one car experiment: part 2

old car, new car
Creative Commons License photo credit: moonrat42

3 months ago we made the decision to become a 1 car family. In August, we took my husband’s car in for a checkup since it was making a weird sound. The car needed about $3,000 in repairs and we felt it wasn’t worth the cost of repairing it. We sold the car to our mechanic, and have been using 1 car for all our needs ever since with the exception of 2 weeks. The reprieve from 1 car came when my parents went to visit my grandmother. They left their 2nd car with us, which was useful since it rained almost every day those 2 weeks.

I haven’t been walking as much as I thought I would, though. While our house is close enough to walk to many places I’m finding it difficult to find the time. I’ve entered a busy period of work, so juggling home, family, and work has been more urgent than trying to make more effort to walk.

How I get from here to there

Walking:

  • home from school mid-day on days when I have no car (no bus service available)
  • walking the dog

Driving:

  • work (husband): Monday-Friday
  • resource center that my homeschooler attends Wednesday and Friday
  • grocery store: we prefer to shop at a grocery store that is about 3 miles away, and monthly or when I’m in the area I will make stops at Trader Joe’s and Costco.
  • work (me): on Sunday mornings
  • pick up for 5 year old from Kindergarten on the days I have the car, or rainy days
  • other errands
  • family outings

1 car lessons: what I learned from ditching our wheels

Stay home

In many ways having one car has made me be more focused on our home, and being in it, rather than constantly going out to do errands or meet with friends. Much of our monthly budget goes towards our housing costs, so it seems sensible to be home. here are some things I do with my time at home:

  • Play with the kids or pets: This is the best use of time in our house since a little attention goes a long way to everyone playing nicely and quietly while we get things done.
  • Clean the house: Most of us don’t dust the baseboards and the walls each week. Take some time to do a good deep clean for a room in your house. It’s amazing how much better it makes you feel.
  • Fix it/paint it/redo it: Find an area in your home that needs sprucing up, or that has a problem, and tackle it. Maybe you can find a use for that old can of gray paint, or finally fix that broken lock on your bathroom door.
  • Start a side business from home: Start a side job to earn extra money using skills you already have. Like a writer who starts a blog, or a computer programmer who starts a consulting business.
  • Brush up on a skill/learn a new one: Whether it’s learning to develop iPhone apps, or learning to knit; there is no shortage of things you can learn. Some great places to look: iTunes, Amazon, or borrow a book from the library.
  • Declutter: Organizing is a great way to find some extra cash in the form of stuff you don’t need, and find duplicates of everyday items like glue, tape, and even coins that are hiding around your home.

Consolidate shopping & errands

How do we get it all done with only one car?

  • Plan ahead: Plan your meals, plan what you need to purchase within the next month. It’s great for budgeting, and for making sure you don’t forget something. If you have a spouse who shares in shopping and errands make a googledoc that you can share to avoid duplicates, and to ensure that when your spouse goes to the pharmacy he will pick up your prescription refill.
  • Map out your errands: Take the time to figure out where you need to go, and what stops you will make when. For fuel economy purposes, go to the furthest errand first. If the grocery store is far away, take a cooler or get cooler bags.
  • Make a list and stick to it: Keep a running list, and stick to it when you go out. If you think of something else when you are out write it down. If you are like most people, chances are likely you already have at least one at home.

I prefer to my grocery shopping on days when I only have my youngest child with me, or I will go in the evening. In our area Wegman’s is open 24 hours, and Trader Joe’s is open until 9pm every night.

Staying sane

With 4 kids, 3 pets, and a busy schedule it’s not always easy. Add the logistics of one car living and that sound you just heard was my brain exploding. It is possible to stay sane though, some tips for staying sane:

  • Get outside as often as possible: Connecting with nature is a balm for your soul. Sounds cheesy, I know but it’s, but it’s also true.
  • Create a haven: Choose somewhere that is quiet and neat. You need somewhere you can retreat to when the rest of your home is messy, disorganized, or chaotic.
  • Find at least 10 minutes a day you can be completely alone/with people: If you live with others it is key to get at least a few minutes of alone time each day, even if it’s just in the shower. If you live alone, find a way to be around other people for at least a few minutes each day.
  • Get out of the house when you can: Take advantage of things you have to do outside of the house, and plan to spend time with friends, on family outings, or date nights with your spouse.

Personally, I tend to get stir crazy after being home for days in a row, so I try to take time at least once a week to go outside of the house for a bit alone. Usually it involves working from a coffee shop, going out with friends, or the aforementioned late night grocery store run.

Could you do it?

It hasn’t been easy, but it has been entirely possible. We have not run into a situation yet where having 1 car has caused a major problem. Could you make one car living work? Do you aspire to one or no car living?

Kelly

For ideas on making one car living work for you, and lots of great commentary head over to Wisebread where I wrote, “Can You Survive with One Car in Suburbia?

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About Kelly Whalen


Kelly Whalen is the founder of The Centsible Life, a blog where motherhood and money meet. Her goal is to help readers live well on less. Kelly is a mom to 4, and loves that she can stay at home with her kids, and still pursue her passions for writing, personal finance, and social media. You can often find her on twitter and Facebook talking money and motherhood.

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  • http://twitter.com/MainlineMom @MainlineMom

    Wow this is a bit inspirational. We live in the heart of suburbia, and my husband commutes over 20 miles to work each day, but I work from home and the house we bought is literally a five minute walk from our daycare and our elementary school. When the oldest starts elementary next year I simply refuse to drive him to school because the traffic is RIDICULOUS, so I will be walking both kids to school, rain or shine. (thankfully we have no snow, or even very cold days). I *could* walk the two miles to all the local shopping, coffee shop, etc. It would probably save me money to stay near home, simply because I'm a bit of a shopaholic and I love to wander the mall or Target just to get out of my house. Perhaps I could take this up as a challenge for a month and see what happens.

    • http://twitter.com/centsiblelife @centsiblelife

      I think that's a great idea!
      Our challenge right now is that we are struggling with the cold weather.
      I need to pick up my daughter every day, so I need the car every day. It's eating up at least an HOUR of my day!

      We are talking about a 2nd car simply because the hubby's schedule is busier, and I need to be able to pick up my girlie even if it's snowing. I looked into carpooling, or paying a service to pick her up, but no dice.

      So while it may be inspirational, and we are glad we have done it for 6 months, it's time to re-evaluate.

  • http://twitter.com/MainlineMom @MainlineMom

    Wow this is a bit inspirational. We live in the heart of suburbia, and my husband commutes over 20 miles to work each day, but I work from home and the house we bought is literally a five minute walk from our daycare and our elementary school. When the oldest starts elementary next year I simply refuse to drive him to school because the traffic is RIDICULOUS, so I will be walking both kids to school, rain or shine. (thankfully we have no snow, or even very cold days). I *could* walk the two miles to all the local shopping, coffee shop, etc. It would probably save me money to stay near home, simply because I'm a bit of a shopaholic and I love to wander the mall or Target just to get out of my house. Perhaps I could take this up as a challenge for a month and see what happens.

    • http://twitter.com/centsiblelife @centsiblelife

      I think that's a great idea!
      Our challenge right now is that we are struggling with the cold weather.
      I need to pick up my daughter every day, so I need the car every day. It's eating up at least an HOUR of my day!

      We are talking about a 2nd car simply because the hubby's schedule is busier, and I need to be able to pick up my girlie even if it's snowing. I looked into carpooling, or paying a service to pick her up, but no dice.

      So while it may be inspirational, and we are glad we have done it for 6 months, it's time to re-evaluate.

  • King Richard

    My wife and I have been a one-car family for two or three years now. We love it because it works for us. My wife teaches school and I am a computer programmer. Fortunately, that allows me to be flexible with my schedule. Her work is on the way to my work . . . if I choose to work in the office rather than from home. My work is 12 miles from home so, on occasion, when the Arizona weather permits, I ride my bicycle. But most days I drop her off and I pick her up on the way home.
    The great part is that we get to spend time together. I hear about how her day went. We run errands often on our way home.
    The hard part for us, with all of our children grown, is getting the car in for service. But I finally found a reliable shop not too far from my work, where they will take me on to work and pick me up later when the work is done.
    Will I ever go back to two cars? Yes, but not the way that you might think. I may buy a pick up so that I could haul things as needed and to use as a back up should the primary vehicle fail or need service, but it would sit at home most of the time.
    Doing one car has been a great experience for us. It probably also saved us a bundle on payments, insurance, registration, fuel and maintenance.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      Sounds like a great way to make it work!
      I like the idea of a pickup as well, but it's not practical for the backup car right now since it wouldn't be safe for the kids.

      We have found a service shop that my husband's co-worker goes to, so they agreed to pick up and drop each other off when one of our cars needs service. Certainly makes things easier!

  • King Richard

    My wife and I have been a one-car family for two or three years now. We love it because it works for us. My wife teaches school and I am a computer programmer. Fortunately, that allows me to be flexible with my schedule. Her work is on the way to my work . . . if I choose to work in the office rather than from home. My work is 12 miles from home so, on occasion, when the Arizona weather permits, I ride my bicycle. But most days I drop her off and I pick her up on the way home.
    The great part is that we get to spend time together. I hear about how her day went. We run errands often on our way home.
    The hard part for us, with all of our children grown, is getting the car in for service. But I finally found a reliable shop not too far from my work, where they will take me on to work and pick me up later when the work is done.
    Will I ever go back to two cars? Yes, but not the way that you might think. I may buy a pick up so that I could haul things as needed and to use as a back up should the primary vehicle fail or need service, but it would sit at home most of the time.
    Doing one car has been a great experience for us. It probably also saved us a bundle on payments, insurance, registration, fuel and maintenance.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      Sounds like a great way to make it work!
      I like the idea of a pickup as well, but it's not practical for the backup car right now since it wouldn't be safe for the kids.

      We have found a service shop that my husband's co-worker goes to, so they agreed to pick up and drop each other off when one of our cars needs service. Certainly makes things easier!

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  • http://www.patti-flynn.com patti

    i was amused by this topic.
    all my life, i've lived in one car or no car homes.
    my parents have had one car between them for their entire lives.
    actually, they had no car until i was about 12 years old.
    my husband and i have shared a car for 20 years. often we had no car, just a motorbike, or even pushbikes.
    we all live in new zealand and australia, where it's a lot more expensive to buy and maintain a car….i suspect that is where our built-in car-frugality stems from.
    nowadays we could all afford big shiny new cars and one each….but we simply do not need them.
    (we do have large shiny motorbikes, but they are truly our only frivolous toys….and after two years, i am already re-considering mine).

    one just learns to manage without.
    kudos to you guys for realising just how possible it is and how easy it is really.
    we just don't have to be everywhere all the time.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      Patti, so many places in the US (even surrounding neighborhoods near our home) are places that are impossible to get by without at least one car. It's really a matter of poor planning.

      Funnily enough our neighborhood was the country 40 years ago when it was built, but now it's a major shopping area. I think it's sort of an accident that we picked this place, and are able to get by without a second car.

      It's definitely easier than I thought it would be. :)

  • http://www.patti-flynn.com/ patti

    i was amused by this topic.
    all my life, i've lived in one car or no car homes.
    my parents have had one car between them for their entire lives.
    actually, they had no car until i was about 12 years old.
    my husband and i have shared a car for 20 years. often we had no car, just a motorbike, or even pushbikes.
    we all live in new zealand and australia, where it's a lot more expensive to buy and maintain a car….i suspect that is where our built-in car-frugality stems from.
    nowadays we could all afford big shiny new cars and one each….but we simply do not need them.
    (we do have large shiny motorbikes, but they are truly our only frivolous toys….and after two years, i am already re-considering mine).

    one just learns to manage without.
    kudos to you guys for realising just how possible it is and how easy it is really.
    we just don't have to be everywhere all the time.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      Patti, so many places in the US (even surrounding neighborhoods near our home) are places that are impossible to get by without at least one car. It's really a matter of poor planning.

      Funnily enough our neighborhood was the country 40 years ago when it was built, but now it's a major shopping area. I think it's sort of an accident that we picked this place, and are able to get by without a second car.

      It's definitely easier than I thought it would be. :)

  • Ben

    Good luck with the experiment. My wife and I are a one car family and it works well but mainly because we have walking distance access to the train station, which makes my commute to work possible. There is a great website http://www.walkscore.com/ that compute a score of how walkable your neighborhood is; it's more helpful to people in the market for a house than someone who already knows their neighborhood but a fun FYI.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      That's a neat website, Ben. thanks for sharing it.
      Sadly where my husband works there is little by way of public transportation.
      If we lived in an area with better public transit, I think no car would be quite possible for us.

  • http://www.DebtFreeAdventure.com Matt Jabs

    Could we do it? We did do it!

    We had to do this for 8 months while my Jeep was in the shop (long story…)

    The thing about it was… it didn't really bother us that much – we just kind of adapted, which is what people always do when they are forced into a sitch. I suppose we could have paid more at the auto mechanic to have one who would have fixed it faster (next time I will) or could have scrapped the Jeep & financed a new car… but I think going through the "one car family" thing was actually a very healthy exercise, especially in this consumer driven world we live in today.

    Way to go Whalen Family!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      I know you did, Matt. You were in part the inspiration for it!
      We had talked about it off and on but I couldn't talk the hubby into it, until it became a reality.
      The old us would have gone out and bought another car with a tiny downpayment, but the new us is much wiser thanks in part to the many wonderful personal finance bloggers I know, like you!

  • http://www.DebtFreeAdventure.com/ Matt Jabs

    Could we do it? We did do it!

    We had to do this for 8 months while my Jeep was in the shop (long story…)

    The thing about it was… it didn't really bother us that much – we just kind of adapted, which is what people always do when they are forced into a sitch. I suppose we could have paid more at the auto mechanic to have one who would have fixed it faster (next time I will) or could have scrapped the Jeep & financed a new car… but I think going through the "one car family" thing was actually a very healthy exercise, especially in this consumer driven world we live in today.

    Way to go Whalen Family!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      I know you did, Matt. You were in part the inspiration for it!
      We had talked about it off and on but I couldn't talk the hubby into it, until it became a reality.
      The old us would have gone out and bought another car with a tiny downpayment, but the new us is much wiser thanks in part to the many wonderful personal finance bloggers I know, like you!

  • http://www.thriftyapp.com/ Ben

    Good luck with the experiment. My wife and I are a one car family and it works well but mainly because we have walking distance access to the train station, which makes my commute to work possible. There is a great website http://www.walkscore.com/ that compute a score of how walkable your neighborhood is; it's more helpful to people in the market for a house than someone who already knows their neighborhood but a fun FYI.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      That's a neat website, Ben. thanks for sharing it.
      Sadly where my husband works there is little by way of public transportation.
      If we lived in an area with better public transit, I think no car would be quite possible for us.

  • Jennifer Y.

    Good for you!! I had posted my comments on our time with one car on your Wisebread post. It was difficult, but possible. If I ever become a SAHM again, I would consider it. It would not be hard for me to drop off/pick up my husband every day. He works very close by. I work too far away right now for this to be a reality for us.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      I read your comments on Wisebread as well. Sounds like would be an easy transition for you if you were staying at home. Working far from home stinks, my husband worked over an hour away for a year. That was my favorite thing about moving here, we suddenly had 2 hours+ a day more with him!

  • Jennifer Y.

    Good for you!! I had posted my comments on our time with one car on your Wisebread post. It was difficult, but possible. If I ever become a SAHM again, I would consider it. It would not be hard for me to drop off/pick up my husband every day. He works very close by. I work too far away right now for this to be a reality for us.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/CentsibleLife CentsibleLife

      I read your comments on Wisebread as well. Sounds like would be an easy transition for you if you were staying at home. Working far from home stinks, my husband worked over an hour away for a year. That was my favorite thing about moving here, we suddenly had 2 hours+ a day more with him!

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