Over the last few days, I’ve talked about a lot of options that you can use to get to work and run errands without the use of your own car. Carpooling, riding public transportation, and riding a bicycle can all achieve this goal.
There’s still a problem, though.
If you use these tactics, you’re leaving that car sitting in your driveway. You’re still making payments on it (if it’s not paid off). You’re still paying for insurance on it. You’re still possibly paying for parking on it. You’re slowly losing money to depreciation on it.
A car is a money sink, even if it just sits there.
The reason people own a car is that it gives them flexibility in transportation. You can hop in the car and go do all kinds of things, from getting to work and getting groceries to going to a friend’s house or going to the movies.
However, during my early professional years, Sarah and I together only owned one car. I went to and from work on the bus and would sometimes stop for groceries along the way. Many of my friends were within reach of the bus as well, and many of the other services in town were reachable via the bus. I also sometimes used a bicycle for some errands. Sarah would use the car for her commute and we’d use it in the evenings for things we both had to do.
Our financial life was so much easier with only one paid-off car to worry about. Our insurance was relatively cheap. We were paying for commuting fuel and maintenance on only one vehicle.
In fact, one of the first acts that led to our financial downturn was the purchase of a second vehicle, followed shortly by a necessary replacement of the original vehicle that Sarah drove. This led us to two car payments, a higher insurance rate, the fuel and maintenance costs of two commutes, a parking cost for me, and the constant depreciation of both cars.
Sure, we had more flexibility, but we also had a much bigger financial burden on our shoulders. Buying a second car was one of our biggest financial errors.
Over the last few days, we’ve talked about a bunch of tactics that work well for replacing driving. Take the bus. Take your bike. Get rides with others.
If you’re in a position where these tactics can replace your need for a car, then replace it! Sell that car, stop the insurance payments, and stop putting fuel and maintenance into that beast. Use the other methods available to you for getting around and bank the hundreds of dollars that a car will potentially devour during a given month. Not only that, if the car is paid off (or mostly paid off), selling the car can provide a big cash boost for getting rid some of the worst of your debt.
If you want a surefire tactic for living cheap and getting out of debt, living with one less car is certainly a way to achieve that.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.