259 comments

MMM Challenge: Can You go Car-Free This Weekend?

local haulThere’s a subtle yet powerful difference between the Standard Consumer, who manages to spend all of his income regardless of how much is coming in, and the Mustachian for whom saving is an effortless activity. For the first type of person, saving money means deprivation, struggle, and painful budgets. For the second, saving consists of living a rewarding life, then casually sweeping the few thousand dollars of leftover cash into investments at the end of each month.

The difference seems to lie in the design of the underlying lifestyle. If you get this part right, success comes almost automatically.

At a party recently, I met yet another Prototypical Modern Successful Family, a rather common occurrence in my area. The guy was a doctor. The woman was a professor. They had appropriately hip Colorado-style clothing, muscular calves, cool rectangular glasses, and rode bikes to the party along with their two cute young children. Everything looked stellar on the surface until my new friend and I got to talking after a few drinks.

“It’s a bit of a mess these days”, he said, “These kids are so precious, but they’re growing up fast and I hardly ever see them. I took a job at a practice in the city because it pays better, but it means I get up at 5AM. The kids do competitive swimming and ski racing on the weekends, so we’re never home to recharge.”

This seemed like a pretty simple set of White People Problems to me, so I decided to throw in a bit of advice disguised as self-effacement: “Oh yeah”, I said, “We solve that problem in my family by making our lives much less exciting than yours. We just hang around Longmont most of the time, and because of that we have a lot more recharge time and were able to cut back on the two-career thing f0r a while.”

“Man”, he said, “That would be nice. I’ve been in medicine for 16 years now, and to be honest I’ve had enough of it. But we could never live on just her income. Professors just don’t make that much, even tenured ones at a good university.”

And therein lies the trap that ensnares so many otherwise-fortunate people. It is called the Poisonous Pitfall of Piss-Poor Lifestyle Planning.

Fortunately there is an antidote, which is quite literally Simplicity itself. If the situation above sounds even remotely familiar to you, I am excited to deliver this bit of good news, because it is very easy to solve. You can very quickly give yourself the gift of a much better life, just by chopping out a good chunk of the unnecessary activities that currently distract you from living.

We could go on and on about the detailed benefits including greater happiness, lower stress, better health, better relationships with your significant other, family, and children. More money, lower needs, deeper wisdom and even a longer life*.

But instead, I thought it would be helpful to just start with one giant baby step. An instantaneous taste of the good life, at no cost to you and with the chance of starting a massive life transformation. Are you ready? Your assignment is as follows:

Give the damned car a break for the entirety of this coming weekend. Instead, try living two days of non-motorized life.

That’s right. This weekend, there will be no errands, shopping trips, drives to the mountains or the beach, horseback riding lessons or Harley cruises. Just you and your actual body, doing things that it is actually meant to do.

You’ll want to prepare in advance. If you live far from a grocery store, make sure the house is stocked with food. Get your library books ready, make sure the television is unplugged, tune your guitar if applicable, dust off the bicycle, walking shoes, recipe books and board games, invite some local friends over if desired, and let’s make a weekend of this.

What you’ll be doing, although it may sound somewhat novel to my new doctor friend, is living approximately like the Mustache family has always done. Although I’m not a hermit or a homebody, I often feel just a bit of anxious terror when I hear about how much activity most of my fellow wealthy Americans pack into their weekends. And I’m simultaneously filled with Pure Joy every time I wake up on a Saturday morning, walk with bare feet through my back yard and into the park beyond to watch the sun rise, and only then decide what I  might want to do that day. If he’s awake that early, my little son often comes along for the event.

On weekends, we simply chill together. It is my idea of living, and it is the foundation of our relationship together as a family. We sit on couches and read and write books and comics. The boy and I ride down to the creek and carve channels and dams in the rocks and sand. Then we’ll climb some trees, max out the swingsets at the park, and maybe do some urban planning in the sandbox. We get home tired and nicely sunned out, and he’ll disappear to his room and make songs with Ableton while the lady and I will make some dinner. At this time of year it tends to cool down and get dark outside pretty quickly, so we’ll start a fire in the woodburning stove I built into the new house. Some wine may be poured. All of that, and it’s still only Saturday night. There’s still time to have friends over, or walk over to someone else’s place to mingle all the neighborhood kids and prepare a feast.

A key to successful chilling is the complete removal of television as one of the options. As much as you like your favorite shows or sports events, the experience deprives you of what you would have done if the TV hadn’t been there. It is in the void left behind when TV disappears that real life can start to occur.

Living a Local Life

The headline of this article sounds like just another meaningless personal finance tip. Sure, you can save fifty dollars if you cut out the 100 miles of driving that gets packed into the typical weekend. Maybe a couple hundred more on the restaurants and shopping trips you forego. All told, changes like these would increase your wealth by about $200,000 per decade.

But the transformation of attitude and lifestyle that you can learn from it is much greater. What I’m really hoping we can all learn about is living a local lifeYou can become friends with the people who live right around you. There are trees and hills and features of your environment that you miss completely if you never slow down to actually live where you live.

Once you give it a try, you will find it quickly becomes very natural to live this way, because it is really how we were meant to spend our days. If an event pops up in another city, my own family usually considers it briefly, then politely declines. Because we realize we don’t live in that city, we live in this one.

The world gets more exciting every day. There are more activities, opportunities, and bits of entertainment packed into the atmosphere than ever before. The modern culture dictates that we take every chance to pack our days with exciting things, limited only by our need to sleep. If you don’t do this, you are “missing out.” But I propose that the opposite is true: the Good Life is found in between those times when you are engaged in travel, being “entertained” and participating in too many organized activities.

So by living a life driving around afraid of missing out, you are in fact missing out on your entire life. Let’s fix that this weekend.

 

 

* In a sad coincidence, on October 27th, the day this anti-car-culture article was originally scheduled to publish, Mrs. MM’s childhood best friend died in a car crash back in Canada. Rest in peace Janet.

Further Reading: In this Article, researchers found that kids who are allowed to spend more of their time in unstructured play develop greater independence and judgement. Could this be related to why some adults are hopelessly sucked in by the consumer/debt/industrial complex and others are able to step out and make their own choices? 

I like to imagine this all as an evolutionary response – you can adapt to a regimented life or society if that’s what you are born into, but given a more freeform existence, you are better off becoming more experimental or creative. I feel that the second option is now much more productive: both for early retirees, and for dealing with a rapidly changing world. But this is pure La-Z-Boy scientist chatter – real scientists are welcome to make fun of me for throwing out such a speculation without any testing :-)

 

  • Gmullz October 29, 2014, 10:50 am

    I have spent many weekends of the past 6 months car-free, and I actually sold my car two weeks ago. But sadly this weekend I can’t meet this challenge. I will be renting a car ($9.99 per day, off-season weekend rate) to visit some tragic car clowns in the suburbs.

    This weekend will be hell.

    Reply
  • The New Normal October 29, 2014, 11:15 am

    A serious question:

    If your child is talented in an extracurricular activity that requires regular lessons/practice/travel how does one go about this lifestyle?

    While doing ‘nothing’ (by modern-day, high achiever, type-A standards) all day seems idyllic in many ways, I wonder if it is unrealistic and perhaps foolish to squander a child’s gifts/talents by not taking advantage of available opportunities, even if it means a family may be ‘busier’ for a few critical development years in a child’s life.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 29, 2014, 2:43 pm

      This has come up a couple of times in these comments now. I sure wouldn’t want people to deny anything that is really important to them or their kids. Just think carefully about each commitment first. For example, my own son is so far showing unusual talent in drawing, writing stories and creating music. His singing is pretty fine too. He loves developing these things on his own – there is no rule that you must consult a paid expert to become successful in any field, especially music where many of the best are self-taught.

      But if a teacher and lessons are motivating, go for it – and perhaps just use distance as one of the criteria when choosing your teacher (and “Distance from music teachers” as part of your decision next time you move).

      Reply
      • Marie November 7, 2014, 11:53 am

        Hey Mr. M
        I love hearing about your son and his musical interests. I’m one of the same. I found over time that anyone who loves to use their voice for singing would be well served to find information proper voice training. I’m a self-learned singer and I spent many years with voice strain and short performances due to my non professional form. After many years as an adult of having a sore throat I made the decision to invest in learning how to use my voice without strain. I made this decision even after becoming a Mustashian. I’m lucky to be in Ann Arbor Michigan where lots of local teachers give voice training very reasonably. I’m an adult with a busy working schedule so doing lessons twice a month was enough to keep moving in the right direction. I was not able to learn how to properly use my voice on my own or from books. Voice training is similar to proper form for lifting weights, where you need a trainer teaching your proper form until you master and understand the technique yourself. Absent proper form at heavier weights there can be injury. Absent a musical family it would be good to seek out professional coaching in the beginning. I hear voice strain even in my favorite bands. Lifelong passions are worth investing in. I am sure you could barter for training :)

        Reply
    • Tallgirl1204 October 29, 2014, 10:26 pm

      Our son’s piano teacher is his school’s music teacher. I feel good about putting a couple extra bucks in the pocket of a public school teacher, and my son is motivated to practice by seeing his teacher in the hall each day. Better yet, all of the teachers know my kid is taking lessons, and they all tell him how excited they are that he is working so hard. It is a sweet cycle. Plus we don’t have to drive for lessons– it all happens after school. And if or when the time comes that he needs to find a more advanced classical teacher, we’ll cross that bridge then. I doubt I will be sending him to Summer-long music camps– but that depends in huge part on his gift and his dedication. I guess my point is that there are usually ways to find out how much real interest a kid has in an activity before getting super aggressive about following it.

      Reply
  • Beric01 October 29, 2014, 11:17 am

    I’m already car-free thanks to friendly Mustachians’ urging on the forums! I love using my bicycle to go to EVERYTHING. Thanks again MMM for your blog – it’s caused me to rethink my perspective on life as a whole.

    Reply
  • Lisa October 29, 2014, 11:21 am

    You’re killing me: “the few thousand dollars of leftover cash into investments at the end of each month.” We’re not even bringing home a few thousand dollars a month. I guess that was just piss-poor planning on our part. Getting laid off, being underemployed…

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 29, 2014, 2:46 pm

      Complaining on Mr. Money Mustache’s blog is also not known to be one of the most productive activities. After all, is your goal to have me add extra sentences to address your particular situation? Or have me avoid writing optimistic statements at all?

      Either way, I can’t see how it would help with your employment situation

      ;-)

      Reply
    • Matth November 1, 2014, 11:48 am

      Boy, I can certainly understand that sentiment. I left a high-paying, high-stress job that was a real drain on my relationship with my family about a year ago, and spent all winter as second favorite candidate (seriously, at least 7 positions for which I’m pretty sure I was the next option). We scraped by on savings and ingenuity (and a “low”-paying contract position this summer), but I honestly think it has been a really wonderful opportunity, both for me to spend time with my young daughters and wife, and also to focus on reducing our lifestyle (though it hasn’t always been fun).

      Fortunately, I never gave up my optimistic attitude, and next week I start a new position making more than I’ve ever made before, but I certainly won’t be taking the high salary for granted as I have in the past.

      Reply
  • Syed October 29, 2014, 11:26 am

    Driving around cars every which way is what unites all the crazy consumers in this country. Taking it away even for a couple of days would put some people in dire straits. But because of all the benefits you listed, they would be all the better for it.

    Reply
  • Joe O October 29, 2014, 11:27 am

    I just want to express my sorrow for Mrs. MMM and Janet’s entire body of friends and family whose lives she touched. What a heart-wrenching event. You are in my thoughts.

    Reply
  • James October 29, 2014, 11:46 am

    Unfortunately going car-free is easier said than done. While we intentionally positioned our new house in easy reach of several grocery stores (especially useful now that we’ve started the transition to bikes), our city is a little more sprawling than most and our daughter’s best friend is a good distance away. With Halloween this weekend she’s spending the night, which means at least one trip out to pick her up after the festivities. Otherwise we just might be have been able to meet the challenge.

    However, both my wife and I now work from home, so with the biking for groceries we are regularly having weekdays where we never need to use the car.

    Reply
    • stagleton October 29, 2014, 12:20 pm

      “EVERYWHERE IS WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE IF YOU HAVE THE TIME.”

      -STEVEN WRIGHT

      Reply
      • James October 29, 2014, 12:47 pm

        So I should make her carry her (bulky) costume, clothes, sleeping bag, etc. Several miles in the rain? I’m not going to make my teenage daughter suffer for a challenge.

        Reply
        • megak8 October 30, 2014, 9:07 am

          Isn’t that what rolling luggage is for? I am always entertained to see someone walking and carrying multiple plastics bags when they could have simply brought an empty piece of rolling luggage to their shopping extravaganza, then deployed it for an easier return trip.

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          • Eldred October 30, 2014, 9:12 am

            Whoa – I hadn’t considered using a rolling suitcase for grocery shopping before. That could work, since I have a grocery store about 4 blocks from me. I’m sure I’d get some weird looks walking into the store with it, though… :-)

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            • megak8 October 30, 2014, 9:41 am

              I have mostly received amazement and admiration (wish I’d thought of that responses) for repurposing luggage into a grocery/thrift store finds/farmers market purchases hauler. If you shop at Aldi or in jurisdictions where plastic bags involve additional fees, others will applaud your rolling luggage grocery hauling innovation. If you’re gonna drive and use a shopping cart, these reusable bags are a great way to see how much you’re buying, and don’t cut into your hands like plastic, less oil consumption, etc. http://www.amazon.com/Cart-Caddy-Heavy-Duty-Tote/dp/images/B009LM20E2 also sold on QVC

              Reply
            • Matth November 1, 2014, 11:51 am

              I was amazed in Montreal to see these wheeled shopping totes used all over the place (since it’s one of the least car-friendly cities in North America). You should check them out, looks like they’re about $30 online, and you could set a trend in your neighborhood (also more practical and less weird than using actual luggage).

              http://www.amazon.com/Olympia-Luggage-Rolling-Shopper-Size/dp/B002GOJZCC

              Reply
            • Efficient Engineer November 5, 2014, 2:46 pm

              I use a Shopping bag with wheels from Ikea for that purpose. Costs $13.99. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90282335/#/30282338

              Reply
          • James October 30, 2014, 9:21 am

            For shopping we rarely use plastic bags – we bike, groceries are loaded into the panniers. The biking thing had really been a great thing for us (plus they’re electric bikes, thanks to MMM’s recommendation, and we love them).

            But for my daughter’s costumed sleepover there’s a little too much for her to carry several miles on her own, and heavy rain is expected. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give her a ride, not even MMM has given up his car completely.

            Reply
  • Mike October 29, 2014, 11:51 am

    I get the idea that one’s enjoyment should be near home and not miles away. Point well taken. Also like MMM’s life of unstructured activity. How many moms are stressed out driving their kids from one structured event to another?

    My block used to have plenty of kids around and we’d play football and baseball. I looked forward to them getting older to go hiking and play tennis. Now they must be in mostly structured events away from home, I hardly see them anymore.

    Reply
  • ultrarunner October 29, 2014, 11:53 am

    I have the good fortune of working from home, so I’ll move my challenge to next week, the 5-day work week. I usually drive to trailheads, rock climbing, etc on the weekends, which I consider a fair trade of my life energy (and a trade that I’m not willing to give up). I *can* give up the mid-week stuff, by and large, as usually that driving is just piss-poor planning on my part.

    What I will do on the weekends is better coordinate car-pooling to our trail runs, climbs, etc.

    Have a great weekend, everyone!
    – Chris

    Reply
    • stagleton October 29, 2014, 12:17 pm

      Sorry Chris. All I hear are excuses for why you need to drive your car; this is not acceptable! :-P

      Reply
      • ultrarunner October 29, 2014, 1:01 pm

        LOL, Totally! But everyone’s gotta prioritize where they spend their life energy (aka, money), and fun in the mountains/trails is my #1 priority (it’s the reason I moved to Colorado). I’d rather (and do) cut in other places…. and I’m totally fine with these excuses. :-)

        I’ll take my 50 lashings with a flat bike tube from MMM at the next meetup in Longmont. ;-)

        Reply
        • rob in munich November 2, 2014, 3:36 am

          we’re in the same situation, very little driving during the week but on weekends we love to go either biking or hiking. Here everything is reachable by train/bus but it can be expensive, 25€ for example to reach one of our favourite biking spots. So since we have two cars anyways it’s simply cheaper to drive. inspite of tnis we only go through a twnk a month.

          Reply
  • Travis October 29, 2014, 12:08 pm

    I think this post (and this blog often) conflates use of a car and busyness and consumerism, which are separate things. I am all for simple pleasure and unstructured family time; I just don’t find driving in any way impedes these things. A car is a tool. If you use it for an endless round of unnecessary errands, scheduled activities, making the round of kids’ birthday parties, etc., it will detract from your life. If you use it judiciously to transport yourself to activities and people you enjoy and care about who don’t live within walking distance, it will enhance your life.

    I should add, I enjoy the blog and agree with its ethos. I think for me its primarily a means/end distinction — I agree with the ends, I just don’t think a carless lifestyle is the only, or even optimal, means to achieve those ends. In fact, for much of my life, a car has allowed me to pursue the ends that mattered to me — hiking, visiting friends and family who lived outside of mass transit range, etc.– that simply wouldn’t have been possible without a car. And, the mere fact that I own car doesn’t compel to spend my weekends at the mall or hauling my kid to six soccer games.

    Reply
  • Tawcan October 29, 2014, 12:12 pm

    Our weekends tend to be car free as we like to walk around the community. Since we just moved and will be getting various household items for the new place, we’ll be probably end up using the car this weekend.

    Sorry to hear about Mrs. MM’s loss.

    Reply
  • stagleton October 29, 2014, 12:15 pm

    I will be flying tomorrow and back Monday…so no driving on the weekend, but I imagine my carbon footprint makes this even out.

    Reply
  • theFIREstarter October 29, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Have to say while totally agreeing with you on slowing down and smelling the roses, I can relate more to the over busy doctor family in the article right now :(
    Although it’s not to do particularly with cars (don’t drive during the week and occasionally at weekend) our time is still packed full of activities.

    I will be consciously slowing down life, in the new year though, as the run up to Xmas will no doubt be unavoidably manic!

    Reply
  • Richard C. October 29, 2014, 12:50 pm

    I started doing this already 2 weeks ago to save gas and wear on my car since I am forced to commute the short distance to work for safety reasons (high speed limits, big trucks, and no sidewalk or bike lane for over half the distance). I also liked the post to save gas and drive better, I’ve been saving an extra 2-6mpg using the manual mode and more coasting, less braking, on my automatic Mazda3 car. My son has enjoyed the stroller trips to the nearby park I can walk to the last few weekends. Everyone should try this out at least 2 weekends per month.

    Reply
  • Scott October 29, 2014, 1:01 pm

    This article came a weekend too soon. I’m heading up to upstate NY this weekend from VA to meet a friend. What’s worse is my car is a premium-gas-guzzling full size luxury sedan that’s longer than a Tahoe, so it’ll drink well over $100 just in fuel.

    The upside is I don’t drive it much anymore, which is why I don’t really consider it an emergency. Once I graduate next semester I’ll replace it with a 2001 Honda Insight or something, to make up for lost mileage.

    Reply
  • John Krygiel October 29, 2014, 1:03 pm

    Perfect timing for this article! This weekend marks my first successful dates to rent out my luxurious ’04, house on wheels Pontiac Vibe. The weather is perfect, friends that are active abound, and I’ll make $105 for loaning out my vehicle. Not a bad gig. If fellow Mustachians want to sign up your vehicles, you can do so here: http://www.relayrides.com. Free to join, insurance policy backed by $1,000,000.

    Reply
  • jack October 29, 2014, 1:20 pm

    So I decided to ride my bike down to the local Trader Joes on Sunday to buy some wine. On the way down, I happened to discover money on the ground. When all was said and done, it amounted to $67.00! Now I’m not gloating over some one elses loss being my gain, but I wasn’t going to just leave it lying there either. So I gained physically, financially and the wine was free. Not a bad Sunday afternoon.

    Reply
  • plam October 29, 2014, 1:27 pm

    There’s a lot to be said for eliminating unnecessary activities that don’t improve one’s life. On the other hand, pursuing excellence introduces a lot of annoying overhead, especially at location specific activities (like skiing, for instance). I have to say that trying to get as good as I can at various activities has been very rewarding, with experiences that have been extraordinary (although not necessarily fun at the time).

    Examples: programming contest world finals, national level judo tournaments.

    Sadly, almost all of my driving is in support of my activities.

    Reply
    • Lee October 29, 2014, 2:47 pm

      I agree. When I wasn’t making very much money, I stayed near home and hiked every trail near where I live. That was great for a while, but after a few hundred times on the same trails, I wanted to explore new trails, which involves driving. Getting to the next level in almost every activity involves seeking out people who have mastery level knowledge. Going to see them involves driving. I completely agree that expenses related to owning, maintaining, and driving a car can be ridiculous and should not go unexamined, but for me, a car means freedom to pursue my interests to the fullest. I am happiest when I am fully engaged and that is not going to happen by forgoing a car on the weekends. Sure, I enjoy going to the local farmer’s market, cooking, going to the library for DVDs, reading, and other things that I can do at home or near home, but the best moments of my life often involve activities that I have made an effort to get to and require me to go outside of my comfort zone.

      For me, the value of this blog is that it makes me examine what I spend money on and ask myself what is important to me. MMM’s idea of fun is not mine. His idea of a good weekend would not recharge me. However, what I got from this post is that you should spend the weekend (and why limit it to just the weekend) in the way that works best for you and not just get swept up in activities without evaluating whether they truly enhance your life.

      Reply
  • Christian October 29, 2014, 1:34 pm

    I just sold my car altogether! And it feels so good! It’s such a relief to no longer have to pay for car insurance, gas, oil changes, new tires, car repairs, parking tickets, etc.

    I recently changed jobs so I could bike to work <2 miles away, which means I only ever need a car maybe 2 or 3 times a month. And for those times I do need a car, there are so many alternative car-sharing services like Getaround, Zipcar, etc. that it's generally cheaper just to rent a car when I need it. I calculated that I'd need to drive my car more than 5 days a month for it to actually be cheaper to own a car rather than rent from a service. (And I had an old 99 Camry that I paid cash for 5 years ago. If I owned a more expensive vehicle, I'd have to need a car even more days per month in order to justify owning a car.)

    Reply
  • Edward October 29, 2014, 1:53 pm

    …And with that, 500 people will say, “I can’t do it this weekend because Halloween blah-blah-blah.”

    Reply
    • Eldred October 29, 2014, 2:03 pm

      Well that’s valid, if you already had plans that included the car that can’t be changed… :-)

      Reply
    • Heath October 29, 2014, 2:07 pm

      I sheepishly bow my head to the shaming :-P

      Maybe the FACT that Halloween is this weekend is what prompted MMM to issue the challenge now…

      Reply
  • Heath October 29, 2014, 2:06 pm

    I bike to work 3 or 4 times per week, and take my scooter when I do drive. But this weekend, I’ll be using the car to take my wife to the State Fair. It’s the last weekend of the fair, and she’s never been to one (not from the US), so it’s a pretty special opportunity. I’m not making excuses, but recognizing that I’m deciding to fail this challenge.

    But as for the rest of the post…

    HELLS TO THE YEAH!

    People need to just calm down and appreciate the awesome stuff they do every day, and stop trying to cram so much of it in. It means you have less brainpower to dedicate to the actual enjoyment of the activities themselves. It’s one thing I learned in Brazil. Brazilians live in the moment better than any other group of people I’ve ever met, nearly to a fault. If they’re doing something social, they will dedicate all of their thoughts to the situation, and completely ignore any near-future plans. It means that the ones who make lots of plans are late a lot (ubiquitous, so it’s truly not considered rude), but it also means they enjoy themselves WAY more than equivalent people here in the US.

    Personally, I love weekends where I don’t have a crammed calendar. I am a bit social, so I tend to have people over or go over to people’s places, but not more than 1 thing per day, and I prefer 1 per weekend. Though this weekend being Halloween might liven up the social calendar a bit!

    I’m rambling at this point! But I thought I’d chime in to say that I agree, MMM: a relaxed pace makes life so much better.

    Reply
  • CTY October 29, 2014, 2:30 pm

    For us the weekend is the easiest time to ditch the car. I have no desire to run errands or drive places with the thousands of other people who cram tons of activities into the weekend. Traffic is crazy, stores are worse, parks are packed and the best time of the year (fall) is spent in a hurry up & wait mode behind the wheel.
    No thank you.
    I will take 2 week days (in addition to our normal carless weekend) of driving off this week though to partake of the challenge!

    Reply
  • Steve October 29, 2014, 2:49 pm

    I go pretty minimal with my car each weekend — anywhere from zero to more typically six miles per weekend — to maybe 20 miles per weekend. Since FIRE’ing, I maybe drive as much as 50 miles total per week. I spend a lot of time walking and some time biking. I love the concept and LIVE the concept of living local…AND of living largely unstructured on the weekends in particular.

    And it’s amazing how much one’s headset changes when walking more and driving so much less. I, for one, really do see cars as these hulkingly loud steel thingies…annoying and wasteful. That said, we’ve got a lot of Priuses, Leafs and Teslas in these parts…but also a lot of large SUVs and pick up trucks.

    By FAR my favorite line from you in this post and your subsequent responses:
    “it’s not about perfection, but rather questioning each of your choices and deciding if you could do things a little better.”

    Condolences to your wife and her friend’s family.

    Reply
  • Keith Schroeder October 29, 2014, 3:11 pm

    First, my condolences to your wife and her friend’s family. It’s yet another reminder life is short and we never know when our number is up. “Live each day, make each day count” should be everyone’s motto because soon we will all run out of those precious days.

    The proposed challenge isn’t much of a challenge in my household. It is raaaaare for the car to move on the weekend. My daughter and I bike over to my folks and play cards with the neighbors Friday night. Always a good time. We do play for dimes and a bad night could cost upwards of a dollar so it could be a major financial issues. Heck, the bar and shopping mall’d be cheaper. ;-)

    Living in the country is a challenge, but riding my bike to town (7 miles to a small town; 15 to a bigger town) reduces the number of people who come with. The quiet time on the road provides a great opportunity to think and plan, something I enjoy doing.

    I think I feel some fuzz growing on my upper lip. Could it be a mustache?

    Thanks for the great article. There are few like you, MMM. This blog really is a great place to find people of the same lifestyle mindset. It’s good to spend time here reading stuff I really agree with.

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka October 29, 2014, 3:18 pm

    Danno’s post indirectly brings up an interesting point.

    I’m not so interested in the specifics, but the general idea – the big picture – of bringing up kids based on the parent’s conception of what their life should entail. As parents we make all the choices up to the age of about 10 when they start to simply say “no” to our great ideas of what their lives should look like.

    It’s a fairly typical teenager who rebels against WHATEVER the parents are telling them to do. This made for some very interesting family dynamics among my friends whose hippie parents were appalled when their 18 year old neo-con kids voted for Bush. Did the kid become conservative JUST to rebel against their ultra liberal parents?

    Kids have a lot of pressure to conform to their peer group and it’s only a very small % who have the intestinal fortitude to march to a different beat. For instance, none of my friends’ teenage kids would be willing to voluntarily (or happily) live by the MMM lifestyle philosophy. How do you coax these potential future neo-cons into a more progressive socio-financial approach when everything else in their life is telling them to do the opposite?

    Reply
    • The New Normal October 30, 2014, 4:24 am

      I guess one must first truly believe that ‘neo-cons’ are bad and ‘progressive socio-financials’ are good

      Reply
      • Frugal Bazooka October 30, 2014, 11:17 am

        I know what you’re implying and for me it’s not a question of good hippie or bad neo-con, it’s a question of will the kid rebel no matter what you, as a parent, suggest is a good idea. I personally like to harvest good ideas from both left and right. Only a fool would live life in a politically dogmatic vacuum.

        I find many progressive socio-financial ideas VERY conservative. If I presented it to my kid as a good idea, they would likely question it’s value not on the merit of the idea, rather on the fact that I suggested it. That’s the point.

        Reply
        • Worsted Skeins October 31, 2014, 9:21 am

          As the parent of a recent college grad, I think I can address the question that Frugal Bazooka raises on teenagers buying into a frugal lifestyle. It can be done!

          Some families that we know are so busy that they don’t do things together. Tackling projects, sharing or learning lifeskills , etc. is one way to pass along some lip fuzz.

          For my son, being a 4-Her was particularly beneficial as the organization is all about hands on, learning by doing. I can’t tell you how many kids my son taught the 4-H electrical project to which meant teaching soldering and reading electrical diagrams.

          He is currently employed and living out of a employer paid hotel room. He is sacrificing some quality of life for savings and resume building as is his girlfriend who lives on the other side of the Atlantic. Contract work has allowed him to save his paycheck and even part of his per diem. We have had many conversations on means to an end and how to create the life you want.

          When he is home over the holidays, he and I are going to experiment with homemade Cliff bar recipes, something that he lives on in his field work. (He tromps about miles outside everyday.)

          As parents we have to help our kids develop a healthy relationship with the concept of money–what it can do and what it can’t do. I always presented my son with choices: Do you want cable TV or do you want to take a cool science class? Of course cable is obsolete for his generation but Sponge Bob was calling out to him at one point. Active doing always won out for him over passive sitting. But then that is why he is paid to tromp about outside now.

          Another thing: I always welcomed the pack of teenaged boys at our house. For one thing, I knew where they were and what they were up to. For me it was worth it to make pizzas and cookies and even buy some soda to hear them play Magic or some strategy game. My son did not have electronic game sets but he had lots of cool board games and card games. Our house was the place where the boys could make marshmallow guns and go to war in the woods. And I am happy to say that the young men who grew up doing those things here seem to maintain happy memories of it.

          While not all teens have intestinal fortitude to go against materialistic trends, not all parents seem to grasp that their kids may not be interested. For some parents, whining about the cost of their kid’s Iphone or prom bill seems more along the lines of boasting that their kid demands the latest and greatest and is so dang popular.

          Happy weekend all! We are using the car this weekend. There is a new microbrewery that my husband really wants to visit. And since it is near my favorite public library, I need to ride along.

          Reply
          • Frugal Bazooka November 2, 2014, 11:30 pm

            I remember hearing about 4H when I was a kid, but I didn’t know much about it other than it was mostly in rural areas. I assumed it was a farm based program, to teach farming and other pre-agriculture skills.
            It sounds like it was big plus in your kids’ life.

            I should have been much more specific in describing my specific point. Another poster implied that MMM was somehow depriving his kid of a regular upbringing because of his emphasis on frugality etc. My point was that it would be very difficult for kids today to passively accept an MMM style upbringing because of 1. peer pressure and 2. rebellion against ANYTHING originating from the parents. I don’t doubt that there are some very advanced kids out there who would see the value of being frugal, even at the age of 12 or 15, but I believe the vast majority of American kids would NOT be open to the idea of living an MMM lifestyle. I would count myself among them because at the age of 15 my mom DID try to teach me frugality and I was a total pain in the ass about it.

            Reply
  • RH October 29, 2014, 3:54 pm

    I think the big looming question regarding this post is….what are you going to do with all the apples in the bike trailer? Cider? :)

    Reply
  • irishapple21 October 29, 2014, 5:39 pm

    You know what? We’re going to take you up on your challenge this weekend. We do need to make a warehouse store run because we have put it off way too long (and that’s where we get most of our groceries and all of our gasoline) but other than that one trip we are going to stay in our town all weekend. If we want to go somewhere in town, we will ride our bicycles.

    Something I have learned since taking up a bicycle again is how much more I enjoy the live we live in. I feel like so much more of a part of the community since I am actually spending time in my town. I even find myself saying hello to people on the street. Imagine that!

    Reply
  • Mike October 29, 2014, 5:42 pm

    After 8 years as a pilot in the Air Force I took the early separation option that recently presented itself (thank you congress for defunding the military, otherwise I’d be in Afghanistan for the seventh time). I decided not to go back to work but to downshift. I have more than 25 times my spending and have sold almost everything I own (good riddance) so I should be enjoying the good life like Pete but by quitting the rat race I suddenly feel not so good about it even though I’ve been dreaming about and preparing for this moment since 2009 when I finally admitted to myself that I hated my job and never got any real lasting happiness from consumerism. The plus side of dropping out though is that I haven’t had to ask permission to go on vacation and I’m helping my family with all kinds of things left undone because nobody had the time/energy to make it happen. I thank you MMM for all the advice over the years but my transition into the FI lifestyle so far has been bitter sweet.

    Reply
    • Diane C October 31, 2014, 12:34 am

      Hey Mike! Have you explored the MMM Forum at all? There is a lot of good information there that could help ease your transition. Check out posts by Nords, who is retired military. He also has his own blog specifically aimed at helping military personnel achieve FI. I think retiring from the military is most difficult because your life has been so structured. To lose all that underpinning can be very unsettling. Go hang out at the forum for a while. I really think it will help cure what ails you. Plus, it’s free!
      Last, but certainly not least, thank you for your service.

      Reply
      • Mike October 31, 2014, 8:29 am

        Thanks for the encouragement! You’re right about the structure (many of my former coworkers depend on it) but for me it’s the loss of purpose. No more alarm clock, I’m free to french press my coffee every morning and enjoy the quiet time of the day, unlimited time for my hobbies and to help family/friends- these are all wonderful things but you really can’t derive a feeling of self worth from it. Then you think of all the busy people out there working hard every day as if that’s some sort of progress in life, and I guess it leaves you feeling like you’re being left behind even though I’m sure MMM would say that’s a race that isn’t worth running. I think the existence of this blog is testament to the vacuum left in your life when you find yourself under utilized in retirement. During the San Francisco meet up I heard about how great the forum was but I never did check it out- I’ll make it a point to!

        Reply
  • Loretta October 29, 2014, 5:52 pm

    As a basically lazy person, I *always* question the need for rushing around on weekends! However, as my kids are getting older I’ve slowly been sucked into ferrying them around (we live 15 minutes from the nearest big town, where most of their friends/activities are). This weekend I *was* planning on taking them to a ‘local’ festival (an hour’s drive away, so why do I feel the need to support another town’s festival?) but now realise it is crazy, as Halloween is the night before, and even in this small town in country Victoria, Aus, the kids are all out trick-or-treating in full force, so they will be hyped up on lollies and being out late with friends, why do they ALSO need to be entertained the next day? It’s festival/fete/show season at the moment, and I will resist the lure of expensive show rides/showbags full of plastic tat and mountains of junk food!!

    My teenage daughter mentioned tie-dyeing this week, so maybe we can do that instead. Or I’ve got a heap of mulch that needs to be moved…

    Reply
  • Kathy October 29, 2014, 6:08 pm

    I am so jealous of those of you who live close enough to bike places. We have no bike lanes, no where to even get out of the way of cars, no rails to trails bike paths close enough to bike to, and dangerous roads around us that makes biking to anywhere but the closest and most expensive grocery store impossible. This weekend may be almost car free, except for taking lunch over to my mom to share with her. She is at a nursing home, so that is family time worth the car trip. If the weather holds out, we may take a bike ride for fun around our little neighborhood, or bite the bullet and drive to one of the bike paths to get in a longer trip. Everyone enjoy the car free weekend! Please give my condolences to your wife.

    Reply
  • Shannon October 29, 2014, 6:20 pm

    We’re already committed to going to a surprise birthday party for a co-worker/friend. Unfortunately, while we live close to the office for biking, they do not. So, the car hasn’t been used this week for commuting, but will make a trip this weekend.

    Reply
  • Ryan October 29, 2014, 8:09 pm

    But how am I supposed to go on this apple cider doughnut tasting tour!! No, really, I already signed up for a doughnut tasting tour, and to keep up with the tour group, I will need to use the car. Wow, what a dumb reason to drive a car! I fail at this weekend.

    Reply
    • Eurteb October 31, 2014, 9:51 am

      That sounds fun! Too bad trusting strangers is so hard, a prearranged list of locations everyone is going to seems like the ideal scenario for carpooling, rather than a whole group individually driving and parking to the same set of places…we like to do our tastings via pedicabs, and tip well, those guys work HARD!

      Reply
  • Diane C October 29, 2014, 8:37 pm

    Sheesh, I am so NOT doing this. I worked hard, saved my ass off and retired early. Now my MIL lives with us and she has Alzheimer’s. Putting her on a bike as we head off to volunteer/grocery/shop/whatever would be sheer insanity, even on a tandem. I have enough shit in my life without kowtowing to manufactured holidays/cause days/events. I drive very little and batch my errands. DH walks to work. We have no debt. That’s quite enough. I do not need to have my consciousness raised or guilt trips induced. And no, this is not a “WP Problem”. It’s just my reality and I live it every day with a joyful and happy heart.
    My heart goes out to Mrs. MM, her friend Janet, Janet’s family and Janet’s other friends, but people get killed walking, running and biking every day. None of it is fair. Implying that her death was caused because she was in a car and could have been avoided is sketchy. You could say it wouldn’t have happened had she just stayed in bed all day. Life is random, shit happens. Enjoy it while you can.

    Reply
  • :) October 30, 2014, 12:33 am

    Challenge accepted: I don’t have a car. BOOM! :)

    Reply
  • HealthyWealthyExpat October 30, 2014, 5:29 am

    Here in the UAE, car culture is King. Huge vehicles, cheap fuel, ever-expanding highways, and poor public transportation all drive people to drive. In fact, I think a lot of people just go out and drive for the fun of it. I personally don’t know how they do it. The traffic is horrible, the driving scary, and accidents all too common. We are fortunate in that we live in a fully self-contained community called a university campus. We have a bank, post office, food stores, entertainment, sports facilities, etc. Most weekends there is plenty for us and the kids to do right here. We were invited to go to a waterpark in Dubai this weekend for free, but it is a 60km drive away. No thanks. We’ll park the car and go to a Halloween party at the neighbour’s instead….

    Reply
  • English Claire October 30, 2014, 6:54 am

    This is so timely for me… I’ve gone over three years without a car in London (I don’t really need one, and I don’t have a parking space with the flat I bought). I’m moving to another city to be with my boyfriend (inspired by the Get Rich by moving to a better place article), where I can walk to work in 25 minutes rather than have an hour each-way commute, and I’ll have a house with a driveway.
    It was so tempting to take up the company car that comes with my job (a nice shiny audi, perhaps), but I’d lose £400 a month in foregone car allowance and tax on the benefit, to perhaps drive it once a week. I’ve just looked and there’s a nationwide car club that operates in my new city. £60(c.$100) a year, then £5 per hour/£40 a day plus a 23p per mile charge. This is definitely the way to go, no hassle or unforeseen expenses, much lower environmental impact and the difference in transport costs will get stashed away! I love how this blog makes you challenge your default position, which would definitely have entailed a new car for me a couple of years ago pre-MMM.
    BTW boyfriend has a ten year old small manual transmission car, I’ve asked him to consider teaching jobs closer to home (current commute 20 miles each way, argh!) so that he can bike commute on the days I might need a car for work and he’s started looking already. That’d be even better!

    Reply
  • Elyse October 30, 2014, 7:10 am

    I do this most weekends, nowadays. It is great being in a mile’s walk of the store, walking trail, library, and such.

    But, you had to pick the one weekend I actually have plans. Halloween is the one weekend my friends and I always hit the city in costume and party it up. Since we already paid for the hotel…I don’t plan on losing that money I already spent. Don’t worry, I’ll be participating in the no-car fest the majority of the year’s weekends.

    Reply
  • Lillian October 30, 2014, 7:35 am

    I am on Day 20 of my Thirty Day No Car Adventure! Thanks for being a big inspiration to jump start my lifestyle choice of bike over automobile.

    Reply
  • megak8 October 30, 2014, 8:00 am

    Every weekend is car-free for me. I also just realized that I drove ~1K miles last week (wedding/biking roadtrip/family visits), and my car has been idle ever since I returned home. I have done lots of fun things on foot/bus/train, including seeing the brief orange glow of the exploded rocket on 10/28, nighttime photos of the national mall’s monuments, wonderful walks & bike rides among the peak color trees, errands, visiting a fall festival, and working full time.

    Reply
  • Johnny October 30, 2014, 8:02 am

    I am envious of you all. I am the same as the doctor in the story. The only difference is, that I still drive to the Parties instead of biking ( i don’t even have a bike!). I am in northern NJ and I work in NYC. I find the MMM lifestyle difficult to achieve without moving. The problem with moving? Family and friends. We are ingrained in our town and so are our children. I couldn’t imagine living elsewhere. I have 1 sister who lives in my town, another in the town over, and my parents in the town over on the other side! I’d love to move, but it’s not happening. The thought of not using my car this weekend is almost unthinkable! I realize our calendar is stuffed, with 2 parties on saturday, a softball game sunday, and lunch at my parents with relatives in town from Canada. Any suggestions on some simple ways to get started, without uprooting my life, quitting my job, and begging someone to take over ,my lease payments? Thanks guys :)

    Reply
    • Three Wolf Moon November 4, 2014, 1:08 pm

      To get started:

      1. Buy a bike.
      2. Use it. Don’t try to go everywhere with it at first, but get out there on it. You’ll be surprised how liberating it can be once you get going!

      Reply
    • Cheryl November 5, 2014, 2:17 pm

      Even if work is too far to bike and moving/changing jobs is really off the table, you can still bike for a lot of errands. Start there. Make biking, if not option 1, at least a reality. First you’ll think “no, I just need a quick trip to the store, I’ll be there and back in twenty minutes! I don’t want to drag my bike out, change, bike up that big hill, fuss with the bike lock, try to fit the groceries in the basket, then fight traffic on the way home!” But if you do bully yourself into it a few times in a row it all starts feeling automatic. Then it’s “No wonder I’m so restless today, I haven’t been on my bike in days.” and “No, it’s just a quick trip to the store, I don’t want to find my keys, mess with that giant hunk of metal, buy gas, get stuck in traffic and look for parking!”

      Reply
  • Philippa October 30, 2014, 8:45 am

    I love relaxing weekends with my family (hubby, 3 kids and a d0g), but I also love how active and engaged my kids are in lots of different things. I’m really happy to support them – it’s not a negative thing for us. Going to ice-hockey practice and football matches and basketball and swimming and parties etc etc is great fun for my incredibly sociable kids. They have both a secure and loving home base and wonderful, busy and fun lives outside of the home.

    Reply
  • Jpo October 30, 2014, 9:37 am

    I think I can take on this challenge pretty easily. Will try it.

    Very sorry for Mrs. MM’s loss.

    As a side note, my husband and I took on many of MMM’s suggestions easily and happily. They have only improved our quality of life, and we are able to really start saving each month, and therefore have stopped bickering about money all the time.

    When I mention some of the changes we made to family, friends and acquaintances, such as cutting cable, changing our cell phone provider, buying a used, more economical car, these people look at me like I have two heads. It’s not that I care what they think, but I find their reaction to such commonsense ideas surprising — and dumb, frankly.

    Was also wondering what MMM will do with all the apples.

    Reply
  • Jay October 30, 2014, 12:06 pm

    Last weekend was *almost* car-free. Had to drop off my parents at the airport, with all their heavy luggage, and Mom with reduced mobility. No driving apart from that.

    I’ll try to keep my plans local this weekend but since the car only gets used once or twice during the week (I don’t drive to work), and I don’t ever drive to buy groceries, my weekend “fun-driving” guilt is significantly reduced.

    Reply
  • Gypsy Queen October 30, 2014, 12:23 pm

    You mean – like we do most weekends?
    Last week was an exception – we rented a car and went apple-picking (the kid needs to see that apples don’t grow in boxes), but otherwise – living in the big city has its advantages: museums and playgrounds within a walking distance!

    Oh, and if I can have a kid on a student stipend – they can probably have two on a professor’s, especially a tenured one.

    Reply
  • James October 30, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I haven’t owned a car for a year and a half, so…deal, Mr. Money Mustache. Deal.

    Reply
  • casserole55 October 30, 2014, 9:43 pm

    Most conversations these days start like this:
    “Hi! How are your doing?”
    “Great! Except we’re SO BUSY.”

    Do you ever hear this?
    “Hey! How are things going?”
    “Great! We’re not busy.”

    I have actually used this in conversation, and it really stops people in their tracks. It seems almost subversive.

    Reply
  • SunTzu October 31, 2014, 7:43 am

    I am not engaging in this challenge. I have, however, begun biking to work (5.5 miles), and will have biked to work all of the days this week. The Government computes this savings to be $31 (http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/100715). The bike/equipment are scheduled to pay for themselves in a month. I have noticed a sharp increase in energy/mood, and expect that there will be additional health benefits from 11mile/day riding.

    Reply
  • Alex Blondeau October 31, 2014, 8:58 am

    The way this seemingly innocent frugality tip was transformed into a compelling vision of life characterized by attention, gratitude, and beauty was genius. My name’s Alex I’m a PhD. student in theology working on the topic of salvation. I’ve been following this blog for a few months now and have really enjoyed considering it from the perspective of my work. This post is an excellent example of why I find myself mostly sympathetic to MMM’s philosophy.

    As I’ve reflected on it, there’s a troubling aspect to the whole “freedom through frugality” schtick. To a certain mindset it can become an all consuming self-salvation scheme. I think this is well captured in MMM’s distinction between “frugal” and “cheap.” Such a mindset becomes utterly oblivious to the potential residing in any given moment because it is too consumed with monitoring its account balances and funneling every spare cent into its salvation-project.

    Such a mindset would miss the real substance of this post entirely and focus simply on the opportunity to save a few more pennies. The real gift that MMM’s gives to the world has only a tangential relationship to financial planning. What you do, MMM, is repeatedly help people recognize that what culture tells us is “normal” is, in fact, a massive anxiety management system that provides a sense of security and esteem, but at the price of LIFE. You do a marvelous job of it in this post.

    Keep on breaking that shell open!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 31, 2014, 12:02 pm

      Wow Alex, thanks a lot. You’ve expressed much more poetically what I have typically phrased as “Getting rich is only a convenient side-effect.”

      Reply
      • Alex October 31, 2014, 2:15 pm

        You are most welcome. :) A book I suspect you would love is Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death. He has the capacity to point to the obvious as only genius can. His basic point is that pretty much everything we do in life is ultimately done to deny or hide the fact that we are creatures that are subject to death, chance, and decay. Our “culture” and even our “character” are in many ways defensive patterns of behavior. The trouble is, our unthinking complicity in these dynamics narrows down our world and therefore the alternatives we see as being livable to us. I see you repeatedly encouraging your readers to muster the courage to open themselves to a wider range of alternatives than that which the status quo happens to hand us. Check it out if that sounds appealing. He’s a marvelously fun read.

        Reply
        • Matth November 1, 2014, 12:10 pm

          I’m curious if he takes this view universally, or specifically applies it to Western/American culture. It seems to me that there are vast human cultures, perhaps even the majority of the world, which don’t have the luxury of ignoring the basic nature of human existence.

          I’m also fascinated by the distribution of reviews on Amazon: 95 5-star reviews, then 13, 13, 11, 11 going down.

          Reply
          • Alex November 3, 2014, 9:54 am

            Hi Matth,
            Becker was an anthropologist so he was very interested in how these themes manifest universally, but sensitive to their particularity. From what I can tell he would distinguish between the degrees and manifestations of concrete death denial forms of life and the universal terror of death the lies behind all of them. He specifies that some tactics are more praiseworthy than others, but we all engage in them. No one, including myself, is innocent of it, no matter how heroic. Frugality is can be just as much a death denial ideology as fundamentalist religion. The difference between an evil death denying ideology and a life-facilitating partialization of the world lies lies not in whether or not we have them, but in the extent that we recognize and admit what we are doing to earn our “self esteem.”

            Reply
    • Ann Stanley November 7, 2014, 5:41 pm

      Alex, your phrase ‘massive anxiety management system’ just made my day. Four words that simplify the whole deal brilliantly. At a social event last night, a woman told me that she arranged out of school tuition for her daughter because her daughter’s friends were having it. She believes that to be fair to her daughter, she has no option. What’s alarming to me is that, as a private tutor, I’m part of the MAMS. I’ll have to think about that. Thanks for making me think.

      Reply
  • Eurteb October 31, 2014, 9:30 am

    A lovely article. It reminds me of an article I’m so grateful you linked us to once before, the “how to cross a parking lot’ article over on Raptitude. This philosophy of living life deeply, instead of quickly, choosing to never be rushing and never be waiting, there’s just so much to see and ponder, no matter where you are.
    It’s funny but once you start filling your time with making instead of consuming(which i’m not morally opposed to) the hours just lose meaning, a day spent building a costume is simultaneously ‘wow, it’s been ages since I/we started this project’, and ‘my goodness where did the time go’ topped of with the glow of accomplishment and productivity. The idea of to-car or not-to-car never even makes it to consciousness.
    Great articles :-) Thanks

    Reply
  • earlyFI October 31, 2014, 10:46 am

    MMM,

    Is that your Burley bike trailer in the picture? If so, how do you like it? I was thinking of getting that exact model for bike towing.

    Reply

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