Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mom Is The Man

So much for posting every day in April.

I started the month with such good intentions. Since I begin my new job tomorrow, I thought I'd be able to cut myself some slack toward the end of the month if if I already had 13 posts under my belt before Tax Day.

So I was going to post every day last week, and then I was going to get my life TOTALLY and COMPLETELY in order so that from this point forward I'd never have to do ANYTHING else but go to work and blog and give my kids good advice. This was probably not a realistic goal, given that fresh produce is perishable and clothes get dirty and that there are only like, umm, maybe 713 piles of papers around here that need going through, which would take a whole lot longer than a week.

But that was the plan. Unfortunately, things did not go according to it.

Instead, life happened. My husband's car died (as in, forever) and my son's car was totaled. And so I spent practically every minute this past week shopping for two cars.

There are people out there for whom buying two cars is a matter of running by the Lexus dealership, pointing their index finger, and saying "I'll taking this one and that one." There are other people for whom even one totally unreliable deathtrap is way more than they can afford. The Bird family is somewhere in between.

My goal was to buy two safe, reliable, not embarrassingly ugly cars for less than $15,000.

Now listen. You're going to have to stop rolling on the floor laughing if you intend to finish reading this.

Yes, that was a ridiculously optimistic goal. But I didn't know that Monday when I started this quest.

I figured it out pretty quick, though.

Here's the thing. There are two kinds of cars in this world -- those that depreciate quickly and those that don't. The ones that depreciate really fast do that because they really aren't very good. The ones that hold their value do so because they had a whole lot of value to start with.

So if you want a certified Honda Civic with 40,000 miles and an incredible warranty, you're only going to pay a couple of thousand less than you would pay for a brand new one. But if you want a Pontiac that's so unreliable Consumer Reports sends a woman in sensible shoes over to lock you in your house so you won't buy it, you can get that for chicken feed.

And another thing. If you want the absolute best in airbags and stability control, you've got to buy new.

And if you want really good gas mileage, you've got to buy little. And little + old = not really what I want my kids driving.

Along about Thursday, I decided that if I was going to get two cars of any price by sunset Friday -- my goal -- I was going to have to get a lot less choosy. I'd take safe over low maintenance costs. I'd take up-front price over great gas mileage. And I decided not to worry much about how many miles these cars had.

Even with those concessions, by lunch Friday I still had no cars. But by 1:30, I'd bought a 10-year-old Volvo with incredibly high miles for a fabulous price. Actually, it was only the parts of the car you could see that were 10 years old. I bought it from a Volvo mechanic, who'd replaced pretty much all of its innards. And even 10 years ago, Volvo was putting bunches of airbags in its cars. That took care of Billy's automotive needs.

Buying a car is a heady thing. It makes you want to go out and buy another. Which is exactly what I did.

At 3:30, Billy and I met an old guy in a Sam's Club parking lot and bought his Mercury Grand Marquis right out from under him. It's not a particularly sexy car, but my parents have had two of them, and I know they hang in there for the long haul. Plus they have a trunk the size of my kitchen. I felt confident that this one was in good shape as the seller assured me he'd been having the oil changed every 4,000 miles at "the Wal-Mark."

And for Bob, a Grand Marquis is a step up. He's been driving a 1986 BMW with about 165,000 miles on it whose interior thermometer constantly registered -22 degrees despite the fact that it overheated every time he drove it. (It's hard to be punctual when you're never sure how much time to factor in for standing next to the road waiting for your car to cool off.)

Friday night, I was the man as far as the men around here were concerned. And I was exhausted. Like lights-out-and-sound-asleep-at-9 wiped out.

Not surprisingly, I was unable to get my life TOTALLY and COMPLETELY in order over the weekend.

Maybe after work tomorrow.


MommyTime said...

I am super impressed that you managed this purchase. I certainly could not have done it! Also? "But if you want a Pontiac that's so unreliable Consumer Reports sends a woman in sensible shoes over to lock you in your house so you won't buy it, you can get that for chicken feed" had me laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. Thanks for that. And I hope you got a good long sleep...

Jenni said...

Good for you doing your homework and getting two deals!

Hope you are well rested soon.