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You still haven’t gotten a car yet? part two; deciding to donate my car

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Disclaimer: Finances and money management are personal decisions, and this particular series is not meant to tell the reader what to do or how to live their lives. It’s meant to reflect on my own experiences, lessons about personal contentment and delayed gratification, and kick around some alternative ways of thinking about a fun topic which affects everyone; money.

This article is a continuation of the You still haven’t gotten a car yet? series. Part two will talk about the events surrounding my decision to donate my car and not immediately replace it.

The Veterans Association came and took away my 1996 Saturn, SL2 in June of 2012, and left me a receipt for my taxes. There are many who would have said that the Saturn should have been gone a long time ago. My father gave some good advice which was greatly appreciated, “You’ll know when you need a new car. You decide that and don’t let anyone else tell you what to do.”

By the time April of 2012 came around my feeling was that it was time to let the car go, and there were no immediate plans to get another car. A very costly front end structural repair that gobbled up my 2011 income tax return let me know that it was time. Two months later on my way home after our inaugural NOVA STEM Alliance career festival and the cable connecting the stick shift to the gears in the engine broke. Fortunately, it was in a residential neighborhood and not on an expressway. Otherwise there could have been a serious accident.

“To replace that cable, it’s going to be $700,” said Jerry in his southern drawl at the Midas shop on Duke Street in Alexandria, Va. Jerry and that Midas shop had become quite familiar to me during that time period due to numerous visits. Interestingly, Jerry once told me, “Your Saturn is actually a good car. When they get older some things just need fixing. I have a truck with over 200,000 miles on it and I’m going to drive until it drops.”

By that point though my willingness to put more money into my Saturn was gone, as my goal was now to make my life more financially peaceful just as we were teaching at my church. The car had now become an expense which could no longer be justified.

After returning from a trip to Albany it was strange not seeing a car in my parking space anymore. Me and the Saturn had gone on quite a few adventures together, and it was like a piece of me was gone.
Still following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps as described in Financial Peace University, my goal was to cut expenses and that was the most important thing. Quite a bit of time was spent thinking about life without a vehicle leading up to the donation of my car, primarily about using public transportation and not having the convenience readily at my fingertips anymore.

The transition was actually pretty easy aside from some of the feedback described in part one, and as will be described in part four of this series. Not owning a car for me was actually like a breath of fresh air especially now that my physical health was back and doing simple things like walking were possible following a hip replacement.

What also factored into my decision was that my job was only 20 minutes from my residence, which was in close proximity to Washington, DC’s subway system, as well as multiple bus routes. In fact my condo unit was purchased almost three years earlier with the understanding that my Saturn wouldn’t be with me much longer.

“You’re going without a car for while? That’s smart and you’re going to save a lot of money,” said a friend, mentor, and the owner of the tutoring service who finds clients for me. He continued, “If you can get by on public transportation and don’t have to own one and the associated costs for a while, then do it.”

This series will be continued in part three of this series.

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