This year we are planning to expand our square foot garden, but the soil under the raised beds is so compacted I’m concerned no roots will grow beyond the soil in the beds. I began shopping tillers and found a range of costs depending on the size and power of the machine. I started considering the advantages of renting a machine, or maybe borrowing one from a friend. That’s when I remembered my across-the-street neighbors recently tilled their entire side-yard to plant a large garden. I bet I could borrow the tiller from him, or even pay him to till our planned garden area.
As I looked through my garage for another tool, it occurred to me I sure had accumulated a lot of stuff for once-a-year (or more infrequent) jobs. For instance, I bought a 12-foot step ladder to paint the higher section of walls in our dining room last year. I bought an expensive plumber’s/toilet snake to try to unclog our guest bathroom toilet, when it turned out to be one of my son’s toys hung up in the trap. And I nearly bought that new tiller.
Probably lots of examples out there where the advantages of renting or borrowing far outweigh buying outright. Here are a few I came up with.
Just as my tiller would have been used once, cleaned and put away until the next spring, there are many tools we buy for one particular job and then it takes up space the remainder of the time. Earlier this year I almost bought a paint sprayer to paint our privacy fence. I’ve decided a brush or roller will work just fine, or I can borrow a sprayer from someone else.
One of our neighbors owns a gigantic RV with all the bells and whistles. I’ve often wondered if it cost more than his house. The funniest thing about it is it sits 95% of the year, save the one or two weeks they take it to a football game or a short camping trip. Why not simply rent an RV or camping trailer for those rare occasions?
I suppose if I had tons of money a vacation home would be nice to have. However, even the nicest second homes have their downside. There are property management fees, and worries about having it rented to offset the costs (unless you can afford for it to sit empty), etc. And of course it probably means your vacations will be to the same place every year. That seems a little boring to me.
When renting a beach house, mountain cabin, or even a basic hotel room, I am not limited to a particular spot. I can go to the mountains in the winter, the beach in the summer, and somewhere in between any time I want. I pay for the nights I plan to stay and leave. No annual maintenance fees, association dues, property management costs, additional insurance, second mortgages, etc.
Movies, Games and Books
Netflix cornered the market with the idea of renting DVDs instead of buying. We’ve all rushed out to buy a new DVD only to watch it once and let it add to our growing collection of never-watched movies. I’m guilty of doing the same thing with games and books as well. Why not sign up for a service like GameFly that lets you rent video games via mail and send them back when you are finished. Why not check out a service like PaperbackSwap.com for books (or even the library). If you find a game, movie, or book you really like, you might decide to buy a copy so you can enjoy it again and again. But most people read, watch, and play things once and put it on the shelf to collect dust.
Trucks, SUVs, and Minivans
Ever heard someone justify buying a huge pickup truck so they can do something like haul gravel to their property to put down a new driveway, or tow their boat to the lake a couple times each summer? How about the family of four who buys a huge, expensive minivan so they can take grandma and grandpa with them on their summer vacations. Guess what – it is possible to rent trucks and minivans, and the costs are usually much less than one monthly loan payment.
As a general rule, try to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that you must own one of everything to get the job done. Sure, there are some costs associated with renting or borrowing equipment, but unless you plan to use something very often, chances are you will come out ahead by opting to rent it or borrow it from a neighbor rather than buying it outright. And of course there are other hidden costs associated with owning more stuff. You have to store it, protect it, insure it, and maintain it. Renting it for a short time means when you are finished you transfer all those worries back to the owner, leaving your life (and garage) as uncluttered as possible.