Save Money by Walking Instead of Driving
National regular gas prices reached $3.79 per gallon March 5, 2012. That's an increase of $0.27 from the same time last year. The arrival of the summer driving season in April will likely push the average even higher, with many analysts expecting to see the average topping $4.00 per gallon! Luckily, by making minor lifestyle adjustments, many people can walk away from the increase. There is no better way to burn less gasoline than to drive less. And a great way to drive less is to substitute walking—or biking—for short trips of less than a mile.
Of course, most people who rely on their cars for transportation have no choice but to continue using them. That’s just a fact of life in most areas of the country where distances are too large for walking and public transportation is too inconvenient or non-existent. That said, there are many situations where it is possible for even the most car-dependent people to substitute walking for short trips. It’s important to remember that driving vs. walking is not an all-or-nothing choice: making the substitution for just a few short trips weekly may be enough to offset the impact of increased gas prices on your budget.
Take the case of a driver who drives the average car the average number of miles each year. Assume he decides to substitute walking for driving thrice weekly to conduct errands at places one mile away. Thus, he will drive six miles less per week, which will save $3.51 at the composite national average driving cost of 58.5 cents/mile estimated by the American Automobile Association. According to the Department of Transportation, the average car gets 22.4 miles per gallon and is driven 12,334 miles per year. Thus, the average car consumes 10.6 gallons of gas each week. The $3.51 he saves by substituting walking for driving each week represents a “discount” of $0.33 for each gallon of gas that he buys. That is more than enough to offset the impact of the $0.27 increase in the price of gas since last year!
Six ways almost everyone can substitute walking for driving:
1. Walk to the Corner Store. Many people live within one mile of a restaurant, coffee house, drugstore, grocery store, bank, or other business they frequent. It is often easy to walk to these places, especially on weekends when we have more time. A great tool for finding out how close you are to the corner store compared to other people is www.walkscore.com. You simply type in your address, and the site provides you with a “Walk Score” between 1 and 100. The higher your score, the higher your opportunities to substitute walking for driving. The site also lists the distance between the address you entered and a list of different amenities. Along with your house, you can input the address of your place of work to look for other opportunities. You may, for example, be able to walk the ½ mile to buy your lunch sandwich, rather than drive there.
2. Walk to School. There’s no need to walk 10 miles through the snow like Grandpa says he did. But you don’t need to drive your child to school if you live close by. He’s likely to make more friends by walking, and getting in the habit of walking will help keep him fit and happy.
3. Walk to Church. Sunday morning is often the perfect time for a walk. You have more time, and can use the walk to relax on your way to and from church. If you’re lucky, you may be able to stop at a coffee shop or bakery on your way home.
4. Walk at the Shopping Center. Even after you’ve driven to the shopping center or downtown, there are often plenty of opportunities to park your car and simply walk between stores rather than fighting the traffic to move from one parking lot to an adjacent parking lot. We have a typical shopping center in town, and it’s amazing to see how people will park at Target and then get back in their cars to drive 100 yards to park at Lowes. Why not park midway between them and walk? Or park near the store where you plan to buy more things to carry back to your car? Similarly, once you’ve parked downtown, why not visit several stores rather than getting back in your car and trying to find another parking place (and plugging the parking meter with more coins!).
5. Walk to Socialize. Walking is a great way to socialize. There are usually no distractions, and so you can often have conversations without being interrupted. So think about taking a walk with your friends or family members rather than driving someplace where you’ll end up talking less.
6. Walk for Exercise. Many people drive to our local fitness center just to walk on the treadmills. While that may make sense if the weather’s bad or the person can’t navigate curbs or cracks in the sidewalks, it’s a perfect opportunity for most people to substitute walking for driving.