Debt Reduction & Keeping up with the Joneses?

DH = Dear Husband

The grass is greener . . . 

            One sure sign of spring in these parts is the sight of neighbours let loose upon their lawns.  A peek out the front window early on a week-end morning is sure to offer up at least a few industrious home-owners working away at the grass and gardens.  For years I have observed with some perplexity the incredible amounts of time that many of them devote to this pursuit.  What could they be doing for so long?  I have often wondered.  DH and I do not have particularly green thumbs, and over the last few years, with the start of his business, our poor yard has been neglected.  The result is quite marked by this point.  Most of our neighbours’ properties are covered with lush green grass and are attractively enhanced by shrubs, decorative rocks, and flower gardens.  Our lawn, on the other hand, is equal parts weeds, grass, and bald spots.  And our flower garden in the last couple of years has been overgrown with things I swear I never planted.   “When you pay off your house and burn the mortgage, take off your shoes and walk through the backyard,” advises Dave Ramsey, (our debt-reduction guru), “The grass feels different under your feet.”  With our yard as it is now, I’m pretty sure that even in a state of complete debt-freedom, we’d want to keep our shoes on. 
             Our neighbour to the right has award-winning gardens, a distinction facilitated by the team of lawn-care specialists who regularly come to work their magic on her property.  We have some comfort in our neighbour to the left.  Last week-end, as I was raking our pitiful grass, he came out to commiserate with me.  Still quite new to Canada, he is unfamiliar with our spring-time lawn rituals.  “What does everyone do to get their grass to look so good?” he asked me.  I told him that if I knew, our lawn wouldn’t look the way it did.  He shook his head in despair, saying, “We’ve got the ugliest yard on the street.”  I assured him that we were giving him stiff competition.  He told me that when he lived in the United States, everyone on his street hired a lawn care company.  Were we thinking of hiring one?  I told him we were.  “Let me know what you decide.  We’d like to hire someone too,” he said.

What to do?

            Having surveyed the damage over the previous couple of weeks, DH and I felt it was time to do something major to improve our yard.  In part, we reasoned that if our lawn kept getting worse, we would ultimately have to pay thousands to get it resodded.  That wasn’t all though.   I have to admit that there was also a more petty consideration at work.  Our lawn was embarrassing – the kind neighbours talk about in hushed tones.  DH got quotes from two different companies, each offering various services at prices ranging from several hundred to over a thousand dollars.  We were pretty certain we would hire one of them, but we’ve sat with it for a while, and we’re not going to do it.  We’ll settle for damage control – raking, weeding, and fertilizing to the best of our modest ability – and hope for the best.
            “Don’t even consider keeping up with the Joneses,” Dave Ramsey writes in his book, The Total Money Makeover.  “THEY’RE BROKE!” (Ramsey, p. 83)  He might be right, but I don’t see it.  I don’t believe that our neighbours are as indebted as we are.  They’re so cheerful and purposeful.  And they have such nice lawns.  It’s possible that I’m fooled by appearances, but whether they’re “broke” or not, we’re with Ramsey:  In our decision-making, keeping up with the Joneses will not be a determining factor. 
Our neighbours to the left will have to hire lawn-care specialists on their own, and we will be unchallenged in our “ugliest yard” status.  But I’ve noticed something since last week-end.  Our lawn is looking better.  Those hours of raking have made a difference.  There is more green – less bald dirt.  Sure, much of the green is made up of weeds, but we’ll work at it.  And I’ll seek advice from our diligent neighbours across the street who spend inconceivable amounts of time on their yard.  We can learn from the Joneses while refusing to keep up with them.  And when the time comes, when we’ve burned the mortgage and have entered a state of complete debt-freedom, we’ll walk through the backyard – with our shoes off.

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  1. I like the way you think. Why do we need someone else to do some of these things for us when we can learn ourselves? It means we are perpetually dependent on them! It might even be pleasurable or even therapeutic – for sure it is do-able (and to a modest standard) and for far less. Why not invest in a seed spreader, seed and some soil? Water once a week, add some fertilizer and watch it thicken up – spring is the time to do it. And if all else fails, go walk on your neighbour’s lawn after you burn your mortgage!

    1. My impression is that your thumb is greener than mine – but we are going to try. I love your idea of using our neighbour’s lawn for our barefoot mortgage-burning party! My hope is that our own lawn will be sufficiently inviting when the time comes – and it’s still a long way off.

  2. Your lawn really does look pretty neglected : )
    That’s a great comfort to me. I wish you all the best with the “after”. I’m intrigued by this “fall over grass”. An update will be welcome when the time comes.

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