The un-gift that keeps on giving

December 22nd, 2008

How to Live Well Without Owning a CarIt’s always amazed me how much people fight to get and keep a car — the up-front cost, the onerous monthly charges, the outrageous insurance rates. And there are those little things — the tickets, parking costs, the aggravation of trying to find a spot to ditch the thing, and, yes, the repair bills. “When a car goes to the shop, it’s $400,” so many of my friends have told me. Oh, and when you sell it? It’s worth less — way less — than when you bought it. How’s that for an “investment”?

Well, there’s an option: don’t own one. While I gave up my car long ago, I saw a nice little book a couple of years ago that I’ve been recommending to anyone who will listen, and now thanks to this blog, all one of you can listen. It’s by a guy named Chris Balish and is called : How to Live Well Without a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life. It’s no preachy tome, but instead short, simple, and fun, and the argument is irresistible, even to the most wild-eyed car “lover”: money. The fact is that the total cost of owning a car — any car, large or small, hybrid or gas guzzler, new or used — is far, far more than you could imagine, and that makes getting rid of yours the best way to save money, to say nothing of regain your sanity. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Despite what $20 billion of automobile advertising every year would have us all believe, buying or leasing a car, truck, or SUV is the worst financial move most people make in their lifetime. And they make this mistake again and again, at a cost of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. As you will see in the coming chapters, cars devour cash, increase debt, reduce savings, and make financial freedom difficult to achieve.

This book suggests taking a different path — a car-free path. The program in these pages will show you how to live a full, active life without owning a car. And without a car to pay for, practically anyone can get out of debt, save money, and achieve financial freedom. The truth is that tens of millions of working Americans do not need to own a car. One basic premise of this book is that if you can get to work reliably without a car, you don’t need to own one.

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car cartoonApparently Chris himself never planned on going car-free, but did briefly because of circumstances, and was amazed by how much more money just happened to be in the bank at the end of the month. He tells his story as well as those of others, and it’s a great read, light and funny, with lots of smart cartoons — just the thing to show you the way forward. If you’d like to learn more, read here; if you’re ready to take the leap, then go for it.

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