Nothing Saved

Ken Begley

THIS IS MY SIXTH STORY for HumbleDollar. You don’t know how happy you’ve made this old hick from Kentucky feel by taking the time to read my stuff, let alone comment on it.

I’ve done and continue to do a lot of dumb things in my walk down life’s path. I hope to share most of them to give you something to think about and maybe avoid on your own. Today, it’s something I call “stupid saving.” Saving is great, but sometimes you really aren’t saving anything.

My family is universally known in our town for holding onto money. A local philosopher once said, “If that family lived on an island that had nothing but rocks then, by the end of the year, they would have all the rocks.” That’s just the way we are. We waste nothing and use everything until it’s so worn out that even the Salvation Army won’t take it.

Shoot, I bought a car so small and that got such great gas mileage that you could fill up the tank, drive it around all day and still have enough gas by sunset for a sizable explosion if someone runs into you. But enough about me.

Or maybe not. I want to give you an example of “stupid saving.” In the country, we tend to have very big yards because land is so cheap. Our house sits on a 1.5-acre plot. To be honest, I hate big yards. But the fellow that sold us the house wouldn’t let me buy any less.

So, with big yards come big responsibilities, assuming you don’t want to make the neighbors mad. You’ll do a lot of mowing, raking, weed eating, bush and tree pruning, leaf blowing and so on and so forth. Let me tell you that “so on and so forth” gets quite old as you get quite old.

The central cost for me is the lawn mower. You have two basic kinds: the lawn tractor and the zero-turn radius mower. The lawn tractor gets the job done, but the zero-turn mower is all that and a bag of chips.

I mow my 95-year-old mother’s lawn with her zero-turn mower and you can easily do one acre in one hour. My 1.5 acres takes two-and-a-half hours with the lawn tractor going full out.

To top it off, I have some sort of degenerative tailbone problem. This old age disease makes it difficult for me to sit down for long periods of time without a lot of pain. I ought to go straight to heaven after I die because I’ve already done my time in the bad place riding that lawn tractor.

My lawn tractor is about 20 years old and I have enough jackleg mechanic’s ability to keep it running. But I really want that zero-turn mower bad. When I get it, it’ll mean less pain and less time mowing. In addition, I hate mowing with a purple passion.

I haven’t gotten it because it goes against my nature to throw away anything that is still “functional.” I’m that guy that keeps underwear full of holes because the elastic waistband still works. But my mower will likely die a painful death in the next year or two, depending on how many sins I still need to work off.

A friend who is also “frugal,” to put it nicely, asked if I got that zero-turn mower I wanted. I replied, “Not yet.” He then told me, “Do you realize that model is up $700 from last year? You not only didn’t save anything, you lost money.”

He was right.

In addition, I’m 65. A good zero-turn mower can last a couple of decades, at least based on my use. I figure that, by age 85, I’ll either have someone else mowing the lawn if I’m lucky, will have moved out of the house to an apartment if I’m luckier, or will be fertilizing some plot of land if I’m normal.

So, why delay getting that zero-turn mower? All I’ll end up doing is leaving it to someone else with a few extra years of use still on it. That’s stupid. I haven’t saved anything and took on extra pain, suffering and hours of working on the old mower for nothing.

So, I think you know what I did. I still have the old mower. I am sick.

By the way, does anyone need a couple of rocks? I’ve got a whole island full of them.

Ken Begley has worked for the IRS and as an accountant, a college director of student financial aid and a newspaper columnist, and he also spent 42 years on active and reserve service with the U.S. Navy and Army. Now retired, Ken likes to spend his time with his family, especially his grandchildren, and as a volunteer with Kentucky’s Marion County Veterans Honor Guard performing last rites at military funerals, including more than 350 during the past three years. Check out Ken’s earlier articles.

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