Thursday, May 22, 2014

Increasing “badassity” with a bicycle


I’m often late to the party and my recent love of bikes is no exception. Last December, when perusing Mr. Money Mustache for the first time (and by perusing, I mean devouring article after article when I should have been getting work done), I finally got it through my thick skull that I needed to be biking more. MMM is an ardent biking evangelist and this particular site is what inspired us to completely eliminate debt by the end of the year (which we are still on track to do, yay!) and just generally lit a fire under my butt to change how we live.

I’m a reluctant surburbanite, and when I’m whining lamenting the fact that I don’t live in a more central urban area, a lot of what I’m whining about is the lack of walkability or bikeability of the neighborhoods outside of the city.  Suburbs are designed for the car and as a result, most people drive everywhere. Its kind of a given that you hop in your car anytime you have to do something and truthfully I had never given much thought to trying to use my bike to run errands and y’know, get places. I’m ashamed to say that my bike sat in the garage for several years without so much as  a sidelong glance from me. This, despite the fact that our first home was within spitting distance of grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Our second house was far from anything we needed to get to, which was one of the reasons we decided to move.

After reading about curing my clown-like car habit and  getting rich with bikes, which both made me sheepish about my previous habits, I read this article about getting your groceries by bike and I knew I had to make a change. For funsies, I decided to look on Google maps and check out how close my house is to the places I usually go and, facepalm, virtually everything I need is within a bikeable, if not walkeable distance. I felt like an idiot. As someone who aspires to minimize my footprint on the earth, I’ve been stomping all over it with my excessive car habits.

What the hell have I been doing driving around all the time the last two years?!

I promptly went on kijiji and got myself a used bike trailer for $50. It being December and the coldest winter in like, 20 years, I did pretty much nothing about it until spring. I am still a bit fairweather about all of this after all.  The first nice Saturday this spring I had Jay tune-up my bike, hitched up my bike trailer and set off (somewhat unsteadily) to the grocery store. I took a nice quiet route and stuck to the sidewalks because I’m chicken and people text too much while they drive. I pulled up to the store and smugly smirked at the suckers trying to find parking spots in the frightening labrynth of a parking lot, locked up my bike and got my groceries. Advantage number 43897567 of biking to get groceries is that I couldn’t fit my kids in the trailer along with the food so I got to leave them at home, which left me in blissful peace to do my shopping. Fifteen minutes home and I felt awesome. I was sold.

Since then, I’ve had high points and low points, but I really am trying to use my bike as much as I can. Every week the kids and I bike to the park and the community centre to go swimming. I get groceries with the bike quite frequently. We went on a family bike ride to a local shop to get my mom her mother's day gift. Next week, I plan to go to Costco with my bike, which is a longer ride and the trailer will be much heavier. Check out THIS guy who is the winner of life for getting his Costco shopping done by bike with a real trailer.  If I have errands to do and I feel like I need to use my car, I’m trying to add the errands onto trips I already have to take, like driving to and from work.

Biking makes me so happy. Beyond all of the obvious financial and environmental benefits, I feel so blissful when I’m actually riding that I think I’d do it even if those other reasons didn’t exist. Truly, I feel like a dog with its head out of a car window when I’m zipping down the street. I love that I’m getting exercise and setting a good example for my kids, and heck, the neighbors too.

If you’re interested in the benefits of biking, check out this awesome infographic from about the benefits of riding your bike. And consider dusting off your bike, or getting one off kijiji, and see what you can do in your neighborhood by bike. You might be surprised how often you can walk or bike to things you’ve always just driven to out of habit.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I don’t want that


I’ve felt subtle shift in how I view making purchases in the last few years but even more so in the last few months, since embarking on a journey to blow up our debt.
Just the simple act of asking myself a few questions: “do I really need this?” “how much is there left in the home/grocery/clothing budget for this month?” “Is this exactly what I’m looking for or am I just looking to buy something?” has really made an impact not just on how much I spend but on how much I want to spend.
I don’t really want to buy anything anymore. This is very strange for me.
I was recently in a store I love that was having a70% off sale. Much to my surprise, I didn’t want to buy anything. The prices were amazing, the clothing was lovely as always, there was a lot of things I liked. I just didn’t want any of it.
So weird.
I’ve been chewing over this for the last week or so. In the past, just driving up to the store would have made my heart beat faster and I would have felt excited. I would have swept through the store, accumulating a huge pile of things to try on and would have had a hard time convincing myself to leave any or all of it behind. I would have had a totally distorted idea of what I needed. So this experience was a real shift for me.
Its made me realize how much this money saving and simplicity journey has impacted my motivations and values as well as my choices. I’m not restricting myself consciously from buying things anymore – I’ve just started intuitively turning away from buying stuff all of the time. Its really quite refreshing, if unfamiliar.
It will be interesting to see how this evolves over time, especially when our debt is paid off and our disposable income increases by several hundred dollars a month. Will I go back to wanting to buy all the time or is this the new me?