Recently, there’s been a big push and meetings in our community centered on self sufficiency and keeping money spent in the local community. Here’s a different twist on that theme.
What would you think if you could save $3000.00 to $12,000.00 year after year and keep a large percentage of the money saved in the local community? Would that make a difference in your life? You really can do it but you’ll have to change some of your thinking and lifestyle choices to make it a reality. One thing is for certain, the changes will make a positive impact on your health.
First you have to answer a few simple questions to see if it will work for you. Do you drive a few blocks to go to the market? Do you get in the car to go to a friend’s house that’s a block or two away? There are others but they’re all connected and I think you know where we’re going. If saving thousands per year, maybe your life in the process, and walking or riding a bike is totally out of the question there’s no sense reading on.
If you live in a small town, nothing can be too far away. Most large cities have malls within easy walking or cycling distance. If you live on the outskirts, is a fifteen minute walk or five minute ride to the store too much of an interruption in your daily routine? If you make $30.00 per hour, you’ll have to work an extra 100 hours per year to pay for your car, insurance, gas and routine maintenance for automobile based trips to the store.
The other day, I saw one of the main advocates of keeping the money local in the small town where we live community, drive to the store for one small bag. As he was getting in his car, his wife drove up and did the same. Probably, they’ve never even thought about how much money goes in the tank and where that money goes once it’s spent at the pump. Besides the gas, don’t forget about multiple car insurance, maintenance, the cost of buying a new car every three or four years and where the money go for those expenses? You can bet it doesn’t circulate in the local economy.
A 2008 study in Portland, Oregon found their bicycle-related industry brings $90 million to the local economy every year. In our community, we know about bicycle tourism, a tour comes through every few years pumping considerable amounts of revenue into the local coffers. Individuals touring through bring in more, it’s just not as much at one time and harder to track. Wisconsin claims it has a yearly $1.5 billion bike related economy. Walking is far more difficult to calculate in community income figures but it’s enormous in personal savings.
Have you ever given any thought to how much you really save by driving across town, or in our case 52 miles one way, to save thirty cents on a loaf of bread. Where we used to live it was 65 miles to a fairly large town. A neighbor boasted to me once about saving a dollar per package on some cookies, they bought four packages, by driving to town. They also did a small amount of other grocery shopping while there and probably saved a few dollars. But, they had to have spent at least $25.00 for gas and taken three hours or more of their time to go there and back. Net gain none…net loss-at least $20.00.
We check prices with a fine toothed comb and overall we would save about 1.5% on our grocery bill by driving to town. We get good fuel economy but the gas alone would cost $15 to $18. I’m not even going to calculate how much we’d have to spend to break even. Plus, the money is gone from the local, and probably regional, community. Who knows where the food came from and what was done to it before it made its way into our grocery bag. We try to buy as much locally as possible and from sources we know. That way we’re aware of what was done and how it was grown.
Does cycling and walking help save money for the merchant? Think about how much can be saved on parking space alone. Would the savings be passed on to the consumer? If there’s a lot of competition for your business, those that didn’t pass the savings along would go the way of Blockbuster Video. Not long ago in Portland, Oregon a local grocery store opened a new market with more parking for bicycles than for cars.
Most of us complain about rising government spending. How much could be saved if billions weren’t spent every year on new freeways, repairs to existing roads and general maintenance. Walking and cycling paths cost between $3000.00 and $60,000.00 per mile to engineer, design, build, stripe, including curbs and traffic signs. Freeways and major roadways cost from $5 million to $39 million per mile.
One expense that comes to mind is litter control. How often has anyone seen a walker or cyclist tossing trash along the highway. Those slobs are out there but most walkers and cyclists are usually far more aware of the environment…they interact with it in a more in touch manner. Forward thinking communities realize that becoming walking and bicycle friendly is one of the best investments they can make.
If getting in a car and driving a few blocks, or even quite a few miles, is the high point of your life, maybe you need to take some time and seriously reevaluate your priorities.