I was staring at the numbers on the paper in front of me. Sitting on the couch with my legs crossed under me and the yellow pad balanced on my knee. “What am I missing?” I mumbled over and over under my breath. There had to be something. There couldn’t be extra money.

There is never extra money.

Sure, I could put it in a savings account. I have one for rent and I have one for insurance. I could put it into the emergency fund and deal with it later. I could start paying down a credit card. The best answer was eluding me and I felt like maybe I was forgetting something entirely and it wasn’t really time to start paying anything down or putting anything away. I felt like I was forgetting something.

Naturally, Mr. Brickie sees my distress and says, “It’s time to get a second car.”

After I wiped my now-exploded brain off the floor I asked him, “Why now?” He said, “Because we have the money.” I said, “The money for what?” He said, “A second car.”

Of course when I said “The money for what?” I meant what kind of car. New/used/beater/decent/yours/mine/ours/big/small, etc. I was looking for a target … but my husband is a really literal kind of person so he thought I misheard. Actually, who knows what he was thinking but when he’s not sure what to say he’s known to repeat himself.

Plus, he’s not going to pick the car. Who are we kidding?

Now I do have to give him a heap of credit. He has been looking with me on Craigslist for months to learn the market and what brands sell for what and to learn how cars in our area are sold and what a normal price is vs. a too-good-to-be-true price that probably means something nefarious is going on with the vehicle.

He can tell you if a car is over or underpriced on Craigslist pretty accurately. So he does have his niche of knowledge to bring to the table which would be very helpful if we go the used car route.

Based on this knowledge, we started looking at used cars. Small ones that he would drive to work, not one that had to fit the whole family. I could go back to using the minivan for after-school activity pick ups and doctor appointments.

After checking umpteen listings, we decided it would cost between $4k and $7k for a truly reliable vehicle that would last a few years and not leave him stranded on a highway somewhere between his job site and home.

We are also looking at potentially getting a new car. I know people hate new cars and they drop in value blah blah blah but you know what, it’s nice to know that someone didn’t screw up the axle in the first ten thousand miles by hitting every curb known to man, too. As people who take oil changes and other routine maintenance very seriously there is a safety factor to consider with a new car. No one has screwed it up yet. If we were to go the new car route it would be something like a Nissan Versa for $12k. Nothing expensive or flashy is on our radar. We are focused on gas mileage and reliability.

The goal is a $2k down payment that will bring our payment to under $200/mo.Then all the extra will be paid toward the premium. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone else but I know from years of doing this we are not “minimum payment” types and I will absolutely budget to pay this car off. Hopefully in one year but certainly in no more than two.

We haven’t set a date to actually test drive anything, and we won’t buy the first day we go out because I’m not going to get trapped in some weird car dealership pressure drama. I want to make an informed, relaxed decision and I know the Mr. does, too.

This is part of the balance I was talking about the other day in my personal finance religion post. If we were really being intense, we wouldn’t buy a car. We would keep sacrificing. But at what point is sacrificing a poor decision? It’s not a contest to see who can sacrifice the most.

Maybe I’m hitting that same wall that I do in church when people talk about being Christ-like and I’m all, wait a minute…that’s a little extreme. I will take my financial advice from anyone as long as it’s based in logic but there is no need for me to feel like a horrible person and drag a financial wooden cross through the streets barefoot until I get my student loans paid off.

I’m not ashamed of that debt. Maybe I should be, but I’m not. I’m not ashamed of any of my debt.

Debt isn’t real. It’s a construct based on pieces of green paper or little electronic ones and zeros flying from one computer to another. It’s something we all agreed is a thing that exists to make it easier to get along in the world with one another.

We are going to get out of debt because it’s a good short- and long-term decision for the future of my family. But shame? Naw, you can keep it, brother. I have no use for it. It does not drive me. The last time I felt soul-sucking shame is when I made my youngest quit preschool because we could no longer drive her there because the second car died. Student loan debt has nothing on that moment. It never will.

You know what drives my financial journey? Hope. Comfort. Familiarity. Faith. Freedom. Love.

….but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

See what I did there? Oh yeah, I brought it all back around. I feel silly for doing it but in the moment it felt totally deep.

1 Comment on Time to Buy a Second Car

  1. We have followed the whole “Drive your cars as long as they can” mantra to a tee, so much that our cars are now 10 and 9 years old. This is great and has really reduced our expenses but now we’re a bit nervous about what happens if one of them needs to be replaced, which we now realize will happen sooner rather than later. The one thing we have on our side is that we don’t drive many miles, so although our cars are old, they have 90k and 70k miles on them. So, we should hopefully have room to go.

    Still, we’ve been lax about putting money toward the ‘replacement car’ fund, but are using 2016 as a time to start ramping that up.

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