Cycle for your savings
What if you could buy a magic machine that made you richer, happier, healthier, sexier and a little more adaptable, each and every day?
What if that machine actually existed in real life and cost as little as $200? Surely you'd open your wallet on the spot.
This thigh-toning, life-giving invention is called a "bicycle", and has been around for the better part of 200 years.
At some point in history it was surpassed by the smelly, expensive automobile, which is admittedly great for hauling large loads of stuff over long distances.
However, it's laughably wasteful when used to carry a single human being over a few short kilometres.
My bicycle saves me roughly $1000 a year, and that's just the measurable benefits.
Every household should have at least one functioning bike. You don't need a brand new state-of-the-art machine, or colour co-ordinated designer lycra outfits.
A T-shirt and shorts is just fine for commuting distances, if not your regular work attire.
The only fashion accessories you'll need are a helmet (roughly $50) and a high-vis vest, which you can buy off Trade Me for exactly $1.
As for the bike itself, you can pick up a quality second-hand set of wheels for $100-$200, no problem.
There's no insurance, no rates, no registration and no WOFs to pay.
Maintenance consists of greasing the chain and occasionally patching or replacing a tube - so cheap that it's hardly worth mentioning.
So what's the return on your investment? According to the AA, car ownership costs 50c-$1 for every kilometre driven.
About 21c-35c of that figure are the actual running costs - essentially petrol and wear and tear.
If your commute is 5km each way - an easy 20 minute bike ride - that means you're saving up to $3.50 a day, or $875 a year, by leaving the car in the garage.
Even at the bare minimum, your two-wheeled investment has paid for itself in the space of three months.
Factor in another $10 a day for inner city parking and the annual savings rocket to $3400.
If you're a bus commuter, the numbers still stack up - and you get to avoid the general unpleasantness of riding the loser cruiser.
My bus fare works out to just over $6 a day, so I'm currently saving roughly $1000 a year by cycling in three days a week.
If I cycled every day - which I'm working towards - that'd be boosted to $1500.
Live 10km away? You can double all these figures, and they start to become some serious savings.
Cranking it up a gear, the ultimate goal would be to ditch the car altogether.
That would save something like $300 for rego, $100 for warrants, $500 for insurance, and at least $500 worth of depreciation - not to mention endless maintenance and repairs.
That's easily another $1500 per year, for an all-up saving of $3000 or so.
But we're not done yet. Getting a twice-daily dose of cardio has as much benefit for your wallet as it does for your waistline.
It's difficult to put a dollar figure on it, but you'll save on doctor's appointments, weight loss diets, and can probably ditch the gym membership.
You're bound to become more productive and energetic, and sexier too - all of which tend to lead to higher pay.
Finally, you get to harden up.
Our weather is mild enough that even in the depths of winter you can put on a big jacket and some gloves and get amongst it.
There's nothing quite so satisfying as whizzing past lines of grumpy commuters queued up in their smelly cars while your blood is pumping with adrenaline.
It can be a bit daunting, but there's safety in numbers. The more of us on the roads, the better.
Also, once you've cycled you automatically become a more careful and thoughtful motorist.
So get on yer' bike - the magic machine that pays you as you pedal.