The Right Time to Buy a New Car

The Right Time to Buy a Car

The kids and I love it when TJ gets home from work. First, it usually means a much-needed break for me while TJ builds Legos with our boys. It also means I get to speak with a human being about topics other than going potty or not using mommy’s Anastasia Brow Pen as a $30 brown marker. The best part is, I don’t even have to get a phone call or text to know he is heading home. All I have to do is listen for the deafening sounds of TJ’s car struggling down the freeway.

TJ has had his 2000 Chevy Prism since his early years on a college campus. Now, eleven years later, though his situation in life has changed considerably, the car remains. I’ve thought it would die on us for so many years, I can’t believe it’s actually stayed around this long in (semi) working condition. The emergency brake light is always on. The driver’s side door doesn’t open without rolling down the window and opening it from the outside. The “check engine” light has been on and off for eight years. The “door ajar” light also flickers on and off as you travel, playing Russian roulette with our lives as we wonder if the door will suddenly fly open and eject us both. It burns through oil so fast, TJ has to keep several spare quarts in his trunk for trips over 20 miles. If you turn the car off and on in succession by making several quick errands around town, it will likely die on you and need a hit of starter fluid to come back to life. In short, this car is ready to move to Florida and settle down for retirement.

The thing is, TJ has always insisted he loves his car and doesn’t mind driving it to work every day. He still believes it has a few years left in it (he’s been saying this since we were married). It took a full-on intervention from me to convince him it was finally time to get a new car, not only because his car was dying, but also because we could afford it. He has earned the right to drive to work without worrying about an engine exploding in his face.

The discussion about which kind of car to buy diverted into other pertinent conversations about our future. Would we have more than two kids? How much car could we afford? Would we be living in a snowy climate for the next foreseeable future? Should we eat crow and get a minivan? (Never!) These discussions have been ongoing for the last year or so as we became more serious about buying a car. We came up with some ground rules for ourselves in terms of what to buy:

  • We will only pay cash for a car. We could put half the money down and take a loan on the rest, or we could lease, there are many options out there. But we feel best about paying cash up-front for a car. To us, buying a car that requires payments just means we’re buying a car we can’t really afford.
  • We eventually need to replace both our cars. So for now, we will be buying a reliable sedan to replace TJ’s car and save up again for the next year to replace my car with a mid-size SUV. And because I’m continuing to grow my small business ventures, I will be able to contribute my side-hustle money to make this happen faster. Go, me!
  • We want something newer, but not new. We don’t mind driving a car that’s five years old since most cars these days were built to last a really long time. But we also don’t want anything much older than five years, only because we’re not eager to revisit all the problems we’ve had with TJ’s hunk-o’-junk. And we will probably get the most bang for our buck by buying a five-year-old car because it’s already lost half its value while remaining highly reliable.

What strikes me as so funny about all this is how TJ has never really cared what people may think when they see him puttering down the road in his little beater. He almost wears his crappy car as a badge of honor, a testament to his dedication to being thrifty and debt-free. Sure, we could make payments on a beautiful, brand new car, but we would be driving around in a lie. As Dave Ramsey always says, why buy something you can’t afford with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like? Still, there comes a time to retire the old car and buy something reasonable, and I’m glad we’ve been financially prepared enough to make that leap without going into debt.

What are your car-buying stories? Do you pay cash, or do you take out a loan?

2017 Financial Priorities

2017 Financial Priorities

It’s 2017! And even crazier, we’re already a week and a half into January. It’s that time of year for new goals, new plans, new beginnings, and yup — new budgets. There’s no better time to prioritize (or reprioritize) your finances than now. Johnny and I have a few things we’d like to reprioritize this year, the first of which is OFB. We’re just as passionate and nerdy over personal finance as ever, but we haven’t had the time to write about it very much these past few months. 2016 was our first full year of self-employment, and running a small business was a round-the-clock job. Truth be told, it’s still a round-the-clock job. But we’re trying to put processes in place so that 2017 is a year of working smarter, not harder, so we can spend more time on some of our other passion projects, like OFB. But before we dive headfirst into our 2017 editorial calendar, here are the deets on a few of our 2017 New Year’s financial resolutions:

Stop renting, start buying: We’re hoping 2017 will be the year we become homeowners (fingers crossed!). We’ve been waiting a long time to pull the trigger on home buying, but since we’ve set up shop with our business in SLC, we feel like we can finally put down roots somewhere. We understand that house hunting is a process, and we’re in no rush to make a decision. If we can’t find a house that fits our needs, we’re planning to rent another year. Part of me wants to just keep renting because the idea of buying stresses me out!

Grow our business: We’re hoping 2017 will be another year of growth for our business. Growth means spending more money upfront, but we’re hoping it will also mean we’re able to save more money down the road. In a lot of ways, being self-employed is more stressful, and it’s definitely 100x more complicated. But there’s also more opportunity for growth. We have goals and plans, and only time will tell how it all pans out.

Invest: Johnny is hoping to spend more time this year making sure our money is invested appropriately. He geeks out over that stuff, so I just let him run with it. He spent hours one day over Christmas break switching my old 403b to an IRA. He’s also been trying to consolidate some of our banking accounts so we can track our spending as easily as possible. Having a business has really complicated our finances, so we’re doing whatever we can to keep our personal finances as simple and separate from our business as possible.

Save, save, save: As always, we’re hoping to save as much as possible. It’s harder to project our savings since our income isn’t as cut-and-dry anymore, but we’re hoping to spend as little as possible (aside from maybe buying a house!), save as much as possible, and focus on growing our business.

What are some of your financial resolutions for 2017, and how are you planning to make them happen? And what would you like to see on OFB this year?

Ashley’s Getting-Out-of-Debt Story

Ashley's Getting-Out-of-Debt Story

When TJ and I met, I could tell right away we came from different financial backgrounds. He had worked hard every summer doing sales in California to pay for his tuition and living expenses, he had thrifty parents who had been able to help him along the way, and he…

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