I have a car. I bought it in the summer of 2004, and I own it outright. I can’t say that it gets a whole lot of use though. When I bought it, I was living in the midwest, going to law school and living in a city with not so great public transportation. Plus my job was about 35 miles away, and that was completely inaccessible by public transportation, so I really needed a car. I drove it a lot.
Now, I live in D.C. and I take public transportation to and from work, and fairly often on the weekends as well. During choir season, I drive to and from choir practice as it’s accessible by public transportation, but it would involve a long walk to a bus stop at 10:00 at night in not the safest of areas, and would take an hour or more to get home instead of the fifteen minute drive. I live very close to a major grocery store, but drive when I want to go to the mall or to Target or Trader Joe’s. I also drive when I have to take my cats to the vet and when I go to the doctor. I also took two road trips this year, one longer than the other, and I occasionally use my car to go visit friends, depending on where I’m going and how difficult it would be to use public transportation.
I’m afraid to sit down and figure out how much I spend on my car per mile. My insurance is reasonable, as I’ve got a great driving record, and except for the issues a few months back while in Pennsylvania, the car has been very reliable. I get my oil changed two or three times a year, and that’s not horribly expensive. I will probably have to buy new tires sometime in the next year or so, so I’m starting to sock away money for that, but it’s not an immediate need. But given the amount I drive, that money adds up.
Does that mean that I’m planning to give up my car? Absolutely not. Sure, there was a fleeting thought about joining a car sharing service, but I decided that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. I like being able to jump in my car and go. I like that if a friend calls with an emergency, I can get there. I like being able to run to Trader Joe’s on a Saturday afternoon, and I like not having to worry about calling a cab to get to the doctor or take my cats to the vet.
I suppose its a product of my upbringing. I have a friend who has never had a driver’s license and has no plans to get one and has never had any sort of problem with this. Of course, this does mean some reliance on friends to get her places, but for the most part, she’s self sufficient, and doesn’t have to worry about all the expenses that come with car ownership. But I grew up in an area where if you didn’t have a car, you weren’t going anywhere. We didn’t have public transportation or cabs. If you wanted to go somewhere, you drove or you got someone to drive you. So the idea of no longer having that freedom makes me cringe a little bit.
Clearly, I have reasons to keep my car, and don’t plan to give it up anytime soon. And no, I still don’t plan to calculate how much I spend on my car per mile. I prefer to remain blissfully ignorant on that point.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.