The thing about parking tickets…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a parking ticket?

Raise your hand if you then complained about it on Facebook or to a friend?

Raise your hand if it was your fault? :)

At one of the meetups I go to every week, there’s always some chatter in the background on how horrible the parking is and how many tickets someone has now racked up. This quickly turns into a pity party when someone else overhears and tries to “one up” them on the amount of injustice being bestowed upon him (“you have two tickets? I have ten!”).

But here’s the thing about parking tickets – it’s almost always our fault, and almost always avoidable. We just choose convenience and pray we don’t get caught!

The place we meet each week? There’s PLENTY of free parking! You may have to drive an extra block to get there, but there’s plenty of space for the taking and I’ve never once had a problem finding a spot. Nor getting a ticket, for that matter. And you now why? Because I take two seconds to read the signs where I park – imagine that? If it says “no parking” or “residents only,” I go find a different spot. Pretty simple! (And once you figure out where the safe streets are, you don’t even have to think about it anymore the next time)

Unfortunately my friends still haven’t caught on. Sure they overlook a sign or two at times (which is still our own fault, btw), but more often than not they’re playing the “I’ll only be here for a bit” game, hoping to not get caught. Only they do, and then they roll the dice all over again the next week full well knowing the odds are still not in their favor.

This is why I follow the “Assume you’ll always get caught” rule with stuff like this. Anytime I find myself about to break the law – whether I think it’s a valid law or not – I ask myself if I’m okay with the repercussions of getting caught? If I am, I risk it like a naughty boy and pray I get away with it. If I’m not (which is mostly the case), I obey and move on with myself. But in either case it’s a *conscious* decision I make which I can only blame myself for if I happen to choose wrongly. And sometimes it’s worth doing so.

An example: any time I have a friend visiting from out of town, we go out to eat downtown and usually sit there for hours gabbing away. It’s always nice to be able to do that in the middle of the work week (a perk of setting your own schedule!), but I often forget to park in the spots that aren’t capped at only 2 hours. So somewhere around the hour and a half/45 mins mark I have to ask myself if it’s worth ending our time together, or if I should just suck it up and pay the $45 ticket I assume I’ll be getting. And most times I choose the latter. To me, the time being spent with friends is worth more than the penalty. Which thankfully I only end up needing to pay a fraction of the time!

This rule of getting caught has served me well in other areas too:

  • Wearing a seat belt? Yes please – I don’t want to die
  • Brush my teeth? Of course! They’ll fall out if I don’t!
  • Drugs? No thanks, I’ll get addicted
  • Not reporting side income? I’ll go to jail!
  • Save for retirement? Only if I plan on living past 60 ;)

I get made fun of a lot for some of these, but hey – it’s my world right? And lest you think I’m a wet blanket, I have been known to play the odds in other areas of my life such as with underage drinking, illegal music downloading (remember Napster? Hah!), and these days driving 10-15 miles over the speed limit. Which is another one of those things people get so irate about – it’s not like you don’t know you’re driving fast! It just sucks when we’re caught!

All this to say that if you assume the worst outcome with these things, you’ll probably be steered towards making better decisions. It’s not the worst thing in the world to get a parking or speeding ticket, but if your money’s tight and you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck, well, these are the things to consider until you have enough not to be concerned with such annoyances anymore… And some people will gladly pay for them!

My old boss used to illegally park his car in front of our office building almost every single day, full well knowing he’d be slapped with outrageous fines. When I asked him one day why he just doesn’t park a few streets over, he told me it wasn’t about the money – it was about the convenience. And the convenience was worth every penny to him. (Of course, this was the same company which eventually went under due to financial problems, but hey – at least he was consciously deciding his fate ;))

Assume the worst for the next few weeks and see if it changes anything… You still might get tickets, but at least it’ll feel better knowing you chose them vs being “unjustly” blindsided. No shame in spending money on things you value!

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  1. Hannah September 30, 2015 at 5:37 AM

    I used to meet with a few friends who lived on a different campus. I had to park 2.5 miles from their campus for free parking. I would always wear my running gear, and just run in because 1) I was too broke to afford a parking fine, and 2)I’m too cheap to pay the three dollar parking fee on campus.

    When it comes to paying for stuff that I could avoid, I prefer to do so. As a result, I’ve gotten to be very savvy at understanding how to find free parking, free transportation, and free pizza. I’m pretty bad at finding free anything else.

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 6:21 AM

      Wow you’re hardcore, haha… love it.

  2. Dee @ Color Me Frugal September 30, 2015 at 7:21 AM

    This is the reason why I stopped speeding. Even though I could probably technically afford to pay a ticket, the thought of actually having to part with the money for something like that is painful! I’d rather drive slower and feel much more confident that I won’t have to waste time and money getting pulled over for something like that. Same with parking. I don’t mind parking a few blocks away and walking- much better exercise that way :-)

  3. Brian @ Debt Discipline September 30, 2015 at 7:33 AM

    No parking tickets for me, but have had a two speeding tickets. Really about being aware of your surrounding. I think your old bosses attitude of convenience is what I call lazy and is why a lot of people run into parking ticket, they don’t want to take the time to read signs or energy to walk.

  4. Kalie September 30, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    I got a few parking tickets during college, which was kind of not my fault, because I purchased a $110 parking permit & there would be nowhere to park the first week of classes when everyone actually went to class. I suppose I could’ve parked in the ghetto & walked a mile in & been late. But luckily I called & they forgave them since I had a permit.
    I’m definitely a rule follower by nature & it sometimes does save money.

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      Smart of you to call and contest it! Most people would just pay it (or ignore it!) and go on their way… Prob the best 5 min phone call you made that month :)

  5. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies September 30, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    I’ve never had any kind of ticket (knock on wood!), mostly because I’m such a rule follower. And I hate spending money on things that don’t benefit me at all. Your former boss’s take is an interesting one – I suppose chancing the parking ticket for the convenience isn’t all that unlike paying daily for a parking space.

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:25 AM

      yeah, that was also along his thinking actually – though def. more expensive in the end.

      reminds me of this joke :)


      A man walked into a bank in New York City one day and asked for the loan officer. He told the loan officer that he was going to Philippines on business for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000. The bank officer told him that the bank would need some form of security for the loan.

      The man then handed over the keys to a new Ferrari parked on the street in front of the bank. He produced the title, everything checked out and the loan officer agreed to accept the car as collateral for the loan.The bank’s president and its officers all enjoyed a good laugh at the guy for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral against a $5,000 loan (idiot!).

      An employee of the bank then drove the Ferrari into the bank’s underground garage and parked it there. Two weeks later, the guy returned, repaid the $5,000 and the interest – which came to $15.41.

      The loan officer said, “Sir, we are very happy to have your business, and are pleased that the transaction worked out very nicely, but we are all a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multi millionaire. Why in the world would you bother to borrow $5,000??”

      The millionaire replied: “Where else in New York City can I park my car for $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return.”

  6. Catina Marie September 30, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    We have reserved parking at the office, which happens to have a Subway next door. It never fails that someone parks in our spots (which our company pays for!) “just to run in and grab lunch”. They always say “OH! I didn’t notice the sign!”
    It’s like 4 feet tall X 4 feet wide….really people? I didn’t just get off the dumb train yesterday. LOL…wish I was gangster enough to call for the tow truck. I am just too nice.

  7. Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 30, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    That’s definitely a smart mindset to have. Admittedly, I haven’t always thought like that about parking or speeding tickets. I got a ton of them when I used to travel a lot. In fairness, some states have some pretty tricky speed traps! Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid them over the past couple of years in Nashville. You’re totally right. It’s better to assume you’ll get caught.

  8. Mrs. Budgets September 30, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    I work in a hospital I hear so many visitors complaining about the “horrible” parking situation. I’m like really, did you try the large parking lot behind the building (which would only be a 5 min walk to an entrance)? Of course they don’t they instead circle around the smallest parking lot we have in front of the hospital for 20 minutes. Let me remind you these are visitors not patients, a 5 minute walk would do almost everyone some good and could help prevent them becoming a patient one day.

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:26 AM

      hah! agreed.

  9. Lisa O September 30, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    I don’t think I have ever gotten a parking ticket….I just couldn’t park somewhere that says “No Parking”. I would feel like I was doing something wrong and even with no ticket I wouldn’t feel good about it! Call it the catholic school up bringing …life is pretty black/white…I don’t do gray very well :)

    1. Lisa O September 30, 2015 at 9:22 AM

      Another after thought…love that your boss said that it ” wasn’t about money but convenience”. Again something that my catholic school up bringing wouldn’t allow me to think….the convenience is for him and him alone. I am sure that with most “No Parking” there is a reason in the bigger picture that is helpful to many and not just one!

      Hahahaha…a little deep this a.m. sorry!

      1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:27 AM

        Truth! God forbid a firetruck or ambulance needed access.

  10. Fervent Finance September 30, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    In college, I got parking tickets quite often. Would visit people on other campuses and not know proper protocol. I’d drive back to my dorm from work or visiting someone, and there’d be no parking so I’d leave it parked in front of my dorm or in visitor and then forget about it. All of them were my fault obviously. The easiest way to not get a ticket is to follow the rules or not own a car. I luckily don’t own a car and therefore don’t get parking tickets :)

  11. Sharon September 30, 2015 at 9:20 AM

    What a great post! I learned this lesson, partly from my own experience and definitely from observing others (more daring than me?) – if you do something that you really don’t want to get caught doing – you WILL get caught if you persist in doing it. It is only a matter of when not if. Parking tickets, yep, had those, gave it up. But the list really goes on and on! And it is always in our own control! When we have control we can change. It’s a choice. Guess I better make some good ‘choices’ today! Thanks for waking us up so we can remember to take responsibility.

  12. brian September 30, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Classic negative visualization. Fear can be a powerful ally, no?

  13. Liz September 30, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    I like the rule of assuming the worst in general, and I definitely live by it. But I actually did live in a city where the cops were wrongly issuing tickets, yes some were my own fault (no I didn’t move my car 48 hours after the snow storm and I forgot that it was the second Tuesday of the month meaning it was street cleaning day), but one was straight up impossible (I’d never parked on that street) and another was a cop just being a jerk (parking for 10 min with my flashers packing up my car to move), I actively avoided going to that part of town after I moved out of it. I would rather not socialize than risk getting a ticket from those cops.

    I think in most places avoiding parking tickets is easy, in cities where the signs change the rules each day it can be a bit more confusing. I’ve remained paranoid about getting tickets ever since even though I now live in a city with tons of easy parking.

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:29 AM

      yeah, some areas are def. more confusing than others for sure. usually in those times I’ll just suck it up and pay for parking if there’s a close lot/garage around since it would def. be cheaper than a ticket if I guessed wrong.

  14. Thias @It Pays Dividends September 30, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    I have luckily only received 1 parking ticket ever – but now that I have said that, I can assume I will have 5 by the end of the weekend!

    I normally err on the side of caution on these sorts of things. I hate losing money just because I didn’t do something simple like park a block further away, buckled my seat belt, or drove way too fast because I wanted to get somewhere a couple minutes earlier.

  15. Tonya@Budget and the Beach September 30, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    I’m such a huge rule follower for that same reason. But, around here street sweeping is the biggest culprit and although it’s 100% our fault, it’s very easy to forget which side of the street you parked on and get burned. I went on a 2 year and 4 month streak of not getting a parking ticket, which no one around here can believe, until one day I did forget. But overall I did a good job of being mindful. It was because of where I parked and getting towed that started my whole blog in the first place. Crazy huh? BTW, after this comment I need to move my car. Street sweeping at 8am.

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:33 AM

      HAH!! Both our blogs started after a dumb move :) Though yours a lot cheaper (mine was a $360k house purchase with no money down and no budget, sigh…)

  16. One Broke B September 30, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    I’ve gotten a few parking tickets in college, but campus parking is confusing sometimes. Certain days/times it’s ok with one pass then other days/times it’s not.

    I can recall two parking tickets not on campus–one for not feeding a meter quite enough (doh!) and another for parking on the street too close to someone’s driveway :(

    I will say, I absolutely hate paying for parking. I am from a very rural area where parking garages and meters are unheard of. It physically pains me to have to pay $10 (or more!) to park somewhere. I will typically go out of my way to park somewhere for free–but sometimes it’s not do-able due to time constraints or me not wanting to walk far by myself (for safety reasons).

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:34 AM

      I’d pay the $$ for safety reasons too – that always has to come first!

      (and loving the name of your blog btw, haha…. feisty!)

      1. One Broke B September 30, 2015 at 2:46 PM

        Thanks so much! I was afraid it might be off-putting for some, but just decided to go with what I like!

  17. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure September 30, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I only get tickets when I actually forget to pay for parking. It’s happened twice and I’ve felt dumb, but then I think “well, at least I didn’t pay for parking AND a ticket!” I just have to be cautious I’m not chatting when we get out of the car or I’ll forget. :) It all goes back to my favorite advice ever: “Don’t do stupid things!”

  18. Tawcan September 30, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    Great idea, why play with fire in the first place when you know the risk? :)

    I’ve only received 1 parking ticket so far. It was rather my fault, I paid for the parking but put the receipt on the dash up-side-down. Not only that, I didn’t purchase enough time so when I got the ticket, my purchased time was already up. Totally my fault. It sucked to having to pay for the ticket but from that experience I learned that I need to be responsible for my own action.

  19. JC @ Personal Finance Utopia September 30, 2015 at 10:36 AM

    That’s a good way to think about such things. My wife got a parking ticket about a year ago. In her mind it wasn’t her fault (even though it really was). Our old daycare was downtown and all spots were metered. We actually got to park for free if we put up a placard indicating we were there only to pick up/drop off our kids. Yet, my wife started getting lazy in putting the sign up and sure enough she got caught. The ticket was legit but she was mad (probably more so at herself) and appealed it (unsuccessfully).

  20. Michelle September 30, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    I’ve gotten one parking ticket in my life and it wasn’t my fault :) They actually took it back because I had a good reasoning for why I parked in the teacher’s area instead of the student’s area when I was in college (safety reasons – multiple people were kidnapped in the student’s area so I stopped parking there!).

    1. J. Money September 30, 2015 at 11:35 AM

      Yikes! Smart move!

  21. Money Beagle September 30, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    Knock on wood, but I’ve never gotten a parking ticket. I know people that have and when you find out the details, it’s usually as you said, where the ticket could have easily been avoided had they actually acknowledged and followed the rules.

  22. Chris @ Flipping a Dollar September 30, 2015 at 12:56 PM

    Argh I got one of the speeding cam tickets (haven’t received it yet but I’m expecting it). Worst part is I usually go the speed limit through there but I had just had an encounter with a spider above my head right before and was all amped up on adrenaline!! Still my fault though.

    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:13 PM

      ACK! haha… I’d love to see you go in court and try to explain yourself on that one, haha… “It’s true, officer – a spider! THIS big!”

  23. theFIREstarter September 30, 2015 at 1:17 PM

    Hi J,

    Not sure what the law is in USA but in the UK many parking tickets are not enforcable by law and you can actually just ignore them until they finally give up and go away. They will threaten you with all sorts of scary sounding things such as a court appearance and so on but eventually they will actually go away because they know they got nuthin’ :)

    The key to this is to work out what type of ticket you got:
    1. A council car park or parking zone – these are enforcable by law. Pay up quick! They are normally fairly reasonable charges as well like £25 or £30 so not that bad.
    2. Privately owned and enforced car parks – As long as you are SURE it’s not a council one (should be pretty obvious as the letter you get won’t be from the council, although they will try to make it sound like they are important and have powers etc…) then literally just ignore them. You can reply saying you are not paying as a courtesy but they’ll chase you up either way so might as well save your time and not bother.

    I have been meaning to write up a quick “How to” post on my blog for aaaages on how this works but keep forgetting, thanks for the reminder! :)


    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:16 PM

      Really?? What’s the point in having the rules then? I’d still follow them regardless to not have to worry about paying/being stressed out. But again I’m a goody goody :)

  24. Giovina September 30, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    I got a parking ticket once. But the person issuing it clearly didn’t know their job and the time on the ticket wasn’t even during the time you had to pay for meters. I contested it and they cancelled it.. but I wonder how many other invalid tickets were issued and people just paid because they didn’t pay attention. cash grab for the city.

    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:17 PM

      Dumb mistake on their part – hah!

  25. The Professor September 30, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    I was up in San Fran for vacation last month with two little kids. I parked on a side street and checked the sign. I mistook it or something. I was worried about street sweeping but didn’t realize the parking lane turns into a commuter lane from 4-6pm. during weekdays. Ok, my fault. I have no problem paying the $91 parking ticket but seriously, $541 for towing it on top of that? Wow..that’s the real criminal offense in my book. (add in a $20 cab ride across town to find the place and go pick it up).
    I keep thinking about all the ways I could have used that dinero for better things.

    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:18 PM

      Ouch! Even worse when you’re with kids too, sorry to hear man :(

  26. Deasy Noel September 30, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    I’ve had a couple of parking tickets in the past couple of years, and it was the worst feeling seeing that ticket on your windshield. Yes, I should have read the sign more properly. Yes, I should have re-parked so my car wasn’t crossing the red line. Just doing those two things would have only took another minute or so, but I was too careless to do them, and it costed me a lot more than I’d like T___T”

  27. Jacquelyn October 1, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    This whole thing is so true. For my delivery job, it’s a biatch because you think if you pop in and out of the restaurant you will be fine…not fined. It’s only happened to me 3 times (1 with a boot) because city life is real.

    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      yeah it is, haha

  28. Tre October 2, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    I follow the same philosophy. It’s just easier to follow the rules. I remember a friend in college who didn’t want to walk from student parking and racked up hundreds in parking tickets. They all had to be paid in the end.

    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:20 PM

      or you don’t graduate sometimes!

  29. Jake Cutter October 3, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    I once got a parking ticket in Philadelphia. I have never been to Philadelphia. Thanks, Avis!

    1. J. Money October 4, 2015 at 3:22 PM

      haha…. I got a citation the other year for not buying a train ticket in san francisco. Only they didn’t believe me that I haven’t visited in like 6 years :) took about 4 phone calls and 3 letters in the mail for collections to finally clear it up – what a mess.

  30. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank October 5, 2015 at 5:08 AM

    I go to work a bit late that is why I find it hard to find a good parking place. So I have to go around the vicinity. Most likely, I tend to get the farthest one from my office. It is really a hassle but I don’t mind it so much because I get a little exercise out of it.

  31. Someone December 29, 2015 at 5:50 AM

    Let’s be honest; these meter parkings are unfair. When you see a block of restaurants and all the parking within the block lets you park for an hr, if you don’t hurry up with your food better remember to put In another quarter. Also most muni meters don’t want to accept your credit card if your are only paying a quarter since the transaction is costly for just 25cents so if you are running around looking for some change, there’s a ticket! If you’re a door to door salesman and your client is taking just a minute longer than your expiration time, there’s a ticket. Why is there no grace period for when your ticket expires? Just one minute has to pass from your expiration time to get fined $35.

    Importantly, Is there really no such thing as public parking near restaurants, shops and busy areas anymore? We just HAVE to pay to go to our local grocery store? I don’t understand the idea of having to pay for parking. Anybody can afford a quarter if you have a car and the time limit doesn’t keep a car from moving so you are not increasing parking space, why do we need to pay to park? Not only does this help the city collect money through quarters but through parking tickets and it doesn’t really help us at the end with safety, parking increase or anything… Does the city desperately need our money?

  32. Nate February 9, 2018 at 10:11 PM

    This is why I bike in DC; it’s almost impossible to know what the parking rules are because of nonsense signs.

    Case in point: I drive to my daughter’s college early in the morning and there is a sign on the side in the grass that says No Parking 5-10pm. So I park since I’ll be gone by 4pm. Evidently sometime during the morning they put out “No Parking from 12-5pm” signs at the entrance of the lot and then give me a ticket at 2pm even though they never move the original sign, which is right next to my car.

    I appeal and they tell me it’s my fault for not reading the signs. *This* is why people think it’s unfair.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2018 at 10:55 AM

      Ugh, yeah – that’s def. lame…

      And I actually agree there’s a lot of nonsense rules/signs out there, I just find that most times people really *don’t* pay attention to them and then like to complain about it… Lord knows I’ve gotten tickets over the years that were 100% my fault.