Environment: Curbing Your Car

Americans love their cars. But as gas prices are rising above $3 a gallon, how much do we really need them? TIP SHEET's Karen Springen spoke to Chris Balish, author of "How to Live Well Without Owning a Car."

SPRINGEN: Your book encourages people not to be "transit snobs" who "wouldn't be caught dead on a bus." What about people who don't live near bus or train lines?
BALISH: A lot more people live close to transit than probably think they do. Open your eyes, take a tour around your community, look for things like bus stops and other public-transit infrastructure, and you'll be surprised with what you find.

If a family can't imagine life without cars, should they go on an automobile "diet"?
Definitely. If you've got more than one vehicle in the household, figure out how much you could save by getting transit checks and bicycles. That can mean the difference between paying off the house mortgage in 10 years instead of 30 or saving for retirement.

What about your suggestion to occasionally rent a car and shop in bulk at places like Costco?
I rent a car maybe four or five times a year. I could easily do that every single weekend of the month and come out way ahead of actually owning a car. You learn to plan it.