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When Everything Goes Wrong at Once

Mar 9th, 2021 • Gayle E.

Three cars and three tow trucks in two days – Seriously?

We all have those days or weeks when things just don’t go our way. Well, I bet that I can beat most bad days on record with my car adventure last week. You see, I had not one or two but three cars go out on us in two days!

Now, I can take the blame for my old 1990 Ford F150 truck pooping out. It’s old but well loved and has always been a bit of a maintenance headache. However, the other two are 2009 and 2010 vehicles that have been well maintained and neither had more than 120,000 miles. Prior to last week, I was feeling a little boastful because we were cruising (no pun intended) along with three vehicles that we loved, all paid for, and in good shape.

Until Saturday.

The day started with my daughter driving the 2009 SUV down a road without curbs. She swerved to avoid a critter in the road (we have many here) and hit a big rock that sliced two tires and took out the neighbors mailbox. Car one down.

I then took my car for yoga class when I got an oil warning light. Not more than 30 seconds later, there was smoke coming out the exhaust and in the cabin. I whipped off the interstate and jumped out. I watched as it was towed away and waited for my ride home. Car two down.

With two cars in the shop, we were left with the old truck and decided to go to the lake to relieve some stress. After a delightful time in the sun, we made our way home and headed up a steep hill until the check engine light came on and all forward motion ceased. I had to pop it into neutral and roll down the hill to a safe spot where we waited for our tow. Car three down.

Three cars towed in two days. Three calls to AAA. Hard to believe but true.You can’t make this up.

So I get the news the following morning the 2009 SUV is fixable but the other two are not. How am I going to replace two vehicles at once without breaking my humble piggy bank? As you can probably imagine, I was stressed out and incredibly frustrated. I don’t yell or scream when I’m upset, I cry. The tears flowed. It was a sad sight. 

Then out of the blue, I have a crazy idea: We’ll just go buy two brand new cars so we don’t have to worry about maintenance or things breaking. Yep, that’ll fix the problem. I’ll go get qualified for some nice financing on new vehicles and be done with this situation. 

It didn’t take long to come to my senses. What was I thinking? I never buy new cars and I certainly can’t afford two new cars! I know the car dealer would easily solve my problems. They’d find a financing plan that I could theoretically afford by spreading the payments out over far too many years. Before long, I’d be upside down and strapped with payments I don’t really want and can’t really afford.

So what did we do? We got one car fixed and took some time to research used vehicles with the best maintenance and reliability records. I talked to a few mechanics, checked consumer reports, and of course, test drove a lot of cars. It took a week but I found a reasonably priced, gently used vehicle and then we did it again a week later so my son would have something to drive. I feel good about what we have and I’m immensely relieved that I didn’t go buy two new cars.

Stress makes us do desperate things. It can cause us to buy things we can’t really afford, use credit unwisely, or make decisions that have long lasting ramifications. 

When hit with a stressful situation, do the best you can to avoid falling into any of these financial traps. Take some time to think through your options and examine your budget to refresh your memory about what you can and can’t afford. Remind yourself about how you want your financial life to be. Give yourself time to think beyond the immediate situation and what things will be like in the not too distant future.

Our experts are not immune to their own financial troubles. This only makes them more empathetic to your struggles. Life can come at you fast and our team can help you be prepared or at the very least, help you triage a tough situation. To learn more about our affordable subscriptions, go here.

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