|Coming to a road near you.|
November is here and last night, anticipating worsening weather, I put my snow-tires on. Hurricane Sandy fallout notwithstanding, there is most definitely colder, snowier weather on the way. Here are the steps I used on my snow-tires:
- cleaned the welts
- Applied polish and waterproofing
- Left to dry overnight
Let me explain my gibberish; my snow-tires are my Blundstone boots. We have one car and I walk virtually everywhere I go during the work week. I have had many people tell me they envy the simplicity of this and it likely is one of our single biggest money savers. It isn't as simple and carefree as some may assume - like everything worth doing, it takes effort, time and a bit of foresight to plan. But when properly executed, the one car household saves you money, time and more than a little bit of car-stress.
We estimate that getting rid of our second vehicle saves us at least $600 every month. That's $7,200 every year.
Here's how we have done it:
First off, we didn't always have one car. Both of us worked in a different town than we actually lived in and drove 30 minutes +/- of commute twice every day. We experimented with carpooling together for a while and after jigging our work schedules a bit, found that to be OK.
Then I started to work somewhere not-so-close to Robin's work and we were back to two cars again.
Our first serious thinking around a one-car household happened when our daughter was born. Robin was off work on mat-leave and I alternated carpool driving with another like-minded co-worker who lived nearby. Robin still had a vehicle all the time, if needed, but we saved a lot of gas/wear and tear by only driving one car about half the time. This looked like it had potential. Robin returned to work and with childcare juggling, two cars seemed necessary again.
|Scraping off one vehicle sucks 50% less.|
When our son was born, it was real decision time. You see one of our vehicles was a pickup truck with tiny jump seats in the back of the extended cab. Since it had no airbags, our daughter's car seat had been OK in the front and one of us would fold ourselves into the back. With two kids, this truck was obsolete. We sold it, and with Robin on maternity leave again, we did our alternating day carpool thing so she had a vehicle every other day (when I wasn't the driver).
Our last step to commitment was when she had to go back to work. We chose not to buy another vehicle and instead organized our lives so that we could continue with only one car. It also corresponded with what we called "the most expensive year of our lives":
- a major home renovation
- our (paid-for) car totalled by a snowplow (and having to be replaced)
- as well as Robin being off work (and on a greatly reduced mat-leave income).
Here is what we did to make all this work:
- I transferred to a job close to home (so close I can walk - you may recall that is how I started this post... I think. I'm not sure myself, as I have been blah-blah-blahing for so long).
- We found childcare that was walking distance from our house, so that I could drop off/pick up kids on the days that Robin had to work (her day starts earlier and in a different town).
- We rigorously planned any car-related activities where our needs for a car might overlap, for example: me going to a conference, Robin going to a conference, coaching, Fantasy football drafts, etc).
- We invested in good, all-season walking shoes, a (second hand) combo "Burley" Bike Trailer/2 kid jog-stroller and committed part of our "CAR" budget line to possibly having to rent a vehicle once and a while or take a taxi.
Having just one vehicle requires some small investments
While some of that sounds like a lot of money, my awesome boots cost only what a couple oil changes would run and the Burley - while expensive - was waaaay less than a one month car payment and we used it for 5 years. Having to support only one car also frees up lots of money for paying car-poolies, being the "Coffee guy/gal" or whatever other goodwill gestures you need to make carpooling fun and guilt-free. Remember, we are frugal, not freeloaders.
|Our two cars. The boots rarely win at Monster Truck car-crushing. The van doesn't either, really.|
Changing Jobs? Isn't that a bit extreme?
Changing jobs is likely the biggest freak out for most people, but if you could find a job that would pay you $5000+ more a year, you would likely go hunting, wouldn't you? Consumer Reports has a great article on the total cost of car ownership and the cheapest cars still cost you at least that much. Drive a more expensive or larger vehicle and the annual cost to own enters the $15-20,000 range! The CAA says the average ranges between $6 000 and 9,000 a year. What kind of job hunt would you put on for nearly a $10 000 a year raise?
So, our solution works for us, for now. Going forward we are going to have to plan kid-clubs/sports etc rigorously to prevent overlap for driving and the teenage years loom like a car-borrowing shadow on the future. No one said our $10,000/year raise was going to come without any work.
Coming up in Part 2:
If you are curious and want to give this alternative lifestyle a shot, next time I'll discuss some strategies to making the one car household work for you (you can read Part 2 about how to make one vehicle living work for you here).
Any other one car families out there? Anyone making it work with teenagers? (You are our idols!)