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You gotta do what you gotta do….until you don’t.

….sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do when you don’t have the cash 🙂  – J. Money –

This was the reply I got to a comment I left on an article J. Money wrote on his blog Budgets Are Sexy.  (He does fantastic stuff, definitely check it out.)

He had donated his old junker Frankencaddy and purchased a very nice used Lexus SUV.  My problem with this is that he did it with debt.  I called him out a bit on this point, because I do not believe in vehicle debt.

Last year auto debt held by Americans topped $1 Trillion for the first time.

$1,000,000,000,000.00 (looks bigger in numbers huh?)

The average car loan in the US now tops $30,000 with payments of over $500 per month.

The two biggest physical assets most Americans own in their lifetimes are homes and vehicles, and a new vehicle will lose 60% of its’ value in the first 5 years you own it!

No biggie right, because “sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do when you don’t have the cash” until you don’t.

Paying cash for a vehicle means you get a car you can afford.

Commit to paying cash and a world of options are opened up.  You’ll buy less car, sure – and you may deal with inconveniences such as repairs, lower fuel mileage, or even *gasp* driving something that isn’t “cool”.

In the long run your balance sheet will thank you.

Why this is personal…

After I learned the hard lesson about buying a new car and financing it, the time came for me to get another vehicle.  We were cash strapped, but managed to make it work.

The need arose because I left the job I’d been in for eight years – a job that supplied a company vehicle.  I’d have to turn it in when I left, so I needed transportation.

My plan was to start a new company, so I knew we’d have a cash crunch for the near future.  I needed a vehicle, but I needed one CHEAP.

Free is the cheapest form of cheap.  Luck had it that my Dad had an old farm truck that had been broken down and sitting for the last eight to ten years.

I decided to resurrect the old rustbucket.

The rustbucket resisted.  It was quite comfortable in it’s neglected retirement.

I put a power steering pump in it and had the locked steering column fixed.  It ran! (It’s aliiiiiiivvvvvvveeeeeee!!!!)

Then the brakes locked up.  Fixed that.  Yay! Free truck!

The fuel tank sprang a leak.

The first winter with it was nerve-wracking because diesel engines don’t like cold, and 24+ year old diesel engines REALLY don’t like cold.

I got a part time job to supplement our income, and every day during the winter I’d have to go out an hour before leaving and run an extension cord into the building so I could run the block heater enough to ensure the truck started.

It was humbling.  No, it was embarrassing.  

A friend I worked with would wait until the truck started each day before he’d pull out, just to make sure I could get home.

I became a decent mechanic.  After replacing battery cables, starter solenoid, starter, block heater, glow plugs, and finally batteries Ol’ Rusty started reliably no matter the temperature.

Summer flat sucked.  The only air conditioning I had was rolling down the windows.

On a mild Tennessee summer day (92° with 90% humidity :)) I was literally driving a sauna.  I’d sweat through my shirt on the way home every day.

Was the sacrifice worth it?

I think so.  Adversity builds character, and I probably needed humbling at that time in my life.

The real kicker is that because I did most of the work myself I spent WAY less in parts for the old truck than I would have on a newer car.

The savings piled up, and the next vehicle was more reliable and nicer (read – air-conditioned).

And it was paid for with CASH.

The old truck?  Sitting in the driveway right now, ready to go at a moments notice.  Men have this weird tendency to bond with inanimate objects that they’ve been through hard times with, and I’ve bonded with that old truck.

What about you?  Any cheap car horror stories to tell?  Maybe a bit of advice to share on cash flowing a major purchase?  Leave a comment…I’d love to hear your story.

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