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January 20, 2010

Living with One Car in a Two-Car World (Guest Post)


Guest Post by Liz from Frugally Blonde

When I tell new acquaintances that my husband and I share one car, I am usually met with a mix of shock and pity. In our affluent society, it is practically unheard of for each adult driver in a household not to have his or her own car. 

However, my family has managed well with only one car for four years, and we plan to continue to live this way as long as it seems necessary. While our lifestyle might not work for everyone, I hope that it demonstrates that living without a second car can be both possible and practical.

When my husband and I were first married and both working, it was easy to just have one car with the help of public transportation. However, a year after our wedding we moved to an outer suburb/small town bereft of a subway or bus system that we could use, and shortly after I quit my job to stay home with our newborn daughter.

There was no other way for my husband to get to his job 30 minutes from home except by driving--which meant that I was left without transportation during the day. So that's what we decided to do. Now, three years later, we have added a second daughter to our family, but not a second car!

The girls and I stay at home most days without a car. Once a week (occasionally twice), we get up early in the morning, drive my husband to work, and spend the entire day on errands and appointments. Then we drive 30 minutes to pick him up in the evening, and we all drive 30-45 minutes home in rush-hour traffic.

Why do we have only one car? The simple answer is that we do not feel that we can responsibly afford another one. At certain times during the past four years, we might have been able to squeeze a car payment into our budget, but it would have been at the expense of our other priorities.

For instance, we were blessed last year to be able to purchase our first home. We knew that doing so would seriously hamper our ability to get a second car in the near future, but we felt that a home was more needed as well as a much better investment. Further, although we would not rule out a car payment, we would much prefer to pay for a second car in cash, as we did for our first one.

Clearly, living with one car can be challenging and a sacrifice. However, after four years in this situation, we have discovered a host of unexpected blessings and benefits that have come with our unconventional lifestyle.

First of all, we easily save hundreds of dollars a year by not paying for gas, insurance, maintenance, fees, and taxes for a second car. It also helps us save money in other ways. Out of necessity, I have become extremely organized about my shopping trips. I combine trips and map out the route that is most efficient. I try to do most of my grocery shopping for a two-week period in one trip, and I can often go at least a week without going to the supermarket, except perhaps for fresh fruit. Limiting my shopping trips to once a week also prevents me from being tempted by impulse purchases.

On a more personal level, I feel that our situation has also blessed me with the opportunity to truly blossom in our home and to focus on my life there. At first, as a new mom, I chafed at being unable to get out of the house, and I admit that some days it is still hard. But now with two little ones, I have so much to do that I can’t get it all done even with being home all day! And my girls and I have developed a rhythm to our days, so much so that I feel very discombobulated if I take the car more than one day a week.
I believe that the day will come when our lifestyle and/or our growing family will require us to purchase a second car. God-willing, at that point we will have the money to do so. And quite honestly, I am looking forward to that day. I know that I will never take having my own transportation for granted, but rather see it as a wonderful privilege and gift.

Until then, I tell my friends, I may not get out much, but they're welcome to come over!
Liz lives in Nothern Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Her blog, Frugally Blonde, is a place to discuss frugality and celebrate living the good life on less.

Photo credit: Sports Car Workshops

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I really liked your post. We also only have one car; my hubby is in grad school/internship/work, and I work a full and part-time job. Thanks to the pretty decent public transit system in DC/Montgomery County, we can easily go with one car, although like you said, there are times when it sure would be nice to have that second one! Trying to plan out who needs the car on different days gets challenging, and sometimes we end up dropping the other off very early, but it works. We're proud to get around on one car, and I'm also proud of our smaller carbon footprint because of it.

We, too, have shared one car for the past few years. We have found we love having the extra money for savings. We stopped all car payments about 12 years ago and began purchasing older cars.

We home school and have found we enjoy having a great reason to stay home. It's never a problem for us to take my husband to work when we need the car for an appointment or a field trip. It takes communication and a little planning.

What a wonderful example you are setting for your girls. One question... what do you do in an emergency? For example, my son needed to go to the ER in the middle of the day? Luckily, I live close and could walk. I'm curious if you have an emergency plan and what it is. Thanks.

I would totally do this, but my husband has to drive for his job. Otherwise, it would be a great way to save money each month! Good for you!

I like your post as well. We only have one car too since I stay at home and luckly our townhouse is across the street from my kids school. We are getting out of debt and saving to buy a home so we didn't want the extra expense. I'm fine with it most of the time but I do miss out on somethings because of it. Once we have bought our home I'm not sure if we'll get another car or not.

This post could not have been more perfectly timed. Our van (second vehicle) died yesterday, and by dead, I mean it needs a new transmission. Since it is not worth it, we may be going with only one vehicle for a while. We did it before, and we can do it again. A second vehicle truly is a luxury.

Great Guest Post! We actually lived with one car for many years. My husband would take the car to work every day and I was "stuck" at home with the kids.

We would also get those shocked responses from friends and family, but at the time, we simply couldn't afford another car. We lived close enough to stores and doctor offices, so it wasn't a problem (I'd walk the 30 minutes with babies in the stroller).

We actually still don't own a second car (my husband now has a company car to take to work) and I love not having those extra payments/insurance/gas.

Yeah, for only one car! Like the previous commenter we are also in school. I have 2 kids to stay at home with and everyone always tells me "I remember those days when we only had one car when we were in school." I think we will also try to keep it like this for as long as possible. It will help us pay off our student loans quicker. Plus, it allows us to spend more time together!

When we were first married, we unregistered our car & kept it at my in-laws house. The insurance alone was worth more than the car, and since we lived in the city, we just took public transportation (with our monthly passes) or gasp!: walked. We were in much better shape then. :) If we needed to drive anywhere outside the city worth any distance, we rented a vehicle. I miss those days, but now that we live in a suburb, having a car is almost a necessity. Could we get by with only 1 car? For most of the time, probably yes, but you're right ...we get used to the convenience of 2.

We were married for 6 years before we purchased our second car- our old car had been paid off for 5 years and we still have it. We purchased the "new" one (it was 3 years old) because our old one (12 years old) was no longer reliable for long out of state trips to see family. My husband and I drop our daughter off at daycare and then ride together to the park n ride, where we catch a bus downtown to avoid the high parking fees. There was a period of time when I did not drive for over 8 years, and I did NOT miss it! We got our bachelor's degrees in Chicago, and had no need for a car there before we got married.

When our old car bites the dust, it will be a tough call as to whether we get a "new" replacement. Our second child is due in July and I am praying to be a SAHM after the baby is born.

We were a one car family for quite a while, but now do find it necessary to have a second vehicle for a variety of reasons. Great post!

This is a wonderful post and I intend to share it with my husband. We recently bought our first home and have a 3.5 year old. I will be quitting my full time job in August of this year as we prepare for more children. With dedication and sight of the postive effects it will have on our relationship with each other and our children we have have been saving and have a plan for living on his income alone. Many people are shocked by the sacrifices we have already made to prepare for those changes. We have two good cars now, but have agreed that when the older of the two begins to require costly repairs we will become a one car family. The savings will be awsome. Because of the nature of my husband's job I will have access to the car quite a bit on most days. My only concern is with how I will respond to a situation like a sick kid who needs to be picked up at school when I don't have the car. Even with the wonderful family support we have near by there is no way of being sure someone will be available to help.

We are also a one car family, but we are DINKs. One benefit that the author didn't mention is communication. My husband and I must communicate about our goals and obligations for the week so that we can plan sharing the car. If dh has to work late, he knows he needs to call me. If I need to the car to help out at the church pancake feed, I need to let dh know.

We also are grateful for the opportunity to carpool together and discuss our scripture reading topics and wind down from our work day.

My husband and I have been married for nearly six years. And we've never had more than one car. Yeah I Kinda go insane some days because the kids (3 of them) And I can't really go anywhere. (No public transportation here aside from a few taxis) But we make due. On days I need the car, I simply just get the kids ready in the morning and we take hubby to work. It does help that his work is only about 5-10 minutes away. So even if I need something mid day he's usually able to take a quick break to bring me the car.

We'll have our car paid off within 2 months. So we'll start putting some money away to purchase another vehicle in the future. Hopefully loan free..

Great post! I am also a stay at home mom. Maybe you already know about this but there are mom's clubs in towns that have playgroups--you might not be able to go to other people's houses but you could have them over your house which would be a way to connect with other mom's in your town and a fun activity for your kids.

Amen, sister! We are a family of five who managed to be a single car family (with 3 car seats in the back!) for 3 years with no regrets. But then my husband, who commutes to graduate school by bike, took a weekend job that entails transporting clients in a car. Grudgingly, we bought a second vehicle (with cash from our tax refund) last year. I am hoping that when one car dies we will be in a situation that we don't have to replace it.

We only have one car as well. I can work out shopping trips in the early morning before my husband leaves for work, or at night after the children are in bed. Depending on his schedule, we sometimes can make a daytime trip with him, in which case all of the children get to go shopping as well (normally I go alone or with just one child). If he has erands to run for work (and he often does) we'll combine those into one trip.

Like Liz, we don't need to go shopping every week. We can get enough things to last us two weeks at a time during a normal shopping month (eating from the pantry times are different as we don't go shopping or even need the car much).

My husband also works from home as much as possible. Though we've had one car for 6 years, we've put less than 10,000 miles a year on it--and my husband is a real estate agent, so he often drives around town for his work!

Fresh fruit is not a problem; apples and oranges can last more than a month, and our garden helps to keep lots of other fruits and vegetables on our table year-round.

when we were first married, we only had one car for several years and we got creative how to use it. there were times i rode the bus to college, times where hubby biked to work and back, times where i took him to work and picked him up so that i could run errands and such. i even remember walking home from the groc store with 2 super full grocery bags that kicked my butt.

we eventually became the 2 car family, but then hubby lost most of his sight and now doesn't drive so we only need one car for me, the one driver. this to me is even more challenging. but we've adjusted. hubby's back in school and walks to the college a couple blocks away. once he graduates and finds a job it'll be interesting to see how we work it out with only one driver and car. we
re hoping to find a job/home in a town that has a good transit system.

keep up the good work!

YAY! My husband and I have been married for fifteen years and have three boys. We have always only had one car! My husband does have a company vehicle and always has. I can't tell you the stress other people feel because we only have one car!:) It is so sad that our society tells us everyone needs their own vehicle!

Great Post!

Thanks for sharing your story. My husband and I have decided to be a 1-car family. We don't have children yet, but we still have some sacrifices to make when it comes to our transportation. My husband is in school right now and has class 4 nights a week. Although it would be nice to have the freedom to go out whenever I want on those evenings, I know that this little sacrifice is worth it when I think of all the money we're saving. Like someone mentioned earlier, being without a car doesn't stop me from inviting friends over. It's helped me create a more hospitable home where friends are welcome.

We have been a 1 car family for the past 10 years! In the span of those 10 years we have had so many changes and I do admit that many times I wish we had 1 more car. However, we have been able to be without a car payment for 6 years and are now thinking we may buy a van with cash! I will never make car payments again. I am really glad we have waited to buy a second car and that we will do so debt free. It takes sacrifice but it is well worth it!

This is a very nice, well written piece :)

We only have one vehicle too. It has worked out well for the most part. It has had to have a new transmission in it which caused our life for about 2 weeks to be really crazy! Since we only had one vehicle we had to search quickly to find someone with one they could lend us! For now until we pay this one off we are only going to have one but I think in the future another USED vehicle will be in our budget that way we have a fall back and probably one that doesn't use much gas!

When me and my husband got married nearly six years ago, we each had our own cars, and it was convient. A year ago after we moved to FL, my husband got rear-ended and totalled my car, so we had to rely on the new one we'd bought (because his other car died, and we don't know why - so technically for a few months we had three cars, lol). It was a bit hard at first, but I never went anywhere anyway, so I got used to it. He works about thirty minutes away, so if I have a doctors appointment, I just plan them for when he gets home in the afternoon, or if I can't I'll just take him to work and pick him up later.

We're trying for our first baby, and he worries about "what ifs" and he's not home and I'll need the car - but I figure we live less than two mils from two different hospitals, I think we'll be ok. *lol*

People give us a hard time sometimes, and wonder how we do it, but since I don't work it's not a problem. You just work systems out for grocery shopping and any other errand.

My husband and I have been married for 7 1/2 years and have only ever had one car! It can be a bit of a pain to deal with but thanks to public transportation, it has saved us so much for the whole of our marriage. We would love to be a no-car family but in our small city, it just isn't possible. Yet!

This is such a great post. I'm a stay-at-home mom of a 2-year-old and my husband is a teacher, and we are lucky enough to have two cars (both cars that we purchased when we were single) that are totally paid off. We have talked about what we will do when one of our cars bites the dust, especially since mine has a reputation for having things break, and we feel it wouldn't be prudent to take on a new car payment now. We are definitely open to the possibility of being a one-car family for a while so we could put that savings toward another car.

It's nice to read here how others make it work. My husband and I talked about what we would do if we had one car and it had to spend several days getting repairs. Even then, the cost of a rental is still cheaper than taking on a monthly payment. And I suppose for emergencies, you can always ride in the ambulance. Expensive, but probably still cheaper than car payments over time.

I can't see the one-car thing working as well when you have teenage children who need rides to school events and jobs, but it's definitely possible while the kids are little.

We are a..gasp...4plus car family plus a couple of pickups, dumptrucks.. LOL! It is not feasible for us to only have one car. We also have a son who is almost 20. He does ride to work with my husband. We own our own business.We live too far out in the country for public transportation. We have a special needs daughter who has lots of drs appointments. My husband has to have a vehicle handy at work so I can't just take him and take the car/truck. We have five children so we need a van but now they are old enough to stay home and just my dh and I go sometimes, a van is impractical. However, we all have good driving records so our insurance is good. We also will not have any car/truck loans. We also drive vw's for good fuel mileage. Those are the ways we save.

Wow! And here I thought I was the only one (well perhaps in my little suburbia I am) who survives on one car. Ours came out of sheer necessity. One income = one car for us. At first I hated it, but I've come to love the fact that our current vehicle is paid off (and heaven help us stays running for a few more years) and we can much easier "get by". There have been times its been difficult - say hubby has to go out of town AND take the car, yet I've got a doctor appointment for the kiddos, but thank goodness for parents who can help you out in a pinch!!! Nice post - good to know I'm in minority.

We live in one of the few urban enclaves in the vast suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, and manage with one car. We can walk to shops, restaurants and theatres, while my overweight neighbors drive five blocks to the movies and then complain about the price of gas and parking.
The average price of a new car in the U. S. is $28,400 and as soon as you drive it off the lot you’ve already lost a bundle. We only buy used Volvo station wagons. They’re safe, they last forever, and they don’t cost very much. Plus they can haul a lot of yard sale junk.
Here’s how it breaks down. We buy the wagon for $6,500 and keep it for two years. Then we sell it for $3,000. That means we have had a good quality vehicle for $3,500. Of course, there are always repairs, but we’re still way ahead of the game.

We used to be a one car family. But DH works 45 minutes away, and the kids' extra activities start mid-afternoon! He would carpool if he could find someone that lives this direction.

7 years this was our lifestyle. 6 weeks before our 3rd child in Feb 09 we found a minivan on Craigslist for what we had in cash. We were the only ones in our area with only one car. My husband tried to do car pools but they all fell through so for about 8 months in our new area without anything in walking distance I really was stuck all day at home. I made sure to tell a few people who lived near me at church in case I needed to get a kid to the ER that wasn't ambulance worthy. Never needed too. But my husbands job is flexible enough that he could come home in an emergency.

Love the picture. I had a little car similar to that one in highschool. Problem was that the footballplayers thought it great fun to pick up my car and turn it sideways in the parking space so that I couldn't get it out. We have been married for almost 32 years and are way past the stay at home mom with small children stage but we only had one car for alot of years when we were first married and had small children.. I remember that I used to take them for walks and go out in the yard to play with them and all that seemed to change after we became a 2 car family.

My husband and I have had one car for years; making no car payment is a wonderful thing! We both work full time (no children, sadly) so we drive in to his work, and then I take the car to mine. Whenever he has need of the car (dental appointment or something) he drops me off. We're going to have to move into major money-saving mode now because the car is a 1999 and we plan on getting a Ford Fusion Hybrid when the Taurus finally bites the dust and we hate car payments.... People are really shocked when they hear we don't have two cars, and we're asked over and over "When are you getting another vehicle?"

My husband and I have been married for almost eight years now and except for a brief period in time we have always had one car. There have been times when we could have purchased another car but determined we had other priorities. Although things sometimes get hectic it normally is not an issue. We have just gotten used to the idea of one car.
One of the unexpected benefits we received was when it comes to shopping. I was raised by a frugal mother we taught us how to make every penny stretch but when we were married my husband was the type of person who would go to the store, pick up an item and check-out without regard to prices.
Since he works long hours and we enjoy spending time together he has taken to going on my shopping trips with me. Now he has become a lot more careful at how he spends money!

I actually just posted about this very thing (! For us, having one car really isn't practical. Location is a big part of it. We live in a city that's pretty unfriendly to public transit, and while there are some shops and other places within walking distance (library, local hardware store, Walgreens, coffeeshop), things like doctor's offices and grocery stores are further out. We also find that when we're living with one car, we spend more of our "together" time running errands--and that's no fun at all.

Having two cars really is a privilege.

This is interseting. We are a 2 car family right now but only myself is a licensed driver due to some medical issues with my DH. He lost his license in November so my daughter and I get up at 4am and take him to work and then pick him up around 1pm. For the most part it has actually not been that bad. I was someone who was terrified to drive in the snow and icky weather and I have gotten quite used to it now. He may get his license back after medical review in May but if that does not happen we have already discussed the issue of getting rid of one of the vehicles. After reading your post though I am seriously considering get rid of one even if he gets his license back. The amount of money we would save would be huge and with the hours he works it is not like I can't schedule my appoinments and outings around him.

What a good reminder that I am not alone. It is also a good reminder that only having one car is not a big deal. I am so thankful for the money we are saving and that having one car is helping us get out of debt faster. At this point, I could not fathom buying a second car until our debt is gone and money is saved for a second.

Here is a question for all of you who seem so content with being a one car family. My husband and I have been married almost 9 months. I am 24 and received a car for my 16th birthday, so I have had a car for all of my driving years. Until now. My husband's car died before we met, so he didn't own a car (took the bus/walked to work) when we met/were dating/engaged/got married. So when we married, we only had one car--mine. I started graduate school this fall and my university offers free city bus access for all students, so it makes financial sense for me to take the bus to school since it's free, and for my husband to drive (instead of paying the $30/month bus pass fee). I know marriage is about sharing and becoming one. We are strong Christians, trying to follow the Lord, and I love my husband and married life so much. But... this is the one sacrifice that I absolutely hate, and I can't talk to anyone I know about this because everyone else has their own car and thinks we're weird for having only one. My husband doesn't understand why this is difficult for me (his mom doesn't drive so he had 1 car growing up in a family of 6). He knows it is, but he cannot relate to my (at times) despair over the unfairness of this situation. This post comes at such a timely moment because I was in tears over this yesterday. I know I'm not making much sense and just rambling. I hope I don't come across as critical or angry... I don't want to be that way... but how do you cope with this when it's hard? Any comments would be appreciated.

This is something that we could easily do if we had a way out from under our car payments. My husband is now a stay-at-home dad :) I teach less than 2 miles from school. If we could sell one of our cars even steven I would be all for it!!!! Especially since in a pinch my BFF could pick me up on the way to school/work :) Loved your guest spot!!!

Great post. We have always had one car because our income simply didn't allow for another. And priorities like buying our first home and starting a family ranked much higher to us. I work full-time out of the home and rely on public transport because my husband uses the car for his very car-dependent sales job. It can be a pain trying to accommodate everyone's needs and wants in term of scheduling but it usually works out well enough. The running joke in our family is that our son (who is only 9 months) will have his own car before I do!

I was a bit nervous about being home with a newborn when I was on maternity leave and not having transportation in case of emergency but we do have some family close by. It's also an excellent excuse to get to know my neighbors, who, as it turns out, are great and would be willing to help in an emergency situation.

Great Post! We have done this for 4 of the 5 years we've been married. Right now we are luxuriously enjoying two cars both bought in cash (and we save regularly for another car in 3-5 years). Totally do-able. Annoying sometimes but do-able.

We have only one car as well. My husband works from home and I still only use the car one day per week for errands sometimes two. I work two to three days per week. In a true emergency we have a neighboor who is home all day every day with a car and she would take him if he needed to go to a hospital also in a true emergency there is ambulance service. I plan well my shopping and errands so that I am never away from home more than three total days per week we go out together on the weekend (usually Sunday's all day) It makes for a simple life and some extra rest and cash in our pockets less headaches of taking care of an additional car.

We were a one-car family for a while after our 2nd DD was born and DH's truck had died a very sad death on the side of the highway when he was coming home from work. We did without a 2nd car for quite some time, but with our schedules, my need to occasionally go into the office during the day (I work from home but sometimes have to go in for a meeting or conference call) and emergencies that required my DH leaving work (not practical) so we could go to the doctors office NOW - we bit the bullet and bought a second vehicle. I admire families that can make it work. I remember my mom getting up and driving my dad to work when I was little (she left us at home to sleep...gasp!....but it was a long, long, looooong time ago) - and then we all went to pick him up in the afternoon. They were a one car family until I was 10 or so.

Last year, our 12-year-old vans decided to bite the dust at the same time. We couldn't live in suburbia without at least one, so that's what we did - bought one used car and we share it. And it's working fine for our family of four. And I've learned you can always count on your friends. I never have a problem getting a ride to a PTA meeting or similar events, if I need it. People even call and offer before I can ask! My children and husband have also found rides when it was necessary. And we give rides to our kids' friends at times, too.

Same here. We only have one car and your story is very much like ours except we live in a walkable suburb with a play ground and lots to walk to even to a couple of towns. We use to live in NYC so it suits us. Our car is outright paid for no car payments just insurance and gas. I just do not want another car. On occasional I might have the car twice a week and I do treasure being creative on days we do not. We have a toddler boy and hope to add another one but not a car.

Thank you for your post.

Good post.
My hubby & I shared a car for over 1 year when my second little one came along. My hubby sold his vehicle to pay some debts down, and we couldn't afford to pay for another one.
I stayed home a ton,and would run errands after my hubby got home from work. Or otherwise would plan keeping the vehicle for appointments or outings. It would get a little lonesome sometimes, but God blessed me with family and friends that would stop by to visit or pick me and the little ones up.
We still only own one car. My in-laws have graciously allowed us to use their 3 vehicle. But I guess that I got use to the 1 vehicle lifestyle, and many weeks I only go out 1-2 times a week (besides church). It saves gas, money and sometimes my sanity with 2 boys. :))

We did this for a while as well-it stressed our parents out so much that FIL sold us a car for $1. And then I still wasn't sure we should do it because of the insurance, etc. The car we were given (8 years ago and it's still going strong) is a convertible and DH has had it in the garage taking the top off and replacing it for 4 months-we've managed so far without too many problems but I know it would be hard to persuade him to go back to one car.

One thing I would like to add is that when I was carless once for 6 weeks because of an accident I stayed slim and trim because I had to walk everywhere. I live too far from the stores now to do this, but it could be possible, we could just shop on evenings and weekends.

This gives food for thought for thought to someone who is contantly looking for ways to cut back.

How delightful to see that we are not as unique (a nice way to say weird!) as I sometimes feel!! We lived overseas for almost 5 years and we sold both of our cars before we left. When we got back a year ago we got one car (which we're still buying from my parents - interest free - thanks Dad and Mom!) and my husband takes it to his job every day while I'm "stuck" at home. The first month or two were hard, but I've gotten so used to it, I don't even think about it until it comes up in a conversation. I couldn't agree more with the SAVINGS that have come from having ONE CAR - no trips to Target because I'm bored, no extra insurance payment or two tanks of gas to fill up, maintaining one car instead of two...the list goes on. Thanks for posting this!!

on the flip side tho my daughter has a friend who is in a "one car family" and they dont understand the pressure they put on others for their children due to this. If the girls do anything 2gether we do the driving, any school functions/dances we pick up and drop off mostly so she can go and we arent able to trade off weeks for extraciricular ... See Moreactivities since the parent with the car works late. If we dont drive her then she cant go so my daughter gets sad. She lives close so its really not a huge deal except they are soooo used to others doing the driving we have never received a "thx" or a "i hope this isnt an inconvience" or "how can we make it up to you"...... nothing. THose statements would go very far.
Id love to share a car and have less expense but with kids/teens and both parents working its just not something we can do. Just wanted to share the other side of the coin - im sure that is not how you guys are and im sure that you would be very thankful with rides :-)
There just is no nice or tackful way of saying "im not picking your kid up again to go to the school dance cuz we have done that 20 times to your none", seems so childish, lol

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