Why Do Cars Have Such Poor Timing?

The best laid plans of mice and men….

I keep learning from my near-success with No Spend July. After the constraints that month, my budget became non-existent in August. I had spare money from house-sitting and decided to use it to get a new bed and paint for my room. Even with that cushion, I still came out of August with little to spare, and I was more than a little frustrated with myself.

Then there’s the matter of my car, which I’ve had for 1.5 years and am ready to replace. I purchased it after my first car up and died mysteriously in the middle of winter, and the purchase was all desperation and little practicality. I’ve never been happy with this car and its laundry list of quirks and defects, even though it’s fairly sturdy, has no serious issues, and has got me around with decent gas mileage.

Last year about this time, I ignored a light on my dash and the airbag exploded as I was pulling out of a parking lot. A sloppy repair with superglue rendered the horn inoperable. I’ve stared at that light and the glued-together crack in my steering wheel since then, muttering hateful things while also begging my car to survive.

We’ve been through a lot together in nearly 2 years: backing tires into forklift prongs, no air conditioning or washer fluid, battery issues where the car died if I turned on the light without turning on the engine, leaking coolant, a loud steering wheel, the airbag incident, rust galore, and now this. Additionally, my little red rustbucket appears to be invisible, because in the last month I’ve nearly been hit at least 5 times, and it’s not like rush hour around here is insane.

Right now, all I want is a big car with a working horn.

I’ve been dreaming of a new car – one younger than my 1st and 2nd grade students would be nice – for months now. I set my eyes on station wagons, then did a little research and decided it was a Subaru Forester for me or nothing at all.

Why? While Foresters don’t get the best gas mileage, they make up for it with reliability, getting to considerably high miles without major issues, being sturdy enough for road trips and winter, and having decent space to store cargo.

Craigslist became one of my regular haunts as I compared prices and cars, and I found that if I could save up $4,000.00, I could purchase a pretty decent Forester. Goal in mind, I examined my budget and made a plan. I even made an Excel spreadsheet yesterday, which I proceeded to stare at in awe and pride for over 10 minutes. (Understanding basic Excel formulas has gone to my head.)

If I’m careful, I can live off of one paycheck a month, excluding tithe from the second paycheck. That means nearly half of my pay would go into savings. With what I had saved from July, I could be at my goal by February, even accounting for Christmas and birthday presents.

I was all set. It was going to be tight, but I was determined. $4,000.00 by the end of February was doable. I didn’t like the thought of dragging my rusty little Sable through another Midwest winter, but I figured there was no way around it, because I refused to settle for another junker car.

So with a budget in place and a ban on clothes and plant buying enforced (when did I become so weak?), I let Mom and Jo know about my plan and hunkered down for September.

September 1st, 8:23 AM. Sable malfunctions. Again.

You know those scenes in movies where the characters are in a plane or on a ship and suddenly all of the instruments go haywire and alarms are blaring and they’re going to crash? Think that, minus the blaring alarms.

Thankfully it has never happened in the middle of a turn, but in the last month or so my car has randomly gone on the fritz: gas pedal locking up, car shuddering, lights flashing, needles waving back and forth. It’s cute when it’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang getting excited, but not when I just want to get to work. The first time I thought it might be the weather (middle of a thunderstorm), the second was annoying (especially when it followed up with stalling in a parking lot), but today, after the fourth round of “Oh no, we’re gonna die!” inside of 15 minutes, I was done.

I called Mom, which I never do because phone calls from her children scare her, and left a two-minute-long message babbling about the Sable and this new adventure. A little while later she had called a nearby mechanic and arranged for me to drop off my car on my lunch break.

Bye-bye, Forester fund.

Of course, I have the option of buying out some of my accrued vacation hours before October, but I wanted to save those for a roadtrip next year. I could also see about getting a loan, but nothing about that and the accompanying insurance rates appeals to me. Ah, the struggle.

Meanwhile, it’s payday and I have a huge basket of chocolate staring me in the face. Budgets and diets cannot coexist peacefully.

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