Lessons from Low Car Diet: Saving Money by SEPTA

12 Oct

Unfortunately, the ‘hand-me-down-post-college’ car my parents lent me at age 23 died a few months into my (second) real job-post college.  Therefore, with no choice living in the suburbs, I purchased a brand new Nissan Sentra.

One of the advantages of taking the train is how much money I’ve been saving.  Each week, I fill up my gas tank at least once for around $32.  Every 3 months I have to change my oil for $30 bucks.  I wash my car for $3-5 every 2-3 weeks. My car payment is $312, and insurance is around $100/month.  This adds up to about $555 per month to maintain my car.  Plus, now that my car is 3.5 years old, I have the occasional bender I don’t expect: new tires, brakes, etc.  The new tires were between 5-6 hundo wayyy out of my budget.

The convenient SEPTA pass has taken around 40 out of my budget per week, for a small $120 in comparison per month.  Another factor I didn’t really take in: I can literally take care of my life in the few miles surrounding my office: Car, haircuts, food, groceries, libraries etc. But when I’m at the office with no outlet, I’m forced to get everything done between 8:30-4:45, and can’t spend money since I can’t get anywhere. I condense my errands once I get home and get only bare essentials: No mid-day cupcakes, mac & cheese or other occasional treats I take for a break.

Overall, I’ve been saving a few smack-a-roos these past few weeks!

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My Train & SEPTA Wishlist

11 Oct

Technology is so damn cool.

I owned my first iPod in 2004, right before my semester abroad in London. I couldn’t tell you a device I depend on more, constantly listening to tunes and easing my mind from the outside noise.  I’m actually drafting this post on the train currently, on my sweet work laptop.

I still haven’t caved into purchasing a smartphone (I know, I’m so not-hip) but have a few gadgets I’d like to purchase with the spare $10 grand I’d like to win:

  • Kindle

o   I’ve read 3-4 books in the past few weeks. While books are pretty sweet to read and check your progress, it would be nice to have a selection in case you’re ‘almost finished’ one book or going for a longer trip

  • iPad

o   I purchased 3 papers today in honor of Halladay’s No-Hitter last evening. What would be cooler is if I could just look up the articles on one simple screen.. and write… and do everything else Apple is cool enough to create a device for.  I totally had iPad envy on the train the other day… Or I’d settle for:

  • A mini-laptop

o   I toyed with the idea to purchase a $250 Dell mini laptop about a year ago so I could blog from almost anywhere… Since there’s a (thick) line between needs and wants, I overcame this temptation and didn’t purchase. Instead, I pick and choose when I ACTUALLY need my laptop or just convince myself I’ll open it at a later time. (And plus, email makes things so convenient to send over a document!)

What’s on your wishlist for your commute?

(picture courtesy of apple’s awesome website)

Learning to be Organized

8 Oct

When driving, I typically bring anywhere from 3-5 bags with me on a daily basis.

Car Bags consist of:

  • Gym bag. I go to the gym on the way into work, so I have my work clothes, toiletries, brush, makeup, and other necessities most people use in the morning, before they leave for work.
  • Laptop bag: For working at home
  • Lunch Bag: my lunch bag is on the smaller scale, and I enjoy eating ginormous salads for lunch. Therefore, I have 2 lunch bags. And always bring too much fruit/veggies so I don’t get tempted to purchase Doritos or other desperation foods when hungry. So this turns into a reusable Whole Foods sized bag.
  • Errands Bag: If I run to Target, Trader Joe’s or Wegmens during lunch, I use reusable bags to lessen my impact. Normally these bags are empty on the way to work, but filled on the way home.
  • Purse: Where else would my iPod, cell phone, books, etc. go?

On the train:

  • Purse (reference above)
  • One smaller brown shoulder bag: I have to carefully select & fit my lunch, choice of laptop or exercise shoes/clothes in this bag, so it varies based on what I have to work on and what I’m doing post-work.  This requires me to assess my day and force myself to say “are you REALLY going to do (x, y or z) today? I’ve gotten quite wise between expectations & realities with this little question.

While I may not have lost weight from my body during this Low Car Diet, I’ve lost pounds from what I’ve been carrying & traveling with in my car!

Phillies Playoff Phever – Happy Red October!

6 Oct

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, friends! Happy Red October!

The eco-conscious Phillies start their playoff run tonight, and yours truly was lucky enough to score tickets for tonight’s game! (Actually, thank you Jeremy, my favorite brother.)

Since the game starts at 5:07, I had to plan my low car commute around the schedule.  Apparently our corporate center SEPTA shuttle runs hourly between 10 AM-3 PM (Even though trains run every 30 minutes), so luckily my awesome co-worker is taking me to the train station!  Luckily this game-time coincides with my dinner time feeding, so I can grab something veggie-friendly at Citizens Bank Park.

Who’s excited to cheer for awesome pitches like Halliday, Hamels, Oswalt & Ryan Madson? And no worries – CHOOCH is on for tonight!

Bikes, Pedestrians & Cars – Can’t We All Get Along?

5 Oct

Philadelphia’s suburbs (for the most part) are impossible to survive sans car. Narrow streets, poor lighting & spread-out communities make cars a necessity.

Living in Philly is very possibly by public transit, walking & biking. Although Spruce & Pine have bike lanes, it can still be pretty scary to ride amongst cars. SEPTA runs the El & Broad St lines,  but characters can be quite shady off work-hours & non-sporting events. Homeless beggars & theft incidents quickly turn off visitors & residents off-peak times.  Philly’s Greenworks initiative is incredible and very innovative – Attempting to make Philly America’s “greenest” city is nothing to frown upon. 

However, Philly has quite some progress to make before coming close to its goal.  Philly’s “Unlitter Us” campaign hosts rallies in neighborhoods, and ads implicate our dirty city reflects us as citizens. How can we change these negative perceptions?

Hosting city cleanups, cleaning our subways & transit systems, or increasing patrol on “off-peak times” can all help better our city’s image.

How do you feel about Philly’s image as a dirty city? What do you think Philly has to do to change this perception?

What I’ve Accomplished on the Train (Instead of Car)

4 Oct

Although I enjoy the freedom of driving wherever/whenever I please, I’ve accomplished quite a bit while taking the train!

For example:

  • Reading 3 books (2 of which were Chelsea Handler & I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell…But every so often, I need a light read…)
  • Edit copy/projects for work (I promise, I’m not just writing this for my boss!)
  • Update my Twitter with my non-smart phone
  • Snooze
  • Write a blog post
  • Apply Makeup
  • Text friends to catch up
  • Randomly run into a friend, who encourages me to go to the gym afterwards
  • Read U-Lock instructions for my new bike
  • Eavesdrop on bits of random convo…
  • People-watch
  • Refresh & re-read my Monster Miler volunteer instructions!
  • Study the landscape of Philly
  • Cool off from my sweaty sprint to the subway
  • Update my “to do” list

What do you like to do on the train?

SEPTA’s TrailPass

2 Oct

SEPTA’s weekly pass features 2 colorful, vivid burgers as the background.  While I understand McDonald’s commercialism as the reasoning, I think a HUGE advantage of public transit is burning calories as you  go from trains, subways, buses and walking to your destinations. 

Eating meat has a bigger impact on the environment than a (mostly) veggie diet, not to mention McDonald’s isn’t CLOSE to a wise protein choice. If you’ve ever seen Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, you’ll discover how bad fast food is for you.

What do you think? Should SEPTA display pics of Big  Macs on their weekly passes?