Up until a few months ago, if someone would have asked my wife or me to get rid of one of our cars, we would’ve just snickered and responded, “Impossible!” But then it happened… I wrecked my car.
A bit of background
From the time we met in 2003 up until seven months ago, my wife and I had always viewed two cars as a necessity. Then on Thursday, December 19th, 2008 I rear-ended a pickup truck at a busy intersection and wrecked my 2001 Jeep Cherokee.
At the time, my Jeep was worth about $5,000 and the initial quote to repair the damage was upwards of $9,000! In other words, it was totaled. I called a mechanic friend up and asked if he could come by and give it a once over to see if anyone he knew could do the body work for a reasonable amount of money. He obliged.
As it turns out, he did have a business associate who, despite being a wee bit unreliable, would be able to do the work for around $3,000 parts and labor. I jumped at the chance.
As the weeks rolled by and my Jeep was still “being fixed,” I grew increasingly impatient and my wife was far from happy. After all, she was the one responsible for carting me around until my Jeep was back in working condition.
The weeks turned into months, and now here we are in the middle of the summer and I still don’t have my Jeep back! We’ve certainly learned an important lesson about “getting a good deal,” but that’s a topic for another post.
Today I want to focus on how we successfully adapted to becoming a one car family. without killing each other, or hating the end result.
Changes we’ve made
My wife and I work in different towns, so she started dropping me off at a bus stop on her way to work. From there, I was able to catch a bus straight to my workplace. The stop was right off an expressway exit for her, so it took little more than five extra minutes each morning.
To save money, I purchased bus passes in 10 ride increments and wound up paying $1/ride. After work, I would catch a bus back to the dropoff/pickup spot and wait for my wife to arrive on her way home. We coordinated the pick up times via phone, and it worked out quite well.
Once summer came, and my wife began her three month vacation, things changed a little. Some days (fewer than I would like) I ride my bike about 10 miles to and from work. On days that I don’t ride, my wife gets up with me and drives me in.
I don’t want to spend too much more time talking about how we get around with just one car, so I’ll just say this: We do our best to coordinate our schedules, and we go out of our way to accommodate each other. A side benefit is that we get to spend more time together.
Tips for making it work
- Increase organization. Creating (and using!) a “Family Calendar” has gone from being a bit of an inside joke in our marriage to being a necessity. Before we commit to anything, we check the family calendar for availability and vehicle options.
- Embrace the bike. Unless you own a pair of shorts with a pad in the crotch, you probably don’t ride your bike as much as could/should. We didn’t either. If you want to increase your bike usage, get in better shape, ditch your gym membership, or all of the above… Simply get rid of one of your vehicles.
- Ride the bus/train. Using public transportation in small town USA might make you feel like a bit of a pariah, but… I got past that, embraced my options, and used them to improve my situation. I found that counting myself among all other people, regardless of income or status, was healthy on many different levels.
- Carpool whenever possible. Share rides with friends or neighbors when you can. Just be careful not to take advantage of them. It’s always a good idea to offer some sort of payment if you can’t fully reciprocate, and always work to fit your life around their schedule.
- Stay home more. Enjoy time with your family, complete projects around the house, read more, make/eat homemade meals, grow a garden, talk to your spouse more, and/or spend time with your kids. All of these things will have a positive impact on your life.
- Simplify your life. Getting rid of a vehicle may seem like it complicates things, but we found that it actually made our lives far simpler. The whole process forced us to “trim the fat,” so to speak. We’ve learned better communication and organization and, now that we’re seven months into it, we’ve come to enjoy the increased levels of simplicity and contentment.
Making it permanent?
What really surprised me was that my wife asked me the other night if we should just sell my Jeep when we get it back. That’s actually what inspired me to write this post. If you knew my wife, you’d be surprised, too. She’s taken this all in stride, but was pretty annoyed with the whole situation at first.
Over time, however, the idea of having just one care has grown on her. When you add up all the associated costs, getting rid of the Jeep altogether would save us around $350/month. That’s money that we could be using for getting out of debt instead of tooling around town.
So no… We still don’t have the Jeep back, and we’re now seven months into the repair process. I’ve begun calling the bodyshop guy every day to ask for status updates, and things have started moving faster. We’re still not sure if we’ll sell the Jeep when we get it back, but we sure are leaning that way.
We just don’t seem to need it anymore!
What do you think?
If your hand was forced, as in our situation, could you and your wife/family get get by with one less vehicle? How much trouble would it cause? How much money would it save?
What if you weren’t forced? Would you ever consider getting rid of an extra vehicle voluntarily?
Or perhaps you’ve already done it… If so, please weigh in.