We Bought a Leaf! How Excel Drives Environmentalism.

October 06, 2015
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We Bought a Leaf!  How Excel Drives Environmentalism.

Everyone knows I love Excel spreadsheets.  Financial planning, vacation planning, car shopping, household chores, everything needs a spreadsheet.  The numbers never lie.  They can be tortured and manipulated, but they always tell the truth in the end.

My family has never professed to be environmentalists, granolas, tree huggers, whatever term you may use.  Don't get me wrong, we respect our environment and enjoy our time at the lake or beach and take care to leave every place we visit as clean as (or better) than we found it.  Camping, no.  Composting, no.  Picking up trash, yes.

About a year ago we began to notice an invasion of ugly bug-like cars in parking lots and driveways in our area.  The Nissan Leaf had arrived.  Spurred by generous Federal and State tax credits, this golf cart on steroids was spreading across the Atlanta metro area like kudzu after a heavy spring rain.

Leaf drivers (Leafers?) I spoke with made two universal comments.  First, it was actually fun to drive.  Second, it was free.  What?  Free?  After breaking out the spreadsheet and running the numbers, I learned that for a limited time (until the State tax credit expired on 6/30/2015) and under the right conditions (2 year lease, averaging about 30 miles a day), the Leaf was in fact basically free.  A week later we had a brand new dark grey Nissan Leaf plugged in to an outlet in our garage.  My 9-year-old son said it best, "It's not as bad as I thought it would be."  My wife suggested we get a second so we could have Leaves...

Here's the quick math.  The monthly out of pocket cost is $283 for the lease payment and $65 for insurance - a total of $348.  The $5,000 one time tax credit nets to $208 a month.  Avoiding 1,000 miles of gas a month (20 mpg at $3 / gal) saves another $150 a month - total savings of $358 a month.  Yes, there is a marginal increase in my home electric bill, but let's be honest, it's a rounding error.  So it's essentially free.

So what's the point?  Most people want to do the right thing - eat better, exercise more, use less energy to help the environment, even save for retirement.  Sometimes the right thing to do is hard or even too expensive.  Not everyone can shop only at Whole Foods, install home solar panels and drive a Tesla!

In this case, the marriage of continuously improving technology and smart government subsidies created a situation where what is good for the environment is also good for the wallet.  While we have only committed to a two year lease, we are looking forward to what opportunities will be available in the near future.  Flying cars?

Since I mentioned saving for retirement, can you think of anything you have access to that provides a marriage of government and employer subsidies that may be good for you over the long term?  Are you taking advantage of it?  If you can't solve the riddle, please call us!