Money conversation: the costs of a car

Cars … they sure are convenient. It gets us to places we want to go without us breaking a sweat. But do we know how much it costs to keep a car running? Have we explained these costs to our children?

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I asked my daughter if she would like to go to the library with me.

“Are we going to Library A or Library B?” she asks.

I had been stuck in the office the whole day and the sun was still shining. I replied, “Library B – it’s a nice day for a long walk”.

She wasn’t thrilled because Library B is a 20-minute walk (compared to a 20-minute drive to Library A).  Library B is also smaller, so all that walk may come to nothing if the books she wanted to borrow were not in the library. But she wanted to come anyway because she hates missing out on going out anywhere on a school night.

So we walked.

Costs of using a car

On our “LONG” walk there, I explained to her the costs of using the car:

  • the cost of petrol
  • depreciation on the car
  • damage to the environment.

Cost of Petrol

Driving in peak hour traffic would probably have taken longer to get to Library A than the walk to Library B. Using the car also meant the family budget will be at the mercy of rising petrol costs.  When we continue to rely on the car to get to places, this becomes a cost that we can’t control.

Depreciation on a car

I also explained what depreciation meant – it’s not a concept that many young children are familiar with – by using her favourite shirt as an example.  If she wears the shirt all the time, she has to wash the shirt regularly and it will get damaged quicker.  But if she wore it only sometimes, then it will last longer.

Similarly with a car, the more often we use a car, the more wear and tear is inflicted on the car.  This means more repair bills.  The resale value of the car is also less as the car travels further. If we used the car less frequently, then the mechanics of the car would last longer.  Unlike her clothes however, we don’t outgrow a car that quickly (as the kids get bigger, I’m sure we will get to that point, but for now, it’s many many years away).

Damage to the environment

Not only is walking healthier for the body, it is also better for the environment.  Fumes from cars’ exhaust pipe are constantly adding to the pollution level in the environment. Whether we agree or not, global warming is a real thing and one of its causes is pollution. The fewer cars on the road, the better it is for the environment and the safer it is for cyclists and pedestrians.

Discovering new places

As we walked, we discovered a ‘new’ playground.  It looks like it’s been there for many years but it’s new to us because we have only just discovered it.  We also saw two kookaburras (or kingfishers for those not in Australia) perched on a tennis court and we marvelled that it must be Spring soon!

A time for conversation

For me, the greatest benefit of going for a long walk is the time I have to just focus on having a conversation with my daughter.  The time we spent talking was priceless. I had time to acknowledge her reluctance to walk, especially as it couldn’t be guaranteed her books will be at the library. I too was looking forward to finding a particular book. We could have looked up those books on the library’s online catalogue before leaving home, but I knew if the books weren’t there, it would have taken away my motivation to walk to the library. Both my daughter and I would have missed out on so many wonderful things that can come from walking and talking together. I wouldn’t have been able to teach her the gratitude of just being out in the sunshine and marvelling at all of God’s creations.

The end of the walk

It turned out my daughter’s books were there and mine wasn’t.  I am glad I had a conversation with her about being disappointed but also grateful.  She saw first-hand how I dealt with my disappointment in not finding my book.

Driving might have been quicker or it might have also taken a long time.  There is a cost to driving and some of these costs cannot be measured.

Do you sometimes use the car to get to places that you can walk to? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!