Move or Buy a New(er) Car?



We drove 2800 miles in the last year. 

I had our little car serviced the other week and the technician told me he thinks we should easily get another year out of it. Good news as we did a little test run and we can just fit three car seats across the back seat. It might become a challenge once the baby is out of the infant seat but a quick search pointed me in the direction of the super slim Radian car seat which would make buying a bigger car a choice, not a need.

A few times a year I get requests for interviews about living with less and how it can help families. Probably one of the biggest points I try to make is this: find what works for you.

Our family doesn’t like to drive. We’re not car people. We’re going to spend a bit more money and energy on choosing to live somewhere that’s walkable. It means we don’t have big backyards or quiet streets. We have less home space. And when we want some quiet or nature we have to travel to it. You can’t have everything.

There is still so much room, and so many ways, to live simpler if you live in the suburbs or the country or you commute 90 minutes to work each way. The trick is to find that thing that you can live without and not feel the pinch. For us it’s driving and space. For you it may be less stuff or a quiet schedule or those extras like meals out or far flung vacations. We’re not campers but I know many a family that is and they certainly spend less on travel and vacations than us. Plus they take more of them.

Our impending move came down to one thing: did we want to keep our lovely seaside flat and the beautiful views and the easy walk to work for my husband if it meant driving our oldest son to school most of the time? Walking or even biking is not an option for most of the year. Becoming almost daily commuters would mean buying a newer car. Our little Citroen with the leaky roof is not only not going to last through a lot more miles on it, but my back will be fried from pulling babies and toddlers in and out of car seats so many times a week.

And the thought of driving Henry to school, loading three kids into the car, finding a parking space (very few near the school) and then taking the whole gang in to drop Henry at his classroom, filled me with dread. Thinking about doing it twice a day five days a week sealed the deal. We would look for something near his school.

This will be our first experience living in a house. It’s a similar size to our current flat but spaced over two floors. It’s a terrace house or what we call a townhouse in North America. There is a tiny little paved yard that kids can kick a ball around in and we can setup a barbecue. It’s going to be different and we’re cautiously optimistic about becoming house dwellers.

What I’m definitely excited for is change. I love the reset of moving somewhere and the fresh start it brings. Yes, the actual move can be a hassle but we’re lucky that we don’t own any furniture. Yet.

As we start packing and, of course, weed out stuff we haven’t been using, I’m keenly aware that we have more than we came over here with. Our family has grown. We have two scooters and a balance bike. We have a vacuum and a blender and slow cooker. Interested to see what our box count has gone up to since moving here three years ago.

Has anyone else faced this move homes or increase commute time choice? How did you make your decision?

I’m still thinking about All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam and how she relates income and spending to lifestyle choices. This move will mean our rent goes down significantly but my husband will have a longer walking commute and drive more.  We’re essentially trading his time for mine.

As the big income earner in the household his time is worth more than mine. Vanderkam would argue that it should be me that makes the commute, not him. Yet, my stress goes up considerably if I have to commute with three kids. For my husband, an extra 40 minutes of walking on a work day is mostly a positive.


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  • I understand. We hate driving too. But we live in outer suberbia, in an almost rural area. Hell, we have to drive for fifteen minutes before we get off dirt!! Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to choose, so instead we are attempting to embrace the vast space we have. One day, we’ll get rid off a car and spend a lot of money on something much smaller with no backyard. But, oh, we will love the ability to walk or tram everywhere.

  • Some decisions are not about the money, but about the family lifestyle. So like you said, even if his time is “worth more”, as a family it’s better to make this move.

  • This is where homeschooling comes in so handy! :) We faced a similar but different dilemma recently. We moved further from my husband’s office, making it no longer bike-able so he drives now and it’s a longer commute. We had been living in a sketchy area for a few years and were just really ready for me and the kids to be in a nicer space during the day, especially since because of homeschooling we are really in our home a lot. I think you made a great decision and I think it’s lovely that your husband acknowledges and wants to prevent the hassle of you running around with three young kids every day!

  • My husband and I are very analytical, systematic decision makers. You may already do this, but when we’re stuck in a decision, we usually construct a pro/con table and list everything out so we can see it. Sometimes just doing that makes the decision obvious. But other times, like in your type of decision about moving, we create an additional list of priorities (i.e. mom’s stress, dad’s time with the kids, gas expense, safe neighborhood) and then rank them in order of current importance. We then use that list of priorities to put a value next to each of the pros and cons. In that way, we can determine how each decision will affect what is most important to us.

  • We are dealing with that dilemma at the moment. We currently drive our 4 year old 15 miles each way to preschool, and our 6 year old 3.5 miles each way to elementary school. We’ve been looking to buy a house for over two months, put 4 offers in, and nothing. We have a little over a month before schools start, and I’m sick of driving so much. No matter where we live, my hubby will end up having a commute at least some point in his career. We decided that we’ll keep looking for a house to buy for the next 10 days and after that we’ll look for a rental very close to the charter school our oldest was admitted to. It’s not in an ideal location to live (very much a food desert), but it would enable our child to go to a school that is much more suited to his personality. It’s definitely a tricky balance. If I was in your position, I too would be making the same choice. It’s so much easier for the adult to drive to work singularly than trying to load up kids for simple school drop-offs and pick-ups.

  • The idea of loading kids, driving, parking, and walking in and out of the school every day (twice!) just filled me with dread for you. I would have totally made the decision you did:) Happy you all found a good spot that works for you.

    • Hahaha, I had the exact same thought. Just reading about the idea of the school commute stressed me out :)

      I agree with your reasoning, Rachel. C’s time might be more financially valuable than yours, but the trade-off – 40 minutes out of his day versus all that stress and chaos – makes sense. Besides, he can multi-task during his commute time, getting exercise (if he commutes on foot or by bike), listening to podcasts and e-books, catching up on phone calls, etc.

  • Our move is also mostly about distances, but in a completely different way.
    My husband changed jobs last year and we both used to spend 2-2,5hours a day commuting. He by bike or bus, I drove our deaf son to his kindergarten. In the meantime R spent a lot of time with my grandparents. So much time, she stopped eating at home! But J has grown and is now going to school. And guess what? His school is just 1,5km from T’s workplace.
    If we were to stay, commuting would be partly easier (school provides buses) and partly more complicated (what if the bus stop is 10km from our home – which is likely – and he has to be at the stop at 7:00?)
    We will miss free babysitting and the huge garden, but the new place means we can walk (or bike) both to school and to work. I can’t wait so much that I already started packing (moving in a month). Books and warm clothes. Too many books. And most of our friends say we have too few of them…

  • I can basically sum it all in one frase: if mom aint happy, no one will be happy. Last summer I moved with my four kids to northern CA for a job opportunity that came along with free housing fo a while and a backyard fo kids. After the kids begun school late August I realized how baf my move was. I traveled highway everyday to go to two school to drop off. Wednesdays their dismissal schedule was crazy leaving me to either wait with some of the kids in the car till the last ine came out ir drive back home again. Call it crazy but I NJ by the end if September. If you are the primary caregiver you must be comfortable every SINGLE day. Or you children and your hubby WILL pay for the aggravation. Do what us easier now for the kids and you. Husband doesn’t have to deal with fussy infant n toddler that needs to pee in trafic rush hour. Also shoyld an.emergency arise I have.always believe its better u are close to school. If car breaks on you then you are left with mote trouble.

  • I agree it would be a pain to load the kids in and out of the car all day. I only have one child and I avoid driving unless there is extreme weather. I’m just wondering how you’re going to walk places with 3 kids in tow.

  • Walking distance to school was our first criteria in a house when we moved to Scotland – so much easier to start walking in bad weather than adding a car trip
    to mix! And it is a lovely way to start and end the school day. You won’t regret it and you will love the community of walkers you will discover !!

  • Moving to walk to school sounds good. Terraced houses can be surprisingly well designed and tardis-like. A small yard is also tons of fun for kids-more like their size! Hope all goes well!

  • We’ve made this choice twice. The first time we chose space and modern housing – and long drives. The next time we chose less space in order to spend less time commuting. We’ve learned it’s more important to us to be in the heart of our community than it is for us to be living in a big space with a big yard.

  • I’m not sure you’re right that Vanderkam would disagree with you. She’s all about using your money to get the things you want, limit unenjoyable activities, and increase enjoyable. 40 minutes alone each day could be very enjoyable. But even if it’s not, since your saving money in rent, could you use that money to get rid of an unenjoyable task for your husband? Or, alternatively, could that money pay for a treat for him, so that his joy is optimized along with yours without any additional payouts?

    • You’re right that we could use some of our rent savings to get rid of an unenjoyable task for my husband. To be honest, I can’t really think of one. He doesn’t do yard work and I do most of the housework. There is child care but he isn’t the stay-at-home parent so he likes that weekend and evening time with out kids. He, like me, loathes filing and paperwork. Maybe he gets an occasional PA to deal with some of that?
      We’ve already discusssed that he will take more cabs home from work and that still fits with our current transportation budget.

  • Oh boy, I am still shocked that so many people in the UK and elsewhere have school as a criteria of where to live!
    Makes me glad (again…and again) that we brought our daughters up here in Switzerland. We lived in a village just outside a small town but villages here have a great infrastructure (post, bank, shops…) so it was the village kindergarten and the village school – and kids are expected to walk to kindergarten on their own at age 5 after the initial 6 weeks and school, too, of course. It’s wonderful! It was my choice to put them in ballet and instrument class, for which I drove something like 3 miles, but most kids didn’t do extra-curricular activities. They came home every lunchtime for a meal and had time to play after school and before bed, usually unsupervised around the village and stream or out on their bikes… paradise, I guess.
    When our youngest was 10 (and the eldest left home) we moved to the small town, also with an excellent infrastructure, so primary school was closer still (2 minutes), and our middle daughter had a 10 minute walk to the big school which educates up to university level. It is extremely green and pleasant here. There is even a bus network in our small town (24,000 inhabitants) and a central railway station, so we are well-connected! Germany is 20 minutes away by train (or car), Zurich is 45 minutes, the airport 40 minutes. My husband used to commute the 50 km to work by car but for the last year and now he is self-employed, he has begun travelling by train everywhere – there is even a direct train to our capital city of Bern (2 hrs) if he needs to be there, or Lucerne or Geneva any of the other places in Switzerland or abroad he may need to be! We now drive 10-15,000 pa instead of 50,000… and I’m lucky my grandchildren only live 10 km away – by train or car :)
    I simply can’t imagine having to consider schools when deciding where to live 😮

  • Three kids, twice a day TOTALLY wins. Hope you like your new place!
    We are in the process of moving (It’s been three years for us), and I was happy to discover that we have LESS stuff to box up (although we did add a weight set and workout bench). Considering that we have added two kids to the mix, I’m not sure if I am proud of how much we got rid of, or mortified that we use to have enough stuff for 4 people!

  • My husband and I are a minimalist couple with our first child on the way, so I can’t tell you how helpful it is to read about being a minimalist with kids and about you and hubby’s decision-making process with regards to where to live. I’d imagine it was a tough decision to move and I look forward to hearing more about if that change is working out for you and resulting in a bit less stress.

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