This series took a hiatus for a while. But I don’t want you to think for one second it was because I haven’t been my usual frugal awkward self. I have. I have.
I still chirp, “You too!” when a server tells me to enjoy my meal. I still wave at strangers who are waving at friends behind me. I still take phone calls from lawn mower delivery people and get this request: “Can I speak to your mother or father, little girl?” Oh, yes. My life is still delightfully cringe-y. And sometimes those moments have to do with money.
Rather than the typical post format where I overview several financially awkward awesome moments, this post is going to be a departure. It is going to be long-form. Gather round for the tale of the frugal lawn mower that wasn’t. Frugal that is. It was definitely awkward.
I bought our house nearly six years ago. It is our dream house, especially now that I am treating it like a home and not a storage locker. But our house had a rather unhappy beginning.
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The family who sold us the home was going through a nasty divorce. This fact, of course, was not on the listing sheet. But there were hints of angry times. Remnants of burned photos in the fireplace. Holes in the drywall. Busted door jambs. Some people wish walls could talk, but I’m glad these stay quiet.
The divorce was confirmed when our agent and their agent had to try to move the closing along even though the sellers were not speaking to one another. It was also confirmed when we stopped by the day of the closing and the seller muttered every name under his breath as he tried to load a riding lawn mower onto a trailer that was decidedly not made for lawn mowers. My dad struck up a quick conversation and was informed that the seller just wanted to be free from the house, the divorce, the entire chapter of his life. Which is when my dad oh so helpfully offered to buy the lawn mower. The seller unloaded it for $100 cash—his suggestion.
It was old. That wasn’t an issue. As a mechanic, my dad’s favorite hobby has always been taking things apart to see what makes them run. Surely, he could tune up the mower no problem.
And it wasn’t a problem. Not per se.
It backfires louder than a gunshot every time it stops. But what’s a little noise when it races through a yard at lightning speed? Truly. It is a sight to behold. Neighbors would come by and watch my husband dart through the yard in record time. I always questioned if it was possible to mow a yard too quickly, but what did I know?
This was a frugal win.
True, the mower was showing its age outwardly. Its sticker says Montgomery Ward, a now-defunct store that shuttered in 2001. There are knicks and dings and scratches, but it got the job done.
Until the day the drive shaft fell apart.
Last fall, I got a phone call that was full of muttering. The lawn mower veered off course and smacked solidly into the side panel of my husband’s car. No amount of breaking or killing the engine mattered. The momentum was just too much.
I suspect someone was driving just a little too fast. But in five years of marriage, I have
mostly somewhat OK just this once by the grace of marriage gods learned to keep my mouth shut.
We both considered that maybe this was a sign to upgrade. But frugal people do not buy new mowers. Not when the current mower they have is perfectly good. It played chicken with my husband’s car and won. If that’s not solid craftsmanship, I don’t know what is.
So we fixed it. It was as good as new. Considering the cost of the new John Deere mowers I had occasionally seen my husband eye, it felt like the best money decision we had ever made.
Until this summer, when the race car of a lawn mower plowed right into the neighbor’s metal fence. Metal crumpled. Dogs barked. A bang from the backfire announced the halt of the mower. That’s when I looked at my husband, saw that he was OK, picked up my son, and made a beeline for the indoors. For the second time, I was keeping my mouth shut.
It turns out, the drive shaft had gone out again.
Awkwardly and full of apologies, my husband explained this to our neighbor. Then, my husband methodically righted the fence panel and offered to purchase a replacement. The neighbor declined but we insisted. The once-straight fence pickets resemble my hair on a humid day—not quite curved but definitely not straight either.
Now, the used lawn mower that could became the one that probably shouldn’t.
While this may not seem like a particularly frugal or awesome story, here’s the epilogue: What’s awesome is that we are the proud owners of a new riding lawn mower. It rides like a dream and stops on a dime.
What’s frugal is that our same neighbor asked to buy the race car lawn mower for some new property that his family just purchased. Mr. P will be putting that cash straight…toward the new fence panel.
So Tell Me…Has something in your life seemed frugal but turned out to be costly?
(Penny’s Note: In case you missed any of my awkwardness up until this point, let me catch you up right here.)