Okay, so I really like my car. It's a 2005 Subaru Outback wagon that we bought in 2006 when I went back to work. It had about 10,000 miles on it since it had been the dealership's courtesy car. Well, we bought it before I had actually started working which meant we really couldn't afford it. We didn't put anything down (like lots of Americans have been doing) but we aimed to pay it off in a year or so (which we could have done had I stayed at my job). Neither or us likes toting around debt. But the fact of the matter is, I had to leave my job. Whenever I get despondent about how much the car note is and start to romanticize about my job, DH reminds me just how awful it was. That I developed a serious case of hives. And came home in tears most every day. Still, here we are saddled with an admittedly nice, dependable car but it's expensive. It's not what we would have gotten had we not relied on that job to pay it. Hindsight says that since my DH was working evening shifts anyway, I should have driven his car to work until we had saved enough to buy the car. Surely that would have taken at least 5 months and by that time, I would have known the job was not for me.
The plan of action is to rock this car until the wheels fall off. Literally. I'm at 18K miles so far which is excellent for a car that's three years old. We take good care of it and hopefully it will reciprocate. That way, we get every penny out of it. The next car will be something I can buy straight out or at least put a serious down payment on.
Buying my car was, I think, one of those things you do as a young person. I was fresh out of grad school and starting a new career. I thought I deserved something to show my "status". I don't know about anyone else, but life has a sure way of humbling every time I get a little too big for my britches. Every time. So, I've learned my lesson and I've learned it well. I think many Americans are learning it too although, it seems, people have had to learn from even bigger mistakes than mine. And, it would seem, the consequences of these foolhardy choices are going to make life quite difficult and maybe even unpleasant at times for the the next few years.
Granted, we have no credit card debt. Our debt includes the mortgage on our house, the car and $15K in student loans--these are still loans nonetheless and needing a loan to me says "you cannot afford this just yet--wait". I'm not opposed to loans per se because it's clear that this economy is based on a system of loans and debt but I firmly believe that for me at least, I should have at least 1/2 to 3/4 the cost on anything. That lets me know that I can afford it. Like they did back in the day. Work. Save. Cut costs. Work. Save. Cut costs. My new mantra and, for me and my sanity, the best way.
Living within my means. This is one lesson that I hope to teach to my children through example.