Reflections on My Attempt To Save Money By Driving Less

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 

8 Responses to Reflections on My Attempt To Save Money By Driving Less

  1. I drive less now because of my new teaching assignment, but I use the same amount of gas. More surface street driving than highway driving does that. I look forward to going to one car in retirement. It may be just an experiment!

  2. That is a great resolution. It’s not too hard to stick by either. It just takes a bit more thoughtfulness and forethought. Great post. Keep up the good work.

  3. I have recently been considering getting a 2nd car, but have just decided (the past few days) that it would just be a waste of money right now. I would rather invest it elsewhere and put off being a two-car family until it is absolutely necessary

  4. I’ve made an effort to drive less, mainly because with having a teenage driver in the house, my costs went up significantly a year and a half ago. I try to limit my errands to stops on the way home from work now and so often my car stays parked all weekend and I get SO much done at home!

  5. Wish I could try going car-free altogether, at least for short periods. Unfortunately I don’t live an a walkable part of the city (strip malls around here are infested with panhandlers and gang-bangers, not safe for anyone, let alone a little old lady) and the public transport is a cruel joke. However, I have tried driving less by consolidating trips (hit the Depot and the Safeway on the way home from campus, for example — and never shop there otherwise), and that does seem to have cut the fill-ups to twice a month. It helps a little…but as you point out, driving less does nothing to free us from insurance premiums, registration fees, and repair bills. And depreciation…

  6. I moved closer to work in 2012 and only drive once a week! It’s pretty fantastic. Plus, you can get a cheaper auto insurance rate which is a double bonus!

  7. I made a similar goal when gas prices hit $4 a gallon.
    I haven’t looked back.
    On top of the financial savings, it’s better for the environment.
    And walking keeps me in better shape!

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