Like I said, “shift happens“. This shift in mindset saved me $37,656 dollars. Yep, here’s how.
HOW MY TOTALLY RELIABLE 10 YEAR OLD CAR CAME INTO MY LIFE
In my Pre-FI, zombie-hamster-wheel, head-in-the-sand life (last year), I planned to ditch my perfectly good car (Bessy) for a new one as soon as I paid off my student loan.
Bessy is a 2009 Honda CRV. I got Bessy when Root Jr. was just a wee-one, not even a year old. My previous vehicle was a Toyota Prius. The Prius got totaled when someone texting and driving rear-ended me at a red light. Luckily the tiny Root was not in the car with me and I was not injured.
The Prius was not paid off but had enough value that we received a check from the insurance company. So we went shopping for a new car.
Yes, that’s right, I said a NEW car. This was Pre-FI. Bessy was priced around $24K. We spent very little time shopping around.
Remember we had a baby at the time and car shopping was not an enjoyable endeavor with a squirmy tank of an 8 month old. I was good and ready to upgrade to an official mom SUV with a hatch back and a roomy back seat that was easy to slide a car seat in and out of.
Screw the environment! I was a sleep deprived mother with an aching back.
With the insurance check and some money we had saved from the sale of our last house we bought the car outright. We figured no matter what happens at least we’ll have a paid off car.
We didn’t have a budget or track our expenses but we had a sense that not having a car payment would come in handy. I took good care of this car and adhered to the maintenance schedule religiously.
When Bessy started approaching the 10 year/100K mile mark last year she was still in great shape. Ran like a dream. Very reliable. Probably had many more years of good driving left in her. But I started dreaming about
buying financing my next NEW car.
But why you ask? Wasn’t Bessy working just fine? With many more good driving years left? Why would you trade in a perfectly good working PAID OFF car for more car payments???
Well, let me tell you a little bit about my car history in my Pre-FI days.
MY HISTORY OF FINANCING BRAND NEW CARS
I started financing new cars when I was 19. I have always had a car payment so I could drive new cars.
Actually wait, that’s not true. My FIRST car was a used Plymouth Horizon that my folks helped me buy. It was a nightmare of a car with constant problems.
The Horizon broke down in a major busy intersection in Houston when I was about 17. No one stopped to help me. I had to push that behemoth out of the way by myself.
The last time that car left me stranded was when the engine inexplicably caught on fire. I left it in the parking lot of the Houston airport.
That experience scarred me. I was terrified of ever driving a used car again.
I couldn’t afford another car so to get around I bought a NEW little turquoise Honda scooter that went a max of 35mph and drove that for a while. Then traded up for a NEW red scooter that drove up to 55mph. Vroom!
I was 19. Driving a little scooter on the roads of Houston, TX was not exactly pleasant. For one, my life was at risk. I was surrounded by giant Texas-sized trucks and hulking SUVs.
Everything’s bigger in Texas y’all and I can’t believe I somehow escaped being crushed by one of these beasts.
Secondly, being exposed to the elements, namely the searing Texas heat, bites. Sucking in exhaust is another unpleasant fact of the scooter life. Lastly, being a young lady on a cute little scooter draws a LOT of unwanted attention. Honks, cat calls, and expletives on the regular.
So when my parents had the opportunity to help me finance a new car I jumped at the chance. They had just started a new food enterprise with the help of some financing from a bank.
That same bank financed a new car for them AND my older sister. For some reason the bank agreed to finance one for me too!
THE BRAND NEW RED VW GOLF
My parents set me up with a decent paying job at their new company and I drove away with a brand new red VW Golf and a 5 year note with a $400 monthly payment! Looking back I don’t know how on Earth I managed to make that monthly payment. But I did.
I lived and worked to pay that and my rent. The VW ended up being a lemon. After a year of constant problems I traded it in for another brand new car.
THE BRAND NEW RED FORD MUSTANG
This time I drove off in a little bit cheaper but none-the-less brand new red Ford Mustang. I had another 5 year note and $400 car payments.
I lived paycheck to paycheck never saving any money. I actually went even further into debt thanks to a little adventure with my first company credit card. I dabbled in ordering personal clothing items from LL Bean catalogues and other such “necessities”.
My parents’ company struggled and couldn’t pay off my company Amex balance. I received some shockingly nasty phone calls from the collection agency. Boy were they mean. They gave me a good scare. That cured me of my love of credit cards… for a while.
After my stint with my parents’ company ended I got a job waiting tables at an Italian restaurant. That’s where I met my future husband Mr. Root. I drove the ‘Stang for about 6 years. Mr. Root repaired it more than once after it suffered damage from Houston-style floods.
THE BRAND NEW RED HONDA ACCORD
We moved to Austin to open a restaurant in 1995 and soon after traded the paid-off still running fine ‘Stang for a brand new red Honda Accord.
Per usual, financed with a 5 year loan at about $450 a month. This was the nicest car I had ever owned. We went through some pretty significant financial ups and downs over the next few years, including bankruptcy. But we somehow always kept up with the car payments.
For some reason this made me feel responsible and resilient. Sure I might be broke, working my ass off, in debt, and not saving for our future, BUT I’m making my car payments!
We drove the Honda long enough to enjoy some car-payment-free years. But due to my aversion to old cars and potential car repairs on the horizon it was time to get into debt again!
THE BRAND NEW RED TOYOTA PRIUS
That’s when we got the Prius. In 2005 maybe? It was a cool car and I think it had about a year left of payments when it got wrecked. After it got totaled Bessy the light blue Honda CRV made her entrance.
MY PRE-FI PLAN FOR BESSY
Last year, pre-FI, Bessy reached 100,000 miles so I was ready to trade her in for an electric vehicle. A new EV would run about $30K or up.
I hated the idea of having car payments again but I was stuck in the old mindset of believing that used cars weren’t safe and that cars with high mileage were going to leave me stranded in an intersection.
Since we were in debt for other things (student loan, consumer debt) we decided it would be prudent to at least drive Bessy until we paid off my student loan of $29,000 (see? there was a kernel of sanity there).
We calculated this would take about three years and the incentive was if we could pay it down faster I could get a new car sooner (and a new 5 years of car payments, wheeee!)
SEEING BESSY IN A BRAND NEW FI-LIGHT
Fast forward to January of this year when I found FI. FI changed my mindset and I saw Bessy in a whole new light.
Bessy is in great shape at 121,000 miles and PAID OFF. She’s got a few little dings here and there but otherwise there’s nothing wrong with her at all. The seats are a little worn and stained but I have a 10 year old and two dogs, why would I want a new car?
I talked to my Honda mechanic during one of Bessy’s religiously observed scheduled maintenance visits. He said people who take good care of their CRVs have been known to drive them into the 350K+ range. Whoa!
What was I thinking with my plan to ditch good ol’ Bessy for a brand new car payment?
I used an online car loan calculator to estimate how much I would have spent on a new car by the end of a 5 year loan.
On the low end a new Nissan Leaf EV might be $33,000. Kelly Blue Book estimates that my Honda would have a $6,000 trade-in value so the loan amount would be $27,000. At a 6% interest rate, 5 year loan, my new car would cost me $37,656. The payments would be $522 a month!
Not only would we be going further into debt by taking on a new car loan, but we wouldn’t be using that $522 a month to pay down the debt we already have which at the moment is $55,000.
Our FI goal is to pay down our debt as fast as possible so that we can start investing and getting to FI. If we have an extra $522 a month laying around, that should be going towards paying down the debt we already have, not going towards a new car payment!
Instead of being in debt for a total of $92,656 ($55,000 current debt + $37,656 new car debt) we could be down to $17,344 in debt by making $522 in extra monthly debt payments!
Bessy is reliable, drives great, is well taken care of, and has many more years of payment-free, safe driving ahead!
My new FI Mindset got me to see the VALUE in what I already have. And you can bet that when Bessy does finally retire some day she won’t be replaced with a brand new car payment. By the time she’s done driving I’m hoping to ferret out a used EV.
WHY DO YOU EVEN HAVE A CAR?
You may be wondering if I’m so focused on getting to FI why don’t I ditch cars altogether and ride a bike or take public transportation? Here’s why:
- Austin is not a bike friendly city. At least not for those of us who live outside of central Austin and have to commute a good 45 minutes to an hour to work. Ain’t no way I’m going to put my life at risk by potentially getting creamed by one of those giant Texas-sized trucks.
- Public transportation in Austin sucks. Again, at least for those of us who live outside of central Austin.
- Even if I did take the one bus that comes every 1.5 hours to take me from the nearest park and ride to my job, that would leave me in a predicament if my kiddo needed to be picked up from school or if there was some other type of emergency.
I truly wish I didn’t need to own a car. I would much rather walk, bike, or take public transportation. I’d rather live in a city where a car is not necessary.
When Root Jr. becomes a teenager I’d have so much more peace of mind if he could socialize and get around without a car.
I would love to not have to pay for car insurance and gas. I would be happy to not contribute to climate change. But alas, this is not our situation.
GRATITUDE FOR A GOOD CAR AND A SHIFT IN MINDSET
So, I am grateful for Bessy. These days when I get into the car in the morning and Bessy starts right up I thank her. It’s an act of gratitude for my good fortune in having a safe, reliable, paid-off car to drive every day. Thank you FI community for teaching me how to shift my mindset.
I’m FIred up about driving good ol’ Bessy for a good long while!
How do you feel about driving used vs. new cars? Tell me in the comments!