Paying for Aloha

Apr 16, 2018 by

the big island

From our first Big Island trip

Ms. Money Counselor and I have booked a 23-night stay on Hawai’i’s Big Island next winter. Hawai’i’s not cheap, we aren’t 1%-ers, and Ms. Money Counselor’s far less convinced than me that our retirement piggy bank is sufficiently full. So how did I persuade Ms. Money Counselor to take on this cost, not just next winter but every winter for the foreseeable future?

To quote Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) describing to Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) how another party had out-maneuvered him for the Maltese Falcon: ”It was neatly done sir. Indeed it was.”

Background: The One-Car vs. Two-Car “Discussion”

With commuting jobs in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, since marrying in 1997 Ms. Money Counselor and I had been a 2-car family. When we moved to Vancouver Island in 2009, we brought along only one car. With me then working in our smallish city part-time as a Business Coach at a downtown location, a house chosen in part for ready access to bus transit, and Ms. Money Counselor’s work always being at the far end of an airline flight, we (or at least I, and Ms. Money Counselor was willing to give it a try) didn’t see a need to carry the cost of a second vehicle, post-move.




The one-car arrangement worked okay until Ms. Money Counselor mostly retired from work travel. That meant a) she was home and thus using the car a lot more, and b) she had much more time to exercise one of her many talents: making local friends. As inscrutable is it may seem to we introverts of the world, Ms. Money Counselor seems happier the more friends she has. And the more friends she has, the more car trips she’s making to see and do things with her friends. And so the more she advocated for acquiring a second car.

Suffice to say that after more animated “discussions” than I care to recall about how we jointly might best meet our mobility needs, I’d had more than enough and abruptly announced that I’d be using our car henceforth for only 10-20% of my personal mobility needs.

My Mobility Plan

I like to use our community’s bus system, and our home is in a good spot to easily catch a bus to all of the places I routinely go. In addition, regular readers will know I’m a big advocate of carsharing. In fact, I helped launch a carsharing cooperative in our city. After six years of modest growth and success, a year ago an effort I led to invite Modo—a large carshare cooperative based in Vancouver—to take over our city’s carsharing operations concluded with a win! As a bonus, I took on the task of helping out with Modo’s local operations in exchange for a monthly injection of driving credit to my personal account.

When I declared that, effective immediately, I’d be using our car very little, I was totally comfortable relying for my personal mobility on a combination of bus + carsharing + walking + cycling. I’m not going to pretend this option is equal in convenience to a personally owned vehicle sitting in the driveway. But this, to me, is crystal clear: the convenience of getting around by car is nowhere near worth the added fixed costs alone of a second vehicle.

Segue to The Big Island of Hawai’i

After a trip to the Big Island three winters ago and then one to Maui the winter of 2017, Ms. Money Counselor and I were smitten with aloha spirit, especially me perhaps. We didn’t make it anyplace warm & sunny during the winter just concluded, but we’d pretty much decided we wanted to get back to the Big Island in the winter of 2019.

We were not in synch on how long we could afford to be on Hawai’i, given The Big Picture of our financial situation and prospects. For me, a month was both easily affordable and desirable. I think Ms. Money Counselor’s thoughts were more along the lines of half that long and perhaps every other year instead of annually.

Ms. Money Counselor’s Money Logic

For you later to appreciate my cleverness ;-), I must take a moment here to describe a particular aspect of Ms. Money Counselor’s money logic. In short, she applies different rules to “found money” or “extra money” or “unexpected money” vs. “anticipated” money we’ve actively or passively earned and banked.

Example: Ms. Money Counselor isn’t seeking work, and is expecting none. Yet a project is offered to her “out of the blue,” and she accepts. “Now we can update the kitchen!” she says. Okay.

Example: The Tweeter-in-Chief launches a trade war with China, causing our soybean futures short to pay off handsomely. “I think I’ll get the Eames lounge chair I always wanted for the living room with that money,” Ms. Money Counselor exclaims. Right.

This logic is nonsense to my money mind, but I respect that it makes sense to her, and I’m pleased to embrace her logic if doing so leads to us enjoying more time on Hawai’i.

My Mobility Choices + Ms. Money Counselor’s Money Logic = 24 Days/23 Nights on The Big Island

Very quickly—as within a few minutes—after terminating our series of repetitious “discussions” related to one car vs. two cars with the announcement that I’d be using our car almost never, the brainstorm hit me like a beautiful ocean wave breaking over a lava rock coastline: We can pay for an annual trip to Hawai’i using the “found money” I’m generating by choosing to alter my mobility lifestyle as an alternative to owning and driving a second car.

I went to the Canadian Automobile Association’s Driving Costs Calculator. This cool tool helps estimate the annual cost of owning + driving a car. Here’s the scenario I constructed:

driving costs

This is the smallest Prius, base version, used, driven sparingly, and 3 years old, i.e., a modest, relatively low-cost vehicle. (Why not choose an old, high-mileage vehicle you ask, to hold costs to rock bottom? Because that describes our current car, and it doesn’t make sense to me to own two old, high-mileage vehicles. Neither would be dependable on longer trips, and we’d have to replace one or both soon.)

The calculator’s results, in detail and summary:

detailed cost to drive

 

summary cost to drive

Shocking, isn’t it? Most people have no idea how much even a modest car costs them annually. They only think about a car’s cost when filling the tank and maybe when paying the insurance bill.

From my years of crafting carsharing sales pitches, I knew very well before I went to the CAA calculator that the annual cost of a car foregone would more than “pay for” a non-extravagant month in Hawai’i.

My Argument to Ms. Money Counselor

The Piece de Resistance:

I’m not willing to continue doing what we’ve been doing for eight years: sharing one car. That leaves two options: 1) Buy a second car, or 2) one of us stops using our one car. I choose the latter. Because of my choice to alter my mobility lifestyle and accept a bit less convenience and a requirement for a bit more planning, we’re avoiding $6,000+ per year in annual car ownership + driving cost. (We’re also burning significantly less $1.50/litre gasoline in our current car plus less wear & tear, but I’ll call that a wash with the $65 per month transit pass I’m now buying.) And because I’m the one making the effort to alter my mobility lifestyle while Ms. Money Counselor does nothing except enjoy a car that’s now always at her disposal, I feel justified in taking the lead in suggesting, using Ms. Money Counselor money logic, how this “found money” might best be spent. And I suggest an annual month-long trip to Hawai’i. (We compromised for the 2019 trip on a 23-night duration.)

Beauty, eh?

Afterword

The new arrangement is working out excellently. Since February 1st I’ve been using our car for my own trips even less than I’d expected. The bus + carsharing works out better than I’d anticipated, and my monthly Modo driving credit covers my carsharing costs, so no cash flow affect there. As we get into our good weather season, walking and cycling will boost my mobility options. Because of my new mobility lifestyle, I get more exercise, my carbon footprint has dropped, and I’m cutting traffic congestion and demand for parking space in my community while helping to improve air quality. Most importantly from a selfish perspective, my life is more peaceful. Best of all, Ms. Money Counselor will soooo enjoy our long stay on the Big Island.

It’s all good. 🙂

Aloha.

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