Fans of the Dave Ramsey Show probably recognized that line in the title. Dave’s got a few variations – pay off the Tahoe, amputate the Tahoe, etc. Over the last few weeks I’ve been hinting at how close we were to paying off my wife’s Tahoe (our family vehicle). My old van was paid off long ago, but our family ride has been dragging a debt payment behind it for the last four years. I’ve been personally dragging around car debt even longer, and I can’t tell you how good it felt to make the last payment on Friday.
It might not seem like a big deal to some, but for me it represents finally freeing ourselves of the bondage of car debt. It was a journey that’s taken over a decade. I’ve gone through the sordid history of my ill-conceived car purchases in the past in great detail, so I’ll simply summarize them here.
- My first car was a 1985 Buick Century, handed down from my grandparents. It was a nice car, but it wasn’t a “cool” car, so I didn’t fully appreciate it as a teenager. However, it didn’t have a payment, and the insurance was relatively cheap, which is a big bonus for teenagers. I drove that Buick until the wheels fell off, almost quite literally. It developed serious electrical problems, and one night while parked in my dorm room parking lot in college it caught fire under the hood. We tried to replace some of the wiring, but it was cooked…literally.
- At 21 years-old, and newly married, I leased a brand new Isuzu Rodeo. It was a stupid decision considering the annual salary I was earning at the time was only a fraction more than the lease amount!
- At 26 years-old I was still driving the Rodeo, having paid off the lease by taking out another loan, extending the payments another three years.
- At 27 years-old our family was growing, so we bought a used (the only thing smart about it) 2001 Chevy Tahoe. Since I still owed money on the Rodeo, the bank was nice enough to roll that into the loan for the Tahoe since the sellers were letting it go for far less than Kelly Blue Book.
- After a number of months of trying to sell the Rodeo via private sale, I made the mistake of stopping by a car lot and started stalking a beautiful, gently used Chevy Silverado pickup truck. The salesman worked his magic and talked me into trading in the Rodeo and driving off with the Silverado (and even more car debt).
- It only took a few months of making both payments for me to realize something had to give, and that something had to be my Silverado truck – as much as I loved that truck. I put a “For Sale” sign in the window, and advertised it in the local credit union bulletin. In two weeks she was being backed out of my driveway by the new owner for $1,000 less than what I paid. I wrote that $1,000 off as stupid tax.
We diligently kept up payments on the Tahoe, but at some point I just got downright tired of having a car payment. I told my wife in April that I wanted to move the Tahoe up in our debt snowball, following what I now know to be the Debt Tsunami style of debt snowballing. It didn’t make sense mathematically, as it was an incredibly low interest rate, and it wasn’t our lowest balance. It was personal. I had decided we had been dragging around a car payment long enough, and since we were within a few thousand dollars of paying it off, I wanted to make a final push and be done with it.
Last Friday we did just that, making a final payoff of about $700, which I scrounged up from freelance work, and from Friday’s paycheck from my full-time gig. The budget will be a tighter for the next two weeks because it was a stretch to pay it off, but I couldn’t wait another two weeks. The instant I pressed “submit” for the final loan payment online I felt the load of eleven years of car debt being lifted.
Now I look forward to receiving the title from our credit union, and for the first time in my adult life, being car debt free. Dave Ramsey’s right; they do drive better when they aren’t towing a car payment!