Gearhead Diary: Budgeting for spring projects

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN Spring fever makes me want to work on this car. I don't need money. I need time and good weather. This picture was taken on April 17, 2016. A snow shovel might be a good thing to buy.

Matt Bartmann

“SEEDS SEEDS PLANTS PLANTS!” is how the email from my wife, Sally, began. Yes, she sits in the chair next to me, but many of our conversations are still by email. This was a list of items she wants, or, rather, needs to buy to satisfy her spring gardening obsession.

It’s that time of year (not that that matters: spring garden planning starts in November for her).

Anyhow, the email ended with, “What’s on your list?”

For some reason, I was taken aback by this question. Not that it’s an unreasonable question, mind you, but I was oddly surprised by my answer. “Nothing” is all I could come up with.

Of course, I’ve got a mental list of outdoor spring projects I’ve been wanting to complete that’s about a mile long, but in thinking about what’s at the top of that list, I couldn’t think of anything that needs to be purchased. I either have what I need, or can otherwise make do with what I’ve got. All I need is time and nice weather.

The same goes for Sally. For her, gardening is a matter of work and time. Moving rocks and plants. Digging, weeding. Transplanting native plants from our property to the garden. Zero-expenditure type projects. She already organized her seed collection and knows what she has on hand. Her actual shopping list of seeds and plants totaled only about $15.

I’ve got a good collection of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, boards, etc., for what I have in mind as far as house projects go. And when I get into the old car, which is what I really want to do, I should be able to scare up just about any parts that I need. I do need to install an exhaust system in the old Volvo, but I’ve got a used one that will work fine for at least a couple of years. There is some wiring to do, too, but I have plenty of appropriate wire and connectors. And I have all the tools I need to replace anything….somewhere. (Finding them is just part of the project.)

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN Plenty of tools. Finding the right one is just a matter of time. My parts stashes are equally well organized.

There is simply nothing that I need. Wants? Sure. But those can wait. I set a minimal budget when I got the car: “Spend nothing except for items necessary for safety” was about it.

Any hobby can be as expensive as you want it to be. It’s easy to spend five grand for a landscape design and installation (not to mention maintenance). It’s easy to spend five grand to get an engine professionally rebuilt. And that’s fine, if you have five grand and don’t want to (or can’t) spend the time and effort. I find it a lot more rewarding to attain desired results for the least amount of money possible. It’s always been something I take a bit of pride in.

This spring, I’ll shoot for $0 for my projects. So that’s my answer to your question, Sally. I don’t need anything for now, but thank you for asking! You can use my $15 budget for more plants or seeds, or we can save it for a rainy day.

Of course, we’re both likely kidding ourselves. It’s only April. We could have two feet of snow on the ground next week. So, on second thought, maybe I should spend that $15. On a new snow shovel. Never know what unexpected projects might be thrown at you by the weather around here, and, with some tools, it’s good to have extras. Just in case.

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