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The bumpy road to financial independence. . . .


Monday, January 17, 2011


I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my 15 (almost 16) year old 'beater' car, which I'm trying to keep running until I'm debt-free. Since I take public transportation, I put about 2,500 miles a year on it, if that. As far as maintenance, I get regular oil changes and that's about it.

For the last few months, I've noticed some 'sputtering' in the engine when I put my foot on the gas after changing gears. I knew I needed to get it into the shop, but I've been putting it off because I didn't want to spend the money. Well, now I have no choice!

While on my way to the grocery store yesterday it did its little number, but much, much worse than it ever has been. I was a few blocks from a dealership, and in my panic I drove in there and just left it in the service bay (but not before the salesmen tried to sell me a new car). I normally wouldn't go near a dealership for car service, because I just feel they charge more than the neighborhood mechanic (who really isn't in my neighborhood, but came well-recommended).

Anyway, I've just gotten the estimate, which will be about $500 for things that would have been fixed during the tuneups I never get (the last one was four years ago). And that's just to keep the car running! An additional $500 would fix the oil leak and a tear in the "CV joint" (whatever that is). Serious issues, but not in my budget, unfortunately.

I know I'll put this on my credit card (and immediately pay it off, of course), though I'm hemming and hawing about whether to take it out of my fairly healthy emergency fund (is it really an emergency if I could have prevented it by simply taking the car to MY mechanic weeks or months ago?) or whether to use the money from my extra jobs, thereby NOT sending that money to my debt.

Every time something like this happens (which, let's be honest, isn't all that often - the car is pretty reliable usually) I start to fantasize about buying a used Toyota and just dealing with the $150 a month payments. Bad, bad, bad.

NOTE: just had a thought. My emergency fund earns 1.10% interest. My debt 'earns' between 8.25% and 8.9% interest, depending on which on we're talking about. Seems intelligent to pay off the debt and take the $500 out of savings, no?


Cassie said...

If you NEED the car and can't get by on transit until you have the $1000 saved (you'll want to get the other two fixed before it gets REALLY expensive), then it counts as an emergency. It doesn't matter that neglect may have been the cause. Can your car make it to the other mechanic's shop for a second opinion? If not it may be cheaper to have your mechanic come look at it where it's parked and then have it towed it to his shop.

I hope things improve for you soon. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I would go for the higher interest. How come there's almost 8% difference in what you earn and what you pay? Can you say screwed? Can you put any new emergency on your credit card (at what interest?). It's interesting that you have so much debt and still have credit room for more -- something wrong with the system. Wish I/you could find an *independent* **cheap** financial advisor to show us the best way to handle $ and interest. Again, good luck.

Anonymous said...

Will the $500 guarantee a good running car?
Does the other $500 NEED to also be spent within the year?
Do you need to really put $1000 into a 15 year old car???
When CAN you afford, do you think, an upgraded beater?

Sometimes there comes a point where it is more longterm financially savvy to give up on the old car and buy a $2000 new beater.... instead of throwing good money after bad.... But only you can decide if you are at that point or not. And like you said, you don't use the car much, so $500 might buy you another year on it.

Yes - put it on the card and pay off immediately out of savings... BUT, make figure 3-5 payments of pay back and get that into your payment budget so that you get it paid back right as soon as possible!

Good luck!


Finally Frugal said...

I know, $500 seems like a lot for a care that is only worth MAYBE $2,000! When I look at is as a percentage of the value of the car, I just spent 25% of the value on simple repairs. If I had done everything needed, it would have been 50%! One of the other repairs needs to be done within three months or so, or my axle might need replacing. Gulp! As for buying a different beater: at least I know the quirks of my own. What's that saying? "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't?"

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