Of the resolutions I made a year ago, several were concerned with cutting my costs and improving my finances. Most of these resolutions existed in the world of budgets and long-term plans, investments and credit card use. But one of them was different from the rest: my resolution to drive less in 2011 and see if I could save enough money to justify the occasional loss of convenience.
With gas prices high throughout the year and car maintenance costs as burdensome as ever, there is no better time to dump your car and turn solely to public transit options. But most Americans – myself included – do not have the ability to live a carless life. Instead, I decided to keep my car but use it less. I would set firm limits on my gas consumption. I would walk, bike, and take transit.
So how did my experiment go? In short, the results were mixed but overall positive. I saved money without sacrificing much convenience, to be sure, but I didn’t save quite as much as I would have liked.
As expected, my savings were curtailed by my inability to go all-out and get rid of my car altogether. Since I still had a car, I still drove quite regularly and had to pay car insurance and several maintenance costs. These baseline expenses, while lessened, certainly did not evaporate. And on colder days I often opted to drive, even when I was fast approaching my weekly gas limit.
But there were three very distinct positive take-aways that resulted from the experiment:
First, I saved a good deal of money during the summer months when I got around by biking, walking, and taking public transit. During this time my car often didn’t leave the driveway for days on end. As an added bonus, I ended the summer in better shape than I’ve been in for several years.
Second, I became more efficient with my errands. Instead of just leaving the house and jumping into the car whenever I felt the need to do something, I planned out my travel, social engagements, business meetings, and shopping needs in a much more efficient manner. This saved me both time and money.
Third, I gained a newfound appreciation for how much gas I use and how quickly these costs add up. This appreciation will likely stay with me, even if I don’t make a concerted effort to keep it in mind.
Overall, then, I’d say that my experiment was a worthwhile one, and I plan to continue it into 2012. It’s just one of many resolutions that I’m hoping to carry over.
Have a happy and prosperous new year.
Guest Post By Amanda