Archive | November 2016

The Very Sensible Vehicle

In 2004, I needed a car. For $10,500, I bought a Certified Pre-Owned Honda Accord, then five years old. Now, this was a big purchase for me at the time. In fact, I financed half the purchase price. (As I recall, I paid $193 per month for three years.) But, I announced, I would drive the car ten years, so it would be worthwhile.

In fact, I drove it twelve years. Together, the Auto Paragon and I:

  • lived in five states, some of them twice, and the District of Columbia;
  • turned 25, 30, and 35;
  • figured out how to install a rear-facing car seat… and then a second rear-facing car seat;
  • earned 2 master’s degrees;
  • and outlasted 4 vehicles owned by the ever-fickle XFP.

But all things have their time, and while the Auto Paragon certainly still ran, it was perhaps no longer a sufficiently reliable vehicle for a single parent.

Thanks to the Frugal Patriarch, I had a replacement budget of $10,000. What to buy? Not another Accord. While I loved mine, I was not in the mood this time around to pay extra for fanciness and excess size. All-wheel drive? Well, I considered it. It was tempting to buy an Outback like everyone else in Colorado and never worry about getting stuck in a snow pile again.

But… you pay more for all-wheel drive. You pay more up front. You pay more in maintenance. You pay more in gas. Since my current income doesn’t meet all my fairly modest “wants” and savings goals, I asked, was AWD even a strong want? Ultimately, I decided it would be more economical to carry a telescoping snow shovel for emergencies and get a small front-wheel drive car.

According to both Consumer Reports and Mr. Money Mustache’s car guide, pretty much the ideal used vehicle for carrying around one or two adults and a couple of small children is a Honda Fit. They are cheap to buy, cheap to own, kind of adorable, and fun to drive, and with the back seat folded down, capable of transporting an entire dining room table. And chairs.

So I bought a Honda Fit. I zeroed in on the 2o11 model year because it was in my price range and was the first year in which electronic stability control was standard. Consumer Reports says that ESC is Very Important for Safety. (Yes, I paged through the actual paper Used Car Buying Guide. I work in a library.)

My research suggested that the best deal was a particular silver Fit Sport offered about half an hour south of here for one of those low-haggle prices (slightly below Blue Book in this case) with a limited warranty. But it was silver. What’s wrong with silver? Well, the XFP drove a silver Fit for the last year of our marriage. (He no longer owns it). Was I really going to drive a car that looked just like his car?

Yes, I was. First of all, being a newer generation, it is a slightly different shade of silver and has a different front look. And I am far too sensible to pass up the best deal on a car just because of color.

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Sleeker, more modern front.

In short, the whole thing was such an excess of sensibility that I have dubbed it the Very Sensible Vehicle. It is fun to have a shiny new thing. While making a habit of craving shiny new things is a good way to land in the poorhouse, I savor the experience when it happens to roll around. My car has a USB port! I can unlock the doors by pushing a button on my key! Wow!

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Also, the XFP’s fit did not have the fancy alloy wheels. Not that it matters.

What of the Auto Paragon? I considered selling it myself but I was able to negotiate a good deal with the dealership. I traded the AP for $500 and a new set of snow tires (plus TPMS sensors). Also, I sold the AP’s snow tires on Craigslist and got a hundred dollars for them. I think I got my ten grand’s worth out of the car.

You may check back in 2028 to see if the Very Sensible Vehicle has proved as satisfactory as the Auto Paragon.

What do you drive? How do you decide what care to buy?

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Settling In and Moving On: October Spending

Well, October was a big month. Here’s what went out and what came in!

Gifts: 1090

Selling stuff: $300

Support: 733

Wages: 1850.78

Total income: $3973.78

Rent plus security deposits and fees: $1349.52

Water: 27.70

Mortgage: 837.67

House and carpet cleaning: $230

Laundry card: $20

Renter’s insurance and moving costs: $93.20

Ting: $30. 99

Charity internet: $9.95 (WOW this is nice! I was paying $80 just for internet at the house. Evidently there is a $13 credit left on the account but I told the XFP he could keep it in exchange for continued use of his Netflix password.)

Total housing, bills, and utilities: $2599.03

Groceries: $326.06 (This seems high for me and half the boys’ dinners.)

Wine: $19.41

Total In-Home Food: $345.37

Gas: $43.38

Parking: $6 (for one job interview and my divorce hearing)

Total Transportation: $49.39

Kids miscellany: $34.50

Kids clothes: $43.50

Field trip: $7

Work-related babysitting: $128 (Ouch! I took a couple of not-very-profitable library shifts.)

Total kids: $213

Adult health: $38.28 (Got my cholesterol checked to win cash incentive at work)

Restaurants: $43.29 (mostly because I ordered pizza when I moved)

Coffee shops and snacks: $40.26

Frippery: $0 (I point this out because I feel a frippery purchase or two coming on)

Total pure luxury: $83.55

Dollar Shave Club: $6

Adult clothes: $45.32

Books: $6.46

Home supplies and furnishings: $184.55

Packing tape: $6.08

Bike supplies: 30.67

Child care pass at gym: $15

Cat food and litter: 39.90

ATM fees: $3

Total of shopping and miscellaneous whatnot: $336.98

Total spending: $3665.60

Analysis

I’m really satisfied with this month. It looks like I finished the month with only a few hundred dollars to spare even after receiving gifts and other support, but that’s only sort of true. I had actually already budgeted more than half the amount I needed for rent from previous months. So at the end of the month, I was actually able to make some pretty generous savings allocations. $500 more for my lawyer. (She was going to send me a final bill, but I asked her to open my tab back up–more on that below.) $500 to start a new emergency fund. Couple hundred to save up for my car insurance.

And, of course, I had unusual expenses this month. I think I showed a lot of home-furnishing restraint, but it’s not like I usually spend $65 on bedding. (How rarely do I do this? Well, never. I can’t remember ever previously owning a bedspread that was not a present from my grandmother, and the one I was using was circa 1994.) Or $230 on professional cleaning. (Empty house looked gross after I moved out.)

This big deal, of course, is that I paid both rent AND my half of the mortgage. With any luck, I will never have to do that again. See, the house sat and sat and sat on the market, going in and out of three different contracts, and in that time the XFP’s position changed. He is getting married again, and I am sure you all join me in wishing him and his fiancee the very best. The fiancee (I’ll need to think of some letters for her) has two boys of her own even smaller than Big Brother and Little Brother. They will need a larger abode than the XFP’s two-bedroom apartment, and it seemed quite logical for them to simply move back into the house the XFP already owns half of. My lawyer is working on an agreement for us, they will refinance and cash me out, and we won’t lose five figures of the proceeds to real estate commission. Win-win. (The XFP also just replaced his Fit with a Honda Odyssey. I may have LOLed.)

I see some areas to cut (my mocha habit, for one, and groceries seem on the high side considering I only have the kids half the time), but mostly things seem to be under control. So I finished the month feeling reasonably financially secure, not to mention very snug in my new place. I love the sound made by my new teakettle and the little hooks where I hang my unreasonable number of mugs. I am finally happy with the arrangement of my furniture (no more aggressively electronic entertainment center) and am making modest progress toward hanging things on the wall.

And… people were generous with me. Old acquaintances reached out with comforting words. Friends offered concrete help. My “internet stranger” friends flooded me with kind words. My family sent a generous check that allowed me to start some savings. It is wonderful to feel that so many people care about me and my story. Thank you.

How was your October? Do you find yourself, like me, heading into the holiday season with a feeling of abundance and well-being?