Our Biggest Financial Mistake

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Sometimes reading a finance blog can leave a reader feeling frustrated because it may seem like the blogger has it all figured out. They seem to be in this great place with what seems like little effort. I’ve been there on more than one occasion.

Well, I want this post to speak loud and clear about our flaws as humans. I’m guilty of falling victim to marketing traps, I still work a 9-5 desk job; not my ideal situation. We haven’t hit this seemingly mystical point in our journey where we can work from random countries, and take 6 month vacations to white sand beaches for a days of massages interrupted by scuba excursions. Dang….I just made myself so jealous. Hahaha.

To enforce this I’m going to take a moment a tell you about my biggest financial blunder. This particular screw up is embarrassing as anything I’ve ever had to admit out loud, but I want everyone to know we’re human; capable of making remarkable mistakes as monumental as the next person. So here goes….

In 2013, Jessie and I moved to Florida from Pittsburgh. We brought with us two Honda Civics. One was a 2006 and the other a 2007. The 2006 had an AC issue that Jessie and I dumped well over $3,500 into over multiple visits to a mechanic. The AC never really ran quite the same. It would get cool, but not COLD. I’m about to move to Florida! Sheer terror inside!! We need AC! I was thinking “Good thing that 2006 is Jessie’s because I WILL NOT sit in that heat.”

We get down to Florida and get settled in. I had just picked up a good position making the most money I ever had.  Somewhere around 45k. We felt like we had a good surplus of cash flow because we both had career type jobs for the first time in a while.

One day I’m driving to work and POOF my AC stops working in my 2007 Civic. I knew immediately by the sounds it was making that it was the same problem as Jessie’s Honda. Definitely time to hit the panic button!! The very next day the mechanic confirmed what I had already feared, it was the same issue. I decided to get the car repaired because the Civics were paid off, so it was OK to spend some money on it. The only problem is that when I got the car back, the AC was nowhere near as cold as it was before it stopped working, and I was beside myself with frustration over the stupid problem. Summer was just around the corner and I need AC. No exceptions!!! Now, I had the option to go back and see if the mechanic could do something about it, but my frustration clouded my judgment and lead me to a completely impulsive decision.

New Car

The next day, we’re in the Hyundai dealership. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to buy a car without adult supervision. Fortunately, I learned my negotiations skills from my mother because she can scare the Devil into giving up his pitch fork for nothing but a promise that she’ll leave right away.

I went into the dealership totally under prepared. ZERO RESEARCH! I knew nothing about the Elantra that I was targeting for purchase. I didn’t know the ratings, the average asking price, the warranty, or what my Civic was worth. Things moved quickly, and I was too prideful to admit that I was in over my head. We had extra cash flow monthly to burn. Pride + Money= Something dumb sure to happen. We test drove the Elantra long enough to know it had air conditioning.

We sat down with the salesman to start the negotiation process. I eventually got the price I wanted. The problem most people have, and I did as well at this point, is that people can’t pass on a “good deal”. Well I know now that no deal is better than spending $17,000 on a good deal. After getting him to take my Civic in on trade at my asking price, which was my ONLY form on a down payment, I was driving off with a brand new $300 a month payment over 72 months at 3.4% interest.

That’s not even the end! It get worse….

When we got home I felt great about my negotiation skills. I ignored the horrible “deal” I just got, and chose to stroke my own ego because I negotiated like my Mother. Here’s how good I felt about the deal, I can’t believe I’m about to admit this on such a public platform……we went back the next day with the 2006 civic and did the same thing!!! No kidding!! We did the exact same thing. The only difference is that I manged to get this Elantra for $4,000 less than the one the day before! Now we have matching cars and I immediately felt crappy because I knew I left money on the table in the first deal.

Within 24 hours, we have $600 extra in monthly payments while adding $30,000 to our pile of debt at a 3.4% interest rate. How’s that for a really stupid financial decision?

My new car brought joy for about 24 hours before the joy gave way to guilt and shame. I guess the lesson here is to not let your emotions play a factor in driving you to make such a large financial mistake. I learned a lot about negotiations, car buying, the value of cash flow, what a good deal really looks like, and what my values were when it came to transportation. although, my biggest takeaway was learning to control my emotions enough to think clearly and being humble enough to admit making a big mistake. It was a great learning opportunity, and it set us up for a huge change a year from then.

I wanted to admit this out loud for the first time to someone other than Jessie a couple of reasons. First, I’m human and make mistakes, but mistakes open the door to learning. Those mistakes don’t have to bury us. We can recover from dumb mistakes. Secondly, I’m hoping someone will learn from what I went through. The whole reason I write in a vulnerable manner is so that everyone knows I’m human. We’re not a perfect couple succeeding at everything we touch. In fact, we fail more often than we get it right.

Remember, It’s OK to make mistakes! It’s a great opportunity to grow and learn!

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