Last week, I discussed being a one-car family - some ways sharing a car has made our life more simple and more complicated as well as the keys to how we’re able to make this work for our family.
Today, I want to talk money. Money is one of my favorite things to talk about and analyze, because it’s so empowering. (The flip side of that is that it can be so stressful, but the more I feel in control of my money situation, the more free I feel). Personally, this is of importance to me because, as several of you mentioned in your survey responses, my family has a pretty limited income. Mike is a grad student who works part-time as a researcher and teaches a few classes as an adjunct. I work part-time as a web designer. Together, we make an income that’s still below the median for a family of 4 and we also have things to worry about that we wouldn’t if either of us had a full-time employer – like purchasing our own insurance.
With careful planning and prioritizing, we’re able to live in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re lacking. Some of this is because we have no debt (thanks to our parents for teaching us good financial habits, and to AmeriCorps for helping me with my student loans), but also because of decisions like this whole owning-one-car thing.
Cars & Money
Just how much does it cost to own a car? Well, for our 12-year-old Honda Accord, we spend about $4000 a year just on gas, insurance, and repairs (which is probably the lowest it’ll ever be – we have no car payment, we hardly ever need repairs, and our insurance is a minimum for damage to our car since we’re going to replace it within a year anyway). That’s a bit less than the estimated cost of ownership from Kelly Blue Book (they estimate it’s about $22-24K over five years plus the cost of depreciation), but still rather significant when we’re looking to save money. And we are.
A few other unexpected ways in which not owning a second car saves us money:
- We only need one car seat.
- We eat out less – we can’t just be like, “Hey, meet you at sushi after work?” It’s more of a hassle to come back home, pick up the other person, and go out. So we do it less.
- Less Target runs. Look, I’ll be honest. If I had unlimited access to a car, I’d be going to Target and Starbucks with Gabe a whole lot more often than I already do. Being ‘stuck’ in our neighborhood means I just don’t have that option. The public library and several parks is nearby and free!
So, basically, the hard part of sharing a car (sacrifice, limited mobility) is also what saves us money.
Also, bonus! It keeps us a little healthier because we’re often walking and biking for transportation. And is a bit better for the environment - one less car on the road (and one less hunk of plastic car seat in a landfill eventually, I suppose).
In my ideal world, I think we’d live somewhere that we can walk to work, school, and all our errands. Where the weather would be cooperative or public transportation plentiful. Where we’d just need to rent a car every now and then for big grocery runs or IKEA trips or something.
That’s not our reality right now (or..ever? It all depends on where Mike finds a job!), but we still want to live in a way that aligns with our values and saves us some money. So we’ll be those oddballs walking 1.5 miles to the grocery store, taking the public bus when no one else we know does, and living in an apartment building with a bunch of retired folks and college kids (who luckily make living with them largely enjoyable, as they adore Gabe and fix things for us within a few hours).
For now, the benefits of sharing a car definitely outweigh any difficulties for us.