Monday, May 03, 2021

Mown goal

Today I achieved a goal: My lawn mower paid for itself. That’s not literally true, nor even figuratively true, really, but that’s the way I look at it. Because of that, today was an accomplishment of a goal.

The mower didn’t literally pay for itself not only because it’s a thing that doesn’t earn a salary, but also because it’s difficult to calculate a break-even point. Even so, I came up with a way that worked for me, and today I arrived at that admittedly arbitrary break-even point.

As I’ve said several times, I wanted to get a lawn mower as soon as I moved into this house. I knew that my doctors would be glad I was doing it (for the exercise), and I also knew that because it was a small, contained job, it was one I could handle even in the iron-tight grip of my grief.

I bought my mower the day after the sale of the last house that Nigel I lived in was settled (which was also six months to the day after Nigel died ). It was probably the first big thing I spent any money on after moving to Hamilton because I’d been avoiding doing that in case the house didn’t sell and I needed to cover the mortgage payments for longer than I’d budgeted. As it turned out, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend any money after the sale because only a few days later, New Zealand went under lockdown.

Because I’m me, I wanted to work out how long it would take before the cost of the mower would be offset by the savings compared with hiring a service to do the mowing. I knew this would take awhile because I bought a battery-powered mower which was significantly more expensive than a petrol mower. Thing is, I didn’t want to burn fossil fuels and pollute the air just to keep my grass (well, weeds…) looking tidy (there’s those pesky values of mine in action again).

Since so many people had urged me to hire a lawn mowing service, I decided I’d use what we paid for each complete mow at the old house as a starting point. This may or may not have been a good idea—I never got quotes in Hamilton, so it may have cost more or less here than it did there (I think it may have cost less here because there’s far more competition in Hamilton, and because my section is smaller than what we had at the old place). Nevertheless, I decided it was as good a number as any.

Next, I took that number and arbitrarily divided it in half—half for the front lawn, half for the back. The reason for that is that even though I knew I’d usually mow both the front and back lawns the same day, that wouldn’t always be the case (in fact, the very first time I used the mower, it was only in the back). The front lawn is a LOT smaller than the back, so this was a truly arbitrary number; I just didn’t feel like working our the area of the two parts of the section to accurately calculate each part’s “share” of the total. Besides, this was never meant to be a true and accurate analysis—it was just a way of setting a goal to achieve.

Today I reached the goal I set, and the cost of the mower itself is now effectively zero. Kind of. Because, of course, there’s another thing I didn’t work out: The cost of recharging the battery. Calculating that would’ve required me to learn how to calculate that, which seemed a bit much for a non-serious exercise.

In any event, the recharging cost is now moot: I always mow the lawns in the daytime, of course, and usually when the sun is shining brightly. When I finish using the mower, I immediately recharge the battery, and that’s now done with free power from the sun. This means that my running costs are effectively zero.

If I’d taken the time to accurately work out how much I was saving by doing the mowing myself, and if I’d factored in how much it cost to recharge the battery, I’d have had a far more accurate estimate of when the cost of the mower would have been offset. That was never my intention—reaching the goal was.

I wanted to mow my own lawns for the exercise, and because, as I said, it was a small, contained job I could handle even in the iron-tight grip of my grief. But I also felt that some people didn’t think I could, or maybe would, actually do it, and I had a lot to prove, especially to myself.

That’s the real importance of the goal I achieved today: I proved that I could do it because I did do it, and that’s exactly the sort of thing I was talking about in my post from last March, “To err is human, the choice is mine”: I have to try things to find out what I’m capable of.

Whether the mower really did become “free” today or not is beside the point: Today when I mowed the back lawn I got better than that: I achieved the goal I set for myself, and I think that’s worth celebrating. Always.

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