Late To Work

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.

Comments

  1. says

    Your boss’s reaction is really frustrating since people are late to work all the time for a variety of reasons. You car ownership status is none of his business. However, I’m wondering how much you talk about your “frugal lifestyle” at work? I’d guess it would be best if you avoid discussion of it altogether. Unfortunately people are not so accepting.

    It sounds like the scooter might be a worthwhile investment.

  2. says

    I have a few co-workers who actually bike all the way to work (about 10 miles). It only takes them about 30 minutes. I don’t know if you considered this possibility although if a scooter is dangerous, a bike might be as well unless you could find a less traveled route.

  3. says

    Sorry to hear about this DM. I think a scooter is a very good idea. You don’t have to worry about high gas prices and can park at tough car spots!

    Just make sure you stay out of big vehicles as scooters are easy to miss.

  4. traff159 says

    Hello! Just found this blog from a link on Dividend Monk… love it so far. (I’m in a similar situation, newbie to div. investing, similar income etc).

    As for the car/bus situation, we live in Canada, so the weather here is nuts. I walk to my office. My spouse (who’s a teacher, so being late is very bad) takes the bus. We crunched the numbers and on days when the bus breaks down or gets stuck in the snow/rain/hail/fire and brimstone, it makes better sense to call a cab. It’s happened maybe 3 times in 3 months.

    Not sure if that would work in your case. We also explored the scooter idea, but we have a few friends who have had some issues with them in our climate. Mostly, they’re only useable for maybe 6 months a year if we’re lucky.

  5. says

    Hey DM,

    How much would it cost if you scootered all the way to work? Would the gas price of the scooter (unless you plan to get an electric one) be cheaper than the bus fare?

  6. says

    No matter how you slice it, you should be happy you have a job right now, and make enough to save some. There are probably 100 people that would take your job in a heartbeat and show up early every day. I’m not knocking you DM, but if your boss wants you to stop being late, find a way to stop being late.

    I like the scooter idea, but realistically, will it be helpful? If you don’t know about a bus breakdown/late pick-up until your at the bus stop, you will have to ride your bike home and pick up the scooter. It seems like a car may be your best bet. Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and spend some money, as much as it hurts…

  7. Dienekes says

    Since starting a more frugal lifestyle, I went from 3 cars to 1 car (otherwise I probably would have 2 cars). The first Monday after we sold our second car, we had a flat in the driveway. Of course! So I can somewhat relate to your story. Would it be possible to make a “deal” with your boss that you will make up lost time in the morning by working later or coming in the next morning a little earlier? Otherwise, I probably would consider a used car where you only get minimal insurance and you learn to maintain it yourself.

  8. says

    No Debt MBA,

    I don’t discuss my frugal lifestyle or early retirement plans at work. I think that it is counter intuitive to the typical career ladder climbing that management likes to see.

    Unfortunately, it’s easy to see that I take the bus as the stop is right in front of my work. It makes for a very convenient walk, but co-workers and my boss can clearly see me and questions are inevitably asked. I keep my thoughts to a minimum, but I don’t want to seem extremely cold and closed off.

    I do agree with you that it’s a little frustrating, as I do feel like I’m targeted a little bit.

    The scooter may be the way to go. We shall see.

    Thanks for commenting.

  9. says

    cashflowmantra,

    I had considered this. The main problem is that I’m about 8 miles from work and I work in a fairly professional environment. Down here in Florida, the mornings can be pretty hot and humid and if I showed up to work sweaty everyday I’d probably be out of a job pretty quick. Unfortunately, we don’t have showers or anything at work.

    It is a good idea. If I lived in a temperate climate this would be something I would probably try. It’s just too darn hot in the morning…and the afternoon is brutal!

    Thanks for your idea and thanks for stopping by.

  10. says

    MoneyCone,

    Not only could I save on gas costs, but also insurance costs. Even the cheapest beater car still requires some type of insurance which can be surprisingly expensive.

    The ease of parking was one thing I didn’t think about!

    Thanks!

  11. says

    traff159,

    Thanks for the compliments! I’m glad you enjoy the site and glad to see someone in the same situation as me.

    So you and your wife are car-free? That’s really great. Congrats!

    I have thought about the taxi idea. The problem is that this city is fairly spread out and small. I called a taxi one time and it took 30 minutes for them to arrive at my location. It could have been a fluke, but by that time I’d already be late for work.

    I envy your courage to live car-free in the frigid winters of Canada. I grew up in Michigan and lived most of my life there, so I am familiar with winters. I did take a bus for a short time when I lived in downtown Ann Arbor, MI. It was not fun in -5 degree weather.

    Keep me updated on how it works for you!

  12. says

    Mike,

    The cost of scootering in to work isn’t the problem. It’s actually the danger that concerns me. I would definitely take back roads to work, as the major thoroughfare to my job is highly dangerous. I don’t want to risk life and limb just to save some bucks.

    It would probably be pretty comparable to the bus fare. I spend somewhere around $30/month on bus fare. It would probably be that much or possibly a little less with a scooter, even amortizing out the purchase/maintenance costs.

    Definitely not a bad idea!

  13. says

    Pig,

    I hear you. I really do. I’m not trying to make excuses, and I really don’t blame my boss for making his feelings known. That’s his job, and I understand that. I do feel, as I mentioned, a little targeted over the bus riding as I think if I had a flat tire and a dead battery over the course of two months it would have been “no big deal”. I am glad to have a job. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but am extremely grateful to have it and would be lost without it. It should go without mentioning my race to FI would undoubtedly be delayed without my job.

    I think you may have missed something in the article. I currently live in an apartment that is 2 miles from the bus stop. I bike there and back. I plan on moving to an apartment that is directly in front of the bus stop I currently ride my bike to, therefore skipping on the bike ride. This would be nice because if the bus doesn’t show up I can simply take a 2 minute walk back to the apartment and fire up the scooter. At that point I could still get to work on time.

    Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your point of view, and again I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m actually doing the opposite by trying to find solutions. Take care!

  14. says

    Dienekes,

    Congrats on downsizing. I’m sure you are saving a lot of money by having 2 less cars. That’s great! Sorry to hear about the rough start to it all, but I suppose that’s when you really learn about yourself.

    I hear you on the car idea. I could get cheap repairs at my work, which is along the same lines as DIY. I am thinking about it, as a car would allow a lot more flexibilty, but with that comes the costs that I was so anxious to shed in the first place.

    Decisions, decisions!

    Thanks for stopping by.

  15. says

    Dividend Mantra you are brave in ditching your car. I was wondering how things were going since reading your post about giving up your car. I don’t think I could do it, then again the Canadian winter wouldn’t allow it even if I tried.

    I’d say try the scooter first, as a last resort you could always buy a car, or move closer to work. But the scooter is the least expensive option right now.

  16. says

    Kanwal,

    Thanks! Yes, it was brave and it is difficult. Believe me, riding my bike home when it’s 95 degrees outside is not fun! The cost savings are worth it to me, however.

    I can understand you on the Canadian winter. I did live car-free for a short time when I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it wasn’t fun in the winter time. It was very limiting, even in a pretty big town.

    Yeah, the scooter is probably the least expensive option. I just found a brand new 50cc scooter for $750 shipped. No insurance and little gas, so that’s pretty cheap. The cheapest half-way decent beater car I’ve seen on craigslist was about $1,500.

    Wish me luck!

    Thanks for stopping by. Keep in touch. :)

  17. traff159 says

    Hey DM… to clarify my post …We actually do have a car, it just sits in our driveway. Sometimes I have to be at the office at 330am and it’s not safe to walk at that hour…

    Also, I’m the wife! :)

  18. says

    Hey DM, have you thought about buying a smart car or prius? I heard maintenance and insurance cost are really low. And the fuel economy isn’t bad either.

  19. says

    traff159,

    Whoops! I’m terribly sorry about that! Won’t happen again, I promise. :)

    I understand you on the car. I know a lot of people who live “car-lite”, instead of car-free. It’s nice to have a paid-off car for trips, moving things, grocery runs and emergencies. I can definitely see the benefit, especially for early trips to work. I wouldn’t want to walk at 3:30 am, either.

  20. says

    Henry,

    Well, those cars are fairly expensive and I’m trying to stay away from the expenses a car carries. Ultimately, I may have to own a car again. Time will tell.

    I’m not sold on Smart Cars. The gas mileage isn’t especially impressive and you sacrifice a lot of space. They also seem to have issues with reliability, from what I could tell.

    Also..it seems you are best served by paying a premium for a hybrid or other gas-saver if you are making long trips. Your up-front premium is made up after a year or so of driving long distances. In my case I’m only making 6-7 mile runs.

    Keep in touch!

  21. says

    Pig,

    Awesome article!

    I see a couple fellow Floridians in there. That blackjack scooter is pretty sick looking! He had some serious gear packed on the back.

    I think I’m pretty well set on the scooter idea. I’m shopping for used ones around here, but I see brand new Tao Tao’s that sell for $750 shipped. We’ll see.

    Thanks again for the article!

  22. says

    You are indeed a brave man! A frugal one, but a brave one!

    If you do get a scooter, definitely take the roads less-travelled to work. Cars and especially trucks, don’t see scooters very well and for whatever reason, have a hard time sharing the road!

  23. says

    MOA,

    Thanks! I guess I’m a little extreme. I’m definitely an outlier.

    I agree with you on that. There is a major road that runs from my apartment to my work…but I’m going to avoid that road for back roads. It will take longer, but I feel safer.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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