Update on Lina the Mazda3, and reflections on What I Learn About Myself via Lina the Mazda3

In the beginning weeks of November… Lina the Mazda3 had two $500 problems that cropped up on Wednesdays.  The first problem was a sort of “Oh, well, she’s an old car”… but the second $500 problem was found to have caused the first and set me off into a small histrionic fit that had me hovering my hand over the big red button that said “TRADE IN”.

I did not trade her in, and two more Wednesday’s have gone by and the Check Engine Light has stayed off.  Also, I seem to be getting slightly better mileage and aside from a few “Some contents have shifted” cold weather rattles, Lina is pooting along as lovely as before.

I realize that had I rushed and traded in Lina it would have been a silly decision. Lina is paid off and still drives well and looks good (she is still getting the “wait… THAT’S A 2004!?” compliments.)  So she doesn’t flag under the “Doesn’t feel safe” or “Looks so old it makes you sad” criteria given to me by my parents.  She also only has one weird issue (“Oh, sometimes the A/C wigs out and turns itself off.  Just turn the fan off and back on and it’ll work again”) so she doesn’t meet the “If you can’t hand the keys over without a lecture or a pamphlet” criteria of my friends (Who I think got it from Car Talk).  Also, the cost of a cheap-ass new car or semi-nice used car would start at around $200 a month.  So financially, since Lina is safe and looks nice and they keys only come with one footnote… she has an unplanned maintenance allowance of $2400 a year.

So, going into my 3-ring binder of service history (Of course I have a 3 ring binder with receipts/service reports from every time maintenance was done.  Why don’t you?)  This year she had a coolant/transmission flush and a new engine mount in June for about $380 extra, new spark plugs in September for about $60 extra, The new fuel system check pump for $518, and the new magic plastic fuel tank disc for $512 in November.  So assuming Lina can hold it together and not have any issues that cost more than $930 to fix between now and Jan 1… it’s cheaper to keep ‘er.  And to be honest, the tune-up stuff (coolant/transmission/spark-plugs) shouldn’t really count.

Granted, it sucks to get suddenly have to pay a $1000 larger-than usual credit card bill… But really, I’ve gotten so on top of my financial game with YNAB that it wasn’t threatening “The Big financial responsibilities (in order of importance:  Taxes, mortgage, insurance, student-loan-and-car-payoff, retirement, groceries, drag-queens, restaurants)  it just meant I had to empty some of my smaller savings buckets (“new fan/chandelier for living room.” “Big, Shiny UPS that can actually tell all my computers to gracefully shut down in the case of a power outage”,  “New computer of some sort in two years or so.” “Fund to take down humongous pine trees sometime in the future”) and leave an IOU in them for the next 3 paycheck month (In January).

As an aside, I noticed a bunch of people sassing Eric for essentially doing what I’ve asked him to do very early-on in our relationship, which is help me on willpower saving throws against the shiny.

[A]s writer Charles Stross would put it, the ability to make a saving throw against the shiny; i.e., internalizing the idea that you don’t need every new thing just because it’s nice and pretty and can do one thing that thing you have like it can’t do. This is a tough one for me, I admit. I do so love the shiny, and sometimes I give in when I shouldn’t (as long as I have the money for it). But most of the time, I buy well, and buy to last — and then use it until it begs me to let it die. And then I use it for a year after that! Grandpa would be proud.  – Scalzi, whatever blog

I have a low genetic and imbued resistance to the shiny.  I grew up upper middle class and have a birthday right-opposite from Christmas.  Thus I grew up with the notion that I could get Whatever I Want about Twice A Year and would scan television trying to figure out what the best candidate for what that semi-annual shiny thing would be.  I’m also very smart and have amazing rationalization powers.  Luckily growing up I also had My Brother… who basically played bad-cop and warned me away from the dangers of bad-money-management right around the time I was getting to drive:

“Okay, we have Internet.  Get on the computer and research how much it is to Insure a 16-year-old male in North Carolina with a brand new car like that Dodge Neon you want.  Oh look!  It’s $300 a month!  That’s the same payment as the neon itself.  It’s like they’re expecting you to immediately run it into something! Now, look at how much it is to insure a 1988 Camry like the one mom is planning to give you… Oh look, $180 a month… way more reasonable… and if you keep it going… you can save up and get whatever car you want at a better rate”

He also warned me about credit cards.  And told me I would despite his warnings run up a huge bill and have to deal with it right after college, and he was completely right.  He is also the one who bought me YNAB for my birthday a few years ago.

Eric is my new bad cop.  He agreed to fight with me and shoot each of my rationalizations in the kneecaps and make me sleep on things to consider my want vs need of a thing.   I have been able to talk him into stuff (Miata, Wood Flooring, Cairo) but it took about a month per $3000 of discussion (two months per $4000 if it wasn’t something he really wanted as well).  Hence we’re always bickering about things I want and whether I really need them or whether it’s just another flight of fancy with whatever shiny thing that caught my fancy.  And we both sort of enjoy the bickering more than we let on.  And the bickering is directly proportional to how fascinated/mesmerized/immediate my fascination is.

So yeah, it wasn’t Lina’s time… and Eric was monumental in talking me away from the Candy-Apple-Red Trade-In button… and the fact that neither of us died wrongful deaths during that process is no small testament to our esteem for each other.

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