freedom · Step 4: Cutting Costs

The Cost of Costly Possessions

Earlier this year, both our bikes were stolen. Bikes had seemed like a sound decision for us: I rode for 17 years before I finally bought a car, and my son was equally keen and confident from the age of 4.

1432955880I had bought mine about 10 years ago, and had it lightly customized. My son’s I had bought far more recently, when we took his old one in for repairs and were offered what seemed like a great deal. I was aware that I was making a rare-for-me impulse purchase. I had decided not to invest hours and hours learning about bikes, hunting them down on Craigslist, assessing them, and finding myself ripped off as had happened in the past.

And I wanted my son to have, for the first time in his life, a Brand New Shiny Thing that he had just picked out, with a big fat simple yes from his parent.

I will never regret the shine in his unbelieving eyes when I gave the nod. But the rest, I’m still kicking myself over.

Here’s what that bike cost us:

  • Shiny bike official price: $649
  • Price after discount per older model, no longer on the floor, last one, plus trade-in value on previous bike: $508
  • Quality lock: $45
  • Lights so he could ride to and from school in winter: $56
  • Hours reaching out to police, insurance companies, bike stores, and pawn shops plus hours watching Craigslist for the bikes to appear: Untold
  • Hours spent looking for a replacement bike: Five
  • The pain in my heart watching him shake with tears over and over and over again: Immeasurable

The police were uninterested, declining to come out and look at the evidence, sweep for fingerprints, etc.

Kryponite, whose lock we were using, declined to cover the cost of the new bike, saying it would only cover a specific model of lock.

Despite $340/yr in insurance premiums on a 450sq ft home and almost no possessions, my home insurance company, SquareOne, would not cover the bike, saying I didn’t have the insurance rider for that specific category of possession.

The thieves waited until 90 days had passed before they did their thing, so my credit card’s coverage didn’t apply, so…

  • $80 for a replacement bike

And then, after calling the police enough times, they told me the Shiny Bike had indeed come in. They’d just forgotten to tell me. But no, they couldn’t bring it to my city.

  • $27 in gas to drive to the detachment and back
  • $4 to park there

I was crushed to receive back not our Shiny Bike, but a beaten and banged one, multiple parts downgraded, accessories stripped. We faced further costs:

  • $120 for a tuneup and repair
  • Another $60 for an insured lock

And where would we put it? Our rural area still has no skinny poles that an insured U-lock will fit around. Do we rent a bigger house?

And so it was that we chose to sell the Formerly Shiny Bike, since it was a mess, and it made me terribly sad every time I looked at it, and we didn’t have room for two bikes indoors, and our community had no skinny poles to use a strong lock on, and it was still an awesome enough bike to be enticing to pirates.

I can’t be bothered to calculate the end cost of my son ending up with one old, used, too-small bike with no lights. Because my real point is this: When we buy Shiny New Things, there are additional costs. Insurance, and riders on the insurance. The highest quality locks. More indoor space to store them in. That’s not to mention maintenance, upkeep, and the like.

Is it worth it? In some cases, we might deem a purchase to be so. But it’s worth thinking twice.

As it turned out, the old, used, too-small bike makes my son wildly happy. Plus, so far no one has wanted to steal it! And the old, crappy lock someone gave us suffices for one of this value. The used bike fits easily inside our tiny house. And, fed up with no support in our only two claims—despite $15k in premiums paid over the years—we cancelled our renter’s insurance.

There are a number of things that would prevent such a scene: a Ulock insured by its manufacturer; every birthday and Christmas, checking that our insurance covers any newly obtained items; storing a bike inside a secure house. None of this would prevent or resolve the psychological and emotional pain of theft of a prized item, though. So what I’d really do going forward? I’d buy the crappiest, cheapest bike that makes my son wildly happy! The ease, peace of mind, and reduced workload and costs that come with non-ideal items is priceless.

(By the way, if you’re looking for a great bike? Check your police department’s recovery unit. My awesome one is probably in one of them!)

3 thoughts on “The Cost of Costly Possessions

  1. Yeah I got caught on the insurance rider myself once. Now I’ debating whether to add it or not as our bikes are outside again. Where I live not many bikes get stolen to undecided


  2. Thanks very much for your comment, Lost in Space 🙂 Makes it feel alive in here!

    It’s a reasonable pondering… I had a conversation with an acquaintance recently, whose bike was stolen a few months after ours were. She was covered, made the claim, accepted the money, and bought a new bike. As we talked about it, it became clear that after the deductible she’d been required to pay, and now the increase in her premiums, her decision wasn’t economically sensible. She hadn’t done the math before deciding to make the claim.

    So many things to look at:
    How much does the rider cost?
    How much is the deductible compared to the cost of a new bike?
    If I made the claim, how much would my premiums go up?

    In my case, I was told that had I had coverage and made the claim, my premiums would have increased by approximately 30% for the rest of my life. Ouch!

    When we do the math, the insurance (and in some cases, bike ownership in the first place) just isn’t worth it.


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