Monday, May 6, 2013

Challenges, regrets and mistakes

I walked away from vehicle ownership at the end of December 2011 when the lease expired on my 2008 CUV. I made the decision not to buy out my Chevrolet Equinox at what was a pretty sweet, pre-negotiated price ($9,998) when I realized my vehicle was a moving money-pit.

I was a late bloomer in this regard as I always needed a vehicle. It was my city friends who convinced me that my husband and I didn't need a second vehicle. I live near a major, although rural intersection that is serviced by both regional and GO transit. I can walk to a few amenities but if you want alcohol, you have to drive. If you want groceries, same deal.

Owning a vehicle made me lazy. Owning a vehicle also cost me a ridiculous amount of money - $8,048.00 annually, give or take a few dollars, just to drive to the GO station and make occasional trips around the GTA to visit family and friends one or two weekends a month. It was time for me to give it up.

I regret leasing the Equinox but I didn't know at the time that I would lose my job two days after I drove it off the lot. In total, it's $32,000.00 I'll never get back. When I made the decision to lease the Equinox, I was working for an IT firm as a consultant and I traveled to meet with clients. I would also be able to claim a portion of the lease payments on my taxes, at least, that was the plan.

My 2000 Ford Focus wagon wasn't aging well and with over 150,000 clicks on the engine, it needed major maintenance work I just didn't want to pay for at the time. The A/C no longer worked. The heater blew and as much as you try, you can't drive without heat when the temperature is below 5C outside. Only one windshield wiper worked (the passenger's), two windows wouldn't go down and the lift-gate needed new hydraulic arms. I decided the car had to go. Then my employer of eight years decided I had to go. My position was eliminated, I was shown the door and stuck with a brand new vehicle I had no idea how I was going to pay for.

As a final nail in the coffin, the only jobs I could find were in downtown Toronto. I wasn't about to drive to the city core every day so this meant I had to cough up another $275 a month to take the GO train (still cheaper than parking). So that added another $3300.00 to the already $8000 I was spending a year for transportation. It's sickening, I know, but it's not sickening when owning a vehicle is a necessary evil and justifiable.

I tried Leasebusters. No one would bite. Thankfully, I eventually found full-time, permanent work that allowed for our household budget to accommodate the additional expense of GO Transit, but all I kept thinking about was how much money we'd be saving if I hadn't gotten rid of my Ford Focus, if I had just procrastinated a little longer. If, if and if.

I regret getting rid of that car. It was a mistake. I should have just spent the money and fixed it.

The first challenge of not owning a vehicle presented itself when my husband's hours changed at work last Spring and I had to do daycare drop off in the mornings. I bought a bike and bike trailer and biked my daughter 2.2 kilometres (one way) to her daycare centre in the mornings and then biked back home, changed and caught the bus. I did this from May to October last year.

I also decided to change my diet. My husband is diabetic (Type 2, non-insulin dependent). He consumes very little sugar and watches his starches. He recently joined a gym. He's my inspiration to live better. Because of him, I no longer eat bad foods, over-eat, indulge or skip breakfast. It took almost three months for me to kick sugar from my system and four to six months for my body to adjust to eating three times a day. I cut my daily caloric intake in half. I am just starting to get into a routine of drinking water throughout the day. It's all been about baby steps for me. In 12 months, I lost approximately 32.4 pounds.

This Spring, I realized my daughter is too big for the bike trailer. Pound-wise, she's well under the weight restriction of 100 lbs but height-wise, she's too tall to sit comfortably. I moved her from the daycare centre to a babysitter who lives within a reasonable walking distance from us. This morning was the first day of our five-month journey of walking 1.65 kilometres every morning to her babysitter's. After I drop her off, I walk another 700 metres to the bus stop. Add in the 1.2 kilometres I walk to the office from Union and back, and the walk from the bus stop to my home, I'm walking a total of five kilometres, five days a week. I was going to join a gym but now I can save that money.

The only mistake I made was not wearing running shoes this morning. Instead, I put on a pair of shoes I have not quite broken in and I am paying for this in spades right now. I managed to catch my regular GO bus after waving frantically to the driver from across the highway (there was no way I was running as the back of my heels were rubbed raw) and I hobbled onto the train when the bus ride was over. The rest of the day will be like this.

Tomorrow, it will be more about comfort and less about fashion.

The great thing about this challenge is there is no alternative. It's not like I can give up the morning walk and hop into a car. I can't say, "Screw this" and abandon the plan. We're walking whether I like it or not.


Squiggles said...

Good for you CJ.

In a similar situation myself: though I am one person and the car broke down. Just haven't gotten around to replacing it. But I am lucky in that there is a shoppers and a couple of grocery stores a few blocks away. Throw on my backpack and walk there and back. I also rent a car once a month for the heavy lifting.

I take advantage of the bus discount or I walk to the GO station. (Side note: discovered this weekend that the bus discount works on Sundays!) There and back is close to 5 kms. But I do suggest proper walking shoes or if you do not have those, running shoes. I say this because I have been having a 6 month battle with some tendonitis in my achilles tendon that just doesn't want to go away.

C.J. Smith said...

Over the years, Squiggles, I have had so many challenges with my feet!
Plantar fasciitis was the worst but I invested in shoes made by Orthaheel and losing the weight made the condition go away. I also ensure I wear a supportive slipper around the house so I'm never bare foot.
I'm really proud of myself. This is a slow process, the slowest I've ever done but I haven't put any weight on and I'm also re-conditioning my body and overhauling my relationship with food. It took years to develop these bad habits and will take as long to correct them.

lilnat86 said...

CJ - I am so proud of you! Although I don't have the same dilemma with needing a car (my fiancé doesn't drive, we only drive on weekends and can do a lot of the maintenance on it ourselves) I know exactly what you're talking about with the whole getting healthy and being active.

I've been seeing a personal trainer weekly, and attend 4 of her classes a week. She prides herself on being affordable AND accessible and it's because of her energy and attitude that I keep going ($25 per 1on1 with her, and $55 for 2 months @ 4 classes a week). She's an amazing trainer and I've never been happier begrudgingly sweating it out ;) I'm even running in the Sporting Life 10K this weekend in support of Camp Ooch for kids with cancer and it's my first running event!

I've lost 20 lbs since November and although I'm not rapidly dropping the weight anymore I've noticed a dramatic change and increase in my energy, my happiness and "things" are starting to smooth out and flatten a bit ;)

Keep it up, you're an inspiration and it sounds like you've got a great family who keeps you motivated! So proud of you!!!


C.J. Smith said...

Hi Nat
I really appreciate the support!
And it sounds like you're on your way to a better and healthier you.
Isn't it amazing how these small changes come about?
I plan on posting more about my progress such as where I'm at come the end of September.

Unknown said...

Go to WalMart, go to the golf section, and get one of their 62" double layer golf umbrella for $15. You will want it.
I envy you ... wish I would quit being lazy and lose 100pounds.

Sylv said...

I am proud of you (because instilling pride in strangers must be your intent, right?).

I lost 50 lbs last year, started a c25k training program, ran/walked a 5k two weekends ago, and am signed up for another 5k on the 26th. This from someone who wouldn't run across the street!

C.J. Smith said...

Small changes can make a huge difference. But sometimes taking something away gives you no choice but to stop being lazy!
Feeling proud of one's self is a big motivator and Slyv, I proud of you! Your journey is inspiring!
Allan, I'm all set for rain and have one of those big umbrellas you described.

TomW said...

A few comments:
1) It's sickening that an 8-year old car (your 2000 Ford Focus in 2008) had so many problems. Cars should last longer than that.

2) Leases suck, financially speaking. Buy a 3-year old car instead and save yourself a ton of money. Even if you borrow 100% of the cost, it's still cheaper.

3) I walk 2km each way to/from the station, and wear running shoes. I keep my formal work shoes at the office. (I used to wear my work shoes for the walk, but they would wear out too fast...)

C.J. Smith said...

The Ford Focus wagon we owned was one of the first to be sold in Canada from a bad batch produced at the Mexico plant. It was a lemon. Had we waited another 8 months, we would have wound up with a better product.

Kelly said...

I just need to say, companies always seem to know when the 'best' time to lay you off is. I got laid off a week before taking possession of my new (more expensive) house. Too late to do anything about it. Luckily they paid me out huge and in 2 months I found a job paying more that allowed me to get home earlier. But still. I feel like the big bosses sit around and giggle about doing this to people because it seems every time that the person has just bought a car or home or is just about to get married.

C.J. Smith said...

You can't imagine how much your comment rings true for me.
I knew my employer for over 12 years and worked for him for 8. I considered him a friend. Months before I leased the Equinox, he knew I was car shopping. He had numerous opportunities to caution me. Companies don't just restructure in a week - it's months in the making.
He could have suggested I wait. He could have said, just wait and see what car deals there are in January. Anything.
He could have thrown me a bone but he didn't.
I was hurt but it's business and like my dad says, "There's no friends in business".
I was a fool to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I worked at an office for more than 15 years and was 'laid off' along with 50 others. My boss just sat there while the department head told me the news. I didn't have a spouse or children, however they didn't get rid of staff that did have children. And who worked in FAR less busy departments. I'd busted my ass working overtime, coming in early, working through lunch and for what? They are definitely not friends at work. And the friends I had didn't even keep in touch 6 months later. I'm a much better judge of character after all of this though ��.