I Ditched My Car, Traveled MORE & Saved $304 Per Month

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I Ditched My Car, Traveled MORE & Saved $304 Per Month

This article is the first of many leading up to #CarLessWeek from July 13-17, 2015.  It is full of ideas for anyone frustrated with a slow, stop-and-go commute every day… or just wanting to lessen their impact while increasing their happiness.  Specific resources are listed for residents of Greater Des Moines, but similar resources are available in most cities for those willing to ask.


First, let me say that I love to drive — off road.  I hate, hate, hate commuting in traffic.  One is adventure.  The other, torture.

I grew up racing through southeast Iowa forests — crossing rivers and slinging mud — on my dad’s four-wheeler.  I drove his truck on the farm when I was 8 (ran it into a pole) — his tractor at 10 (stuck it in the mud).  Driving basically anything will always be FUN for me.

shoot-your-commute_v2-smallThere is very little about being traffic, creeping along at 10 mph or coming full-stop on I-235, that I consider fun.

I remember exactly where I was when I decided to kick my car habit.  I was on National Student Exchange at Chico State in 2002, when Jane Holtz Kay came as a guest lecturer on her new book, Asphalt Nation.

The more parking space, the less sense of space.

~ Jane Holtz Kay

The history she shared frustrated me emotionally, but what I clearly remember her saying was that she had been car-free for over 10 years in the city!

What?!  The idea hadn’t even occurred to me, and I had one semester of college to go.  Do people live this way?

asphalt nation

Jane still rode in vehicles.  She took the bus, taxis, and had staff pick her up.  That life seemed so simple to me.  Something clicked.

He personal story gave me a romantic nostalgia for the simplicity of farm living lacking from the urban campus lifestyle in which I had spent the last 3 years.  If she could do it… bring it on!

I told myself, “When I move back to the UNI for my last semester, I’m selling my car.”  I bought her book to keep me excited about the prospect, and started planning.

And I did it.  I went car-less for the first time.  I’ve only owned cars sporadically over the past decade since when my living/working situation and the resources available demanded it.  October 2013 was the 3rd time I ditched my car, and now I’m officially addicted to the lifestyle and choose where I live to ensure I keep it going.


With some planning, here’s what happened for me two years ago.

  • I sold my car — immediately pocketed $2000 into savings
  • I took the bus, a couple taxis per week, and rented on weekends
  • I SAVED an additional $304 monthly in expenses!

Drive-in banks were established so most of the cars today could see their real owners.

~ E. Joseph Cossman

Here’s the best list ever (beyond money)…  I also received the following soft benefits:

  • No more road rage — I read books, calm as a Hindu cow, on bus to work
  • No more parking tickets — or anger when finding the ticket on my car
  • No more speeding tickets — or similar anger issues above
  • No more driving in circles frustrated looking for parking — or paying for it
  • No more remembering when to park on which side of the street
  • No more scraping stupid ice off windows on winter mornings — Hallelujah!
  • No more maintenance costs — or leaving work to get the car fixed
  • Plus, on weekends, I rent and test drive a new car of my choice (boom)

Someone asked me about dating.  “Don’t you worry your girlfriend will think you’re poor?”  My answer is:

  1. My girlfriend isn’t shallow, and…
  2. No.  People who live in cities take taxis and Uber all the time.  You actually get to talk to each other, stare romantically into each other’s eyes… because you can afford this chauffeur-of-sorts with all the money you’re saving from not owning a car.

Financially, I knew it was at least a break-even in my head.  But until my friend TJ asked me to “prove it,” I never had put all the numbers down on paper.  When I did, it blew me away!  I’m more excited than ever to not own a car.

I felt like Tracy Morgan in the movie Cop Out.

And now (thanks to TJ), I built this spreadsheet to share with you — so you can figure out what selling your car would save you.

Click here to download my Go CarLESS Spreadsheet (Excel).  Note, there are 2 tabs to fill out.


Simple.  Today, I set up my life in a way that makes it not just possible but super-convenient.  You can still use these same ideas regardless of where you live.  And we’ll write about each of them in more detail in the next 2 weeks.

#1) Bus –  use a GPS app like RideTime

#2) Bike – get your own at The Des Moines Bicycle Collective, rent from a program like B Cycle (find more bike-share companies on BikeMunk)

#3) Walk – simple enough, especially if your city has Complete Streets or is a walkable community

#4) Taxi – use apps like GoTaxi and Uber

#5) Rent Car – on weekends to travel, ZipCar during the day, or take MegaBus/Greyhound

Leading up to July 13-17 #RestYourCar week, try one of these modes of transportation per day.  Play around with what’s available in your city.  Get used to the resources available to you.

I’m not married with children, but I do know several married couples that have upgraded from a 2-car family to a  1-car family, and it made sense for them.  Everyone has to evaluate their own situation obviously, but if you’re married with kids — let me know!  I’ll connect you with some awesome mentors!


  • What’s stopping you from selling your car?
  • What’s missing in your city that would make the difference?
  • What’s an even better idea than selling your car to have a positive impact?



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

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