The Backwards Step I’m Taking In Order To Move Forward Financially

A lot of people are of the mindset that improving your situation goes hand-in-hand with having the biggest, newest, and most expensive things. You guys know what I mean, right? If you’re buying a new car, you want it to be better than your last one, or if you go on vacation, you want to try somewhere new, or if you buy concert tickets, you want the best possible seats. We all do this, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, there are also times when downgrading something in your life is the best option, even if others may not think so.

Let’s look at an example…

The bf and I are selling his Jeep and becoming a one-car household. For the first half of our relationship, we only had one vehicle, but about five years ago, we added a second car and have been living the two-car life ever since. Now we are at a point where having a second car just isn’t necessary. He takes the bus to work, and I walk to work in the summer, so we often have both cars sitting at home unused.

And I know what you’re thinking now…how about NO cars?! That’s a valid point, but for us, it’s just not going to happen for a few reasons:

  • Pets: We have two dogs and two cats who need to be transported to the vet every so often (luckily not too often), and I refuse to be the lady with the cats on the bus. We also like to pack up the dogs and get out of the city for a hike, and you just can’t put mud-bogged dogs in a car that’s not yours. And our swamp diving boxer would be very upset if he had to stay home. There’s also the chance that something tragic could happen, and we’d have to make an emergency trip to the vet…how do you even deal with that if you don’t have a car?
  • Family: My parents live in the next town over, and we go out to visit them (and bring the dogs) at least once a month. Without our own vehicle that would be much more of a challenge.
  • Freedom: Our neighborhood is great for walkability and offers a lot of amenities, but not everything. Sometimes you just need to go to Ikea, okay? Without a car, we would both need to purchase transit passes, and that would run us $188.50/month…aka more than my car costs me on a monthly basis (insurance, registration, and gas). Now, that doesn’t include any maintenance I need to pay for, which can add up fast, but my car is still relatively new and has low mileage, so I haven’t had to put much money into it so far. That extra cost is worth it to me.

So obviously I am adamant about keeping one car, but it feels like an easy decision to let go of the other (maybe because it’s not my car we’re getting rid of, but who’s really keeping track).

As much as I don’t like to be influenced by other people (except I’m super bad about that), it does bother me that people will think we are selling the car because we have to. You just know there will be those “Oh, you’re selling…that really sucks” people. But you know what, it doesn’t suck; it’s actually awesome!

Let’s think about the upside of being down a vehicle:

  • The immediate benefit of having an extra $5,000 (ish) in our pockets from the sale. That is a total ballpark number, and I have zero knowledge of cars or resale value, but it shouldn’t be too far off. If you are like me and have never sold a car privately before, then you should check out Jordann’s article over on My Alternate Life about that exact topic.
  • Getting rid of that insurance payment will save us $120/month, and not having to register the vehicle saves an additional $85/year.
  • My car is better on gas, so there will be a reduction in that category each month.
  • The Jeep is 11 years old, and it seems like there is at least one significant repair that needs to be done each year that we will no longer need to deal with. Hopefully, my car doesn’t start to pick up the slack in that department…

Those cost savings outweigh any downside for us, but there are a few things we will miss. The Jeep is great on winter roads, it has the capacity to fit big items, and the dogs can travel in the back instead of destroying my backseat. These are all easy enough for us to deal with, though. We are upgrading to winter tires on my car, getting a good seat cover to deal with the dogs, and we have friends and family with trucks who will get a call if we need a couch picked up 😉

Anyone who has been around my blog for awhile will know my feelings on living central (you can read about them here), and I can just about guarantee that the only reason we can follow through on the plan is based on our location. The one time we would potentially need two vehicles is if we have conflicting plans. And sure, that happens, but when you live close to downtown, it usually means your plans are within walking distance, or at most, a short bus ride. Plus, then you can drink freely instead of worrying how much a cab back to the ‘burbs would be.

In short, yes, we may be downgrading from two vehicles to one, but doing so will help us hit our savings goals that much faster. And if that’s not progress, I don’t know what is!

Becoming a one-car family isn’t even the best example, it’s just the most applicable one to me right now. Think about housing; how many of you know people who sold a perfectly appropriate house because they needed more space? I’m sure almost all of us do. That’s the whole reason there are 5,000+ sq ft. McMansions all over the suburbs. But who actually needs that much space?! My little 1,200 sq ft (no finished basement) house is perfect for the two of us and our pets right now, but I can see how it will get tight when (if) we have kids. No one wants to share a bathroom with a teenager. So yes, we are going to need a bigger house, but I promise you won’t find me in a house that’s over 1,800 sq ft. In my opinion, that’s more than enough space to comfortably house a family of four and still leave you with your sanity when you have to clean it. Living in a smaller home has a huge impact on your budget, because all the associated costs (property taxes, heating, and maintenance costs) will be lower. Just like us going down to one car, reducing the amount you pay for shelter will give you more money to do other things, like save for retirement or travel.

What do you guys think? Would you be willing to “downgrade” for the sake of progress?

Sarah is a Canadian personal finance blogger over at Smile & Conquer. She has been working in the world of finance for almost a decade and uses that experience to help other millennials get smart about their money. Follow her on Twitter here.

Image via Unsplash

  • HannaDB

    Love this piece! I live in a modest apartment in a very convenient location, work pays for a public transportation subscription (also valid for private use), so I never really got around to buying a car. I estimate my very generous travel budget is what I would pay for having a car, so that’s a trade off I am happy to make!

  • lateshift

    re the cars: between the vet, ikea, hiking and family, you use the car what, maybe 3-4 times a month? curious: even if there’s no zipcar where you are, is there no uber or car service at all?? no matter how expensive an uber RT is, is it really more expensive than car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance and the occasional parking charge for an entire month, every month, all year long? (not to mention that for months when you’re mostly out of town or on vacation, the uber/zipcar option is cost-free – the ownership option…isn’t.)