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Most of my adult life, I had to learn how to thrive living without a car both in the city and the country. I am 52 and have only owned a car for around a total of 10 years. Right now, I live in the country. However, I have lived many years in cities of varying sizes. As it is quite different to live without a car in the country compared to the big city, I will discuss both.
While it may sound nearly impossible, if times are tight, give it some serious consideration. You can save the money of a car payment (if you have one), car insurance (which you must have), parking, and the ever-increasing costs of fuel and maintenance.
Living without a car in the city
There is no question that living without a car in the city will save you money. You don’t spend on the car and the insurance or the expensive parking. When I lived in the city, it was enough to be paying city rent, never mind the car. As well, it can be easier to go without a car in a city. In most cities even of a modest size of, say, 20,000 people, there is some public transportation system. Smaller cities or towns generally have a bus system. In larger cities, you will have the subway system, too.
In my city years, I had many creative solutions for getting around. First, I would walk wherever I could: I tried to choose a location to live where I could walk to the grocery store. (Yes, I had one of those foldable grocery carts to make it easier.) For longer trips, for example, to my classes, I would rollerblade. (Yes, I was younger, then.) No, I would not even consider rollerblading on busy city streets now!
When I could afford it, I bought a monthly subway or bus pass. As time went on, this became a tax credit, so there was a benefit there. Sometimes, though the pass was too expensive. I would only use a bus or subway token when I absolutely needed it. Before, there was a policy that you could step on and off the system until your transfer expired. This meant that I could stop to run quick errands, like grab a few groceries on my way home from work for no extra expense. This really helped me keep my spending on transportation low.
What if I need to get out of town?
I have always loved the train. We have a pretty good city-to-city train system in our province in Canada. Sometimes, however, I was going where the train just didn’t go. Then, I would rent a car. I would develop a relationship with one local rental agency. As I rented fairly regularly, I was offered a “business” rate by one agency. At another, I got a deal where you would rent a few times and get a free rental. One time, the car I had reserved to go to a friend’s wedding wasn’t available: they upgraded me for free to a Candy Apple Red brand new Mustang. That was a fun drive, to say the least!
Eventually, a car-sharing program came right to my neighborhood, in fact to the parking lot of my apartment building. I bought a membership immediately. The car-sharing program opened up many possibilities for me. Finally, I had a way to buy and return home with large items or go for a big grocery shop. The car-sharing program gave me a great deal of freedom and flexibility.
Living without a car in the country
I now live in a rural area pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It is more difficult to thrive and live without a car. There is no bus, no subway, nothing within walking distance. The road I live on has no paved shoulder. It is traveled by huge dump trucks and transports. I would not ride a bicycle on it for fear of my life. Although my work is nearby (around a seven-minute drive), that is 10km away. For all of these reasons, I choose to have a car.
However, I have a friend who is thriving without a car. How does she do it? We have a wonderful local bartering network. My friend works seasonally, and her work is just down the highway from where she lives. When she needs a drive to work, she has been able to get one from the bartering network. In addition, rural employers out here are more accustomed to having workers who don’t have cars. Her employer would often give her a ride home. On the farm where I work, good employees are hard to come by. My employers would sometimes drop one of our young workers off at home after work.
In addition, in a small-town community, co-workers are often willing to drop someone off on their way home. This happens where I work on the farm, where a guy without a car was hired and he would only work shifts with his friend who drove. Another example is a young worker with no car who is dropped home regularly by a co-worker.
People living without a car in rural areas don’t ONLY need to get to work
The bartering network also provides help for people without cars who needed to go other places. Sometimes when I was heading down to the nearest town (around a 25 minute drive), I would take my friend with me. She would be able to run errands and go grocery shopping with me. The bartering network would help drivers willing to do this with a gift card for gas. As I had lived most of my adult life without a car, I knew what it was like. I enjoyed driving people different places, such as medical or legal appointments, or taking someone to volunteer work that they really enjoyed.
You will also see a lot of kindness towards neighbors in rural areas. Here is one example from our locale. My elderly aunt, who is 82, helped a woman without a car work in the next town about 30 minutes away. This woman was an immigrant working hard to try and launch a business. She worked in the tourism industry on a tour boat. My aunt would drive her pretty regularly to work, although sometimes the captain of the boat, coming from a nearby town up the highway, would also drive her.
While living without a car in the country might seem like a daunting idea, I hope that I have shown how the close knit nature of the small town community can really help to bridge this gap.
Have you ever tried living without a car?
“Car” you with us?
Do you currently own a car? Do you live in the city or the country? Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty tips offered here for living without a car? Do you have a tip you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.