Landscaping drew me in for a number of reasons, but I had completely forgotten about one until digging it up recently: on February 3, 2020, I got an estimate back from a landscaper that seemed so astronomically high, I decided I just had to start doing the work myself. I hired a tree service company to do what I couldn’t, and they showed up the very next day. You know how people say “Oh, you must be saving a ton of money doin’ that yourself”? My reaction is usually, “I dunno, I’m at Home Depot like every other day,” because it feels like I’m actually spending a ton, but at least I’m learning a ton, and I think I’m getting a better result in the end.
So if you asked me to wager whether I’ve spent more or less than that landscaping estimate, I would bet hands down that I’ve far exceeded it, in no small part because I’ve let the scope of the work evolve as the spirit moved me. At last count I’ve put 87 new plants and trees in the ground (the estimate had 18), I’ve replaced the entire irrigation system literally from the ground up (the estimate included a token $125 “Irrigation Evaluation”), and I’ve started laying the groundwork for low voltage lighting, something that wasn’t even on my radar two weeks ago, let alone a year—so at this point it’d be like comparing apples to oranges. That said, I was still curious to know how much I’d spent.
When I made the case for buying a house in Fresno (versus renting), I didn’t anticipate the extent of the interior renovations we’d undertake. I can’t ensure, nor do I expect that we’ll “get our money back”, but when we do sell, I wanted to be honest with myself about what it all actually cost. And the only way I saw to do that was to track how much money I was spending on “capital improvements” (i.e., anything that will stay “attached” to the house when we leave, including any tools I purchased to make those improvements). So on a monthly basis, I’ve been dumping our joint credit card statement into a spreadsheet and extracting every expense related to the house, verified against every paper receipt. And since I’ve done very little non-landscaping renovation since that first tree service payment, getting the answer was as easy as summing a column.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve spent $11,152.86 on landscaping and irrigation. And the jaw-dropping estimate that kicked things off—and altered the course of my life? $15,809.