A big, sincere thanks…

Wow. When you ask your girlfriends to pull up a chair and lend an ear, they really come through for you. Big thanks to Jane, Momofthree and Everydayminimalist for chiming in with my plea for rational advice last week.  Special thanks to Jacq who gave me her thoughts, cared enough to keep pondering the issue during the day, and came back in for a second cup of advice.

First, let me tell you that I didn’t buy a car this weekend.

Second, let me say I (hope) that I’ve explored this idea enough that it’s off my agenda for a reasonably long term. Long term meaning more than one year.

The last couple of weeks have really shown me how easy it is for people to get off the rails of their financial plan. I don’t consider myself to be like most people. I actually think that I’m more disciplined, more organized and more patient than most of the population. I wasn’t always this way, but over the years and through various experiences, I’ve learned these traits have served me well.

I can be a bit impulsive too. Impulsive can be fun. It can also be pretty destructive, depending on how it manifests itself in your world. I wouldn’t say that a car purchase for me was strictly impulsive, it is something I think about often. But the way it got under my skin and wouldn’t let go was pretty dramatic.

If I’m reasonably disciplined and organized and rational and it was that hard for me, how hard is it for somebody who isn’t as stubborn as I am?

Your good advice, combined with a few more thoughts from friends and family have certainly helped me to see clearly a situation that I had difficulty seeing clearly on my own. At least while I was behind the wheel of a nice little car, the clarity got a bit murky.

The truth is, even if somebody gave me a car today, I couldn’t afford to put it on the road. Despite my online insurance quotes that started to make it look a bit more reasonable, when I actually spoke on the phone with the reps, the prices went back to about $250/month again. Even though my average daily commute by car would be 0 kms (yep, that’s no kilometers – I work from home for my FT gig), it’s possible I may, at some point in time, use the car for work. Getting to my PT gig via public transit is sometimes a time hog. Since I couldn’t honestly say I’d never use it for work, the price went up another $80/month.

One of my colleagues, who also lives in Toronto and lives with her husband, two-year old and no car told me how often she took cabs. When I was complaining about walking 7 blocks in the rain to a car rental when you’re all dressed up for a funeral, she said “I’d have taken a cab to the rental for sure.” These are things I just don’t think about. Lesson learned: I can think smarter when the chips are down and I’m fatigued.

Subsequent lesson: don’t be so focussed on the money goal that you deny yourself some small luxury that would simplify your world in that moment – like taking a cab, or renting a car.

My Mother was actually pretty wise on this one.  She advised to give myself a deadline of when I could consider it again, and stop driving myself nuts about it in the interim.

For a moment, while advice was coming in, I had a case of the “what do you know – you have a car?”. Then I had a few moments of “yeah, well you have a partner/husband you can ask to do some things, you’re not steering the ship solo!” Then I realized what a whiner I’d become over this whole thing. Geeze, I hate whiners.

As I got on the bus Sunday morning to go to my full-time gig, I had to smile to myself. For the record, there is no subway service on Sunday morning until 9 a.m. in Toronto.  If you gotta be anywhere earlier, you’re reliant on a late-night bus service. I’m lucky if I can get on the bus at my intersection because it’s usually packed to the rafters by the time it gets to me.  As I squeezed myself on the bus, I chuckled thinking most of these people don’t have cars either. If they had ’em, they’d use them over this sardine can. Sitting directly across from me was a couple, with their two young boys, both in a stroller.  It was so early the boys were sleeping soundly, with their wee heads hanging over the edge of the stroller.  The mom worked tirelessly to keep moving their heads inside the stroller so people wouldn’t bump into them on their way by.

Do you think she was having any fun? Hell no.  Do you think she showed in her face or mannerisms any frustration or impatience? Not one bit. As I left the bus I said “your children are beautiful” and she thanked me. Really, it was her I was thinking was beautiful, but I know any mom covets a complement for their children. She would have thought I was a stalker if I tried to tell her how much I admired what I knew she was going through in order to get wherever she was going with her family.

I have goals for my family and me too. They’d be pretty difficult to achieve if I was paying for a car in the driveway.

My hearty thanks to you for sticking with me through a rough patch of indecision. I hope you know how much I appreciate it. I’m in Vancouver for a couple days, so you may find me quiet tomorrow. Even though I’m quiet, know you’ve made me smile with gratitude.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Glad I could help. Honestly, if you can’t afford it, don’t stretch it. I went a good 11 years without a car, so I know how it feels to have to take the bus, be squished against stinky people and to wait 45 minutes in the cold with snow blowing all around you, without a shelter to stand in.

    I haven’t done it with kids though… but I can only imagine how much more miserable it’d be.

    That being said, being in debt is far worse to me. I’d rather face being in the cold than to owe money again.

    Reply

  2. You made it through the quagmire successfully MCM! Good for you! I could feel how torn you were – what do they call it – being on” the horns of a dilemma” and I firmly believe you made the right choice for you for where you are in your life right now. When you can afford a car you’ll be able to make the right choice of vehicle without all the emotional baggage weighing you down. I hope you took a big sigh of relief and some nice merlot once you settled it in your mind once and for all:)

    Reply

  3. Oh, I’m glad you didn’t too. I’ve lived without a car for a few years in a major city – had to, I didn’t get my license until I was 19. The difference being I was probably more willing to ask my friends for help than I am today. Which is a shame in a way.

    Part of it too is that people have such different priorities. I’d do without a lot of things to be able to have a car where I live now because it would be so inconvenient. If I could get to work via bus, it wouldn’t bother me. Back in the day, I would walk to get groceries etc. too even when I had a car just to save on gas. With my oldest trudging after me, complaining all the way. 😉

    Have fun in Vancouver – and take lots of cabs!!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Momofthree on October 19, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I have to say that I am glad you didn’t do it too. The reason that I suggested living like you had the car before actually getting it was b/c I felt you were looking at only the loan and insurance and not thinking of the real hit it would take on your budget. I know that you already struggle to get enough fun stuff in there and it would be sad to see that made even harder.

    Have a great trip!

    Reply

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