the non-FIRE-friendly car

Hi reader,

This has proven to be a painful post to write, because it’s very authentic to the internal struggles I’ve had about a recent purchase. Until recently, Al and I each had a compact car (two of basically the same car in different brands). My husband had his car since 2009, and I had mine since early 2011. They were both paid off in or before 2012. We also inherited a somewhat unreliable work truck from Al’s dad when he passed away.

Initially, I wanted to buy a new car before Bo was born. We had Bear dog already, and our cars were so small. We started the conversations, but held off. Then Al’s mom moved in with her own compact car. We then had 3 compact cars and a truck. Al is 6’6″ and his mom is 6’1″. I am 5’8″, the car seat is… huge, and the dog is a chunk.

The breaking point was when we all decided to go our favorite trail spot, about 10 minutes from our house, and my MIL’s knees were in the dash, my knees were digging into the back of the seat, and the dog was on my lap. It was officially time to car shop, so I sold my low-mileage 2008 car for a price I was happy with: $4,500. We also made the plan to sell the truck toward the end of the summer, when we’re done using it for some backyard projects.

The week that we went car shopping was the week that I first heard about FIRE.

But, sometimes these things take time to sink in, time to wrap my head around. We had saved enough to buy a 3rd row SUV, and that’s what we did. We purchased a brand new Subaru Ascent for the whopping total of around $45k (including registration and taxes), in cash.

Thar she is. Or he. The car’s gender is still up in the air.

I have such mixed feelings about this car. On one hand, we could clearly afford it, at least on some level. We had the money in cash! On the other, there’s so much else we could have done with the money. With three (tall) adults, a dog, and a massive car seat, the space is not taken for granted. This car is 100% not FIRE-approved, and I definitely have some buyer’s remorse about the price. Just kidding, it’s a lot of buyer’s remorse. But only about the price, the car is frickin’ awesome. I do realize that we could have gotten something a lot more modest, for a much lower price. There’s no justifying that price when you think about the path to FIRE.

Prior to the FIRE discovery, our motto was (more or less): Buy less stuff, but the stuff we buy and that’s important to us can be really nice. We usually hold out for a long time for new things, and then get really quality (and sometimes indulgent) items. This can be a good and bad philosophy: on one hand, we buy fewer items than our peers, and the items tend to last a long time. On the other hand, we tend to spend too much on the things we do buy. This car is case in point.

This car could (literally) last us 20 years, as we carpool to work and only had a combined total of ~130,000 miles on both of our old cars, prior to me selling mine. And we also know that this will likely be the most expensive car we ever own. It will be the car Bo grows up in, we go camping in, etc. When Al’s car dies, we intend to replace it with a moderately inexpensive electric car, and probably commute in that car. Hopefully we have a few more years before that happens. We’ve also talked about only sharing a single car between the two of us, since we carpool (and could use my MIL’s car in a pinch).

However, if this car no longer serves a solid purpose in our lives, we will sell it. I can’t fathom doing that right now, since we’ve fully utilized it multiple times per week since we’ve gotten it. However, my (new) FIRE mindset is starting to allow me to be open to alternatives in my life that I wouldn’t have considered before. And so, reader, I will be more open with this purchase, and future purchases, to make better decisions when the opportunity arises. And this has been a big, giant, expensive, luxurious lesson in life and on the path to FIRE.

What do you think about our future car plans? Go electric? Share a car? How have you handled a large purchase for which you have buyer’s remorse?

Cheers,
Mel

reducing expenses – small changes

Happy Tuesday, readers!

In the personal finance realm, I often read that people should reduce their expenses. Obviously that means spend less money. Especially on things that are not important to you. I’ve been looking for ways to reduce recurring expenses (in addition to reducing my food costs, of course). I like seeing real examples so here are three small changes we made recently that will reduce our spending.

  1. Downsized our garbage service: Saving $20/mo. When we started garbage service after we moved in to our house, we got the second smallest garbage can, a standard huge recycle bin, and a yard waste bin. After we had Bo, we needed to increase the size of the garbage can. Now, we rarely fill it up, and almost never fill up our yard waste. Downsizing our garbage can and stopping yard waste service all together is saving us quite a bit of money for making pretty much no change in our lives. Our yard waste goes into the compost bin anyway, and if it doesn’t belong in there, we can take it to the dump or, better yet, see if a neighbor has space in their bin!
  2. Stopped getting my eyebrows done: Saving $20 every other month. I used to get my (very unruly) brows done every other week, but when I got my GovJob (6+ years ago), the brow salon proved too far to go regularly so I was down to once every couple months. Last time I went I thought to myself “I could have done them better anyway”, which would save time AND money. So I did, and they look great and from now on I will spend $0 getting my brows shaped.
  3. Bought cloth napkins: Will start saving us money if we use them for more than a year (and then will save about $20/year). We buy the $9.99 Costco 4-pack of 260 napkins (1,040 napkins total) and since there are 4 of us in the house, we probably go through them pretty fast by using more than 1 per day (we do have a toddler, after all). The cloth napkins were right around $20 on Amazon. We used to use cloth napkins but for a couple years, we’ve been buying paper/disposable napkins. The environmental guilt definitely got to me more than the money on this one.

Those are my examples of small ways that we’ve reduced expenses lately. What other small changes have you made that lower your expenses or impact on the environment?

Cheers,
Mel