For me, there’s nothing more infuriating than being stuck in traffic. It’s not just the waiting or the concentration necessary to be a responsible driver but it’s also the nagging penny pincher in me knowing that every single minute I am idling there, it’s burning gasoline. I’m burning MAH MONEY. Public transportation might not be glamorous but I get to space out on the bus. In my previous life, I thought about my wage, after taxes, including the hour-long commute AND the money on gas (back when it was $4.50 per gallon in San Francisco). I end up feeling like my American Hero, Al Bundy from Married with Children.
In all seriousness…happy Friday! We have a guest post for you today about the benefits of living car-free from Justin. Justin lives the atypical life pursuing financial independence by age 30 through extreme savings, expat living, and side hustles. He writes for Atypical Life, where he shares all of his tips, hacks, and experiences on how to reach financial freedom sooner. He is also an avid cyclist, international bike racer, cross-country cycle tourist, and promoter of bike commuting.
Are you tired of driving to work and getting stuck in traffic?
Wasting away hours and days of your life in a car just isn’t a great way to spend your life. Every day I could be wasting 45+ minutes each way on my commute to work which adds up to ~8 hours per week of commuting that could be cut out. Add in all the other activities that we all participate in, and we have 10+ hours of car time each week. I don’t know about you, but car time really isn’t very productive. It just seems like a waste of useful hours, especially if you are the driver.
As a passenger, you can read, work on the computer, check your phone, etc. but as the driver, all attention needs to be focused on driving. I have had enough close calls riding my bike to work to know that drivers need to be paying attention and not have their eyes and mind off the road.
You could be free of all of these the hassles of driving by getting rid of your car or downsizing your families fleet and have a simpler life.
The Benefits of Car-Free Living
There are so many benefits to living car-free that we only have time to scratch the surface on how great it can be. Here are just a few of the many benefits you can get from giving up the car.
- Better health
- Less wasted time
- Increased time outside
- Money savings
We all want to be a little bit healthier. You are a rare breed indeed if you do not feel like you have some area for improvement in the health and wellness department. Living car-free will help you along the path to better health because the replacement for all of that car time is exercise time. Whether it is walking, biking, swimming, kayaking or other commuting styles you will see the benefits of a more active lifestyle when you give up the car.
Riding your bike for 20 miles per week can burn an extra 600-1000 calories depending on how hard you are going. If you ride ~100 miles per week, you will burn an extra ~3,500 calories which is equal to one pound of weight loss if you don’t eat more to compensate for the increased activity. Walking is the same. The more you walk, the more active you are the better your health will become. The health benefits do not stop simply at weight loss either. You will not become sick as often, your heart will become stronger and many other risk factors for diseases will decrease.
If you are a foodie and just love eating, then the extra activity will allow you to eat that much more without gaining additional weight. You may even be able to eat more and lose weight by giving up the car and exercising more. The car-free life can open up so many new doors to become healthier.
Less Wasted Time
I hate wasting time, and the biggest waste of time I currently have is the commute back and forth to work. In China, this 27-mile commute takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours on a bad day! This is a huge waste of time. When you replace that car ride with a bike or walk commute, it may take longer, but you reclaim those wasted hours of your day and made them yours by exercising.
I cannot even begin to explain how nice it feels to have a productive morning commuting by bike in comparison to wasting away in the steel cage of a car. A car-free lifestyle will lower the stress built up from commuting and working allowing you to arrive home refreshed and happier to see your family.
In every aspect, the wasted time of commuting by car is improved upon by commuting by bike or foot.
Increased Time Outside
Studies have shown that Vitamin D is required to reduce stress. Do you know where it comes from?
Exposure to the sun creates Vitamin D inside our bodies and helps to reduce stress. Natural air and the freedom afforded to you by the bike or walking really help to reduce stress levels to lower than they ever have been. The exercise also releases endorphins to give you a cyclist’s high (or runner’s, walker’s exerciser’s high).
If you are not already spending time outside, you should start now. It is a major benefit you will gain with car-free living.
Last, but certainly not least, car-free living frees up tons of money to be put to much better purposes like investing in index funds. An average car is driven somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 miles per year. Even at 10,000 miles per year with great gas mileage (40 mpg), you are still looking at 250 gallons of gas or $600-750 depending on gas prices.
In addition to gas savings, you no longer need car insurance which was running $500+/year depending on your history and how many cars you have. Add to that savings on:
- maintenance costs on your vehicles
- registration tax
- property tax
- depreciation costs on vehicles
You easily save $2000 or more per year by foregoing your car and living car-free.
The replacement to these costs of course if purchase and maintenance of bicycles, however, you can expect yearly maintenance of bicycles to cost $300 or less even if you are paying your local bike shop to do the maintenance for you. If you have the frugal gene though, you will be wrenching and be working on your bikes yourself saving even more money.
“But I Can’t Give Up My Car!”
I know it is hard to imagine a life without a car. They definitely have their uses, and long distance travel is the one that is most reasonable to me. You can get the majority of the benefits of a car-free lifestyle by just leaving your cars at home. Cars should only be used for long-distance travel anyways. The only benefit lost is lower gas usage. You still gain better health, lower stress, and less wasted time. You can talk to your insurance about lowering rates because you are a low mileage user.
Going car-free is hard, there is no doubt, but it can be done.
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. Biking and walking, on the other hand, are free activities that will help to keep you healthy and happy.
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.