August 29, 2002
One Car Family

I don't think I've mentioned that Al sold his car earlier this month. If I remember correctly, the original plan (hatched in the spring, before we got engaged) was that Al would sell his car and buy mine for cash when my lease was up in September, and I'd start looking for an AWD vehicle (probably a Subaru Outback wagon). Since I would need some of the proceeds from the sale of his car to buy an Outback, we'd be a one-car family in the time between the sale and the purchase.

In the summer the plan was revised: Al would sell his car and give me the down payment for buying out my lease, and I would get a small car loan (such that my car payments would remain about the same as my lease payments). We'd be a one-car family until we decided what to do about a second car, and meanwhile most of the rest of the proceeds from the sale would go toward wedding expenses.

So far the plan is actually working out rather well. At first Al panicked because I needed the car for two days in a row right after he sold his, but we managed just fine, and I think that gave him confidence. It's totally routine now to figure out each night who needs the car the next day, when we need to get to the office, etc. We usually carpool to work together, but if for some reason one of us has to go in another direction with the car, the other takes the train or bikes. (I never thought I'd see the day when Al would make the trek from the Belmont train station to his office—a little over a mile—but he did it recently and reported that it felt great!)

Aside from Al getting more exercise, a few other unforeseen benefits have arisen from this situation: (1) we get to spend time together in the mornings, chatting or just enjoying each other's company. (2) we're saving on gas. we're covering the same routes we did when we had two cars, so we're not driving any more than we would have before (in fact, by consolidating trips, we're probably driving less). we've gone from paying $120 each per month for gas to about $50 each. (3) we get to use the carpool lane. most mornings we leave the house after 9am (when HOV restrictions are lifted), but at least once a week and sometimes more often, Al has to be at the office by 9am. Traffic after 9am usually moves rather smoothly, but before 9am it's often a total mess. Thus, we get to use the carpool lane when it will do us the most good anyway. Ditto on the way home, if we leave our offices before 7pm.

After reviewing my budget the other day and seeing the gas savings, I started thinking again about financial contributions to the marriage. One of my huge concerns during our engagement has been that I can't contribute equally to the "common pot". (We'd agreed a long time ago that if we ever got married, we'd prefer to keep our own individual accounts, but possibly start a joint account for common purchases, vacations, etc.) When I figured out my budget about a month ago, I was excited to see that I could make all ends meet... except not only was there "not enough" for the common pot—there was nothing! *Why* could I pull my own weight, but not help pull the Hylan-Cho household? How did other couples manage?

On the way home the night before last it finally occurred to me why: I have my own house (and thus my own mortgage and utility payments). Most married couples starting out go from having two rents to having one rent or mortgage, so when they combine households, they save money. We're very lucky to have two homes that we love and use, but it means that there is no cost consolidation in getting married. I started to wonder: should we be a one-house family, too? It's not that I *want* to give up my house in Truckee, or that I want Al to sell his. But all of a sudden I can see a reason for having only one: it would make other things we want to do together (besides going to Truckee on the weekends) easier and more affordable.

[long pause for thought]

The one car thing may be working out, but I don't think we're ready yet to cut back to just one house, silly as that sounds. The fact that I thought of it at all is probably evidence of the changes marriage is bringing to my mindset, of how I'm starting to think about our future as a couple rather than just our futures as individuals. Perhaps the next time we go to Truckee I will begin to see that house as something other than my personal sanctuary, the place where all my stuff is, the place where I finally got to hang photos on the walls, my first home. In a way, I guess I already have: I'm beginning to accept the fact that my house is the vacation house, not our primary residence. For now, that vacation house is my contribution to the marriage—and maybe down the road, I'll be able to detach enough to sell it or turn it into a rental, and make it contribute even more.

Posted by Lori at August 29, 2002 12:11 PM