Author Topic: Car shopping. My life of living with a non-frugler. (Yes that's a word now)  (Read 3344 times)

Illillis

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Greetings and salutations MMM forum community,

As I sit here on a day off, I cannot help but laugh at the fact that MMM topics now seep into my "free-time".

Over the better part of a year, I have been implementing strategies in mustachian style to produce as much harm reduction to the planet and my wallet as possible. Biking is up, driving is down, Costco is kicking ass, as is the organic CSA we joined ($800 for 7 months of fresh veggies, what!?), dinners out are down, saving is up, 401k is maxed for employer match, high deductibles selected as we are healthy, and we are crushing all consumer sucka debt (from the party in this partnership who is not typing this post). With exception of student loans, we will be free from car payments in 2 months. Prior to my exposure to the MMM community, I had my 93 BMW 3 series die and got into a leased VW Jetta which will be up in January. Dumb. Here's 5k over 3 years and nothing to have after the fact VW. Damn you!

Which brings us to today's posting. My wife drives for her job. She is an in-home therapist with a social work degree. Her most recent job where she reported to an office had her driving 30mi/day for a 50k salary with "eh" quality benefits. She now makes 93k before tax, and now is on projection for 20k miles this year. She will be able to count this as a business write off according to our accountant, but we are coming up on a major decision in January when my lease is up. Car purchasing (dun dun dunnnn).

It is assumed that I will be continuing in January with the soon to be owned '11 Mazda3 which is a piece of crap, but I don't think car payments are the answer anymore and who cares since it's just a box to get from point A to point B anyways, right? So let's call that a checkbox for now until I have slowly amassed enough for a used LEAF or Fit, or Prius.

But to the topic of my 20k mile driving spouse. Simple answer right? Prius. Storage space for therapy supplies, good on gas, plenty abound for used purchases at reasonable prices for our income.

The conversation went like this:

Mrs: "So when your lease is up, I need a new car."
Me: "You need, or want?" (You can already see, I'm a complete people person...she is so lucky)
Mrs: "Yeah, need."
Me: "Okay. Well...(insert considerations of all factors above)...I think you should go with a Prius."
Mrs: "Yeah, I'm not driving small cars anymore, they make me feel unsafe on the highway...I was thinking an SUV."
Me: (silently) WHAT IN THE SLIPPER SNIFFING SUCKADUCKING WORLD DO YOU MEAN "Hm, I don't think that's really going to be the best decision for us economically."
Mrs: "But I really want a small SUV; I mean, we have the dogs, we occasionally go skiing, there are the bikes to think about, and what about when we have kids? Aren't we going to need more space for them?" (We are 30 by the way)
Me: **face palming** and subsequent lecture about why driving is stupid and how that decision is going to murder our chances at any financial independence
Mrs: "Okay, so I've called the lawyer and gotten divorce papers lined up."

The last sentence is a total farce, but you get the gist here MMM community! I'm looking for harm reduction here! How can I appease my wife while simultaneously not fucking us over for life? As the over analytical nerd with no emotional intelligence, I can't seem to find a compromising solution, while she as the overly emotional non-analytical feelings type (read: marketer's wet dream) wants to make a purchase based on how she "feels about it."

Suggestions on: how best to handle, makes and models, general grammar correcting, or coping strategies on my Sisyphean effort's to work with my NJ born wife and correcting her alter ego as the money boat with the hole in it.

In all seriousness, she's an amazing human with a heart of gold but we could use a nudge in the right direction here!

Thanks team!

-Peter

RWD

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SUVs are not inherently safer than smaller cars. For 2018 models (the latest and greatest) only three SUVs got "Top Safety Pick+" from IIHS. There are five small cars and five midsize cars that got that rating. The Prius is a very safe car.

The Prius is also surprisingly roomy. Sure, it's not at Honda CR-V levels, but it'll be more space than you need for years. At 20k miles per year I'd be trying to get the most efficient vehicle possible and looking at ways to reduce the annual mileage driven.

Of course, if you can't convince the wife remember that some of the compact SUVs like the CR-V and RAV4 are actually pretty efficient (~30 mpg highway). Compromise to keep a happy marriage is preferable to efficient finances and strained relationships.

neo von retorch

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The hybrids will win on fuel efficiency, but they won't win on people skills ;)

We have a 100 pound dog that was getting all up in the front seat, so we got a small SUV that fits a large crate in the back. It's a Mazda CX-5. Now, I'd agree that the older Mazda 3 was a crappy car. But now I drive a 2015 ;) Big Mazda fan all around for the past 5 years. The CX-5 is a delight and you can get 27mpg overall even if you end up with a 2.5L AWD. However, they do sell FWD versions, and if you get a 2013, you might even be able to find the 2.0L and get closer to 30 mpg overall. (I find people are overly optimistic about the Honda/Toyota as outlined here:)

Looking at 2014 cars on fuelly.com (a mix of FWD/AWD and different engines):
 - Honda CRV 25.1 mpg
 - Mazda CX5 26.6 mpg
 - Toyota Rav4 23.9 mpg

2013
 - Honda CRV 25.1 mpg
 - Mazda CX5 28.0 mpg (the 2.0L was more common this year!)
 - Toyota Rav4 24.0 mpg

It's not your Prius, but it's not completely awful, and highway mileage is really good, so it's one option to consider, if it doesn't tear you apart inside.

ketchup

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"we have the dogs, we occasionally go skiing, there are the bikes to think about, and what about when we have kids? Aren't we going to need more space for them?"

If this is her justification, gently pick it apart.  You don't have an SUV now, yet somehow you survive.  Kids don't take up much space at first, so I definitely wouldn't pencil that into the discussion at all unless you've already got one on the way.

Data and math are great (I'm also an overanalytical optimization nerd, like many here), but she didn't come to the SUV conclusion that way, so she probably won't be swayed away from it that way.  If you go that route though, I'd start by calculating the true cost per-mile of the Jetta and comparing that to a theoretical SUV and Prius.  That way you're gently saying that both options are better financially, than *your* previous suboptimal choice.  That way it might come off less as "I am right and you are wrong" and more "I was wrong before and am looking into how we can best improve this."

couponvan

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My vote's a 2013/2014 SUV. It's going to be cheaper than divorce and will be a business writeoff anyway.  As long as it gets decent gas mileage you should be OK.  I had no idea the CX5 had that good of gas mileage for 2013!


chickinyow

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Hmmm, happy wife, happy life my friend. She doesn't want a small car. I drive a crossover (Subaru Crosstrek Limited model) with all the bells and whistles. I love it, and it has lots of room with the hatchback. I bought it a few years old for $18K with only 45K kilometers/28K miles (I'm in Canada, so whatever that would be in US$). Would something of that type size satisfy her? It isn't bad on gas, and it looks really nice IMO.

Laura33

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OK, I am laughing here.  First:  I feel you.  22 years married to Mr. Spendypants.  It was sort of thrilling at first, in that "breaking the rules" way, but the enticement fades, and over time it starts to grate.

So my advice:  give up the battle, focus on winning the war.  IME, people who make a shit-ton of money through their own hard work are very, very averse to having others tell them how they are allowed to spend said money.  Even better:  suggesting that they are stupid, illogical, or wrong for wanting to spend that money is the best way to force them to double down on their position.  I think you get this logically but don't know how to approach it in any other way.*  So here are some initial thoughts.**

1.  Most important:  give up any concept that you are "right"/"smart"/"logical" -- because when you say things that imply that, what she hears is "you, DW, are wrong/stupid/illogical."  There is no conversation in the history of the world that has ever gone well after that kind of opener.  Do not tell her what she "should" do; treat her like an equal, fully-fledged human being whose needs and wants and goals and dreams are just as important as your own.  The woman works hard and makes almost six figures; she can buy a damn SUV if she wants one.***  The thing is, Mustachianism is a pretty extreme concept in our current society.  Not everyone is willing to give up certain luxuries to retire in 10 years, or even 20 or 30.  Those people are not "wrong."  They just have different dreams and goals than you do.  And when you happen to be married to those people, you need to figure out a path that serves both of you.  FIRE is a lonely place if you wind up there all alone because your DW had a different dream that you expected her to give up so you could chase yours.

2.  So, once you start from the standpoint of assuming that she has the right to make her own decision here, no matter how stupid you think it is, your next step is to speak her language.  You speak spreadsheet; she speaks feelings.  Ok, that's fine.  But which one of you is trying to persuade the other to do or change something?  That would be you.  Therefore, it's your job to learn to talk feelings.  You do this by, first and foremost, listening.  Why does she want the SUV?  She has given you a lot of reasons, and you have responded by telling her that those reasons are stupid or are less important than your concerns.  Again:  not going to go well.  You need to hear and validate her feelings, even if you do not agree with the solution that she has chosen to satisfy those concerns.  And frankly, she has given you some pretty reasonable reasons for wanting a larger car -- the ability to carry more stuff, thinking ahead to having kids, not feeling so vulnerable on the highway.  Those are legitimate issues to be concerned about, and you need to let her know that you get that and you want her to get a car that suits her needs.  [It just doesn't need to be a giant SUV]

3.  Only after you have done this can you move to the art of subtle persuasion.  But again, you do this with questions and suggestions that let her find out for herself.  E.g., "Yes, your safety is my very top concern, I worry about you on the road, I want you in a vehicle that is going to keep you safe from those crazy drivers and be completely reliable.  Why don't we do some research into which vehicles are the safest out there right now?" [Hint:  it's usually not giant SUVs).  And then you guys do the research and she finds out for herself what the facts really are.  And -- here's the thing -- you approach the conversation based solely on how the results satisfy her stated goals, e.g., "gee, I'm a little worried about this giant SUV, its crash ratings aren't as good as the Civic -- and look, these cars over here all have "+" ratings -- oh, it's the crash-avoidance systems, boy, now that seems like a really safe thing to have, right?"  Etc. 

4.  Only after you have done all of the above can you then mention your concerns -- by this point, you will have identified a pretty wide swath of vehicles that will satisfy her concerns, and so you can subtly push to choose between them based on cost of ownership -- e.g., "wow, you know, those prices have really gone up since we got our last car!  I'm worried that spending that amount of money will interfere with our plans to [insert something she likes -- vacation, eating out whatever].  Why don't we look for one that is a couple of years used that still has all those great features?"  Important note:  you need to phrase your own concerns in her language, too -- you are "afraid," or "worried," or whatever other emotion fits.  Again:  your goal is to translate everything you are thinking into language she can understand.  Because she loves you, and she wants you to be happy too, and if she understands that your concerns are founded in fear and worry for your joint future (and not just "I'm right and you're dumb"), she will absolutely meet you halfway.  So at this point you can sit down with the budget with her and talk about where you are going to take the extra money from to pay for X or Y car, and let her choose what the tradeoff is -- fewer dinners out?  Staycation?  Etc.

So that is the car conversation (or more accurately, series of conversations).  But the bigger-picture is if you want to avoid ongoing money disputes, you need to work to bring her onboard with that goal.  Start with the "50 ways to convert your SO" sticky for a ton of ideas.  But even beyond that, crack open a bottle of wine and talk about your hopes and dreams.  What is her vision of your future life together?  What does she want?  Does she love her job and never wants to leave it?  Or will she or you want the option to kick back to part-time or SAH if and when you have kids?  Or is she willing to put the nose to the grindstone for the next 10 years if she knows that will allow her to not work ever again?  You need to know what her dreams and goals are, and why -- why does she want to do what she wants to do?  What does that mean to her?  And you need to talk openly about your own as well -- why do you want to FIRE?  Is it just freedom from a miserable job?  Do you have the dream of running your own business?  Do you want to stay home with kids?  What is the dream you are working towards?  Once you guys understand each other's dreams, then you are in a position to develop a plan that gets both of you as much of what you want as you can.  And yeah, it will be a compromise.  But keep talking, keep using the 50 steps; if you make her life with you both frugal and fun, she will start to understand over time that you don't need to throw money at things to enjoy yourself.

Like I said above, I am 22 years into this, and it has been a struggle.  My DH makes a lot of money, we have always maxed out retirement and saved some in addition, and he just sees absolutely no reason why he shouldn't blow the rest.  Just one example of oh-so-many:  he eats out for lunch.  Every day.  Always has.  And worse:  he likes to treat his friends -- and the more money he made, the more he likes to treat them.  And then one day he finally told me:  he likes to eat out because it is a physical break from his day to walk out of the office and go somewhere completely different.  And he likes to treat his friends because it makes him feel successful that he can afford to do that -- just like he likes to go to the mall and get name-brand sunglasses, because it makes him feel powerful and successful knowing he has the money to do that.  Oh.  OK.  So then I had a choice:  do I continue to argue over something that he has just told me is very important to him because it satisfies a pretty important emotional need?  Or do I accept that that is important to him, even though I personally think it's a stupid waste of money, and figure out a way to meet him in the middle?  I did the latter, which is probably why we are still married.

But I kept working on it.  Every year, I would redirect any raise directly into Vanguard.  We get a lot of our pay at the end of the year, so I set up monthly withdrawals so our bank account balance went down over the course of the year, so we "felt" poorer than we really were and then needed to put more of the end-of-year money in the bank instead of blowing it somewhere else.  I talked to him about maybe retiring at 55 or so, and we'd go out to dinner and dream about traveling the world (we do both love our jobs, so immediate FIRE was never a goal for either of us, but we both liked the idea of calling it quits before 65-70) -- and then when he'd say something like "we can do that at 55," I'd laugh and show him the numbers of how much more we'd actually need to save to do that.  And of course over time, he also got a little more dissatisfied with working all the time. 

I'm not going to give you some happy ending where he was converted and we're on a sailboat now -- in the end, we are both still working, and our target FIRE date is closer to @58-59 than 55.  I think we could FIRE now if we trim the lifestyle, he thinks we need a lot more, so we have met in the middle -- and now Mr. Spreadsheet is spending a LOT of time going over the spreadsheets and figuring out alternatives and dates and such (I already got him down from 13 to 8, and I'm hoping to knock another year or so off that, we'll see).  Meanwhile, he has given me the ok to go part-time or take a lower-paying job any time I want to; I haven't yet (I'd rather work more now and go zero-time sooner, because I want to travel), but I feel a lot happier with the job knowing I have the freedom to if I decide I want to.  And the important thing is that we are both happy with the solution -- he is forsaking some of the luxury he would otherwise have gone for, I am working longer, but both of us are getting enough of what we need out of the deal that we're content with it.

But none of that would have happened if he hadn't gotten over his idea that I was "stupid" for wanting to save a lot and come in under budget every month.****  ;-)

*As an aside, emotions are logical, too -- it is pretty easy to predict how people will react to certain situations if you know the rules of "people management."  You just don't know those rules.  I would encourage you to try.  Start with thinking of animal training -- specifically, people, like animals, are motivated more by praise and rewards than by punishment.

**Many, many, many initial thoughts.  22 years of them.  Sorry.

***To clarify:  I completely agree with you that that choice is massively stupid.  But you have to approach her with this understanding as a fundamental underpinning to every conversation.

****And FWIW, he thinks he's the logical, non-emotional one in our relationship.

Noodle

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Laura33 gave a great answer.

I will just follow up with the observation that you will be laying the groundwork for a long and happy marriage if you treat your wife's emotions with the same respect as you treat your logic. (You knew what she was like when you married her, right? You went into this with your eyes open.) What she feels is as real to her as what you think is to you.


bacchi

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The Prius (2014 and older models are larger) can take skis, bikes on the back, car seats, 2 large dogs, and almost a full 4x8 piece of plywood inside. It's plenty roomy.

That said, after years of gnashing of teeth, my SO converted from a small SUV to a Prius. When reality presents itself -- when the investment accounts grow large and ER is visible in the distance -- spouses become more amenable to buying freedom over things.

NoStacheOhio

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The Prius does come in wagon form, which is all the utility of a small SUV (maybe even more) without the economy penalty.

Otherwise, just try to find something you can afford that won't drive both of you insane.

Hellohi

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I read 20% of Laura33's post and agree 100%.

dcozad999

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When your wife said she feels unsafe on the highway with smaller cars, was she being totally serious, or just using it as an excuse? I only ask because I feel the same way. I feel much safer sitting higher up in an SUV than lower in say, my wife's Altima. As someone clearly pointed out, just because it's an SUV doesn't make it any safer, but anxieties aren't necessarily rational. I'd recommend a used Honda CR-V.

And a bit off topic, but how did your wife find a job that pays $90k as a therapist with a social work degree? My wife barely makes $40k as a master's level clinical psychologist. Talk about an underpaid profession.

lbmustache

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Agree with Laura.

Also, a "small SUV" doesn't sound so bad... to me... I mean it's not a Tahoe or something I would consider ridiculous. I have a HR-V (baby CR-V) so maybe I'm biased, but I can easily get 40mpg cruising on the freeway. I think it's actually smaller than a regular Prius though.

The average CR-V/Rav4, etc. is perfectly fine IMO. They're solid, safe, tons of space, fuel economy is not a disaster. Bonus: Rav4 comes as a hybrid and can now be found used, although still a bit pricey.

NoStacheOhio

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Agree with Laura.

Also, a "small SUV" doesn't sound so bad... to me... I mean it's not a Tahoe or something I would consider ridiculous. I have a HR-V (baby CR-V) so maybe I'm biased, but I can easily get 40mpg cruising on the freeway. I think it's actually smaller than a regular Prius though.

The average CR-V/Rav4, etc. is perfectly fine IMO. They're solid, safe, tons of space, fuel economy is not a disaster. Bonus: Rav4 comes as a hybrid and can now be found used, although still a bit pricey.

Cargo volumes (all current model year):
HR-V 23.2 to 24.3 ft³, 55.9 to 58.8 ft³ with seat area
Prius 24.6 to 27.4 ft³
Prius V 34.3 ft³, 67.3 ft³ with seat area

Wagons FTW!

neo von retorch

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Cargo Volume: 2013/2014 CX-5 ;)
34.1 ft³, 65 ft³ with seat area folded

ketchup

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My car still wins! :D

neo von retorch

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My car still wins! :D

Nice! :) It's not lagging completely horribly in the fuel efficiency department - http://www.fuelly.com/car/volvo/v70/2001 (22.2 mpg)
Looks like newer ones are more efficient, which isn't surprising. I know Volvo's are known for safety. I haven't really researched them lately for cost, insurance or reliability.
But I think you'll have a hard time getting a "conventional" driver into a wagon :-/

dogboyslim

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...So my advice:  give up the battle, focus on winning the war.  IME, people who make a shit-ton of money through their own hard work are very, very averse to having others tell them how they are allowed to spend said money.  ...

1.  ... what she hears is "you, DW, are wrong/stupid/illogical."  ...  Not everyone is willing to give up certain luxuries to retire in 10 years, or even 20 or 30.  Those people are not "wrong." ...

2.  ... your next step is to speak her language.  ...

3.  ... move to the art of subtle persuasion.  But again, you do this with questions and suggestions that let her find out for herself.  ...

4.  Only after you have done all of the above can you then mention your concerns -- by this point, you will have identified a pretty wide swath of vehicles that will satisfy her concerns, and so you can subtly push to choose between them based on cost of ownership ...

This right here is some good advice.  I'm only 20 years in, but much of this resonates with me.

ketchup

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My car still wins! :D

Nice! :) It's not lagging completely horribly in the fuel efficiency department - http://www.fuelly.com/car/volvo/v70/2001 (22.2 mpg)
Looks like newer ones are more efficient, which isn't surprising. I know Volvo's are known for safety. I haven't really researched them lately for cost, insurance or reliability.
But I think you'll have a hard time getting a "conventional" driver into a wagon :-/
I get about 24MPG in "city" suburban commuting and 30MPG on the highway.  Not great but good for what it is.  They're reliable but parts are more expensive than average (as is the case with most European cars in the US).  My particular year/model gets shat on reliability-rating-wise due to a design flaw (as a result dashboard-light literally gives it a 0.3 out of 100 so it's a bit cheaper on the used market), but it's fixable.  Insurance is typical.  Cost was very reasonable used (but it was $40k new in 2001).

tyrannostache

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I think Laura33 is absolutely right. I hate nothing more than conversations in which DH flat out tells me that I'm wrong or making a bad choice just because I'm considering different angles.

About 10 years into my marriage, I discovered the dispute-related superpower of Leaving it Be when we are dug in on different sides of an issue. Leave aside the bone of contention and try to find the common ground.

Here's how it goes:
I present my point of view. DH gives me the look that says "Oh my god, how could you be So Wrong?" I provide a few key facts/details/discussion of my feelings. If things are getting heated, I let it go and try to come back to it from a point of common ground later. Lo and behold, the next time the topic comes up, DH and I have shifted much closer to each other's point of view. This works 9 times out of 10. If we both dig in, we just end up arguing and lecturing and not resolving anything.

dogboyslim

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SUVs are not inherently safer than smaller cars. For 2018 models (the latest and greatest) only three SUVs got "Top Safety Pick+" from IIHS. There are five small cars and five midsize cars that got that rating. The Prius is a very safe car.

Be careful how you use IIHS ratings to compare safety.  IIHS itself has stated that most of their tests simulate a crash with a similar size/weight vehicle, but if two vehicles of differing size/weight crash, the larger vehicle occupant is less likely to be injured.  The IIHS also hasn't tested many of the large SUVs for some time.  The Suburban/Yukon/Expedition haven't been tested in the most recent models.  If the manufacturers can sell them anyway, they won't ask the IIHS to test them, and if they aren't tested, they can't get a top safety pick.

Note, I don't disagree with your point that smaller cars can be safe, but it is not necessarily true that they are safER than the large SUVs because they got the label and the larger vehicles did not.

Lanthiriel

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We have a Prius V and it has about as much cargo space and is more comfortable to drive than my, admittedly old, Ford Escape (compact SUV). My husband is a field engineer and drives the bright blue, mini-van looking car to construction sites filled with a nuke gauge, some very scientific dirt sticks, and a bunch of rain gear. He gets shit for it from the construction guys who drive full size pickups until he points out that they're both getting reimbursed $.545/mile.

Maybe take her to look at a V? It might change her mind.

Illillis

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I've always sucked at forums. I usually individually thank people for the birthday wishes on Facebook. And wedding thank yous were terribly arduous on my part. But I'm going to try and get into the modern American spirit of convenience over what's actually right and thank you all for your insights. No joke, I wrote notes on strategies to implement and when. (ah, my wife is so lucky) I can't wait to put them all into practice. I'm so thrilled at all of your responses and am eager to see what else this MMM Forum is capable of!

Thanks again!

-Pete

Illillis

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If this is her justification, gently pick it apart.  You don't have an SUV now, yet somehow you survive.

This point got us to stay in a small rental cottage for one more year. "Baby's are small and they really don't take up that much space." That might've been my big win of 2017. Now we'll see if it holds water if and when a baby comes in 2019.

Scrapr

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 I edit because I hate someone who quotes a long text...then +1 below. ;-))

Laura tl:dr  For something shorter try Men are from Mars Women from Venus

I keed. Laura speaks much truth here. Listen to her
« Last Edit: March 17, 2018, 06:38:36 PM by Scrapr »

TheWifeHalf

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I was in a car accident 10 years ago, and I would be dead if we hadn't been in an F150 pick up. My husband was driving, no injuries that required more than 'take it easy.
The other car was smaller (can't remember make) and the 2 occupants died immediately.

We now have only one vehicle, and safety is always at the top of the main decision maker list when choosing our next vehicle.

The truck was destroyed, he got a used LincolnMark ???. To be honest, it just seems beefier.  Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac all charge the employees of where my husband works their cost of a new vehicle, so that is also a consideration.

Our main thing we're going to look at is safety. We went to a car show a couple of weeks ago. There were many vehicle that felt like they were not even in the same category as the  TheHusbandHalf's Lincoln and we're hoping to go to a dealer within the next few months

So, that's a price as low as we could possible go, and safety are on our list.
 

Smokystache

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Like Laura said. For my me and my spouse, we were able to avoid unnecessary, large purchases by having a simple, quick alternative that was more important to both of us. For us, it was "the baby fund." The baby fund was the stash that would allow my spouse to stay home with future (at the time) children. It was really important to me and really, really, really important to her. Mustachians are easy at linking: "I'm saving X so X goes toward early retirement, etc." For others, they need a simpler connection between what they are "sacrificing" and something that is even more important.

If the two of you can find your version of "the baby fund" - (early retirement, vacations/travel, work PT or stay home with kids, sailboat, whatever), then you don't have to go through the justification each time. Good luck and good planning!!

NoStacheOhio

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My car still wins! :D

I have an irrational love for Volvo wagons.