You pile into the family minivan. You drive, so that your husband, buried in work and reluctant to come, can check email. Your perpetually bored pre-teen spends the ride texting friends. Your eight year-old watches a movie on the van's DVD player, while the youngest sits in her car seat and colors, while every now and then, giving the family dog a pat on the head. You arrive at the park. You set up lunch and drinks on a blanket while the two younger kids play frisbee with the dog. Your husband puts down the phone and joins in the game. Magically, so does the pre-teen. There is laughing, fist bumping, and a group hug before everyone returns to the blanket for lunch. On the trip home, your kids are huddled in the back seat, napping on each other's shoulders. Your husband drives. He squeezes your hand. The afternoon was a success. And that brand new fully loaded minivan was the catalyst.
Although this is more likely what happened: You arrive at the park and the younger kids begin their frisbee toss with the dog. You forgot to pack beer, which enrages your husband. He stomps off to check work email, but not before getting clipped in the head with the frisbee. Your oldest has retreated to the van, because family picnics are stupid. The mayonnaise you used for the sandwiches is rancid, leaving the family with nothing to eat except apples. The dog runs away in pursuit of a rabbit. It starts to rain. You return home with three wet, hungry kids in the back, one muddy dog, and a husband who gives you the cold shoulder.
Ah, the magic of car commercials. They try to make us believe that a minivan can bring a family together, or that a sports car can make you sexy, or that a luxury car begets success. Advertising agencies get paid millions of dollars to persuade you into feeling like something is missing from your life because you don't own Product X.
For most of us, a car is a necessity. However, it is important for you to realize that beyond a car's ability to get you from Point A to Point B, it has no other value. It will not make you taller, thinner, give you bigger boobs, help secure a work promotion, or increase your husband's libido. Despite what ad agencies want you to believe, the right car will not bring happiness. But you already know that, since a Fierce Diva understands that happiness is not dependent upon our external circumstances.
When your car gets up there in miles and loses its reliability, it's probably time to look into buying a new one, or perhaps I should say, a new one to you, since I would hope you would consider a used car as an option. Before you settle on buying a particular car, it's important to crunch some numbers and figure out your car budget.
Remember, Divas, there is a mighty line between being able to afford a car versus being able to make the monthly payments. You can only afford a car if:
- The monthly payments, including gas, maintenance, and insurance, do not interfere with your ability to pay other bills
- The payments will not disrupt your contributions to your retirement account and college savings for your child
- You will not have to dip into the emergency fund that covers 6 months of living expenses to make the down payment on the car
Once you have your budget, it's time to find your car. Promise me, Divas, to make your decision to buy based on reputable product reviews and maintenance records (if it's a used vehicle) versus the feeling you get when you watch the commercial. When you can believe in yourself behind the wheel of a six year old sedan as much as when you are behind the wheel of a fully loaded brand new minivan, you know you have truly become a Fierce Diva.
©2012 Ilene Evans