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We recently had a couple of trees in our backyard removed.

One of the things that attracted us to the neighborhood where we purchased our house was the fact that the developer left many of the trees in place.  This is pretty rare for most neighborhoods built in the last 30 years or so (ours was built in the late 1990's) as most prefer just to level all of the trees.

Our backyard really wasn't a backyard as the developer and the previous owners elected not to do any landscaping.  We loved the trees but we wanted trees and a backyard.  So, our first major project upon moving in was to have a portion of the yard cleared of many brush trees and trees that had died off which allowed us to in some grass.  We left about 20 trees along the back of the property line and about 15 trees around the yard, so we still have plenty of trees.

In 2010, I noticed that one of the larger trees was developing problems.  A couple of major limbs didn't seem to be getting any growth.  My worst fears were confirmed last year when even more of it died off, and the remaining section shed it's leaves in early July (it was NOT fun sitting on the deck on the 4th of July with leaves raining down).  As such, I knew it was time for it to come down.

The tree in question was about 30-40 feet in height, and a good chunk of it hung over the deck.  As such, I knew taking it down would be as simple as having it cut down in one piece.  The tree guy we use confirmed this and said it would take a few hours.

We had a couple of other trees taken out, as well as stump grinding on all trees, and we also had a row of bushes in front of the house removed as they had gotten too big for their area and trimming them would have killed them anyways.

The total cost for all this work was $700.

But was it?

I figure that the actual cost is probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $550.

How is this?

Because part of the costs were offset.

See, one of the things that we do is re-mulch all of the beds where bushes and trees are.  This happens every two years, on years ending in even numbers.  The total cost of this is around $150 or so.

Because the tree guy brought a chipper, he chipped up the tree, and was able to leave the pile of chips in my driveway.  It took a few hours spread over three days, but all of the trimmings went around the front and back yard planting areas, saving me the $150 or so in mulch.

Part of this will go back out in expenses as I need to buy some topsoil and seed to fill in the spots where the trees used to be.  We'll also probably use some of the ‘savings' to re-plant the area where the bushes came out (albeit with some smaller sized varieties).  Still, with landscaping and other projects, it's always helpful to not just look at the initial cash outlay involved with doing something, but look at the longer term cost.

For example:

If you're considering a new washing machine at a cost of $800, but the calculations show that it will save you $75 a year between reduced water and electricity usage, you might look at your true cost in the neighborhood of $700 or so (about one year of ‘savings' is the most I'll typically calculate).

What other examples can you think of?  Have you ever calculated the cash cost and the true cost of a project or purchase?