Every time we’ve bought a car in our almost six years of marriage (which has been two car purchases, plus a scooter — so we’re pretty much experts), the first question that enters our brains is, How are we gonna pay for it?
Yes, this question trumps, What kind of car? and How much are we going to spend? and the always-important What color will it be?! Why does it trump the other questions? Well, for a few reasons. First, it forces us to take a long, hard look at our finances. We’re able to see how much money is in our bank account, whether it’s feasible to pay for an entire car with cash, and whether we have any upcoming expenses to consider before we spend thousands on a vehicle. All of these considerations lead us to our next question.
How much are we going to spend? Which shouldn’t be confused with How much can we spend? Asking that question would imply that we must receive permission and that we plan to spend as much as possible. No, a big purchase should be much more purposeful than that. And thus, How much are we going to spend? is asked. We’ve already decided how to pay for it. And in both instances when we’ve bought a car, we’ve decided to pay cash. When we first asked how much money we would spend, the answer came to almost all the money we had to our name (minus our emergency fund), which was $5000 for the car out the door.
And then we came to the question of What kind of car? Our previous two questions had limited the selection by a good bit. But if our first decision had been the kind of car, it would have been much more tempting to go over our budget. It wasn’t easy finding a decent-looking car (my priority) in good condition (Johnny’s priority) for that price (our priority), but it was possible. We ended up with a four-year-old bare bones Ford Focus (no power-anything, including A/C) that had 50,000 miles on it. No one was telling us what an awesome car we had, but we loved that thing.
For our second car, we went through the same song and dance. And let me tell you, we went back and forth with the How are we gonna pay for it? question. We didn’t want to say goodbye to a big chunk of the cash we’d saved up since getting out of debt. But we also didn’t want to say “Hello, again, Old Friend!” to the Debt Monster after working so hard to break ties with it/him/her…. him. Yes, I’ll call it a “him.” And a small part of us imagined for a split-second what it would be like to own our dream car. But at what expense (multiple meanings, all financial)? After we weighed the pros and cons, paying 100% with cash once again seemed like the best solution for our situation. Every situation is different, but we’ve made it a point to avoid debt if possible.
So let’s recap:
If in certain lights the car could be considered “pink,” it was definitely once used to sell Mary Kay. And, yes, you should not buy it. Also, ask yourself these questions:
- How are we gonna pay for it?
- How much are we going to spend?
- What kind of car should we get?
Of course if you’re one person, all those questions should be switched to the singular “I.” Unless you’re still struggling with your Danny Tanner/Uncle Joey alter egos. Then “we” is still appropriate.
Anyone else have tips for budget-conscious car buyers out there?