- Financial Benefits
- Health Benefits
- Other Benefits
- Tips On How to Make Mowing Easier / More Enjoyable
Ah, summer time. Time for swimming, long road trips, and watching the millions of blades of grass in your yard come to life.
Unfortunately many folks will reach for their phone and wallet to keep that grass and other things in their yard in check: 40% of Americans with a yard, actually.
That’s a lot of domestic outsourcing!
Now certainly there are a number of good reasons to have such a service, no doubt. If you’re a single parent with three young kids to look after while you’re not at work, then it might not be possible to spend a couple hours outside working with lawn mowing equipment on the weekend. Similarly if you have a disability of some kind that physically prevents you from operating lawn equipment, you may need to hire others to mow your grass.
But I suspect the majority of folks who hire a lawn service do it for the sake of convenience. It’s these folks I really hope to convince to cancel their lawn service and start enjoying the many benefits of mowing their own lawn.
Let’s kick things off by discussing how much insourcing this task will directly help your finances.
Average Cost Of Mowing Service
The average price of a lawn mowing service in the US is challenging to determine. I thought a quick Google search would easily reveal the answer, but I found a ton of widely varying answers just from the first page of search results:
- “Lawn mowing can run $25 to $150 per week, with a national average of about $45.”
- “mowing costs on average $29 to $65”
- “The national average cost for a pro to mow your lawn is $130 per visit.”
- “Grass-cutting services—without the bells and whistles—will cost between $30 and $80 a visit.”
- “Most homeowners spend around $100 a visit for weekly mowing of a lawn less than an acre”
- “The average cost for lawn care service is $35.”
- “The average price of mowing a lawn ranges from $50 to $250.”
- “Lawn mowing services cost anywhere from $32-$250.”
- “the consensus among the lawn care services who participated in our poll is that the average charge for professional lawn mowing services is around $1 per minute of grass cutting.”
Pinning down a national average is so difficult because there are so many variables: type of service, size of lawn, number of tricky obstacles, length of growing season, your region (including cost of living in that region), etc.
To keep things simple, I’m going to use a nice round number towards the lower end of the spectrum of average prices I found: $50/mow.
Now that we have a (rough ballpark) reasonably conservative cost for each mow, we need the average number of mowings a year to determine how much a lawn mowing service costs a year.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find a clean straightforward number for that either. If you Google phrases like “how many times a year does your yard need to be mowed”, the best you can get is something like “Typically, mowing once a week during the growing season should suffice to keep your lawn healthy. The rest of the time, you can reduce the frequency of cutting to every other week, as necessary.”
Uhh….. so how long is the average growing season? And do you really need to cut your lawn every other week in the dead of winter?
Even trying to find an “average growing season length” for the lower 48 states proved impossible in a reasonable time frame. So in the end, I found the average growing season length for the state smack in the middle of the lower 48: Nebraska, which has a “normal growing season” of 164 days (about 5.5 months).
So if we assume a bit of mowing is needed outside of growing season, let’s use 26 weeks (6 months) as a nice round number of weeks you’ll need mowing service, with one mow per week. Of course you might decide your lawn needs mowing more like every other week, or your growing season is much longer (e.g. California) or much shorter (e.g. Alaska). But we’ve gotta have some kind of average to work with, so we’ll go with 26 mowings a year.
After all that hand waving, we can finally compute a rough ballpark estimate average for the cost of having someone else mow your lawn each year: 26 mows/year * $50/mow = $1300/year.
Amazingly, after making one (hopefully reasonable) guess after another, I finally stumbled across a CNBC article that got a very similar number:
The average lawn service sets you back between $30 and $80 per visit, according to home services site HomeAdvisor. If you’re in a seven-month growing season, you could be spending about $1,540 annually for a mid-priced service, while those in southern states like Florida and Texas may have to spring for the cost of another two months on top of that.CNBC
Cost of Doing It Yourself
Of course if you’re going to mow your lawn, you’re probably not going to be hand picking each blade of grass (though if that’s your idea of a good time, go for it!). So you’ll need some equipment.
Let’s take a look at current prices for a set of lawn mowing equipment that should be good enough for the vast majority of yards:
- Lawn mower (affiliate link): $165. This is the mower we purchased, though it was $140 when we bought it in 2018. You can also go fully manual (affiliate link) for $96, if you want even more exercise, less noise, and no cords, batteries, or gasoline.
- Trimmer (affiliate link): $40. We bought ours so long ago I can’t recall where we bought it or for how much, but it was probably in this ballpark. We did get a battery powered trimmer, but if I had to buy another one today, I’d get a corded one – see below for how to handle cords with lawn equipment (and why I recommend corded equipment over battery powered or pollution generating equipment).
- Replacement Trimmer String (affiliate link): $11. This amount will last you MANY years – maybe forever?
- Blower (affiliate link): $20.
- Hedge shears (i.e. bush clippers) (affiliate link): $28.
- A good length extension cord (affiliate link) for operating the electric mower / trimmer (depending on yard size): $31. Note: get a longer cord if needed, e.g. 75 feet (affiliate link) or 100 feet (affiliate link). Just make sure it’s rated for the current your mower will pull. For the mower linked above (our mower), you’ll need at least 12 amps.
- Work gloves (affiliate link): $12.
- Eye protection (affiliate link): $14. Though you can also go cheaper (affiliate link), tinted (affiliate link), or bluer (affiliate link).
I also highly recommend looking for good condition used / hand me down equipment from friends/family/neighbors/craigslist/etc. if you can. Check out online groups like your local “Buy Nothing” group, which I’ve used to get a TON of different tools (and give away plenty as well).
Let’s assume all the above equipment will last just 10 years. Though I suspect most of your equipment, except maybe the lawnmower and trimmer, will last much longer than that, especially if you take good care of them (i.e. store them properly, don’t leave them out in the rain, etc.).
If we sum up all these equipment expenses and divide by 10: ($165+$40+$11+$20+$28+$31+$12+$14) / 10 years = $32.10/year
Wait, what about electricity? Well, great news on that front – it actually costs very little to run an electric mower. “Electric lawn mowers usually run at a cost of between 20 and 60 cents per hour.”. (And “This is considerably cheaper than running a gas mower which can cost up to $7 per hour if you are using gasoline”). So if you’re running your lawn equipment for a total of about an hour each time you mow your lawn, then let’s say that’s 40 cents. And $0.40 * 26 weeks = $10.40/year.
Thus we’re looking at a total annual cost of $32.10 + $10.40 = $42.50 for equipment and electricity.
Side note: Cost Savings Of Corded Electric Over Battery Electric and Gas Powered Mowers
A corded electric mower (affiliate link) ($165) is significantly less expensive than comparable size and quality battery powered electric mowers (affiliate link) ($480), though you can go smaller (affiliate link) ($242) to bring down the cost (affiliate link) ($192).
A corded electric mower is also less expensive than a gas powered mower ($346) and especially a “Self Propelled” gas mower ($380) (NOT affiliate links, because I really hope you don’t buy these! I just want to show you how much more expensive they are.)
Corded electric mowers are the least expensive because they don’t feature a gas engine or batteries, and you can pick one up for around $150 to $250. Battery-operated mowers run anywhere from $275 to $800 or more, depending on whether they feature options such as self-propulsion. Gas mowers are among the most expensive: You can find models starting around $350, but in the upper range, they reach as high as $850 or more for a self-propelled gas mower.Bob Vila
And even professional landscapers, who will likely be the last holdouts for using gas powered equipment, are starting to recognize how using electric equipment can be better for their bottom line:
“Landscapers are saying ‘Wow! This is easier to use,’” he says. “It has all the market benefits, low emissions, low noise. As we see fuel prices climb up to $4 a gallon… all of a sudden, that 5 cents an hour for your watt hours starts to look pretty good. I definitely see more and more pros moving into this area not necessarily because they’re forced to but because they’ve run the numbers, and they’ve figured out that it is beneficial to their business.”Landscape Management
Impact on Time to FI
The direct annual financial savings of mowing your own lawn using the rough estimate values derived above comes to $1300 – $42.50 = $1257.50.
Again, I’m amazed how close I got to the savings quoted in the CNBC article: “If you skip the service and mow yourself, you can save up to $1,200 a year, even after accounting for the cost of a push mower, gas and your time.” Except your savings will be greater by not buying dirty dinosaur sludge (gas) for your electric mower.
If your household income is $100K, which is a bit above the national median of $75K under the assumption that wealthier households are more likely to pay for lawn service, and you currently have a 50% savings rate (i.e. you’re spending $50K a year), then reducing your expenses by $1257.50 a year boosts your savings rate by 2.5%, and thus reduces your time to FI by 6 months.
Not bad for spending a couple hours outside in your yard once a week for half the year!
Now if you have a 10% savings rate (i.e. you’re spending $90K a year), then reducing your expenses by $1257.50 a year boosts your savings rate by 12.6%, and thus reduces your time to FI by about two full years! Not too shabby.
You will be paying more upfront for all the above equipment versus paying for a service. But fortunately the break-even point happens pretty quickly: if you pay $312 for all that equipment on day one, versus spending $50/mow on a service, you’ll break even after about six mowings. So a month and a half of mowings in the growing season and you’re already in the black.
And of course any methods you use to reduce the cost of that equipment, such as scooping up used/discounted/free stuff from family/friends/neighbors (especially those that bought their equipment and then started using a service!), will make that break-even point happen even sooner.
Mowing Your Yard Only When It Actually Needs It
Something else that can speed up that break even point, as well as save significant time, electricity, and wear and tear on your equipment: not mowing your yard when it doesn’t need to be mowed.
Mowing services are often purchased with an agreement to mow your lawn X times a year, but what if you’ve had a colder or dryer than normal stretch of weather and your grass hasn’t grown that much? Too bad, you’ve got an agreement. (Though if you’re aware of mowing services that allow you to cancel any mowings you want, with a refund, let us know in the comments!)
It pains me to see mowers running on lawns that don’t need it – such an insane amount of inefficiency (and unnecessary pollution if they are using gas powered mowers, which most mowing services do).
Getting Paid to Exercise
Another great way to think about the money you’ll save by mowing your own lawn: getting PAID to exercise!
If you mow 26 times a year (which is FAR more than I do), and you spend a couple hours moving your body outside in the sunshine each time for a total of 52 hours a year, then you’re essentially earning $24 per hour – not too bad! $24/hour is equivalent to a $50K salary in terms of hourly rate. If you’re into side hustles, you can think of it as an extra $1257 in your pocket each year – which is also tax free!
If you’re like me and mow your lawn probably closer to 15 times a year (though we’re fortunate to not have an HOA that nitpicks about grass height), then the rate increases to $1257.50 / 30 hours = $42/hour! That’s equivalent to an $87K salary hourly rate.
Now there may be some folks who read the above section and think to themselves, “I would TOTALLY work an extra six months to not have to mow my own lawn!”
However, I firmly believe the $1257 you’ll save each year is actually the LEAST important reason to mow your own lawn.
So what’s the MOST important reason to mow your lawn then?
Adding Years To Your Life
Mowing is great exercise, and relatively non-impactive as well if you have joint issues. It provides lots of impressive aerobic and strength training exercise benefits (especially if you’re using an electric mower and not breathing fumes), such as weight loss, better muscle tone, cardiovascular benefits, etc. If you’re in a step count competition at work, mowing will definitely help!
I expect the majority of people know that exercise is good for you. But I suspect most folks don’t know just HOW good it is for you.
The first place I encountered a “Return On Investment” (ROI) view of exercise was a 2013 Mr. Money Mustache article about biking: “Consider this: for every hour of exercise you do, you extend your lifespan somewhere between 3 and 9 hours.”
Where did he get these numbers? His primary source was a 2012 study in the journal PLoS Medicine (also covered in a Scientific American podcast), which looked at “650,000 individuals over the age of 40 years enrolled in one Swedish and five US prospective cohort studies”, with the following results:
A physical activity level equivalent to brisk walking for up to 75 minutes per week was associated with a gain of 1.8 years in life expectancy relative to no leisure time activity. Being active—having a physical activity level at or above the WHO-recommended minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking per week—was associated with an overall gain of life expectancy of 3.4–4.5 years.PLoS Medicine
Next we can do some rough back-of-the-envelope calculations to compute the ROI for exercise.
If we assume a conservatively long average life expectancy of about 38 more years for this study of individuals over 40 years old, 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of physical activity a week is equal to 2.5*52*38 = 4940 hours for the remainder of their life.
Living an extra four years is equal to 4*365*24 = 35040 extra hours, which we can divide by the exercise time of 4940 hours to get 7.1 hours of extra life per hour of exercise.
Any investment that provides a 700% return is one you should definitely jump on!
A local Boston news station also looked at this study in detail, and they came to the same 7x ROI conclusion: “Every Minute Of Exercise Could Lengthen Your Life Seven Minutes”. They did a very similar calculation to mine:
Say you start with someone 45 years old who begins to follow the 150-minute-a-week recommendation. Average American life expectancy is 78. So: “If you start exercising at 45 and you die at 78, that means that you exercise for 33 years, at 150 minutes a week. I calculated that over 33 years you would need to spend basically 4,290 hours in exercise, which is 179 days of exercise, which is less than half a year. So that’s half a year, and you gain almost three and a half years, so it is worth exercising. That’s an approximate scenario using reasonable assumptions, and you’re getting a 1-to-7 return.”WBUR
WBUR’s source had further good news:
In general, she said, more strenuous exercise has approximately double the effect. So, for example, 75 minutes of jogging has roughly the effect of 150 minutes of brisk walking. “So instead of gaining seven times the time spent, you’d be gaining 14 times.”WBUR
Of course we can’t expect these ROI values to continue indefinitely with more exercise – otherwise you could just ramp up your exercise to 3.5 hours every day and never die! Ha!
But as the WBUR article points out, while “we aren’t sure exactly at what point the risks outweigh the benefits,” “this point is clearly higher than most people would do.” In other words, the vast majority of people still don’t exercise anywhere near enough to risk losing out on this fantastic 7x ROI. That definitely includes me!
Subsequent studies have provided similar 7x ROI results. A 2017 Time article also helpfully describes when the benefits level off: “The benefits capped out at about three years, and the researchers found that the improvements in life expectancy leveled out at about four hours of running per week.” Though a 2019 AARP article gives a higher limit: “the more you exercise, the greater the benefit — up until about 450 minutes a week”, which is equal to 7.5 hours a week. The AARP article also says that “People who exercise that much — which equates to a little more than an hour a day — have a 37 percent lower risk of premature death compared with those who don’t exercise at all”. Sounds good to me!
Now I know it’s unlikely any of the researchers in these studies looked directly at “average physical activity during lawn mowing”, but I’m confident that we can expect similar fantastic ROI values for the exercise we get cutting our grass. Maybe even higher ROI values if you’ve got a particularly challenging lawn with steep hills and lots of obstacles, and if you’re mowing in the middle of a blazing hot summer afternoon!
Finally, let’s compute how many years you’re adding to your life with this 7x ROI by mowing your own lawn. Let’s use all the same values as above:
- You’re 40 years old and going to live another 38 years
- You spend a total of about two hours moving around outside each time you mow your lawn
- You mow your lawn 26 times a year
With those values, you’ll get 26*2 = 52 hours of exercise a year from mowing your lawn, which is 52*38 = 1976 hours over your remaining 38 years. Multiply that by 7 and convert to years: 1976*7 / 24 / 365 = 1.58 years. Adding over a year and a half to your life just by mowing your own lawn!
If you’re lazy like me and mow more like 15 times a year, you could expect a 15*2*38*7/24/365 = 0.91 years gain to your lifespan. Still nearly a year of life! An additional year of seeing your grandchildren and maybe great grandchildren grow up!
Adding Life To Your Years
If you’re just adding a few years of ill-health to your life, that’s not a great deal obviously. But as Mr. Money Mustache describes in his biking article, “The years you do live will not only be greater in number. They’ll be healthier ones.”
The WBUR article has similar sentiments: “It’s not the years you add to your life, it’s the life you add to your years.”
But what does it mean to “add life to your years”? Lots of great things:
- Lower medical bills
- Increased happiness and mental health
- Increased productivity (lots and lots and lots of increased productivity)
- Increased libido
- Basically every other benefit of exercise you’ve heard about
And whether you retire earlier or later in life, obviously you want to be as healthy as possible during your retirement so that you can enjoy it to the fullest!
Why Can’t I Just Go to the Gym Instead?
Probably the most common counter argument I read/hear against the exercise benefits of mowing your lawn (or other physical activities around the house): why can’t I just pay someone to mow my lawn and then go exercise at the gym where I’m more accustomed to exercising?
Well, you can, and if you really do completely substitute all the exercise you’d get mowing with gym workouts, you’ll still receive many of the benefits described above.
BUT, there are several reasons I don’t like this alternative.
Reason #1: you’re introducing a terrible inefficiency to your life, which will only serve to slow your journey to FI. Not only are you paying to exercise instead of getting paid to exercise, you’re likely wasting time and money commuting to the gym (unless you’re getting there in an active way such as walking/biking/running). Instead you can just walk out your front door and immediately start exercising by mowing your lawn!
To add insult to injury, the main conclusion of that healthline article is: “Research shows that signing up for an expensive annual gym membership doesn’t get people to work out.” Yikes!
Why have such an inefficient setup? Just get out there and enjoy being on the lawn you pay for!
And I consider managing your lawn plants as spending time in nature! I know it’s not traditional “forest bathing”, but the sights and smells of nature are very much there. And while I admit that I’m somewhat indifferent to the smell of fresh cut grass, many folks love it. If you do, then you’ll get a lot more of that smell if you’re mowing the lawn yourself!
Especially for office / knowledge workers, it’s extremely common to spend nearly all your waking hours indoors. As a result, more than 40% of American adults have a vitamin D deficiency! Yikes! Vitamin D, which has many roles in your body and is essential for your overall health.
There is also growing research showing the importance of outdoor light (even on a cloudy day) for establishing and strengthening your circadian rhythm, which has a wide range of health benefits from improved sleep to improved digestion.
Reason #3: if you have allergies to outdoor pollens/grasses/molds/etc, it might actually HELP your allergies in the long run to regularly expose yourself to those elements: “regular exercise outdoors is almost as effective as allergen immunotherapy”.
I recognize this flies in the face of standard outdoor allergy advice: if pollen counts are high, cower inside until they go back down (IF they go back down). E.g. “Avoid outdoor exercise on dry, warm, windy days, which bring the highest pollen levels.” Well it’s summer time, so it’s not gonna be cool. So only mow on humid days? Nope: “High humidity can cause problems, too. If the air feels heavy, you may have a hard time breathing. The humidity also fuels mold growth, which can trigger symptoms for some people.” Wait, maybe so: “On the other hand, rain clears the air, making it a good time to go outdoors if you have allergies.”
So basically there’s NEVER a “good” time to go outside if you have allergies? Ridiculous.
I have fought intense inhalant allergies from the time I was a child (thanks for the genes, Mom), and I can confidently say that the more I mow the lawn, the less reactive my allergies are to many of the things I’m allergic to: ragweed, pollan, mold, MANY kinds of grass, etc.
Why? Well, it’s really just another form of immunotherapy – exposing yourself consistently to the stuff you’re allergic to over time teaches your immune system that it’s actually not a big deal and it just needs to take a chill pill.
Allergy shots and drops work the same way – which I also highly recommend.
Now if you need to take the edge off your allergies when you first start mowing, there are lots of ways to do that. First try a nasal corticosteroid such as Fluticasone (Flonase) (affiliate link), which can do a great job reducing / eliminating your symptoms without any drowsiness side effects. If that’s not cutting it, try a modern antihistamine such as Loratadine (Claritin) (affiliate link), which won’t make you nearly as sleepy as older antihistamines such as Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Note: be wary of buying these allergy medicines in bulk for a lower rate per bottle if you don’t use them every day, as they can easily expire on you. I’ve made that mistake far too many times when Costco had a sale.
You can also wear a mask to keep yourself from breathing too many allergens – I’m sure we all know how to do that post-pandemic. I’ll admit I find wearing a mask not super comfortable while mowing, but I’m sure I could adapt to it if I had to.
Overall, while avoiding exercise outdoors might be a good short term way to avoid allergies, I firmly believe it is really detrimental long term for both your allergies and your overall health.
One final note: all the above arguments assume your allergies are not life threatening in any way. Definitely consult your doctor / allergist.
Bonus reason: you don’t have to worry about your lawn closing during a global pandemic!
Beyond the financial and health benefits, there are numerous other benefits to mowing your yard. And there are financial and health benefits within each of these “other” benefits as well.
Keeping You Tough and Building Your Heat Tolerance
While there are numerous tangible health benefits of mowing your own lawn listed in the previous section, there are many intangible benefits as well.
First in my mind is the mental and physical toughness that you build by doing your own lawn maintenance.
Of course it’s much easier to play on your phone / TV / computer on the couch inside than get outside on Saturday morning to wrangle with a bunch of lawn equipment. Easy decision, right?
Wrong – every time you get off the couch and go outside to do something physically challenging, it does two things: 1) builds your mental and physical toughness, and 2) makes it easier to tackle other mentally and physically challenging tasks that crop up (especially if they are outdoor tasks).
One specific example of this increased toughness: enhanced heat tolerance. Every time you spend time out in the heat, you get more comfortable being in warmer environments.
This increased comfort has tons of benefits. For example, if you get invited to an outdoor event (e.g. a neighborhood BBQ) on a warm summer day, you are going to be MUCH more comfortable if you’ve been building up your heat tolerance.
Another great benefit of better heat tolerance: you can save on your electric bill by setting your thermostat higher. We typically keep our AC set to 82 degrees during the summer in our house. In fact, the “Department of Energy estimates savings of about 1 percent for each degree of thermostat adjustment per 8 hours”, which means three percent savings for full day adjustments. So setting our house to 82 degrees instead of 78 degrees (a common recommendation) saves us 12% on our electric bill during the summer time – a significant amount! And I’m pretty sure the Department of Energy is not including the savings from reduced wear on your AC unit.
In fact you may find that as your heat tolerance builds, being in a house/store/office set to a “standard” temperature is downright cold! Guess where you’ll want to spend time instead? Outside! See above for all the health benefits of spending more time outside.
Building Your Skills and Staying Comfortable With Power Tools
If you rarely or never interact with any kind of power tools, you can find yourself in the unfortunate position of always being uncomfortable around them.
Need to drill a hole in a wall stud so you can hang a picture or install some safety mounts? Have a leaky pipe connection that needs tightening? Need to cut some wood so you have a surface you can attach a baby gate to? These tasks will be far less scary / overwhelming if you’re used to pulling your mower out of the garage every weekend. And thus you’re far less likely to spend even more money on OTHER professionals / handy-people to do these things for you.
Thus mowing you can think of as regular “power tool exercise” that goes beyond simple fitness – you’re building and maintaining a really important set of skills.
Strengthening Your Social Connections
You know when I have the majority of conversations with my neighbors? When I’m out working in our yard!
If you’re out in your yard on a regular basis even during the hottest months, you are much more likely to see and talk with your neighbors as they walk by with their kids/dogs or as they also work on their lawns.
Knowing your neighbors better is important not only from a logistical and safety perspective, but also from the mental health perspective of increasing and strengthening your social connections. The number and depth of your friendships and connections has been established as one of the most important factors (if not THE most important factor) in having good health and living longer.
Having these kinds of outdoor conversations and connections with your neighbors is also extremely valuable during a pandemic, when everyone is mostly staying home and the only conversations happen outdoors.
It’s also really good to have an established friendship, or at least a respectful relationship, with neighbors when some kind of conflict arises – it’s much easier to text them about the overgrown vines coming into your yard when you talked the day before for 15 minutes about how their kids are doing.
Guess what else is easier if you know your neighbors well? Borrowing stuff! And guess what that means? More money saved.
Getting to Know Your Property
Identifying and Fixing Issues In Your Yard and House Exterior
Whenever I mow my lawn, I nearly always find something else that needs attention. Some examples:
- Picking up trash that’s blown into our yard
- Picking up kids toys (many of which are now trash because they’ve been sitting in our yard for too long) – and I’m willing to bet it’s a lot more convenient to pick up toys as you encounter them while mowing than having to remember to go pick them all up before your mowing service shows up at 8am on a Tuesday morning
- Scanning the roof line for wasp nests and spraying them (and then later knocking them down) to prevent them from getting too big (at which point they’re much harder to kill)
- Finding and treating ant beds
- Blowing cobwebs off our doors
- Identifying and removing/treating other insect issues
- Checking the health of you trees and other plants and trees
- Trimming back vines & trees, and removing invasive plants
- Weeding as needed
- Cleaning out the dryer vent on the outside of our house
- Finding parts of the house that need repair (rotting wood, leaking faucets, etc.)
- Identifying holes/dips/bumps in the ground that need to be filled/smoothed
- Identifying drainage issues
- Inspect and adjusting irrigation systems (if you have one)
Identifying and correcting many of these issues is even more important if you’ve got kiddos running outside around at full speed.
You know when I’d do all these other things if I didn’t mow the lawn? Never.
You know who is NOT going to do all (or nearly all) of these things? Your mowing service. In fact, it would be foolish for them to do so: the more lawns they can mow a day, the more money they make.
In fact, by not keeping an eye out for problems and nipping them in the bud, they can cost you quite a bit of money. Steve at Gimba Academy describes how he kept expecting his lawn service to find and correct a leak in his yard, and only after an unfortunate amount of water/money was wasted did he get out there and find and fix it himself. A perfect example of the value of looking after your own lawn.
Of course you can likely hire even MORE professionals to manage many of these other things – further depleting your bank account, your fitness, and your house maintenance skills.
It’s also really nice that you’re usually already “gross” from mowing the lawn when you tackle a lot of these issues, so you don’t have to worry about getting dirty/smelly or covered in bug treatment/plant detritus when handling these outdoor tasks.
The most enjoyable shower I take during the summer is the one right after mowing the lawn!
The awareness you gain of your lawn and house exterior helps with identifying and fixing problems, but it ALSO helps you plan for future upgrades (if desired).
By knowing every square inch of your yard, you’ll know where to put the next flower bed, or another shade tree, or some nice stepping stones for a path.
Once you get to know your property well, there is a very good chance you will develop strong opinions about how it should be maintained. After all, you know the lawn and house exterior better than anyone, and no one is going to care about the appearance of your property as much as you do (well, unless you do no yard maintenance and your neighbors are pissed off at you).
Thus by mowing your lawn yourself, you can ensure it is maintained exactly as you see fit. That also means no fixing spots that a mowing company (or neighborhood teenager) missed.
And as mentioned in the “Mowing Your Yard Only When It Actually Needs It” section above, having total control means you can optimally time your lawn care to the best possible times for your particular lawn. It also means you can break up the lawn mowing into multiple sessions if you want – morning and evening, or across multiple days if you’re tight on time.
There are also LOTS of consumer grade lawn care products out there that compete strongly with professional grade products, if you really want to make a stunning lawn. You can choose between seed or sod, where and when to grow particular kinds of grass that are optimal for your climate, etc.
When you first start to mow your lawn, you may not achieve the exact result you imagined, but guess what? Just like a bad haircut, your grass keeps growing back! The next time you mow, you’ll do better, and over time you’ll hone in on the perfect method. Nature is very forgiving in this respect.
Personally it’s not that important to me to have a picture perfect lawn, but that’s yet another value of DIY – you fully control how good your lawn looks.
Beyond the standard physical health benefits, there are numerous psychological benefits to mowing your yard as well. Below are some ideas on how to maximize those benefits.
Throughout our journey to FI, one of things I really enjoyed thinking about when mowing our lawn was how much great progress we were making towards our FI goals, and the current projected time until we were FI, and how much power that was giving us over our lives even before we actually hit FI. I also loved that I was actively doing something that would get us to FI faster – mowing our own lawn.
Now that we’re at FI, I still enjoy thinking about our current FI status and all the benefits it’s provided to us. These feelings of gratitude provide a ton of enjoyment and happiness as I’m going back and forth across our lawn. And just like I enjoyed mowing as an activity that was getting us to FI faster, I now enjoy mowing as an activity that helps keep us FI (which would be even more important for folks going after Lean FI).
Indulge in Fantasy
One of my fun fantasies when mowing is imagining what we can do as a family in the future because of our FI status. Possibilities include spending most of the summer somewhere cooler than Austin TX (which ironically would prevent me from mowing our lawn, and reduce my heat tolerance), extended international travel, and numerous project ideas I find exciting.
I strongly encourage you to find your own fun fantasies and let your mind wander through them while cutting your grass, especially those that might come true by obtaining FI. It’s really fantastic.
So much of achieving FI is about having the correct mindset, and fantasizing about your FI goals/status while doing something ultra productive like mowing is a great example of how to practice this mindset.
And if you’re less obsessed about FI than I am, there are lots of other fun things to think about: future vacations, meetups with friends, and since you’re already in the yard: dreaming up all kinds of upgrades you can do in your yard (e.g. a fantastic new deck).
Get a Mental Break
If you’re like me at all, you may find mowing to be a really nice mental break, especially from the numerous other commitments in your life. When you’re mowing your lawn, you can feel confident you’re being productive, so you don’t have to feel guilty about not working on your job / side hustle, watching the kids, getting groceries, etc. Especially if you have kids at home, the alone time you get via mowing can be fantastic.
Obviously when you are first learning the ropes of how to mow your lawn, you might find it a bit mentally strenuous instead of a mental break, but that will change as you get comfortable with the routine. This shift from having to think through the mechanics of lawn mowing to letting your mind relax and wander should happen fairly quickly for the vast majority of folks.
Many people find mowing particularly well suited to letting your mind relax, given the repetitive nature of the activity: one row, turn, another row, turn, etc. This kind of repetition, especially outside in nature, can be a nice calming, meditative, stress-reducing experience (especially if using much quieter electric equipment). As a result, many folks really look forward to this summer ritual.
Enjoy the Accomplishment of a Mown Yard
Finally, you can experience tremendous satisfaction and pride after mowing your yard as you look over the finished product.
Mowing your lawn is one of the tasks in life that has a reasonably clear finish line, unlike many other house and work projects. It is fantastic seeing that finish line, and knowing that you drove that task from start to finish.
And if your primary occupation (until FI at least) is heavily indoors / computer oriented / sedentary, accomplishing something physical and outdoors every week can help tremendously to to better balance your life.
Educating Yourself – and Others
About Your Lawn and Property
Over time you’ll start to rack up tons of refinements and ideas about how to mow and maintain your yard even more optimally. You’ll also continuously run into new and interesting problems as your yard evolves and the seasons change, providing lots of opportunities to research, learn, and try new solutions.
Pretty soon you may find yourself writing an insanely long blog post article about why and how you should mow your own lawn…. Well, not sure if you’ll want to go that far – you’d have to be pretty weird to do such a thing I’m sure.
About Many Other Things
I once heard Shane Sams speak at a conference about his business’ origin story, which involved him discovering Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast while mowing his lawn. That single episode led to a giant transformation of his entire life.
Later on, I thought to myself, “How did he listen to a podcast while mowing his lawn? Wouldn’t the noise of the mower easily overpower the max volume of his headphones?”
A quick google search revealed the answer: Bluetooth sound protection headphones (affiliate link)!
So if you’re not a fan of my new age sounding gratitude and fantasy indulging ideas above, or you’re just getting bored / tired of that, instead you could listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, or whatever your heart desires!
If you really want to boost the productivity of mowing your lawn EVEN MORE, you can listen to audiobooks or podcasts that teach you useful ideas about an infinite number of topics. My favorite topics are finance (learning things that can save or make me money) and health (such as nutrition, fitness, psychology, etc.).
Additional tip: you can employ this Bluetooth headphones idea while doing lots of other chores as well, such as washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning your house, etc. I’ve personally listened to about two dozen audiobooks over the last year with this technique.
Saving the Planet – And Your Lungs
Gas Powered Mower Nastiness
Personally I’ve never seen a mowing service that does not use gas powered mowers and trimmers, but it does appear there are now some (though I’m sure still very much the minority in 2022) mowing services that employ only electric mowing equipment.
This is fantastic news, because “gas-powered lawn mowers make up five percent of total air pollution in the United States”. There are a ton more crazy awful facts on that page as well:
- “To fuel this equipment, it takes about 800 million gallons of gasoline annually, with 17 million additional gallons spilled in the process” – that means 2% of all gas used is spilled!
- “Two-stroke engines pose a unique environmental hazard because they do not have an independent lubricant system, so fuel and oil are mixed. Due to this, about 30 percent of the fuel does not combust completely, thus releasing toxic gases into the air.”
- “A four stroke lawnmower operating for one hour equates to a vehicle traveling for 500 miles.”
- “This equipment was responsible for the release of 26.7 million tons of pollutants in 2011”
- “By 2020, gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and similar equipment in the state could produce more ozone pollution than all the millions of cars in California combined.”
Yikes! For these reasons and others, California (which has always led the nation on environmental policies, much to the benefit of the other states dragging their heels in the form of much cleaner gas cars, etc.) is banning all gas powered lawn equipment in 2024. The California Air Resources Board states that using a “bestselling commercial leaf blower” for one hour emits the same amount of smog-forming pollution as a 2016 Toyota Camry driving 1100 miles. Nasty.
More information about how awful gas burning mowers are for the environment is readily available with a simple search if interested.
Are Electric Mowers Really Greener?
Now you may be thinking at this point, “Well, electric equipment isn’t some perfect alternative! What if the electricity used to power your mower is generated from fossil fuels? What about the environmental impact of manufacturing the mower/trimmer/whatever, especially if it uses batteries?”
Those are great questions, so let’s tackle them.
FIrst, if the electricity you use is from power plants burning fossil fuels (especially the dirtier forms like coal), are you really helping the planet?
Even if your electric mower is powered by electricity produced from burning coal, it will still be somewhat ‘cleaner’ than burning gasoline to mow your lawn. That’s because power plants are more efficient than small engines at using carbon-based fuels and have a range of mechanisms in place to reduce and capture emissions.LeafScore
But there are options to use entirely renewable energy as well.
Obviously you could have solar panels on your roof, using those to power all the electrical needs of your home, including your lawn equipment.
Another option that many folks may not be aware of: many electric utilities allow you to simply check a box on your account that directs the company to purchase fully renewable energy such as wind energy to match what you use every month.
My wife and I subscribe to the Green Choice program with Austin Energy, and thus we know all the electricity we use for our house, lawn equipment, and our EV and PHEV are effectively from a fully renewable energy source. This is well worth the extra $0.0075 per KhW to us.
If your electric utility company doesn’t have such an option, I recommend you message or call them and ask them to create one!
Now to address the second question: what about the environmental impact of manufacturing the various lawn equipment you’ve purchased, especially if any are battery powered?
This question is often asked for dirty dinosaur sludge burning cars versus electric cars – does the impact of manufacturing the battery outweigh the lack of tail pipe emissions? The answer is very clearly NO – you still have a much lower impact on the environment with an electric car. AND it will only improve as more and more of our electricity is generated by renewables over time to meet critically important climate goals so we don’t all have to move to Alaska/Canada/Siberia to avoid roasting.
I expect the difference between gas powered mowers vs battery powered mowers is even more in favor of the battery powered versions, given how inefficient gas engines are (vs car engines) and how much smaller the batteries are for mowers than for electric cars. But I couldn’t find a definitive source on environmental manufacturing impacts of gas vs electric mowers – let me know in the comments if you are aware of any!
But there’s an even better option than a battery powered mower for the environment: a corded mower. There are lots of other benefits to corded mowers/equipment I’ll discuss below, but by eliminating the need for a battery these mowers have a really nicely low impact on the environment. They are really just simple electric motors with a blade attached and some housing/structure to hold it together.
Both types of electric mowers create zero emissions, but the rechargeable batteries for cordless mowers contain lithium, the mining of which has been known to pollute water supplies. If going green is your top priority, a corded electric mower is likely to have the least impact on the environment.Bob Vila
And if you REALLY want to make sure you’re not putting any pollution into the atmosphere, you can use a fully manual mower (affiliate link)!
Finally, what about those services using only electric lawn equipment? Well that’s certainly better than using a service that employs gas powered equipment, but then you lose all the other benefits I list above for mowing your own yard. I also suspect most (if not all) of these electric mowing services are getting to your house via gas powered trucks to haul their equipment. Hopefully that will change in the future though, as electric cars and trucks take over the country/world.
SO: if you’re using a mowing service that uses gas powered mowers, drop them ASAP and get yourself a nice electric mower!
And if you’re using a gas powered mower to mow your own lawn, either replace it immediately with an electric mower or at the very least make sure you replace it with an electric mower when it dies.
You wouldn’t run a gas powered mower in your house, so why would you pump all that pollution into your yard and lungs? And your kid’s lungs? And the atmosphere we all breathe?
Tips On How to Make Mowing Easier / More Enjoyable
Now that we covered the many reasons WHY you should mow your own lawn, let’s get into some tips on HOW to make it easier and more enjoyable.
Beyond all the financial, health, and environmental reasons to go electric for your mower described above, there are numerous other benefits that make mowing a much better experience.
Note: while I focus on electric mowers below, most (maybe all?) of the benefits I describe also apply to trimmers, leaf blowers, and other electric lawn equipment.
First up, the top reason that many people prefer electric mowers: they are so much quieter than gas powered mowers. Not only will you appreciate how much quieter it is when mowing (and thus you’re less likely to need ear protection), your neighbors will also greatly appreciate it, especially if you end up mowing earlier or later in the day to avoid the midday heat.
Next, an electric mower is much lower weight than other mowers (other than a fully manual mower). That means you can easily lift/pull/push it anywhere you need, and turns are far easier while mowing. And because it’s so light and easy to push, you don’t need an ADDITIONAL motor just to help with moving it forward, which you’ll find in “self propelled” gas mowers (which ironically makes the mower even heavier).
Much Lower Maintenance
An electric mower is also MUCH less of a hassle to own than a gas mower. Unlike like a gas mower that typically requires “tuneups” from a professional every one or two years, along with “winterizing” fuel and a host of other maintenance tasks, the maintenance needed for an electric mower is almost non-existent. Basically you just need to make sure the airway used to cool the motor is not blocked (just wipe it down), ensure the underside of the mower is not clogged with yard debri, and replace the mower blade (affiliate link) as needed (which is very easy to do). Make sure you check the size of your mower before ordering the blade though, the blade I link to corresponds to the 20” mower linked above.
All mowers should have their blades sharpened annually (usually in spring) to ensure that they leave a clean cut on grass blades. But gas engines often pose more of a hassle by requiring regular maintenance, including changing air filters and spark plugs annually to keep the engine in good running order. In addition, gas engines require oil to lubricate the engine parts, and the oil level should be checked each time before mowing and more oil added if necessary. Owners of gas mowers should also drain the gasoline from the tank at the end of the mowing season, because over the winter, the ethanol can separate from the other components, causing the fuel to degrade and keep the mower from starting easily next year.Bob Vila
Far Fewer Repairs (If Any) and Consistent Performance
Another benefit of electric mowers that makes them much less stressful to own: repairs are far less likely to be needed. Because of the dramatically simpler design of an electric mower versus a gas powered mower, with so many fewer pieces that can break and liquids that can get into places they shouldn’t, you no longer have to worry about all the infuriating and expensive repairs that gas powered mowers often need.
I think one of my favorite benefits of using an electric mower is that I never have to wonder if my mower will start up each spring. I grew up using gas powered mowers, and I usually didn’t have problems starting them each spring after sitting in our garage over the winter, but for some reason when my wife and I bought our current house about a decade ago and I (foolishly) bought a gas powered mower, the damn thing refused to start each spring despite all my winterizing efforts. I’ll never forget pulling that damn starting cord over and over hoping it would start, every friggin spring. My neighbors heard a lot of cursing from our driveway, no doubt. After several years of having to pay a mower repair guy over $100 to get our mower running again, I swore off gas powered mowers forever. To this day I still get mad thinking about all that wasted money and hassle.
Beyond the question of electric vs gas powered, in general it’s best to stick with the simplest equipment that can get the job done in a reasonable time frame. More expensive/fancy equipment (e.g. zero turn mowers and lawn tractors) will cost you more up front and potentially cost a LOT more to repair.
Guess what else that simpler design for electric mowers allows for? A better and longer warranty (typically two years for gas, versus up to five years for electric). Manufacturers can offer these much longer warranties because electric mowers are so much less likely to break than gas powered mowers.
The mower we purchased in 2018 (affiliate link) comes with a great four year warranty (though I think it was five years when we bought it), which meant we got an entirely new mower mailed to us when the safety switch stopped working after a couple years. You can imagine how much I preferred that over once again paying for our mower to get repaired!
Electric mowers are also typically much smaller and of course can’t have gas or oil leaks, so they are much easier and safer to store – especially if you don’t have a lot of space in your garage/shed. And because electric mowers are so lightweight, it’s easy to place/lift them wherever you choose to store them.
See the “Equipment Storage” section below for how I store our mower and other lawn equipment.
No Need to Store Gas or Oil
My wife’s favorite aspect of using electric lawn equipment is the total lack of gas cans and oil containers in our garage.
They take up valuable real estate, they’re a huge fire hazard, you have to make ultra sure your kids can’t get into them, and they can make your garage a smelly mess (especially if you accidentally spill any). You also have to take a gas can over to the gas station (giving your car a nice gasoline fragrance if you’re lucky) to fill it up, and hope it doesn’t spill all over your trunk on the way home.
Plenty of POWER and Range
A number of folks will claim they need the additional power and/or range that a gas mower provides over an electric mower, but I’m very skeptical of these claims, especially when considering newer electric models that have improved dramatically the last few years.
When I used a gas mower previously, it would consistently slow down to a stop when I hit tall/thick grass – and then I’d have to pull it back, clean out the undercarriage, yank super hard on the starter cord, then avoid the thick grass I just pulled out of the undercarriage that was clogging the mower as I resumed mowing.
In stark contrast, when I hit super tall or thick grass with my corded electric mower, it might slow down a little, but it rarely stops. If it does stop, just lifting it a little off the ground allows the blade to clear out the clog and then you can keep going – no annoying cleaning or restart process needed! I’m still amazed how much easier and better tacking tall and thick grass is than with my old gas mower – despite the fact that gas powered mowers have more power on paper.
Another tip if you’re struggling with thick/tall grass – try raising the mower a little. That can make a huge difference.
Many will also argue that if your lawn is really large, nothing but a gas powered mower will have the range and stamina to handle it – it’s not tethered by a cord, and it won’t run out of battery. But given all the horrible downsides of gas mowers covered above, I’d do everything possible to mow with an electric mower – even if I had to buy several batteries, or split up the mowing across several days.
And while I applaud those who want to go fully manual with their mowing (affiliate link) for the greater savings, exercise, sound reduction, and lower environmental impact, an electric mower is vastly more powerful and capable of tackling really thick and tall grass (especially if you’ve put off mowing a while).
Makes You Think About the Size of Your Yard
This section might get some folks riled up / defensive, but I feel it’s really important to consider.
If you believe your yard / property is too big to tackle with electric mowers, are you sure you need a lawn that big?
Could you use that land for something more productive than grass that you have to mow? Like a garden, or livestock grazing, or a new structure, or even let it go wild to give habitats to animals that need it?
And an even crazier thought: maybe you shouldn’t have such a large lot at all, if you’re not really using it for something productive. You could save a ton of money and hassle by living on a smaller lot, and still have plenty of privacy with lots that you can easily mow with electric mowers.
We have plenty of land in the US, so if you want a large property, that’s fine with me – as long as it doesn’t require that you mow a ridiculous amount of grass with a machine that’s going to fill your property and the planet with a ridiculous amount of pollution. At that point you’re filling the air with a bunch of garbage that we ALL have to breathe and making the planet warmer for ALL of us.
Finally, there are many, many, many, many, many folks who argue that any traditional lawn at all is terrible for the ecosystem and environment, especially if you need lots of water to keep the lawn green year round. Thus if you have a massive amount of grass that has to be mowed regularly, you also have an outsized detrimental impact on your local ecosystem and environment.
Go Electric Corded if Possible
Alright, now that we’ve discussed why it’s vitally important to use electric mowers, let’s discuss why I’m such a big fan of corded electric mowers.
Nearly all the reasons corded mowers are superior to battery powered mowers is due to the lack of battery:
- You don’t have to worry about running out of battery power
- You don’t have to worry about charging the battery
- You don’t have to worry about the battery losing capacity over time
- You don’t have to push a heavy battery around the yard
- You don’t have to PAY for a battery (which is typically the most expensive part of a battery powered mower)
- You don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of battery production and disposal
Corded electric mowers are also better able to tackle tall and thick grass than battery powered mowers:
Corded mowers tend to have an easier time dealing with especially thick or tall grass because there’s a steady stream of electricity to power the motor. If your mower is running, you know it’s running at full power.Electric Mower Report
The main downside of corded mowers is the cord, but there are lots of ways to manage the cord that I’ll discuss in the next section. Once you get skilled at those techniques, the cord will likely not bother you at all – especially compared to the hassles of battery management.
Effectively handling the electrical cord for your mower or other electric lawn equipment is paramount for making the process of mowing your own lawn easy.
First off, you need to cut your lawn in an appropriate pattern. Trying to mow your lawn using the same route as a cordless mower is the #1 mistake people make when first using a corded mower.
When I used a gas powered mower growing up and before getting our electric corded mower, I would mow in an “outside in” pattern: mowing around the perimeter and then making my way into the middle of the lawn. Thus I’d only have to turn 90 degrees each time until I got to the very middle (which was important since a heavy gas mower is harder to turn – unlike a light corded electric mower). See below for a diagram of this pattern.
Unfortunately if you try to do this pattern with a corded mower, you are going to run into the cord after each loop – both a giant hassle and safety concern.
So how DO you mow with a cord?
The most vital rule for mowing with a cord: always mow AWAY from the power source. See below for an diagram of a pattern that works well with a cord:
With this kind of pattern, you never run into the cord – it’s always laying on top of the grass you’ve already mowed.
So when you’re looking at your lawn and not sure what the optimal pattern is, think first about where the power source is. Then mow in rows moving away from that source direction. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
While you are making 180 degree turns instead of 90 degree turns this way, a corded electric mower is so much lighter that it’s actually quite easy.
And because an electric mower is so easy to start, you can just shut it off, lift/pull it as needed around a tricky turn/corner, and then immediately resume mowing with the press of a button – far safer than trying to keep a gas powered mower running around tricky turns because you don’t want to deal with the hassle of restarting it.
Another trick that helps many people with cords while mowing – hold a bit of the cord in your hand while gripping the handle, as that can help keep the cord away from your feet in some situations. Some folks never feel the need to do this though, and I only do it some of the time. Try it and see how it works for you.
And remember: you only have to come up with the optimal mowing pattern for your lawn once (unless you’re moving heavy obstacles around your yard frequently). After that, you can mow totally on autopilot and never worry about the cord.
Before and After Mowing
Another common complaint about mowing with a long cord: dealing with knots and tangles. Especially if you have to spend 5 to 10 minutes just detangling and undoing knots every time you mow – which can be an infuriating way to start the mowing session.
Fortunately there’s an easy way to avoid these super annoying tangles and knots. You just need to know how to wrap your cord properly.
The technique I use is called the “Over and Under” method, and it’s used by many professional audio and video technicians who have to manage long cords for their job. It takes a little practice to get good at it, but soon you’ll find it effortless.
The result: your cable is never tangled, and you can start mowing right away.
A couple more tips, based on my experience applying this method to long thick outdoor extension cords:
- If you want to create really large loops for your longer extension cord, unlike the smaller AV cables in the above videos, stretch out your arms as wide as you can while making the loops – this allows for fewer and larger loops, which can be easier to handle with a longer cable
- Given how many loops are needed for a longer cord (even with the above large loop tip), it’s easy to forget whether you’re on the “over” or “under” turn – especially if your kid comes out to tell about something amazing they just drew/created/destroyed in the middle of wrapping. Thus I say out loud “over” and “under” as I’m wrapping the cord.
If you REALLY hate the idea of managing a cord and the only way I can convince you to use electric lawn equipment is if they are battery powered, and/or you just can’t get to the furthest reaches of your lawn with a cord from your house (i.e. over 100 feet from the nearest outlet), then that’s DEFINITELY better than buying a gas powered mower or other equipment. Or if you can find a used or free hand-me-down mower or trimmer that operates on batteries, that’s also a good reason to use them – better than ending up in the landfill!
If you do use batteries, which are likely to be lithium ion batteries these days, it’s important to manage those batteries effectively.
Lithium ion batteries do not like the following:
- being very cold
- being very hot
- being completely charged for extended periods
- being completely drained for extended periods
The ideal storage situation that places the least strain on a lithium ion battery is to be about half charged and stored at 59°F (15°C).
Now, are we going to achieve this perfect storage? No, but we can avoid the extremes that can rapidly degrade the battery lifetime.
To avoid temperature extremes while storing, keep the batteries in your fully climate controlled house interior – not the garage, and certainly not a backyard shed.
Instead of charging your batteries fully after you finish mowing so they are “ready to go” the next time, try to charge the batteries to full shortly before you start mowing.
I find that when I finish edging with our battery powered trimmer, the battery is usually not fully depleted, so I simply set it on the shelf and then charge it right before I start mowing the next time.
But if you do fully deplete the battery while mowing/edging, you’ll want to charge it a little to get it away from that total depletion state before setting it on the shelf.
As batteries age, they will eventually reach the point where they no longer last a full mowing session – even if you store them properly. However, rather than sending that battery to the nearest landfill where it could sit for MANY years, try splitting the use of that equipment into multiple parts and charge the battery between uses.
For example, a few years back I was disappointed to realize I could no longer edge both our front and back yard on a single charge of our trimmer battery. Bleh! But I really didn’t want to buy another battery – so I tried to think of ways I could still use our current battery.
Here’s my current process:
- Before mowing, start charging the trimmer battery
- Mow just the front lawn, after which the trimmer battery is reasonably full
- Edge/weedeat the front yard with the trimmer
- Take the trimmer battery back inside and resume the charging process
- Blow clear the front driveway / porch (using a corded electric blower)
- Mow the backyard, after which the trimmer battery is reasonably full again
- Edge/weedeat the back yard with the trimmer
- Take battery inside, set on shelf for next time (unless I ran out of battery while edging the back yard, in which case I charge it a little)
- Blow clear the back porch
As a result of switching to this partitioned process, we have gotten YEARS more life out of this battery than I expected, avoiding the need to buy another battery all this time – better for our wallet and the environment. I’m still amazed how much longer the battery has retained enough capacity for edging just the front yard or back yard (or both with just a quick charge between) versus edging both in one go.
As your batteries age, think about how you might be able to change up your process to get dramatically more life out of them.
I recommend adjusting the height of your mower to have the desired grass height for your lawn.
And try to follow what’s commonly known as the “golden rule” of mowing: don’t cut more than one-third of the grass blade off per mow. Thus that means when your grass is about 50% taller than the desired height, it’s time to mow.
Obviously you don’t have to achieve perfection with these metrics, huddling out in your yard with a ruler every day – unless you like doing that, and if so please keep doing it! I know that I am far from perfect when it comes to tracking my lawn height.
But by having a rough idea of the optimal height for your grass and then how high it can get before you need to mow it (so you don’t remove more than one-third of the grass blades), you can improve your yard quality quite a bit.
Again though, don’t stress out about getting this exactly right. Good enough is good enough.
I strongly recommend getting a mower that has a mulching mode, and using that mode. Thus instead of having to bag up tons of grass clippings (as I did many times as a kid) or blowing grass clippings out the side of the mower (and thus into the air everywhere), the blade chops the grass multiple times and then send the clippings back into the lawn where they provide fertilizer and shade for the soil. You can do the same with leaves that have fallen off your trees – why waste perfectly good organic material that can help improve the quality of your lawn?
More great benefits of mulching:
- Saves Time: no more raking or bagging or hauling to the trash your clippings
- Saves Money: “free” fertilizer, no bags needed, and might save on trash fees if you don’t have much capacity
- Helps the environment: no plastic bags full of clippings filling up landfills
- Reduces erosion of your soil: keep that organic material where it came from
As mentioned in “Easier storage” above, one of the fantastic benefits of electric lawn equipment is how much easier they are to store.
And if space is at a premium in your garage/shed, as it is for us, being able to efficiently and compactly store your equipment is vital. Based on conversations I’ve had with folks who pay for lawn service, not having a good storage solution for equipment is one of the reasons they outsource mowing – so we need to fix that!
After mowing I fold the handle bar on our mower back and place the mower on its side against our garage wall, so it has a very small footprint. Given how light the mower is, it’s pretty easy to pick it up and place it wherever, versus a gas powered mower.
Tip: if your mower is not stable with the blade facing the wall when you place it on its side, and you have to face the blade outward, use a big flat sheet of wood or something to cover the blade.
We hang our trimmer, blower, electric cord, and all other lawn equipment on hooks we’ve installed on the side of the garage – a very nice solution to keep equipment out of the way and yet still accessible.
And as mentioned above in the “Battery Storage” section, make absolutely sure you take any batteries inside the house for storing.
Clothing and Water
In this final section, let’s discuss how to keep you comfortable and protected from injury while mowing.
First let’s review safety / protection tips:
- Wear long, loose / stretchy PANTS while mowing – not shorts. Old workout pants are ideal, as long as they are thick enough. I know wearing pants seems to directly counter the idea of staying cool, but your legs will be FAR better protected from various scratchy things while mowing, as well as provide good sun protection. See below for how to stay cool.
- Wear a big floppy hat (affiliate link) – vital for sun protection. That’s the one I use, but there are many other good options (affiliate link) for about the same price (affiliate link) ($15 to $17).
- Wear good work gloves (affiliate link)
- Wear good eye protection (affiliate link) (I prefer tinted since it’s usually bright outside while I’m mowing)
Now let’s go over how to stay comfortable.
The most important thing to remember about staying comfortable when you’re in a hot environment: WATER. Just like LAYERS are the solution for staying comfortable in cold weather, WATER is the solution for hot weather.
Perhaps my MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR MOWING IN THE SUMMER: Before going outside, totally SOAK the top half of your shirt (or the entire thing if you’d like) in water from your tap. When you first put it on inside, you’re going to be COLD, but as soon as you step outside and get moving, you’ll rapidly realize how much better it feels to have this wet shirt on. This tip can very easily turn mowing in the midday heat in the middle of summer from impossible to quite reasonable. (The same can be said for working in a super hot garage in the middle of the summer, especially if you can get some fans going as well).
You can also soak a hat (unless it’s designed to repel water like the sun hats I link to above), a bandana, etc. Anything that allows you to use the power of water to stay cool.
If you find that sweat (or water from a soaked hat) keeps dripping in your eyes, use a headband! A quick Amazon search reveals examples for men and women (affiliate links). Mine are so old I have no idea where I got them. Middle school? Who knows. And you might look like you just got back from the 80’s, but most folks aren’t going for fashion statements while mowing. You might also try soaking the headband in water, but only if you can get enough excess water out to avoid dripping in your eyes.
Finally, sticking with our water theme, stay hydrated. I try to take several giant swigs of water every time I come into the house while mowing, and drink a lot right after.
Any activity that makes you more fit and healthy while also saving money is the GOLD STANDARD for activities that get you to FI faster.
Many folks say things like “Mowing your lawn is just something you either love or hate”, as if it’s an immutable fact of your genetics. I think that’s baloney – I believe anyone can learn to enjoy it, just like anyone can learn to enjoy exercise, eating well, etc. as they get more skilled at those activities. In fact, consistently mowing your lawn can lead to new appreciation for lots of other DIY activities.
In total, mowing your own lawn with an electric mower improves your finances, fitness (paid exercise!) and health (adding years to your life and life to your years), skills (including comfort with power tools), toughness, circadian rhythm, heat tolerance, social connections, mental state, knowledge, and of course your property!
And beyond all these beautiful financial, mental, and physical health benefits, it’s also drastically better for the local and global environment. Amazing!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to mow your own lawn from now on, and I hope you picked up some useful tips on how to make the mowing process easier/smoother. Let me know if you have any questions or additional tips in the comments below.