GREEN LIVING


Trading Four Wheels for Two

my story
You’re using your car a lot less, which you call going “car-lite.” Why the change? We needed to save money and originally considered getting rid of both of our cars, a Chevrolet Cavalier and a Honda Odyssey minivan. Until I did some research, it didn’t occur to me how much we could save by driving less and walking or biking more. We were spending about $200 to $250 per month on gas, plus $325 per month in car-loan payments on the Odyssey and $117 on insurance for both cars.

CALCULATOR: How Much Can You Save Bicycling to Work?

How tough was the change? It was definitely a transition. We don’t live in a big city with tons of public transportation, so I mapped out all of the ways we would get from point A to point B without our vehicles. My husband works less than two miles from home, and the kids go to school about 3.5 miles away, so it seemed doable.

How did you start? In August 2011, we decided to go car-free for a month, just to show that it was possible. It became clear pretty quickly that biking would be our best option for getting around. It was a lot more fun than walking or taking the bus, and it was usually less time-consuming. My husband, Brent, and the three oldest kids already had bikes, and our friends gave me an old bike and a bike trailer for our 2-year-old.

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What came next? The Yuba Mundo cargo bike. The Yuba can carry up to 440 pounds of cargo, which meant I could carry my youngest child and items such as groceries in the back. That made it easier and safer for all of us to get around. It cost $1,700 fully accessorized, but we paid for it in cash with the money we saved on gas.

And you gave up one of your cars? We ended up giving away the Cavalier, which dropped our car insurance payments to below $40 per month. With our savings, plus income from part-time jobs, we paid off the van. Now we spend an average of $80 a month on the van.

How are you spending the extra cash? For the first time, we’re saving and living within our means. We’re going on more vacations. When it comes to biking, I want to share my passion with everybody.

This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine. It might be the best investment you ever make.

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