Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thursday Thrifty Tip: Reducing Dependence on Cars

"What? How does THAT work?"

Most folks are shocked or at least quiet for a second when I mention that we only have one car. In today's society of gotta have it right now in my fancy SUV (plural), our family remains a mystery. I mean...really how can one family of four "survive" with only one car?

Not only do we "survive", we save our family BIG bucks in our monthly budget by reducing our dependence on cars. Instead of shelling out money for an "extra" car, we coordinate the family's use of our Saturn, use alternative forms of transportation (including: biking, walking, carpooling, running, busing), and on rare occasion rent a Zipcar*.
*($9.50-$11/hour depending on the car includes gas, insurance, and car maintenance for members in the Seattle area)

It honestly wasn't always that way...we have had years with two cars when mass transit wasn't an option, had two careers in opposite directions, or simply thought having two cars was a "must have". However, when our budget got tighter after our move to Washington we needed to get creative EVEN in the area of area most folks don't want to cut.

After computing the cost of insurance premiums, extra gas, maintenance and repairs it made clear sense for us to be a one car family. Daily Drew takes advantage of mass transit which the University of Washington's supplements, allowing him to take the bus nearly 55 minutes away for $36/month. He saves on gasoline, wear and tear on the car, parking fees, and most of all doesn't have the headache of driving in the traffic. Instead he enjoys reading, watching movies, and occasionally taking a few winks. (Seriously...he sleeps on the bus sometimes...that would "freak" me out!)

On the weekend, I bike to work at the YMCA and Drew bikes or runs to bible study on Saturday mornings. We talk. We discuss our plans and trade off the car, bike and bike trailer(when we need to transport kids), and "think outside the box" when it comes to transportation. Between our bikes, legs, and mass transit there are even days when the Saturn just sits in the driveway. Ironic for a family with one car. But, honestly, our family makes it work. The cost savings is huge and environmental impact even greater.

From inside the little blue bungalow,
Katie Jean

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Glenn said...

I hear you. When our '94 Saturn finally dies, I think we'll be a 1 car family. Until that time though, the approx $300 a year we spend on that car isn't too much to handle.

So long as the temp is above 15F or so I am bike commuter man. A nice messenger bag even makes those farmer's market and grocery store trips manageable w/o needing the Burley trailer.

Seriously, cars are so overrated in American culture.

Anonymous said...

Ok, KJ - I feel more and more like we are long lost sisters or something here.

We only have one car too. During the spring, summer and as long as the nice days hold out in the fall, Rick bikes to work. We have weekends where the 4Runner doesn't leave the drive way at all... we ride everywhere. And God bless my faded yellow 1993 Burley that we got used for $60!

We live walking/biking distance from nearly everything we could ever need. Grocery, farmer's market, library, midwife, doctor's office, craft stores, target, movie theater, even Costco is close. And the lightrail (our train thingy) and a park-n-ride for the bus to anywhere are also within range if we want to go further.

I love only having one car. Yes, it takes organization & planning at times, but it's worth it. I'd like something more fuel efficient than the 4Runner (about 20 MPG), but Rick really uses the heck out of it for hunting season in the fall, and a car would not be as practical for that.

I'm so glad I got permission to ride my bike again from the midwife (I haven't been riding for a few months now, though the weather permitted it)! I was dying without it!

I agree with your previous commenter... cars are overrated!