If you’re interested in cutting your living expenses radically the best way to do that is by eliminating big expenses. One of the biggest for most people is cars.
It’s not just that cars are expensive to buy and maintain, which they are, but more the fact that most households own more than one. You could just about cut your car expense in half by learning to live with one car rather than two.
Most people, I’m sure, are just about certain they could never make that happen. Having a car means being able to drive where you want when you want and that’s considered something close to sacred freedom.
What we’re really talking about with freedom and cars though isn’t so much freedom in the truest sense, but really convenience. If every adult in the home has his or her own vehicle, then everyone can go wherever they want without having to coordinate their activities with the other drivers in the household.
That’s really a lifestyle choice more than a necessity, and if you have greater financial needs, like saving money or paying off debt, then cutting down to one vehicle can be one of the best ways to free up extra money in your budget, and no small amount at that.
How can you make that happen?
Juggling work with one vehicle
For most households the biggest single obstacle to having just one car is work. In many households, both spouses commute to jobs in separate directions, each taking their own car. There are ways around this, but it may require changes in work location or even work style.
One spouse drives to work, the other works from home
If both spouses work, chances are at least one has a job that can only be held in a remote location. But if the other spouse has or can set up a work-from-home arrangement either through self-employment or telecommuting, the second car is no longer a necessity. The internet is making this more practical all the time, and with employers looking to cut costs, home basing employees is one way to do it.
One spouse takes a job in a location served by public transportation
Not everyone lives or works in an area served by public transportation, but many do and refuse to take advantage of it. If one spouse’s job is located near a train or bus station, the other could drive him or her to the station in the morning on the way to work, and pick them up at the end of the day. If the area doesn’t have public transportation, the same result could be had with a carpooling arrangement. Either way, the second car then becomes unnecessary.
One spouse drives to work, the other works close to home.
If one spouse lives within a mile or two of work, he or she could walk or even ride a bicycle to work. This might require moving closer to one of the couple’s jobs, or taking a job close to home.
Shopping and errands
The next obstacle is shopping and errands those necessary short trips needed to run the household. Also not easy, but again, most definitely doable.
Make your runs after hours when the car is home
The easiest way to handle this is to make your runs when the car is home. Alternatively, the spouse with the car can make the stops on the way to work, on the way home from work, or at lunchtime.
Ensure that you shop all your essential household items when you are able to make the runs, so you don’t end up making unnecessary stops.
Take advantage of store delivery services
For most people, this isn’t a practical solution for all their shopping needs, but it can be used to supplement other methods and is definitely worth considering for items that are expensive or difficult to transport. This is especially true of larger household items like furniture or appliances.
Use a service like Amazon Prime for home delivery
Amazon Prime is an annual subscription service that provides free two-day shipping on many items from the Amazon website, as well as other benefits. If you do a lot of your shopping online, this could be a great way to get what you need without ever having to leave home.
Ride with a friend or family member whenever possible
Do you have a friend or family member in your immediate area who may be able to give you a ride when you absolutely need one? You might be able to pay them a few dollars for helping you out, or you might make it up by providing other services. It’s not something you’ll want to do as a routine, only when you absolutely need to get somewhere that requires a car.
Walk or bike to locations close by
We live in an age of convenience where it often seems as if there’s a grocery store, video store, convenience store, medical clinic, and especially a bank on nearly every corner. Most of us are used to driving to these establishments even when they’re just a few blocks away. Unless you’re going grocery shopping you can probably walk or bike to most places you need to go. And as far as grocery shopping, or any other trips involving light hauling, you can wait until the car is home to head out.
What about emergency trips?
Finally, there are those emergency situations, like a run to the doctor or the need for a backup car because the main family car is in for repairs. With a little financial planning, you should have some wiggle room in your budget to pay for a taxi or ride-share to get you where you need to go.
For car repairs, you can always rent a car for a day or two until your car is back from the shop. Most major car rental companies will rent a car for about $30-$40 a day, which is truly a drop in the bucket compared to the annual cost of having a second car.
I’m not suggesting that everyone could work with one car in the household, only that there are some who can and might give it a try as a way of saving serious money. Others, who may not be able to do it right now, may be able to alter their work lives in such a way that only one car is needed.
Do you think that more households could become single-car families? If not, why do you think it won’t work?