This Lifestyle Change Can Save You $9,000 a Year

Getting your finances in order seemed like the perfect New Year’s resolution. That is, until you dug into your spending history and realized that you’re nowhere near a balanced budget.

But don’t abandon those financial goals just yet. If you’re committed to your financial health, transitioning to a car-free lifestyle could save you more than $9,000 per year — and that kind of downsizing may solve your budget problems, fast. According to AAA research, the average annual cost of owning a car in 2019 was $773.50 monthly, or $9,282 annually. That figure includes payments, gas, maintenance, and license and registration fees. 2019 marks the highest level ever for vehicle ownership costs since AAA began tracking the numbers in 1950.

Woman working at home with her dog.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Best cities for a car-free lifestyle

Of course, whether you can pull off a car-free lifestyle largely depends on where you live. Rural addresses generally aren’t practical unless you own a car. But the right city address can provide access to public transportation and ride-sharing, along with support for bicycling and walking. And that may be all you need to get by. Intrigued? Here are 22 cities that Cheapism has identified as the best places to live without your own car.

BEST CITIES TO LIVE WITHOUT A CAR

New York, New York

Denver, Colorado

San Francisco, California

Miami, Florida

Boston, Massachusetts

St. Louis, Missouri

Washington, D.C.

Austin, Texas

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Boulder, Colorado

Chicago, Illinois

Arlington, Virginia

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Fort Collins, Colorado

Portland, Oregon

Oakland, California

Baltimore, Maryland

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Madison, Wisconsin

Long Beach, California

Seattle, Washington

 
 

TABLE DATA SOURCE: Cheapism

Remote work to support a car-free lifestyle

A remote job can also reduce your dependence on that car, particularly if you live in a two-person, two-car household. If one of you ditched the commute for a remote gig, you could probably manage with only one car in the garage.

According to SmartAsset, the remote working trend is on the rise. In 2018, 5.3% of people nationwide worked remotely, and that’s up from 4.5% in 2014. The same report evaluates 100 cities on their suitability for remote workers, based on percentage of employees working remotely, unemployment rate, poverty rate, housing costs as a percentage of earnings, and density of coffee shops and bars. The table below shows the top 25 cities for remote workers.

CITY

PERCENT OF PEOPLE WORKING FROM HOME

5-YEAR CHANGE IN PERCENT OF PEOPLE WORKING FROM HOME

Scottsdale, Arizona

14.4%

3.2%

Denver, Colorado

8.7%

2.6%

Arlington, Virginia

8.8%

1.4%

Boise, Idaho

7.4%

3.6%

Portland, Oregon

9.6%

2%

Gilbert, Arizona

9.8%

3.2%

St. Petersburg, Florida

7.8%

3.2%

Raleigh, North Carolina

8.6%

2.4%

Chandler, Arizona

7.8%

1.1%

Austin, Texas

8.4%

1.3%

Plano, Texas

9.1%

1.3%

Charlotte, North Carolina

8.4%

3.2%

Fremont, California

6.8%

1.6%

San Francisco, California

6.3%

-0.7%

Durham, North Carolina

5.6%

1.6%

Henderson, Nevada

5.4%

1.4%

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

6.2%

2.5%

Seattle, Washington

7.7%

0.6%

Lincoln, Nebraska

4.4%

1.5%

Nashville, Tennessee

5.7%

0.6%

TABLE DATA SOURCE: SmartAsset

Notably, five cities overlap both lists, best places to live without a car and the best cities to work remotely: Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, and Seattle.

 

Considerations for a car-free lifestyle

Solving for your work commute may feel like the biggest obstacle to a car-free lifestyle, but it’s not the only one. You’ll have to adopt some changes to your routine, such as:

  • You’ll make smaller, more frequent shopping trips. You can only buy what you can carry, unless you make arrangements for your car-driving friends to take you to the store. Grocery delivery through Instacart could be an option also.
  • You’ll spend more time outside. Walking, bicycling, and standing at the bus stop can be unpleasant in very cold or very hot weather.
  • You might need to bring a change of clothes. A bike ride to work may leave you windblown and sweaty.
  • Longer trips require more planning. For road trips and journeys outside of town, you could always rent a car.
  • You might have more free time. If you rely on public transit, you’ll have more time to listen to podcasts, play logic puzzles, or read books.

Selling your car doesn’t just free up money for your retirement savings and other financial goals. It also reduces your carbon footprint, increases your exercise activity, and limits your exposure to high-stress traffic jams and fender benders. If you’re not sure it’s worth it, do a test run by parking your car for a month to see how your lifestyle would need to change. That’s the best way to know if 2020 is the year to go car-free.

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