Monday night I was mowing when the lawn tractor died. This wasn’t the first time it has failed me mid-mow, but the new-to-me symptoms of this latest casualty had me thoroughly angry. The mower is only seven years old, but has had one problem after the other.
I pushed the mower back into the garage and went inside to vent. My wife agreed that maybe it was time to look for a new mower. The next day I spent my lunch hour “test driving” a Toro zero-turn model which boasted reduced cutting time, better maneuverability, and other such marketing speak.
The summer between freshman and sophomore years of college I worked for a landscaper running a crew to mow residential and commercial lawns. He had one of these mowers and I always thought it would be “cool” to own one. Red flag number one.
While I was checking out the mower, the store associate pointed out that if I opened a store credit card account I would save an additional 10% off my purchase, and get zero-percent interest for 12 months. Naturally, I thought this might be a good idea – save essentially the cost of sales tax and pay it off for free over the next year. Red flag number two!
Taming the Inner Five Year-Old
Nothing against five year-olds, after all I am the parent of one, but they are impulsive personalities. If my son breaks a toy, he just wants to buy a new one. If he loses something, just buy a new one. Adults are a little like five year-olds sometimes, myself included. My trip to the tractor store was in line with the behavior of a five year-old, well, assuming they could drive.
This is what makes being in debt such a slippery slope to slide back in. Just six months or so after paying off our debt, I was actually considering opening a new credit card to save $250 on a lawn tractor, or deplete my savings $2,500 for same. As I sat there, I went through all sorts of rationalizations.
- My current mower is seven years-old
- This new mower would reduce the time I spend mowing the lawn
- This new mower would be much more fun to drive
- It is a pain to take my current mower in for repair, or try to work on it myself
- I don’t want to sink any more money into that old mower
Sounds a lot like the same rationalizations we make when buying a new car, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I took my own advice and decided to walk away. That night, I dragged the old mower out of the garage, removed the mower deck, and took a look underneath. This time I was lucky – just a broken traction drive belt.
With the help of Google, YouTube, and the remnants of my owners manual, I was able to replace the belt myself. While I had the deck off, I put on a new set of blades (I’ll sharpen the old ones and save them to rotate in when the new ones need sharpening), cleaned underneath well, put on a new mower deck belt, replaced the worn out deck wheels, greased the spindles, changed the air filter, changed the oil, and gave it a good cleaning.
When the tune up was complete, I have to say I sat back and admired the old mower. I almost felt a little guilty for wanting to get rid of it. When I consider that it saved me $2,500, I really felt affection for the old tractor. Good thing I ignored that inner five year-old.