From the Blog

Happy Car, Happy Driver

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A couple weeks ago, I paid off my car. For the past year, I had been making double and triple payments every month. Every spare bit of money I scraped together, I put towards my car. I put my tax return into my car. I put overtime pay towards my car. When Dave reimbursed me for groceries or bills, I put the cash in my piggy bank and put it towards my car. Even though he doesn’t drive the car, Dave sits in it, and rides around with me a lot, and he contributed to the car too.

I made the final payment to the bank and the loan balance just disappeared. No congratulations or fanfare. It was sort of anti climactic. But I knew what it meant to me. It meant that with my car paid off, I am completely debt free. No credit cards, no student loans, no bail debts from all those times I got arrested. Debt free.

I think it’s the first time I’ve been debt free since I began taking out student loans in 1991. From the beginning, I never felt like I was good at handling money. Through my 20s and the first half of my 30s, I was always sinking more than swimming. It was more than just wanting to buy things but not having the money. Or thoughtlessly spending on credit and worrying about the mess later. Being tight on money caused a nebulous, low-grade, inescapable sense of dread. Calculating which bills to pay without bouncing checks. Laying awake at night, trying to process unfocused anxiety that bubbled up about everything in my life. Unrelated things. I didn’t know it at the time, but probably all my anxiety came from worrying about my money situation.

We’ve all been through this, right? Unless you are an asshole. Or one of those responsible types. Which is the same thing.

But the point though, is that I never ever thought I’d get to this stage. I never thought *I* would be one of those responsible ones. I became so accustomed to feeling like a child when it came to money. Like when I was a skinny, awkward teenager, I never thought I’d have boobs. I always figured I’d have huge knees and a flat chest. I just never thought I’d be one of those women shaped like a woman. I’m still quite awkward, and no longer skinny for sure, but still not quite used to being one of those women with, you know, boobs.

So I’m trying to let this feeling of “responsibility” settle in and get comfortable. I don’t want it to be temporary. Dave is also debt free and we both realize what a good position we are in to begin our married life together. I also realize we may not always have such luck. So I am reading up, following personal finance blogs like Get Rich Slowly and Simple Dollar, as well as “simplicity” blogs like Rowdy Kittens, Non Consumer Advocate and Frugal Babe. I’m trying to keep the momentum going. We still spend plenty of money, but I realize more and more all the time that we don’t need so much “stuff.” We don’t need to “keep up” with anyone. We don’t have to fulfill anyone’s expectations.

All the money I was pouring into the car can now go into savings, IRAs and maybe a down payment on a condo. Maybe. If the Portland market comes down more. By many indicators, Portland is still way overvalued. We aren’t in a hurry to go back into debt.

I figure I’ll keep my car for at least another five years, maybe ten. At the rate I drive, it will take me over ten years to get to 150,000 miles. If we move downtown, which is likely, the car will stay parked for weeks at a time. I want to get as close to a carfree lifestyle as possible. We’ll take the car out for road trips and camping. I’m probably in the minority of people who deeply, soulfully *love* to drive. Regular daily driving can be a drag, but recreational driving can be lovely. Mountains, coast, river, desert. There’s a lot to go see.

To commemorate fully owning my car, I took it in for a wildly expensive detail. It needed it. It was covered with dirt from winter grime, multiple camping trips, bird crap and three volcanoes. Even a wildly expensive detail was less than one monthly payment. And if I’m going to have it for the next ten years, I have to take care of it.

It will be a fun car to keep.


  1. Debt-free here, too. And kinda hoping the market slashes the price of the house I’m renting (and hope to buy) in half the next year. That’s realistic, right?

  2. Mazel tov!

  3. Meredith says

    I’m proud to say I’m not an asshole! (Wait… proud…?!) And a good detail is totally worth it on a car you love.

  4. i hate you. in a loving sort of way.

  5. Congratulations! but…”to get as close to a carfree lifestyle as possible”?? Clearly some re-indoctrination is required.

  6. Aah, to have no bail debt…

  7. I’ve been totally debt-free since 1992. I have no interest in burdening myself with a mortgage or a car debt — especially not a car debt. I like to live in town so I can walk most places and when I really need a car there are nice shiny new rentals or car-shares. I hope you’re able to get your 10 years out of your car – then it would have been worth all this scrimping and saving. So good on you both for getting out of that cycle of debt!

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