Monday, July 18, 2016, AM | Leave Comment
A few weeks ago, I took my car in for its scheduled tire rotation. The maintenance guys told me that it was time for new tires. I frowned, knowing that with that kind of expense, I’d either have to charge my credit card, or wait a couple of paychecks.
I postponed the change, and yet every day, during my 30-minute commute to work, I’d suddenly remember that I was running on tires that had almost completely worn out their tread.
Watching two cars in front of me pound their breaks to join the ranks of stopped traffic, I carefully slowed my car, hyperaware of my tires’ questionable ability to grip the road.
Sure, I’m a worrier. But I realized then that every worrier (who is also a car owner) (whose car also happens to be over 10 years old) needs to have something: a car maintenance savings account.
How Often Are You Surprised by Car Costs?
Many of us factor in auto insurance in our monthly budget. We include our monthly gasoline purchases in there too.
However, since auto maintenance is such an intermittent need, it’s usually excluded from our monthly budget.
Instead, we wait for those costs to strike us suddenly from out of the blue. What’s that? I need a new serpentine belt? How unexpected! And yet, you knew that this would come. You knew that your car’s various bits and pieces wouldn’t simply heal themselves like your sunburned skin does.
Cars need maintenance, and even with regularly scheduled oil changes, checkups, and tuneups, they will need new parts and repairs now and then. So stop acting surprised, and instead, save!
A Savings Account Will Have Numerous Benefits
Many health insurance providers also have something similar to a savings account. It’s usually called a cafeteria plan.
Now, it’s true that the main benefit of this is the fact that that money can be untaxed, and that advantage won’t be echoed by your own self-made car maintenance savings account.
However, there are other comparable advantages. Instead of specially designating money to take care of health issues, you’re specially designating money to put aside and use for your car’s health (and therefore your own financial and physical security).
Here are some of the perks:
You’ll be ready to get repairs done right away, instead of scrambling to muster funds at the last minute.
Those sudden costs won’t hurt so much, because you’ll already have planned for them.
You’ll be able to keep track of your car’s costs and maintenance history better because it will match a schedule and plan.
You’ll be more proactive and be able to see the benefits of preventive care and regular maintenance.
So, How Much Should You Budget For?
This depends on a few factors. Are you including gas prices, and car washes? How about your oil change and tire rotations?
I like to exclude gas, and include oil changes, tire rotations, and the occasional car wash as a treat now and then. It also depends a lot on your car. How much maintenance and repair does your car need? How old is it?
And depending on the make and model, repairs and parts could vary widely in price. Your budget will also depend on how much maintenance you’re able to take care of yourself.
My car is 12 years old. It’s a Toyota, so repairs aren’t hugely expensive, but it needs them fairly often, and I don’t bother with any of them myself.
So I budget about 75$ per month, which is the recommended average. I recommend using that as a baseline, and then evaluating it in a year to see if you need to save more, or less.
Budgeting: the Secret to Feeling like a Mature Adult
Now, when the maintenance guys at the shop are like, “Yeah, you’re gonna have to pay 300$ today,” instead of being a bewildered deer in the headlights, I can act like a super-savvy car owner.
I can make an intelligent decision about whether I need that repair now or later–one that’s not contingent on whether I can muster up the funds.
I can drive with peace of mind instead of stressing about whether my car is going to lash out at me for failing to see to its basic needs.
Turns out, proper budgeting is the key to capable adulting.
This article is written By Christine Hill.