Debt/Car-Free Simple Living
Updated: Apr 15
Being in the generational category of “Baby Boomer” even though I relate more to being a Generation X baby, lately I have been contemplating “What will it look like being semi-retired?” Now, I am a firm believer that no one should completely retire but remain relatively active while being a positive contributor to society.
There are many thoughts about approaching this stage in our lives, such as participating in different activities, since we will have more time on our hands. Knowing there will be a reduction in our income, how will we change our spending? One thought that came to mind was. “Do we need to have two cars in our household" or ", do we even need to own a car at all?” With that thought in mind I imagined what would be the advantages?
When thinking about giving up our cars there are some questions that come to mind.
Could we live with the slight inconvenience of not being able to drive anywhere on the spare of the moment?
Can this option work in the area we live?
Are there feasible car alternatives in our specific area?
What are the positives versus the negatives with not having a vehicle?
How does this option of not having a vehicle stack up against the cost of vehicle ownership such as payments, insurance, gas and maintenance?
Being a visual person, I attempted to visualize how these two scenarios would play out and which would be more appealing. One positive would be the huge savings of not owning a vehicle, whereas on the negative side, it would be less convenient since we would have to be more disciplined in our time management to plan out our trips.
There is no right or wrong answer here. If your life with a car looks better than your life without one, there’s nothing wrong with that. The point is to consider all the factors involved so you can make the best decision for you.
What would be some of the perks of a car-free life include:
Savings. Owning a car is costly. Aside from the cost of the car itself, you have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, and, depending on where you live, parking and tolls. According to AAA, the total cost of owning a car comes to about $6,100 per year on average. Of course, there are ways to keep these costs down, such as buying a smaller car or paying off your car loan early. But even if you pinch your pennies, owning a car still costs you thousands of dollars a year.
Health. Doctors agree that getting more exercise is one of the best things, if not the best thing, you can do for your health. And one of the best ways to fit more exercise into your day is to walk or bike more, rather than driving. Giving up your car practically forces you to spend more time moving your body, even if you’re only walking to the nearest bus stop.
Less Stress. For many people, the hours spent behind the wheel are the most stressful part of the day. Studies at the University of Montreal and Britain’s University of East Anglia both show that commuters who walk or bike to work instead of driving are more relaxed both during their commute and after it. Additionally, skipping all those hours sitting in traffic, going car-free means no more frantic hunting for parking spaces or worrying about making it back to your car before the parking meter runs out.
Less Pollution. The emerging trend from an international narrative has been about Climate Change. Therefore, if you want to live a greener lifestyle, giving up your car is one of the biggest steps you can take. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, driving is the single most polluting activity the average American does in a day. Going car-free reduces your carbon footprint, as well as your contribution to smog and acid rain.
The next consideration is Walking: So what are some of the positives with this lifestyle?
It’s Free. Walking from place to place requires no equipment aside from a comfortable pair of shoes. Most people already have that – and even if you don’t, you can buy a decent pair of walking shoes for as little as $55.
It Works Everywhere. Not every area has buses and trains, car-sharing programs, or even cabs. But walking is possible anywhere there’s a surface to walk on. And unlike cars and cyclists, you’re not limited to paved roads and paths when you walk.
It’s Great Exercise. Walking for exercise offers an array of health benefits: It strengthens your heart, boosts bone density, tones your leg muscles, reduces stress, improves balance, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. And it’s not nearly as hard on your joints as high-impact activities, such as jogging.
You Learn Your Way Around. Walking is a great way to get to know your neighborhood. On foot, you can discover all kinds of interesting hole-in-the-wall businesses that are easy to miss when you’re speeding by in a car. In fact, a study at Britain’s University of Surrey, published on Science Direct, shows that people tend to see their surroundings in a more positive way when they’re on foot than when they’re driving.
Next option is Cycling:
It’s Cheap. If you already own a bicycle, cycling is nearly as cheap as walking. True, unlike a pair of shoes, a bicycle does require a bit of regular maintenance. But compared to cars, bikes are a lot cheaper to buy and maintain.
It’s Good Exercise. Just like walking, cycling is a great way to work regular exercise into your daily routine. With a bike, your daily commute becomes a way to stay trim, strengthen your muscles, and keep your heart in good shape.
It’s Much Faster Than Walking. A moderately fit person can walk at an approximate rate of three miles per hour. By contrast, a moderately fit cyclist can travel at around 15 miles per hour on city streets. So if you live six miles from your workplace, it would take two hours to get there on foot, but less than a half-hour on a bicycle.
You Can Go Where Cars Can’t. With the exception of major highways, bicycles can go nearly anywhere cars can. But they can also go many places that cars can’t. For example, many parks have paths that are closed to cars but open to cyclists and pedestrians. So on a bike, you can often take a shortcut through the park, skirting around traffic and enjoying a more scenic view. And when you get where you’re going, there’s a good chance you can chain your bike up right outside the door instead of having to hunt around for a parking spot.
Next option is Public Transportation
Cost Savings. The cost of public transportation varies from city to city. On average you may be looking at a monthly transit pass of approximately $100, permitting you unlimited travel on most city buses and trains. By contrast, the cost of owning a car, according to the AAA study, is roughly $500 per month. Then we have to consider parking, which according to the American Public Transportation Association the average cost per year is $9,600. So giving up your car and switching to transit can save you about $1,200 per month, or $14,400 per year.
A More Relaxing Ride. Driving on crowded city streets can be very stressful, and the time required can vary greatly according to traffic. A study at McGill University found that drivers feel more stress during their daily commutes than people who use transit. Similarly, a study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that a test subject’s stress levels during city driving were far higher than at any other point during a normal day.
More Free Time. When you’re sitting on a bus or a train, you don’t have to focus on the road. You can use your time for other things, such as reading a book or checking your email. So even if it takes longer to get to work, at least the time isn’t wasted.
No Parking Hassles. Parking spots in the city are often scarce – not to mention expensive. When you ride on a bus or a train, you can just hop off at your stop and go.
Next option is Carpooling
Save Money. Four people riding in one car spend less on gas, tolls, and maintenance than four people in four separate cars. In addition, one car needs only one parking place, so you can all share the cost of one parking permit.
Reduce Traffic. Carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road. That means less traffic during the morning and evening rush hours, which makes the commute less stressful.
Prevent Pollution. A single car with four people also produces less pollution than four separate cars. Having fewer cars on the road helps cut down on smog, acid rain, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Enjoy the Company. Sharing a ride with coworkers is a good way to get to know them better. Chatting with your friends on the way to work is a much more pleasant way to pass the time than sitting alone behind the wheel cursing at the traffic.
Next option is using Uber or a Taxi
You Can Go Anywhere. Both taxis and ride sharing services can take you anywhere within driving distance. This makes them a good choice for travelling out to the suburbs, where mass transit doesn’t always go.
Ready on Call. With taxis and ride shares, you set your own schedule. You don’t have to sit at the station waiting for the next bus or train to show up. You can just call for a ride at any time – even late at night.
Room for Baggage. A cab or ride share car has a trunk that can stash your belongings. That comes in handy when you’re coming back from a shopping spree loaded down with purchases.
You Don’t Have to Drive. If you’re heading home after a night of bar-hopping, you’re probably in no condition to drive yourself. With cabs and ride shares, you have a sober driver who can get you home safely. If you are in an unfamiliar city and do not know your way around, a cab or ride share lets you leave the driving to someone who does.
Another option is Car Rentals
Cheaper Than Owning. For infrequent users, car rentals are cheaper than owning a car. According to the AAA study, owning a car costs the average driver $6,100 per year. By contrast, using a car rental service ten times a month would cost on average around $4,000 a year. And for very rare users, renting a car for two weeks per year would be even cheaper at $840.
You Can Drive Anywhere. Once you’re behind the wheel of a rental car, you can take it down any road in the country. You’re not limited to areas you can reach through transit or reach on foot without tiring.
Plenty of Cargo Space. Renting will give you a whole trunk to carry luggage, shopping bags, or anything else. You can also rent a bigger vehicle, such as an SUV, if you want to haul home a piece of furniture or several board feet of lumber.
No Fee for Waiting. Unlike a cab, a rental car doesn’t sit there running its meter while you take care of your
Shopping and other personal activities. You can go from store to store, running in and out, and pay the same hourly or daily fee.
Quite honestly, when you think about it, cars are seen as convenient and as a status symbol. However, when you become frugal, you no longer view cars as so convenient. Cars can conveniently spend all of your money for you, create stress, and waste valuable time you could be using more productively. All those options I have spoken about may keep you healthier, happier and more importantly, more money in your pocket.
Ultimately, going car-free is a very personal decision, but one that is entirely possible. Think objectively about your life and see if you can go without a car. Even decreasing your family’s fleet is a good first step towards car-free living.
About The Author: Steve is a Christian Blogger, Videographer, and Personal Trainer. His content creation focuses on Societal Lifestyles, Health/Fitness and Faith.