Sunday, October 25, 2009

A new perspective

A few weeks ago, misfortune threw car trouble my way. The anticipated repair was pricey but after calling around for other estimates, seemed within the range of reason for a 7 year old car with 100K miles. I had had several conversations with a friend earlier in the year about buying a new car and I had decided to keep this one going for a couple more years so I went forward with getting the repairs done.

Then I had the car taken to one of those other places (it was overheating so driving 20 miles was out of the question) and found out that it was much worse than the original mechanic thought. A word of advice: if the mechanic calls you and begins by reminding you of your car’s trade-in value before telling you the cost of repairs, you should heed his advice to buy a new car.

I was unprepared for the emotional roller coaster that followed. My first instinct was to replace a convertible with another convertible – logical, right? I shopped around and found some cars that were very nice. Yet something kept me from pulling the trigger on the purchase. I simply couldn’t fathom taking on $20-25K in debt. I was unprepared to purchase a car at the time and consequently did not have much cash saved for a down payment so financing was in order.

Fortuitously (or perhaps not), a mini-break came up during this process. I flew across the country for a long weekend and got to take something of a break from the car problems. I was in a great position – I got to step away and think about what I was doing and how I should do it.

This was when I started considering non-convertible options. When I'd talked to the mechanic, he recommended Honda (Civic or Accord) and Toyota (Corolla or Camry). Once the idea crossed my mind, I couldn’t believe that I had brushed it off earlier (isn’t that the way?). When I came home, I started looking for a late model, low mileage car that would be fuel efficient, comfortable, and that would hold its value well.

And that’s exactly what I got – a 2007 Honda Accord with 26K miles on it.

Unfortunately, in an unplanned situation like this where time is of the essence, one is limited in the amount of frugality that can be practiced. I ended up with a car loan, which pushes my other plans back a bit. Yet I’m comfortable with the balance that I struck – I didn’t buy a clunker with the little bit of cash I had on hand but I also didn’t buy the brand new convertibles that caught my eye (oh, how I will lament the lack of drop-top come spring).

The unexpected result of this process has been a constant questioning of my own assumptions. I feel like I’ve regressed to toddler phase because my constant question is “why?” Does the fact that I’ve done something a certain way in the past automatically mean that it’s the best way? This mindset is being applied both at home and at work and I have to say, it’s interesting. Ah, change is so scary and so good, all at the same time.

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