Categories
Car-Free Finances

A Slice of Slavery

Katie had to walk to work in the pouring rain this morning. I grieved for her as she headed into the downpour to walk the mile-long trek to her public job.

I’ll have to do the same in a couple of hours.

I could sit at this keyboard and whine that life isn’t fair; why can’t we own vehicles like the others do?

I could sit here and juggle my budget. I could pull some money out of my investment accounts, buy a car, and eliminate the discomfort.

But if I do that, I will never be free.

I will be just like my friend, who is nervously awaiting a heart cath and possible stents at the hospital this morning. Even though they are aware that she is having the procedure, her job scheduled her to work tomorrow.

She could very well have complications. She could very well die, but does her job care? No. All they care about is her next shift.

I can’t even go up to the hospital to be with her because I’m scheduled to work and I can’t afford to take off. If she’s still there at the end of my work shift I’ll walk up to take her home or keep her company, however it goes.

This is the life of a wage slave. Forced to work until we drop, then replaced like we are nothing.

They don’t even want us to realize that there is a better way. They don’t want us to know that we can learn how to play the games that they play so we don’t have to trade our lives for money. That is why they brainwash us at school to go to college, rack up a lot of debt, get a job, and buy, buy, buy.

They want to use us up and spit us out because we are nothing to them.

Guess what, World? I know that there is a better way. I know from personal experience that one can achieve financial freedom. When the kids were young I would save up my money to take summers off to be with my kids. When I learned how to write and publish books I used that to stop working at a public job so that I could savor the remaining years of my youngest daughter’s childhood. Despite my lack of formal education (or perhaps because of it) I managed to do what most consider impossible. I was a stay-at-home single mother for years.

I made a few missteps. I over-estimated just how stable my royalty income was. That is why I will be walking in the rain to work today as I stress over the fate of my friend at the hospital instead of sitting at her side.

Instead of whining about my mistake, I choose to learn from it. I learned that there is a better way. I learned that we don’t have to be a slave for the entirety of our lives.

And I am angry enough to run with that. I am angry enough to do whatever it takes to beat those bastards at their own game, to not only improve my life but to show others how to do it as well.

I know what I’ve got to work with. I’ve got this writing business. I’ve got a public job that might pay shit for wages but is stable with a few benefits. I am an expert when it comes to saving money, and I understand the basics of investing.

Somehow I will figure out how to make this work. The day will come when my daughter won’t have to walk to work in the pouring rain. The day will come when I won’t have to do the same, when I won’t have to force myself out of bed at ungodly hours to get stuff done before I head to a public job because I know I’ll be too exhausted at the end of my shift to work towards my goal. The day will come when I don’t have to decide between paying my bills and being with my friends when they need me.

We deserve to know how to escape the chains of wage slavery. I intend to learn how, and I intend to teach others how to do it.

I will be free and I will teach others how to be free if it is the last thing I do.

You have my word.

Categories
Car-Free Finances Frugality Investments

Desire and Frustration

I underestimated just how heavily it was raining as I left work yesterday afternoon. By the time I realized that I should open my umbrella it was far too late. I was soaked to the bone.

“I have got to increase my income,” I muttered as I sloshed my way home. If I acquired a full-time job making just $10 an hour, I would basically double my current income. I could afford the extra maintenance and insurance expense of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, I would have to work the same shift with someone I completely trusted to actually show up every day in order to earn the money to afford a vehicle, or sacrifice a lot of time walking to and from one of the local factories with my current transportation situation.

Basically, I’m caught in a Catch-22. I need to earn more money in order to afford a vehicle, but I need a vehicle in order to work a job that would provide that money.

That f*cking sucks.

So what can I do now, with what I currently have, in order to meet both short and long term goals?

I gave that a lot of thought last night.

I am already making progress. I’ve got an optometrist appointment scheduled for later this month. That is the first step in re-acquiring my driver’s license. Once I purchase a new pair of eyeglasses I will feel safe about applying for a driving permit. Once I attain that permit, I’ll have to wait around six months before I can even think of taking the driver’s test.

I am in the process of building my credit. To make myself feel better about my progress, I sent the credit card company $20 to pay off my current balance with money to spare. I’m doing everything I can do in that area, so after I made the payment I moved on to the other areas of my life.

Each day I restore at least one of my older posts to this website. Each day I work a tiny little bit on a new book that is in the works. It is still in the initial stages, but that book may provide a little bit more money to invest in the future.

Each night I read before I go to bed. I’ve got plans to attend the latest library book sale on my next day off in hopes of acquiring more books to further my education, so I’m doing everything I can do in that area of my life.

I am keeping up with reading the SEC filings on the companies I’ve invested in and plan to invest in at some point in the future. I pitch in a bit more money each month towards my investments. Other than pinching my pennies even further, I’m doing all I can do at the moment.

Since I’ve managed to reduce my smoking expense from 7-8 packs a week down to 3-4 packs a week, I’ve even managed to increase the amount I have free to invest. That means I’m making more progress in both areas of my life right there.

So what can I do now, on top of what I’m already doing, to meet my goals? I turned that question over a thousand times last night. I am busting my ass, burning the candle at both ends, just to do the things I’m currently doing.

Yet there are two tiny Baby Steps that I had missed.

I had yet to initiate my plan to stash half of my raise into my emergency fund. While I had established the savings account and transferred my emergency fund over in order to start receiving interest on the money, I had yet to sit down on payday, calculate half of my tiny raise, and transfer it over.

I pulled out the pay stub I’d received earlier in the day, calculated half of my raise, and transferred the money over. It wasn’t much, but it’s better than nothing.

Then, in order to signal to myself that I was serious about eventually acquiring a vehicle, I created yet another sub-account. I added $10 to that one.

It’s a measly amount, but at least it’s something. At least I am actively saving up, not only to purchase a vehicle, but to cover the cost of insurance, repairs, and maintenance when the time comes when I feel comfortable to buy. I’m not sure how much I’ll add to that fund each month, but as long as I do something, it will be better than nothing. It will be a lot better than bitching and complaining whenever I grow frustrated.

I will have something to show myself that I am taking steps to reach my goal.

But last night it just didn’t seem like I was doing enough. Ten dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money I would require to feel safe to even consider purchasing a vehicle.

Depressed by that thought, I sat down and cried.

I gave myself a few minutes to feel sorry for myself, then I washed my face and got back to work. I am making progress, even though it doesn’t feel like it. All I have to do is keep working. The rest will come in time.

I pulled out my Success notebook, the book where I write down motivational passages and encouragement. I read every page. Motivated by that, I read one more chapter in my current business book and went to bed.

I can do this. I don’t know how I’ll manage things yet, but at least I’m making progress. I will channel my frustration into white-hot rage, converting it to the fuel I need to keep moving forward.

This is about more than me. I want to prove to the whole damn world that just because you’re poor it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. I will learn how to run with the big dogs, and I will teach others how to do the same.

I’m gonna do that if it’s the last thing I do.

Categories
Car-Free Finances Frugality Housing

Frugality and the Pareto Principle

According to the 80/20 Principle, 20 percent of actions will provide 80 percent of results. This is especially true when it comes to frugality.

When you break it down the majority of money I personally save falls into two main categories: housing and auto. By renting a one-bedroom house in a less than ideal area, I saved $200 a month back when I first moved here in 2011. Since rental prices have went up slightly since then I’ve saved even more.

By allowing my daughter to become my roommate instead of simply encouraging her to move into her own place I increased my savings even more by halving my already low expenses. While this also has the added benefit of providing my daughter with a safe place to live at a price she can definitely afford (while teaching her how to manage money), that is simply an added bonus.

Eliminating my vehicle saved me another thousand dollars a year. While I didn’t have the burden of a car payment (or the cost of the full-coverage insurance that comes along with it), that savings has added up as well.

I manage to save $5,000 a year on just these two expenses alone. The other little frugal decisions I’ve made pale in comparision. To be blunt, I would either have to take a second job (I would need to work an additional 34 weeks a year at my current $150 a week public job income) or locate a position that paid twice the hourly wage that I currently earn if it were not for the money I save in these two areas if I didn’t want to reduce my standard of living.

If you are serious about saving money I urge you to give these numbers serious consideration. While eating out less, eliminating phone service, cancelling subscription services, and other things do save money, you will receive higher savings if you focus on just these two areas of your life.

Running the numbers has shown me that making your own laundry detergent and simply living on less is not enough if you want and need to save serious money. It’s the big expenses that really destroy your budget. However, if you are interested in paring your expenses even further, I urge you to check out my books The Shoestring Girl and The Minimalist Cleaning Method.

Have you ever analyzed where the bulk of your money goes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Car-Free Frugality

The Luxury of a Vehicle

A few weeks ago a friend asked for some help. He needed to locate a vehicle that would start and run for $1,000 or less–in two weeks.

Considering that my days off rarely match up to the friend in question I considered this an almost impossible task. Not only can it take months to stumble on the perfect deal, the absolute best bargains are on vehicles that need immediate repair before they can be driven.

My friend vetoed those outright.

As we inched closer to the deadline I found myself having to reject vehicles that I would personally buy if I were shopping for myself. Vehicles that need some work can be bought for a song if you know how to do it. That was how I acquired the last van I owned. I paid $500 for it when the transmission went out and had a rebuilt one installed. For $2,000 I ended up with a vehicle that blue-booked for twice that amount and drove it for many years.

"You know, you may not be able to afford the luxury of a vehicle right now," I consoled after the last round of inspections failed to locate something suitable. "You could always walk to work and save up some more money while you look for something you like. It would be tough but you live close enough to your job to manage it."

He gave me the look that one reserves for the crud on the bottom of their shoe. "Cars are not luxuries," he sniffed. "Not if you actually go places."

I didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted. While I understood that my friend was scared, what he didn’t understand is that in some cases a car is a luxury. When you live in town within walking distance to work and stores you can live without a vehicle, especially in this age of Internet commerce. I know; I’ve done it for years.

Unfortunately, most people have been brainwashed into believing that a vehicle is a necessity regardless of circumstances. I’ve seen folks go without food or hit up charities just to make their car payment.

"Well unless you get really lucky you might just have to," I countered gently.

Fortunately for my friend a few days later we struck paydirt. We located a car being sold for a song that was in desperate need of some tires and cosmetic work. We limped the car to a repair shop, scored a used set of rubber, and went on with our lives.

"You know, you should really buy yourself a car," my friend counseled when he caught me walking to work in the rain several days later. "It makes no sense to walk in the rain when you can afford not to."

"I’ll think about it," I replied as we said farewell. I would rather save money for the future instead of spending it on repairs, insurance, and the myriad other costs that come hand in hand with vehicle ownership. While I might buy another car some day, for the moment I am content.

What is the one thing your friends consider essential that you do not? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Car-Free Frugality

I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Car-Free Frugality

Hauling Stuff on a Scooter

I stumbled upon this website and had to share.  A load of images of people hauling incredible things on bikes, scooters, and motorcycles.

I have considered the purchase of a scooter for longer trips in this area, but right now it is just in the thinking stage.  Regardless, these people deserve some kudos—I never considered hauling livestock and option on a 2-wheeled vehicle.

Categories
Car-Free Frugality

Bike Riding

I dusted off my old bike, unstuck the brake cables then lubricated and readjusted everything.  After borrowing an air pump from my wonderful neighbor (I have no idea where mine has wandered) I hopped on and went for a ride.

It took 15 minutes to get to the church parking lot.  I could have made it faster but didn’t even try. Figured out where I plan to secure this thing for tomorrow and headed home.

Saw my neighbor at the corner market on the way home and thanked him again for loaning me his air pump. You have got to ensure good neighbor relations when living a simple life.

My leg muscles are not used to the motions of bike riding so I will need to work on that.  I am just happy that once again I will be able to save money and be mobile at the same time thanks to my handy-dandy bike. It gets boring sitting at home all of the time, but I so hate using gas when I don’t have a valid reason!

I Googled the subject of bike riding to work.  Some of those writers amuse me.  They turn people off by telling them they need to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike.  If I am spending several hundred dollars, you can bet it’s on some type of scooter, not something you pedal! Instead my bike was bought on sale several years ago at Wal-Mart when gas was over $4 a gallon. When I decided to no longer pay those prices I took the price of a fill-up and went shopping for a cheaper mode of transport.

As for maintenance, all I have ever bought for that poor thing is a back tire, a better seat, a rack on back to support my crate and some WD-40 for lubrication.  Eventually I will need brake pads but those weren’t as bad as I thought so it is still safe to ride.

Well, I need to look in the outbuilding for my bike chain.  I know I have two around here, so I am not about to purchase another one!

Categories
Car-Free Frugality

Thoughts of a bicycle

I have a bicycle that I haven’t used for some time.  It is an inexpensive mountain bike in serious need of brake pads and some air in the tires. It has been almost a year since I rode it because the last place I lived really didn’t have anything local like a grocery to visit.

Living on the outskirts of Paducah I could use it quite readily to go to the grocery, Wal-Mart, Dollar Store or even to go to the bus stop to catch a bus to the Mall or the library. For all of that, I could even bike to church on Sundays!

I have a basket I can easily secure on the back with bungee cords, making it back into an all-purpose machine for fair weather.  I am seriously considering an investment in brake pads for it today.

While I know I am not able to give up a vehicle entirely because of the need to take trips to care for personal business on a regular basis, I am thinking that I could use it to reduce how much money I spend on fuel just tooling around here at home.

Honestly that is why I got it—back when gasoline was over $4 a gallon I parked the car I owned–took the price of a fill up and purchased bikes for me and the kid.  I rode that bike to work and everywhere else exclusively until gas prices went back down.

Living here in a major city–why can’t I do that again? A tank of gas from empty costs $68.75 (25-gallon tank at $2.75/gal.), and while I don’t drive too much I should be able to save at least a single tank on my local running this summer. At 20 miles to the gallon on my van, that would mean I would have to bike 500 miles.

The local buses have racks to store bicycles when you ride and I have a partial pack of tickets already (10 tickets for $6). It would be beneficial to the public transportation industry if I used them more, beneficial to the environment cause my van would not be used as much, beneficial to my health because I would be getting more exercise, and I’m hoping that it would be beneficial to my pocketbook.

Opinions, anyone?

Categories
Car-Free

Public Transportation

Today my daughter and I decided to explore the public transportation available locally. Translation: We rode the bus to the Mall. I calculated the cost of the trip for myself and my daughter round-trip we would have used at least a gallon of gas in my van, not including wear and tear on the vehicle.

The round trip cost us three bucks at full-price.

At current gas prices, we basically broke even, adding wear and tear into the calculation. When you figure up the fact that I got to sit and relax instead of drive, we were a bit ahead of the game. Considering that I prefer riding to driving, it was soo nice to hop on the bus and let someone else navigate the traffic while I sat and enjoyed the scenery, chatting with my daughter.

At the Ky Oaks Mall we discovered that Borders Bookstore is now closing, but we got some great deals. Katie got a bug catching kit complete with an insect identification booklet, a small gel ink pen set, a novel about horses, and a ruler with horses on it. I got a dead-tree edition of “The Secret,” a street map of Paducah and an imitation thousand-dollar bill.

We looked around the stores, played in one of the photography booths, grabbed a Frappachino at Starbucks, then headed back to the bus stop. We arrived in perfect time, for moments after we arrived we saw the bus coming our way!

Tomorrow the van needs to go in for some work (the electric window decided to stop working), so when we take the van in we plan to hitch a ride downtown and hop on the trolley to explore the library and riverfront some more.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to explore without having to worry about traffic! Got a book of bus tickets, 10 tickets for six dollars, and figure we’ll just have fun enjoying the fact that we now live in a place that actually has public transportation!

While I have read a copy of “The Secret” in the past, I have wanted to add a copy to my book collection and cuddle up and read it again. That book has really made an incredible change to our lives!