Well, it’s been over two months since I’ve decided to get rid of my car and live an extremely frugal car-free lifestyle. It’s been generally great, as the budget has been significantly improved since I started using the bus to get to work. It’s also been a bit challenging, as one would suspect. I live about two miles from the closest bus stop, so a brisk bike ride to and from the stop is needed. It keeps me in shape, but when it’s raining outside it can be extremely uncomfortable.
There are a lot of aspects to consider when living this type of lifestyle. I really thought I considered them all. I tend to be almost over analytical when making any changes in my life, and I figured I thought this all the way through. I knew it would be challenging during inclement weather. I also knew that getting a slow start in the morning would be basically impossible, as there is no accelerator pedal to lay on or yellow lights to run. I had to skip the snooze button and be ready to hustle on my bike and get down to the bus stop. I also figured on a natural lack of comfort having to sit next to undesirable people from time to time on the bus. These are all things I can deal with.
I didn’t consider being late to work due to bus breakdowns, however. I live in a relatively small town, with a population of right about 50,000 people. We have a pretty good bus system, considering the size of our town. You can probably get to 80% of the city on the bus. I did a couple dry runs, and everything seemed as I would have imagined it to be. After two months of riding the bus I have learned that our bus system is somewhat unreliable and faces regular breakdowns resulting in late or missing runs. I have now been late to work twice since getting rid of my car due to late buses/bus breakdowns.
I was an hour late very recently, due to two bus breakdowns on my route. My boss pulled me aside once I got to work and made a point to mention that he didn’t “want my frugal lifestyle interfering with work”. I was a little disheartened about the short conversation, as I was always on time before riding the bus and never missed work after almost two years. I do wonder if I drove a car and suffered a flat tire on my way to work if I would have been chastised the same way. It’s a little frustrating that trying to live frugally, or rebelling against the system that everyone else buys into, seems to put a target on your back. People don’t like what they don’t understand.
I am considering buying a small scooter due to this incident. I feel that if the bus breaks down again and I’m significantly late to work I could possibly be written up or be otherwise punished. A 50cc scooter here in Florida gets excellent gas mileage (appx. 100 mpg), doesn’t require a motorcycle endorsement and also does not require insurance. Not requiring insurance is a major benefit, as the scooter would be my plan B in case the bus doesn’t show up. I can quickly go home and fire it up and get to work on time or perhaps just slightly late. They are extremely cheap in terms of initial investment, as most scooters in this class run around $700. The maintenance is minimal to non-existent. I actually considered buying one before I purchased the bike and started riding the bus. I was going to make it my main mode of travel. The reason I did not is that the traffic down here can be quite dangerous. Perhaps the large concentration of an older population? I’m not sure. At any rate, I’d feel more comfortable if it was a “Plan B” twice-a-month type of transportation. There is also the fact that the apartment I currently live in does not allow motorcycle/scooter parking. I’m moving at the end of August, so this will be a non-factor soon.
The point of me writing this article and sharing my experiences is two-fold. First, I’d like to share my experiences so that any readers out there considering similar lifestyle changes get to know the positives and negatives. Saving money is wonderful, but not if it costs you respect at work and/or your job completely. Second, I’d like to know if any car-free readers out there have had similar experiences and what changes you may have made. Knowledge is powerful when shared. I’m still a novice in the car-free world, and I’d like to know what adjustments you might make?
Perhaps trying to live car-free before I’m actually financially independent won’t work in my current situation? Should I go back to living with a car and the stress/cost/maintenance that comes with it? Maybe I should move next to my job? I’m considering waking up half an hour earlier just in case the first bus breaks down, but getting up at 5:30 am isn’t very appealing.
I promise to keep everyone updated.
What would you do?
Thanks for reading.