I am proud of myself.
Well, I wasn't originally proud, but my husband helped me get there.
There's a road in my little city that my husband and I use often to get almost anywhere. One day, as I was driving on this road, I realized that a vehicle parked near the road had been sitting there for a long time, months even. I immediately called my husband on my cell phone and asked if he had ever noticed this vehicle. He, too, had noticed, "Yeah- it's been there a long time. Kinda odd."
It was odd because it was a beautiful automobile that looked to be in great condition, and the interior was immaculately clean, but there were no license plates on it. On separate occasions, my husband and I left notes under the windshield wipers expressing interest in the vehicle.
The night before Christmas Eve, I found myself driving past the lot the car sat on and decided I was going to get that car. I stopped at the police station on the way home and asked if they knew anything about it. They did not. They also did not know if the land it was parked on was public or private, and they directed me to call the city. Being the end of the day before the holiday weekend, no one was at the city offices, but I left a voicemail message anyhow.
Surprisingly, someone returned my call the following Monday. They were not the correct contact but they had gone the extra mile and looked online for the information for me! I called the referred number and was told I needed to speak to someone else, who then told me I needed to speak to someone else, who referred me to county land records. After guesstimating which property on the map actually held the car, I found the name of the owner of the property. I googled and found their home phone number and address on the internet (along with other interesting information about the person, including their income.) (Slightly disturbing, right?) I called the phone number and the landowner turned out to be a relative of the vehicle owner.
I'm telling you all this so you can see I was bound and determined to acquire this car.
I left my phone number and the car owner called me the following morning. Yes, he was interested in selling the vehicle! After some back-and-forth calls and my researching the vehicle online, he offered an AWESOME hot deal! I was so excited. I set up an appointment to drive the car and lined up a mechanic to check out the vehicle at the same time that early evening.
Fifteen minutes before the time to leave for the appointment, I felt a little tug in the back of my mind. I didn't completely shrug it away, but I did not give it much attention since I was hurrying to get the kids ready to leave for this test drive. There was another gentle tug. And then, through my mind ran a couple pointers discussed in my personal finance class.
In a moment of pause, I finally spoke these thoughts to my husband. He didn't really have any feedback, as he was just following my lead, but he did reassure me about calling the seller to express my newly-realized concern.
This was my concern. We had a few thousand dollars in our car fund, but the seller's awesome price was still thousands higher. And while we had those extra thousands, they would have had to come out of our Emergency Fund. (You know, the account to cover emergencies.) (Did you know a car is not an emergency when you already have one that runs?)(Also, did you know we have two cars that run?)
From past experience, I remembered that when I take money out of our Emergency Fund for non-emergencies, I get a pit in my stomach that doesn't go away until the Emergency Fund has been brought back up to at least 4 months' worth of living expenses.
Have you ever justified getting something a little more expensive than you intended just because it was such a good deal? Ever dip into some other account to get an it's-such-a-great-deal-we've-gotta-get-it deal? Have you ever had buyer's remorse?
I called the seller and told him that while his asking price was extremely awesome (Have I mentioned it was AWESOME?), it was still several thousands higher than I had intended to spend when I began tracking him down. I went so far as telling him the price I originally had in mind and asked how far he was willing to meet me. In the end, he went down a few more hundreds, but it still did not make up for the amount I was not willing to yank from the Emergency Fund. I decided to decline the offer. I left the relationship open though by letting him know I would call him if his vehicle was still out on the lot a month or two later; I asked him to give me a call if ever he changed his mind on the price.
When I hung up the phone, I knew I did the right thing for our family, but I felt an emotional let-down. I sat quietly in a corner of the loft with the cell phone resting on my leg. That's when my husband came in and told me he was proud of me. While he was impressed with my resourcefulness in tracking down a random stranger, what he admired most about me was my restraint.
I'd like to say I was instantly cured of my pout as I rested in his embrace.
This afternoon, I logged into my online savings account where the majority of our Emergency Fund is kept. I was looking for banking information when my eye was caught by the balance on our Emergency Fund. I looked at it and realized that four days ago, I would have cut it down by almost 40% if I had purchased that awesome deal of a car. The car would have been great, but it would not have been great enough to squelch the uneasiness in my stomach over having to replace such a big portion of the Emergency Fund. Who is to know what kind of emergency will show up and when? Emergencies don't generally wait until we're ready for them.
Have you ever bought something just because it was such an awesome deal you just HAD to take advantage of it? I understand that feeling. But I am also understanding a "great deal" isn't a great deal if we give up something more important for it. Are we willing to give up adding to a safety savings account? Are we willing to give up peace of mind to take advantage of "a great deal"? Are we willing to put off retirement or socking away money for college so we can wear, drive, or do something exciting and new? Regardless of how great a deal something is, it always -ALWAYS- means that money cannot then go to something else. Is the "something else" more important or less important?
A few days after dropping the deal, I finally appreciate restraint. But it didn't happen until I took a moment to look at and appreciate the thing I had gained instead of replaying in my head the thing I gave up. The excitement of the deal and the purchase are long gone and I am grateful we still have our family's financial safety net. There will always be great deals out there of different sorts; we cannot allow the percentage discount be the only deciding factor in our purchasing or investment decisions. And we must always trust that there will be a great deal again when the season is right.