Car or Carless: Minimum Wage Challenge

going carless or not?

The fact that I really dislike driving would seem to make the choice here rather easy. If I had my choice, I would not drive at all (and quite frankly, it’s ironic the amount that I do drive with this attitude). I really miss the days when I lived in Japan where the public transportation was so efficient and widespread that there really wasn’t a reason to own a car no matter where you lived. I used to commute to work there by train and bus, and I did a whole lot more walking around (which I like) than I am able to do in the US. Unfortunately, the reality is that public transportation in the US is a shadow of what it is in Japan and that for most travel (unless you live in a big


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15 Responses to Car or Carless: Minimum Wage Challenge

  1. lakeside says:

    Maybe I’m the only one, but it seems to me that you have gone so far outside the realm of the average minimum wage earner that this exercise is nearly pointless. The average minimum wage earner is not self employed, does not have the option of traveling around and staying with friends and family while earning money, and does not have the sort of flexibility that you have because you aren’t REALLY earning minimum wage, you’re only playing at it.

  2. jeffrey says:

    As I have said a number of times, I am not in any way trying to live on a minimum wage budget like an average minimum wage earner. That is not the point of this challenge. The point is to show what can be done only using a minimum wage salary. It is to show how decisions are made when money is limited, how sacrifices in one area can let you do many things in other areas and that a limited amount of money doesn’t mean that you can’t do much if you are willing to use creativity. If you are wanting to follow a challenge that mimics what the average minimum wage earner must face, this is not the challenge for you.

  3. jay says:

    Another option, if available, is car sharing such as Zipcar. The rates look pretty reasonable.

    As far as your car, you clearly have to think past these next 12 months. Do you really want to end up carless? Also, reinsuring yourself after a break usually ends up being pretty expensive. Maybe garage it, pay the lower fees and insurance, and go “carless”. That’s a legit strategy for folks who find themselves with a drastic, but potentially limited, loss of income. Don’t know if that logic “fits” the challenge, though.

  4. Alexandria says:

    I personally found having a car key to living on a very low income (though it was a choice most don’t make in the same situation). I am not sure how it really relates to the challenge though. I found it kept me far more available for more employment options, but it doesn’t sound like you need a car on the income side. Anyway, I paid hardly anything for my car, the gas and insurance/tags approximated the cost of public transportation, which meant my only real/additional cost was repairs. Which was offset by being available for a wider variety of jobs, not to mention the convenience side. (My low income experience was in college, so I needed jobs that paid more per hour, so I could work less. But just to share I found a car extremely fruitful on a VERY low income).

    The flip side of this is you are screwed if you don’t buy your care carefully, end up with a lemon, have a long string of bad luck, etc., etc. Of course it could go terribly wrong, and might be best to go carless considering your situation.

  5. I think you definitely should go carless. While I love having a car and do not know how I would function without one, if I was making minimum wage I would try to forgo it and take the bus, even if it required long or undesirable commutes.

    While this wouldn’t work for your challenge, I would try to get a second job and work 80 hours a week as long as possible… that would allow me to justify a car and have more flexibility in my spending options.

  6. Joan.of.the.Arch says:

    You could call your plan something other than minimum wage challenge, as it seems to have to be re-explained every time. Maybe if you did not refer to minimum wage, but perhaps to the the dollars/month you are giving yourself to work with.

  7. lakeside says:

    Fine — than maybe calling it a “Minimum Wage Challenge” isn’t quite the way to go.

    You’re NOT facing the challenges of a minimum wage earner — I agree. You’re just a person who makes more than minimum wage who lives a somewhat unconventional lifestyle who is talking about saving money in one area or another. That’s like nearly every other post – just talking about saving money.

    I think the title of your “challenge” is somewhat misleading.

    You say that the point is to “show what can be done using a minimum wage salary.” Yet you are making choices/decisions/sacrifices that no minimum wage earner could ever choose to make. So why don’t we just that the phrase “minimum wage” out of the title.

    I actually think it’s kind of offensive to people who actually ARE trying to survive on minimum wage.

  8. jeffrey says:

    I would disagree with you — you are limiting your view to the typical Wal-Mart and like minimum wage earner. I know plenty of artist friends that have lived years on a minimum wage salary. I know many people that start businesses of their own that must live on a minimum wage salary while the business is taking off. To narrowly limit it to your perception of what a minimum wage earner is “supposed to be” is one of the problems.

    If you find it offensive, then there is no need to follow it. You may not like that I will be trying to live on minimum wage in a way you see fit, but I am still going to be trying to live on this limited budget. Whether you feel it is the “correct” way or not, it is still on the same budget.

    And I totally disagree. While the reasoning may be different, making housing choices and car choices are huge decisions that everyone living on a minimum wage must make. The choices of what is important, where there money will go and how they keep their spending below what they make is of vital importance. I would encourage you to expand the narrow view you seem to have of what “minimum wage” means.

  9. lakeside says:

    Perhaps my view IS too narrow. I don’t know a lot of minimum wage earners who can make the choice to be “purposely homeless” as you can.

    But what would this world be like without differing opinions?

    Since my issue is with semantics, not content, I’ll keep any further thoughts to myself.

    What do you plan on doing with all the money that you will be saving over the course of the year? (I had thought your plan was to actually LIVE the life, not just do it on paper, right?)

  10. jeffrey says:

    You have missed the point on my choice of being purposely homeless. I could have chosen to live in a house (and may very well have to at some point in this challenge), but was looking to challenge beyond that. Being so isn’t going to save me money over renting a house and means I will face many more choice challenges. It wasn’t the easy way out — it’s actually a more difficult route. I could see the complaint if I was staying with friends the whole time so there would be no cost involved, but a rule was specifically made so I couldn’t do that. It means that I am going to have to scramble for lodging with a limited budget from time to time — something that is a fear of many of the minimum wage earners you are thinking about.

    If you have seen any of my previous challenges like eating on less than $1 a day for 100 days, you will know that I will live it and not just do it on paper…

  11. lakeside says:

    For some reason I can’t reply directly to your comment, so I’ll add it here.

    I am not doubting that you were going to actually do it. I was actually genuinely interested to know what you were going to do with the extra money you would have. If you mentioned it in a previous post I missed it.

    Are you going to just add extra to your investments? Are you going to donate it? Burn it? Fold origami? I wasn’t trying to question your determination — I was honestly wondering what your plans were with the extra money.

    I appreciate your further explanation about how you feel that you are actually making things harder by not doing the “usual” thing like renting an apartment. But that is where we disagree — I think it would be a more interesting challenge to live a more conventional life.

    You say that all minimum wage earners aren’t they typical Wal-Mart employee? I agree. But there’s probably more of them than there are starving artists or people trying to start their own businesses. To me PERSONALLY that would be the more interesting challenge.

    But to you it is not. And I agreed to not argue over the semantics of the phrase “minimum wage.” So you don’t need to try and convince me that you’re actually making it harder for yourself. We just have different ideas on what would be most useful to learn from a “Minimum Wage” challenge.

  12. jay says:

    Well, as you said up front this whole idea was in response to a challenge from your sister. The fact that you’ll share your experiences with us, I think, is great!

    If someone objects, they can just not read your posts.
    Go for it!

  13. Minny says:

    Hear, hear.

    In the original post the challenge was fully explained.

  14. Gailete says:

    I know my year of living on minimum wage I didn’t have a driver’s license much less a car. I walked everywhere or took a bus. I had had an opportunity while in college to visit Colombia and one of my souvenirs was a hemp bag that I used to haul my groceries back and forth for that over mile walk to and from work and stores (thankfully in the same direction!). I wasn’t doing this to see if I COULD live on minimum, I was doing it because I couldn’t find a better job at that point, I had to do it. In the midst of living with not much coming in, I also tithed 10% of what I made so I was actually living on 90% of my little income and a car just wasn’t on that budget nor at that point my own apartment–I paid for room and board. But by the end of the the year, when opportunity came knocking, I had enough money in my savings account, I could buy an airplane ticket two times in a row to fly out for job interviews and got the job! I also didn’t smoke or drink, so my worst money eaters was my Friday night special of some Doritos, M&Ms and a Pepsi while watching TV. I guess sharing this to say that with careful watching of your budget and what you are spending it is possible to live on a lot less than what you may think you can. It has been years now since that time, but those ways to save are carved into my memory.

  15. sootsprite says:

    I actually know plenty of people that make minimum or sub-minimum wages, travel, and pay little or nothing in rent. Some people are travelers on the renfest circuit and live out of their vehicle or in tents and get free space as part of their contract, camp with friends, or stay in the shops where they are working. I have friends who are musicians, who when they are not gigging are working crappy or odd jobs and couch-surfing. I also know artists who travel to music festivals, rainbow gatherings and the like who live with family during the off season. Other friends of mine don’t travel as much, but have free rent in exchange for helping with errands for people who are disabled, elderly, or ill. It may not be average, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a significant number of people making those kinds of choices.

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