It’s about that time again. We look up and realize another year has passed, and we still don’t feel like making a car payment or paying insurance. We’re some of the few business professionals in Southern California who choose not to have a car.
But - but how do you do that??
The first thing is to acknowledge our privilege, some of which is timeline privilege. If we lived in 1547 we would not have the option of buying a vehicle with a combustion engine. If we didn’t have a donkey or a large dog we would just have to walk places. If we were serfs, there wouldn’t be anywhere we could really go anyway.
Come to think of it, the same would have been true in 1847. Even in 1947, if we lived where we live now we would probably ride the streetcar.
We just happened to become adults in the age of automobile supremacy, and we bought into it just like everyone else, until suddenly we didn’t.
If you’ve been reading my blog that long, we had a series of events that led up to our sudden ejection of a personal car from our lives. My hubby’s old truck sort of died around 200,000 miles. Then we replaced it with a regular four-door sedan, which was recalled by the manufacturer just as we were changing cities a couple years later.
This is where the privilege factors in. We knew we could buy a car any time. There wasn’t any time pressure. I am pretty sure that if we really wanted, we could find a broker or car salesperson who would sell us a car quite literally 24/7. We could call someone, and buy the car, and have someone drop it off for us at 3:00 am. It might even be easier to purchase a car in the middle of the night than certain kinds of food, say, a Vegemite sandwich or out-of-season Girl Scout cookies.
Why not wait, then?
We were very busy moving. By that I mean that we had 11 days to find a place close to the new job, so we sold or donated all our stuff and put it in storage and went directly to an AirBnB and we could only eat meals that went in the microwave and then we had to look for an apartment. Buying a car just was not something we felt like doing that month.
We had practice. For the last year that we owned a car, we didn’t really use it. We had cased out a neighborhood within walking distance of my hubby’s work, which we both loved. We only took the car out about once a month to get groceries or go to the movies. Mostly we felt like we should probably turn on the engine from time to time, and then we would have to go through the car wash because the windows were coated in pollen.
We did then what we do now. Most of the time, we walk to the grocery store. We do our banking and everything else online. The biggest difference is that for the past year, I have been cutting our hair so we don’t take the bus to the hair salon.
Most people get very stressed out when they think about getting rid of a vehicle. Not switching to car-free and saving all that money, or living in a more pleasant area where it’s fun to walk to the ice cream shop. They think about having to share a car with someone else and they start feeling their blood pressure rise.
The thing is, nobody is asking you to do anything. I don’t even know you!
All I’m doing is sharing that it’s totally possible to be normal adults with two normal full-time, demanding jobs, and still live a totally normal modern lifestyle without owning an automobile.
In fact, we are probably living a more luxurious lifestyle than a lot of people... a dark little secret that I don’t elaborate on too often, but I might as well.
A major factor in our decision to jettison our Jetta was that it cost us $700 a month all told. That’s car payments, insurance, gas, oil changes, parking, bridge tolls, etc. Now that we don’t own a car, we don’t have to pay for any of that at all. Other people may pay less because they have owned their vehicles for longer, but then again, they may be paying more because they have two, and maybe they’re older, and maybe they need more repairs and the gas mileage isn’t as good. I dunno.
All I know is that $700 a month is enough to make a big difference in a lot of budgets.
It is in ours. We’ve used a small portion of that (let’s count it, 4 years x 12 months x $700 = $33,600) to... HOLD ON, HOW MUCH???
I was just going to blather on about how we bought a window-washing robot for $200 and I buried my own lede.
The main thing that we have done with the $33,600 we didn’t spend on cars is to never, ever fight about money.
When we go on vacation, we just do whatever we want and get appetizers or whatever, because we know we can afford it.
That’s what not having a car means. It means that sometimes we have to pay to have something delivered, and sometimes we have to leave a few minutes early to take a rideshare. But while we are doing those things, we have this sense that we can afford it because there’s a giant empty place where other people have vehicle expenses.
We’ve maxed out every retirement contribution available to us, and we’ve done it for years. We’re also debt-free, and we’ve done that for years too.
When people talk about their cars, the word that comes to mind is ‘freedom.’ It’s a teenaged concept. We want to feel free to get in the car any moment, and drive off to buy a taco or get fries on demand or whatever. What most people aren’t aware of, though, is what actual financial freedom feels like. It feels like a pretty good trade to us. It also feels like maybe both aren’t possible, that financial freedom and maximum vehicle ownership can’t exist in the same budget or the same household.
Something to think about.
We’re still in the position of being able to afford to buy a vehicle any time. Probably more so than we were four years ago. It should say something about being car-free that we have chosen to continue this way.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies