There is also a safety concern for some of the work, especially the tree cutting.

We simply didn't want to do it ourselves. My wife and I did some yard work initially and found it took us two full afternoons to pull out some old bushes. We labored probably 6-10 hours total and it was hard work we didn't enjoy. If we had done the work ourselves it would have undoubtedly taken us dozens of hours. Thats a lot of labor that we didn't have much interest in doing. The amount of work was pretty extensive and it took a crew of guys 4-5 days to get it all done. I'm sure there was in the ballpark of 100 hours of labor total put into it. THis is not to say I don't enjoy doing yard work or DIY projects in general. On the other hand I will happily mow the lawn every week rather than pay someone $25 to do it. Some DIY projects I enjoy doing and some I do not.

Of a much smaller concern is the fact that we get the final result quicker by paying someone else. If we'd done it ourselves it would have taken many weeks total to get the work done. We'd have to fit in 2-4 hours here and there during evenings and weekends. So we'd have to wait months to see the final result of the work.

We're very happy with our new lawn.

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