Tag Archives: transportation

Finally Bought a Car… Paid All Cash, Will Not Hit Networth Goal This Year

I made a decision that this year I will not hit my networth goal in order to purchase a quality car. I test drove dozens of vehicles to determine the best make and model for my needs. I determined that I’d like to spend under $15,000 on the car, but $18,000 maximum if I found someone I loved in that price range. My goal was to purchase from a private party, but I felt it would be easier to buy a car from a dealer.

After test driving everything from a 2007 BMW 328i to a Volkswagen Passat, and a brief interlude where I was convinced I wanted to buy the Volvo S40, I settled on the Hyundai Sonata. I didn’t think the car’s 2.4L engine would be enough power for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the power the vehicle had. The Hyundai dealership had two 2011’s in stock to test drive — I decided to try out the one with more mileage (60k) since it was ticketed at $18k vs $20k of the lower milage model. I really didn’t want to spend $18k on a car, so I figured if I could somehow talk the dealership down to $15k I might buy it. I really needed a car and my boyfriend was getting tired of driving me around, so purchasing a car today was my goal… but not overpaying.

I actually went out to test drive a 2007 private party V6 camry and thought it might be the right choice. It was priced at $16.5k, fully loaded, but I figured I could talk the seller down. But as I test drove the Camry, I remembered why I didn’t like the car. It just felt bulky and heavy. The knobs inside the car looked cheap. It was a fine car but not something I wanted to spend over $15,000 on.

So then I test drove the Sonata and fell in love. I figured I had nothing to lose saying I wanted to pay $15k for the $18k car… and expected the sales manager to drop to $16.5k at the lowest. But through my “sophisticated” negotiating powers or sheer luck I got them down to $15.5k. It was still more than I really wanted to spend, but it was a really good deal for the car – which was loaded with many features. With the $15.5k price tag, I couldn’t turn down the deal. I ended up paying an extra $1.7k for a 4 year, 60k mile warranty, which puts me a bit at ease since I’m worried about buying such a pricey used car… though it kind of has me paying the same amount I would have paid without negotiating. At least everything is covered for four years.

It feels good to have a car with all working features! However, it’s sad that I won’t be able to reach my $250k networth goal this year. I guess that’s not such a big deal, I’ll just have to focus on saving a lot next year and for the rest of this year to make up for it. But it will be hard to see my networth drop from $225k to $205k. I might be able to save $225k for the year but not $250k. Oh well. I needed a car and I decided that I’m going on 30, and deserve something nice… and that I can grow into as I potentially have/start a family in the next 3-7 years.

Shopping for a Car: The Unnecessary Saga

*edited to add: the reason I am considering such an old car model is that for the next 2 years I have the remainder of my DUI sentence with increased insurance premiums. I am paying $120 per month right now for very basic, no comprehensive insurance due to the DUI. The punishment was deserved, but I do not see myself buying a nice car which requires comprehensive insurance. My original plan was to keep my old car around until the end of the sentence so I wouldn’t have to worry about comprehensive insurance, but it’s pretty much dead now. So I’m trying to buy a car that will get me through the next 2-3 years that won’t require even more expensive insurance. I forgot to mention this.

There seem to be as many models of cars as there are people in the world. Big ones, small ones, fancy ones, simple ones, Japanese ones, American ones, European ones, new ones, old ones, really old ones with expensive surgery to make them look like younger ones, et al. And today, with my poor, destroyed ’99 Toyota parked silently in a carport space waiting for its end of days, I know it’s time to get a new(er) car. It’s been time for a while. Since, in 2011, when it was hit and had the front bumper ripped off. A year later, the insurance company finally agreed with me that the accident wasn’t my fault and send me the remainder of a $2000 check. But, the car, worth less than this with 200k miles and a leaky engine, wasn’t worth repairing. I started to hunt for a new car. Yes, in 2011.

It’s getting a little (extremely) ridiculous that I haven’t purchased a car yet. The two issues at hand are 1, determining which car to get, and 2, figuring out how to pay for the car.

When I bought my last car, I went about it in my typical anxiety-ridden way. While I was curious about the plethora of choices out there, I quickly limited my  choices but determining I should get a  Toyota or Honda. I didn’t like the Honda logo or body styles (superficial, yes, but I am) so a Toyota was the winner. I didn’t want a Corolla because they were, well, ugly (I had no idea about performance comparisons at that time.) Prior to deciding on a Toyota I nearly bought a used Chevy Aveo or a used Saab hatchback from two different dealers. Those were the only two cars I tested out before deciding on the Solara. Continue reading

Finding $15k – $20k Liquid for a New Car

It’s (over) time to purchase an updated car. My current beater may be adequate for a gangbanger from the worst part of town, but it certain isn’t appropriate for a serious professional. In the next two months (after taxes are done and I confirm I don’t owe the government all of my money) I’d like to make a purchase of a new (used) vehicle. Based on my research I’ve determined that car will cost about $15k – $20k. I do not want to pay for this with a loan, so instead I’d like to figure out how I can make $15k – $20k liquid from my existing savings and upcoming income. This will be challenging because right now I have $400 in my checking account.

The biggest challenge is not in finding the cash to buy the car outright, but in making up for $20k of lost savings when my goal is to save $50k a year and I’m already behind! This means I’ll be relying a lot on bonuses this year (which I hate doing since they’re not a sure thing) and/or needing to look for second income opportunities. Regardless, I need to buy a car. I don’t need to buy a $20,000 car (and I probably shouldn’t with my sky-high SR-22 insurance costs), but I wanted to figure out how I could potentially access $20k by May 1 to make the purchase. I can work backwards and scale downwards in my car purchase price from there. Continue reading

Shopping for a Used Prius

Ok, so I’m not personally shopping for a used Prius — my boyfriend is — but given his conflict- and people-adverse nature, I’ve found myself in the middle of a car-buying situation. My boyfriend is 100% sure he wants a Prius, even though I told him it’s kind of dumb to get a Prius because he doesn’t drive enough for the gas savings to make the extra cost worth it. He says (and it just might be true) that used Prius’s aren’t actually more or much more than other non-luxury, non-hybrid cars.

So we’ve driven all around looking for a Prius that has a good track record (ie Carfax) that isn’t in a hideous color (ie isn’t white or red) and seems to be reasonably priced. He’s looking at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 models. For some reason, all the ones that have around 80k to 150k miles are priced at $10,999. That doesn’t seem terrible — I bought my Solara for $7,500 in 2006. Still, I hate the stress of buying a used car and figuring out if it’s a lemon before you put your money down — even if it’s not my car and it’s not my money.

The experience, however, makes me glad that I’m still driving my beat up car, and I’m not yet in the market for a new pair of wheels. Which reminds me — tomorrow is my DUI court hearing. Ugh, not looking forward to that. I still can’t believe that I got myself into this mess in the first place, but so goes life. I may give up driving altogether for a while depending on the outcome of the court and DMV hearings. So, it’s really important my boyfriend gets a car… his is broken now, and if I can’t drive and he doesn’t have a car, we’ll be in a bit of trouble given we live so far from the store.

When to Buy a New Car?

I’ll never claim to be a frugal person, but in regards to large purchases, that’s where my frugality shines. And by shines, I mean “has scratches.” My Toyota Solara (1999), which I purchased used off of a man selling it on Craigslist in 2005 with 130k miles on it for $7,000, is showing signs of “time to get rid of me.” I’m trying to figure out exactly when I do get rid of her… which, if it’s up to me, will be the day she stops running and no one can fix her for less than 1/2 her current value.

What’s wrong with her? Let me count the ways.

– front bumper on left side is ripped off (from “no fault” accident (it was his fault))
– air conditioning is broken
– left window won’t  open
– radio is broken
– back tires need to be replaced

She has 190k miles on her, which for a Toyota might not be a death sentence yet, but still influences my decision whether or not to fix her up or sell her for pennies on the dollar, and buy a new (used) car.

This is the first car I’ve ever owned, so I’m unsure when I should make the plunge and start shopping for a new car. In theory, I’ve been able to save $3k per month so buying a new (used) car that is similar in quality and value to my current car (when I bought it) would only eat up 2.5 months of savings. Then again, maybe I’d want to buy a slightly nicer car. I really want a (used) Prius. What do you think?

Should I Rent Forever?

I’ve been fairly happy renting thus far in my life. At 26 years old, I’ve never really contemplated owning my own place until now. My rental costs have varied greatly over the years…

2004-2005: Chicago, 2br apartment shared w/ 3 people in a nice area. I lived in the living room w/ a curtain for a door for $460 a month. I think some utilities were included in that too.
2005: lived in DC, where I rented a room with a semi-private bath for $800 / month. Utilities were included. Then I moved to California, where my first place was “free” but it was really part of my internship stipend. Soon after I moved again… to a 4br, 2ba apartment shared with 3 other girls (and their friends on occasion) for $480 / month. When I got a full-time job, I decided I deserved my own place, even though I was making about $35k per year. So I found a studio with utilities included for $900 / month. In a year, the rent for that studio went up to $1100 / month. Even though I knew this was a lot, I didn’t want to deal with moving and I liked where I lived. So I stayed one year. Then they raised the rent to $1350 / month and I decided to leave the apartment complex and look for a more affordable, room-share situation. I found a place in a nice condo complex for rent with a smaller personal living area but a nicer all-around apartment for $635 / month plus utilities split between myself and two other girls.
The problem is that now I live far from my job so the cost of the monthly commute is about $230 / month for parking at the public transit station plus the train, and that’s not including the gas it costs me to get to and from the train. So… you could say now I’m spending $300 / month on transportation, or $1000 / month on “rent” including transportation and utilities. So I ask myself… should I move? If I do move, how much should I pay for a place? While my roommates and I aren’t best friends, we get along fairly well, and I’ve gone through my share of roomie nightmares in the past, so I’m not in the mood to get into any of that mess while just getting into the jive of things at my new job. Still, the cost of the commute plus the actual commute (about 1 hour 15 minutes each way) will eventually get to me. I could even find a place that costs the same or cheaper slightly closer to work… maybe 30 minutes closer… because there are some areas that are not as nice as where I live now that are on the way towards the public transportation stations. I really should be living there. But I just don’t want to deal with moving.
Then, the idea always pops in my mind… what about buying a home? Well, that’s really not possible right now… the average costs of a 1br condo here are like $600,000. Given that I only have $50k in savings at the moment… it will take me a long time before I could even afford a down payment on that. And the more I think about it, the more I realize owning a home… at least in this area… may never make any sense. It’s just too expensive. I look at how much my parents still pay for their house after all these years in mortgage and property taxes and homeowners insurance and think, wow, I should really just rent forever.
Of course, when I have kids one day, I guess it would be nice to own a home. I liked growing up in one place all my life… I think it would have been really tough to move around a lot, being as shy as I was. Then again, lots of families move a lot and they do just fine. And you don’t have to move all the time in a rental, you just never know when your landlord will decide they need you to leave. I guess that on its own is enough reason to consider owning. But really, how can anyone afford home ownership here? This year I’ve hit six figures… I may even make $150k this year, and that isn’t near enough for me to own a condo or a home in this area. I think I’d have to be making something like $300k / year before I could even really consider owning.
Do you own a home? Do you rent? What’s your monthly cost for owning or renting? Why do you own… or rent?

Stolen Car Registration Sticker Cost me $40!

First off, I’m really sorry I am so awful at updating this blog. I try to update my tweets more often www.twitter.com/everycentcounts because it’s easier to write 140 words than a blog entry. Still, this blog needs some TLC. And I also am trying to figure out what happened to www.personalfinancereader.com because I paid for the domain through blogger and it isn’t working.

Anyway, the topic of my post today is how ridiculous it is that you are required to pay for a new registration sticker when it gets stolen from your car. Not only that, but if you get a ticket for it you’re required to pay that too. I admit it was my fault that I got two tickets for it (I didn’t have time to go to the DMV for a week and then I got another one) but still… my car was registered, so it’s obvious that I had the sticker.

Finally went to the DMV and that took forever and a day. Had to pay $18 for a new sticker. Lame. Now I have to pay $20 for the two fix-it tickets.

I’ve heard that you should cut your sticker w/ a razor to prevent people from stealing it. So I’ll be doing that soon.

I actually got pulled over for having an expired sticker but the cop was nice about it. I told him my registration sticker was stolen and he said that’s been happening a lot lately with the economy and all. He gave me the same “cut it with a razor” advice, and no ticket from him, but… if it’s happening a lot, then why make people pay for someone else’s crime. Come on.

Well, here’s my charity for the year. I’ve paid the CA government over $500 in various ticket fees, including these, thus far in 2009! I’m a good citizen.

$1k Car Repairs and a Broken Radio

My car started having “issues” a few months ago. In the mornings, sometimes it wouldn’t want to turn on. I’d try a few times, hold my breath, and eventually it would work.

But then the other day it just – kaput – gave out. It was time to get it towed to a repair shop and see what was wrong, and just how much it would cost me.

So my insurance company sent out a tow truck, and the guy jump started my car so I could drive it to the auto repair shop I read about on Yelp that was beyond the “free towing” distance. I drove it there, safely, and found out that the inspection would be $100 just to find out what’s wrong.

I agreed to that (it seems normal) and got a call a few hours later letting me know that… I needed new back breaks ($$), I should get a 150k checkup ($$) and I probably needed a new starter ($$$$) and my battery chords were all messed up so they had to get replaced too ($$). The total price came to $1018 to fix/check out my car.

I can’t help wondering if I got ripped off. I know it costs a lot to repair cars, and my car wasn’t starting, but that’s a lot of money. Still, I think it was worth it for my car. The guy said the engine and battery look good and should last me.

The only thing I’m pissed about is that when I got my car back my radio was broken. So, it was kind of on the fritz before, but it had been working no problem. Now it won’t turn on. I haven’t gone back to ask about that because I’m sure he’ll say that he didn’t even touch the radio – but really, it’s not turning on, at all. I don’t really want to pay to get that fixed too!

Biking for Frugality

I’m not a fitness buff, though I am trying to get in shape. When I lived in Berkley a few years ago, pre-car ownership, I bought myself a fairly decent bike to get me to and from work. It was about a 30 minute bike ride each way – flat for the most part, though to was a bit uphill and home was a bit down (which worked out perfectly, who wants to ride uphill on the way home?)

My weight has fluctuated from 163lbs to 123lbs over the last 4 years. The lowest, 123, was after I biked to and from work five days a week for about three months. Well, I had gotten down to about 130 and then went through about a month of deep depression and didn’t eat much of anything, which was an unhealthy way to get down to 123.

Regardless of my weight, I’ve never felt “healthy.” The closet to healthy I’ve ever felt was at 130lbs, when I was eating normally and biking daily. That’s what I’m hoping to get back to again.

But apparently the sheer quest for health isn’t enough of a motivator for me. What make me bike when I lived in Berkley? Sure, I wanted to get healthy. But the real reason I biked every day was that my other option, a BART ticket (BART is the subway in the bay area) would cost me about $3 round trip a day. $3 a day? That seemed like such a waste of money, esp since I owned a bike that could get me to my destination almost as quickly.

Ever since I’ve bought a car, I find it’s easier to ignore the specific cost of fuel as you travel from one destination to another. But with gas prices hitting an average of $4 a gallon around here, my bike is once again becoming my new best friend.

I need to get back in the swing of biking, really, as it’s tough to force myself to leave 45 minutes for my commute to work as opposed to 15 for the drive. But those 45 minutes are precious me-time that could either be spent moping around in bed or out and about enjoying the day’s sun. And I certainly know that I need my time in the sun in order to be healthy and happy.

So – thanks to $4 a gallon gas, I might get back in shape again. I hope I will. I won’t be in great shape when I leave for Israel in a month, sadly. Even riding my bike every day and eating healthy won’t help me look good in a bathing suit. But maybe I won’t be completely embarrassed by wearing the appropriate swim garb.

Meanwhile, there is one pair of Banana Republic jeans I bought when I was 123lbs, and my goal right now is to fit into them again one day. Of course, that means that most of my other clothes won’t fit anymore, but it would be worth it just to be able to wear those jeans again!

Travel Light, or Pay the Price

Airlines are in pretty big trouble these days, financially speaking, and that means customers are getting hit with high fees all around. Besides the rising cost of ticket prices, airlines are finding other ways to make a quick buck from their passengers. I can’t believe the latest one that I just read!

Checking two bags, under 50lbs each, used to be “free” with the price of a ticket. That seemed rather reasonable and fair, given that some folks traveling on flights are moving or traveling for longer than a short stay.

That free luxury is no more – at least once May 5 rolls around.

Want to check more than one bag? You’ll have to pay $25 to check that second bag. Yes, even if it’s under 50lbs. If it’s more than 50lbs, then you’re stuck with ANOTHER $100 in fees.

MSNBC breaks it down as follows:

“These fees are in addition to those for excess, oversized and overweight bags, so a passenger traveling on United, for example, with three checked bags weighing 50 pounds or less will be charged $25 for the second but $100 for the third.

But if any of the three bags tips the scale at 51 pounds or more, overweight charges of an additional $100 per bag, each way, kick in. So unless otherwise exempt, a passenger flying round-trip on United with three bags weighing just a pound over the 50-pound limit would be charged $200 for the first ($100 overweight fee each way), $250 for the second (second bag fee of $25 times two plus overweight fee of $100 times two), and $400 for the third (a $100 third bag fee times two plus a $100 overweight fee times two), for a total — fasten your seat belts — of $850.”