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It was forty degrees outside, my poncho had stuck to parts of me that I didn’t know I had, and I still had fifty stairs to climb.
Once you try to start being more frugal, you do things you never thought you’d do. I’ve suppressed an urge to reuse Ziplocs, and throwing out a perfectly good glass container makes me sad. I never thought I’d end up being the soggy person in the poncho crossing the street on her way to work. And yet there I was.
In Jauary of 2016 Mr. Picky Pincher and I found ourselves in a quandary. After running the numbers, we realized that financial independence was still 15 years away for us, and we would barely have enough funds to buy a house in the coming summer. We had to take drastic measures to cut our spending to meet our financial goals.
My personal frugal hero, Mr. Money Mustache, touts the benefits of walking or biking everywhere instead of our society’s default mode of transportation, the car. He’s also especially tough on financing cars, which he says you should never, ever, ever, ever do. While I’m more of a softie (or in his terms, a “whineypants”) than Mr. Money Mustache, I realized that our cars were the source of our financial pickle. It was our second highest expense, after housing, and it was making us broke.
We had loans on both of our cars. Mr. Picky Pincher’s car cost $300 a month, while my payment was a gigantic $450 a month– something I should have fixed before marriage but didn’t have the good sense to do. Ideally, we wanted to get rid of all of our car payments, but finding the liquid cash to do so was difficult. I ended up giving my Dad my vehicle, since he was looking for a more efficient commuter car. Mr. Picky Pincher and I smiled and washed our hands of the $450 a month.
We were fortunate enough to live down the street from my office. Since my work was so close, the logical choice was for me to walk. Mr. Picky Pincher had a longer commute, and needed the car to get across town. Commuting together wasn’t a great option, either, since Mr. Picky Pincher had to be at work thirty minutes earlier than I did, meaning that I would get to work 45 minutes early every day. So, the plan was that Mr. Picky Pincher would be the commuter and I would be the one to hit the pavement.
We agreed that it was an entirely temporary situation. The plan was to cut our spending as much as possible, and pump everything into savings. Then, we would have the cash to buy a used vehicle, ideally a truck.
What Walking to Work Was Like
I ended up walking to work for a month and a half. That sounds like a very short amount of time, but I can assure you that it was a long month and a half. From February to March, the Texas weather fluctuates and can be downright miserable to folks like me who prayed for sunny skies.
Mr. Picky Pincher is an avid outdoorsman and outfitted me in the best layerable hats, scarves, and backpacks. There were a few days where I poorly planned my outfits and suffered the consequences, whether it was sweating through my jacket or clamping down on my chattering teeth.
It sounds vain, but there were things about walking to work that made me feel a little sad. While I’m frugal, I like to be girly. And it’s hard to be girly when you walk in the muggy mornings uphill and jog up 50 stairs to get to work. I rarely had a use for a cute purse during that time, since I used my backpack to carry everything to work.
I also ended up sacrificing fashion most days for the comfort of my Reef flats and “I-just-woke-up-and-I-don’t-give-a-damn” hairdo. I was in shape and spending less time and money on my appearance, but walking to work made me feel less like myself.
Speaking of getting in shape, after two weeks of walking to work, I was able to complete the uphill walk more quickly, and didn’t lose my breath as much on the stairs. My Restless Leg symptoms also improved. If you’re looking to get in serious shape, commuting to work on foot is the way to go.
The other obvious pro to walking was the savings. A one-way trip to work would save at least $10 in car payments and gas. When I was tired or felt upset about walking, I would remember that the 20-minute walk saved us $10.
Why I Stopped Walking to Work
The first two weeks of walking weren’t bad at all. In fact, I preferred it to driving. But a few things happened that made it less appealing.
- I felt gross. It’s a vain thing to admit, but walking to work made it hard to me to feel like myself. I would clean up in the mornings for work, and two minutes into my commute I was left with a bird’s nest for hair and runny eyeliner. While the hair and makeup were annoying, I really didn’t like being covered in sweat by the time I made it to work. I started almost every day hot, sweaty, and angry.
- It wasn’t safe. Statistically, it would seem like walking would be safer than driving. But my city is not kind to pedestrians, and drivers are very aggressive. I had three close calls where I almost was run over– all of which happened when I had the right of way and was crossing legally. Drivers regularly sped down our road and I became increasingly nervous about my commute.
- We bought a truck. Oh happy day! In late March we purchased a 2007 Ford F-150 for Mr. Picky Pincher. It isn’t a fuel efficient vehicle by any means, but it was cheaper than keeping my $450 car payment, and it meant I had a car to drive to work. Now, we have the added utility of a truck, which will come in handy when we renovate the house we plan to purchase this summer, and I can safely get to work.
Our plan was a little unconventional, but we ended up saving ourselves thousands of dollars in the long run by switching to a used car that we paid for in cash. Many people across the world have no choice but to commute by foot to work. I salute these people, because after a month and a half I was ready to give in, and Mr. Picky Pincher was probably sick of me complaining.
Walking to work requires dedication, and the experience depends on the weather, distance/nature of your commute, and how well you deal with sweat. It was a strategy that saved us a lot of money, but it’s not something I would personally repeat unless it was totally necessary.
What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done to save a buck?