Mar 25, 2008

Live where you work, work where you live

It's true. The cost of gas is high. And we Americans have a love affair with our cars. What to do?

We green gazelles have a couple of choices here. We can cut back our spending in a different area to cover the rising cost of fuel. We can buy a hybrid (although the idea of purchasing a brand new car, wasting all those resources and dollars, makes my inner gazelle very unhappy). Or we can drive less. Less time wasted in traffic, breathing in all those toxic fumes. Unfortunately, many of us drive to work, and work far enough away where not driving is not an option.

Where we live, there is no public transportation to the city that most commuters head to each morning. My partner, in his quest to work at a job that he cared about, commuted to a suburb of that city for nearly three years. It was a great move for his career and he got valuable experience which made him more marketable. But last summer, when fuel prices were rising and predicted to go much higher, he began working hard at finding a job in his field in our small town.

The best way to do this is to look constantly. Check the websites of all of the potential employers at least weekly. While you wait for your dream job to be posted, write a killer resume and cover letter, and pick out your interview outfit. And figure out what you'd be willing to give up to work in your town.

It might have been worth it for us to take a job in another field in order to get those 10 hours a week in the car back, or even taking a job that was less than full-time. The money savings may have even covered that. For us, it was easy to take a pay cut (although luckily he didn't need to take much of one). The cost savings in fuel alone made up for it. When you added in the cost of having more than one car, including insurance, repairs, car payments, etc, it was a no brainer. Plus, with extra time not being spent in traffic, he could do house projects that we had considered paying someone else to do. Now he walks to work each day, which is good for our wallet, his stress level and health, and the environment.

I moved to this community for a job, so I have always worked in the community where I lived. It wasn't until about 2 years ago, though, that I stopped driving to work. You can bike from one side of town to the other in 15 minutes, and yet it took me years to stop driving everywhere.

After making an effort to keep the car in the garage, it was probably a good 3-6 months before it became habit to walk or bike. Once I got over that hump, I discovered a pleasing side affect. Suddenly, taking the car felt like a hassle, much like taking the bike had previously. I'd have to open the garage door, find a parking spot, etc, and I didn't really save any time (it takes me 5 minutes to get to work by bike, 15 on foot). I retrofitted a burly bike trailer to have a flat bottom and now I just hook that up when I need to get groceries. I now get exercise every day, without making time for it or paying for a gym membership.

If you are looking for a money saving opportunity, consider looking for work where you live, or moving to the community in which you work. And break up with your car!

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