I was just looking through my financial records and saw that is has been nearly two years since I went car free. No car. Most people in our country have cars. Like credit cards, I got fed up with car ownership much like I got fed up with credit card ownership.
It was getting towards the end of the lease on my car, the price of gas was continuing to rise, and it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks that I was spending nearly $1000 each month on a car. When I added up the exorbitant lease payment, insurance, gas, upkeep, annual registration fees, maintenance, and decorations (yes, I always decorate my cars), the cost nearly reached $1000 each month! Yikes. That's insanity unless you are like a millionaire which I am not.
So I turned my car in and haven't looked back since. Actually, much like getting rid of my last credit card, getting rid of my car was extremely freeing. I actually like riding the bus. I like walking. I even like riding my bike if necessary to get to where I want to go. I actually feel more in control without a car that I did with a car.
If you dare to go car free, here's some tips:
- Check out your local public transportation options. The city bus may actually go when and where you need it to go. And when you look at the cost of a monthly bus pass compared to a monthly car payment, you will be very happy. There are also public transportation options such as Amtrak for further distances, Zip car, and car rental if necessary for weekend trips or big grocery shopping expeditions.
- Consider car pooling. In my case, I go to a lot of far-flung meetings but there are almost always other people from my office or related agencies going as well. Car pooling can work very well in these instances and my employer only needs to pay one person mileage instead of two. Note that Craigslist is another option for rounding up a car pooling ride and most major companies in our area as well as the local transportation agencies have ride share lists you can get on to coordinate rides with others who are going your way.
- Walking is another option is you live relatively close to where you need to go such as the bank, post office, library, or grocery store. Plus it's good exercise.
- Many people in our area commute by bike. I'm actually rather surprised how many bike riders are out on the roads during the early morning heading to work. I have a friend who rides 20+ miles each way to work!
- When you are car free, consider patience and preparedness. Since you don't have the speed and safety of an automobile to get you somewhere in a hurry and to act as a shield to protect you from things like the weather/traffic/other people, you need to do a couple of things. First, give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going. You don't want to be running for the bus in the morning like you did in elementary school so leave early enough to casually walk to the bus stop. Also, be prepared. Wear good walking shoes, make sure you dress appropriately for the weather, carry a flashlight and wear a reflective vest if you will be walking in the early morning or late evening, and be aware of your surroundings (ie: don't walk through dangerous areas of town, etc).
- Check out car free living blogs and websites for good information and moral support.
Much like getting rid of your credit cards, getting rid of your car can save you an outrageous amount of money which you can spend on other things that are more important to you. Also, like getting rid of all of your credit cards, society at large is going to think you have lost your mind. Which in my mind is just fine, the average person in our society is up to their eyeballs in debt, usually because of credit card and car payments, so like Dave Ramsey says, it's great to be weird. Enjoy it!
Personal note: We have one car in our family. Hubby has kept his paid for car but has significantly decreased his use of it, choosing like me, to get a bus pass and ride the bus more often than drive. Not only does this save money, save the environment, and save repairs/wear and tear on your car, it is also almost like having a chauffeur; many times I am delivered practically to the door of where I am going--no parking costs, no traffic to worry about. If and when I ever decide to buy another car, you can be sure it will be with cash and on my own terms, it won't be because of a "great deal", the "small monthly payments", or a smarmy salesperson.