So far, the month of September has been an extremely busy one. My job has me working 10-17 hour days (I’m on salary pay, and unfortunately there’s no overtime), and my weekends are seemingly non-existent and will remain that way until mid-November. Knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of adolescents is the only thing that makes the effort on my part worth it. Needless to say, blogging our latest financial progress has been difficult to stay on top of, although I have been keeping close track of it all via my spreadsheets. Month 5 of this journey is concluding next week and some big changes have taken place lately from when we started this in May, so stay tuned for a large Month 3-5 update coming next weekend. Lately, we’ve both been biking to work, I sold one of our cars, we’ve all but stopped eating fast food, and buying used on Craigslist has become our new norm. I can already sense in myself a major ideological shift. I view the world differently, and see for the first time how outrageous and disgusting the habits of American people are (myself included). I feel as if I’ve become unplugged from the social fabric, and am the only one who sees the truth. [Insert obligatory Matrix reference here]. These thoughts are reinforced on a daily basis as the largely overweight population of our town speeds past me in their pickup trucks wasting their hard-earned money on Whataburger and gasoline, while I cruise at 15 mph on my 1982 Schwinn World Sport.
As a challenge to myself, I’ve been keeping track of the number of work days this school year where I’m commuted via bicycle instead of in a car. So far, I’m at 17 bicycle commutes out of 21 total work days and have biked the past eleven days in a row. To take this even further, I’ve challenged myself to complete as many errands as possible without using a car. To illustrate how absolutely feasible this is, here’s a list of distances from our apartment to our most common destinations and the amount of money the IRS estimates we save in the long-term by not driving to those locations ($0.51 cents / mile).
I find it motivating that every time I strap my helmet on, I’m keeping money in the bank. This amounts to TONS of cash every month, when you factor in the amount of 6.8% interest that will be saved by having extra money to throw at the debt, and ultimately the 7% long-term compound interest growth of this money by having it regularly invested over the course of my lifetime. Given these cold, hard facts, I simply can not believe why I have not seen a single bicycle commuter in the entire 15 months that I have worked in this town. My wife and I must be the only two-wheeled commuters in the entire county
Another thing that empowers me is how intrigued people are by my bike-riding habit. My co-workers, students, and their parents love to comment on what I do. Most of my students think it makes me “cool” and they are always quick to point out when they saw me riding somewhere in town. Those that ask why I do it get it an earful from me about frugality and fiscal responsibility, as I know 95% of them won’t learn that lesson at home or in school. I also feel accomplished when the bankers at the Wells Fargo show shock and amazement that someone could actually get to their bank WITHOUT DRIVING! Riding is a habit that is public and noticeable, especially when done in a community where you both live and work, and if I were to stop, I would be fielding questions for weeks as to why I gave it up. Because of this, I suppose I am obligated to continue, and that obligation is solid motivation for those mornings where I really want to just drive to work “just this once”.
Lastly, I’m pleased with the benefits that I’ll receive for my health. The first time I rode the all-uphill route to the school back in August I thought I was going to die and nearly dismissed bicycle commuting as another crazy pipe dream of mine. Fast forward to yesterday where the ride, although not “easy”, was certainly not physically taxing for me, and was evidence that I’m making progress. My wife even commented for the first time last night on the beginnings of muscle definition in my thighs. That means a lot to a lanky guy with virtually zero muscle who has never worked out in his life. So here’s to a long life full of riding and hopefully free of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Blood Pressure and their associated costs.