My family saves thousands of dollars a year keeping just one car in the suburbs, and we make it work thanks to 3 everyday habits

ChevroletA Chevrolet Cruze (although not the one belonging to the author).
  • When I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, people assumed we’d need two cars for our family of three.
  • Instead, we stuck with driving just one car, a 2012 Chevy Cruze that we paid off years ago.
  • To make it work, we chose a home near my husband’s office and my son’s preschool, we batch our errands and plan ahead, and we set aside money for the occasional rideshare service when we need it.
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When we moved to the Jacksonville, Florida area, people kept telling us that we’d need a car to get anywhere, since local public transportation isn’t exactly plentiful. It was assumed that we would need two cars for our family of three.

However, we only had one car, and we kept it that way.

Driving our 2012 Chevy Cruze means we save thousands of dollars a year – which we funnel into savings and other financial goals – and we’ve never been happier. In fact, if we had gotten a second car, it would have sat in our driveway.

Want to know how we make it work?

We prioritised a home where we could bike and walk regularly

I’m lucky that I work from home so I don’t have to drive to an office. However, I do take my son to preschool five days a week, so I do need to leave the house every day.

When my husband and I were choosing childcare options, we looked to location as one of the top priorities – we wanted schools as close to our apartment as possible. Luckily, the preschool we found had a good track record and was less than a mile from where we lived. I’d walk him to and from school.

Since we’ve moved into our first home, I found a preschool two miles from the house. I have a bike and trailer I use to take him to and from school, which means I get to exercise at the same time.

Plus, my husband only works about five miles away. Not only are we saving on gas with our only car, but it gives us peace of mind in case there is an emergency. For example, if something were to happen to my son while he’s in preschool and we needed to pick him up, my husband can either pick me up and we go together, or he can drive over himself.

We set aside money for the occasional rideshare service

When we were considering getting a second car, my husband and I took a careful look at our habits. If we really needed the second car, we would get it, we decided. But when we looked closer, we found there were only a handful of instances when my husband and I needed the car at the same time.

For those occasional conflicts, we couldn’t justify purchasing a new car – and paying for gas, maintenance and insurance on top of it – so instead, we set aside a small sinking fund (a purpose-specific savings account) for those times to use rideshare services instead.

For example, our car wouldn’t start one day and my husband used a rideshare service while I took the car to the mechanic. Or when I had to leave at 3 a.m. for the airport, I got an Uber instead of asking my husband to drive me.

The $US10 to $US20 here and there is nothing compared to the thousands we’d have to pay for an additional vehicle.

We batch our errands and plan ahead

Thanks to the internet, we’re able to shop for many essentials online, including groceries. If we do need to drive anywhere, we make sure to batch our errands so we complete as many as we can together.

For example, we order groceries online and pick them up at a location close to other stores we need to visit. Or if we have doctor appointments, we schedule them one after another. The added bonus is that we’re much more efficient with our time, which gives us ample downtime on the weekends to hang out.

We also coordinate times to use the car. We let each other know about our separate schedules so we can work out who needs the car and when (if we’re not doing something together). For example, I make sure to meet up with friends after my husband comes home from work, so I can take the car.

We only spend about $US150 a month on transportation

If you’re wondering how much we spend on transportation, here are some approximate costs per month:

Gas: $US50

Auto insurance: $US83 (Florida has one of the highest insurance rates in the US, but we were able to negotiate our rate down since my husband’s been with the same company for over 10 years and we pay semi-annually.)

Maintenance: $US20 (We keep money for maintenance in a separate high-yield savings account for when we need it.)

We paid off our car back in 2012, so we’ve never had a car payment. All in all, we spend only about $US1,836 a year on our car. Compared to AAA’s estimate of a new car costing about $US8,500 a year to own and operate in 2017 (the latest data available), I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

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