You might’ve noticed on our Quarterly Expense Reports going all the way back to Q1 2015 that Marge and I have a monthly bill for parking that is almost $26. That’s all me.
Years ago, I was able to park for free when my office was in another location. But then we moved to Albany where parking is a hot commodity, so like everyone else, I started to pay for the privilege of parking my car. It’s taken directly out of my paycheck, almost $13 every pay day.
This was a bummer initially, because I had been enjoying free parking at our other location. Then, dangerously, I got used to it. I didn’t even think of it. Funny how recurring expenses quickly go from “burden” to “necessary.”
But now in our modern age of planning for Early Retirement, the parking expense has become harder to ignore. As I cut back on everything from pet insurance to newspapers, and from cell phones to rabbit litter, this one remains. Twenty-six dollars is not a lot of money, but in the land of eternal optimization, I am always looking to cut unnecessary expenses
Parking is unnecessary
Of course, recently I’ve started taking the bus to work almost exclusively, so that parking space is going to waste. Check out last year: I commuted 2,706 miles by bus, and only 1,788 miles by car, and many of those were just to shorten my bike commute. Can a frugal person rationalize paying for a parking space that goes unused 19 out of 20 days?
I have been holding on to the space because the common wisdom at my office goes that there are so few parking spaces downtown, and so many people looking to get parking, that if you give up your space, you will never get it back because you will be at the end of a very long waitlist.
Way back in Q1, 2015, after my complaining about the parking expense, reader Jenny commented that I should rent the space out. That way I could hold onto it if I ever needed it again. I thought about this, and even thought about younger employees without parking privileges that I could approach with this arrangement! But ultimately, through my own research of our byzantine parking rules, I discovered that this would be completely unnecessary!
See, parking is no longer determined by a pure wait list. It is determined by seniority. So if you want a parking space, and you’ve been working long enough, you go straight to the top of the list!
Some parking lots are in higher demand than others. For some, you only need to have been employed for the past year to be eligible for a space. But for others I found, you have to have been employed since 1976!!! Yes, I knew we had many older employees (the average worker is 55), but to think there’s a parking lot where everyone has been employed since the mid-70s is mind-boggling! I wasn’t even born yet, but these people have been parking in the same spot for longer.
Well, really the only lot of interest to me is my current one since it’s the cheapest lot. I’ve been working since 2005. And according to the website, the latest employment date that an employee can expect to get a spot in this lot is 2007. That means if I ever wanted a spot again, I would go to the top of the list!
The other consideration I have is having a cheap place to park if it’s absolutely necessary for me to drive. I found a parking lot that’s a seven minute walk away from my office and is only $6 per day. What a deal!
The Parking Math
I’ve been keeping track recently of how often I use the parking space. Since I take the bus or ride my bike to work, I’ve driven to work and used my parking spot only twice in the past ten weeks. At $12.76 per pay period, that is $63.35 paid in parking over ten weeks. If I had driven those two days and parked at the $6 lot, that would’ve been $12 total. So over the past ten weeks, I’ve spent $51.35 more than necessary. And if I didn’t have that spot, I might not have driven to work anyway, since there would be no nice space waiting for me. I might’ve actually spent $0 on parking.
For now, I can cancel my parking space (actually increasing in price next month) and start easily saving $13.50 a paycheck, or $350 a year. Say I work for the next ten years. Saving $350 every year, assuming 7% return would mean an extra $4,667 ten years later.
That’s a lot of dough. But consider this: Some eployees park in garages that cost 4 times as much! If that person spending $104 every month quit parking, they would end up with $18,679 ten years later! Ironically, that’s like buying a new car every ten years!
Bye bye, parking spot!
I’m sure I’ll be one of the few employees ever to abdicate a parking spot for reasons other than retiring or moving. If that’s what it takes to keep that savings rate high, it’s worth it. The one negative I can see is that I won’t have a convenient parking space for our bus trips to NYC for JFK flights to extravagant locales. Most of our international trips actually start at this parking spot! So we will have to find another way to get to NYC. I guess it will take a while to tell what the net effect of all of this will be, but I’m pretty sure it will work out.