Understand Your Finances
Savings Diaries: How not buying a car is driving us toward our goals
This is part of Savings Diaries, an original series in which people share how they try to reach key savings goals during 2018. It is part of a broader Chase initiative to encourage more Americans to save money.
Spring is here, and our 2018 savings goals are still on track! Normally, we would've abandoned our New Year's resolutions by now. But we're exercising more, eating better.
We have three major financial goals. We want to budget more for travel, save more for retirement, and contribute more of our time and money to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. So far, we've found some creative ways to cut back on our spending. We've replaced some of our favorite splurges with cheaper alternatives, and become meticulous about grocery shopping and meal planning. We've found fun and cheap ways to stay entertained. In fact, we just started a book club.
A tough decision
One of the biggest changes has involved our driving situation. David drives a 16-year-old hatchback and dreams of buying a new car. The one he wants costs about $30,000, and we saved $20,000 for a down payment. But when it came time to make the purchase, we reconsidered our plan.
To achieve our major goals, we need to grow our two businesses—the Debt Free Guys website and the "Queer Money" podcast. Driving a new car would feel good, but taking out a loan won't help our career goals. In fact, working out the math, we realized that waiting to buy a car will help our entire budget in several ways.
We'll avoid a car payment
To buy David's dream car, we would need a $10,000 auto loan. A 36-month used car loan at 4.14 percent—the rate we would likely get—would give us a monthly car payment of about $300. That's pretty low compared to $479, the average US monthly car payment, but for two people who haven't had a car payment in seven years, it feels like a lot.
It also adds up: $300 a month equals $3,600 a year. That's roughly 2,182 slices of avocado toast—or the price of a one-week trip to Barcelona, Spain, complete with two round-trip plane tickets.
We'll save on auto insurance
While our current car isn't exciting, insuring it only costs $88 per month—a far cry from the $140 per month we'd spend on a new luxury sedan. By holding off, we'll save $52 per month, in addition to the $300 that we would be paying for an auto loan.
That adds up to $624 per year. That's two non-stop, round-trip flights to visit our family back east—or 11 percent of the maximum annual contribution into one of our Roth IRAs.
We'll grow our business
Instead of spending our $20,000 on a car, we invested half of it into our business. We made our website more user-friendly and easier to navigate, began creating a personal finance course, and improved our podcast's production values. We did most of the work on our own, which was less expensive than paying professionals. However, we had to buy new computers and recording equipment, and had to give up some of our paid gigs. The money from our down payment helped ease the expenses.
We set aside the other $10,000 as a cushion to help cover our living costs when our household income fluctuates. In 2017, for example, two-thirds of our income came in the first two quarters. Later in the year, when we began working on our website, podcast and course, the investment of time and energy meant that we weren't bringing in quite as much money. Right now, our business income is low, but these changes should help make us more consistently profitable.
Trimming an expense
When we realized how much we'd save from not buying a new car, we decided to go a step further. Because we rarely need a car at the same time, we're donating our old hatchback to a charity and downsizing to a one-car family. Giving up the car will benefit our community and our budget—and will save us about $90 per month.
Until next time, enjoy spring!
John Schneider and David Auten are Chase News contributors. Their work has appeared in Business Insider and Forbes.