I drive a 1999 Chevy Suburban. I got it because it seats 8 and still has cargo room. Even without the cargo room, I would have gotten it because there just aren’t many vehicles that can carry a family of 8 all at once. I was resigned to becoming That Car, but Suburbans are ubiquitous around here. My husband drives a 2003 Saturn. Both cars are teenagers and have 150-200k miles on them. They have both served this family very well.
Teenager is very old for a car or truck. Old means breaking down, and of course, breaking down means repairs, which always cost more money than you think you have. Just last week, I had to take my truck in to the mechanic because we had foolishly used our never-used parking brake, and the rusted cable decided not to retract properly. There went another $125 for a new brake cable that we had been hoping to use to help pay for a house appraisal so we can refinance our mortgage.
That’s a lot of money
When I got home from picking the truck up after the repair, I decided to see just how much we have spent on car repairs this year. I knew it was significant enough that we should probably have a sink fund for it. I opened up our financial software and checked our expenses for car maintenance and repairs since January 1. The total for these last 7 months alone came to $2900. Admittedly, this is for both cars, but the point remains that that is a LOT of money. Car repairs do not have a right to suck up over 10% of our wages.
But then a little voice whispered in my head, “You have been able to come up with this money each and every time you needed it. You have never had to sit with the car crippled in the driveway while you save up the money to fix it. That’s really freaking awesome.” You know what, that’s right. We have always been able to finagle things around in such a way that we are able to pay the bill when we need to. It may have gone on the credit card, or it may have used money that we were going to use to pay down our debt, but we have found it.
Who needs money, anyway?
My sister-in-law once reportedly said (during a long unemployment time for my husband – her brother) that if he could get a job making even $10/hour (for our family of 8 at the time) we would be living it up because we didn’t really need money to live. I fear I must disagree with her on the specifics, but when he did get a job for $10 a couple of years ago, it did feel very nice. I am very proud that I am frugal enough to know how to support a family of 8 on $788/month cash, Section 8 housing assistance and food stamps. We did that for a couple of years. It wasn’t easy, by any means, but we had a roof over our heads, my children weren’t starving, and we kept our cars running.
I am really thankful that we are in a position to be able to pull $500/month out of thin air for
unexpected unplanned car repairs. Last summer we had a similar feat when our house and car insurance had a major change and we had to keep scrambling for several hundred here and several hundred there just to keep them active. If we can manage to get the upper hand on our finances, we will be able to meet our financial goals pretty quickly. We just have to stop it all from leaking away.
What things are you thankful for in an upside-down sort of way? What unlikely places have you found something to be grateful for?