Monday, April 05, 2010

Mi Carro

8 out of 10 respondents in a recent survey said they'd rather spike their Cosmopolitan with Drano than take financial advice from me. True story. And who can blame them, really? To loosely quote someone I never met but whose words are the stuff of legend (as shared with me by my cousin), "There is no budget I cannot live beyond."

But for some reason, that isn't the case when it comes to my whip. Years ago I had a trusted mentor who was an accountant (but not the typical kind - she was gorgeous and soulful and would get drunkie at office holiday parties and sing on the piano a'la "Fabulous Baker Boys," ... probably why I listened to her) who said, "You should never finance a vehicle for more than 36 months." This advice was probably given in 1993. Apparently it still holds true.

Have I financed a vehicle for longer than 36 months? Yes. I was working on 48 months for Cracker, my beloved Ford F250 that I sold in 2007 to my friend in North Carolina. In a moment of rare clarity, I applied all of the equity I had in the vehicle to a 50% down payment on Bonsai, my 2007 Honda Fit, and financed the balance for 36 months. Last week Bonsai officially became mine. This is not an Earth-shattering savings, I should note. In fact, the vehicle has been super-affordable to own and operate. Even during the gas price gouging of Ought 8, I was paying $36 to fill his little 9 gallon tank. And I could drive to and from Atlanta (3 hours) on that.

It does, however, remind me of another financing scenario we've all been subjected to over the past few years: the housing/mortgage downfall which is largely blamed for the global economic crisis. Living large isn't a sustainable practice. It's a great ego/personality rush and do I think there are times when it's totally appropriate to pop a cork on a $100 bottle of Dom Perignon even though you should be saving for Christmas gifts? ABSOLUTELY. Life is short, you understand. But it's about balance. And it's easier to justify an occasional nicety when the necessities are kept in relative, affordable check.

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