I am reading a book tonight at work (slow night). Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money by David Gates (Foreword by), Dolly Freed. Ok, slam me for not italicizing anything and not using proper APA formatting, I honestly do not care. hahaha
I just was reading a chapter regarding transportation. Anything that follows that is in quotes, is a direct quotation from the book. I could write in a proper APA format, but I am no longer in college, and this is just a simplistic blog. If I go mainstream, remind me to do proper formatting…until then, MEH!
“In our society the automobile is many things to many people. To the suburbanite it has become what the horse was to the Plains Indians – the whole basis of the culture. To a great many men and boys it’s the premier status symbol.”
I honestly agree with this 100-percent. I felt growing up that a car is your identity. You could look at what a person drove and instantly know a ton of information about them. However, as I have grown older, I no longer believe this. A car is a means of transportation, nothing more. I laugh at the people who fool themselves in thinking a Mercedes makes them more of a person than someone who drives a beat up Honda. Really people? You honestly believe that? All you did was invest more money into a highly depreciating object. I do not think $40,000+ spent on a car that serves no more purpose than that to transport you from point A to point B qualifies as an investment. It will break, and once it does you find yourself spending top dollar to repair it.
“…there’s an awful lot of inconvenience to owning a car, too: insurance, maintenance, gas worry, traffic jams, parking-and mainly money. Freedom of mobility doesn’t come cheap.”
How true this is. Truth is, many places in the US are not set up for close proximity living, or ease of access. Look at Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and all those other cities that are built out along a wide area of land. They all have one thing in common, accessibility issues. It can take well over an hour to pass through the city from one side to another, and that is while going 60mph.
The current city setup is designed around the automobile. It only makes sense that everyone owns one. Yet you must factor in the above. The more expensive and desirable a car is, the more you will pay for it and the more it will cost to insure. This also holds true for maintenance. Now if you have a beat up older Ford or Chevy pickup truck, well parts are easy to come by and are relatively cheap in comparison to a BMW or Mercedes. So if you must own a vehicle, just factor in how much money you are throwing away in comparison to another vehicle. The people who drive the Chevy Suburbans might only carry two people at the most. I’m sure you could get by with a Honda Fit if you desired. Yet the desire for a quality status symbol is hammered into our heads by society.
I will not slam those who truly have a taste for the finer things in life. If that is what makes you happy, then by all means go for it. I just honestly do not see the value in having something that costs, on average (ball park figure here) 1/4-th to 1/6-th the cost of a typical home these days (in the US), when you are only spending maybe an hour or two in it a day. It makes no sense at all. The quality is just fading away under the UV rays of the sun. The plastics are dry rotting right before your eyes, there is no point in spending that much money on a vehicle.
Am I tempted? You bet I am, but I constantly remind myself that a car is just to get from A to B, those fancy things just raise the cost and the repair bill. So for now, I will stick with my used Chevrolet Impala that I got for an INSANE deal. No need to upgrade for me. This thing will be driven until the wheels fall off or the repair bills are nearing the ozone layer in height.
“We do quite a bit of walking and cycling. It doesn’t seem to have harmed us. In fact, we enjoy it. Walking or cycling, you really do notice a lot more about the things going on around you than you do from a speeding car, trite as that may sound.”
This is very true. You are aware of the smells, the subtle changes in elevation, the wind speed, and you also notice things that you normally would not in a car. I hear birds chirping away, I see the flowers on the side of the road, I note how green the trees have become, I hear squirrels clawing all over the tress trying to catch each other, and that is just a small amount of it. I also tend to notice the smells of food cooking near by. It could be a back yard BBQ, or from a restaurant, it is wonderful. Also, a little sweat never hurt anyone (unless you have some medical condition I am totally unaware of where sweating does hurt you). The current accessibility of the modern cargo bike make hauling larger items very easy. I can put almost everything that would take up room in the trunk of my car on my bicycle. Yes, it is awkward, but you get used to it. Plus, as I have stated previously on my blog, you can park right up front by the door! The parking lot queens will love that.
Just that simplistic chapter, which had maybe 2 pages (3 pages on my e-reader), stated quite a bit. Let us not rule things out because we feel the need to have new things. Sure, few people can get by without a car. I could get by without one, but honestly I am spoiled. Plus, working 12-hours and then riding over 20-miles to get home (one way) is hard. I would not be able to get quality sleep and it would just drain me during the work week. However, if I worked within 10-miles of my home and only worked 8-hour shifts, I would be all over riding my bicycle. I already make grocery runs on it, loving the looks I get.
Now, this book is a bit out there. It talks about living with very little income (just enough to pay property taxes and pay for the few things you need to buy). It is an extreme way of living, but it could be done. Society these days would make you think otherwise, making you feel like you need to spend a ton of cash to live a proper life. Truth be told, people have been living just fine for centuries without cable TV, or a food processor (cooking gadgets, a vice of mine), or even a car. The truth is we could get by with less, we just do not want to. That is fine. If you cannot see yourself growing your own vegetables, then keep going to the store. I honestly think that once my wife and I have a child, I will have a garden to lessen the burden of grocery shopping. A tiny investment in a garden can reap huge returns on the pocket book later on.
We would be going to one income, therefore being frugal and saving money is a crucial step. Might as well get started now with that mindset. Plus, it seems that our gadgets and possessions own us, rather than us owning them. We feel what we own defines us as a person. It does not. Am I any less of a person because I do not own a luxury car? Not at all. People may make you think that, but it is not true. Just like you only think you need that shiny new sports car. Really? Where are you going to drive it like it was intended to be driven? Nowhere, unless you take it to a race track for a track day on occasion. Honestly speaking, we could all easily get by with a sub 100-hp vehicle. The fact is, people just do not want to. We each have our lives to live and the right to live it as we choose.
I choose to live in a more frugal manner. I see no point in getting the latest and greatest anymore. I only upgrade my cell phone because my wife desires to upgrade hers. She takes my old phone so if she has any questions, I already know how to use it. Honestly, I have no desire for a new phone. My e-reader was purchased to reduce clutter. Easier to store e-books and magazines than the real ones.
I have a “man cave” in the loft of our house. The more I think about it, the less I want up there. I currently have all our DVD’s and CD’s up there, my treadmill, a desktop computer, a sofa, and a entertainment center (TV, speakers, DVR, XBOX360, and a BlueRay player). I also have my guitars and keyboard up there as well. I think that is a bit much. I honestly will transfer that 42″ TV downstairs when that one fails, and I might replace it. I am not sure yet. I think a radio alone would do just fine, if anything, a small 20″ TV or so. Besides, once we have a child, it will most likely turn into a play room, so no point in having a ton of stuff up there for a kid to get into.
In the end, we each have our life to live. We cannot count on the government to take care of us, so we must take steps to ensure we can save all we can. By simply watching where every dollar goes, we can make informed decisions regarding our spending habits. I plan on cooking more to save the money that would otherwise be spent going out to eat. I will probably only purchase used cars from now on to save on money and to take advantage of the people who desire a new car every 2 or 3 years. Most of all, I plan on riding my bicycle more to save money on gas and wear and tear on the car. I do not need to drive a car half a mile to my mother-in-laws home. If it is not raining, taking a bicycle is by far a better choice. True, I may show up a little sweaty, but I can just carry some deodorant spray to freshen up when I get there. Plus, there is no point in hopping in a car for such a short trip.
You may disagree with me, and that is okay. I just plan on saving some money and living a happier and more simplistic life. That may drive you insane, which is fine. You can stay at your house and I will stay at mine. haha
Enjoy the ride, and live your life to the fullest.