Well, I've done it. I've switched to a minivan.
My 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale died on me last Wednesday (with five boys and myself inside, on a busy boulevard). We (all of us) made our way through streams of traffic to an IHOP across the street and made an S.O.S. phone call.
On Saturday, Scott and I drove away from the Toyota dealership with a 3 year lease on a 2005 Toyota Sienna.
I hate having a car payment. Actually, I've never had one. And actually, we can't afford one. Afford is a relative word. But getting this car is part of a shift in thinking I've been going through for a long time.
I used to think anyone driving a new car was irresponsible and greedy, not to mention wasteful, what with all those perfectly good used cars out there. I've never paid more for a car than my first one, which I bought in 1992 for around $1,800.
What I've realised is that I've had a rather upside-down (not to mention hypocritical) view of money-management. I forego all the big-ticket purchases and squander my money on cigarettes or late-fees or drinks and an evening on the town.
Last year when we decided to put our boys in a private school, we fretted over tuition expenses, knowing we didn't have any extra $ to squeeze out (nor any place to squeeze it out from). But we faithfully (if not punctually) wrote out our check to the school each month and, strangely, our standard of living never really changed.
That's when it hit me: We were typical, American consumers, spending everything we took in. Unlike typical American families, we don't have any of the toys or even the necesary ingredients in the "American Dream". No new car, big house, boat, fitness club membership, not even a home stereo system. But, since our seminary days, during which we really were poor (I got dairy and juice and peanut-butter vouchers through a government program, for Marshall, and for myself, because I was pregnant with Micah) I've never felt significantly less "strapped", financially. We just sort of increased our spending on pacifying ourselves, without increasing our living standard.
So here I am with a spanking new vehicle, fretting a bit about the payments. I've had a little bit of post-buyer's panic. But I'm not really questioning the rightness of the decision. This monthly payment affords me the ability to drive my kids and their friends places, help drive for school, and mostly, it affords us (Scott was very particular and insistent on this) the reassurance that, if we must expose our children to dangers of the road every day, we're at least protecting them as well as we can. (Ten years ago cars didn't even have air bags, and in the more recent past, minivans have been rather collapsible). To be honest, I couldn't care less what I drive or how old it is or what it looks like. Which is probably why I've driven a paint-peeling, rusting, crashed-up, falling apart 1988 Oldsmobile for so long. But it occured to me at some point along the way that, every day, I was putting my entire life (my kids) into an unreliable, unsafe box of metal and driving at inhuman speeds, alongside other speeding boxes of metal.
Now that I've got all the obligatory (for me) reflections out of the way, let me be happy about it... It sure is nice to drive! I've got all the comfort and convenience I could ever want (in a car or in life!), even without all the bells and whistles (we went low-end options/high- end safety). It's silver in color and looks less like a minivan than the typical one (sort of a station-wagon/van/SUV hybrid). I feel a little bit out-of-place, like Cinderella at the ball.