As the cost-of-living crisis continues to weigh heavy on Aussies’ finances, one couple bit the bullet and embarked on a highly effective cost-cutting strategy: giving up their second car. Here’s how they managed it, what they learned, and what advice they have for others wanting to do the same.
“People couldn’t believe we were doing it, but giving up our second car saved us $9,100 a year.” These are the words of Amelia and Matt Doecke, a Sunshine Coast couple with three boys aged between 16 and 22.
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The idea started five years ago, when what was a financial experiment became a valuable experience.
“In 2018, we had a big drop in our household income and at that time we had three kids in private school, we had a mortgage, we had two cars and a big car loan on one – all the standard things – and all of a sudden, we had to rethink our expenses and whether those other things were priorities to us,” Amelia said.
“It’s funny. Even though money was difficult for us at that time, we still kept that car loan for a year. It’s just amazing how you don’t think outside of the square – we were really struggling but it was a real mind shift to give up a car.”
But a year into the tight times, they sold their shiny new car and began getting around purely in a 14-year-old “non-glamorous” one that they outright owned. Of course, the saving was instant and enormous – almost $300 per fortnight on repayments on a seven-year car loan with ANZ, and then the insurance, rego and maintenance costs on top.
“It was actually like a ridiculous $350,” says Amelia. “We wouldn’t even own it now and we would have paid thousands of dollars extra in interest.”
So, how did they cope with the inconvenience?
“Previously, Matt and I had worked far apart and I did shift work, so it would’ve never really worked,” Amelia said.
“But, all of a sudden, our lives were narrower – we were working near each other, we pretty much left at the same time every morning and finished around the same time. It also helped that Matt is a teacher at the school the boys went to and I was able to carpool once a week with a lovely colleague. Suddenly it was like: ‘Hey, we could actually do this’.”
It became even more manageable when the Doecke’s older son got his own car.
“That was also a little bit in the back of our minds if we ever got really stuck. But I think we only borrowed his car, on average, maybe once a month,” Amelia said.
Instead, they planned the week ahead, including timing drop-offs and pick-ups and often did a shop on the way.
“Sometimes, I would drop Matt at work first or then do whatever we needed to do and we just made it work,” Amelia said.
Was there much waiting around for people?
“Not really and we always said to each other that if we got really stuck, there’s Uber and even a $10 Uber once a week is still a huge saving,” she said.
And an unexpected, beautiful bonus was a bit of extra family bonding.
“Those trips in the car together - especially in the mornings when you’re running around the house and then you’re trying to grapple with the day - we could do that in the car. Yes, it took more effort, it took more time, but you also just had these moments in the car that were really nice," Amelia said.
“And we just kept thinking of all the money that we were saving.”
Remember, that was $9,100 a year. In Amelia’s words: “If you’re willing to suck it up and get real, then how much money could you save if you ditch your car loan and share a car, even just for a short time?"