Biking update: paying for supplies

When I started biking to work again, I needed to invest in some bike-worthy clothing for the winter months. While getting to work via bike is much cheaper than via car, it does have its costs. The trick, as with all saving money things, is to keep them below the cost of other ways to get to work.

(The only thing cheaper than bike riding would be walking to work, as it only requires a decent pair of shoes and something to keep the elements out. It does take substantially more time, though.)

In my case, I can pay $5 per day to ride the train round trip, or I can bike and pocket the cost of the commute. When I make a big bike purchase, I like to see how long it takes to pay it off. This keeps me in economical bike gear as bike jackets can be very expensive.

While I was riding to pay off my bike gear, someone stole my bike light and I had to pony up 6 more days of biking to break even on that.
I spent $115.00 on gear. Here’s what I bought:

At Goodwill, I went to the men’s section and bought three sweaters/sweatshirts. I was hoping for wool to keep off the rain, but no wool sweaters were to be found. I also bought four long-sleeved long-johns-type shirts for a base layer. Also, because my job involves walking to the bank to deposit checks, and not wanting to wander the city in my biking outerwear, I bought a second work coat to leave at work, which cost $30.00. Goodwill in Portland tends to be a rather expensive endeavor, considering it’s all used clothing that are donated.

My plan was that I would have the base layer and the heavy sweater and that would be enough to keep me warm. When it rained, I would use my bike poncho. However, I forgot something important: pockets.

Unless it is very cold (which doesn’t happen very often in Portland, even in the winter) I start my commute wearing those small stretchy gloves one can buy at every discount store in the winter. Halfway through the ride, my hands warm up and I take off the gloves and shove them in my pockets.

No pockets meant I lost some gloves, because they fell out of my basket. Also, I wasn’t adequately lit, which meant bringing along a reflective vest which was yet another layer to put on and take off.

So I had to pony up some more cash and return to my trusty affordable jacket to wear while biking (as opposed to a bike jacket.)  The orange monstrosity you see, is a flagger windbreaker. I previously had one in yellow, which I wore for many years. I was very excited to see that now I had the option of orange. This jacket costs around $40, is a nice layer against rain and cold, is obnoxiously reflective and also has pockets. I recommend such a jacket to all economical bike riders. In fact, I wish more people would wear them because I feel 20% dorky in mine and if they were more ubiquitous, that feeling would probably fade.
As the winter wore on, I realized I had overbought. I could have easily done with two sweaters and two base layers, which would have reduced my cost by about $20.

Overall, I’m happy with my biking clothing choices and feel that they served me well during the cold season. I’m looking forward to using them again next year, when they will be “free” to use.

Of note: I don’t factor in the cost of annual tune-ups to my bike commute costs. My tuneup this year cost $250 which means it would take 25 weeks of twice-per-week biking to pay it off. That’s too depressing to think about. I’m going to have a bike even if I don’t commute to work via bike, so I’m looping annual tuneup price into my “general vehicle expenses” category.

Trucks. 90% not needed

Reading all of Mr. Money Mustache’s posts has changed me in several ways, but profoundly when looking at what cars Americans choose to drive. And while sometimes Mr. Money Mustache can seem a bit blame-y when it comes to haranguing people about their debt and lifestyle choices, I’m totally there with him re: cars. And I’m completely there regarding trucks.

I love a good truck. When my parents inherited money while I was in my teens they paid off the mortgage and my dad bought a truck. I loved driving it. It was driving stripped down to the basics: standard transmission, rough cloth upholstery. To this day, something about a bench seat still gets me. Trucks are handy for hauling things, and they’re big, without being as asshole-ish as large SUVs.

However, I think in 99% of the cases, they are completely unnecessary. The above three trucks are parked in these spaces every day that I walk this way to work. I’m guessing they belong to the construction workers who are building the big tower down the block. But these trucks aren’t used for construction. They’re used to get the construction workers to their job.

As Mr. Money Mustache points out in this post, the two things to worry about  with vehicles are fuel economy and passenger/cargo space. These two trucks fail on both counts. Assuming the construction workers are driving themselves to work, they could be doing so in a much smaller car, even something as small as a Smart Car. (Which cost a lot of money, now that I’m looking at the price.)

Yes, these construction workers may use their trucks for other things like hauling things on the weekend, or an after-hours job. But they probably do not. Like most cars in the USA, they drive us to work and back home again.

And do these construction workers own these trucks free and clear, with no car loan? Possibly, but not probably. If there’s one thing all the Financial Independence reading has reminded me, it’s that car loans should be avoided at all costs. If the people who drive these cars are paying loans plus interest, that makes them even more inefficient choices.

I don’t currently own a car, though I do pay for the use of one. I take public transportation to work and use it to get me to other places when the car isn’t available. It’s easy to say that I’m lucky–that I’ve got it easy, with a quick commute downtown. Not everybody has that option.

But I would also say that I arranged my life in this fashion. When I last looked for work, I applied for jobs that were close to my house, at least via public transportation. If the job hunt hadn’t turned up anything, I would have expanded my search, but I’ve done the hour-commute-each-way-via-public-transportation thing, and I don’t want to experience that again, if I can help it.

These trucks may make their owners very happy. But they also might be inflicting needless financial pain. At any rate, they aren’t a good choice for the planet. I’d like to see us, as a country, move away from big vehicles.

The end of the monthly pass and the beginning of Hop

My wallet was feeling overly thick, so I took inventory and found a lot of expired TriMet passes.
As reported in the Payoff! report, I’ve switched over to the Hop Fastpass Card. No longer will I see the monthly color and artwork.  It’s just that boring purple card for the foreseeable future.  Still, I am saving money.

Just in case you were wondering what the back of the TriMet passes look like.

Different ways to park your bike

Let’s talk bike parking.  Here, we have two examples of bike racks you would see in Portland, Oregon: the wavy line and the staple.  You will notice that nearly every bike is parked perpendicular to the bike rack.
The reason that one should park perpendicular to the bike rack:  other people.  If we lived in a vast world with few people in it, then it would be fine to lock your bike parallel to the bike rack.  But we do not.  Bike racks get a lot of use, so you need to leave room for others.

This e-bike riders has not gotten the memo. By choosing to park their bike in this manner, they have denied another biker a spot on the rack.  Because these bike racks are full, this is a particularly egregious gaffe.
If one wants to lock up both wheels, this can still be done.  After my expensive back wheel was stolen (back in 1996) I started locking both wheels.  I lock the expensive back wheel to the rack and lock the less expensive front wheel to my bike frame. I figure two locks are better than one, especially with my economical bicycle.

Cleaning out the wallet: $900 in TriMet Passes

TriMet monthly passes go on sale on the 20th of the month, so I always buy the upcoming pass while the current pass is still working.  This means I put the new pass in my wallet behind the current month pass, and then forget about ever removing the out-of-date passes.  

Theoretically, this is $900 of TriMet transportation.  But seeing as how each month is only valid for one month, and then becomes worth zero dollars, you are actually looking at a running total of $900, actual value: nada.

I think the first time I bought a monthly transit pass was for the T in Boston.  It was probably 1997, and cost $35.00, or maybe $37.00?

Soon these types of passes will go the way of the dinosaur.  TriMet is moving to a refillable card, something I’m not at all happy about.

Last commuting day on the Max

IMG_4671

For nine years I’ve worked for an employer who provided me with a monthly Trimet pass.  I have enjoyed this perk, because it means not only do I get myself to work for free, I can get around on weekends for free too.  Since we moved to North Portland in 2007, I’ve been commuting more or less daily* on the Max train.  My 30 minute door-to-door commute gave me ample time to read, to observe my fellow transit riders and to catch up on social media.  I will miss this part of my workday. It’s been great to be a public transportation girl

*Sometimes I rode my bike.  Once in a great while I walked.

I always wondered what Trimet worker had that job.

IMG_3466Think about it.  Every stop in the metro area has at least a piece of paper saying what routes service the stop and the stop ID number.  Bigger stops have a full poster including bus schedules for all routes.  Train stops and some transit centers have multiple posters with schedules.  Who are the people who are always making sure these are up-to-date?  Today, I caught a picture of one of them.