How Driving for Dollars Can Improve Your Wallet and Your Soul

photo - Mercedes C-Klasse Kombi 2014 - copyright Robert Basic    This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my  disclosure .

photo - Mercedes C-Klasse Kombi 2014 - copyright Robert Basic

This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my disclosure.

How do you get to work?

If you’re like me, you are one of the multitude who needs to get to an office via car.  I’ve taken steps to work remotely a couple days a week so those necessary trips have been reduced.

However, I’m a commercial real estate broker which requires extra driving for tours or meetings with potential clients.  If I didn't have a car, my job would be extremely difficult.  I don't want to say impossible and have someone prove me wrong.  Regardless, I do a lot of driving across two states to get deals done. 

I’m sure you do a fair amount of driving beyond your job as well.  Like us, you probably make frequent trips to the grocery store, the hardware store or any number of other stops. 

This isn’t an anti-car rant a la Mr. Money Mustache.  While I’m not overly excited by cars any longer, they serve a purpose.  Many of us need to get from point A to point B for business to be conducted.  I’m not going to do it on a bike.   My clients wouldn’t take too well to sitting on the handlebars of my mountain bike while we tour sites.

While it’s great to combine trips for more efficiency, saving both time and dollars, that’s not what this post is about.  It may even fly in the face of most personal finance concepts.

Here’s my advice:

Take your time getting to where you want to go.

Sometimes More is More

“That’s stupid advice,” some of you may be thinking.

No problem.  Get on the freeway because here’s what you’ll see.

Upon entering the on-ramp, you’ll merge with all the others who are trying to get to where they are going as fast as you are.  It becomes a competitive game of “This small piece of real estate is mine!” at 70 plus miles per hour.  Cars moving in and out of traffic, trying to beat an imposed deadline or worse, an imaginary / self-imposed time limit.  Tension rises. 

Or the opposite happens and everything stops.  You’re sitting in rush hour traffic, the speedometer mocking you by pointing to zero.  Anxiety is now at its fullest.

Regardless of the situation, what do you see?

Cars.  Lots of them.

Look beyond them.  What do you see?

The walls of the freeway.

You’re spending precious time every day on the freeway, whether or not it’s free flowing.  You’re essentially a mobile cubicle within immovable walls.

Wait!  This isn’t an anti-car, rant.  I promised you that.  Hang in there.

How to Get More Out of Your Commute

Get off the freeway and take a look around.

What do you see?

Other cars, still trying to get some place.

Beyond that, what do you see?

Buildings, houses and businesses.  People walking, biking and selling products. 

This is where life is occurring if you start paying attention to it.  Life doesn’t occur on the freeway.

In the article, How About a Nice Cup of Joe? I discovered a redevelopment site while driving.  I’d seen the property before and thought it would make a good location for a coffee stand.  I drove by it for a couple years, always thinking each time how great of a site it would be.  When it came available, I knew we had to jump on it.  There was no hesitation.

When we bought the property featured in You Make Your Money in the Buy, it was triggered by driving by, seeing something that had changed and going into action.  As soon as I got back to my office, I grabbed the phone and went to work.

"Driving for dollars" is a concept a lot of investors and real estate brokers employ.  It means getting into your car and traveling through targeted neighborhoods where you want to buy a property.  If you’ve ever searched for a house in a certain neighborhood, you have done the same exact thing.

While driving you need to do be alert to your surroundings.  Don't mess around with your phone - that's dangerous and distracting.  You want to pay attention to what's happening in the neighborhoods.  Is that a new for sale sign?  Is that a tenant moving out?  is that property falling into disrepair?  Try to see everything with new eyes every time you go by.  

When I'm "driving for dollars" I'm always looking for four things:

1)     A property that is already for sale by owner which won't be listed on Loopnet (essentially the commercial MLS).  This often will get overlooked by most agents and buyers who are too reliant upon technology;

2)     An unlisted property that looks like it is in poor condition and could be ripe for sale;

3)     An unlisted property that is ripe for redevelopment due to its valuable location;

4)     Inspiration.

The first three are self-explanatory and only take a little homework to get the information needed to contact the property owner.  However, it’s the fourth item that is most exciting because I never know what it will be.  Beyond properties, I've gotten story ideas, potential clients to contact, retailer ideas on who would be good for a certain center, etc. All this from the process known as "driving for dollars."

Variety is the Spice of Life

I take efforts to vary my course to and from work every day.  I try to change my routes to the grocery store or the hardware store as well.  It doesn’t always work, because I am human and I can fall into a pattern for a few days.  Then I realize what I’ve done, turn the steering wheel and take a new path.

Doesn't that take longer than the freeway?

Most days, yes.  I don’t mind though.  I’m not in a race to get home or to the office and it's far more relaxing than the freeway. 

Besides, there are days when my practice is drastically less time than the freeway.  On those occasions when there is a collision on the freeway and traffic is backed up for miles, my course of action pays a big dividend.

Are there times I take the freeway? 

Of course, don’t be ridiculous.  There are occasions when I know the traffic will be thin and I’ve left myself a short window to get to somewhere important.

If you’re not into purchasing real estate, I still believe my suggestion is better for your soul than being stuck on the freeway.  I feel more connected when driving through the city.  When I’m forced to stop at a light, I look around and see people.  I see activity.  I see change.   My various, ever-alternating routes allow me to explore my city and its people in a way the freeway dehumanizes us all.

If you’re on the freeway, you won’t see anyone until you reach the exit and race home.

Take a look at how you are getting to and from anywhere.  Is it the same path every time?  Are you stuck in a rut?  Turn the wheel and find a new route.  You might be surprised what you find.  It might led to some inspiration and a some newfound dollars.


How do you get to work?
Is it the same path every day?
Would you consider alternating routes for inspiration?