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Sticking to Your Financial Goals — Even When it Hurts

My friend, Jen, has an incredibly encouraging post up about their “hunk ‘o junk” minivan and how she’s learning to let go of her ego and drive it –peeling paint, dents and all — so that they can stay on track with their financial goals.

If you’re struggling with playing the comparison game and worried about what other people might think of the financial choices you’re making, I think you’ll be inspired and blessed by her post.

And I just have to say, that after I saw the pictures of the minivan she’s driving, our beloved Old Blue doesn’t look that bad. Oh wait, I guess that’s playing the comparison game, too. 🙂

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  • Kerry D. says:

    I say more power to both of you, with the aesthetically challenged vehicles–what a great way to move forward to financial goals. Bottom line for me–does the vehicle run? reliably? We are really hurting this year, because our vehicles (2001, 2003, and I think 2000–two parents and adult child college student) keep breaking down and requiring significant repairs. Thousands total–each around a thousand to $1400. It’s very discouraging. Putting off purchases, using coupons, cooking from scratch–it’s darn near impossible to keep up with major car repairs.

  • Sarah says:

    Dave Ramsey would be proud. Thank you for posting her story! What an inspiration!

  • Lisa says:

    My husband and I drove our Toyota Camry for over 15 years and over 330,000 miles. The car was a medium blue when we bought it new. After 5 years I called her old blue. At 11 years, one of my students asked me why I call my silver car “old blue”.

    • Stephanie says:

      @Lisa, We are currently driving a 2001 Camry that has almost 250,000 miles on it. It has a nice crack in the windshield, but runs like a dream. (we plan on getting the windshield fixed as soon as we can afford to!). Ours is green so we call it the green monster! And we are praying it gets as much mileage as yours!!

      • karla says:

        @Stephanie, some insurance companies will pay for a new windshield. Call your agent.

      • Juli says:

        @Stephanie, Get that crack fixed ASAP. I saw an automobile safety documentary (I’m a loser 🙂 ) and they demonstrated how a small crack could disable the safety bags in case of an accident.

        The force of the safety bags would put so much pressure on the windshield that it blows out the whole front windshield. The safety bags end up either cut or collapsed.

    • Lindsey says:

      @Lisa, Good for you! I drove a 1998 Green Toyota Camry for 5 years before it got too small for us. It never broke down and was a wonderful car. I sold it with 175,000 miles and still ran like new. Camry’s are awesome cars!!

    • Stephanie says:


      You guys make me feel so much better about our “young” Camry that, though it is a 1999, has ONLY 186,000 miles. I am shooting for at least 200,000 and DH was joking about going till 300,000. Maybe it won’t be a joke. It does run great, and I just recently did a “30,000 mile” type check up on it as I haven’t done that in while because it has been going so well. I did buy some touch up paint to cover some small scratches … it no longer matches, but it took me a while to figure out why. =)

  • Jennifer says:

    I need to print that post and show it to my hubby! He drives a ’99 Chevy S10 that is bleached by the AZ sun with about 150k miles on it. It runs great (knock on wood), but he keeps talking like he needs to get rid of it. We like being weird in other areas of our life, so I think he needs to get a little more weird when it comes to his truck, LOL.

  • Meredith says:

    If you keep up your cars oil changes and maintenance, cars last a long time. We have two, one ten years old and one six years old. Both are paid off. The only thing we don’t keep up with is detail work but all we have are chips and dings from hail. Not too many though. I do believe that car maintenance should be part of your savings goals at all times. No, “oh no! I need new tires soon, better start saving.” Something could happen at anytime and vehicles can be the deadliest weapon out there. So if the car is safe, Who cares what it looks like!

  • hope for the future says:

    I, too, have an incredible car story. I drove a car that I paid $500 for. I drove this car for four years, investing minimal amounts for necessary repairs only. It was scratched, paint peeling, front bumper missing,….not a pretty site. I saved $50 a week, no matter how broke we were, and trust me there were times. I added my income tax returns for two years to it and poof…I now drive a fully loaded used Acura that is beautiful and totally paid for with cash! It was worth every sacrifice and I continue to save $25 a week, regardless, for the next vehicle.

  • Michelle says:

    Paid off cars are a lot more attractive than shiny and new! Our 2002 Land Rover just turned 100,000 and is only worth $1000 trade in so as long as it runs, it is very valuable to us.

  • Sarah says:

    I prefer to call my car’s appearance a “theft deterrent”, aka it is so dang ugly nobody would steal it. I wonder if that would get me a discount on my auto insurance?

  • Spendwisemom says:

    We drove a 1976 Subaru for several years and had our kids drive it when they were old enough. It only had an AM radio. But, other teenagers thought it was a cool classic car and several people in town offered to buy it. One of my kids backed into something with that car or we would still be driving it. It only had 15,000 when we bought it and we had it for about 6-7 years. I always knew that no one was coveting my car! It also helped me remember that a car is made to get you where you need to go and this took us wherever we needed to go even though it wasn’t the newest car in town.

  • Lindsey says:

    Good for her! Instead of always having to take my car in, I just married my mechanic! 🙂 We go with what is reliable for the longest time, Toyota. I have never owned a brand new car, and probably never will. But that’s ok, what you have should not reflect who you are. You don’t need a brand new car every 3 years to look good. And I’m ok with that. I have a 1997 4Runner 4×4, there was no way I could afford a 2010 like I wanted, but it runs, and it’s in decent shape. Good enough!

  • sarah says:

    I feel the same way with my family and cars, hubby and i have paid off used cars since i’m now at home with the kids. My mom and my sis’s leases both just came up and there were two nice new shiny cars in my driveway recently. Part of me was jealous but part of me realized I would have to give up something else to make a car payment. For now my jeep does it job, even after 12 years.

  • Ginger says:

    Before you and your husband get rid of Old Blue Van, please take pictures and write (another) blog entry about this. From people I know and from listening to Dave Ramsey, I see over and over again how people are broke and in debt and *say* they desperately want to stay at home with their kids, yet they have two new cars with car payments in the driveway. This topic of cars needs more attention.

    • Katie says:

      @Ginger, I couldn’t agree more!! It’s all about the choices you make in life. It gets old hearing people say “I can’t afford to stay home” and then seeing brand new cars, giant houses, expensive meals out, vacations, ect.

      • Allison V. says:

        @Katie, No kidding! Tell me that *after* you get rid of the cable, the eating out, the Starbucks, the name-brand clothes….There is a gal in my small group who despises going to work, and maybe they don’t have many options, but I know where they live and what they drive. I know they could cut corners somewhere! I stay home, and we have nothing extra, but it’s worth it!

  • shelly says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s so good to have reminders when everyone around us is going on vacations and buying new things!

  • The car I drive is 12 years old but just 105k miles on it. The a/c doesn’t work, the antenna is messed up, the brakes are mushy, the seatbelts don’t go back into the thingy that holds them… so I just drive it locally but it works, it’s been paid off for years.

  • Heather says:

    Like most kids, I was easily embarrassed about many things, especially my family’s vehicles.

    Now, at age 38, I have come to the point that I would be embarrassed to drive a fancy new car. Maybe it’s just that I move in humbler circles, but I like driving older vehicles.

    I am a lot happier now, since my attitude has changed! And if I were rich, with my old attitude and the fancy car, I bet I would still find things to be embarrassed about.

  • peever says:

    Ha! I’m currently driving the same Ford Windstar mini van that she’s driving. Mine also has a dent in the rear quarter that my husband hasn’t gotten around to fixing yet. We also decided to replace the transmission in ours when it went out and there’s several other things that don’t work on it.

    I try to not let it bother me, but I’m not going to lie, I can’t wait until we’re able to afford a new-to-us vehicle!

  • Tami says:

    We also have “hunk o junk” car – a ’92 Saturn. We’re not sure how much longer it will last (the odometer stopped working years ago) but it runs! And we’re so very thankful for it! No a/c in the Florida summer heat is brutal, but it’s a nice excuse for an icee drink!

    It’s very freeing not to worry about it getting scratched, or heck even keeping it clean – I have better things to do 🙂

  • Lesa says:

    My husband drives an old 1993 Chevy S10 that has almost 400,000 miles on it driving 60 miles each way to work every day. Poor thing has all kinds of dents, some rust, & a lopsided bumper but it still runs pretty good. Have had the occassional minor repair but nothing major yet. Just had to put a new fuel pump ($100) on it. We just finished our new vehicle fun so we’re ready when the time comes. YAY!!

  • Jenn says:

    My last car was an “Old Blue” as well. The mechanics named it. It was a 16 year old Pontiac 6000 and had nearly 200,000 miles on it when I got rid of it. As crazy as the car made me, I loved it and it was hard to let it go. But it was time. We donated it and I couldn’t let it go un-named so I left a letter in the glove box.

    So that’s another way to look at it. Give the car a name and treat it like a member of the family.

  • Shirley says:

    I can so relate. I’m driving what I call “Gus the Bus”. It is a ’91 Dodge full-size van. I cringe at times when I pull into a place and think people are looking cause Gus has seen better days. But he was $800 at an auction and was a gift from my stepdad, which means I have no car payment and my insurance dropped about $50 a month. There are times when I really want to get something different, but I really want to cash. It has been nice having no car payment, a little freeing!

  • Hollaina says:

    My husband has a 2006 Ford Taurus, and I drive my 1996 Toyota Camry (which has a little over 100,000 miles, working a/c and everything). I see no need for us to spend money to get newer cars at this point. My mother has a nice car which she plans on selling to us in a few years when she upgrades. I’ll gladly pay cash for a used car I know is in good condition and maintained instead of financing a new one.

  • Ginger says:

    I drive a wonderful 1994 Lexus with 180,000 miles on it. This car has “lived” all over the US — from New Jersey to Minneapolis to Chicago to Texas to the Pacific Northwest. I bought this car four years ago for $2500 (yes, I bought a near-perfect Lexus for $2500!) from a friend whom I knew took great care of her. Her body is in pristine condition, and even a mechanic commented on how smooth of a ride she is. A/C blows ice cold. Only things wrong with her are the leather seats are split in the upper back seats, where the sun shines the most, the driver’s seat belt does not properly recoil back into its slot near the door (and that was *my* fault!), and some kids broke the radio antenna. I have had two mechanics tell me that this car will easily go to 300K. They both commented on how great Lexus/Toyotas are.

  • Shannon says:

    I have to say, we live in a middle-class neighborhood and one of our neighbors is a stay-at-home mom with two beat-up old cars in the drive. I don’t know their story at all, but every time I go by, it inspires me to live differently and not worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Who cares what you drive? I’d be proud to drive a clunker if it was safe, fit my family, and was paid for!

    We drive two Camrys and both were used. One was a gift from DH’s parents and the other we bought right after we were married. We got a good deal on the one we bought, but still had to finance about 1/2 of it. NEVER AGAIN. At the time, we thought it was a great decision, and it is a safe, newer car that we don’t have to worry about breaking down anytime soon, but if we had it to do over again, we’d get something older that we could buy with cash.

  • Karla says:

    I look forward to reading it. It’s difficult for anyone, especially in such economic times not to compare from time to time. I have to admit though, this time in history when so many are unemployed, having trouble from month to month, although it’s no fun, one thing is for sure, there is comfort in knowing that others are in the same place. It’s not like you’re the one off situation, there are thousands and thousands of people in the same shoes, so it’s not really taboo, it’s kind of the norm.

    I love using what we have and making a game of how much I can save and how little I can spend. I love your website for deals, freebies and great advice, I pop over regularaly and love your ideas.

    Have a blessed week!

  • Jan says:

    We had a hunk of junk 2000 Malibu that was all rusted out but it ran good at 160k miles. It’s been paid of for years. We finally sold it to someone getting out of prison for $750 and bought another older used car.

  • I remember when I was in middle school my dad had an old Lincoln- one of the ones that was as big as a boat. I was so embarrassed by it and hated it so much. Well, one day I missed the bus and my dad had to drive me to school and of course his huge gold car decided to breakdown right where all of the busses pulled into the school parking lot. I sunk so low in my seat as all of my school mates stared out the bus windows at the ugly broken down car.

    I was horrified back then but now I laugh. I learned an important lesson from my dad that day (and the many other times I was embarrassed by him)- just be yourself and who cares what others think of you. If only I can embarrass my kids enough to get that lesson through to them…

  • celia says:

    I struggle with accepting that the way we live is within our means and being happy with what we have. Our luxury is me staying home with our son. To afford that we live in a row home and have a used car dealership in our backyard. It can be difficult for me to visit our friends and see their lovely homes( and matching furniture).. But I just remind myself that caring for our son comes first and there is plenty of time for us to get nice furniture. He is only a baby once.
    My car is a cream puff compared to Old Blue Van, an 02 with about 95 thousand miles on it.

  • PJ says:

    I love this post! I drive a 1999 Toyota Sienna van. It has 150.000 miles on it and still runs GREAT! We are saving up for a new vehicle and will pay cash. But the longer I wait, the more I am not wanting to part with the cash. 🙂

    Funny story – a few “friends” were at the pool this past summer talking about how great their new vehicles were and how their payments didn’t go up that much. I was listening and thinking about how silly they all were taking on higher car payments. They turned to me and I said “That’s crazy! I am still driving around in my 10 year old van with no car payments. I am going to drive that thing until it dies!” They thought that was the most novel idea they had ever heard. One of them even said to me, “You mean you don’t have to have a car payment? I never thought about that before. That would be so great!”

    Yes, it is a subject that needs more attention. 🙂

  • Allison V. says:

    I so had to laugh at the comments on the original post from people who’s definition of “hunk o’ junk” was “an almost 10-year-old” car! Ha! I couldn’t tell you if people are looking at my 14-year-old Aurora with “paint cancer” or not, because I’m too busy cramming three kids into their carseats in the back. That, and too busy blowing past them all with my V8. My kids say my car sounds like Lightning McQueen! =) I love my car, but I’m ready for a minivan!

  • Jen says:

    I wish the comparison game didnt exist~
    We have 1 1/2 cars! yes, I say 1/2 because we have a second car… but its dying… its bleeding to death in our garage. Transmission fluid and all. Right now its dying over a flatten, opened up, cardboard box.
    Needless to say, we would LOVE a new car. We want a van or a large SUV… But we are waiting until my husbands car is payed off (10 month and counting) So for the meantime, we are a one car family… Wait, my bad, a 1 1/2 car family (until we bury our 1/2 car). I try to not let it get to me that I might have to wait until my husband gets home from work to go to the grocery store… or that my friend has to sometimes pick my son and I up for playdates. Its embarrassing sometimes, but I try to stay focussed and look at the big picture. GOOD CREDIT, STAY OUT OF DEBT. Trying not to be selfish… and trying to be THANKFUL for what God has provided us.

  • Dawn says:

    This is so fun reading about everybody’s “hunk-o-junks”!!~ LOL!!
    I drive a 2000 Ford Excursion that we purchased brand new in Oct of 2000 because of our rapidly growing family. It currently has over 285,000 miles on it, and we have never done anything to it but regular tune-ups and replace the fuel pump twice. We live waaayyy out in the country, so “town” is 40 minutes away for us, and we have to go to town several times a week.(church, music lessons, etc)
    My husband was an auto mechanic in a former life, LOL, so I hope to keep driving it for a long time to come. Or at least until the kids are big enough to keep something else reasonably clean!!

  • Rebecca says:

    I really appreciate this post.
    For the last two years we have drove 2001 two door cavalier and 2000 two door ford exploer. (Two tall adults and a growing 2 year old) The expolorer needed a transmission and we continued to baby it with Trans-X. The caviliar was in and out of the shop. Still for the last four years we have had no car payment. We made it through the rough and tough. Thank you Dave Ramsey for keeping us on track. This past summer by the grace of God we got into our first house and qualified for the 8,000 tax stimlus money. We recently got the check in the mail. Oh how tempting to try to go purchase a 7,000-8,000 dollar car/truck. We looked and looked and decided to go for a more practice car. We purchased a 2000 Dodge mini van for 3,000. We wanted to make better financial decisions about a car/truck purchase and continue to build our savings account.
    Thanks for letting me share our frugual story.

  • Gloria Brown says:

    We also have an older car 1994 Honda Civic. My husband gets teased pretty bad about his ‘pink car’ to which he says ‘it’s camilla red’ but I would still drive it if it were pink because it gets way over 30 miles to the gallon and is paid for!! Then he usually throws in and by not having a car payment we will have our house paid off in a few years.

  • I’m all for keeping cars until they die. Our cars our 14.5 and 10 years old. But being old doesn’t mean they have to look or run like garbage. There never seems to be a happy medium when people do car posts.

    We keep up with all maintenance, including preventive maintenance. Our 1996 Civic has had the timing belt changed twice now, per manufacturer’s recommendation. Routine maintenance matters! It’s what keeps a car from costing a small fortune in repairs. We take our cars in as soon as anything is amiss. Our mechanic has complimented us on how well we take care of our cars. Also, I only use an expensive synthetic oil in our car, which I supply to the mechanic for oil changes. It’s more costly up front, but over time, it makes a difference. Because of all this, we’ve had to do very few repairs on our cars.

    I’ll be honest here: image does matter to me, to some degree. I don’t mind driving older cars, but I do NOT want them looking old and ugly. We have touch-up paint for both of our cars, which we apply when dings and/or chips appear. I also wax the cars with a really fantastic product. When I used it for the first time last year on our Civic, I had several people ask me if we’d gotten a new car!

    I also believe in maintaining collision insurance. I’d rather pay $500 for something that’s my fault, than shell out a few thousand for another car, should it be totalled. I understand that many people disagree with that, including, I assume, Dave Ramsey and other financial types. That’s fine; we can disagree. The cost of insurance is minimal.

    • Susan says:

      Anne Marie, thanks for your comment about maintaining collision insurance. I agree 100%. Our 2001 and 2001 SUVs have been paid off for years, but they still have way fewer than 100,000 miles, have been kept the way you keep yours, and would be worth repairing if they were in minor accidents. I used one of Dave Ramsey’s insurance ELPs recently to update our insurance coverage, and she agreed with me. Besides, it’s not the collision that costs so much for us, it’s the liability (with three under-21 drivers).

      • @Susan, liability! That’s what I meant. Maintaining liability. I’d rather pay a $500 deductible if something is my fault and get it fixed, than drive a smashed-up car that’s probably now out of alignment. I’m just being honest in saying that image does matter to me somewhat. Just as I don’t want to leave the house looking like a wreck, I don’t want my car looking like one either.

  • Margaret Lind says:

    Her van would be a definite “upgrade” for me … When my husband died a year ago, our only operating vehicle was a 1977 Lincoln. I’ve driven it all along and still will until I’m in a position to buy something better, and I’m actually considering an older model pickup truck, for the lower insurance rates, low-cost repairs and that handy box in back to put things in — like the lawn mower when it needed a repair! Here’s to “oldies” …

  • Joy says:

    This is why I love this board. It makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one who drives a hunk of junk blue minivan. It’s a 2002 Town & Country with over 120,000 miles on it. The driver’s side power window no longer works and neither does the driver’s side passenger door. But it is was paid off a couple of years ago! The only thing I hate is that it is a gas guzzler. So am I really saving money in the long run by driving an inefficient fuel hog?

    I also feel less alone that we are not the only family that doesn’t go on vacation. We do day trips or go camping, but have never been on a real vacation.

    • Heather says:

      @Joy, Some of the best times that we have are when we point the car and go for the day. You don’t have to spend on the Disney vaction and your kids will not hate you I promise.

  • Heather says:

    I have to laugh as I am reading some of these. When we had #4 and needed a car to fit us all my hubbie wanted a 2005 Durango with leather seats and every bell and whistle. When I showed him the no frills white 1997 8 seater Suburun that I wanted to my suprise he agreed. We payed cash for it and I love driving a payed off car. I had to use my father-in-laws car the other day and I was so dang scared of putting a scratch on it I parked as far away from other cars as I could. He always trades in every two years. I would rather not have to worry about sticky hand prints and little straches.

  • Page says:

    A very encouraging post! I read the linked post about the mini-van and was inspired to keep saving for my new car, and stick to the financial plan that we have set up!

  • Amanda says:

    My husband and I have been trying to keep up with our friends and family since we got married. We recently realized we needed to make some serious changes in our spending and saving routines. We’ve started following Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace plan. I hope in time we can pay off our debt and never rely on credit again!
    I am driving a 2002 mini van that is rusting and has needed lots of repairs, but I’m determined to drive it until it until it’s paid off/dies and I can pay cash for something different.
    I can’t believe how selfish I have been with respect to the things I thought I NEEDED to have. I have two little boys and want nothing more than to be home with them but at this point in time that isn’t possible. My job provides our health insurance and it’s needed to help pay off our debts. My goal is to be able to be home with home and afford to have one more!
    I’m so glad I found your blog! I’m getting lots of great ideas to help my family.

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