Dollars & Sense

I don't normally blog about politics, it's just not my style. But with the state the U.S. economy is in, I feel like offering my $.02 (which is worth a lot less against the Euro). First, the housing crisis. There is a lot of effort by the government to find a fix for our current housing crisis. I realize that something must be done to help people in the unfortunate situation of losing their homes to foreclosure because of the overall impact on the economy, but my emotional reaction to this is very different. Why should my tax dollars be bailing out someone who bought beyond their means? I think it is ridiculous that builders who in the past five years have been making money hand over fist should be given tax breaks. And like most policies it does not help those who are fiscally responsible and live within their means, like me and my family. Why not a tax break for all homeowners instead of just those who buy foreclosed homes? Second, rising gas prices. Prices at the pump are skyrocketing. It's outrageous. High gas prices is one of the major catalysts in me getting rid of my car. Tawny took only premium, which is around $3.80 in our neighborhood. Just putting gas in Ruby (our Xterra), which takes regular unleaded, cost us around $60 yesterday to fill the tank at $3.40 a gallon. Chronic is going to ride the Metro to school starting in the fall and is going to start carpooling to work on Fridays. People are going on vacation closer to home because of the weak dollar and high gas prices. That's a smart idea. Please pass along any creative ideas to conserve gasoline. Third, the economic stimulus checks. These checks are supposed to stimulate the economy by encouraging people to spend the money. Do yourself a favor and save that money or pay down debt. But retailers are making that very hard to do. They want a slice of the pie. Major retailers like Sears, Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut are all offering "economic stimulus" sales, cutting prices 10% to 30% in May when the checks begin to be mailed out. I think you'll see every retailer try everything they can to reach into consumers' pocketbooks. Resist the urge to spend that money. Think long term, not instant gratification. Put all this together and the outlook is grim. Pray for things to turn around.


Getting More Mileage Out of Life

I never thought the day would come when Tawny wasn't a part of my life. I've spent so much time with her over the last 3 1/2 years that it seemed inevitable that we would be together forever. The daily commutes, the topless drives to anywhere, the vacation in the OBX. Those are good memories. But the relationship is over. We've gone our separate ways. Tawny and I have broken up. I was slowly weaning myself off of my dependence of her. I dropped her off at the dealership last Saturday. I turned around and never looked back. I am now proudly car free. It's no big deal. attitude is everything. if you decide it's possible to live without a car, it will be.

The vast majority of car owners in this country have an addiction to it. And like any addiction, it's a costly one. Most Americans spend their entire adult life feeding this addiction with precious time and money simply because they don't know any other way; they don't know there is a viable alternative to a car based existence. The good news is all it takes to cure a car addiction is a little info and some mild lifestyle reengineering. As author Katie Alford writes in her book Divorce Your Car! "Car dependency is a psychological addiction, not a physical one." From birth, cars are as much a part of daily existence for most of us as eating and sleeping. It's no wonder most Americans don't question why or whether they need a car-they just accept it as a necessary part of life. Driving is remarkably habitual. Once you settle into a habit, it appears to be the only way to do things. but now that I've switched to a bike/walk/public transportation lifestyle, it no longer occurs to me to use a car for everything. All the whining about being out of shape or too old or that biking isn't safe is just a rationalization to avoid having to think about your life and actually implement changes to improve it. Without a car you learn to plan ahead, to be patient and to delay instant gradification. Part of living car free involves reevaluating, rearranging and streamlining some of your activities for better efficiency.

Car free living makes exercise a part of your life, not something else you have to try to fit into your busy schedule. And exercise is something I sorely need. Chronic and I have taken up biking as a hobby. I walk 1 1/2 miles roundtrip to the bus stop every weekday. I've come to realize that cars are mostly a way to display status. Im not out to impress anyone, at least not anymore. Financial independence is more important to me and my family than image.

The environmental movement has finally won me over. I believe in protecting the environment. "Think globally and act locally." Getting rid of my car is my way of reducing pollution.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit of car-free living is peace of mind. It comes from the cumulative effect of the many smaller benefits of the lifestyle. For example, solid personal finances and good health are essential to peace of mind. And peace of mind is the foundation for building a high quality of life. When you get rid of your car you may find that all the benefits add up to one big payoff - a richer, healthier, less stressed life.