Thursday, October 2, 2008

Car Problems Cost Big Money

I mentioned the other day that I was having a problem with the car. What happened is that I drove to the deli, to Safeway, to the liquor store (all within half a dozen blocks of each other and about 10 minutes from home) and started to drive home when I heard a bubbling noise. I looked at the dashboard and the temperature gauge was just about to redline! Hello!? I drive to our rural home through 2 mountain passes and the car never even tries to overheat. How can it be overheating doing the drive I do pretty well every day (all this was just a few blocks from work)?

I turned off the air conditioning and turned on the heater and kept driving home, while keeping an eagle eye on the temperature. (This pulls heat from the engine away from the core and into the interior of the car, reducing the load on the cooling system.) I made it without boiling over but I was pretty freaked out. We didn't use the car over Rosh Hashana of course, but I was determined that it had to go in today.

The news is not good. There are 2 leaks (water pump and thermostat), it needs new timing, alternator and a/c belts and there's a loose tie rod end. That's the stuff we're actually having done now because it's either a safety issue or the car won't keep working without it. There's another job we're going to hold off on for now because all that I already mentioned, plus an oil change and winter check up is going to cost in excess of $1,600! It'll be ready on Monday, so that's how long we have to pull the money together.

Bottom line. We don't have it and we don't have enough room on our credit cards to charge it all. This is a real wake up call. I knew the cards had been creeping up (mostly for things like food, gas, DC's school clothes and rain gear for my hubby so he could cycle to work in the rain) but it hadn't really clicked as to how serious it was getting. It's one thing to say that you need gas but payday isn't for a few days, so you charge the gas and tell yourself you'll make a payment on the card that covers that fillup when you get paid, but what happens when payday rolls around and there are 4 or 5 other things more "urgent" than paying back that $30 to $100? Right. You know what they say about good intentions.

We have a couple of options that don't involve hitting up family for money or selling our possessions. One, my hubby can get an advance on commissions that will be coming to him at the end of October or, two, he could request an increase in his card limit (an option I'm not crazy about but he does have a lower limit than I do). I have some money in ING, but it's pretty well all already accounted for. I'll use the money in our emergency fund either towards the car or towards paying the plumber for fixing the leak at our rural home (we finally got the bill last time we were there and it was just under $300).

But, beyond paying for the repairs and the rental car the dealership arranged, what do I need to do? I have to get back into entering everything in Excel. I need to see exactly where a bunch of the money is going because we should be roughly breaking even on a month to month basis and it doesn't look like we are. Once I do that, we have to really sit down and talk about where the leaks are and how to handle them. Then we have to start working hard to get the debt back down. At the very least, we have to be vigilant about not increasing it.

But we can't stop spending money either. I'm not going to get caught being penny wise and pound foolish. We need to get a programmable thermostat and to have the furnace at our rural place serviced before winter because we aren't going to be there much once the snow starts in the mountains and I don't want to have the pipes freeze or some such nonsense just because we didn't spend a couple of hundred dollars on preventative maintenance. Also, last year we spent about $600 to $700 in fuel oil to heat the place over the winter and we should be able to save about 2/3 or more of that if we spend $100 on the programmable thermostat. So, yes, we're going to have to spend some money in the short term but it will save us money over the next 6 months or so.


Anonymous said...

tough for sure. we have not been doing the maintenance on our home as much. like you, furnace needs servicing. all the more reason for the emergency fund. hang in there

Shevy said...

Thanks, I'm trying to hang in. I just feel pretty sick about the cost at the moment, but it's made me really determined that we have to get things under control and pay down our debt as soon as possible.

With all the financial uncertainty out there right now I'd really like to have a buffer!

Grace. said...

I have absolutely no advice for you. But having been there and doing that, how about some empathy? I gotta lotta that for you! When you don't have an emergency fund (as I don't at the moment), it's stuff like this that kills you.

And it just keeps on happening!

Shevy said...

Empathy is good! I have such a hard time saving up a $1000 emergency fund and when something happens that cuts it down usually something else comes up before I can rebuild it. You're so right about that.