column0930The Monroe on a Budget column runs Tuesday in The Monroe News. Here is this week’s installment:

Have you ever thought about how stressful your life would be without a car?

Whether the situation is related to lack of a license, inability to pay for repairs, or a lifestyle decision, none of the alternatives come without a noticeable out-of-pocket cost or inconvenience.

Here are three examples:

  • My mother-in-law cannot see well enough to drive. When she reached that point about three years ago, she turned in her driver’s license for a state ID card and took her leased car back to the dealership.
  • When I was a junior in college, the transmission went out on my car. A tow truck operator helped me get the car into a safe parking spot, where it sat for three weeks until I had enough money for the repair bill.
  • My 25-year-old daughter is without a vehicle right now. The reason involves an expensive mechanical failure on a vehicle that has already needed pricey repairs during the past year. She had considered going car-less should she move to a bigger city, but wasn’t prepared to do that yet.

How did each of us manage, given the fact that the person involved was living alone, or in my case, with friends who had no car?

  • Most places my mother-in-law she wants to go are near her apartment. Because the trips are short, she has relied on a network of friends and family members to get to where she wants to be and keeps cash on hand to give her drivers gas money. One friend takes her to church, someone else takes her to the pet food store, my husband takes her grocery shopping. The challenge she sometimes runs into is scheduling rides to coincide with specific appointments.
  • When my car broke down when I was in college, my panic involved getting to work. I could walk to class, church, the laundry center and bank, and had a cafeteria card for the dining hall. But my job was four miles away, two days a week, and my shift ended at 11 p.m. Although the city bus operated late, I was hesitant to wait at a bus stop at night when my co-workers could not watch out a window for me. As a result, I took a taxicab to work for three weeks. The taxi solved the immediate problem, but the cost ate into the money I really needed for the car repair.
  • My daughter close enough to her workplace that she often walks anyway. Her transportation dilemmas include how to handle grocery shopping, since her neighborhood options are limited to a small deli and a farmers market. Visits with family or her boyfriend also will be severely restricted, as none of us live in the same town as she does. To handle some emergency errands and come home for a weekend, my daughter rented a car for three days. But it remains to be seen whether sporadic car rentals and an otherwise car-less life is cost effective or practical even with a walkable work commute.

Now that you’ve considered the out-of-pocket expenses and logistics involved of life without a car, even temporarily, can you understand the panic in someone’s voice when their previously reliable transportation plans just fell through?

Readers may contact Paula Wethington at paula@monroenews.com or (734) 240-5745.

 If you are interested in budget-friendly living in southeast Michigan, subscribe to the Monroe on a Budget weekly newsletter; read my column every Tuesday in The Monroe News; or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

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