07 June 2011

Couples, Money, & Choices

Wow, it's been a busy few weeks!  One of the nice things about being currently childless is that summers actually slow down, rather than becoming schedule-crazy.  That means I've had a chance to catch up on some things lately, from laundry (there's my favorite capris!) to reading to finances.

Speaking of reading and finances, Get Rich Slowly had a cool article today about couples and managing money. One of the things I like about the site is the promotion of a "do what works for you" mentality.  The site author/owner (J. D.) and his wife (Kris) were recently interviewed for a short Redbook article about modern couples and finances.  Because of the number of questions he gets about their choices, J. D. put up the longer interview on his site.  It's an interesting look at one couple's system and a reminder that it's a good system if it achieves what you want it to.

The reason this caught my brain, however, is because my husband and I recently did something we swore we'd never do: bought a new vehicle.  Not just a new-to-us vehicle.  A new-to-the-whole-world vehicle.  A new-car-smell vehicle.  A vehicle with an odometer reading of less than my age (at least till I drove it home... I'm not that old!).  Scary!  But to me, it's a great example of meeting our needs with our resources in our way.

As I've mentioned before, we're expecting our first child this fall and we only have (had) one vehicle.  The one vehicle situation has been tricky but good, cutting our cost of living for well over a year.  But a new baby forces a lot of new questions, like: what if the baby spikes a fever and the car isn't at home?  Which, on the surface, is ludicrous; one of the reasons we decided to start a family here is the incredible friends we have, one of whom would surely either drive us to the hospital/clinic or would loan me their keys.  But you still worry.

Then we started asking more sane questions: what about our next move?  My husband is in the military and moving is inevitable, likely to happen in the next 18 months.  Our last move was done in one vehicle... packed to the brim with two dogs crammed into one seat for four days, because all the other seats had Stuff in them.  While my packing priorities will change this time (baby-stuff likely outweighing the Wii Fit), neither of us could picture a situation with less bulk to carry.  We still have two dogs, we will have an infant, and who knows how long we will be house-less.  So, we said, larger vehicle, an SUV.  But not till next spring, when we have to plan our move.

Right.  Then we started talking about summer plans, like the baby showers that our family is graciously throwing for us.  We save money by driving to see family (looked at airline tickets lately!?) in large part because we can take the dogs with us; plus it's built in us-time.  But baby showers, unsurprisingly, come with baby-stuff and it's the same stuff that we will eventually be moving with.  And my sister will be traveling with us for 1.5 trips this summer.  All of which adds up to needing the space now.

And so we researched.  And shopped.  And did a lot more research because we are nothing if not careful with large purchases.  We calculated what we could afford; we started a car fund where we've made a monthly car payment to prove we could do it; we looked at cost of ownership, not just sticker price.  And then we did some more shopping.  It turns out that through a combination of USAA's car buying program and a Memorial Day special, we could buy the basic Nissan Pathfinder we wanted for less than what we could afford.  In fact, for less than a two year old version cost, which is what we had been considering.

It was scary.  The whole time I was thinking "Are we really doing this?  We didn't come in today to buy and we especially didn't think we could buy new.  Are we jumping on something when we should wait?  I know we ran (and re-ran) the numbers, but can we really afford this?"  We asked the salesman to let us talk it over several times and (to his credit) he did it with no pressure to us.  We talked it over, re-ran the numbers quickly, and couldn't find a downside worse than not having intended to buy that day.

And you know what?  Besides one false-panic moment (3 in the morning is a bad time to be awake and trying to do math, especially while pregnant), I've been comfortable with it.  It's what we wanted, for less than we were willing to pay, for way less than the average sale price, and it has all the benefits of a new, warrantied vehicle. It would never have been possible for us to do this without prior planning, some serious advice-style help from family and friends, and a lot of communication between the two of us about what we wanted and could handle.  I'm thankful that my husband and I can have regular conversations like that without it becoming an argument.

Plus, since it's the color I wanted, what's to argue?  ;-)

1 comment:

  1. our newest vehicle was also a semi-impulsive buy. Tom wanted to test drive a VW Passat wagon to see if it would even be something he'd want to continue researching (he'd already done a bunch of research, but couldn't narrow his field down to less than 4, and we wanted to weed out a few more). we drove into orlando to test drive a used one, we both loved it, and we put down a deposit on it before we left that day. it was a bit more than we'd talked about spending, but not more than we could afford. we went back 2 days later after having slept on it and discussed a bit more, then we went back and traded in Tom's old car and paid the remaining amount due in full. (yay for no car payment!) but, paying a little bit more for a certified pre-loved VW from a dealer has proven to be a godsend, as we've had a few things that needed fixing (a couple of which were safety issues) and everything's been covered by the remaining warranty, at least so far! and we've got another 15k or so miles left to go on the warranty! there's definitely a plus side to buying new-ish. and communication between the two of us about wants/needs is what helped us get to the right decision, too! so where are pictures?