What if I told you that there was something you could do that would dramatically increase your level of fitness and disposable income, while simultaneously reducing your worries and your level of stress, while being environmentally friendly at the same time.
I'm offering you a chance at all of this, and all you have to do is cooperate by giving up your car.
Wow, that sounds like a really good deal, but I have a better one. How about I give you the finger, and you give me lease paperwork on a new Lincoln Navigator.
Most people I talk to seem to be violently opposed to the concept of living without a car. Many won't even begin to let the idea into their head, it just bounces off as some sort of joke. You might as well say, "Hey Monty, how about getting your testicles laminated?". Their brains simply cannot and will not comprehend that life is possible without a car.
A second category of people are willing to discuss the idea, but cannot get past preconceived notions. They think that living without a car means that they are poor, and that they will be somehow missing out on something. Or they can give a thousand reasons why they need a car, without ever stopping to realize that all the reasons they need a car were brought about by choices they made at some point.
You choose to drive to a job that is almost an hour away.
It never ceases to amaze me that people have no problem driving an hour to work, and then an hour home. Wasting ten hours of their life each week in the car. Then upon returning home they are in a terrible mood, because they just spent an hour fighting rush hour trafic.
People who walk to work rarely take jobs that are more than a 20 minute walk. No one wants to walk further than that. Because walking is real, you realize the time, otherwise you are just sitting passively in a car, not even realizing that your life is slipping down your leg, into the accelerator pedal, and out with exhaust.
You chose a job that takes an hour to drive to, why not choose one that you can walk to in ten minutes or twenty minutes? This has several positive side effects as well.
You chose to move 400 miles away from everyone you love.
You will never arrive late to your destination if you leave on time. In a car you are subject to the whims of traffic, police officers, and mechanical failures, any of which could delay in reaching your destination. Those simply are not an issue when walking, it is simply you, your feet, and the ground below you.
You will get plenty of physical exersize simply by walking to the places that you need to go. One of my friends is a member of a gym. He likes to drive 30 minutes (each way) to the gym, so he can use the treadmill for a half hour, talk about a waste of time.
You can decompress from your work day during the walk home. Walking is peaceful. A short walk may be a little tiring physically, but it can do wonders for you emotionally. But driving home in rush hour traffic will do nothing but elevate your levels of stress and anger.
This is a mistake a lot of people make. They say "I need a car because my girlfriend/grandma/gargoyle lives in Texas, and I live in Arkansas." This is usually because one of the parties moved far away, often in chasing their "career". Sometimes you just have to decide what is more important, being near the people you love, or getting a 10 percent salary increase (which you will piss away in driving back to visit your old home all the time).
Stay near the people you love. If you moved away, then move back. You should really make a decision about that girl in Texas, either marry her, or set her free. Long distance relationships aren't really relationships because a relationship requires time spent together. Living far away doesn't allow you to put in that time, or if you are putting in that time, then you are obviously living in the wrong place, and should just move to the place that you are visiting all the time.
You chose to move to that faceless new suburb that is 20 miles from everything except the gas station.
Stay near the people you love. If you take nothing else out of this writeup, then come away with that. Happiness is friends, family, and loved ones. That sysadmin job in Oregon might pay $2000 a year more, but it can never replace the people you left behind.
You don't even need a car to visit far flung friends and family. Driving long distances by yourself is usually just as expensive as flying or taking the bus. In fact, it is more expensive once you factor in depreciation on your vehicle (and just wait until you have a major breakdown 500 miles from home when you are supposed to be at work in 10 hours).
This might sound a bit rude, but is applicable if you are always visiting someone who moved far away. Why are you visiting them? Why aren't they visiting you? They are the ones who moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, so why are you shouldering the travel burden?
Poorly placed suburbs are a side effect of the desire to purchase the largest newest home possible, preferably in a "good neighborhood" (when most people say "good neighborhood" they usually tend to mean "one without poor people or minorities").
Housing developers don't want to spend a lot of money purchasing land, so they tend to develop new homes on the cheapest land that they can find, which usually means farmland/light woods on the outskirts of the larger urban areas. That means that the new suburbs are going up in places that have no businesses or other places of employment nearby, and usually do not have adequate highway access. Strict zoning laws tend to keep workplaces far away from these new suburbs for years after they are constructed, all the while they become harder and harder to get to, as traffic to and from them increases (made worse by the fact that they are often built right off the side of a two lane road, many miles from the highway).
Once you live in one of these suburbs you are trapped. You need a car because there is nothing in walking distance besides the gas station. Public transportation often doesn't even run (or runs rarely) in the newer suburbs, leaving the SUV as your only apparent choice for transportation.
You choose to spend $100-$1000 per month, just so you can drive to work.
An automobile is often the single largest expense that someone has. It is usually only surpassed in cost by housing, but is more expensive than housing for many people. What is that automobile used for? Driving to work.
Right now you should sit down and figure out how much money you really make, once you subtract your car from your income.
I bring home about $1100 per month. Out of that $1100 I pay a $256 car payment, a $164 auto insurance payment, and spend about $80 on gas, car washes, and routine maintenance.
That makes a total of $500 per month spent, just so I can drive to work (and that doesn't even count annual fees, such as inspections). That is 45 percent of my income paid, just to drive to work. I would actually make more money if I worked part time at the fast food place down the street from my house, and didn't have a car. I admit that my numbers are a little extreme, and yours will probably be friendlier. But that still doesn't change the fact that you are laying out a ton of money, just to drive to work.
You chose to put your life and livelihood in the hands of a car.
Take everything in account when choosing a job. Including the cost of the car to drive there. You might find that simply taking the closest job and walking will provide a larger income than taking the best job and driving.
If you are fond of your current job, then consider moving within walking distance and getting rid of the car, it will be like giving yourself a large raise.
Automobiles are dangerous, you already know that, so I am not going to talk about it at length. Instead I will talk about the other danger of cars, mechanical breakdowns, and the worries associated with them.
Any car out of warranty can break down at any time, and it is your responsibility to fix it, even if you can't afford it (cars that are under warranty may get fixed free, but you pay for that luxury in the huge cost of purchasing a new car). A breakdown can be as simple as an inconvenient $10 part that you can fix yourself, or as expensive as a $3000 transmission failure.
If you own a car, then your savings can be wiped out by a breakdown at any time. You are never safe from this. If you have no savings then you can be placed in thousands of dollars in debt, at any time. If you have no savings, and have poor credit, then you can simply lose your car and your job at any time.
I simply cannot count the times I have seen friends and family members end up unemployed and almost homeless because of an automobile breakdown. I have one friend in particular who is in a vicious cycle of taking delivery jobs that require him to use his own car. Then losing the job when his car breaks down a few months later, and losing his apartment soon after because he doesn't have money for rent. His friends and family always end up bailing him out. But he always eventually takes another delivery job, oblivous to what is going to happen (friend is currently 3 weeks into his latest delivery job, where he drives his 180,000 mile car about 50 hours per week).
You chose a lifestyle that requires a car.
I don't suggest just selling your car tommorrow, because it probably won't work if you try to do it that way. Instead you need to alter your lifestyle so you can get rid of the car. You will probably have to move and change jobs. But it will be worth it.
The most important first step in living a car-free lifestyle is to move somewhere that it is possible to walk, bicycle, and use public transportation to get where you need to go (you may already live in the correct place). Since you are already going to be moving, you should ask yourself if you are living in the right area in the first place. Are all your friends and family still in Kansas City, Kansas where you left them three years ago? Maybe you should just move back there to be near them.
The next step is to get a job that you can commute to without a car, and without an excessive bus ride. Ideally you should just be able to walk out your front door, cross the street, and be at work. But that isn't going to happen. So I suggest setting a maximum travel time of 30 minutes. How you get there is up to you (bus, bicycle, walking).
Once you have the proper job and living quarters, then you can begin not driving. Start by not driving to work, then gradually stop driving everywhere else as well. Once you get used to it, then you can sell your car. Or you can simply try the total immersion method where you sell the car immediately, and spend all the money on a ski trip, thus giving you no choice but to live a car-free lifestyle.
After a few months of living without a car you will notice a few things. First and foremost you will notice how much money has begun to pile up in your bank account. Secondly you may notice that you are in much better shape (from walking) than you used to be. Enjoy both of these, for they are your main reward for living without a car.