This guest post is by Toni South, single mom to a sassy 7-year-old daughter and founder of SmallKeyBigDoor.com where she writes about single mom life.
A few years ago, I fell in love with a cute silver convertible BMW. At the time I had just started a new job, ended a marriage, and bought a new house. My huge SUV was a gas guzzler and just no longer reasonable in my new life. I made a practical list of features I needed in a vehicle, created a reasonable budget, and did my research on used vehicles.
As I walked into CarMax that fateful day, my tidy folder of research was tossed to the side when I saw my dream car. This ride symbolized exactly what I wanted in my life at that time: freedom, success, fun, luxury and change. I was sold before I the test drive.
I made a new list of features I needed. Will the baby seat fit in the backseat? Yes! Will my dog fit in the passenger seat? Yes! Can I get a navigation system installed? Yes! SOLD!
The car may have cost more than what I planned, but it was still within my budget. I have no regrets about purchasing that vehicle. It took me on many beach trips and fun adventures. My daughter and I shared many awesome memories together in that car.
In February of this year, I found the need to completely re-asses my finances. I’d decided to leave my job of 3 ½ years with the goal to find a new job, spend more time with my daughter and launch my single mom blog Small Key Big Door. I had a small savings, but I had to take a hard look at my spending. Did my cute convertible fit into my plan?
GETTING REAL WITH MY VEHICLE BUDGET
I started by pulling out a sheet of paper and making a list of expenses related to my car to see what I was truly spending, where I could cut costs, and if I was in a position to make some changes. It took me less than an hour to do the initial legwork described below and realize my car was definitely holding me back personally, emotionally and professionally.
Monthly Car Payment – $590 per month
It may be a good idea to refinance if rates are considerably lower than when you got the loan. The payoff amount is important if you are considering selling because you need to be sure that you don’t owe more than what your car is worth. Kelley Blue Book is a good resource for determining your car’s value.
I found that I owed approximately what my car was worth, so refinancing wouldn’t be helpful because I would have ended up owing way more than what my car was worth over the long-term.
I had been making payments on time consistently, so I called my credit union and arranged to skip a payment. This gave me a little extra time to assess my situation. Sometimes lenders will let you do this for a small fee once per year as long as you have been paying on time.
Monthly Vehicle Insurance – $70 per month (New rate after changing policy)
To lower my premium, I called my agent directly. I was honest said I wasn’t concerned about maximum coverage. I was just concerned about getting the cheapest policy that legally covered me. She lowered my coverage to the state minimum and slashed $30 of my monthly premiums. Takeaway: Pick up the phone and call!
Monthly Average Cost of Gas – $233
I could have reviewed bank statements to see what I was spending on gas, but I didn’t want to waste of time and energy. I knew my car got approximately 25mpg and that I was putting around 20,000 miles per year on it. With gas prices hovering around $3.50 per gallon at the time, that meant I was averaging $233 per month in gas. Gas calculation:
20,000 miles per year divided by 25mpg = 800 gallons of gas needed per year
Multiply by $3.50 per gallon = $2,800 spent on gas per year
Divide by 12 = $233 per month in gas.
Check out current US gas prices in your area here.
Vehicle Taxes Averaged Monthly – Approximately $40 per month
Every state has different laws and taxes, but NC does vehicle tax bills once per year. I simply took the amount of my tax bill last year and divided it by 12 to get a monthly amount.
Monthly Maintenance – Approximately $125 per month
(New tires, tire rotation, oil changes, inspections, parts, etc.)
Since I was looking at an average cost per month of vehicle expenses, I looked at a full year of projected expenses and then divided that by 12. This doesn’t include any unexpected expenses.
Take a look at Emma’s article regarding maintenance fees for further information on this topic.
My total average monthly vehicle expenses: $1,058 per month, or $12,696 per year
Assessment: This car was holding me back!
I was shocked realized how much that BMW was costing me. After that, when I walked out to my car I got a sickening feeling in my stomach. The vehicle that used to symbolize freedom and fun to me was now making me nauseous. There was no doubt that car was holding me back.
I realized that if I sold the car at the beginning of summer, I could bide my time on committing to a new job until the end of the summer. Getting rid of that car meant that I could spend an entire summer with my daughter, something that I may never get to do again – and something that is a rarity for any single mom. During those months my grandmother passed away, and we spent her last weeks together. That time off also gave me the time and mental freedom to launch a website for single moms. I lost a luxury car, but I gained priceless life moments that can’t be calculated.
Instead of driving, we commute by foot or bicycle — which are good for my health and my purse. I plan to buy something much more practical and within my budget soon. Best cars for single moms.
Is your vehicle holding you back?
As single moms, one of our biggest areas of overwhelm is our finances. The financial stress you may be feeling could be a direct result of your car expenses. Sometimes it just takes a little number-crunching session to realize just how much your vehicle eats into your budget.
How about you? Have you ever totaled your vehicle expenses and made some changes based on the amount? Let me know in the comments!