Selling My Mercedes, The One-Car Family Experiment

After getting motivated to increase my personal level of happiness and overall fulfillment in life (and achieve financial independence), I made a list of “sacred cows.” The list included a lot of things that I thought I couldn’t do without like Starbucks/togo coffee, regular meals out at restaurants, and a heap of hired domestic help.

After a few weeks without… my life didn’t come crumbling down. Matter of fact it got way better.

My time in line at Starbucks or taking the car for a quick trip has turned into a really nice breakfast habit with my 2 year old son.

Our family meals out have been replaced by even more delicious home cooked entrees and conversation about nourishment and meal planning.

The lack of domestic help has turned into a few adventures into the unknown. Overcoming obstacles that have helped me learn new skills and build confidence.

The other day one of our deadbolt locks broke. I had never changed out a lock before. My usual MO would have been to hire a locksmith at $180. Instead, I biked with my son to Home Depot to get a new lock, the clerk rekeyed it in front of us which we both got to watch, and then we replaced it together back at the house. All in I spent $12, got 45 minutes of cardio exercise, and 30 minutes of quality time showing my toddler how to find instructions on Youtube and fix something in our house. He even got to use his tools (which he LOVED).

Without even considering the quality time with my son, I was actually ahead on time spent even though I didn’t outsource it. Usually to get 45 minutes of cardio in, I would:

  • Drive 20 minutes to the gym
  • Do a cardio workout for 45 minutes – but add another 15 for misc time at the gym for steam room, etc
  • Drive 20 minutes back to the house

(And that doesn’t even count if I were to take my toddler to the gym… which probably ads another 20 minutes to corral him from the day care.)

If I would have outsourced this task, I probably would have spent longer once you think of it in this light.

So far, optimizing for my spending had brought more happiness to my life and only mild discomfort.

It was time to dig deeper and give up a sacred cow that might cause a larger amount of discomfort – and in theory – a larger amount of happiness and life satisfaction if worked through.

My Car

For a long time I wanted a nice car. It seemed like what you do when you finally “make it.” Get a nice car, right? I have friends that have bought Teslas and Ferraris and I wanted to make sure I played my part too in the portrayal of a successful entrepreneur.

Which brings me to another sacred cow that was on my list that felt untouchable. My Mercedes-Benz. In an email exchange with Mr. Money Mustache, he coined it my “gas powered racing wheelchair.” Which is a funny way to look at a luxury automobile. Especially such a nice one.

I enjoyed driving the car. Felt successful and cool when driving it. And it was a bit of a feather in my cap. I had even caught myself saying on occasion, “I love that car” which I stopped doing once adopting the Love People, Use Stuff mantra from Minimalism.

But the vehicle was unnecessary. I really didn’t drive much. I mostly work at home or since getting my bike, enjoyed bike rides to my office.

I ran some numbers and the cost of owning a second car, when unnecessary, was pretty steep:

  • Capital tied up in the vehicle
  • Insurance
  • Premium gasoline
  • Expensive service
  • Regular wear and tear

Back of the envelope math said that if I gave up my car, rode my bike 90% of the time I used to drive, and stayed a one car family, I’d have an extra $135,000 in my pocket after 10-years. And I’d probably be in pretty good shape.

Not everyone is in a position to do this, but I am due to my office being close to my house and living pretty much in downtown Denver with plenty of stores within 2 miles. The math and logistics started making a lot of sense.

Burning My Boat

One of my preferred methods of operating is that of “burning my boats to take the island.” And in this case, Financial Independence and a Happy Life is my island.

My mindset was quickly shifting to that of getting rid of this next sacred cow as both a way to increase my savings rate AND add discomfort and challenge to my life to further increase my happiness. Win win I say.

I had made a commitment to myself to ride my bike instead of take my car. Each day I went to my garage and chose my bike over my luxury sports sedan. But there was risk that even with my commitment to a new way of living, that I could fall down and once again enjoy a blissfully warm tushy with my heated seats if it was too cold outside or weather not permitting.

As Mark Reynolds commented on my previous blog post:

“We often hear people talking about new exciting approaches to life which are usually so interesting and inspirational, but we don’t hear when in 12 months time, those things have stopped or aren’t being done to the same standard as at the beginning.”

I decided I wanted to put myself in a situation where I wouldn’t be tempted to lose footing on the changes I was implementing into my life.

And after a couple of weeks, I started wondering what was keeping me so attached to the having the car.

Biking to work – even in terrible weather – was making me feel like a badass on the inside. There would be days where my bike rides around town would fill me so much full of energy that I would be bursting with joy.

I never had that feeling driving even the nicest of cars.

So it was time. My boat, errr Benz, needed to be burned. If I am going to take the Financial Independence Island and live a life full of joy and happiness through increased challenge, I needed to be up for a big shift.

I listed my car on Craigslist and soup to nuts spent about 6 hours of labor selling it between getting it ready, taking pictures/posting it, chatting with potential buyers, and the single test drive it took. It didn’t hurt that the car was extremely low miles and in impeccable shape. The hardest part was that it took a while to garner interest as Craigslist isn’t a super hot market for luxury automobiles.

Now That We’re a One Car Family

Articles I read ahead of going to one car, noted the need for additional planning. This is very true. We do have to plan a little, but not much. My intent of going to one car was not so that I could drive our other car more – I wanted to drive it the same amount – but ride my bike significantly more.

Recently I had an EO Colorado annual retreat to attend at Estes Park. I put a call out on the Facebook group to carpool and ended up getting some excellent networking time in with a couple of entrepreneur buddies of mine. Which was a way better use of vehicles and time than me driving a cool car all by myself.

I can’t always take my bike. Sometimes time doesn’t allow for it. So far on two occasions I’ve needed to get an UberX to get somewhere because I was unable to bike in the time allotted and Emily had the car. I calculated and just for the cost of insuring my Benz, I can take 150 local UberX rides per year. So far with avoiding my car for over a month, I’m doing pretty good here with only needing to do so twice. I think apps like Uber and Lyft make going to one car a much less risky affair. I think in the future most folks will have one or no cars due to the shifts in technology.

Weather in Colorado is quite unpredictable. Biking in the snow can be quite enjoyable. I wear a little snowboard gear and all is good. However, on two occasions I was poorly dressed. One snow in particular was quite wet and it soaked through my pants and froze my legs pretty good. I found myself letting out loud roars that my son calls “T Rexing.” Quite cathartic.

Another time a bit of misty rain turned into real rain and I ended up leading my weekly L10 meeting with soaking wet pants. You might read that and think, “Is he ok?” And you are probably on to something. But to me recently, all this means is I get more challenge in my life. More challenge means overcoming more adversity.

Some of the most impressive people on the planet are the ones who have grown up overcoming adversity in their life. When life constantly throws you hardship – doing hard things becomes second nature. Achieving the kind of success I want in life is hard.

So I’m doing more hard things. And I’m loving it. My mindset about my business has been more driven, committed, and focused. My relationship with my wife has been even better than normal. I am more present with my sons.

Which brings me to my question of the day:

Are you holding on to any sacred cows in your life right now that, if removed, would add happiness or freedom to your life?

If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Until next time.

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  1. This might be long, but you inspired some thoughts. 🙂

    One of my guiding mantras is a quote by Marc Mikulich, where he said, “The essence of strategic positioning is conceding territory.” I read that years ago while perusing an article. I don’t remember the article, just the phrase.

    It’s a nice line to come back to from time to time because it speaks wisdom on multiple levels. One level is the truth that as humans we only have time to be truly great at a few things. And that reality is contingent on our willingness to give up other things.

    One reason I like your post, Brent, is because often, early on in our careers, we define those few things in ways that won’t match up with our true desires discovered later on. And the props we put in place because of those early goals really end up diminishing the satisfaction and joy we get from our labors. The cars, prestige, houses, etc., all steal our attention away from our true loves.

    My take-away: Sacrifice brings joy when it allows us to focus on what really matters.

  2. We became a one-car family a few months ago, and it’s working well for us. Over the course of a couple years I replaced in-person meetings with online ones, making it possible to sell my car. I hate driving and sitting in traffic, so I’d rather meet online anyway.

  3. What I really appreciate about your approach is that you take responsibility for your goals. You’re not lecturing your wife and telling her where she needs to change. You’re not lecturing us. You’re just making decisions on the things that you can control and leading by example.

    I noted that because I’m an asshole. My first thought when reading this was how *we* spend too much on dining out. I tend to quietly blame my wife for that. This woke me up. I need to stop deflecting. There are areas where I could cut expenses. Two easy options: start cutting the grass ($280/mo savings!) and change my phone service ($30-40/mo savings). Just right there I’ve found $310/mo I can save. And I can stop being an asshole. Sign me up for therapy.