Saying Goodbye to my Best Friend

In December 2008, I was a junior in college. I had gone home for Christmas and while I was home, I bought my most favorite item in my entire life: my car, Miss Daisy Mala Junior. We call her Junior, or Junes.

I love her.

I have loved her from the moment I met her.

She’s a 2005 Chevy Malibu. The windows don’t roll down, sometimes; other times they don’t roll up. The gas gauge hasn’t worked since 2009. I blew out a speaker listening to Macklemore. But, the AC is basically ice and she gets 32 miles to the gallon in the city and she just won’t die.

On July 3, I met a new car, who doesn’t have a name yet, and hasn’t told me their gender yet.

It’s thrilling to have something so new, that feels very similar to drive to my old car, but I also feel really sad to let the old one go. She’s actually still with me; I wanted to take my time getting her to the correct new owner.

So, I came to a conclusion about my sad little car. There’s a pretty wide range on what people are willing to spend on a comparable car – $300 – $1200 – since her mileage is surprisingly low for her age. But she’s ugly – the paint is peeling and an entire bottle of coke got spilled in the back seat; she’s been on too many beach trips and too many late nights in the country barefoot.

D and I spent a long time talking about the right choice for her. What we could “earn” from selling her isn’t significant – obviously we did not need that income to purchase the new car. So, we’ll be letting a mom make $25 payments on her; someone who otherwise could not afford to buy a reliable car outright; someone who needs a way to work, particularly in the snow since her tires are basically brand new; someone who needs something to get them from walking to a better car than Junior.

Even though I’m currently holed up in my house with a busted ankle, I found myself, this morning, thinking about how much I have to be grateful for. My ankle will heal. My coffee is hot. My home is full of fresh product from a garden (some of which got canned to be eaten in the winter!) My cats are in good health. In one month I marry the best person I know. The sun is shining.

And so, I’ll cut my losses on the car. It’s worth it if it means that I can help someone else get to a point where they have enough brain space to see what’s good. It’s so easy to tell people to “look on the bright side” or to look ahead to their future when they’re feeling down. It’s much harder to help ensure that people have room in their life to think those thoughts.

What’s that Emerson quote?

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s where I’m at today, folx. And that’s the space I want to be in from now on.

Reflecting on the Last Six Months

Maybe you’re like this – maybe you have this same relationship with writing where you say you’re going to do it but then you don’t. And truthfully, every time you return to it, you make a commitment to write but then you don’t. So it just becomes this cycle of saying you’re going to do something and never really doing it.

Hi. That’s me.

I like the idea of a virtual community, but I’ve never really been that great at being vulnerable, even with strangers. Lately I’ve been feeling a little bogged down by…well, everything. My fiancĂ© got COVID last month, but I did not. So I stayed in quarantine for 20 days – 10 days after his 10 days were up. The isolation was unreal, but also not that far from what we’ve been experiencing for the last year and a half.

My solution: to figure out how to buy a new car, so that we can go further into the world. So for the month of June, we’re doing a spending freeze. In theory, the freeze should give us enough money to pay for 6 months of insurance on a brand new vehicle. I’ve been driving the same car since college, so the idea of a car payment feels really intimidating, and knowing we’re going to have some extra tucked away makes me feel much, much better.

So, the big pieces of this are:

  • Only spending money on groceries, gas and bills
  • Settling our grocery budget for the month between $200-$300
  • Waiting

Waiting is probably the biggest piece of this – if we don’t actually need it, we’ll have to wait, is the idea. Distinguishing between a need a want feels challenging in the moment, but a reset of this kind does make a big difference. If you can wait for it, is it really something you need?

There’s an exception in the idea of groceries which is: The Cats.

The cats have two primary expenses that come from the grocery store: cat food and cat litter. They eat at a pretty consistent rate and their litter gets changed on specific days, so this is counted separate from the grocery budget because I know each month how much I’m going to spend on them.

Also, each paycheck, I set aside some money for them for vet fees, treats, boarding, etc. Cat’s aren’t particularly expensive creatures and the universe has blessed me with two very healthy ones, so It’s really just $50 a month for both of them that goes into a little savings account that’s there if something terrible happens to them. When I was really struggling financially and just had Javier, I could only set aside $5 a month, but it made a big difference when it was time to get his shots.

I make heavy use of sinking funds and if you aren’t familiar with them, I think this video is really helpful.

In some ways, it was good to have been quarantined. It gave me some necessary time to examine things like where our money goes, but also where it comes from – are we happy in our jobs? Do we want different ones? What about bringing in money on the side?

This is the first time in my life that I’ve just had one job. Usually I have two and go to school. It’s kind of boring, and I’m starting to have a lot of questions about what else I might like to be doing, in addition to my job. I’m sure you can relate.

I’m not really willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of “saving” money because when you do that, you don’t save anything.

Maybe I’ll think about writing more consistently. I came back to this space because I like that it holds me accountable – I think I’ll use it to track what I ended up spending, but more than that, it helps me to talk about the decision-making process. We usually spend anywhere from $600-$1,000 on groceries, and so opting for something so low is going to involve a significant adjustment in the choices we make. I think it’s important to write those things down. And maybe you’ll find them helpful, too. I’m not really willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of “saving” money because when you do that, you don’t save anything.

I think there’s something really important about talking about money. I want to keep doing it. I want to fight against the idea that it’s a taboo subject. I love to watch influencers like Jordan Page because they make it easy to forget that there’s a husband making six figures backing her “frugal” lifestyle. But that’s not really attainable for most of us, is it? It’s probably more realistic to think that someday, we might not live in apartments anymore. Someday, we might buy a new car or go on vacation. And maybe, just maybe, someday we’ll have a retirement account.

I’d like to keep it real. And talk about ways to shift from always feeling like you’re one step away from being homeless.

That might be more helpful.