Access The Good Life, Don’t Own It

The concept of renting something versus owning is so heretical to some, especially those of my parents’ generation, that it’s frequently labeled as “throwing money away.” The freedom of using an item anytime you wish, for “free,” is very compelling. Even if it’s far from free.

When you properly tally what that item costs – in both lifestyle and financial terms – it’s rare that owning an item beats renting it. Even cars are notorious money pits whose costs, when fully tallied (depreciation, maintenance, gas, insurance, etc), would consistently lose to car shares, transit or even taxis. But alas, we are not rational creatures…

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As a minimalist, I have no desire to own something unless I absolutely have to. Certainly items that I don’t want to be responsible for the maintenance on, or items I think I’ll use only sporadically, are prime candidates for mere access, versus ownership.

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Trying out Evo for the first time a few months ago. Quite luxurious and cost-effective, at a few dollars a trip.

Fortunately, the sharing economy enables me to satisfy much of my hedonic desires in this area. When I want to drive a sleek hybrid Prius instead of my beater of a minivan, I can use my Evo car share membership.

If my kids want to hold a boa, I take them to the Reptile Guy for a few hours, rather than buy one and be responsible for years of lifestyle constricting care.

Want to roll around in the park with a dog? Borrow one from someone else.

Want to race slot cars but don’t have the dedicated space for a huge setup? Visit your local hobby shop and rent theirs for a few laps.

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My daughter and I raced a few laps at a local hobby store for about $5. She beat me.

Some things I do own, of course, such as bikes for us and the kids. The great thing about bikes is that provided you aren’t an aspiring road racer, it’s really tough to spend a lot of money and time acquiring and maintaining a bike. And when you want to “treat yourself” to some sweet bike upgrades, we’re talking tens of dollars, not hundreds or thousands like you’d spend upgrading your car. There’s only so much you can spend on a sweet bell.

But occasionally even I get bitten by the luxury bug – the desire to have something way above your pay grade. Fortunately, I can do this without committing to a lifetime of debt. Services like Scenic Rush in West Vancouver will put you in the driver’s seat of an exotic car on a coastal freeway for as little as a few hundred dollars. And when you consider that just replacing the clutch in a Ferrari is a $7,000 expense, that’s an extremely cost effective way to slake your thirst for the good life.

Do the math on access over ownership and you’ll find that for most things, recovering your time and worry spent on maintenance is just as valuable as the cost savings itself. “Settling” for renting has let me have nice things, without the accompanying big bills.

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Adrian Crook is a father of five living in beautiful downtown Vancouver, Canada. He's an advocate for rental housing and public transit.
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