I recently moved into a new house, about 5 miles from where I used to live. The move is a massive lifestyle upgrade for me and my family, but even with our increased lifestyle costs, we should still be able to meet our financial goals. Life can happen obviously, but we have a history of being good with our finances. And we’re fortunate enough to make a good income, with my wife in a particularly stable profession.
One big downside of our move, however, is how far away it’s taken us from our son’s daycare. We originally picked our daycare because it was close to our house – just a 10-minute walk. Having a nearby daycare was really important to us because of our schedules. My wife heads off to work early in the morning and usually doesn’t get off work until 5:00 pm or so. That means I’m the one that typically handles drop-offs and pick-ups.
By itself, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the wrench in everything is that we’re a one-car household. My wife uses our car because her office is in the suburbs. That means I’m left with the task of transporting my son without a car. When our daycare was just a 10-minute walk away, this wasn’t a problem. But now that I have a 4 to 5-mile distance to traverse from our house to daycare, things have gotten a bit trickier.
How I’m Getting My Son To Daycare Now
Most people can’t imagine getting children anywhere without a car. But then again, most people aren’t willing to think outside the box or put themselves in situations outside of the norm. Faced with getting their kids 4 or 5 miles, they’d tell themselves they have no choice but to get a car.
Here’s what I’m doing instead. I took an electric bike with a suitable rear rack (in this case, I’m using my RadCity, although I may spring for a cargo bike eventually). I then put a Thule Yepp Maxi bike seat on the rear rack. And that’s all I need. It takes me about 25 minutes to get my son to daycare now, which really is only about 10 minutes longer than it’d take for me to drive there. And my son gets to see everything that’s happening in the city on his way to and from daycare. I’m not a child expert or anything, but I feel like he’s benefiting by seeing the city and all of the people around him.
That’s all it takes. An electric bike. Put a child seat or a trailer on it. And you now have a vehicle that can actually act as a car replacement for most of the year. It really is possible to move children around a city without a car.
Admittedly, I do have some advantages that make biking more of an option for me and my son. Namely, I live in a city that has made it a priority to create bike infrastructure. One of the reasons I’m comfortable biking with my son is because my route is safe for bikers. It has protected bike lanes and bike paths that are separated from traffic. Without that infrastructure, I’d probably be more hesitant biking. That’s the beauty of bike infrastructure. It gives people choices of how they can get around (in contrast to most places where the infrastructure has been created to only allow cars).
And yes, I know the weather can be an issue. But it’s not as big of a deal as you might think. A rain jacket and some rain pants can solve any rain issues. When you’re using an ebike, heat is rarely a problem (you don’t have to use your own power, after all). The only issue will be in winter, not because of the cold, but because of the snow and ice. Most likely, I’ll transition over to public transit during the winter months, when it’s simply too slippery for me to bike with a kid. It’ll take me a little longer, but I can still get my son to daycare without using a car.
Why Haven’t I Bought A Car?
Figuring out how to get my kid to daycare from my new house did have a simple solution. I could have just bought a car.
But I’ve never bought a car before. I grew up in a city, so driving really wasn’t something I did very often. And to be frank, the car buying process intimidates me. It may be strange to some people, but I’m in my mid-30s and I’ve never bought a car before. I don’t even know how you go about buying a car.
More importantly than just being scared of buying a car, the simple fact is, I haven’t bought a car because I don’t want to. I’ve always preferred getting around using other forms of transportation first. I think it’s better for the environment. I think it’s better for me. And since this is a blog about money, it saves me money too.
I think I also enjoy the challenge of getting to places without a car too.
The Lesson Here – Choose The Things You Want
The point of this post isn’t about the fact that I’m biking my son to daycare. I think it’s a cool thing that I’m doing and I don’t think most people would do it this way, but that’s not what this is about.
The real lesson here is about decision-making. It’s not that I can’t afford a car. I could easily buy a used Prius for $10k or $20k and it wouldn’t be that big of a financial cost for me. But for my whole life, I’ve chosen not to buy a car. It’s not something that I really value. Instead, I’ve chosen to get my son to daycare via other methods. It’s not the only or best way to do it. But it’s the way I want to do it.
It’s common to think about money in terms of denying yourself things. But that’s not what money should be about. It should be about making intentional choices. Buy the things you want. Don’t buy the things you don’t want. And when you buy the things you want, make sure it’s something you actually want. The important thing is you should get to choose.
We’re a one car household as well – I drive my wife to work, then drop my daughter to her daycare on the way back. My wife ubers home in the evenings. I love the idea of biking, but I’m not too confident about biking on roads.
You are an inspiration to us all. I wish more people would be more open-minded as you are. I think people don’t choose to use biking or public transportation because it doesn’t compute with the level of comfort that they are used to. And part of that comes from the general American culture of everything having to be ‘convenient,’ but I want to invite people to step away from that line of thinking.
Ernest S. says
Great article. My wife and I also downsized to one car this past year, and I doubt we’ll go back. It’s amazing how much we are saving in terms of insurance and maintenance. I’m also starting to commute to work via ebike, and it’s great! Now that I’m biking, I really see the value of biking infrastructure too. We have bike lanes along our busy streets (which I use), but I would love to see them protected and marked with lane posts. I’m hoping we see more people pushing for these changes too to help encourage alternative transportation options.
Mrs. FCB @financialchainbreakers says
Very well done. Your point about infrastructure is important… and the reason I wasn’t able to pull it off when I tried to do something similar a few years ago. The main roads simply weren’t safe enough for bikers, and the neighborhoods between me and where I needed to go had too much criminal activity. I do really resent that most infrastructure is built around the assumption that every adult owns a reliable car and is okay with driving it all the time. It’s very presumptuous and very expensive! You’re right though, we do still have the ability to make some (tough) choices with respect to where we live, where we work, how long we’re willing to spend getting to where we need to go, etc. And I admire that you’ve stuck to your guns even when it’s gotten more difficult.
Life is very different for city dwellers and rural people. We’ve got three vehicles between my wife and me and we each drive some 15,000 miles a year. We are retired and don’t have jobs to commute to. I doubt we will ever go back to two cars because we prefer smaller and sportier cars for our daily drivers but need a large SUV to pull our boat and trailered ATV. The cost of cars is not a significant expense to us as we tend to keep them a very long time. We much prefer rural life over cities and a greater dependence on automobiles just goes along with that. To us it is a small price to pay to be surrounded by wooded wetlands instead of concrete and tall buildings. And I think it is more than offset by much lower housing and other costs of living. Like anything else you find what works for you, which is often very different than what others prefer.
We were a single-vehicle household for the first 5+ years of our marriage, and honestly, we think about going back to it. It’s really not necessary for us both to have our own cars since we both work from home. I love the creativity you have to find a solution to get your kid to daycare and not compromising on what you want. Great exercise too, I bet.
David @ Filled With Money says
Personal finance is personal for a reason.
The car buying process is a huge headache and hassle anyway. I wonder how much better my life would be if I hadn’t gone through the yelling, interrogation, and the fake pretending to be mad at my “low” offer.
You probably could have gotten a used Nissan leaf for not much more than your electric bike. Probably more versatile, but less exercise and don’t get to use bike paths…
Financial Panther says
I’ve been thinking about getting a used Nissan Leaf as a second vehicle as some point. I know a guy who did that – he doesn’t have much range on it, but it get him to where he needs to go in the city.
One thing to note – a car, no matter what type of car – is far less efficient in terms of energy use and practicality. One is a 2 ton vehicle moving a 150 pound person. The other is a 60 pound vehicle moving a 150 pound person.