What if I told you that my life is now BETTER since I got rid of my car?
What if I told you it wasn’t just better in one way… but MANY ways?
It’s not an unheard of thing getting rid of one’s car. Some people never even have a driver’s license their whole life, in fact many people do this in a lot of other countries. However Australia (as always) is a bit different because our cities are so spread out. You could drive for almost 3 hours and STILL be in the same major city if you wanted to. If you try that in Europe you could cross 3 countries!
But this isn’t a piece about how you should go and sell your car (you really should though), I want to let you all in on a little secret I stumbled onto many years ago. It came about because I’m just naturally an efficient person. Things that are inefficient annoy the living CRAP out of me and I MUST fix them immediately (I seriously have a hard time stopping myself it’s like I’ve got some kind of disease or something!). As such my life has been honed into a model of efficiency and the main way I’ve been able to achieve this is by making things simple. This in turn has really helped a lot with paying down our mortgage so quickly.
Simplicity = Efficiency
Do you wear a watch on your hand? I used to. However it then dawned on me that hey? I have a mobile phone that will tell me what the time is (and far more accurately at that!) so why the hell do I need a watch anymore!?? Obviously this isn’t the most Earth shattering of enlightenments you’ve ever heard but it does serve to demonstrate my point well.
Cons: A watch has to be maintained. It costs money to purchase. It takes time to keep clean. It runs slow/fast and thus slowly becomes incorrect, requiring adjustments. It can catch on things and damage them. It itself can get damaged by other things. It costs money to be repaired or get a new battery. It leaves a tan line.
Pros: On the flip side, it can look pretty and be easier to glance at than a mobile phone.
Now because I care very little about how I look most of the time and I can take the minor inconvenience of pulling my phone out if I wish to see the time, I promptly ditched my watch a long time ago. By simplifying my life to now not include a watch I have eliminated all of those above “cons”. My mobile phone gives me precise, year round atomic clock accurate readings and I save time and money for the rest of my life. Not a bad result. This simple example goes hand in hand with Lifestyle Deflation but it also has a much more subtle effect over the long term.
Efficiency = Savings
When I did the numbers I realised my car was costing us around $2,000 a year… and it sat in the driveway about 99.999% of the time. This actually caused more problems as well as we would drive it so infrequently that when we did try to start it up there were often issues (it was 17 years old). So I thought about simplifying my life a bit more and getting rid of it entirely. We would still have our 2007 car but having two separate vehicles just seemed a bit unnecessary.
I began by taking the train to work 100% of the time (as we get free public transport) and seeing just how long we could go without using my car. If I walked to the station each work day we easily were able to go a month+ without much effort. It was pretty clear to me at this point that it needed to go but I still had nagging “what if’s”. What if BOTH of us needed to be at two separate locations at once? I didn’t want to inconvenience DW just because I no longer had a car. What if she took the car and I needed to go somewhere for some odd reasons really urgently? What THEN!??
But then it struck me. By getting rid of the car I’d be saving (at least) $2,000 every year. If one of these whacky “what if” scenarios ever DID come up and I needed to be somewhere urgently well then I could just take a taxi. Even if this happened every month and I spent $50 on a taxi each time I’d still come out in front by over $1,400 AND I’d have a simpler life. So I sold the car.
I no longer have to pay for rego, parking, insurance, fuel, repairs (which were a decent amount on a 17 year old car), tyres, oil and God only knows what else. This alone saves us over $2,000 each year and more as the price of petrol goes up. I no longer have to worry about people scratching or damaging it when I park it. If there’s bad weather I don’t have to worry about it overheating or getting dented by hail. We have more room near our house for people to park due to having 1 car instead of 2. I no longer have to deal with checking the price of insurance or making sure I service it regularly.
All of this saves us money and time (which is as good as money).
Savings = Increased Mutilation Powers
You’ll never guess what I did with that $2,000/year savings… yup. I put it to work paying down our mortgage faster.
Whilst changing things up so that we had another $2,000 each fortnight would have made a much bigger dent in how quickly we paid off the mortgage, it nonetheless helped. The point to realise here though is that you don’t just simplify ONE thing in your life. You take your time and investigate EVERYTHING. This in turn saves you money which you can put towards your mortgage and increase your savings rate. So how many clothes do you have? What about cars? Food? Insurances? Mobiles? Landlines? TV’s? Rooms? Beds? Computers?
All these things and more should be looked at one by one and the most efficient and simple way of owning/operating them should be determined and implemented. Anything that’s not required should be sold off. Do you have an old fridge sitting out the garage you don’t use much? Sell it off. It’s slowing you down, costing you money and making your life more complex. As a result, all these things will slowly add up to multiply your ability to pay down that debt quicker. You will also slowly get more and more free time (due to less complexities) to do the things YOU want. Few people truly appreciate just how much of our lives is dealt with “stuff”. Cleaning it. Buying it. Selling it. Organising it. Reorganising it. Setting it up. Putting it away. Multiply that out by the number of things you own and you’ll start to get an idea of “where all the time goes”.
For me, the biggest benefit of having an efficient and simple life is that I can do the things I want quickly. You know when you see that guy on the PC and he carefully selects the text with the mouse and then right clicks to choose “copy”. Then right clicks again to choose “paste” instead of just using “CTRL+C” and then “CTRL+V”? That kind of thing drives me bonkers because I know I can do that task about 50 times quicker… I have to stop myself from grabbing the PC and doing whatever it is they’re doing myself (like I said, it’s a disease).
After years of simplifying and trying out many different ways of doing things my life is extremely efficient now. I can get ready and leave for work at any time in about 1 minute (assuming I’m dressed) because I only need to take 1 item plus food. My email inbox at home/work is ALWAYS empty. I rarely get less than 8 hours of sleep. I can make multiple healthy and cheap dinners in under 5 minutes. I eat (apparently) WAY too quickly. I only need 4 items of clothes for my work (two free company shirts, one pair of pants and one pair of shoes) even though I work in a formal office environment and look just as professional as everyone else there.
By analysing and cutting down everything in our lives we have an incredible amount of free time on our hands. We have less possessions to deal with, less issues from those possessions to deal with, less stress, we get to spend more time together and many other things I’m surely overlooking. One of the big benefits though that comes from simplicity is health. Without a second car we often walk to the station more often which, whilst not a great distance away has no doubt increased both our fitness levels. Quite often we’ll walk to the shops together now and leave the car at home!
By removing a great deal of complexity in our lives we have more free time and thus can use that time to relax and enjoy life. This greatly reduces stress and has even allowed us the time to properly investigate and fix a medical issue that could have gone on for much longer. It’s these, almost imperceptible benefits that makes simplifying your life really worth it. But there’s one final reason simplifying is fantastic.
It Makes Decisions Easy
Studies have shown that when a decision has too many options (say buying an item in 40,000 different colours) people overwhelmingly freeze, freak out, can’t decide and for the most part put off or don’t make the decision (this is called Analysis Paralysis). This is why you only get the choice of a few colours when buying a car or mobile phone. If they were to sell the Galaxy S4 in 100 different colours no one would be able to figure out which one to buy! This is the same for your general life too.
When you have too many gadgets, too many cars, food flowing out of your fridge (my parents are notorious for this one), too much media to watch and 1000 other things… you get confused, rarely ever appreciate them and waste a lot of time trying to decide on things. When you have 1 really nice jacket you don’t sit there wondering “what you should wear”… you open the closet, grab your jacket and off you go. I’ve also found that you enjoy it much more than having 5 (probably mediocre) jackets too.
Many people see simplicity as a bad thing. “Oh you sold your car? I could never give mine up!” They see it as a punishment or sacrifice that is a hard thing to deal with. For me though, it’s the direct opposite. If I could figure out how to live my life whilst owning NOTHING I would jump at the opportunity. It’s the ultimate efficiency, however I haven’t gotten to that point just yet. Still when you look at all the benefits of simplicity (specifically helping you to pay off your mortgage quicker) I hope that you can start to see it in a new light. Give it a try today and just simplify 1 thing in your life, then let everyone else know in the comments so they can do it too.