Here’s a little confession: while I’m doing a great job being frugal in certain areas of my life, such as food, clothing, and entertainment, one area where I’m doing a terrible job is transportation. I’m a frequent reader of Mr. Money Mustache, and every time he punches someone in the face for having a ridiculous commute, I get a little ashamed of my own transportation situation.
See, I work in one of the most expensive cities in the country. To rent a studio would cost a minimum of around $1000. But my fiancé and I happen to have a ridiculously sweet deal on housing: we rent a 3 bedroom house (that’s practically falling apart) for $1000. The catch is, it’s 4 cities away and an 18 mile commute to my office. We do mitigate the commute costs by carpooling in a hybrid. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from MMM it’s that you should ditch your car in favor of a bike. Unfortunately, even if I could do an 18 mile bike commute to and from work every day, my fiancé’s job requires that he have a car, so the car would still be making the drive.
So I always have the thought in the back of my mind, “sure, I can’t bike my commute NOW, but eventually when we move I’ll do it.” And thus, I never purchased a bike.
Finally it occurred to me that just because I can’t bike my commute, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t bike anywhere.
There are three places I drive with regularity – work, rehearsals/performances, and the grocery store. As already discussed, work is out, and rehearsals/performances are about 10 miles away, and often don’t end until after 10pm, so biking home would get me to bed well after my bedtime. That just leaves the grocery store. It’s 1.2 miles away and I go there about once per week. Biking the 2.4 mile round trip once a week isn’t going to make any huge impact. It’s not going to save all that much in gas, it’s not going to give me that much exercise, and it’s not going to make any significant environmental impact.
But I’m doing it anyway.
Why You Should Start Biking Right Now
Even if all the biking you can do is a 2.4 mile trip once a week, you should start doing it immediately. There are two big reasons this seemingly insignificant change could make a big impact in your life.
You will get used to biking
Until this past weekend, I hadn’t ridden a bike since college. It turns out riding a bike is not like riding a bike. Balancing was difficult, my butt felt sore sitting on the seat, and my legs tired quickly. A 2.4 mile trip was about all I could do. I was tentative, afraid of the cars, had trouble stopping and starting up again at intersections. If I had any delusions that I could put off biking until the day I live within biking distance of work, they were quelled on that first ride to the grocery store. Biking takes practice, and biking safely in a world full of cars takes a lot of confidence in your abilities. Start biking now, even if you can only do a little bit of it, so you’ll gain the skills necessary to tackle longer commutes.
Biking is now an option
What about the occasional trip to the library/park/bookstore/wherever that’s a few miles away? Now that you have a bike, you don’t have to drive there. What if your car breaks down and needs to spend a few days in the shop? You’re not stranded with no mode of transportation. Owning a bike ensures that you always have a way to get where you need to go.
Making the Finances Work
As I’ve already discussed, such minimal use of a bike is not going to make a big impact in your finances. Cutting out a few miles of driving per week isn’t saving you a whole lot of money. So if that’s all the biking you’re planning on doing, don’t buy a $1000 bike. Don’t even buy a $500 bike. Any working bike that fits you properly will do. I bought a used Walmart bike for $75 (my fiancé informed me that I could have easily negotiated it down to $50, but alas, I’m awful at negotiating).
Once you move closer to work or become skilled enough to bike your existing commute, you’ll probably want to buy a better bike (but you’ll be saving tons of money in gas then!), but your cheap-o first bike will always serve you well on short, in town errands.
So stop being a slacker and start biking right now! Your 10+ mile commute will never seem doable if you can’t even make the 1.2 mile trip to the grocery store.