There’s a Time to Dream…

…and a time to let go of dreams.

August 2009 was going a little better than average financially, and when the opportunity to own this 2005 Jaguar S Type 4.2L V8 without making a change in monthly payment, I couldn’t resist. Since before I had my license, I dreamed of owning a Jag! I achieved that dream. Honestly, I had no idea that I’d feel slightly uncomfortable driving it wondering what others thought of me owning such a “high status” car. Brand new, this car was over $40K. There are plenty of cars out there on the road that are in that same ballpark, but they don’t seem to raise the same eyebrows. It’s weird how some types of cars just bring out the “snoot” judgment.

From the front, the Jag S is beautiful with its grill and round headlights reminiscent of the 1961 Jaguar Mk2 Saloon. Even the lines down the sides bear a resemblance. The rear, however, looks very much like several other cars on the road, especially the older Hyundai Sonatas. The seats are comfortable, even for long drives. The ride is smooth. When you tell it to get up and go, it’s already there! Oh the power! Yet, I don’t find myself really using or needing all that power very much.

A few people warned me that it would spend more time in the shop than on the road. I knew when I got it that it needed the climate control repaired. Other than that, along the way, it certainly spent more time on the road than in the shop. I haven’t had any major issues landing it in the shop. The knock sensors were replaced around the mileage that they’d normally be replaced. There’s a mystery issue restricting performance for a mere few seconds that, as it turns out, is a common report among Jag owners (both S and X Types) during the Ford era (they owned Jaguar from 1989-2008). It usually happens before the engine is warm, then it stops and all is peachy!

Cut to a year after the Jag joined our fleet, and our financial situation changed, taking a blow to monthly income. At that moment, I knew that owning a Jag was truly living beyond our means. I was afraid we’d have to file bankruptcy and lose a lot. I’m finally being candid here because I’m tired of the shame that comes with suddenly being in a lower tax bracket and the way people seem to think of you when you say more often than you ever have, “I can’t afford it.”

How’s this for candid? In our early years of marriage, we messed up. We wanted to leave home and start our lives together in the same lifestyle we had at home. To do that, meant charging things. Credit cards became the devil, and we were oh so easily tempted. Because of credit cards and loans, I really never knew what it was like to truly fight for something. Want it? Get it now. It’s really quite twisted, the instant gratification society we live in. We did finally get to a place where we didn’t use the cards much at all. However, we weren’t making a dent in paying them off because of the interest rates. Soooo… immediately after being slapped with that financial change last year, we got into a debt management program through Money Management International (MMI). We now have that devil bound and gagged and are killing it much faster – four more years or less!

Things are still tight, though. Almost every dollar earned is earmarked for this payment or that. What scares the britches off me right now are the birthdays and Christmas right around the corner. :( I have money sitting somewhere that I can’t touch or discuss right now, and I’m really hoping that I’m allowed to touch it before Christmas. Before then, though, a couple other bills are going to be slashed a bit since, as of next Monday, both boys will be employed full time and neither are in school. They will be paying their share of the cell phone bill as well as insurance.

Back to that dream achieved, though. I’ve been thinking about letting go of my dream (the Jag) since spring. This past month, I’ve been researching and looking at other cars. I was hesitant to bring it up with Greg because of my past record with blowing through cars every two or three years (if you’re keeping track, I’ve had the Jag for just over two years now). I thought he’d roll his eyes and think, “Here we go again!” What’s that old saying about assuming? Well, he’s been thinking about dumping the Jag for about a month now as well but was afraid to suggest it to me because he knows how much I love this car. And I do. I really, really do! But it’s just a car. Just a car that I’ll undoubtedly end up hanging a picture of on my wall, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

We discussed some numbers at a dealership yesterday, and their first offer was only for half the payoff! Get the hockey puck outa here! So I posted it on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace today to see if there’s any interest. If not, Miss Kitty (yes, she has a name!) will remain with us for a bit longer. Of course, my mind also wonders what would happen if we did sell it but then didn’t qualify for another car loan anyway. I work from home! It’s a luxury for me to be able to take off whenever I want to run errands. Honestly, though, with some creative scheduling, we could get by as a one-car couple. At least for a while if we had to. It would definitely be a major adjustment for me since we’ve always had two cars. I think the sacrifice would be well worth it if it meant cutting another year off that get-out-of-credit-card-debt goal and being able to enjoy more entertainment (movies, theatre, even bowling).

If it does sell, it would be great if it did so before the end of November, which is the longest I can put off renewing the tags that expire the end of this month. 8O

So there’s the story! I bet far more people have stories and struggles of their own that they would rather keep tucked away and private. I don’t want to pretend I’m in a class I’m not, though. We’ve been in a scary place before, and a series of events pulled us out of it (more or less). We made it to a comfortable place for several years. This could lead into several more paragraphs, but I might have to turn it into a separate post another day. To the few who’ve made it to the end of this post, I’ve taken up enough of your time for today. ;)

UPDATE:

Having only one car turned out to be a scarier thought than I was comfortable with, so on Thursday, October 20, we traded the Jag in on a 2012 Kia Soul. I posted on Facebook: “I love the visibility (even at night!), the ride, the backup camera, and the UVO sound system. Most of all, I like that it’s more representative of my personality. Jag possibly portrayed a pretentious snob. This portrays someone a bit quirky, fun, and not afraid to be different — NO! Someone who PREFERS to be different!” :D

Christmas Extravagance Not a New Issue

…but it is a hard habit to break.

It’s so hard to avoid that look in little Johnny’s eyes. You know the one. He’s playing on the family room floor while watching cartoons on a Saturday morning when a commercial comes on for the coolest new gaming system … and then you see it. His full attention is now focused on that commercial, he sits up straighter, eyes darting left and right as he follows the action on the screen. Then the commercial’s over, and little Johnny jumps up and runs into the kitchen to beg, “Pleeeeease, can I have that???” And so it begins. Under the tree that year is that cool new gaming system along with a couple of games and maybe some extra controllers (because of course, they’re sold separately). They’ve got you now! In three years, the manufacturer of that gaming system is going to improve upon it with a brand new one. Then, not-so-little-anymore Johnny will come to you again to beg, “Moooooom, I gotta have it!”

It seems to makes sense to give something like this as a Christmas gift rather than buying it “just because” at any other time of year because it’s a time to bring joy to others through gift giving. There are those fortunate enough to afford to give expensive gifts without relying on credit cards to do so. There are also those who really can’t afford it but do rely on credit cards to buy them anyway and then suffer from Christmas debt hangovers (how to avoid this).

Christmas extravagance extending beyond your immediate family is not a new thing. It seems new because every year someone somewhere is having a conversation about what Christmas has become. I found this New York Times letter to the editor from 1910. I didn’t see the date on the article until I got to the bottom. It could have been written this year!

One solution offered in both of the preceding links is to reduce your gift exchange list. We did this years ago out of necessity. Another tip I started following is to budget how much to spend on each person. This is especially helpful when you have more than one child. It can be hard to keep things “fair”. Lucky for us, I started putting these things in place already. It might soften the blow compliments of our recent move to a lower income tax bracket.

Happy shopping everyone!