Weekly Roundup: Bad Car Luck Edition

If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I am nearly finished paying off our family vehicle.  As luck would have it, my old van died again today in the work parking lot, so it looks like my final push toward car loan freedom may be in jeopardy.

Of course, I’m also nearing the point where I wonder how many more usable months the old van has in it. At twenty years old, some of the parts are beginning to look pretty bad and there are parts of the exterior are nearly rusted through.

This presents a dilemma – without a fully funded “car fund” I can’t buy anything else with cash. On the other hand, as repairs become more frequent, I’m paying nearly enough for a new (used) vehicle in accumulated repairs.  My mind is made up though; I refuse to borrow money for another car.  So it looks like I’ll either be repairing the van again, hitching a ride, or commuting by bicycle.

The Fab Five

Amish Finances.  I’ve always been intrigued by the Amish culture, particularly their frugality. This is a great piece from someone with first-hand experience living and working closely by the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA.

Best Places to Retire Cheap. I am not a world traveler. In fact, I’ve only been out of the country once, and that was to Canada. Though I don’t personally aspire to see the world (I’d still like to explore my own backyard), I recognize that there are some incredibly beautiful places to live on the cheap (in US dollars).  (@The Digerati Life)

Create a Financial Mission Statement to Stay Focused. It’s funny; we often suggest people create a written list of goals to accomplish a given task, but how many of us think to put our financial mission down on paper? (@Money Relationship)

Don’t Wait for Things to Get Back to Normal Because Normal May Never Return.  People will argue the future success of the markets, and the broader economy, but I like the overall tone of this post.  Don’t sit around for things to “get back to normal” to get on with your life – get on with it now! (@Generation X Finance)

Is There A Downside to Gazelle Intensity?  Short answer, yes. I think there is a downside with to being too intense chasing any goal. It often involves sacrificing a natural balance in your life required for some level of happiness. I tend to get really gazelle intense when within striking distance of paying off a debt (i.e. our car payment), and then back off a bit while continuing to move steadily towards my goal. (@Being Frugal)

Best of the Rest

Site of the Week

Ten Practical Uses for Your Credit Card. This was an amusing post over at Scavenging, a site I recently discovered. I’ve heard there is a new card out that is supposedly safe for landfills, which sounds like a pretty good place for them.


  1. If your van is rusting through on the outside, I would be the engine is a mess too. If I were you I’d just take out the loan on something else and work like heck to pay it off early. Why keep throwing money away on something you’ll need to replace soon anyway? The new (used) car could last you 10-15 years.

  2. Hey FD- what do you call “fully funded?” for a car fund. Because I’m wondering if it’s possible to just step down some on the car you buy. My son (and yes he got a great deal) bought a 99 Subaru outback for 3K last month. I imagine the car will go another 5 years at least if we take care of it. My feeling always is if a car dies before I’m “fully funded” for what I want, we’ll just buy what we can afford– hey, wait a minute– buy what we can afford? That’s a weird idea.

    My son, unfortunately chose debt– he took a loan from me. And he’s chafing. Seems it’s way more fun to save money for a new car than to pay money back for the car you already have. (I’m as mean as GMAC too. Payments are due and I don’t care if you have a prom to go to– just like the credit industry! So you don’t much like this going into debt idea now? And I’m not even charging interest!) My hope is this will make him so miserable that he won’t ever try it again.

  3. good for you, FD. I’ve raised my hand to never borrow money again and, while it can be tough, you can get through it?

    Is it possible to divert some money from the budget and combine that with your emergency fund to get something w/ cash? Sometimes you can get something that’s real ugly, but runs real well for a couple of grand.

  4. For me having a reliable auto would be worth the added expense of a small loan. See what your local Credit Union can do for you. With a CU you can usually pay back the loan on an accelerated schedule without jumping through the hoops that most auto loan companies have to pay back early.

  5. Have you tried looking on Craigslist for a used car? We’ve had excellent luck getting low mileage cars for a good price. My son got a Dakota pickup for $4000 with only 28,000 miles on it, belonged to a grandpa who only used it sparingly before his death. The family just wanted it to go away. We bought a low mileage Jeep for $4500 from a guy who was going in the military. I don’t know how strapped you are for cash but I’m sure you could find something very reasonably priced. Even with higher mileage you could probably get a couple of years out of it. Good luck.

  6. I know this is a little out of the box FD, but have you considered perhaps approaching a high school or technical college about repairs on your van?
    It could be a learning experience for students and then you wouldn’t have to give it up totally.
    Just a thought….

  7. Good luck with whatever decision you make. Altho I hate being “forced” to make a decision, ie, the breakdown, sometimes it can be a blessing in disquise. Give it some thinking time tho – no hurry if you have an alternate ride for a bit.

    Nice roundup also – enjoyed it!

  8. I say go with the bike. Rent a car for when you really need one. No insurance, no upkeep and you get killer exercise!

  9. I am sure it seems the van expenses are adding up, but even expenses of $400 a month for 3 months is better than $400 a month for 36 months. That being said there is a time when a 20 year old car has to be retired.
    I say buy whatever you can afford in car fund (I have never spent more than $1000 for a car.) Then keep saving and trade up in a year or two.
    Or can your family survive with just one car? If so that may be the best frugal/green alternative (besides riding a bike, which sounds great but with a family and bad weather is not always practical.)

    I applaud your stand to not get a car payment. That is my stand as well. I have only spent about $6,000 buying and fixing (regular maintance not included) cars over the past 12 years. I have been so blessed some people have even given me a car that they no longer needed(like my current 1998 Chevy Lumina given to me by an elderly man in my church who can no longer drive.)

    Where there is a will there is a way. Thanks for reminding us of that.

  10. (Long-time reader here) Your post comes SO timely for me!!! I am facing a similar dillema. My car is nearing 10 years old, is fully paid for, but the cost of repairs in the last 6 months adds up to $333 a month to keep it going. Then there is always the old sunk costs argument – I spent it, the money is gone now and shold not factor too much into the decision (except fact it shows liklihood of further problems). Hopeing with repairs this week I should be good to go for a while…right? To be continued. Thanks for posting your insights and inspiration to stay frugal…