For our family this summer marked two years without a television and three years with just one car. Living with just one car and no television might sound inconvenient and boring but we've been surprised at how much we love it. I can absolutely say I don't miss them at all!
On having one car
To be a one-car family we have some logistics on our side. Chris and I can usually commute together to and from work. If Chris has an early or late meeting at work he can take either an express bus or the lightrail and I'm able to pick up and drop off the boys from preschool and then pick up Chris. We also have a fair measure of flexibility in our work schedules. I rarely have work commitments before 9 a.m. and rarely past 4:30 p.m. Chris does tend to have more meetings but he rarely has a commitment outside of the 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. work hours.
The convenience of using Uber or Lyft has also made having one car easier. If Chris has a late event he'll pay for a ride home which probably happens once a month at most. Paying for an occasional ride home pales in comparison to the cost of owning a second car.
Having one car encourages us to spend more time together as a family. If we had two cars I bet Chris and I would trade off taking the boys to their weekly evening swim lesson. We might think it would be efficient for one parent to do swim lessons while the other went home to get the house in order, etc. But instead we all go to swim lessons and they have become one of our family's favorite weekly rituals. We love watching the boys have fun at their lesson and Chris and I get an extra 30 minutes to have an uninterrupted midweek conversation.
I also love the boys seeing us use alternative transportation. To them it's normal to drop daddy off at the lightrail or the bus stop and certainly having just one car is totally normal for them. One thing I would like to do a better job of is to always use our bikes for going places within a few miles of our house, like our local library.
The cost savings with just one car is significant. Our 2008 Prius is paid off so we have only maintenance and gas to pay for. We have long commutes (20 miles one way with preschool drop off) and live in a sprawling metro area so we drive a lot. But our gas budget is still only $90/month for our car. Last year we had an expensive maintenance year because of air conditioner repairs and spent about $5,000. Yikes! However, that was (hopefully) an atypical year.
On not having a television
Two years ago we decided to ditch our television. We have also cancelled Netflix and don't have Amazon Prime, Hulu, or other streaming services. We do buy a season pass to Modern Family through iTunes and will watch a new Modern Family episode every week or so.
We didn't watch a ton of television prior to giving our TV the boot but I thought I'd miss having the option to relax post-bedtime with old episodes of 30 Rock. In reality I've been blown away at how little I miss it. Removing the television meant we thought less about watching it. At the same time we've been learning more about the negative health impacts of screen time and the health benefits of showing your television the door which reinforces our decision.
I am not trying to say that not having a television is the "right" thing to do. But I want to share how much we enjoy not having one and not consuming much television content because it's so different from the norm right now. Americans spend a lot of time consuming television content. And I think that not watching it is part of how I'm able to work full time, produce two podcasts, blog, take on freelance writing and editing work, and read so much. Right now all of those things are much more interesting and important to me than television.
I do envision that one day...when the boys have left for college?...that I'll have time to catch up on television shows. And think of all the amazing shows I'll have to watch!