Since 1989 I have been a bicyclist. I have a number of bikes, in part, because, although you may have to occasionally change tires and chains, they don’t wear out. That is why they are an excellent exercise “investment.” My wife always asks me if I really need all of those bikes? Being as conscious as I am about the issue of wants vs. needs, I always respond, “If I didn’t ‘need’ them, I wouldn’t have them.” She just shakes her head.
That being said, in a recent column, I talked about seeing more people than ever out walking dogs, especially seniors. (By the way, seniors for me are those over 62. That is when you can start drawing Social Security. Retailers and others, for business reasons, often use different ages for seniors.) So as I have been riding and driving around these days, I have definitely seen more people out riding bicycles. Once again, I have seen more seniors than ever. In fact, it has not been since my last trip to Florida that I can remember seeing so many seniors out riding. Now this observation does not include the bike sharing riders that I see in the cities I visit, including Rochester now.
A little research confirms this. The number of cyclists/bike riders saw a big increase between 2012 and 2017, increasing from around 51 million riders to slightly more than 66 million riders in 2017. Prior to 2012, the number of cyclists only increased slightly each year.
Here are some interesting statistics that I found on sites like bicycling.com, statista.com, and peopleforbikes.org. Cyclists spend about $308 million per year on bikes and accessories. In the first quarter of 2018, bike sales were up 2.4 percent. In the spring of 2017, 66.21 million Americans had been cycling within the prior year. Although current statistics are difficult to find, by 2009 the rise in biking among people 60 to 79 accounted for 37 percent of the total national increase in bike trips, confirming my observations. I am convinced that current statistics would show that the participation by the seniors in that age group has exploded in recent years. What we also know is that commuting by bike is increasing dramatically, which is understandable, as cities become more bike-friendly, and you compare the annual cost of operating and parking an automobile to operating a bike.
Here are some interesting financial statistics if you are a millennial living in a city, or you know one. A 2016 piece in thesimpledollar.com looked at the relative costs of an 8-mile commute to work in San Francisco, and came up with some monthly numbers. I know that there could be a number of variables and different methods might have been used, but here they are: Automobile (without parking) - $93; Uber - $124; train public transportation - $80; and bike - $16.
On a different subject, I am always interested in how long a story stays in the “News Cycle.” The question of new online sales taxes is one of those seemingly important financial stories that, understandably, have dropped off the radar screen. Understandable in this case, because the issue is now in the hands of state governments and possibly even Congress, and forbes.com estimates that, although some sales tax states could act before the end of this year, most will take a year to 18
months to establish a collection system. There are a lot of questions to be answered, but hopefully there will be exemptions for “small” online retailers and a simplified, and therefore less costly to administer, system, which could hold down additional costs for consumers. Who knows, maybe Congress will act and give us a unified national system, or the states will get together and develop a somewhat unified system. If you have any big-ticket-item internet purchases in mind, that would not currently be subject to sales taxes, you may want to consider going ahead with some or all of them.
I have to admit that I missed the boat on this next and last topic, and I did not “connect the financial dots.” I have written about the difference between thinking of yourself as a pet owner and a pet parent, and even suggested that pet parents needed bigger budgets, but, since I am not a pet owner, I never thought about ways to save money on your pet. That is other than adopting a pet if you would otherwise have to enter into one of those onerous pet leases, which we recently discussed. It turns out that there are a numerous blogs and articles on the internet that can help you save money bringing up your pet, if
you are so inclined. Here are some of my favorite tips from vetstreet.com and then we saved.com.
First, make some of your pet toys instead of purchasing them. On a personal level, as an educator at Wild Wings, I teach that
owls only see in black and white. I was told by a young boy that it was also true of dogs. Then I did some research and found
that recent behavioral tests suggest that dogs in fact see in shades of yellow and blue. Something to remember when you are making or choosing them one of those multi-colored toys that I see in the pet aisles.
Second, do some of your pet grooming, including tooth brushing, at home. The experts say that there are a number of products and equipment that you can purchase, and procedures that you can perform at home, instead of visiting an expensive groomer. Consider them.
Third, just like everything else, create a realistic pet budget for your particular pet that you can stick to. Start by tracking your monthly pet expenses, just like you do for your household budget.
Fourth, shop around for vets. Their prices, just like with other service providers, can vary, perhaps even significantly.
Fifth, consider buying some meds online, like a flea prevention product, and then consider buying them and other meds, shampoo, and even food in bulk, and then splitting them with a pet-owning friend. People do that all the time with things and split them among family members.
Sixth, don’t over-feed your pet by following the feeding charts provided with the food, and giving her the right amount of food will keep her healthier.
Last, really think about who that pet fashion clothing and accessories are for, you or the pet. If it’s for the pet, they probably don’t really care!
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo.