Apr 21, 2010

Surviving with a Single Car

In a couple of weeks, I celebrate two years as a full-time homemaker.  I love it; each day I am reassured that I am where I am supposed to be.  It also marks the anniversary of surviving as a family with just one car.  For the first 8 months living here in Ohio, Ben worked about 15 minutes from the house.  Once a week, and sometimes twice or more, I would take him to work so that I could have the car all day to shop, run errands, do my cleaning job, and whatever else suited my fancy.  It was a beautiful arrangement.  Then, in January 2009, he was laid off and his current job is now 35 minutes away.  As you can imagine, this spelled doom to our delightful car-swapping arrangement.

Although it was hard in the beginning, a few of the following tips really helped me get around when I needed to do so.  I also discovered that I really didn't "need" a car as much as I thought I did.

1.  Carefully consider whether a trip is necessary or not. This one step helped me settle in my heart the issue of contentment.  Often, I really didn't need to go out; I just wanted to get out for some fresh air or change of scenery.  And believe me, I know this is sometimes necessary, but maybe not as often as I thought it was.  Oftentimes, I would go out just to do some window-shopping, but it was a rare occasion that I came home empty-handed, besides the gas that I spent getting where I wanted to go.

2.  Make mutually beneficial arrangements with a friend or neighbor.   I have a good friend who graciously picks me up every Tuesday.  I use her vehicle to get to a cleaning job down the road, and when I return to her house afterwards, I give her children piano lessons.  I don't know that the benefit is completely  even here, but the arrangement has advantages for both of us.  Other ideas could be watching someone's house or feeding their pets while they are on vacation in exchange for the use of their vehicle.  Perhaps you could perform a service for them, like ironing clothes or getting a car wash, in return for a couple of hours with their vehicle. 

3.  Plan your appointments and shopping trips for times when the car is available.   This is how I do my grocery shopping during the winter.  Generally, on Monday or Tuesday evening, after we finish supper, I drive to our local grocery store half a block away, and do all of the grocery shopping for the week.   If we need something that requires driving much more than that, then we try to save the errand for the weekend, when we are out and about together as a family.

4. Walk or use public transportation!  Granted, this is not applicable to everyone, but if you live relatively close to your grocery store, library, or post office, consider yourself extremely blessed!  I am blessed to have our grocery store, 2 banks, the library, post office, 2 gas stations, 2 drug stores, and 4 fast food restaurants within a mile or so of our home.  During the warm months, I try to walk every where I possibly can.  Even now that I am pregnant and have two children in tow, I find that it is still possible to get out.  I have a jogger stroller with a generous basket underneath for Grace and any groceries or baggage we may have, and Jerold and I walk.  My parents, who live in Chicago, use public transportation regularly.  Sure, you have to buy a fare, but that would often be the price of the gas you would use to get where you were going anyway!  And there's no car insurance or maintenance on your part with public transportation--another little frugal bonus!

5. Swallow your pride and ask for a ride from friends and family.  Even with the previous four considerations, there will still be times when you must have a car.  Now that I am expecting, doctor's visits must be scheduled.  Thankfully, my in-laws live 25 minutes away.  My mother-in-law enjoys staying at my house to spend time with Gracie while I run to my doctor's appointments.

At first, I hated the forced "imprisonment" in my own house.  But as is true with nearly everything in life, there is good in every situation when we look for it.  While your circumstances will no doubt be different than mine, there really are some positive aspects to one set of wheels.  First, we have saved significant amounts of money in gasoline and car maintenance costs.  Our grocery bill has dropped considerably now that I must plan ahead, make do with what I have, and prepare for my shopping trips.  I have also found that I have a  daily and weekly routine that I never had when a vehicle was always available.  I can honestly say that I am GLAD our family has just one car!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Frugal Friday Tips.

8 lovely comments:

The Household 6 Diva said... Best Blogger Tips

We live in Germany with only one car. (My husband is in the Army - and the military will only ship one overseas.) It was a HUGE adjustment!!!

I found myself nodding to myself through your post -- I make lots of lists so that I only need to go to the grocery once a week. Unfortunately in Europe - everything closes at 7pm (opens 9ish) so I usually drop hubby off at work or he bums a ride when I really need the van.

ps. I love your wallpaper and header images!

Alisa said... Best Blogger Tips

That's so true! It really teaches you to plan ahead! I know I waste so much money and gas driving to Wal mart just because I forgot something that I "have" to get... :)

Cheryl said... Best Blogger Tips

I remember my car-less years well.
We can do small things like this to help us to stay at home. It is so worth it.

I had a young woman ask my daughter yesterday, "So how do you stuff all of those people in that tiny house." My answer is yes we are crowded and our home is small. We are living within our means and I am here at the crossroads as my children come and go. I am home.

Keep up the good work. There are so many who look to Mom's like us to figure out just how this can be done. No, not everyone can be home, but for today I am beating the statistics. I am home.


cindy said... Best Blogger Tips

Im happy to hear this arrangement is working for the best and that you are content with it ...;)

Phyllis Blickensderfer said... Best Blogger Tips

Great solutions to an inconvenience, not an insurmountable problem. We're rural, six miles from the nearest convenience/gasoline store, 20 from a town of 5,000. Retirees with limited (and shrinking) income, we follow your trip planning procedures. Keep sharing your helpful hints -- they apply for all families.

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

First a note of caution - if that is your car in the picture - I would blur the license plate :)
We have always lived in the country and we were a one vehicle family until my son was diagnosed with cancer then we got a second vehicle for emergency reasons. At first it was kind of weird but I actually liked it. It helped to save money as well because I didn't make unnecessary trips to town. We are now a 1 car - 1 truck family since we need the truck for farm use and my oldest son is now driving to work so it still leaves me without a vehicle for most of the time. If I need something from the store I just call husband and ask him to pick it up on his way home.

'Becca said... Best Blogger Tips

Great tips! We are a one-car family, too, but we live in a city one block from a major bus route and within a mile of most necessities, so that makes it easy.

I grew up in a sprawling town with no public transit. Walking to things was an adventure, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. And related to your #5: My parents had several friends who were poor, disabled, or elderly and didn't have cars, so they would give these friends rides. It really added to the experience of whatever errand we were running or event we were attending, to have someone else along for conversation and a different perspective than we would get from just our family.

I think you're setting a great example for your kids by raising them to take for granted a lifestyle in which you don't just jump in the car at every whim!

Niki Jolene said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi there...just stopping by from Frugal Friday.

I enjoyed your post. I wish we could cut back to just one vehicle but where we live it is not an option.

Stop by and see me sometime over at Free 2 Be Frugal.