Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Round-up: quiz yourself!

And... I'm about to head off on vacation again. (I love having 23 vacation days!) See you in a week.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The true costs of driving-- how much could you save on transportation?

Could you save money by switching from a driving commute to a transit (and/or carpool/biking/walking) commute? There are more costs to be considered than simply the price of gas, and these calculators will help you figure them out:

  • For a simple approach, the American Public Transit Association has a handy calculator which lets you plug in your commute mileage and enter the precise gas prices, MPG, parking costs, and public transit costs that fit your situation. It also includes (based on the size of your car) an estimate of the increased expenses per mile you drive for maintenance and tires, an important addition that often gets left out of back-of-the-envelope calculations. Check it out here.
  • This calculator is similar to APTA's, but lets you customize the value for maintenance/tires, and has a field for per-mile savings on depreciation/insurance/taxes/financing.
  • If you want to get more detailed there's a really cool "Car-Free Diet" website (sponsored by Arlington, VA but it works fine for people anywhere.) It not only explores the cost of driving vs transit/carpool/walking/biking, but also the calories you could burn by walking or biking, and the environmental benefits as well. It's extremely customizable-- from picking the actual make, model, and year of your car, to entering up to 3 different driving routes at a time, to including your weight and age for the calorie-burning calculations! Then you can see numbers and graphs for the money saved, calories burned, and CO2 emissions reduced if you changed each trip to transit, carpooling, biking, walking, or telework (ie "What if I took transit to work twice a week and walked to the grocery store on Sundays?") It's a pretty incredible tool-- check it out here!
  • And if you want to take it a step farther and really explore the externalities (costs that are borne by people other than yourself) of your driving, try this calculator called The True Cost of Driving. Not only does it add a few other factors to your personal driving costs such accounting for the average cost per mile of car accidents (health care and property damage), but it also lays out things like how much the government pays for highway maintenance, repairs, and waste clean-up per mile driven; a variety of pollution impacts per mile driven; and a bundle of other effects your driving has on society.

How much does your transprotation cost you? Have you run the numbers recently? How do you do your calculations? Is there anything these calculators are missing?

If you're thinking about switching, check out:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Round-up: contentment!

I wish I was as content as the people featured in this week's round-up. I'm not... but I'm working on it!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Link round-up: the "Can you help my zucchini plant?" edition

I'm getting mixed results from my container garden.  My tomatoes are growing and reddening and the first ones will probably be ready to eat within the week (yay!)  But my zucchini plant, on the other hand, has not grown a single female flower, which means no chance for zucchini to grow.  I know that it's fairly common for there to be only male flowers for the first couple of weeks, but it's been about a month now and still no females.  I'll make the most of it by eating the many tasty male flowers that keep blooming, but does anyone have any advice, or am I just doomed to a zucchini-less plant?
Anyway, on to the links:
  • I've seen this story linked a number of times lately, about a family downsizing their home and selling the proceeds to charity.  Here's FMF's take, When is Enough Enough?
  • I liked Blunt Money's post Of personal legends"When he was a child, that man wanted to travel too. But, he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he's an old man, he's going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable at anytime of their lives of doing what they dream of."
  • Then there's Dangerous Norms: When a Treat Becomes a Routine Matter, a guest post at Get Rich Slowly that's by Trent of The Simple Dollar.
  • Wondering where all the women are in the personal finance blogosphere?  There's a near-comprehensive list up:  Wise Bread Spotlight: List of Top Personal Finance Blogs by Women

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Get free cab fare home in these 50+ cities/counties with Guaranteed Ride Home programs

If you commute to work any way other than driving solo-- if you take mass transit, bike, walk, or carpool-- then you should investigate if your local transit agency or your employer offers a Guaranteed Ride Home program that'll pay for taxi rides home if your usual arrangements fall through. And if you are a solo driver who's thinking about switching over but afraid of what'll happen in emergencies, well, you should read on too!

Guaranteed Ride Home (or Emergency Ride Home) programs are designed to get commuters off the road and onto public transit or another method of transportation, by helping assuage fears about how to get home in emergency circumstances. They are often sponsored by counties, cities, or transit agencies, but may also be sponsored by individual employers. If you enroll in such a program, then the sponsor will cover the costs of you getting home if unexpected circumstances interfere with your regular plans. Each program has its own rules, but typically "emergencies" are defined as unpredictable events like illness/injury of yourself or a family member, unscheduled overtime (verified by your employer), an emergency at your home (like a flood/break-in/fire/etc), or the early departure of your carpool driver. Covered events for bikers and walkers may also include severe weather.

If you register for the program, you'll qualify for a set number of trips home per year (often two to six.) If an emergency arises, typically you call the Guaranteed Ride Home coordinator and they'll call you a cab, although in some programs you can skip that step and just call the cab yourself (either filing for reimbursement later or using some sort of voucher.) Some programs cover the tip, some don't. They may also cover the costs of a stop at your child's school or daycare on the way home.

So without further ado, here are links to more than 50 Guaranteed Ride Home programs in more than 30 states across the U.S. (If yours isn't included, try searching for one anyway, since I certainly might have missed it.) There are also many employer-sponsored Guaranteed Ride Home programs, so you can check to see if your employer sponsors one (or advocate for it if they don't!)

Tucson, AZ

Alameda County
Contra Costa County
Los Angeles County
Monterey County
Orange County
Riverside County
San Bernadino County
Ventura County
San Diego


Washington DC


Broward County
Miami Dade County
Palm Beach County

Volusia County
Tampa Bay area



Madison County

Southeastern Indiana

Des Moines

Northern Kentucky
Northern Kentucky


see DC

Southeast Michigan

Kansas City
St. Louis

Minneapolis/St Paul


Southern Nevada

Upper Valley (New Hampshire and Vermont)

Santa Fe


Durham County
Orange County
Wake County

Southwest Ohio
Central Ohio

Eugene/Springfield metropolitan area

Southeastern Pennsylvania

RI:Rhode Island

Anderson County
Blount County
Knox County
Loudon County
Jefferson County
Sevier County



Frederick County
Middle Peninsula
Roanoke Valley

Kitsap County

Washington County