Friday, June 17, 2011

Saving and the Rule of Three

Have you ever heard the saying that bad things happen in threes? My mom says this and in my experience it seems that more often than not it’s true. Case in point: I break up with my boyfriend of 8 years, my grandmother is diagnosed with breast cancer, and I am forced to leave my long-time gym and friends all within the span of a few months. This is why you never, ever, say things like “things can’t get any worse” because oh yes—they can.

I know that maybe this isn’t the best way to look at the world and some may call me pessimistic but you know what? When the sh*t goes down I am going to be the one who is prepared (at least I hope) and not freaking out about an impending crisis. I just call it being smart.

When Erik and I were only a few months into our relationship and I had just moved into the house I went shopping to buy a new bed. We get to the mattress store and I tell the guy my budget. He takes us around and shows us some mattresses, has us lay down on a few and test them out. There were definitely some good contenders but my eyes kept straying to the Tempur-pedics in the corner of the store. Finally (fully knowing the potential consequences of my actions) I asked to try the Tempur-pedic bed even though it was way beyond my price range. The salesman was more than happy to oblige and of course once I tested it out I never wanted to get back up. Against my better judgment I had the sales guy run the credit check and once everything was okay-ed he told me I could own this super fantastic bed for around $75/ month to be paid for the next three years.

Now, I know the importance of sleep. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping (it’s true, I googled it). So what price do you pay for a good night’s rest? My answer: what you can afford. I think I surprised even the salesman when I refused the Tempur-pedic and went with a traditional good-ole pillow top (which was still not cheap I might add). He even asked me “is there anything I can say to change your mind?” I think I said something like “No. This is why so many Americans are in debt—they buy things they can’t afford.” (And this is when I have that out of body experience where I look at myself and think who are you???)

So why am I telling you this story? I didn’t buy the Tempur-pedic and get myself into more debt because I knew that I would have to use that $75 to save for other potential house related disasters. When I had my home inspection the inspector pretty much told me that I would need to replace my A/C unit, my furnace, and my water heater in the next 5 years. With my luck (and if the rule of threes holds true) all of those things will go at the same time and I figure I might as well be prepared and even if I’m only putting $75 away each month it’s better than nothing.

That being said, sacrificing luxury for practicality is definitely not easy—especially for me. For the last two weeks I have been having issues with my car. Its 10 years old so it’s getting to the age where every few months its making some new weird noise or the check engine light is coming on. In the last year I’ve had to replace both oxygen sensors, gotten new spark plugs, faced a leaky radiator, new brakes, new tires, and just last week replaced the serpentine and the A/C belt. With all that work I am getting to the point where I have to decide whether I want to continue taking the chance at making repairs or suck it up and buy a new car. The worst thing is that my car is paid for and I don’t really have a whole lot of extra money to make a car payment. Two years ago I started throwing a little money into a savings account every month because I knew I would be needing a new car sooner rather than later (I told you, I try not to take chances). In retrospect I’m glad I did this because I do have a little stash of cash for a down payment but it’s definitely not as much as I had hoped to have saved before I had to buy a new car (I was praying my little car would hold out for at least another year). But even with that “extra” money I have come to the realization that I’m just not going to be able to afford the car I really want which totally sucks.

I had hoped to get another SUV—something along the lines of a Honda CRV or Nissan Rogue but even used models run around $20,000 (I’m trying to look for a newer used car--2009 or later). I want to keep things under $15,000 so I am checking out the Hyundai Elantra, the new Ford Fiesta (which actually looks pretty cool), the Nissan Versa, and the Honda Fit. I also might check into the Toyota Yaris or Mazda 3.

So even though I’m sure any new car will be exciting it still sucks that I have to choose between  what I can afford over what I really want (and based on my mattress experience you can rest assured I’m going to be choosing practically). But I guess I should be thankful that I can at least afford a car and that I have a job to pay for said car (which I am by the way). My problems could be a lot worse.

Oh wait—did I really just say that????? <knocking on wood>

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