Author Topic: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.  (Read 3011 times)

kraggleflux

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Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« on: January 13, 2016, 10:08:54 AM »
Hi folks,

I live in Canada and snowfall amounts can sometimes be aggressive. My financial situation isn't terribly relevant in the case but I will say I have been an avid reader of MMM for a couple of years now and a point that I always come back to is being bad-ass about whatever it is I do, be it debt reduction, spending, home repairs, and the like. Last Winter we got hammered a few times and snow removal became somewhat of an issue. I had to on a few occasions, and i'm ashamed to admit it, hire someone to plow us out at 40 - 50 dollars a pop. Some of this was due to lack of planning on my part (parking the car at the farthest spot in our driveway from the road), unforeseen circumstances (kid got sick, needed to get to the hospital) and my wife needing to get to work and the car being stuck. She works very late at times and while her work is not far, she isn't walking in -20 weather at 2am. I work from home so it isn't an issue for me.

Anyway to the point, I am not scared of physical labor, but is it ever worth it to hire someone consistently, or find a used snowblower? Link to muscle over motor: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/12/05/muscle-over-motor/ I would think hiring someone is immediately a problem, unless it's only reserved for those special circumstances, and even then 50 dollars? Where as a used snowblower could likely be found for 500 or less and could eventually be sold if and when I have a shorter driveway, but it's gas powered. The alternative is to continue to be bad ass about the situation and shovel while losing time that time with my two small children (1 & 3). Just to put a number on it shoveling on the worst of it can take a few hours depending on amounts. I'll attach a picture I took from last year, all hand shoveled at the time.

swick

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2016, 10:32:07 AM »
A used snowblower is probably a good compromise if you have the mechanical skills to maintain it. I think my dad spends as much time maintaining his blower as he does using it to move snow around - but they have a long driveway and he has a super physical job so has become a life saver for them.

When we lived up north, we made friends with our neighbours. It takes very little time for a truck with a plow attachment to whip in and clean the snow out. Often, we'd come home to a plowed driveway for the cost of a little homemade baking.

max924

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2016, 10:55:31 AM »
I would lean towards just using muscle for now, how long is the driveway? Obviously there are lots of situations justifying a snowblower purchase but keep in mind you have to not only fork over some decent money for one, but also store it somewhere all year round, fill it with gas/oil and perform maintenance on it (oil, belts, etc.).

 $40-50 seems really high for a driveway in town if that is for a single time. I have never paid someone before to do it so I can't really comment on it.

As far as paying someone to do it I would try to calculate what you think your time is worth in an hourly wage and use that to help your decision, obviously if it was going to be $40-50 each time, you should def do it yourself.

Full Disclosure: when I lived in town I used muscle only even though I had a freebie snowblower (it was actually faster done by hand), this was maybe a 35ft driveway at most. I now live in the country with approx 1000ft of driveway and own a tractor with blower.

I should mention our yearly average snowfall is about 300cm where I am.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2016, 11:01:54 AM by max924 »

kraggleflux

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2016, 01:04:43 PM »
A used snowblower is probably a good compromise if you have the mechanical skills to maintain it. I think my dad spends as much time maintaining his blower as he does using it to move snow around - but they have a long driveway and he has a super physical job so has become a life saver for them.

When we lived up north, we made friends with our neighbours. It takes very little time for a truck with a plow attachment to whip in and clean the snow out. Often, we'd come home to a plowed driveway for the cost of a little homemade baking.

My mechanical skills are certainly lacking, but I'd consider myself above average for sure, thanks for your input!

I would lean towards just using muscle for now, how long is the driveway? Obviously there are lots of situations justifying a snowblower purchase but keep in mind you have to not only fork over some decent money for one, but also store it somewhere all year round, fill it with gas/oil and perform maintenance on it (oil, belts, etc.).

 $40-50 seems really high for a driveway in town if that is for a single time. I have never paid someone before to do it so I can't really comment on it.

As far as paying someone to do it I would try to calculate what you think your time is worth in an hourly wage and use that to help your decision, obviously if it was going to be $40-50 each time, you should def do it yourself.

Full Disclosure: when I lived in town I used muscle only even though I had a freebie snowblower (it was actually faster done by hand), this was maybe a 35ft driveway at most. I now live in the country with approx 1000ft of driveway and own a tractor with blower.

I should mention our yearly average snowfall is about 300cm where I am.

I'd say our driveway is about 90 feet long or so and about 8 - 9 feet wide. The kicker is the top that is a fairly large turn around spot (shown in my attached picture). When a good chunk of snow falls I have to scoop it up and carry it off the driveway because it's too far to push and lift off. I'd love to be able to abandon the top part once the snow starts falling, but it's pretty dodgy to back in / out of the driveway as we're on a blind corner of a busy road. I'm not saying it can't be done but given how many accidents I've witnessed out of my window since we moved in I'd rather not chance it.

I agree that the price tag I've attached to the plow out is spendy; but, that's what you typically see around here for one off jobs. I'm sure I could negotiate a yearly rate for the service but I feel dirty even thinking about that. I'm young and definitely enjoy the exercise so I'll probably man up and keep shoveling. It's nice bouncing these ideas off like minded folks.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2016, 02:13:49 PM »
I don't care if the purchase made sense- we LOVE our snow-blower.  There are at least 3 snowfalls each year where it used to take me many 4+ hours (broken up over the course of the day or weekend; I can't do that at once) with a shovel, not to mention all the times it snows and it takes an hour or a bit more or to get it cleared; so the snow-blower is way worth it IMO. 

We actually bought a new one; but for the first few years had a hand me down a neighbor gave us for free. When we thought it had broken beyond repair (after putting in a new carburetor and a few other things) we gave it away on freecycle- the recipient told me two weeks later he isn't using it for parts as he managed to fix it.  Bah...  oh well, we tried.

$500 for a used snowblower sounds high to me (though I got my used one free, and gave it away for the same). You can buy new single stage snowblowers for that amount; though I think typically good snowblowers cost in the $1-2k range.


lakemom

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2016, 07:16:44 PM »
Here's a tip on how to do a driveway pretty quick...

Find or purchase a slightly flexible piece of wood (old piece of paneling or 1/4 plywood something along those lines thicker will work but gets heavy fast) 4'X4' is about right but if you are a taller/stronger person a 4X8 may work for you

Shovel a path down the center of the driveway with your regular snow shovel.

Take the piece of wood and push the snow from the center to the side (early in the year just shove it on off the side, as the snow deepens you'll need to develop a kick/lift/twist action to flip the snow up on the piles).  You'll soon learn how big of a bite you can take based on depth and moisture level of the snow.

We use this method on both the driveway and on the lake to clear a good sized rink.  You'd be amazed at how quick a few guys can clear a rink with a couple of sheets of plywood.

max924

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2016, 08:07:42 PM »
You can probably justify a good used snowblower for a 90 ft driveway, that is a pretty decent amount of snow to shovel. My parents had a similar sized driveway and my brother and I were enlisted as the shovelers as soon as we were old enough. You can just imagine the cursing going on between the two of us over my Dads cheapness while shovelling a 5 ft drift. Go figure as soon as my brother and .i moved out of the house my dad broke down and bought a snowblower.

If it were me in this situation, this is what i would do:

1-Make some sort of comparison chart on paper between manually clearing, purchasing a blower, and paying someone seasonally.

2-Include things like yearly cost in $, time expended, aggravation, etc.

3-When you have made up your little pro/con list you should be able to see what is the obvious choice for you.

As a parent of a 1.5 year old, I would also say if it is truly taking large amounts of time away from you spending time with your kids, and that time is scarce, I would consider the faster route.

Tundra_Man

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2016, 11:05:12 AM »
I justified my snow blower in the same way I justified my riding lawn mower: how much time is it saving me, and what is my time worth?

For my large driveway (about 50' X 40', or 2000 square feet) it takes minimum of an hour to shovel an inch of snow by hand. I can use the snowblower and have it done in less than 15 minutes. As the snow gets deeper, the time savings becomes greater. At a foot of snow I'm looking at 3+ hours of shoveling by hand, or 1/2 an hour with the blower. We probably average about 10 snows a year that require shoveling. At the end of a season that adds up to a significant number of hours saved, and those are hours I'm not spending out in bone-chilling cold.

My now 10 year old snowblower hasn't required much maintenance at all to keep it going. Oil change once a year. A new spark plug every couple years. Occasionally replacing a shear pin or skids. Much less than an hour's worth of work per year.

Similarly, my 1/2 acre lawn was taking me 2 hours to mow with a push mower, and I was having to mow about every 5-7 days or about 30 times per year. My riding mower takes 1/2 an hour. I figured out that over the course of a single year I would save 45 hours of work, and that was work I didn't particularly enjoy doing. I'd rather spend the evening mowing for 1/2 and hour and then playing ball with my son, vs spending the whole evening mowing. Once I looked at it from that angle it was a no-brainer to buy a riding mower. Maintaining my riding mower doesn't take much more time than maintaining my push mower.

Of course some would argue that I could save the expense of both machines by moving somewhere with a smaller driveway and lawn. Perhaps, but my house is paid for and I like it here, so I accepted this as a reasonable concession.

kraggleflux

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2016, 08:33:54 AM »
I think I could benefit from a blower on time spent shoveling. I have decided that it's still not worth 500 dollars to me. I will continue doing it by hand and be on the lookout for a more affordably priced used unit.

onlykelsey

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2016, 08:37:41 AM »
How about sharing one with a neighbor? or offering them 10 bucks per occasional use when you're in a hurry or the snow is bad.

kimchi

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Re: Advice sought: Being bad ass during Canadian Winter.
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2016, 08:42:09 AM »
We live in Chelsea, QC, and have very snowy winters... my advice is continue to shovel your drive this winter, and shop for a NEW snowblower when they go on sale in the spring.  We bought our in the spring at Home Depot, and got it on sale AND further discounted by putting it on a Hope Depot credit card (opened the account to get the 'new card' discount of ~15%, then paid if off in full that month...).  We ended up with a new, reliable (so far, it always starts, and we use it a lot!) snowblower.  Ignore this if you know small engine repair or can have repairs done inexpensively (because a used snowblower that doesn't start reliably doesn't save you much work in the end).
Cheers,
Kim