Our new (used) Toyota
Debt. It's become an ugly word to me. A word that is weighted with dislike. Heavy with constriction. Pregnant with owing. You get my drift.
We started out with our big move across 1800 miles with minimal debt (around $5K in student loans). We should have been hard balling those numbers for the previous 2 years or so, but instead we just lived really comfortably and didn't think about it much. We didn't have a ton of material possessions, but we enjoyed ourselves, once a week Chipotle, a new dress here and there. It adds up. We weren't practicing penny pinchers, mostly because we had done it for so long before and we needed a break, or a reward, or just an extended vacation from trying. But that's not how debt works. If you don't snowball it, it will snowball you.
That's what happened to us this past 18 months, as we needed a second vehicle, a commuter vehicle that would be great on gas. We chose to buy a new Honda motorcycle, getting 50 (or 60?) mpg, only spending roughly $40 a month on gas. With the payment and gas, and insurance, it was cheaper than our older car that we already owned back in Nebraska, if we would have kept it and commuted with what we owned. The gas difference was that much! More debt. The right choice for us at the time, but more debt.
Fast forward to loosing hundreds of dollars of income per month (at the worst, around $550/month) with a poor exchange rate, and unexpected taxes. More debt. The only choice, that time, since all our cash savings were spent on a very broken car. More debt. Ugly, annoying, debt.
A few months later, that never-really-fixed car blew a rod through the engine. It was toast. Sold it to our mechanic for $300 for scrap metal. Our family of four, now without a car, only with a motorcycle for, at the most, two. Here's where the blessing comes in. Just when you least expect it.
Thankfully, we are committed to get rid of debt, live simply, and live our life the way we want, without owing anything to anyone, aside from a someday-but-very-(very)-far-off-future mortgage. We were able to save another #1 babystep emergency fund of $1000, and saving enough money for our upcoming move into Canada. The gratitude, the blessing, comes in little whispers, and you have to practice recognizing them:
A basic model with only one family as owners.
A car that gets better gas mileage than what our other car got.
A car that is just big enough for all 4 of us, our camping gear, and a middle seat for a someday-soon dog.
A car that is cheap to fix, with a trustworthy name that lasts for decades.
A car that we could pay with cash for.
We have to celebrate the victories. Where is the victory in this story? We were able to find a car that has been a one- family car, with minimal body damage (a scrape here and there), and reliable for over a decade. Paying cash, not being discouraged that we'd have to get into more debt with a car loan, that we don't want. The family blessed us as we drove off. They were so kind, and the mother, whose car it was originally before passing it down to her son, and her son to us, said, "I am so glad it is going to a young family! It will take care of you!"
It's a victory because even if this car only lasts two years, $800 will have been a great investment for a working car, that will take us to the grocery store, the post office, the date out, and back home again. Maybe these small gratitudes seem like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind-- barely detectable, yet when the rains come, they stick where they've landed, and they're tough nuts to dig out of the land they've chosen... and we want to land in gratitude in hard times and be stubborn as weeds who won't give up their roots.
It's a practice. It's a blessing to practice. It's a blessing. It's victory.