Mowing the Lawn Without Breaking a Sweat (or the Bank!)

I’m not sure anything calls up the proverbial image of “dad” more than a man out mowing the lawn.  It’s about the most dad-esque image that doesn’t include a child (such as playing catch in the back yard… that dad mowed).

Khaki's and button-up shirt - yeah, he's not in Georgia.

Khaki’s and button-up shirt – yeah, he’s not in Georgia.

Unfortunately, that image my not be long for this world.  It seems nearly everyone around me has a weekly lawn service that comes by to cut their lawn for them (unfortunately there is no coordination with these services, so every day the sun is shining you get to listen to lawn mowers and weed-wackers instead of birds chirping – welcome to the suburbs! /endRant).  Also, this is a bad investment.  My informal survey says folks around here pay an average of $45/week for this service.  While I appreciate that this gives you time back with your family, this is costing you about $1K per summer with no asset to show for it (see my post on Good Health, Sports and Personal Finance for thoughts on what making a different choice with $750 or $1000 a year could do for your family)!

We bought our home (which included about a half-acre of lawn) three summers ago and I bought a Scotts 20″ Reel Mower as my first ever lawn mower.  I opened the box, put it together in about five minutes and away I went.  My first time mowing the lawn as a home owner!


I discovered a few things on that milestone moment.  First, Georgia in the summer time is hot.  I don’t remember the exact temperature that day, but I’m pretty certain that’s what it would be like to mow the lawn on the surface of the sun.  Super hot.  I also discovered that it takes a good amount of time to cut a half-acre lawn with a Reel Mower.  By the time I finished I had one more discovery: When cutting the lawn in Georgia in the summer (which I’d later learn lasts about 13 months…), plan on needing a shower when you’re finished.  I looked like I had fallen in a swimming pool.

A smart person might have thrown in the towel at this point and went out and bought a lawn tractor for $1000-$3000 and never had this problem again.  Five problems with that:

  1. I’m way too cheap / frugal / set on Middle Class philosophy to spend that much money on just about anything.
  2. I had already spent $140 on the reel mower and used it (and it was not defective).
  3. My lovely wife is a light sleeper and works the midnight shift about five times a month.  Your standard monster-mower would land me on the couch at least once a month.
  4. I am waaaaaaay too stubborn persistent to give in that easily.
  5. I’m way too cheap for that.

I figured I had a good three years before I could justify an upgrade.  Yep, three years should allow me to get something that would be easier on me without feeling like I pissed away the $140 on the reel mower (…or needed to turn in my macho card).

Three years turned out to be pretty tough.  Did I mention the heat and humidity here?  I ended up getting my upgrade about three months short of the three year mark.

I liked the quietness of the reel mower – I could cut the lawn right outside our bedroom window without ever worrying I’d wake my wife.  I also liked the “green” aspect of the reel mower, but there was no direction but backward to go on that front.

The main thing I disliked about the reel mower wasn’t even the work involved, it was that it was surprisingly time consuming to cut a half-acre of lawn (two to two-and-a-half hours (not including time to shower after…), depending on whether or not it had been more than a week since I last cut it – oh, and it rains a lot here too… that doesn’t help!).  That’s time I could be spending time with my girls, after all.  Having said that, a half-acre is still not so much lawn that it justifies spending large sums of money to keep it maintained (certainly not almost $1K per summer as most of my neighbors are spending…).

In the end, after spending considerable time reading reviews on Amazon, I purchased the GreenWorks 2500502 DigiPro G-MAX 40V 19-Inch Cordless Lawn Mower as MCD’s mower #2 (it cost me $360+tax for the package that included the charger and two batteries (one 4Ah and one 2Ah) …. $360 = 2 months of lawn service at $45/week).  Don’t confuse this with the that looks similar from Ryobi that Home Depot is pushing lately – that guy has poor reviews (like most Ryobi products).

Three months in, this bad boy is exactly what I hoped it would be:

  • It’s quiet (quieter even than the reel mower).  My mom was in the front yard playing with my girls and was surprised to find the backyard cut when she came around the side of the house.  She had no idea I had been cutting the lawn (no, my house is not that big).
  • It is soooooooo much quicker to use.  My lawn is now cut in about an hour.
  • If all I’m doing is cutting the lawn (no other yard work), I don’t require a shower when I’m done!
  • The batteries do a fine job.  If my schedule and the weather allows me to cut the lawn on-time, I can get through the whole job on just the 4Ah battery (the 2Ah can handle either the front or the back on its own, not both).  If I’m travelling or get rained out of cutting the lawn for a week, the mower needs to work a bit harder and both batteries are required.

If you’re in the market for a new mower (or should be!), I highly recommend the GreenWorks 2500502 DigiPro G-MAX 40V 19-Inch Cordless Lawn Mower (make sure you get the batteries and charger if you don’t already own any of the GreenWorks G-MAX 40V products – I didn’t own any, so I needed them).

If you have a small enough space and don’t live on the surface of the sun (like I do…), I recommend the Scotts 20″ Reel Mower as well, even though in the end it wasn’t right for me (donated to GoodWill).

Couldn't finish the lawn. Ran out of beer.

Couldn’t finish the lawn. Ran out of beer.

How do you feel about lawn service?  Is it worth it to you (and your middle class finances)?  Did you invest in a riding mower with some ear protection and a spot to put your beer?  Please share your thoughts below.

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