Self-Watering Container Garden

I’ve wanted a self-watering container garden for establishing hedge and flower bushes for my house which, right now, is just one giant unfettered lawn with some natural forest on a couple of borders. I don’t particularly care for large lawns because when I look at them all I see is a bunch of work. I mean, I suppose I can see the appeal of a big, flat expanse of lawn, so long as I’m not the one charged with its care. I don’t mind a little yard work to make a place look nice. And, indeed, a little yard work can be enjoyable. Especially tending a productive garden. But when you’re faced with hours and hours of monotonous work every single week it can just become something you dread rather than look forward to.

So the goal with my piece of land is to make it attractive and productive, but low maintenance. I’ve always had an interest in permaculture and this winter I’ll finally have some time to really dive into some reading on it.

Anyway, my lot is mostly private except for one border with a neighbor to the side. So I’d like to establish an informal hedge along that border. The plan is to start some tiny (i.e. inexpensive/free) cuttings in the container garden where they can be nursed with good soil, light and watering conditions without being in danger of being mutilated by an errant lawn mower. Then they can be transplanted in the fall when, hopefully they’ll be at least 2 or 3 ft high. And for the next few years I can continue to do this with the container garden and expand the hedge, establish some flowering bushes and trees, and get some fruit trees and berry bushes off to a good start. And in a few years when we finally have all the bushes and trees we want I’ll just use it as a vegetable or flower garden to make the deck a little nicer.

As you can see these 5 gallon pails are all interconnected with piping. If you don’t know how a self-watering bucket works, check this out. Basically each container is two buckets, one nested in the other, and there’s holes drilled so that the soil is always wicking up water to the plant from the lower reservoir  I’ve set mine up so I can attach a garden hose to it and there’s a float valve that will always make sure there’s just enough water for the plants. So after planting them in the spring, they should be essentially maintenance free all summer.

I found the food-grade buckets in bulk on craigslist for 50 cents a piece, the piping was mostly leftovers from plumbing my house, though I did have to spend a little money on a bunch of t-connectors, and I found the float valve on amazon. The rubber valves were from uniseals and they’re pricey, but pretty amazing. I only had two very slow leaks that I fixed by just adjusting the position on the pipe a little bit. You just push the pipe through the tight rubber and it forms a leak-proof seal.

I also designed it so it can be drained fairly easily and all the materials ought to be able to withstand the winter so I’m not going to bother dismantling it each year, I’ll just let the snow cover it.

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Busyness

Now that I’ve quit my job, have no classes to attend, and no tests to study for, you might think I’d be grasping for things to fill my days with. In fact, between rehabbing my new investment property and finishing up some other projects around my own house, I have a full plate. What’s interesting is that I’m realizing that when my schedule was so full and varied this past spring I was sort of forced to break down my projects into small chunks. I would have 5 hours to work on rehabbing a place before having to head to class, or to work, or to bed. And I’d have these sort of forced-rests during my commute to class on the train when I would do some light studying or just surf the internet on my laptop, or when there were chunks of time here and there that were too small to do anything with other than relax and watch a movie.

But now, with a completely open schedule, there’s no natural break to catch my breath so instead I just take a break whenever I feel like it. Which is turning out to be about two days per week, usually when friends and family tempt me with their company. Otherwise I’ve been waking up naturally around 8 or 9 am, spending a leisurely 45 minutes or so with breakfast, showering and preparing for the day, then heading to work on my latest investment property.

When actually at the house I work dilligently, but I’m careful not to break a sweat if I can help it, and I’m pretty much ready to quit for the day around 4 or 5 when I go home and have dinner and settle in for the night. I expect to keep this up for about the next four or five weeks or so when most of the house ought to be finished.

I do find I can’t really allow myself to spend a day hiking, or taking a long bike ride, or going to a festival or whatever. I just figure why not save that stuff for when I don’t have a house to work on? The nice thing is this schedule of regularly working on the house will be short lived. It only takes so long before the thing is ready to be rented out. So given that it’s so temporary, I have no problem putting off those other activities that, though fun and worthwhile, tend to eat up a whole day.

I’m interested to see what I’ll find myself doing once this house is done and I have no big project in front of me. It will probably be a mix of several smaller projects with a lot more days “wasted” hiking, biking, hanging out with friends and whatever else it is that we all do with ourselves.

Right now I’m hoping to have the place finished and available for rent by December 1st, but we’ll see, if I have to push it off a little longer, no big deal.

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House #3

About two weeks ago I walked out of my latest job and about five hours later walked into a real estate office to sign some papers and pickup the deed for my third house. It’s another bank-owned foreclosure in need of lots of rehab. It’s a 3 bedroom, 1 bath single family home built in the 1880′s in a fairly urban area but with a large (for a city-house) fenced in yard and a paved driveway. The neighborhood is so-so, with a mix of other single family homes and a few multi-unit dwellings. There’s city water, sewer and gas service in place.

I’ve ordered replacement windows for the entire house (~$2,500). It’s going to need new flooring throughout, paint, and the bathroom looks like it was designed in WWII. So I’ll be redoing the shower and installing a currently-missing bathroom sink. The good thing is that the roof and siding look to be in fairly good shape. Though there is a front porch that has me a bit worried and I still haven’t decided if I’m going to replace it or try to repair it.

This one should take me 3-4 months to fix up at a leisurely pace. Maybe less if I’m more diligent about it.

I ought to be able to rent it for $900-$1,050/month or so. I tend to keep the rents a bit on the low end so that I can have my pick of tenants and they’re less likely to move out because they found a better deal.

The negotiation for the house was a bit prolonged. When I first checked it out over six weeks ago the asking price was set at over $40k and I had better prospects I wanted to make offers on first. But those didn’t pan out, and about 4 weeks ago the asking price dropped to just over $30k. So I decided to make an offer of $17k.

My real estate agent does all the negotiating for me, which I’m grateful for, because I hate negotiating. I told her my ceiling was $19k. The negotiation went back and forth for four days. My agent would go up a hundred bucks, they would come down two thousand, over and over again until finally they agreed to $18k. I just went about my business not thinking about it until my agent called me 4 days after I made the offer to tell me she had made a deal. She doesn’t update me with every little thing along the way, which I’m grateful for because I really don’t care how she gets there, just tell me the final number.

I’m quite happy with the deal. To get something for less than $20k around here that isn’t a complete tear-down is a real coup. I can definitely keep the repairs under $10k and I’m hoping to keep them somewhere around $7k, counting my own labor as free.

Once this one’s rented out I’ll be bringing in about $1,700/month in gross rents, still with no mortgages to pay on.

Hopefully I can grab up a few more in the coming year while the market’s still low. But we’ll see. I have plenty on my plate for now.

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Let There Be Light

My basement was really dark when I bought the house. I’ve been fumbling around down there with a headlamp and flashlights to supplement the one light bulb that the previous owner had down there. So yesterday I decided it was time to do something about it.

I’ve never installed a complete electrical circuit before but I pretty much knew how to do it so I figured I’d give it a shot. After some reading on the internet to make sure I knew what I was doing, and a quick trip to the hardware store, I got to work. About two and a half hours later I had a slew of lights burning brightly in the basement, plus a new available outlet down there too, all on a brand new circuit.

 

Here’s what is was like before:




Getting to work



And here it is afterwards




What a mess, maybe I should have just kept it in the dark!

And there’s another notch in my belt for a new construction skill. Anybody can do this stuff. It seems like the hardest part for most people is just getting to the point where you believe that you can do it. If someone else can do it there’s no reason you can’t. Watch a couple of how-to videos, read a few articles, pickup a few books on the topic, then grab your screwdriver. There are some hurdles and dangers along the way. But your fear should make you safe and cautious, not paralyzed.

 

Here’s a little inspiration:

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College as an Investment

I’ve written before that I think of college mainly as a luxury consumer good and not as an investment. So this article in the Washington Times about a paper from the Brookings Institute caught my attention.

The Brookings Institute wanted to answer the question, if an 18 year old had $102k in cash, would he be better off investing in the stock market, or spending it on going to college?

Brookings calculates the cost of a 4 year degree, right now, including the opportunity cost of lost earnings for four years, to be $102k. First of all, I disagree with their assumption that an 18 year old high school graduate is only capable of earning $11,600. I think that figure is something closer to $20k or $30k with a little effort. They take their number from “average earnings” meaning there are a whole lot of 18 years-olds earning zero dollars per year bringing the average down. But let’s take their super conservative assumption anyway.

Brookings then calculates that a 4 year degree is worth about $570k of increased lifetime earnings from a person who works from 22 until 65. And they conclude then that the return on investment is 15%, so it’s a good investment compared to the stock market that typically returns around 7% (their numbers).

Now hold on a second.

I can’t believe they would be this foolish, so I assume I’m making some kind of mistake here. But it appears they’re comparing apples to oranges by haphazardly ignoring compounding interest. When you spend the $102k on college, the money is gone four years later. When you buy $102k in stocks, four years later the money is still there, and then some. Plus, at any time you can decide to sell some stocks and go to school instead, try exchanging your degree for some stock certificates and let me know how that turns out.

$102k invested at 7%, compounded annually for 43 years comes to $1.8M or about a 1,700% gain, as opposed to the 460% gain for an investment in a college education over the same 43 year period.

So the stock investor beats the college student, who both start out life at 18 with $102k, by about $1.2M with his investment when he reaches 65.

Plus, with stocks you don’t even have to show up to work 40+ hours a week for 43 years in order to realize your gains.

And these numbers about the higher earnings of college graduates is always a little shaky. Of course someone with the aptitude, talent and drive to finish a four year degree is going to do ok, but what if that same person had skipped the degree and gone into business? You’re lumping the highly capable people into a group that includes all the people who couldn’t go to college even if they wanted to. – People with below average intelligence and drive. Of course that’s going to bring the average earnings of non-college graduates way down. Let’s see a comparison of earnings with people of the same IQ range who went to college against those in their same intelligence class who didn’t. Then we’ll have some numbers that may actually be useful.

Anyway, there goes another desperate attempt to justify the wasteful educational behemoth we’re seemingly stuck with, apparently made simply to scare off any 18 year old who dare question the norm.

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I Quit

I put in my two week notice at my job last week. I’ve been working quiet, part-time overnight shifts at a non-profit that cares for people with mental health issues.

I thought I was going to hold onto this job through the winter or so, until I had setup a couple of more rental properties at least. But things changed at work. After I moved into my house, in order to have the shortest commute possible, I transferred within the same organization to a different location. Things went well at first. But then my new supervisor, who I only see in the mornings, started leaving me notes with additional tasks she wanted me to do.

My primary purpose is just to be there in case of emergencies or if one of the residents needs some help coping with their conditions. And I was happy to do that stuff on the occasions when it would come up. But then, since I relocated, I’ve been getting notes from the day staff asking me to do more and more extra stuff. Like spend hours working through a backlog of paper work filing that they’re supposed to keep up with during the day, or to move furniture, or clean stuff.

I discussed with the note-writer that, while I was happy to do a little something from time to time if they were in a jam, I wasn’t there to regularly finish the overflow of work from the day staff that isn’t even technically my job. So after that the notes didn’t stop coming, they were just liberally sprinkled with underlined and capitalized “pleases” and “thank you’s.” While the politeness was appreciated, the message was clear; this new place expected a lot more out of me at night than the previous location I worked at.

So I mulled it over for a couple of days and decided that if I was going to be working that hard I may as well be working regular hours and doing something either more interesting or more profitable. With that I penned a tastefully-written two-week notice and decided to move on.

The job was great for while I was studying for the bar exam and finishing up law school. I was able to just sit still all night and get my studying done while making a little extra cash. But now I’m convinced I’m financially better off being free all day to do more entrepreneurial things or maybe fall into some higher paying work if an opportunity comes up.

And wouldn’t you know, two days after I put in my notice I got word that I have an accepted offer on another house. Perfect! So now I’ll be able to devote all my time to rehabbing my next rental project and getting it up and running. With this next property my rental income will more than cover my living expenses.

I would still like to get one or two more rental properties just so that I can always be adding to my savings, have extra money for those cool alternative energy projects I’ve always wanted to build, and to start diversifying my holdings by getting back into securities investing. After this next property is all said and done I may have enough savings left to buy yet one more property, but I’d be cutting it close. So I’m going to start thinking about ways to save up for the next couple of properties. While I can live pretty well on the rent from just the two places, I’ll have a paltry savings rate.

Fortunately, though, this means that I can save 100% (post-tax, obviously) of my income from future entrepreneurial endeavors and/or employment. I have a few ideas of stuff I’d like to try, maybe I’ll try to tap into some of this equity I’ve built up, plus my bar exam results come in next month opening new doors. But for the next few months I’m just going to focus on rehabbing the next property and enjoying a life simultaneously free of a job and school.

I must say, the feeling of being in a position to be able to afford to not work, at just 28 years old, was absolutely worth the effort.

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Heretic!

Just a few months ago I wrote about how I thought my attitude towards work was more like that of a member of the upper class in the Edwardian era than that of a modern American.

Just this past week two similar articles peaked my interest and offered some insight. William Deresiewicz writes of the American obsession with work:

To every age its virtue. For the Greeks, courage; the Romans, duty; the Middle Ages, piety. Our virtue is industriousness, in the industrial age. (It is one that would have been incomprehensible to other times. The Greeks had a word for people who worked harder than anyone else: slaves.) It is the Protestant ethic, in other words, made general by the Victorians as the factories rose. That it is a virtue, not merely a value, is proved by the aura of righteousness that surrounds it. A virtue is not just a personal excellence, it is something that is felt to call down blessings upon the community, that wins the gods’ approval, that possesses not just practical but metaphysical worth.

It’s this belief that I was trying to get at, unique to the modern era, that work is good, without question, the harder the better. And the more you can endure, the better a person you are. It seems to just be repeated over and over, and rarely questioned.

Deresiewicz goes on, ” If you don’t work as hard as people think you should, you’re not just morally inferior, you’re committing a kind of spiritual treason. And if you deny the value of work as a matter of principle, you’re treated like a heretic.”

And Leah Libresco, riffing off an article about the hook-up culture among young professionals, laments that people are putting off meaningful relationships in their personal lives for the sake of their professional lives, “A life that has no room for serious romantic partners can’t have much space for deep friendships either. This should be the one culture war fight where we can all be on the same side: if careers preclude real relationships, something’s gone deeply wrong.”

Both authors are calling for systemic awareness and change. That would be nice if academic and corporate expectations allowed for a less hurried life. Even though a lot of the hopes to be promoted ever higher actually come from pressure among peers who constantly compare themselves to their friends (who post filtered, idealistic visions of their lives on social media) in an ever-amplifying feedback loop. But it’s powerful to know that systemic change isn’t needed for the individual to forgoe the temptation to endlessly compete and make her life look like a magazine ad for something showy and expensive. The choice is in everyone’s own hands. Are you going to let your work dictate what your life will be like, or do you decide to have your life dictate what your work will be like? I think all it takes is a little curiosity to figure out what other options are out there, and a little courage to step outside the system that’s coddled you since Kindergarten. You get to choose your values and figure out what is virtuous, you don’t just have to hang your head and go along with the popular refrains of the day.

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Paul

When I was 15 I was at an amusement park with a friend. I was showing off to her by balancing a folding chair on my chin (do my talents ever cease?).

A manager was walking up to me, “Hey, I need that chair back. But you should apply for a job. We’ll hire you.”

I had planned on being a lifeguard that summer (my penchant for laid-back jobs started early). I had gotten all the required certifications and was just starting to apply for jobs. But show biz sounded so much better!

So I spent the summer at a charming, but dying, small amusement park. The crowds were so small that the three other entertainers and I spent most of the summer in the lounge entertaining each other instead.

Paul was my supervisor, he was hired as a consultant to work part-time overseeing the park’s entertainment. We got along and at the end of the summer he asked if I’d like to work part-time for him at his theater. It turns out Paul operated a marionette theater. He wrote the shows, recorded the soundtracks for them, with original musical scores, sculpted all the puppets and made all the props himself. He taught me a lot of what he knew over the next two years. His entire company consisted of just himself, one business partner, and me.

I became a pretty good puppeteer over those years and got comfortable working large crowds. I remember picking up the pamphlet for the Fine Arts Puppetry Program at UConn at one point and considering a future in the arts (Thank god I put it down).

My friendship with Paul was well solidified by the time I was heading off to college.

We would often work together in the basement of the theater sculpting, painting and building. We would have long conversations as we worked with some ambient radio in the background. It was just a few weeks after working with him at the theater that, when it became relevant during our conversation, Paul told me he was gay.

He looked up from his work at me, “I don’t know if that bothers you or anything…”

“Nope. I am too.”

And then we learned from each other, he got some insight into what it was like to be an openly gay 16 year old high school athlete in a small town. And I began my understanding of what life was like through the 70′s, 80′s and the AIDS crisis. Imagine watching over half of your friends and even acquaintances die, painfully, over a ten year period throughout your 20′s and you can begin to understand the horror most gay American men went through. – Simultaneously grieving for their friends and fearing for their own lives; wondering if they were next. It’s an understanding that has since been expanded on by my subsequent inter-generational friendships.

Paul was just turning 40 when I met him. And I was born old, so we got along. He was a very positive voice for me. I mean, the man made his living off of producing puppet shows; he believed anything was possible. My ideas and plans were always met with positive affirmation. – Rather than the doubt, uncertainty and discouragement so many people offer.

He almost became a catholic priest, but as a young man changed his mind just before he was about to enter the seminary and chose to pursue the fine arts instead. So he was always ready to discuss theology, ethics and philosophy, as well as poetry, painting and business.

We would chat and I would phone him now and then while I was off in New Mexico. And I’d always visit him whenever I was back in town. And since I moved back to New England about six years ago we’ve collaborated on more projects, had many dinners and barbecues in his garden, and gone on annual camping trips to Cape Cod.

Our relationship, now over twelve years old, is my longest running friendship with anyone.

I received a phone call last week during my train ride across the country. It was Paul’s friend and business partner calling to tell me that, after not feeling well last week, Paul had some images taken at the hospital and has been told he has a cancer that has metastasized to his brain, bones, and kidneys, and it is untreatable.

He is now at home, on hospice care, with a morphine drip and days to live. He’s 53 years old.

I’ve never really experienced death intimately in my life. I’ve had some older family members pop off, but no one I was really close to. I was at Paul’s bedside yesterday and will be again tomorrow. I’d be there every minute if he wanted, but he has a big family and a lot of people who want to pay him a visit while they have a chance, and he needs some time to rest so I’m trying not to be selfish with his time.

I’ve taken the news with a sort of calm mourning. I feel a loss, myself, for losing my friend. – And I feel a sort of empathetic loss for Paul’s missing out on what would have been a great few more decades.

But Paul is a resolute stoic, ready to die and at peace with his fate. And I’ve followed his lead. We’ve talked candidly about the entire thing, not missing any opportunities for dark humor. And the experience has made me yet more appreciative of the relationships I have and the people I love.

It’s difficult to come to some conclusion when discussing something so feared. I suppose the typical way to finish talking about death is to turn away from it, back towards life, and remind everyone that we are to seize the day and appreciate the time we have because, though we may forget it sometimes, it is not limitless. But you all know I don’t write clichéd drivel.

I’d rather leave it as the cold, hard, punch in the face that it is. My friend is dying and I’ll miss him terribly.

A picture of Paul’s formal garden I took almost ten years ago. It looks much the same today.

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Escape

I just returned from a two week trip where we flew to San Francisco and then rode a train across the country back to Boston.

Back in January I was reading some blogs like millionmilesecrets.com and spent a few weeks going back and forth between forums, articles and blogs that cover using rewards points for travel. It’s a little confusing at first, and reading the lengths some people will go to for a free plane ticket can turn you off of the whole thing. But I decided that using credit card sign up bonuses to cover some potential travel costs might be worth my time.

So I signed up for a new credit card and went about booking a trip last January. So two weeks ago me and the BF hopped a cheap plane ride to San Francisco for a quick two week vacation. We stayed in the bay area for a week, visiting a couple of old friends and seeing some sights. I had a great deal on a rental of a little econo-box for 4 days for about $60 bucks, and when the rental agent offered to give me a red Camaro for the weekend, if I’d just throw in another forty bucks, I figured why not?

Then we had a few deluxe sleeper rooms on some Amtrak trains to get us back home. Each room had a couch, a chair, two beds that folded out for sleeping, a private toilet and shower, and they came with three meals a day. The ticket would have cost us over $3k but it was free using the rewards points. We brought a case of California wine onto the train with us and eventually deboarded in Boston with one bottle left, and that one only survived because a friend requested that we bring a bottle home for her.

Sleeper cars on trains are my favorite way to travel long distance. I’ve done it a few times before. The rooms come with a huge picture window to sit by as you watch the changing scenery lumber by. It’s slow, relaxing and methodical. There’s lots of time for conversation and thought. And you’re pretty much surrounded by a bunch of wealthy, bored people who like to drink and mingle to pass the time. On the leg of our trip from Portland, OR to Chicago we were neighbors with an Australian couple in their early sixties who took a liking to us (how much of their affinity was due to the abundance of wine in our room, I’m not sure). I was pleasantly surprised when I asked Trevor how long he had been retired and he responded, “25 years now.” So he and his wife retired at 35! Well, well! So we had plenty to talk about as far as investing, our dislike of regular jobs, and frugality.

From what I could surmise he and his wife retired with a little under a million dollar net worth. Still plenty even today, I think, for a frugal couple who can plan well. And they told me they didn’t spend too much in their first decade of retirement. Opting to travel, but cheaply, and spend time on free and low-cost hobbies like hiking, cycling, gardening and home brewing, and continuing their frugal ways that got them into their retirement. And because of that, rather than simply maintaining their portfolio, it was compounding on itself and once they hit their 50′s they actually switched gears and decided to make a few changes, even though it was going to cost them a bit more. That’s when they got themselves a beach house, and a few years later a 40′ motor-yacht, and started loosening the purse strings a bit more when they traveled.

When I gave them the details of my situation there was a sort of instant friendship. I’ve noticed whenever I meet anyone who has retired at a young age it feels like I’m meeting a fellow member of a secret club only we know about.

I won’t write a tutorial on using rewards points because I’m really not qualified, nor interested enough in it, and if you go looking you’ll find that others have already done a fine job explaining everything. I will say that I’ve found that learning the ropes of the rewards programs and applying for credit cards and taking advantage of sign up bonuses is worthwhile for me because it can cut the cost of a trip down to a fraction of what it would normally be while allowing me to enjoy things I probably wouldn’t be willing to pay for if I had to use cash (like first class seats, deluxe sleeper cars, and 4 & 5 star hotels).

I’m not that big into travel, I don’t mind it, but it’s not a big thing for me. I enjoy being at home, puttering around the gardens and visiting friends. The BF, however, still has a bit of wander lust in him and has yet to explore a whole lot. So the rewards points make booking a trip a little more palatable for me. In the end we paid cash for the one-way plane tickets ($300 for the pair), 4 nights in a decent, clean hotel outside SF ($45/night), and 4 days with the sports car ($100). And we got two nights in a 4 star hotel in SF for free (Saving about $350), and the cross country train ride in a sleeper car from SF to Boston (Saving about $3,500). So we paid about $300 each for a trip that should have cost us almost $4,500 all together.

In the future we plan on doing some 1 month-or-so trips to some low-cost international destinations and I’m planning on using points to get us some free (or nearly free) plane tickets and hotel rooms.

While I’m a little skeptical of the value of going places and seeing things, I do enjoy the feeling of escape. It’s not so much going places that I look forward to, it’s the leaving that I like. It’s nice to abandon the everyday if only for long enough so I can remind myself why I’ve chosen to make it the everyday. It’s like getting immersed in a long-term project and then taking a moment to step back and look at what you’ve done and see the whole breadth of what you’ve been working on. It adds a freshness to things upon your return to them.

 

Click to enlarge the photo below that I took out of our window somewhere in Montana.

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The Trailer

After doing some research I decided to pickup a little utility trailer to help me with my rehab projects. With my first couple of houses I was borrowing/renting trucks when needed, or having to pay for the delivery of materials. While that method really wasn’t so bad, it was inconvenient and sometimes a little costly. I have a habit of filling up the fuel tank whenever I borrow someone’s vehicle. It just seems like a polite way to thank them. But when you have a 30 gallon fuel tank and almost $4/gallon gas, that can add up to an expensive courtesy for the pleasure of hauling some carpet scraps to the dump.

I looked into getting my own truck. I could either sell my 30mpg sedan for a small reliable truck. Or just keep the car and get a slightly less-reliable truck that would only be used when needed. The idea of having to burn all that extra fuel driving around an unloaded truck doesn’t seem right. Though the idea of having to insure, register and maintain two vehicles didn’t seem like much fun either. And at around a minimum of $5k for a usable used truck, well, that would cover an awful lot of rental fees and filled gas tanks.

But then I see all these great deals on surplus building materials, tools and appliances on craigslist and I can’t jump on them because it’ll take me two days to arrange a vehicle and by then the ‘motivated seller’ has found someone else to deal with. So what to do?

Well it turns out my little 30mpg sedan has a 2,000 lb towing capacity. Who knew? So I hit the internet in search of a hitch. I found this little guy for about $130.  It took me about 30-40 minutes to install the hitch in my driveway. It just amounted to attaching six large bolts to the frame of the car. A simple plug-in wire harness, that took another 20 minutes or so to install, provides power for the trailer’s lights.



Easy to Follow Instructions





 

Then I setup an RSS feed on craigslist for a utility trailer under $600 and waited like a hunter for his prey. A few days later an add popped up for a little 4×8 trailer that seemed to be in good shape and didn’t need any work. So I headed over and met this retired truck driver who rehabs trailers for a little side money. He does a little welding, painting, replaces any of the wood that needs to be replaced and rewires them with light and wiring kits he buys in bulk.

It was big enough to carry 4×8 sheets of plywood or drywall laid down flat (the biggest feature I was looking for, lots of trailers have wheel wells jutting up in the way). It felt sturdy, the guy was honest, and it looked pretty.

“You want $400?” I said, as I checked underneath for rust.

“Yeah, $400.”

I didn’t say anything. I was checking out the tires and thinking about how much easier this was going to be than renting trucks. But apparently my moment of silence was taken as a negotiating tactic.

“But I’d take $375.”

“That sounds very fair. Let’s do it.”

It rode home like a dream. It’s rated to carry 1,500 lbs. I’ll probably never get it up much past 600 at the worst and usually probably only a few hundred pounds.

 





 

With the hitch, trailer, insurance and registration I’m into the whole setup for right around $500. So I think it will quickly pay for itself in saved rental fees, gratuity fuel, and time-sensitive bargain items. Considering I paid $1,500 for the car over 2 years ago I’d say I’m doing pretty good. This is how you setup a property rental business with nice fat margins.

 

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