Back in 2014, Mr. Hippie and I made the bold choice to ditch one of our fully paid off vehicles so that we would only have only one car between us. We did this because we thought we would save a ton of money on transportation every year.
One vehicle. In the United States. In a city where less than 1% of people regularly take public transportation to work and SIGNIFICANTLY less than 1% commute by bike.
We were two young professionals in our early 20’s and everyone around us told us it was an absolutely terrible idea.
Yet, 6 years later, we’re still going strong!
I think two obvious questions arise from a situation like this.
1. How on earth did you manage this and maintain normal lives, let alone normal jobs?
2. How much money did you actually save on transportation from all of this? I.e. Was it even worth the sacrifice?
Well, my friend, let the tale commence!
We have employed, essentially, every strategy in the book to make this happen. And though I’m writing this from the perspective of having a long term SO I’m comfortable sharing financial responsibility with, a lot of these habits to save on transportation costs are applicable to anyone interested in relying less on their giant expensive hunk of metal and plastic to get them around town.
Here are some of the key strategies we used to cut costs:
I’m listing this first because if we hadn’t gotten in the habit of communicating regularly and clearly about our schedules, desires, and needs, this never would have worked out, and we probably would have ended up heavily resenting each other. Mr. H and I have balanced unpredictable self employment work schedules and professions where having a reliable vehicle is mandatory. Instead of building resentment, we have developed a way for us to become more intimately aware of each other’s day to day life and some of the small details that might usually be neglected. A car can be a valuable resource which makes life a lot easier in the United States, but without two of them your household can save quite a bit on transportation.
Living in a Central Location:
Picking where you call home is important in so many different ways! Living in a safe, walkable area close to all of our essentials was our top priority in scouting out the perfect home every time we moved.
Essentials for us include being near:
- Public transportation stops
- Affordable grocery stores
- A pharmacy
- A library
- Coffee shops
- Parks, and walking/hiking trails
Picking a location central to your necessities means that no matter what you can still get to your destination. And even if your car won’t start, your bike breaks, and the bus schedule has been temporarily rerouted to accommodate 10,000 people running a marathon in their underwear (hey, it does happen), getting to where you absolutely need to go will won’t break the bank.
Rural living far from essentials such as these is at the other end of the spectrum but is absolutely another viable FIRE hack. That lifestyle doesn’t jive with me at the moment but it’s a perfectly valid technique which will likely lower your housing costs and increase your transportation costs.
Please note these are two of my favorite physical activities of all time because they require no fancy equipment to get started, are available everywhere, and are free! This means you can still reap the financial and health rewards regardless of your SES, disposable income, equipment inventory, and it is available to those in nearly all states of physical health. I regularly walk/run to locations within a 2 mile radius (and occasionally even 3 miles) when necessary in bad weather. And in good weather, this is actually my preferred mode of transportation. See Biking for some strategy tips that are also applicable to running!
Be Willing to Pick Each Other Up and Drop Each Other Off:
By helping each other get from place to place, we perform acts of service which affirms our commitment to each other and overall strengthens our relationship.
I first opted to commute by bus back in 2014 when I realized my employer was charging me $15/month to park a mile from my office but would charge me $7/month for unlimited use of public transportation. Due to how congested the roads were during my normal commuting times and how long the walk from the garage to my office was, taking the bus took nearly the same amount of time so driving wasn’t helping me save time or money! Nowadays we live in a different city with an even less accommodating public transportation system. But, I regularly hop on the bus anytime I need to go downtown. My wallet is still fatter thanks to saving downtown parking fees and the cost of running my vehicle.
Working from Home:
Pursuing remote positions and WFH jobs has been a massive time saver in a lot of ways for both of us. This certainly isn’t available across all disciplines and especially not all W2 positions. But, I am someone who is very averse to offices and especially cubicles. So migrating my career in this direction not only saved a lot of time and money on transportation for my commute. It also boosted my mental health.
Anyone familiar with Mr Money Mustache is probably very familiar with this tip. Both Mr. H and I have also dabbled in biking to work with varying degrees of success.
At the best of times, you get an amazing work out, a huge endorphin rush, and a nature bath all before even punching in the clock for work.
But at the worst of times, you could be so soaked in sweat you’re no longer presentable for work. Or, far worse, you could be the victim of traffic violence. As I’ve experienced both of these, addressing this issue in particular is bigger than this post has time for. But, if you have the ability to safely commute by bike in your area, bringing a backpack full of a change of clothes, a change of shoes, baby wipes, and an air pump, are game changers! I also highly recommend donning a super sexy, eye grabbing, yellow, reflective safety vest.
Carpooling with coworkers:
During a period in my life where I worked 30 miles away from where I lived, I got a coworker on board with letting me pay him $5/day for picking me up and dropping me off at a location that was on his normal commute! His gas to go to and from work was free. And, I avoided the 60+ miles of wear and tear on my car. Win-Win.
We use this only when absolutely necessary. These prices add up extremely quickly if catching a rideshare such as Uber is part of your regular routine. In a pinch, this can be a huge lifesaver. And if a pinch does happen, and you’re stuck with a $30 ride to the airport at 4 am or a $20 ride to pick your kid up from school early during flu season. This is still absolutely cheaper than the cost of a second car (or airport parking!)
Have any of these strategies worked for you to save money on transportation? Do you see any that I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments!
I’ll be posting article #2 in this transportation series soon. This will include our transportation spending breakdown and an analysis of how much we have saved from using these strategies. Stay tuned for more!