442 Reasons Why I Walk
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
I walk one mile every week day. Minimum. Well, at least every day I go to work, since that’s how far away I park.
I built in walking for many reasons. But it all started with $17. When I accepted a new job a few years ago, I lost the perk of free parking. I work in a small city, with parking ramps, meters, and paid lots. $17 is the biweekly cost of parking in the employer operated lots.
Now, I know you’ve probably heard tips like park at the back of the grocery store lot to build in a couple of extra steps and get those 10,000 for the day. But I chose to just do that every day. I chose to avoid all those convenient saved parking spaces, push myself to leave 8 minutes earlier, and walk a bit. While I started doing this for the money, I learned to love the extra few minutes outdoors every day.
Working Costs Money
Most people pay for the luxury of driving to work. That payment comes in many forms:
- Car maintenance
- Miles on their cars requiring buying new vehicles more often
- Gas for the daily commute
Even though I know that I could do better – drive less, bike commute, or move so I could use public transit – I haven’t done those things. That money that I’m spending feels reasonable. It’s the cost of having a job.
But that parking, now that is one step too far.
I am not paying $442/year to park my car and go to work.
We all draw our lines at different places, and I found mine.
How I Save $442 and Park for Free
Fortunately, my employer has a waiting list…a waiting list? Full of people waiting for that luxury of PAID parking at work. I’m thinking if the parking had just been ready for me on day one, I would have signed up for the fee to be taken out of my paycheck and not gone through the work to change it.
If you live in a city, chances are there are ways to get free parking, without risking your car getting towed! Here’s what I did in the first couple of weeks of work at my new job to find those coveted spots:
1. Embrace Walking
Walking is your friend. We all should move a bit more, right? And for me to find free parking, I was going to have to be willing to walk a bit farther. The free parking spots are not freshly available just outside my office door.
Well, there are four free parking spots literally outside the door, but I’m not sure what time I’d have to start to get one of those spots. (5:30, maybe? That isn’t happening. I’ve learned to like walking.)
After starting my new job, I started walking during lunch and on break to read street signs and posted signs at parking lots to find where the good spots are! (And by good, I mean free.)
Here’s what I found:
- Crossing the street (literally taking 10 extra steps) will get me to half off meters. Those are the best bet in a downpour or ice storm.
- Walking one block, I can snag 2 hour free parking.
- Walking 1.5 blocks will score me 3 hour free parking.
Well, none of those options were super good. I don’t want to have to move my car three times per day (yes they do enforce those X hour parking spots in many cities). One $10-20 ticket will quickly take away the savings I’m winning by not paying for parking.
Then the saga of walking on lunch continued, but I started going too far to complete research on a break. And after two weeks of literally walking up and down every block and reading all the street signs I found not one, not two, not three, but FOUR blocks with free parking for the taking!
2. Optimizing the Parking
Once I found the four different options, it was time to optimize. That sounds like a much fancier process than it really was.
I first pulled up Google Maps and zoomed the map in to show my office and the four blocks. Three were conveniently clustered together, and one was all on it’s own across a high traffic road. Therefore, I had the fourth choice parking option nailed down.
Then I used the walking directions feature in Google Maps to figure out the shortest, medium, and longest route.
I also checked to see how far the new employee parking is from my building. I would have been stuck in that lot for six months to one year. It was 0.4 miles to my office, the closest free parking was 0.55 miles, and the farthest free parking is 0.75. That helped me rank options 1, 2 and 3.
- $442 parking = 0.4 mile walk
- $0 parking = 0.55 mile walk
Why do able bodied people pay $442 to save 0.15 miles of walking each way (0.3 miles/day)?
Finally, I considered my safety. It’s sometimes dark still when I get to/leave work. Was I just being stupid by saving $442? Should I just pay for parking? There’s those fancy blue light phones in the employee lots and safety in coworkers.
But I started doing the walk during lunch and seeing how I felt. And you know what, my city isn’t all that dangerous. So, I quickly discovered that, while I strongly prefer parking in one spot (it’s a busy road with lots of cars to flag down if suspicious activity were to arise), all the parking options are safe for me.
442 Reasons Why I Love Parking a Bit Farther, and Walking More
- I’m almost two years into parking for free and I’ve had zero issues with safety, theft, and parking tickets.
- I learned that your rain jacket pockets must be zipped closed to function and if they are left open they leave a direct conduit to your crotch, which leads to a less than comfortable working day.
- Walking in snow/rain/sleet isn’t all that bad, when I was a kid I played outside in this weather. Why should that change, just because I’m a busy adult with many important things to do?
- Walking helps to reset my mind, and decompress after a day of work.
- I will always be the outsider, who is more frugal than comfortable for many people (my coworkers still give me weird looks that I don’t just pay for parking).
While I started doing this for the money, I learned to love the extra few minutes outdoors every day.
Learning to spot the free parking also helps us save money when we travel! The free parking abounds!
Oh, yeah and that $442 I’ve saved each year from finding the free parking? Well, it’s sitting in my investment accounts growing, until I pull the trigger and retire early.
Where do you draw your line?