J. Money, my favorite wedding-gift giver, thinks that plenty of things should be rented, not bought.
Tools. Textbooks. Prom gowns. Coffins.
In this post, the Budgets Are Sexy blogger 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.
What are friends for?
Or a TV set. 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 last year, but I’m still OK with not having a television.
Or a car. I gave Abby and her husband my Chevy 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.
Or maybe all of the above, if Pickup Truck Guy just spent most of the weekend helping you move to a new apartment or house. 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.
To get back to J. Money’s original idea: Such items can also be rented, by committee. If I needed a wood chipper, I’d ask around to see if anyone else had branches that needed mulching. Get three or four people together and my share of the rental fee would feel a lot more reasonable.
Despite what I said about reciprocity, there are times when you should loan stuff just to help out. When I moved into my apartment five years ago I bought a very basic hand truck 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 quit that job six months ago, but I still lend it to anyone who asks. How many hand trucks does one building need, anyway?