Sometimes Saving Money Is About Principle

For the past two years I’ve taken the bus to work after driving for 7 years prior.  The company removed our free parking benefits and I wasn’t about to pay $350/month to park in a garage just 5 miles away.

I have a love hate relationship with the bus.  When it’s raining, and I have to stand outside shivering, I hate it.  When the bus skips my stop every so often, I hate it.  When the bus driver slams on the brakes a couple feet away from the stop light and we all go flying, I hate it.  When the bus is packed like sardines, but there are some very attractive riders I need to squeeze next to, well, I guess it’s OK.

My VIP Pass aka monthly bus pass costs $60, while taking a cab to and from work costs $30.  Hence, the cost breakdown is simply $60 for a bus, $350 for parking, and $600 for a cab every month.  Out of principle, I wasn’t going to spend 5-10X more on transportation if I could just ride the bus.


A funny thing happened to me yesterday.  I tried to cheat.  Because I was going to work midday, and the express bus wasn’t running anymore, I decided to drive.  I got into Moose, drove downtown and left him at my fitness club just five blocks away from my office.  The plan was to work for 6 hours, take advantage of the “free parking”, and drive home.

After a hectic day of work, it was so refreshing to come back home and relax.  Oddly enough, there was something that felt off and I just couldn’t figure out what.  CRAP!  I left Moose at the club because I took the bus home instead!

What’s more stressful is that I’m really only supposed to park at the club for a couple hours.  They tow and ticket sometimes if the rules are violated.  Even though it was dark and freezing, I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $15 to take a taxi to pick up Moose.  My objective that day was to save money and time by driving in the first place!


If I took a cab, my $60 monthly transportation fee would jump 23% to $75 ($15 for cab), and I wasn’t going to let that happen.  With a full belly from dinner, at 7:30pm I decided to bike through the hills, and between the lanes of traffic to save Moose from the pound.  Sometimes saving money is just about principle.

Readers, do you think I was foolish to not just spend the $15 to get in a cab and go back downtown given the inconvenience and danger of riding my bike at night?  Have you ever done something as stupid, and out of principle decided to go the less convenient route?


Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

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Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    I would have definitely taken my bike just for the principal of it. Plus you can chalk it up to a workout for the day and save money at the same time. I would take public transportation every day if I could but I’ve never lived and worked where it was practical. The problem I’ve had with public transportation is it always doubled my already lengthy commute time. If I could drive their in 25 minutes the bus would take an hour with stops, transfers, etc. If it took me an hour to drive to work the train took almost 2 hours.

    I would love to live 5-10 miles from work and be able to ride a bicycle on nice days.

    • says

      I hear ya on increasing commute time length. I’m all about saving time even if it costs a little bit more. If I drove to work, it would take 10-12 minutes vs. 20-22 minutes by bus (express). Hence, 10 more minutes one way is worth saving $290/month.

      If only the lanes for bicyclists were wider here…….

  2. says

    “do you think I was foolish to not just spend the $15 to get in a cab and go back downtown given the inconvenience and danger of riding my bike at night? ”

    100% you could have gotten hurt, it was cold, just a stupid move…but I understand it, and that is the scary part.

    If I have a party at night, I will return the beer bottles. What do I get out of it? 3 or 4 bucks which then goes right out of my pocket because I am tired and don’t want to make lunch so I stop somewhere.

    Why do I do it? I don’t know, Why did you save $15 bucks?

    I think realizing that we make those kinds of calls is the first step lol
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..Don’t Blame Others for Your Debt Get up and Do Something About It! =-.

    • says

      If I got hurt, it definitely woulda been a stupid move. I had a belief I would be safe, but who really knows yeah?

      $15 bucks is $15 buck. It buys a couple really good burritos!

  3. says

    Hey Sam,
    No one can make a judgment about your game time situation better than you.

    “I think realizing that we make those kinds of calls is the first step lol”

    Haha. Agreed. I think after I started realizing that I made those types of calls is when I stopped making them.

  4. says

    Yes I have! My husband and I try very hard not to take taxis as public transportation is much cheaper and generally faster anyway in NYC.

    One weekend I took a taxi to an appointment uptown as I was running late. I had a lot of heavy items with me that I was going to then take on the bus to NJ. After my appointment I was going to take the subway to the bus terminal. Well, that subway was not running that day, so I walked. It took me close to an hour, in the rain, with pounds of stuff to carry. I should have just taken another cab, but out of principle- I didn’t!

    • says

      I like it! Walk almost one hour in the rain out of principle is good! Because next time, when you only have to walk 30 minutes out of principle, it’ll be a snap!

  5. says

    I think if you were in dire straights financially, then riding your bike would have been the smart move (and just barely). But because $15 compared to your freedom fund alone is of microscopic percent, taking safer transportation was definitely the way to go, especially with the cold and darkness you rode your bike in.

    • says

      Yes, compared to The Freedom Fund on the right it’s small, but it’s the principle. If I say $15 doesn’t matter b/c i have a chunk of savings in the bank, when does it end?

      Next think I’ll say is, why don’t I just pay $350/month for parking, or take taxis b/c I have so much money and then one day I may wake up and realize it’s all gone.

      Safety is the main worry though. I had never biked at night to go downtown before, probably b/ I didn’t want to bike BACK due to the hills. At least I knew Moose was hopefully there waiting for me to drive back together.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The Government Is Sexist And Nobody Seems To Care =-.

      • says

        That is a good point – the principal is important – if you are able to have discipline and write this one experience off as a mistake and stick to your guns for the most part, then it is okay in my opinion. But you do give me reason to pause and think about ‘when does it end’. I think occasional ‘slips’ like this are ok as long as they don’t cut into your underlying principal. If you were not living frugally already, I’d probably have thought differently. Still, you are making me think, which is good :)

  6. says

    I think it’s great you stuck to your goal and made your mishap something positive! By riding your bike to get “Moose”, you got an extra workout, and still was able to save your old friend “Moose”.

    I’m actually kind of surprised that “Moose” was still there and didn’t get towed!

    Plus, now you found a way to park for free on those days when you don’t work a regular schedule… (just joking)

    • says

      Yeah, I was kinda surprised he was still there too. 11am-7:45pm he parked! The thing is, the club knows me, and I have my name on my dashboard. However, forgetting Moose is pushing the rules…. but if they towed me well…. they can kiss my monthly club membership buy-bye!

  7. says

    Where are people getting cold from? All I read was that it was dark out.

    Remember that we are debating the principal here.

    Somewhat analagous to to how we’re bailing out homeowners who wouldn’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t (insert your own word) have purchased in the first place – should we be paying to correct their own errs?

    As I intrepret it, FS is saying that he is holding himself accountable for his actions.

        • says

          Howdy mate, it was definitely “freezing” i.e. around 48 degrees. So not technically, but it was cold.

          Taking a cab or riding a bike can be justified… and that’s where things go grey. Justifying purchases, a larger home etc. Justfy doing something out of principle but getting hurt etc.

          If I had no bike…. i may have roller bladed, or simply walked 5 miles to go get Moose out of principle.

  8. The Rat says

    Oouch….that’s a ‘tough love’ lesson that the frugal sumarai has warned you of!

    In all seriousness, it is definitely commendable to have taken the initiative over the past couple of years to take the bus instead of having to fork out 350 bones a month in parking. Just think of all the dough you’ve saved and was able to put elsewhere! Good stuff; it’s all about principle.
    .-= The Rat´s last blog ..BIN Revisited: From Tantrum to Tantalization =-.

    • says

      That’s a good point. Let’s see, $300 X 24 = $7,200 in savings by taking the bus!! That’s just parking savings a lone! Maybe I saved another $50/month in gas so $50 X 24 = $1,200 = $7,200 = $8,400!

      Thanks for the reminder! That makes me feel pretty darn good now for taking the bus :)

      It’s kinda like getting a tax refund at the end of the year. lol.

      • says

        That’s good savings, but a devil’s advocate might say, “What if you got hurt and your risk did not pay off? What would be the cost of a hospital stay or time off work?”

        Of course if you have good health insurance and plenty of paid time off available, and your site can go without attention for a while, then this is a mute point. And how often do people get hit on their bike really. It seems to be rare. But still, there’s a chance :)

  9. K at Greenshield says

    Public transportation is a great way to save money.
    .-= K at Greenshield´s last blog ..Terry saved $4,402.15 =-.

    • says

      It’s wasn’t really fun b/c it was dark and cold. But when I saw the club insight, I was relived and thought… hey, maybe I could do this again sometime. I kept on thinking what if a car sideswiped me though. Maybe I’ll buy a blinking vest!

  10. says

    Hmm though riding your bike in San Francisco might be kind of hard, no? (what with the massive hills and all!).

    I don’t think what you did was foolish because I would do the same thing! haha it’s the principal! Your goal that day was to save money on parking and you did it. =)

    • says

      Yes, it would been tough if I had to bike BACK up the hills, but I started from an elevated point, kinda. There are flatter ways to bike if you go around the city instead of through. :)

  11. says

    Look at the ride as punishment for doing something stupid. If you just spent the money you may not have learned from it. The long bike ride seared it into your mind!

    • says

      Indeed! Now I should hopefully never forget to take the bus home when I drive to work.

      It’s kinda like the movie Home Alone I think. The parents are at the airport feeling they left something behind and donno what. “Kevin!” argh.

  12. says

    That’s an hilariously told story.

    What stopped you riding the bus two years ago? Did you have a ‘lightbulb moment’ (which I guess is also part of founding Financial Samurai) or did you drive Moose over a bicycle stand and get banned from driving for six months? ;)

  13. says

    I love my bike, so I don’t think it’s all that crazy that you biked to Moose. And you saved yourself $15!

    On a similar note, I drove to school the other day (I usually bike because I didn’t want to pay the $350 on the annual parking pass at the start of school) and got stuck in traffic! I am one of these people who hate being late. So as I was panicking and trying to find a parking spot after paying the $6.00 for the day parking rate, I realized I just should have biked in the first place!

    • says

      Ahh so that’s why your Gravatar is of a bike! Funny story about your drive to school. Guess you’ll be biking again no matter what! :)

  14. ctreit says

    I loved reading the comments and the post. We all do stupid stuff sometimes no matter how smart we supposedly are. But I’d like to think that I don’t do stupid stuff because I follow some (stupid?) principle. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have that many principles. What good are they if they lead me to do stupid stuff? Instead, maybe it is time to revisit these principles and change them. Why hold on to them under any circumstances?

    • says

      Hi Ctreit, did you just propose a very circular argument? :) What I did was a very stupid thing. Hopefully I will not do it again!

      • ctreit says

        Yes, it could be circular if you don’t break the cycle. Don’t feel too bad. I knew a woman who had “lost” her car and couldn’t find it for three months! It’s like with everything else: somebody is better off than you are, somebody is worse off than you are. – Oh, and please note, I am not telling the stupid things I have done, but you and I could found a club…

  15. says

    I think if you had lights and were safe the bike was fine… Quite a funny story :)
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..Cut The Fat – Losing Things You Don’t Need =-.

    • says

      I do go to the gym a lot… it’s actually the racquet club where one can play all sorts of racquet sports. 3-4X a week! Whoo hoo!

  16. Red says

    No way! Like you said, it was the principle of it, and I’m sure if you spent the $15 for a cab, you would have felt even more silly about leaving your car at the gym. (Very funny story by the way!) I’m jealous that you’re able to ride the bus to work. Because I go to work, then school, my schedule is very tight and doesn’t allow time to wait for the bus. That and I work in a shady part of town, not suitable for the four block walk from the bus stop to the office. ::sigh::
    .-= Red´s last blog ..Link love: Saving and the psychology of debt edition =-.

    • says

      You’re right Red. If I took a cab, I would REALLY feel stupid in my stupidity stupidness. I don’t like feeling too stupid, so……….. stubborness kicked in.

      I hear you on shady areas, there are definitely a lot of them in big cities for some reason.

  17. says

    That’s principle alright. I am like that as well, as long as it doesn’t last for a long time. Then I’d go for ease instead of money, another solution would be to move.. But moving just to work, that’s crossing a line as well for me. Anyway, if you live to far from work you could find another job, of course that’s not always an easy thing to do. But it is a solution to the long hours that you’re on your way to work.
    (you’ll probably have to give up some of your pay :p)

  18. says

    For most people, get rich quick is a low probability event. Instead, put your effort into the one strategy that is boring but has a proven track record to success. Get a savings plan in place. Worry less about where to save the money and what to invest in. Get the savings habit in place and once you have money saved, then worry about how to maximize your returns.

  19. says

    It was probably not the safest thing to do, riding your bike downtown at night, but I would have done exactly the same thing. Principle is the reason why I subject myself to unhealthy dollar menus time and time again…

  20. Charlie says

    I’ve definitely had nights when I’ve debated whether to take a cab or take the bus. I usually decide based on the level of safety. If it’s getting dark and I’d have to walk in a somewhat sketchy area to get to a bus stop I just don’t do it.

    • says

      Agreed. But pls elaborate further. What does “could have had something to you” mean? Something bad happen to me? If so, I agree. But then, what if I took the cab and got in an accident?

  21. fredct says

    (Now posted in the right thread)

    So Sam, where do you live… generally :) . Just curious what transportation system you’re using.

    Also, do you just so happen to be lucky enough to live along the same express bus line that goes near your office, or did you plan it that way?

  22. says

    For me, it’s a toss up between what’s more important: time or money. In this case, I likely would have done the same thing as you to save the $15. It’s in my blood to be frugal even if it doesn’t always make the most sense.

  23. says

    I believe I heard Dr. Phil say, “common sense aint so common anymore…” Most people don’t think smartly about the way they execute their finances and wonder why, at the end of the month, they’re struggling financially. This post encourages me to focus on the principle and think smart when it comes to my finances. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work.

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