What on earth is The Bumblebee? It’s my well-worn, (well-loved), glorious 2004 VW Beetle. Actually, it’s technically “Sunflower Yellow,” but The Hubby likes to tease me for owning a bug, and a bright yellow one at that (did he expect any less from me?), so “The Bumblee” it has been since I brought it home.
The ’Bee is still in good condition. I keep it serviced on schedule, drive pretty conservatively, and don’t put a ton of mileage on it. It’s got some dings from stray parking lot shopping carts (and one jerk at the pharmacy who backed into me as he was pulling out of a space, paused for a second, and then sped off). It’s also got some bumper stickers on it. And also maybe some nose prints inside the back windows from carting Little and Big Dog around.
It doesn’t look like a new car by any means, in other words, but it’s my baby. And on Monday, that baby had some issues.
Why my mother is every car salesman’s dream
What happened? The battery died.
That’s it. The car is 8 years old, and things like this will happen. At the time (stopped at a red light and suddenly unable to go), I didn’t realize this was the only thing that was the matter with it. I just knew that I was blocking traffic and hopefully I had my roadside assistance card on me (I did). So as I waited for the tow truck to come, I called my mother to ask if she could drive me into work the next morning if I needed it (my office is on the way to hers).
My mother’s first reaction? (After “are you OK?): “I think it’s time you start pricing out new cars.”
Here’s the thing you need to know about my mom: In the 8 years I have owned The ’Bee, she has leased 4 (count ’em: 4!) cars. All shiny new red cars that look sporty and cool, which she then turns in for another sporty new red car and another 2 years of car payments. Meanwhile, I’ve been payment free for the last 2 years.
I did not get my frugality from my parents, as some people do. I got it from watching the way they handled their finances, and resolving that when I grew up, I would do the complete opposite.
Even when she found out it was only the battery, and not some huge internal problem that would cost hundreds, my mom still kept pushing the argument that it was only a matter of time before my car died altogether, so I might as well just get a new one now. She even sent me links to dealership sites and offered to help me with a down payment. My mom does not have that much money herself. And it is decisions like this that are the reason why.
I will drive this car into the ground. Because I care about my finances.
On the day of our wedding, as he was helping set up chairs with his groomsmen, The Hubby got a call from his car guy, who was doing an inspection on his 1992 go-cart of a Ford Escort. The verdict? It needed so many repairs to pass inspection, and was bound to keep getting worse given its age, that it would probably cost less to buy a whole new car.
(The Hubby likes to joke that we weren’t even married, and the expenses of married life already started rolling in!)
That’s the kind of scenario in which I will give up The ’Bee to take on regular car payments again. Until that point, I will drive it until its Sunflower Yellow is chipping and rusting, its bumper stickers are falling off, and it has more replacement parts in it than original parts. It’s only when the cost of keeping it running outweighs the cost of a new car that I’d ever consider taking on more debt.
Because in the meantime, those non-existent car payments are going straight into savings…something my parents, in my 30 years of living, have never yet accumulated.
Do you lease or own your car? At what point do you decide it’s time to finally give up on your car?
photo credit: Rachel Ford James