We all know by now that the nation (and indeed the world) is pinching the recession starved pennies. Families are giving up their week in the Costa Brava for a wet few days at Butlins and, for the first time since the rationing sanctions of the Second World War, money conscious homeowners are growing their own vegetables and hand-rearing chickens. Alright, so vegetable patches and chicken pens might be strictly reserved to the organic-loving likes of the middle classes (and Guardian readers), but the message remains the same. The nation is broke and now is as good a time as any to make some life-changing cutbacks.
It’s surprising how much money a household can realistically save just by making a couple of lifestyle changes. Of course, it’s pretty difficult to break from routine and do something counterintuitive just to save money (like getting rid of your car, for example) but the benefits can be extensive. Cars are extremely expensive and only getting more so. Plus, they are a burnt spot on the countries carbon footprint and, all in all, are quite bad news for the world in general.
So, could you get rid of your car? Most drivers would respond to this question with a resounding knee-jerk “NO,” but allow me to explain. Let’s take into account the expenses car ownership incurs:
- Gas (In 1983, gas was $1.24 per gal. or 36.7p per litre. Now, it’s $3.70 or 134.1p)
- The expense of the vehicle itself
- Road tax
- Maintenance costs
But that’s not all. Rising gas prices and insurance premiums led to a 6.3% increase in 2010, meaning the average annual cost of owning and running a new car is £5,869 a year. The RAC, in its cost of motoring index, reported that the £346 increase is twice the rate of inflation and equates to £112.87 a week, or 48.91p a mile! That’s like buying a Mars Bar for every mile!
Those figures don’t lie and, when you think about it logically, giving up the automobile isn’t actually as difficult or as life-changing as many first assume. Firstly, there’s public transport and although this word often fills the mortal soul with terror and finds people reaching for their hand sanitizer, public transport is cheap, green and reliable. Sure, if you’ve got a big family this might not be the option for you, but if you live alone and independently, public transport is an excellent way of getting around.
Catching the bus still not your thing? Invest in a bicycle! Seriously, everyone’s doing it these days and for good reason too. Push bikes are incredibly economical, fabulously ecological and, not forgetting, really very good for you. They’re also surprisingly speedy and, after the initial pay out, a great long term investment. Just be sure to take good care of your bike (lots of oiling and pumping and general loving) because they’re not infallible. Also, two must haves: a helmet and bike lights. Safety first people!
Don’t tell me you’re still not sold on the idea? Fine, I have one last trick up my sleeve and it’s sure to be a winner. Since its birth in 1946, the Vespa has been internationally recognized for its practicality and its low cost. This fetching little scooter is an affordable means of travel and uses much less gas than a car. As fuel prices increase this is going to make them even more of a commodity, so it’s worth cashing in on one before everyone else starts vying for scooter ownership. Of course, a Vespa will incur similar costs to a car, like maintenance and scooter insurance, but economical petrol usage will quickly balance out these initial payments. However, a word of advice: if you are considering investing in a scooter, it’s best to buy new (or newish) models as opposed to vintage ones. Old Vespa’s suck up gas like there’s no tomorrow, leave a trail of toxic carbon dioxide wherever they go and will cost you a lot more to cover.
Could you give up your car to save cash? If not, what’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to scrimp on expenses?