I have 3 monkeys to call my own. We made the decision to say goodbye to our Little Black Car last June. Since then, I have been asked the same questions by so many people:
- Is it cheaper without a car?
- How do you do it with 3 kids? (Often accompanied with some exclamation)
- Do you miss having a car?
So I decided to blog about it and help others out there with the same questions understand our experience of being car-less for over a year. Let me answer the above questions one at a time. 😉
For your information, this blog post is targeted at people who can probably afford a car, but may be thinking of not owning one, due to the rising costs, limited resources, and desire to channel these resources elsewhere (aka kids and maybe shopping 😜).
Is it cheaper without a car?
Of course! We bought our Little Black Car 11 years ago at $50k. It had a running cost of approximately $12k a year. To purchase a new or secondhand car now, would mean a higher running cost (higher COE, costlier parking, servicing, repairs and sometimes, traffic and parking fines 🙈). According to my financial controller (aka husband), we would be looking at at least $15k a year.
Since we said our goodbyes, we spent less than $500 a month on public transport (including cabs) for all of us. E is on school bus at $135 per month. Some information on our lifestyle: During weekdays, husband and I would take a bus or train most of the time, as kids are in school (E in primary school and Z and M in childcare). During weekends, we take cabs as and when we feel like it. We are quite liberal with our cabbing habits.
Having schools that are within walking distance or a short bus ride helps too. The childcare that Z and M goes to are walking distance to our home. This means that we do not have to spend on school busses. If you’re looking to buy a new place and going car-less, remember to look out for schools within the area before committing!
I think it is quite obvious that it never makes financial sense to own a car, especially in Singapore. I often call our Little Black Car a money sucking machine.
How do you do it with 3 kids?
To be honest, I was quite uncertain at the start about going car-less. But aren’t we all, with all types of new experiences? After trying it out for a year with 3 kids in tow, I can safely say that it is really not that painful.
As mentioned before, on school going days, it is quite straightforward. Primary schooler travels to and from school by school bus. Preschoolers walk to school with me at 9am. I used to drive them to school when we had the car and I do appreciate the walks to and from school now. I get to chat with them, kiss them while they’re walking, stop to see caterpillars and snails doing their thing, and much more. I spend many walks laughing at Z teaching M how to jump and Z looking for Ninja Turtles in the drains. 😂
– Maybe those turtles would jump out soon…
We keep enrichment classes to our area too. This reduces a lot of traveling time and logistical pains.
On weekends, if time permits, we take buses and trains. I have never heard my kids complain about not having a car. They seem to enjoy all the bus and train rides! If we are constrained by time, we do not hesitate to take a cab. Neither do we let locations get in our way. Sentosa? Sure. East Coast Park? Sure. Changi Airport? Sure too! We use Grab and Uber a lot! Ease of use of apps made getting a ride so much easier. No waiting by the road and flagging taxis with 3 monkeys swinging around. It also helps that we live in central Singapore. Most of the time, we are able to get a cab/car relatively quickly. Sometimes, quicker than my kids can wear their shoes and head out of the door. A cashless system is also much appreciated. It means I can hop out of the car once I have arrived without having to deal with my wallet and a baby and things. We have only had surge pricing for Grab/ Uber in very few instances.
– Cycling to the park together!
When we head out shopping with 3 (I know, why do I even do it?!), and we have walked a distance (I.e. Walking from Istean Scotts to Ngee Ann City), it has been much easier to hop into a cab at the end of shopping trip than having to walk back to the car with our shopping!
Not to mention, we no longer have to queue and pay for parking! I’m always snickering to myself when I arrive in a cab and see cars queuing into packed carparks. Going to popular malls on Saturdays are no longer daunting.
Moreover, with our current traffic conditions, using public transport is often not much more time consuming. Our weekly ride from Bishan to Tampines is approximately 45 minutes. A car ride would be 30 minutes, but we would have to spend 15 minutes waiting to enter Tampines Mall or Century Square. 😅 Though I have to say, living a short bus ride away from Bishan and Marymount MRT stations keep us connected to most parts of Singapore.
– Getting too comfortable on the bus
I personally feel that boarding the bus is the most difficult part of the entire journey. Through this one year, I have encountered so many kind bus drivers and fellow riders. Countless number of people have so kindly given up their seats when I had a baby with me. I have had bus drivers who waited till I was seated before moving on. I am a proud and grateful Singaporean.
Here are some tips to get that boarding process smoothed out:
- Get a light, easy to fold and carry stroller
You are required to fold all strollers before boarding any bus. We have a Babyzen Yoyo and a Maclaren Globetrotter. Both are about the same weight and one-handed closure but the Babyzen Yoyo’s compactness has made our bus trips a lot easier.
- Pack efficiently into backpacks
To survive bus trips, it is important not to rely heavily on your stroller’s storage and keep hands free. Look through your items and only bring essentials out. If your stroller’s storage basket is empty, all you have to do is to take your baby out, fold the stroller and board the bus.
- Bring along foldable shopping bags
Feel free to use the stroller as storage while shopping, but having shopping bags that you can put all the little bags of shopping together into one bag will make boarding a bus more pleasant.
- Use a baby carrier
If you have an infant, it is often much easier to travel with just a baby carrier and a backpack. However, if it is really necessary to have a stroller, bringing a baby carrier along is helpful while boarding and riding on the bus. When M was younger and I was out with her and a stroller, I would put her into the baby carrier, carry my backpack and fold the stroller. Having my hands free ensured that I could handle the stroller and hold another’s child’s hand.
– M and I in one of those hazey days. She in the carrier and me with my backpack, heading out.
Do I miss having a car?
Surprisingly, no. I do not miss paying for parking (which can amount to quite a bit!), queuing for parking, finding parking, driving in insane traffic, and dealing with cranky baby screaming in a carseat. Sometimes though, I do miss having the ability to make last minute errand runs. But those are generally avoidable with good planning.
I do think about my Little Black Car during stormy weather and only when it coincides with the time to pick up my kids. However, those instances are few and far between. I have also realized that even with a car, I would be drenched trying to get kids into their car seats anyway. I usually put M into a stroller with a rain cover on to keep her dry. Z will be given a raincoat and I will have an umbrella. M is happy to see the rain beating down on the rain cover and Z is happy dancing in the rain. I love how the kids see joy in all the things they do! Due to good planning from HDB and/or Town Council, we are sheltered all the way to the bus stop! I actually do not need an umbrella on rainy days to and from Bishan MRT.
– walking to school while it’s raining…
I miss the radio in our Little Black Car the most! Driving was the only time I listened to the radio and I miss it. Maybe it’s time to get myself a radio at home!
Written by: Min