I have had cars for a long, long time and I’ve enjoyed the mobility and freedom they’ve given me. I had always felt that having a car was a good thing. But upon moving (back) to Chicago in the fall of 2007, I realized for the first time in my life that owning a car could actually be considered a curse.
Here I was, living in Edgewater (far north side of Chicago), close to just about everything I need, be it by walking, taking the train or bus, or the occasional cab if all else failed (not likely), all the while making payments on a car I was not using. Why was I not using my car? Parking is a hassle in the city, and it seems that the city is always looking for ways to get a few dollars off everybody via parking tickets and booting cars. It almost seems like a city hobby. The amount of parking tickets I got when I moved here from Florida, probably due to my ignorance of local parking laws, was ridiculous. I started resenting my car and for the first time I flirted with the idea of letting it go. But it was just an abstract concept in my mind and I did not take action. To be honest, it was a little frightening. It seemed too extreme. I did start reading blogs and books about people who had taken the plunge, including couples and even families with small children. It was very eye-opening to see so many people enjoying life to the fullest without having to pay a fortune for the luxury of owning a metal box with four wheels. And mind you, these were people who could afford to own cars, and very nice cars, too. But they *chose* not to. I was intrigued. But I was still not ready.
After paying off my car last year, I once again thought of getting rid of it, but I was still not comfortable wih the idea. I have some relatives who live in the suburbs, about 1.5 hours from the city; how would I be able to visit them? One of the wonders of the city of Chicago is that so much of it can be enjoyed wihtin walking distance of an “El” station, or just about any of our bus lines. And since some of those trains and buses run 24/7, it’s a no-brainer to let someone else drive when you’re out partying and enjoying a few drinks with friends. When I finally decided to sit down, calculator in hand, and add up all my car-related expenses (gas, maintenance, city sticker, plates, registration, parking at my building, parking fees at meters/pay boxes), it because painfully clear that I was just throwing my money out the window on something I did not really need or, at this point, even want, any longer. As a single man, my transportation needs are very few, and this city is so accessible, that it become something I could no longer ignore, lest I wanted to continue wasting all this money (and time) I could be using in other, much more productive, ways.
So I called Carmax and inquired about the process of selling my car to them, and though I wil not go into the details, the process was so painless it was ridiculous. I can’t believe it took me so long to so this. I was still somewhat nervous, and remembered how I felt when I got rid of my telephone landline several years ago. But it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The money I got from the sale of the car, plus the money I saved from not *owning* the car allowed me to pay off 5 credit cards in one fell swoop, and I am now completely debt-free, with the exception of my student loans, which are currently in deferment and will be dealt with at a later time. I feel so free and happy. It’s amazing how much more I can accomplish now without the burden of that car. No more car expenses and no more car stress. I don’t regret doing this one bit.
So how do i visit my relatives in the suburbs? Our suburban train system (Metra) reaches their area and my cousin picks me up at the station, and he offered to do this and actually encouraged me on my quest for car freedom because he used to live in the city and agreed with me in that I didn’t need the car. So I’m lucky in that I have a good support system and friends who understand my reasons for doing this.
Of course, none of this would’ve been possible had I not discovered minimalism. Minimalism is about letting go of things that may not be as important to us as we once thought they were. The spark of light and awareness that was ignited in my head forces me to constantly question my need for everything I own. The big items are the most obvious, hence, the car was front and center in my mind as something that most likely needed to go. I don’t own a house, and I feel incredibly fortunate for that, even though it may sound crazy to admit. Now I’m working on the little things, the details that may not seem important, but are the ones that add up. I am well on my minimalism journey, and things are looking great. The freedom I’ve discovered is one thing I will not let go of.
Oh, one more thing. I refuse to tell people I am “car-less”. I tell everybody I am “car-free“, which is NOT the same thing. Rather than focus on the “inconvenience” of not having my own set of wheels, I choose to focus on the many advantages of not being a slave to what I call a metal box with four wheels. I love my car-free life!
How about you? Have you let go of your vehicle in order to have more time for yourself or your family, to get more exercise, to save money? Would you like to do it? Tell me all about it in the comments section and let’s discuss! 🙂