By M Butler
It comes as a shock to most people I meet, but I don’t own a car. Three years ago I was thousands of dollars in debt and something had to give. I decided that it would be my car.
When I made the decision my friends and family thought that I was crazy. Truth be told, I even thought I was crazy. Nobody that lives in the suburbs lives without a car. If you think about it, there isn’t anything more un-American than not owning a car. Yet that was exactly what I planned to do.
When I made the decision to be car free, I wasn’t even sure if it would be possible to live without one, but there wasn’t really any other choice. It was either that or continue to drown in debt. Three years later, I can’t imagine life with a car. It was by far the best financial move that I could have made and it has resulted in be being debt free with a fully funded emergency fund today.
The decision to sell my car was not an easy one. I am a single mother with a four-year-old child. She was one when I made the decision. As mentioned, not having a car in the suburbs is a concept that most people can’t even imagine. The nearest grocery store and shopping center is about 5 miles from my house, so going there by bike is not what most people would consider convenient. Today, even though I would have no problem affording a car, I choose to transport myself by bike.
Just because I don’t have a car doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when I need one. On days that it rains, I have a number of kind friends that will allow me to carpool with them into work. If I need to buy a large amount of groceries that my bike can’t handle, I will either have a friend drive or call a taxi to get this accomplished. There are times when I have to take a taxi or occasionally even rent a car, but I still come out far ahead financially doing this than if I owned my own car.
There is no doubt that not having a car poses some problems, but overall they are small to what I gain in return. I realize that not everyone can go car free, but I believe that a lot more people can than think it is possible. Here are some of the reasons that I ditched my car and continue to not want one:
I have no car payment
One of the reasons I originally needed to get rid of my car was that the $300 a month car payment was something I couldn’t afford. Instead of paying for the car I could use that $300 to put toward more important things. Originally, that was to pay down the debt I had, but now that I’m debt free, that payment will help my little girl go to college and build a retirement fund for myself.
I don’t have to pay for car insurance
An added benefit beyond not having a car payment is not having to pay for car insurance twice a year. For me, That adds up to nearly $1000 that goes toward savings instead of out the door.
There isn’t any pain to my pocket book when gas prices increase
While everybody else is worried about the price of gas and the rising costs of operating their cars, I don’t think about it at all. Since I don’t have to purchase gas, it has very little effect on my lifestyle and I don’t need to figure out how to squeeze higher gas prices into my monthly budget like I used to.
I don’t have any car repair bills
Before I made my car free move, I was living paycheck to paycheck. When I was doing this, a breakdown was not a mere inconvenience, it was a financial disaster. I would all of a sudden have a several hundred dollar car bill that needed to be paid right away in order to get me back on the road, but not the money to pay for it. I no longer worry about unexpected car repair bills. My bike needs to get a tuneup from time to time and may get a flat tire on a rare occasion, but any repairs or upkeep is far less expensive than anything a car would cost.
I didn’t think I was lazy when I had a car, but I now realize how wrong I was then. Being car free gets me off my lazy butt and outdoors much more often than if I had one. Riding a bike for transportation has made he much healthier than I would be if I owned a car.
I got rid of my gym membership
It only took a month after I bought my bike and sold my car for me to realize I no longer needed my gym membership. Biking allows me to get plenty of exercise — far more than I ever got from workouts at the gym — on my own and there’s no need to pay $30 a month.
I have a much healthier bank account
The final result is that I have much healthier savings than I would ever have if I still owned a car. In fact, I’m sure that I would still be in debt living paycheck to paycheck. It took what seemed like a radical move to get me out of my debt cycle, but from my current perspective it wasn’t a radical move at all. It was a common sense financial move that allowed me to establish the financial foundation I needed.
Do you have a story about saving money or earning money that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it.