The Pickup Truck Theory of Life

(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)

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  1. Matt July 20, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    This is something that has been on my mind recently. I changed jobs this year to a location that allows me to carpool with my wife. We now drive her car daily and my truck sits at home for the most part. I’m getting the itch to sell it and pick up something cheap to have as a second vehicle but they are both paid for and the truck comes in handy soooo….idk

  2. Lance @ Money Life and More July 20, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    Even if you don’t have a friend with a truck it is likely cheaper to rent one than to buy one. This is completely based on your situation though. If you need a truck daily you might as well just buy one.

  3. Brian July 20, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    I always think about buying a small pick up, since it would be handy in getting my motorcycle to different events I don’t feel like riding too. But then I remember I become the guy everyone wants to help them move. I decided I am too old to help people move and my friend should all have decent enough jobs they can pay for help. Pizza and beer won’t cut it for me any more.

    I’ll loan out any of the stuff I have in my house (I’m the guy with every tool imaginable since I purchased the house from my grandparents and they had everything).

  4. Leah July 20, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    My husband owns a landscaping company, and as such, owns a pickup truck and a dump truck. I can’t count how many times we’ve been asked to help people move in the last 5 years, but it’s enough to have me declaring we’re hiring movers the next time we move– like Brian says, pizza and beer won’t cut it for me anymore.

    We have a lot of tools, too, but since most of our friends don’t own houses yet, they don’t realize what tools they need. I’m sure the time will come, and at that point I’ll be happy to oblige.

    We had a lot of help painting and moving into our place now, but we realized (after paint splatters everywhere and watching a TV be dropped on my iPod, smashing it into pieces) that sometimes it’s best to leave certain things to the professionals or do it ourselves.

  5. Brittany July 20, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    While I don’t have a truck, I do have a 1998 Honda CR-V that comes very much in handy for helping people move things! Most of my friends either have a small car, ride a bicycle, or solely use public transportation. I love knowing that I’m able to help if necessary. I don’t find I’m ever asked too much, as how many friends does one have that are ever moving things That Much? I do try and borrow things now as much as I can instead of owning/buying them. If only boyfriend did the same… (*ahem* I’m looking at you, iron and apartment-sized ironing board that MAYBE get used once a year, but he likes having “just in case.” ;o)

  6. Joe @ Retire By 40 July 20, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    We rarely need a truck and many time, we can get that big piece of furniture delivered.
    I think borrowing or community renting is a great way to go. If you don’t use it often, it’s better to rent.

  7. Stan@ DebtsnTaxes July 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    I rent tools very rarely. I like to buy them instead, like my power washer. That thing gets used probably 100 times a year and renting one wouldn’t make financial sense. I can see the point behind renting if it is something that is rarely used, like a cement saw but everything I buy I make sure to think about how often it will be used, which helps with buyers remorse.

  8. Serena @ Thrift Diving July 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I use my new Odyssey for hauling home my thrift store scores and estate sales finds, and I couldn’t have made a better choice! Plus, it’s nifty for hauling kids and the mother-in-law all together when needed :)

    Thrift Diving

  9. Clever Dude July 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    I own a truck and it’s paid off, so the reason of “getting out of debt” doesn’t play into getting rid of the truck. However, both sets of parents (including moms) strongly questioned my decision to get something other than a truck recently when I was looking to replace. Mainly because they grew up owning and/or loving trucks and can’t imagine not having one at home. However, I use my truck for something that an SUV or even small CUV can’t do maybe once a year. That’s about 6 times since I’ve owned it (really, though, one year I got a few tons of gravel dumped into it about 5 times, so it’s more like 11). But even then, I can have that stuff delivered.

    After reading this post, I considered whether I should just sell the truck and recoup the equity I have left in it, but I would still need a vehicle (can’t be a one-car household in our situation), so that money would end up going to something else. May as well keep what I own and love and know. And honestly, I don’t get asked to help people move, even though I offer up my truck when I know people are moving. I think most of my friends tend to get professionals to do the work.

  10. Miriam July 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I bought my pickup back in ’04 with the knowledge that I would never buy another truck or trade it in. For me, it has proven its usefulness over the years as my family and I have made half a dozen moves that we didn’t need to borrow or rent a truck for, and we’ve helped several friends move. I just paid the truck off and I will never regret being the one that gets called on first “Hey, can you help me move?”

  11. LB July 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    My first real vehicle was a small truck. I loved that thing and it was very useful when I was moving since I had been on my own since the day I turned 18. I did get too many friend requests to help move their couches and crap so I started saying no to requests. Pizza and beer? All I got was “Thanks, can you move this box too”. I eventually sold it for that reason, but do miss it since I recently downsized from a station wagon to a hatchback. Oh well, my new little car can still haul a lot, trust me I am very creative, but don’t tell anyone. ;)

  12. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager July 20, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    I love the reciprocate part of this post. I like having things to be able to bless people, have a house for visitors, a car to take friends skiing, etc. But I really do appreciate it when my friends notice this and offer to help out with things. Just makes life so much easier. You don’t have to keep track of who has done what, but when people are blessing you it is so much easier to turn around and bless someone else.

  13. Mr. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies July 21, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    I love this idea-it forms stronger community bonds; so long as nobody takes advantage of the guy with the tool/truck/etc.

    Always happy to loan somebody my jeep or powersaw or whatever…I’m less inclined to loan out my time to help them with the project though!

  14. Julie @ Freedom 48 July 22, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    So true! Over the years we have done a lot of home renovations, and we have found the Home Depot tool rentals to be most valuable. We’ve rented (for 4hrs or a day) ladders, wheelbarrows, floor sanders, tile saws etc. etc. We spend a small amount on the rental, and save ourselves tons of money by not purchasing the tool (not to mention having to store it when we’re not using it). Unless it’s going to be something that you use all the time – rent it or borrow it!

  15. J. Money July 24, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Thanks again for helping me out with a guest post, Donna! And for the baby gift too! That crazy ol’ pillow dude is hilarious, haha… will send you a pic once he’s old enough to play with it :)


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