The Economics of Doing the Laundry

I’d toyed with the idea of this post earlier in our stay here in the US, but the topic came up again recently and so I thought I’d voice my thoughts on the topic.

The apartment we live in has a laundry room. It is slightly larger than our walk in wardrobe. In fact, the best way to describe the laundry is as a ‘walk in robe’ for the kitchen. To the right are the plumbing connections for the washer, and the left the special power connection and vent duct for the dryer. (Dryers here in the US use 240V to run the heating element, but everything else runs on 125V – hence the special socket.)

Now onto the economics…

Brand new, a washer and dryer bundle from a local store would set us back about $900 plus tax and delivery (let’s say $1,000). We could shop around for a bargain to get a better price, or we could also go second hand: condition and price vary wildly, but let’s say we could get something that we’re happy with for $300.

The apartment complex has arrangements with rental providers, from which we could also rent the machines. Their advertising states prices start from $30 a month for washer dryer bundles – not too bad. However, when I enquired with one of them about it, given our non-existent credit rating (an entirely separate rant on its own), they were going to charge us over $60 a month!

For this price, renting was quickly taken off the option list. And here’s the main reason why: The complex has a coin laundry facility on site.

So, for $1.50 we can do a load of laundry in 26 minutes, and for another $1.50 it will be dry in an hour. And, given that there are 5 washing machines and 10 dryers (and they are usually available), we can ‘multi-task’ and get our 4 or 5 loads done at the same time. In less than 2 hours. For the maximum total cost of $15. Including water and electricity. And that’s the laundry for the week.

That still works out to be $50 – $60 per month. At that rate it will take 6 to 18 months to match the cost of the appliances if we’d bought them. But it’s all over in 2 hours (apparently time is money). Plus we don’t have the utility costs. And our laundry room has been converted into a handy store room. Which is a great benefit in a small apartment.

We just need to make sure we’re in good supply of quarters – and the Americans have invented drive-thru bank tellers for that…

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