(Guest post by Donna Freedman while J$ learning how to change diapers :))
J. Money, my favorite wedding-gift giver, thinks that plenty of things should be rented, not bought: Tools. Textbooks. Prom gowns. Coffins.
In this older guest post, the author notes that “we often convince ourselves that purchasing an expensive item will be worth it in the long run – it’ll pay for itself and save money with use over time.” But really: How many times will the average person use a power washer? A cement saw? Or, for that matter, a coffin?
Which leads me to the Pickup Truck Theory of Life. You don’t need to own a truck – you just need to know someone who owns a truck. Or a TV set. Or a car. Or maybe all of the above.
What are friends for?
TV: I haven’t owned one since 2004, but that was OK – my daughter, Abby, lived right down the hall and would record things she thought I might enjoy. (She moved to Phoenix several years ago, but I’m still OK with not having a television. If I want to watch something that badly I can get the entire season from the library or watch it online.)
CAR: I gave Abby and her husband my car when they moved, but that’s been OK, too, thanks to public transit. Additionally, my sister lends me her car from time to time. In return, I provide blackberry jam and stand ready to dog-sit the next time she and her husband want to go somewhere.
Reciprocity matters. If your friend with the pickup helps you get that new couch home from the store – or from the home of the folks who placed the Freecycle ad – then there should be something in it for him or her: gas money, a batch of cookies, a gift card, the willingness to help move something heavy some day.
Yes, friends should be willing to help one another – but pals who go above and beyond should be thanked properly, especially as regards future help. Don’t be the guy who routinely mooches tools, vehicles or strong backs but is never around when needed. Nobody likes that guy.
Reduce, reuse, reciprocate
Maybe friends and neighbors should buy certain items selectively and/or collectively. Jim Wang wrote a post about sharing expenses with neighbors – in his case, an electric lawn mower that he and the guy next door chipped in to buy for their teeny li’l townhome lawns. (I love electric lawn mowers, too, even when I use them badly.)
For big-ticket or specialty items, this just makes sense. If my neighbor is in construction he or she might regularly use tools that I would need maybe once in my life. I’d gladly lend my rug cleaner to Mr. or Ms. Contractor any old time, in case I some day needed to borrow that cement saw.
Such items can also be rented, by committee. If you need a wood chipper, ask around to see if anyone else has branches that need mulching. Getting three or four people together and sharing your rental fees would be a lot more reasonable. (Just don’t use it like the bad guy did in “Fargo” – Eeeww.)
Despite what I said about reciprocity, there are times when you should loan stuff because it’s the right thing to do. When I moved into my apartment seven years ago I bought a very basic furniture dolly from Home Depot. It cost less than $25 and it paid for itself the first time I pulled five boxes of stuff down the hallway rather than struggling to carry two boxes.
Since then I have loaned it a dozen or more times to people moving in or moving out; as the manager, I considered it a professional gesture. I’ve since quit that job but I still lend the dolly to anyone who asks. How many hand trucks does one building need, anyway?
Readers: If you own a truck, how often do you get hit up by friends who want to move? If you don’t own a truck, do you have some other item or expertise that other people like to use?
This post from Donna Freedman was originally published in a slightly different form on her website, Surviving and Thriving. Her day job is writing MSN Money’s Frugal Cool site, and she’s also a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly.
(Photo by dave_7)