I was talking with my Dad about my blog the other day–about how I want to share frugal ways to pursue sustainability as a young person. I’ve been sharing some ways that our family is pursuing this way of life, but I truly believe we can glean so much knowledge from the stories of others. My dad has been biking to work for several years and I was going to interview him, but he told me instead about a young woman he works with named Cecilia who recently sold her car and bikes to work nearly every day.
I had the privilege of meeting with Cecilia Thibault last week, and after talking with her for an hour I was so inspired and started rethinking a lot of aspects of how I live my life. Cecilia is an incredibly talented and multi-passionate person–she loves dance, she started an organization to provide leadership opportunities for young Latino professionals, she recently bought her first rental property with her husband, and she has multiple long-term goals to better serve our community. Did I mention that she is only 34?!
If you are interested in pursuing a sustainable, healthy lifestyle and living frugally is also important to you, you’re not going to want to miss this interview! I promise that you will be both inspired and amazed by Cecilia’s story.
Q: Tell me about yourself & your family!
I grew up in Dodge City in Western Kansas. My Dad is an immigrant from Mexico, and he became a naturalized citizen three years ago. My Mom is also Mexican and she grew up in Dodge City. Growing up, we had a Mexican store and would travel back and forth on a monthly basis from Kansas to Mexico. We traveled to get goods for our store because it wasn’t as simple to get Mexican goods imported back then. My Mom taught Spanish for 43 years, and I have a little sister who teaches 2nd grade in Kansas City. I grew up bilingual, speaking mostly Spanish at home and was introduced to English when I turned three. I moved to Emporia State for college and transferred to Wichita State my sophomore year where I met my now husband in Spanish class.
Q: What are a few things that you are passionate about and why?
Everything I am involved in comes back to my Latino heritage. I grew up dancing and danced in college at Wichita State. Now, I teach classes to 3-5 year olds at a local rec center. I loved dance so much that I wanted to share it with others. Jazz is my favorite.
I founded the Young Latino Professionals of Wichita three years ago which seeks to get more Latinos into leadership roles in local organizations. My desire to start this organization stemmed from not seeing Latino representation in leadership and public office positions. Because of the lack of representation, our voices are not being heard in these spaces. The Latino population is the largest growing demographic in Wichita, and it is estimated to increase by 116.1% between the years 2016 and 2036 from about 82,208 people to 177, 631.
The Young Latino Professionals of Wichita is seeking to change this lack of representation by exposing young people to leaders within organizations. We want to retain young talent in Wichita. We provide training and help young Latino professionals make connections with other leaders and political figures. We want them to see themselves represented in political positions. A personal aspiration of mine is to be on the Wichita City Council and eventually the Mayor.
Q: My Dad mentioned that you sold your car and started biking to work? Can you share more about why you did this? Were you already cycling before you sold your car or did you learn after selling it?
Late 2018 is when my husband and I started biking to work with hybrid-model bikes. The ones we have now are carbon and a lot lighter. When we first started biking to work, we only lived 3 miles away. Now we live about 8 miles from work. The desire to sell one of our cars stemmed from a blog my husband liked to read–Mr. Money Mustache. According to his blog, living frugally by riding bikes is the first step. We also follow the FIRE movement–with the goal of being able to stop work at a young age because we saved enough. I heard these stories and thought eventually maybe that could be us someday. You can then do anything you want. When we reach this goal, working at a nonprofit like United Way, an organization I’m passionate about, would be an option. We are projecting to be in this position by the time I’m 42. We won’t have to work 9-5 jobs because we saved enough; our 401K will be enough.
We are also looking for ways to find passive income. We purchased our first rental property recently and want to have 20-30 rental homes eventually. Managing these properties would become my husband’s full-time job. We were able to purchase a rental home by using the “BRRR method”, which stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat. Using a HELOC (home equity line of credit) on our primary residence, we were able to utilize the equity that we’ve built over the years, as my husband was able to purchase a home at age 22, to purchase our first rental. After we purchased the property, we used our HELOC to then rehab it to make it nice for someone to live in. Once it was rented, we refinanced the property through a bank to pull the equity out of the property to pay back our HELOC. This method will allow us to replicate the process more quickly than if we were to save up a 20% down payment for each property we’d like to purchase.
In order to find additional rentals, we look for properties we can buy that are distressed or look vacant, then contact the owners to see if they’d be interested in selling their property to us directly. This allows the seller to walk away from a house they either can’t or don’t want to fix up in order to sell, with cash in hand, while also allowing us to purchase a property that has room for us to add instant equity through renovations. We draw attention by writing a letter, hoping our story might resonate with the owner. We then hire out the renovation work. Selling one of our cars also helped us purchase a rental, and we are also saving part of that money to go toward an ebike.
Q: Can you break down some of the numbers regarding how riding your bike instead of driving a car has saved you and your husband money over time?
My husband wrote down some of the specific numbers for how we have been able to save money by primarily biking:
Car insurance in 2018 (before using bike as primary mode of transportation:
- Subaru: $345/ 6 months
- Honda: $302/ 6 months
Car insurance in 2021 (after using bike as primary mode of transportation for 3 years):
- Subaru: $195/6 months
- Honda: $155/6 months (insurance is now $0 since we sold it for not having a need for a second car. This has caused our Subaru car insurance to go up because of losing multi-line discount, but it still is a net positive.
We also spent $500 less in gas and averaged nearly $50 less per month after switching to bikes. We also had one month in 2019 where we didn’t have to buy gas at all. In 2020, we went 3 consecutive months without needing to buy gas. We were hardly going anywhere that year, but we were using our bikes when we did need to go somewhere.
Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced with owning one car and biking to work? How do you combat these challenges?
We only sold our car one month ago, but we don’t see it being an issue. Time will tell the challenges. We will still ride in the winter, just not in ice, snow, or heavy rain. We will Uber if we need it; it’s still cheaper than owning a second car.
Q: What equipment did you need to start riding your bike to work? Do you have to bring work clothes with you, etc.?
I didn’t have a fancy bike when I started. Any bike will work as long as you can get from point A to point B. I didn’t even buy padded shorts until one year after I started biking. I used a backpack and moisture wicking clothing that I already had. It’s important to practice first so you know you can get where you need to go. I recommend practicing the route on a Saturday, riding with a friend, or using the Bike Walk Wichita nonprofit as a resource if you’re a local. I also recommend having lights on your bike and wearing bright, visible clothes. I now carry my clothes, lunch, and laptop in a saddlebag that attaches to my bike. We have showers at work, too.
Q: You shared how riding your bike has impacted your family financially. Has it had an impact in other areas of your life, too?
One of the reasons I continue to cycle is because my mom and dad have diabetes which is sometimes referred to as a lifestyle disease. The more you exercise and eat well, the healthier you’ll be. Maintaining weight and health is important to me. Diabetes makes life more difficult in every aspect. It takes away from you. Keeping an active lifestyle and making cycling a part of my everyday life is important to me. I ride my bike more with the intention of doing something else, not just as exercise. I ride my bike to the gym, and I ride it when I go to get groceries once a week. We don’t buy a lot of processed foods, so my husband and I can carry what we need on our bikes.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in selling their car and biking to work? Are there small steps to move in this direction or is it better to just jump right in?
I jumped right in! I didn’t second guess my decision. Do it with a friend if you really want to make it sustainable long term. Some mornings I don’t want to bike 45 minutes to work, but then I think of all the reasons I enjoy it. Cycling makes me appreciate so many things even more. You won’t see a better sunrise because you can see the whole sky. You’ll see the same people on the bike path everyday and make friends. I also have a different appreciation for the homeless population. People often don’t acknowledge them, so I try to always make eye contact and say hi. We take leftovers to people we meet. On days when it feels too cold to me, I think about these people who don’t have a home. It is a gift to have the option to have my bike–people who are homeless don’t have that option.
Q: If someone is interested in learning more about your story, your work within the community, or has questions regarding cycling, is there a way they can get in contact with you?
Sure! You can add me on Facebook or if you have questions you can email me at my personal email, email@example.com.
See, I told you that you would be inspired! My husband and I recently started considering selling our second car after talking with Cecilia about the benefits. I think it is such a gift to hear other people’s stories, and I believe their perspectives can help us think about things in an entirely new way.
After reading Cecilia’s story, would you consider selling your car and biking to work? I would love to hear your thoughts!