When the new car bug bites, it pays to take a drive down reality lane.

When I got out of bed last Saturday, I was in a mood to spend money. Everything looked good as I browsed online. I wanted new sweaters, music, stylish shoes, even a new car.

I know I can’t afford a brand new car, so I searched on Craigslist to see what I could get for around $12,000. I wanted a gently used Ford Escape with low mileage. I needed it.

After all, I’ve been driving 900 miles roundtrip to Illinois every couple of months to visit my mom, who has health issues. Those trips racked up some mileage on my perfectly running 2004 Toyota Matrix, which now has 205,000 miles. In a Ford Escape with 4-wheel drive, I could cruise that distance while listening to satellite radio. What about that wicked snowstorm that ambushed me on a trip two years ago? All the more reason to get a four-wheel drive.

The urge for a new car was strong that day, since I’ve lived the last two years frugally while paying down a few debts. After two years of depriving myself of movies, massages, new clothes, vacations, dining out, even Chinese take-out, all I wanted was a nice vehicle. I even stopped that afternoon to peer longingly through the tinted windows of a Ford Escape parked on a used car lot.

It helped a little to envision my dog’s muddy paw prints dirtying up the tan seats. Also, I knew I’d no longer be able to angle into tiny parking spaces. Then there was the extra expense of a $400 car payment if I took out a loan. Even worse, I’d reduce my emergency savings to nearly nothing if I paid cash.

I knew I had to get away from temptation, so I headed to the gym to quell my latest spending urge with endorphins. Then I sweated it out in the steam room, tallying up how many other things I could purchase for $12,000.

It turns out I could buy a lot, including any one of these ways to spend that money…

  • 600 movies at the cinema, including popcorn and soda
  • 92 Ford Escape rentals for those short trips to Illinois
  • 240 weeks of groceries
  • 15 months of health insurance premiums (the high price of self-employment)
  • 25 years of liability-only car insurance premiums on my older car
  • 10 years of homeowners insurance
  • 240 months of dog food
  • A new roof on my house, along with a professionally painted exterior plus three years of mowing services
  • 5 or 6 short beach vacations, including airfare, car rental and an ocean view room
  • 4,000 cups of coffee
  • $200 worth of new clothes every single month for five years
  • 12 months of mortgage payments (better yet, $12,000 paid directly to principal so I can pay the house off faster)

After looking at my potential purchase this way, I knew I didn’t want that fancy Ford Escape. Why would I take on a $400 monthly payment or wipe out my emergency savings to pay cash while my current car is still running perfectly? The next day, I washed and vacuumed my car and wiped the dashboard down. I wasn’t about to ditch my loyal friend. Not yet anyway.

Maybe I’ll take that $400 and add it to my savings account every month until the old Toyota peters out. By then, I may have enough cash to drive away in a new car without towing a bank behind me for five years.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or policies of Debt.com.

Meet the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp


Hipp is a freelance writer based out of Missouri.

Budgeting & Saving

car buying, save money, Very Personal Finance

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Article last modified on February 27, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: How I Totaled My New Car Cravings In One Day - AMP.