Sunday, March 16, 2008

Free Parking

Having to pay to park has always annoyed me. Nearly six years ago when I started working in the city, I had to start paying to park my car at work on a monthly basis. Due to the nature of my job, I was required to drive and therefore, park. I suppose for city parking it wasn't all that bad of a price. It was "painless" to pay because it was deducted from my paycheck each pay period. It was nice that that payment was taken out pre-tax. And then it was a pretty good deal that, because I was required to have a car at work, I was reimbursed half of the monthly payment. Better still, it ended up being more than half because they didn't take into account the pre-tax savings when issuing the reimbursement.

Then, last summer I got a new position at work. It no longer required that I have a car, which also meant I lost my monthly reimbursement. I did some calculations with the help of the Commuter Store's calculator, and I figured out that I would save quite a bit if I took public transportation to work. Back in December, I wrote about how indeed my new means of commuting was worth the try I gave it. I've stopped tracking my daily commuting expenses because I now know for sure that I am saving quite a bit with public transportation even after Metro raised their fares in January. To make me even more confident, the price of the monthly parking has gone up by $10 per month at work and the price of!

Despite not technically being required to have to drive for work, occasionally I have to. I'm not reimbursed anything for my parking, so when I have to be at my office with my car, I have the option of paying the $8 daily parking fee or utilizing the free street parking that is a 10-minute walk from our building. (There is closer free street parking, but it is limited to 2 hours which won't do.) Even on days that have been cold, rainy, and/or windy, I've opted for the free parking. I figure it allows me to get two-thirds of my daily 30-minutes of exercise in addition to saving me $8. Last week, I had to drive 3 times. I didn't necessarily feel like walking from my satellite parking area all of those days, but I could do a lot more fun stuff with that $24 I was saving than parking at work!

Because I live in an "urban" suburb, there are quite a few places that charge for parking near my house too. Not everywhere charges, but many places do. I usually avoid the stores that charge for parking. However, one of the grocery stores where I like to shop validates parking for up to one hour. Perfect! I don't mind shopping there. Actually, I can sometime squeeze in a visit to another store in that shopping center within that free hour if I hurry at the grocery store. You just need a plan before you go so that you don't waste time.

Last spring when I was in Atlanta, I heard Clark Howard speak. He mentioned that paying for parking is one of his pet peeves too. Listening to him challenged me to continue to search out free parking. And I've found more!

There is a government-owned lot right across the street from one of my favorite shopping centers (which has a garage that costs to park). I've discovered that after working-hours during the week and all day on the weekends, anyone can park there for free! The bonus is that I don't have to wait in line to pay to get out of the garage -- and in December before Christmas, the wait can literally be between 10 and 20 minutes! Why was I paying to do that?

Sphere: Related Content


Kate said...

Great ideas--I think sometimes finding parking when shopping is harder because you don't do it as often. If you plan ahead and are willing to walk a little there's usually parking.

My husband lobbied for about 6 months to get an assignment downtown rather than in the suburbs. In addition to saving his sanity by not sitting in traffic he saves a lot on gas and we're down to an almost completely 1-car family. He's fixing his car to sell and then get a new (to him) car. In the meantime we're saving a lot by only having 1 car and no car payments. And the bus fare is nowhere near gas and parking.

Betsy said...

Way to go, Kate & Husband! Not having a car payment is so great.

The government-owned parking lot that I mentioned in this post belongs to the federal government. However, I forgot to mention that our local (county) government does the same thing in another area of town. They open the human services building's parking garage for free after hours and on the weekends. It encourages people to visit the shops and restaurants in this area. Makes good sense for everyone! Consumers get free parking. Restaurants and shops get more customers. The county gets the sales tax revenue from all of those busy businesses.

Kate said...

I love it! It's great when a solution like that helps everyone involved.