Here’s A Sure Way To Save Money: How Laura Lost Her Lawn

We lose things all the time:  Our wallets, our keys, our phones.

Losing things is not unusual.

But losing a lawn…?

Well, what is a lawn?

It’s a habit:

Habit (2) fixed

I think both definitions are fair.  We have lawns because all our neighbors have lawns, everybody has lawns, we’ve always had lawns.

And some people are addicted to their lawns:

Kissing Lawn cropped larger

They lavish them with attention:  watering, fertilizing, cutting, edge trimming, weed killing, installing lawn decorations of questionable appeal, bragging when the lawn is lush, despairing when it’s dry and brown.

But what purpose does a lawn serve?

Other than soaking up your time, energy, and water?

lawn statue
Enhance the appeal of your water-guzzling lawn with items like these!

If you like spending your time and energy on an expanse of vegetation that you can’t even eat, well – that’s one thing.

But the water – that’s another.

I live in a very dry state:  California.  But it’s not the only dry state – from Hawaii to Washington to the Southeast to New England, drought is part of our reality.  In fact, in a 2013 survey the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said 40 states expect to see water shortages in at least some areas in the next decade.

That’s right now.

And if you live in one of the handful of states that don’t experience drought, watering a lawn is still a problem because…

That water costs money.  And watering a lawn is just money down…


When did our love affair with lawns begin?

Up until the 1700s, most homes looked like this – no lawn:

farm sheep cropped

If you actually had property around your house it was used for growing food and livestock.

But as the European upper class became more upper in the 1700s, the rich got richer and built magnificent country homes to prove it.  To further display their wealth, they surrounded their homes with lush, green lawns, to show everyone they had so much land that this area was not needed for growing food or sheep.  The lawn became the perfect status symbol of The Good Life:

Castle-Howard-2018-Placeholder highclere-castle-downton-abbey
1700s:  Castle Howard, Yorkshire, England:  They added a lake to go with their lawn. 1800s:  Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England:  The setting for the popular TV series “Downton Abbey.”

This “love my lawn!” was by no means limited to Europe – Americans built their share of big houses, with big lawns to go with them:

The_Breakers_Newport swan
1800s:  The Breakers, Newport, RI 1900s:  Swannanoa, Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

Fast forward to 1945.  American military are coming home from the Second World War, ready to settle down and raise families.  That was the American dream.  The dream included a home of their own, and that home included…a lawn:

house 1950s_01

There was a housing boom, and just about every one of those new houses had a front yard, a back yard, and lots of lawn:

tract homes with lawns

Fast forward to 2014.

California was in its now-normal drought condition.  I read an article that said, “The average residential customer spends about 60% of their water bill on outdoor irrigation.”

Sixty percent? 

I asked my husband, “Honey, do you love our lawn?”  When we agreed we didn’t, and considering the ever-increasing cost of water, it was easy to take the next step and think about parting with it.  All of it.

And so we did.

We hired a landscaper who dug up the lawn, replaced sprinklers with drip irrigation, replaced lawn with mulch, and replaced most of the shrubs with drought-tolerant plants.

Here’s our front yard before:

Front Yard Before

Front yard after:

Front yard after

And our back yard, before:

Back yard Before

Back yard, after:

Back yard after

I thought – and still think – our “after” yards look lovely.

So did – and does – our water bill.

The difference between our June 2014 and June 2013 water bill was 10 units of water.  One unit is 748 gallons.  That’s a decrease of 7,480 gallons of water:

Water Bill (2) fixed.jpg

Enough to fill the average above-ground swimming pool:


Plus, we cut our water cost by half.

And saving money is good, no matter where you live.

Saving more money is even better.

In 2014 California had a rebate plan:  SoCalWaterSmart paid residents $1 for every square foot of lawn removed.  Here’s our rebate check:

Check cropped fixed

And guess what? is now offering $2 per square foot for lawn removal:

scan0001 (2) fixed.jpg

Rebate (2)

If your area isn’t yet offering lawn removal rebates – it will.  Remember that prediction above from the GAO?

We have seen the future.

And it is dry:

drought 2018 cropped larger
May 2018:  Extreme drought along the coast of Washington?  And in New England? And in Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”?  Yes – and it could be coming to your area, too.

Life without a lawn:  Less work, more money in your pocket, more time for other things.

And that’s how Laura lost her lawn.


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