Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living car-free in Louisville.

I have taken a lot of crap from "friends" who give me the ol' "must be nice" eyeroll when they hear about some of my adventures -- mostly my addiction to Europe. Yes, I went to Europe for a month in March. Yes, it cost money. But 1) not as much as you think (i am the saaviest of travelers by now) and 2) it's about priorities. Today I'm going to talk about one of those choices we have made:

We don't have a car. 

Those of you in Louisville probably don't believe me, and those of you in big cities are probably not surprised at all. It is pretty strange for Louisville, however, for a middle-class family of three to be living car-free. We have a public bus system, but it can be sketchy and unreliable. My husband takes it for work, and he claims it's not that bad. I have had less-than-good experiences, but I understand supply-and-demand. But I digress...

Notice I said car-FREE and not car-LESS. There was a point, I suppose, when we were carLESS. When we first moved back from Scotland, neither of us was gainfully employed. Any income we could scrape up was used for health insurance and food. A car was just out of the question. Now that we are working, we've grown used to the idea of not having a car. It's become a choice: car-FREE.

You might think we are insane. You are not alone.

Our parents think we are nuts. I think it's a generational thing. I think it's crazy that my parents, who are both retired, have two cars.

For us, it's a combination of financial+environmental motives that keeps us car-free. You know we are both big into staying as green as possible (we have to makeup for my penchant for international flights somehow), but it's also absolutely absurd how much money it costs to maintain a vehicle.

I went to a Pecha Kucha night a few years ago where someone had done the math, figuring out that it costs an average of $10,000/year to own a car -- more if it's an SUV or truck (and my husband is from Texas, so we would obviously need a truck). This accounts for car payments, insurance, and gas. And that Pecha Kucha night was several years ago, so those figures are probably higher now. (Anyone out there want to calculate your car payment + gas + insurance rates per year for me? Some quick googling reveals an average car payment is $475/month, average gas is $300-400/month, and average auto insurance is around $80/month, and that is well over $10k a year, just for one car). 

This, of course, doesn't even begin to count the money you save by not going to Target (or Hobby Lobby. Or Sam's. Or IKEA. Etc.) just because you can. Yes, it's more expensive to buy toilet paper at the grocery store, but when is the last time you got out of Target without spending $50? (Or truthfully, $100, right?) 

Anyway, it's a choice we've made. I'm aware that not everyone in Louisville could make this choice. We happen to live right off of Bardstown Road, and I can walk to work. The wee boy is also not in school yet, nor is he signed up to go to a million activities. We sign up for the things we can get to on foot. We are1/4 mile from the nearest grocery store (yes, I have one of those old -lady-rolling-carts). David takes the bus or takes a taxi to the airport when he's traveling for work. If I have a gig where I have to haul a bunch of equipment, I can either take a taxi ($10k a year is $27/day left for taxis!)or borrow my dad's trusty volvo station wagon.

Now I'm not going to say we never drive (though it is rare, and I hate it). I mean, even Thoreau didn't stay in the woods as often as you think. We still have auto insurance, and my parents let us borrow a vehicle from time to time. We try to limit driving to days when the weather is below zero or above 100 (and we absolutely have to go somewhere that's not walking-distance or easy on the bus), or for that occasional trip to Target.

I'm finally writing about this car-free lifestyle partly because fellow bloggers have mentioned that should be an integral part of my blog marketing: car-free with kids in the 'burbs! you can do it too! Or something like that... but also because my parents went out of town (robbers: don't even think of it. we have several squatters about!), and they've left me with their cars. 

And I feel like a big lazy fattie because I haven't walked anywhere except Lakeside in a week. And I went to Target for no reason. And I went through the drive-thru Heine Brothers because I CAN. 

People, it's terrible. Parents, come back in town, so I can go back to normal. It took us a while to get used to the car-free life, and I'm afraid I'm going to become car-less again.
I don't have any car photos handy, so instead enjoy random pirate photo.


  1. You are awesome!

    I was car free for a while but basically used having a baby as an excuse to car again...My toddler, hubs and I bike a lot but still not as much as we could. I did the Heine drive-thru for the first time ever last week and I still feel dirty.

    You make such a good point about saving money by not setting foot in big box stores as often.

    Do people give you grief over "what if you or kiddo has a medical emergency?" I get that one a lot whenever I start talking about going car free again...

    1. Thanks, Jenny! I haven't gotten grief over the kid emergency thing. We do live about 2 blocks from an Immediate Care Center. But one of the nice things about being car-free (working on a different blog with a list of all the great things) is that I've gotten to know all my neighbors. So I feel like if there was a huge emergency (though likely i'd just call 911), i could just go outside and knock on doors or scream. It's also nice that my parents live 1/2 mile away.

      I've had my mom's car for a week now, and have gone through the drive-thru three times. Guilt. And I also spent $15 on fancy coffee drinks!!