For those of you who’ve been waiting for this blog, yes, I’ve made my decision about whether to continue being car-free. And for those of you who are just reading about this for the first time, no, I am not crazy…despite what my parents say. (To get up to speed, check out Parts One and Two of this blog series.)
Over the last year, I’ve received a lot of kudos (and often looks of amazement) for living car-free. Many people I spoke with want to try it, but are worried that they can’t. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can. I learned many things about this lifestyle the hard way, so here are some tips for making the change easy(ish) for you.
Getting Started: A Car-free Checklist
- Make sure that you have an alternate way to get to work – on foot, by bike, or via public transportation. Many cities now offer bike-share services (Citi Bike in New York and Hulu Breeze Bikes in Santa Monica), so you don’t have to purchase one on your own. Plus, if you buy a one-year membership, it rivals the cost of most public transportation.
- Expect to save less than you projected. Using ride-share services for inclement weather, traveling at night, airport trips, etc. can add up quickly. A 5-minute ride might end up costing more than $1.50 per minute when you include a tip for the driver. And you’ll be surprised at how many of these short trips you’ll end up taking.
- Sign up for a grocery delivery service. Without a car, you’re limited to the amount of groceries that you can carry on foot or strap to your bike. You can request a Lyft to pick you up at the grocery store, but it’s a pain for you and the driver (and could negatively affect your rating!). Check out this site for suggestions on what delivery service might work best for you.
- Buy an Amazon Prime membership. With one- and two-day delivery options and no shipping minimums, Prime is worth the money. You don’t have to worry about finding a way to get to a Target or Best Buy, because you can order most (if not all) of the products you need through Amazon, and often at a lower cost. In the past 12 months, I’ve used Amazon to purchase items such as pet food and supplies, books, music, a bike cover and tire pump, baby registry gifts, vitamins, and an iPhone X cover (at half the price of the manufacturer’s site and 1 day after the phone’s release). To make sure that you’ll be getting the most out of a Prime membership, you can sign up for a free trial by clicking here. (I’m not getting paid to endorse them – I just love my membership!)
Is the Grass Really Greener in the Car-Free Pasture?
Not necessarily. Living without a car isn’t all roses and rainbows. It’s difficult to visit family and friends who live outside of LA (i.e. too far to Uber and too close to fly). It’s also challenging when I’m hosting out-of-town visitors who aren’t used to a car-free lifestyle. When my parents stayed with me over Christmas, they felt trapped in Santa Monica. They wanted to explore L.A. and go shopping to stock up my apartment (and fridge) while I was at work, but couldn’t. At the time, I didn’t understand their issue with not having a car, but looking back I realize how hard (and inconvenient) it was for them.
Ok, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (*drum roll*) – Am I going to buy a car or stay car-free? If you guessed staying car-free, you’re right! I’ve really enjoyed this life “experiment” and I’m not ready to give it up just yet, but is it permanent? I really don’t know. Life can change quickly (which I know all too well as a financial planner), so I’m going to revisit this decision every 3-6 months. If I change my mind, you’ll be the first to know.
So, thank you for joining me on this wild journey (if only for today). And a special thanks to everyone who supported me along the way, even if you still think I’m nuts for giving up my car (ahem, Mom, Dad, and Nicole). It would’ve been so much harder to get this far without all of you.
Happy walking, riding, biking, and driving,