Well, I come to the interwebs a little embarrassed tonight…
I try to live consistently with my beliefs such that I don’t ever appear to be hypocritical or have to take back things I’ve said. However, yesterday presented me with a situation in which two of my principles were at odds with one another… principles I have blogged about previously:
1. I will take care of my family and keep them safe.
2. I will avoid debt at all costs.
The situation that created the dilemma was Maroon 5, (AKA – Ottobus) our 2006 Ford Van, dying.
I saw the writing on the wall and was already thinking about what we would do when it did finally bite the dust, but I was hoping to limp along with it for another year or so. My master plan was to finish paying off our adoption expenses in March and immediately build a war-chest so that we could buy a more reliable car about this time next year. Maroon 5 forced my hand.
I believe that Ford makes a pretty decent car, but I think we just got a lemon. We purposely bought that car in April of 2012 for our children. It was six years old, but it had low miles, and we could definitely afford it. We wrote a check for it, which was great to do. It was the vehicle that we first rode home as a family. It was the car that we have have gone everywhere as a family since we have been a family. For those reasons it was very special to us.
However, as the months ticked by, we had lots of little problems. Within 3 months of owning the car, we got our first “Check Engine” light. The following year and a half, we had 4 more “Check Engine” lights, one of which is chronicled in this blog post. Over time, I slowly pumped in a lot of my personal time and money to keep that car running. The engine computer was replaced. The alternator was replaced. The fuel filter was replaced. I ran full synthetic oil in it, but changed the oil out on a non-synthetic schedule. Factoring in purchase price, fuel costs, maintenance, and insurance, the van was costing me about $1.50 per mile to operate with me doing 75% of the labor. I kept hoping that we would find the knee of that curve and start to see operating costs go down at some point, but stuff kept breaking. We just really needed to keep it going another year to make my plans work.
Yesterday, while at work, I get a call from a panicked wife telling me “it’s doing it again.” This time, Maroon 5 let us know it meant business by skipping the “check engine” light, and going straight to the picture of the crescent wrench!
I came home fully prepared to spend a very cold evening underneath Maroon 5, dropping the gas tank or changing out the pressure sensor on the engine… whatever was my best guess (both were listed as probable causes for the indicator I was receiving). I even got into my nasty crotch-ripped pants, and my big grey oil-stained sweat-shirt. As I was changing, I asked Beth a series of questions… What was it doing? When did it start? How did it act? In the midst of this back an forth, I asked another question that was both on and off topic at the same time: “Do you have confidence that this van can get us to Pennsylvania and back this summer for our big road trip?” Her answer echoed what I was thinking: NO! It was becoming clear to us, that our car could no longer meet our needs.
Every extra dollar we have is going to pay off the adoption, and, as previously mentioned, it is almost finished. We will be doing a happy dance in March as the repo man can’t ever take the kiddies back (Wasn’t there a Forest Whitaker movie like that a few years ago?) Because of our aggressive plans at retiring debt, we didn’t have the war-chest to buy a car outright like we planned for next year. My family needed a reliable car, and the only way I can give it to them was to finance a new (to us) one.
I don’t know if a lot of people find their principles at odds with one another, but I sure did in this moment. I sat and tried to exhaust every other idea I could, searching for a way to have consistency between my words and my actions, but it was clear something was going to have to give. I had to weigh the two principles I had, and maintain the one with the highest priority – Providing for my family.
So, I got a car loan, for the first time in four years. It still makes me sick to think I was less than 2 months from not owing anyone except the mortgage company, and now I am saddled up with another debt… Beth and I will still have to say no to a bunch of things, and keep working as hard as we have the past two years for a little while longer, but I guess it’s OK.
Things don’t go to plan. Life gets in the way. I had all of these excellent plans to get out of debt, get a few bucks in the bank, tear down my barns, build bigger ones, sit back and relax, and not have to depend on God so much (sarcasm intended)! I also wanted to be a person of integrity and do what I said I would do: avoid debt at
all most costs. It’s a little bit of pride, and it’s a little bit of just wanting more control in my life. I hope I made the right decision. As much as I am sickened by the year-long consequence of my decision yesterday, I think I did.
The good news is, I got a new car attached to that car loan… and not a moment too soon. The old Ford died as I pulled into the dealership… I had to push it into a parking spot with the help of the lady that sold me my Toyota Tacoma (with twice as many miles and only one problem in seven years), and the Toyota Matrix that we would still be driving if it would fit 7 people. This time, she sold me a Nissan NVP. Yes. We are back to having an all Japanese fleet again!
The piece of mind of having two reliable cars is nice, and the kids are fans. They told me they named it this evening. It is “Jerry” named after their favorite cartoon rat. They also told me it was married to my pickup which does have a lady’s name: Molly. That’s good… the two of them will be spending the next ten years together in wedded bliss in our driveway if I can keep these plans! We’ll see.
At the dinnermesa,