Honor Finances vs. Big Purchase

Honor my finances.”

I was sitting in the waiting room of the local Honda dealer’s service center, taking the time to review my descriptions of the my 2014 theme – Foundation (re)building.  For me, 2014 is the year to be in the now, rather than getting ahead of myself, and a big part of that is honoring my finances as they exist now. 

The irony of that moment was that my review was interrupted by my service concierge informing me that the cost of repairing my beloved CR-V was basically going to be more expensive that the car was currently worth.  And that was only to get the car running safely, not to fix the leaks and other issues they found in the aging engine that would have to be fixed by the end of the summer.  Thud.  How exactly was I going to honor those finances?

Considering all of the variables, we decided the best plan was to trade in the old car for something new.  But we didn’t want to lose ourselves and our shared goal of not getting ahead of ourselves, so here’s how we did it.

Research in advance – We didn’t have a whole lot of time to buy a new car, given the extent of the repairs needed on the new one.  But we still took the time to do some online research about different types of cars, ratings, dealers in the area and their inventory, and value of our current car.

Pick a “walk away” number – Right now, we’re living on one income.  JP is interviewing, but we didn’t want to base our monthly payment amount on what he might possibly make down the road if/when he gets a job.  And the point of getting a new car wasn’t only to have something less likely to break down on a moment’s notice, it was to have a more predictable (read: manageable) car expense flow rather than one that resembles a theme park roller coaster.  So we came up with a target range for what we were willing to spend, and agreed to walk away from a deal if it was outside that range.

Ask for what you want – My last three cars have been Hondas, and I have loved them all.  But this time around, I wasn’t happy with the drive of the newer bodied CR-Vs.  Call me old fashioned, but I don’t trust back up cameras and prefer to look out the back window…and the CR-V window is just too small.  JP and I fell in love with a VW model recently – we loved the drive, the features, and the gas mileage of VW’s clean diesel.  It was what we wanted.  But I found myself driving to the Honda dealer out of some sense of “that’s where I’ll get the best value for my trade.”  JP, on the other hand, directed me to the VW dealer because “if we’re going to spend money on a new car, let’s make it something we like.”

Problem with that approach – There were no used versions of the model we were looking for in a 225 mile radius of Kansas City.  Apparently, people just don’t trade them in…or get rid of them at all.  So our choice was a new one, or a different car.  But we asked the dealer for the 2014 (yikes!) in the price range we wanted.  Amazingly, the dealer found a way to make it happen.  The finance department took the time to find us a long list of rebates and discounts in order to bring our payment down to within the range we could afford.

Eat before you go – The entire walk the lot, test drive, negotiation, purchase process took over four hours.  By the time we drove off the lot, it was dinner time and the only meal either of us had eaten all day was a late breakfast.  Luckily, “late” meant we ate right before we left to go car shopping, which meant that we were operating at fully brain (and intuition) capacity for all of the important points – deciding which car we wanted, negotiating the deal, and agreeing to the fine print.  I just started to get the low-blood-sugar-shakes as we were signing on the dotted line.  Perfect timing. 

Don’t look back – I fully realize that cars are inanimate objects, but I still feel sad every time I trade in a car.  I feel like my old car has been a real trooper, given me a lot of good years (ten in the case of my CR-V), and somehow I’m betraying them by trading them in for a newer model.  Despite feeling absolutely solid about purchasing the new car, my guilt at trading in the old one literally woke me up in the middle of the night and made me think of all of the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” of the prior day’s car purchase.  And then I realize – holy crap, I have a new car!

I mean, how cool is that?  In one day, JP and I found a way to identify our car-buying (and driving!) goals and get every single one of them met.  Yeah, I would have loved to have more time to find a used version – used cars are more my style.  But getting a new one for what we were willing to pay for a used one?  What a way to honor my finances 🙂

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