As I walked home from work tonight, nose frozen, toes numb, climbing over snow piles that would have been much better suited to a mountain goat than a mid-level associate, I had only one thought:
I am so glad I’m not in a car.
I have done the long-commute thing. At it’s lowest (highest?) it involved a 2.5 hour minimum round-trip drive through the Holland Tunnel.
I’d say one of the biggest factors in Mr. DebtFreeJD’s and my ability to pay off my loans is the fact that we now both walk or bike to work, and otherwise use the car infrequently. This allows us to:
- Have only one car. We bought it used, and for cash, about five years ago. Other than an incident where the alternator blew, taking out a belt and a battery with it, it’s been pretty cheap and reliable to keep going.
- Avoid maintenance problems. Lots of commuting (especially the kind I was doing!) puts lots of wear and tear on a car, not to mention mileage. And of course, it raises the risk you’ll get in an expensive accident.
- Park on the street, rather than a garage. Parking around here is between $100-$200/month. Not the we-could-rent-a-small-apartment-somewhere-else prices you’d pay in New York City, but still enough that we’re glad to avoid the cost. The only trick is paying attention to our local unpredictable towing rules.
- Fill up our gas tank about once or twice a month. Yes, gas is cheap right now. But even when I was driving in the land of cheap gasoline (aka New Jersey), filing up the tank once or twice a week would set me back about $200.
- Not pay tolls. Because nothing is more delightful than paying $12.50 per round trip to sit in hours of traffic waiting to cross a Port Authority-owned bridge or tunnel.
Plus, there are other benefits, like:
- Exercise. I’m a lawyer. Exercise does not come naturally. Walking to work is a pretty painless way to burn some calories.
- Fresh air. See above. My natural habitat is hunched over a computer in my office.
- Time to think. On second thought, not sure whether this is a benefit or not.
- Not having to participate in the farce known as “driving in a metro area to work.” I would say literally a good 10% of my thoughts when I was still driving to work were things like: “Thank you so much for blowing your horn for 90 seconds while we are all stuck in two hours of traffic. I’m sure that is definitely going to speed things up.”; “Indeed, do run me over with your giant SUV because you realized two feet before the exit ramp that you wanted to get off here”; and “Boy, how interesting to have tied four mattresses to the roof of your car with what appears to be dental floss.”
All in all, our car-free commutes save us many hundreds of dollars per month. We don’t even have to pay for public transportation. (I know, we’re spoiled – we feel so lucky that we could arrange our lives like this).
And of course, if it gets too cold, I can always channel Dog DebtFreeJD’s attitude to winter.