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Keep it or trade it: You can attempt to justify anything

Keep it or trade it: You can attempt to justify anything
An ag economist thinks my justification for trading lawnmowers might have a few holes in the theory.

Catch up on the keep it or trade it dilemma:
Keep trucks and tractors or trade for new: You lose either way!
Keep it or trade it? The rest of the lawn mower saga

In case you missed earlier parts in the saga of my lawnmower woes, the recap is pretty simple. My 13-year-old riding mower finally started nickel and diming me to death this year. But the fourth major breakdown was more than nickels and dimes – we were talking hundred dollar bills.

After going through the process of considering all options – trade often, never trade, fix forever – and concluding that when it comes to cars and lawnmowers, at least, there is no winning strategy, I bit the bullet hard and bought a new riding mower.

An ag economist thinks my justification for trading lawnmowers might have a few holes in the theory.

Thirty years ago, even 20 years ago, I would have bought one at a big box store. It might have lasted five years, but it would have held down investment costs. I opted for a model with a good track record. It hit me pretty hard up front. My initial investment was around $5,000.

My ag economist friend, who specializes in making do with things long after most people would park them at the junk yard just to get rid of them, thought I didn't look at all my options.

For example, I could have bought an antique reel push mower and mowed the four acres each week in the second rainiest summer on record by hand. I'm 62 years old – that's not a real practical solution. My mother, rest her soul, would have liked it because it meant spending hardly any money. Me, I didn't like it so much.

After using the new mower a couple of times, I realized I had cut my mowing time by a third. I also have cut fuel consumption by more than one-third. I did some calculations. I figure I'm saving $30 per week in labor and fuel costs. So I figured my payback would be about 10 years – in 10 years I would break even. Of course, that doesn't put a value on all the aggravation I'm saving not working on it almost every week.

My ag economist friend took a different tact. He arrived at a 20-year payback. Then he added this brilliant advice: "You can explain how you come up with the payback period. You can speculate that your grandkids can use your rig to teach your great grandkids how to tend the grass.

"By then technology will exist that you can provide advice via video link from your bed in the nursing home."

Well, he might have a point, but he didn't have to be so realistic about it!

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