I have an almost pathological aversion to spending actual dollars. I don’t think I’m alone; one of the favorite tactics of financial bloggers for someone who has trouble controlling their spending is to tell them to spend cash for everything. For that reason, it’s usually not a bad thing. An aversion to spending leads naturally to frugality. Unfortunately, it also means that I haven’t been riding the bus much. I know intellectually that $1 isn’t much, but my hindbrain yells to me that it’ll be $2 for the round-trip, $3 if we stop at the grocery store. And $3 is real money. I could get a shirt for that at Goodwill!
In reality, it probably costs just about as much to drive the same places, what with gas prices, maintenance, and parking. But apart from parking, I don’t have to pay that immediately and in cash. They’re disconnected from my travel experience.
The big exception to my penny pinching is travel to campus. As a student, I always hated coming in to campus because it was such a hassle. The metered spots, when they were open, had a 1 hour limit, which isn’t enough for a whole class, let along several classes. To park anywhere else, you had to have a parking pass ranging from $80 to $300 a semester. Even then, those passes didn’t guarantee you a spot. It just meant that you wouldn’t be towed if you found one. The expensive passes let you park anywhere, but the cheaper passes gave you fewer options. Many times during a semester, I had to drive around for fifteen minutes or halg an hour until someone in the right type of space drove off and I could park.
And it was stressful. If I didn’t find a parking spot in time, I’d be late for class. That’s bad enough as a student, but I lived in fear of it as a teaching assistant. My only real accident happened while I was desperately trying to find a spot on a snowy, icy day. For a while, Maggie lived in a place about twenty minutes’ walk from my building, so I’d park there and walk in when I needed to get to campus. The twenty minute walk was so much nicer than twenty minutes of circling in my car, hoping to find a place.
At the time, I tried taking the bus occasionally, but we were slightly further south than the furthest south route, so the bus only ran once an hour and took 30-45 minutes to get to campus. Depending on class times, that meant I’d often have to take a bus an hour and half early. The bus also stopped running relatively early, so I could be trapped downtown if I had other errands to run.
This semester, I’m back on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, I’m also on a different bus line. This bus comes every half an hour and only takes 15 minutes to get downtown. We’re also situated right along a loop, so I have two chances to catch the bus, which makes me much more comfortable about getting to campus on time. Given all this, any my memories of car stress before, I planned to get a six-month pass. It’s a little cheaper if you use the bus quite a bit but, more importantly, I’d no longer have to pull cash out of my wallet to ride the bus. My pacified hindbrain could imagine that the whole thing was free.
The icing on the cake is that with my new ID, I actually can ride for free! The new route also uses hybrid buses, so my environmental impact is even smaller. What a great win-win scenario!