I was dropping my roommate off at the airport when my car’s check engine light came on. My heart sank immediately. Three thoughts raced through my head: 1) I need my car! 2) If it blows up right now I’ll die! 3) I can’t afford any repairs!
When you are living on a tight budget, any unexpected expense that comes up is a nightmare. It can wreck your budget for months to come and derail any plans you have in place (paying off debt, savings, that fun trip you had planned). It seems unfair that you should have to dip into another budget to pay for some unforeseen event.
I drove my car to an autoshop and had them run a test to see why the engine light came on. My car is a four cylinder sedan and two of them are misfiring. This is a pretty common problem and not a huge deal- my car wasn’t going to blow up on me after all. However, it was going to cost me about $250 to fix it and the sooner the better. I tried really hard not to resent the nice man who was going to fix my car but when someone is taking that much money from me, I do always get a little upset. I can’t help it! Since I was on my way out of town that evening, I had to put off fixing it until after the holidays.
So merry Christmas to me. This incident did make me wonder though- how much money am I spending a year on my car? A quick guesstimate would be around $1300, not including gas. That $1300 would be my insurance, registration, $300 for yearly repairs (last year I spent $300 on a new battery and spark plugs) and two oil changes a year. That’s not an accurate number and since it doesn’t include gas it’s definitely me lowballing. That’s a lot of money! I need my car to get to catering events and my coaching job (which earn me way more than that $1300) but maybe someday in the future I won’t need a car. Saving around $1900 a year (here I’m including gas) on car expenses would be a really nice chunk of change for me!
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.