My life as of late.

I hate when people talk about how busy they are, as if they are the only people with who have things going on and should receive some sort of award for pressing on. They say “I’m so busy” but I hear “I can’t prioritize my life and it totally stresses me out.”

If you’ve been paying attention to PDITF over the last month and a half, you’ll notice I went from a solid five-day a week posting schedule, to a much more sporadic three-ish times a week. I refuse to let me life be so busy it steals my joy. 

With the launch of MANteresting, the sale of Girl Ninja’s car, the hunt for a new car, a few trips to San Diego, and being a best man in a wedding, something had to give. That something just happened to be this blog. I’d give you some lame half-hearted apology, pretending I’m going to get back on track and stick to five days a week of posting, but truth is I probably wont be in the near term.

It’s been wonderful having a few nights a week where, instead of getting on the computer to start typing, I’m actually spending quality time with Girl Ninja (watching movies, traveling, or going on dates with her). I’ve been blogging on PDITF for a little over three years now (wow, didn’t even realize my 3 year anniversary was a few weeks ago) and have posted some 830-ish different articles. Sometimes I literally sit in front of my computer screen for an hour trying to think of something to write about. Reducing the number of posts I do has helped give me a little sense of freedom.

What’s more, MANteresting continues to kick butt and is shattering all sorts of expectations. Our Alexa ranking is stupid low for being only two months old (25,000) and our traffic is stupid high (had 30,491 visits on Sunday, 34,296 visits on Monday, and 38,774 visits yesterday). If you are unfamiliar with the internet these numbers mean nothing to you, but if you are familiar, you know just how insanely high these stats are for a site our age. Moderating content, responding to emails, working on new features, and managing social media has been where the majority of my focus has been these last few months. Fortunately, the hard work is paying off.

The other primary reason I’ve been so distracted as of late is the sale of Girl Ninja’s car. Being a one car family is definitely doable, but extremely annoying. On the nights we don’t have something in our calendar, we are test driving cars, going to dealerships, speaking with car brokers, and scouring Craigslist. Until we find a suitable ninja-mobile, I’m afraid things in my personal life wont be slowing down. We found a 2007 Highlander that meets all of our needs for $17,500 (54k miles), but doesn’t necessarily have all the “luxuries” we would like; things like heated seats and leather interior (which obviously will make a similar vehicle $1,000+ more expensive). We’ll be deciding in the next 24 hours if we want to purchase this car or keep hunting (Here’s a link to it in case you are curious).

So that’s my life in a nutshell. Sorry if you could care less about these things and just wasted a few minutes of your precious day 🙂

 

Sold.

So I posted on Monday about putting Girl Ninja’s car up for sale on Craigslist late Sunday night. Within a few hours I received a phone call from an interested party. We set up an appointment for them to view the vehicle yesterday. Today, I sold her car and signed the title over. It really was that easy. 

I’m convinced the process went as quick as it did for a few reasons.

1) I knew the trade-in-value of Girl Ninja’s car.

2) I knew the Blue Book private party value.

3) I knew what issues potential buyers would have with the car (rear window motor died, scratches, etc).

4) I wrote out details in bullet point form in a CL ad (as opposed to the lame/generic copy and pasting of the vehicles specs most do), including the strong selling points as well as the mechanical or cosmetic issues I was aware of.

5) I had documentation on all service/maintenance performed over the last five years.

6) I wasn’t flexible on price.

7) I was available.

Neither of us got great deals and neither of us got screwed. The car was priced fairly. The buyer asked if I was willing to negotiate price. I made it clear I wasn’t budging and that other people have been inquiring (even though I had no other serious inquiries). He obviously agreed the price was reasonable as he never brought it up again…even after pointing out a few more things that were wrong with the car that I didn’t know about (like the passenger side mirror’s electronic controls apparently don’t work).

So the dealership offered me $5,000 trade in value for Girl Ninja’s car, and less than 48 hours later, I sold it for $3,200 more than that, with virtually no headache involved. This doesn’t make me awesome at Craigslist (remember neither of us walked away with the upper hand), but just goes to show how important knowing the value of your vehicle is.

We are officially a single car family.

I’m kind of excited to be honest. If nothing else, this will prove to be an interesting social experiment on how in sync GN and I really are. We have to be much more intentional about who is going out when and making sure we don’t set up conflicting plans. If we lived in a major city with great public transportation this wouldn’t be too much of a concern, but out in the burbs a car is one’s only way to get around. 

So now it’s time to shift focus towards finding a suitable replacement. We are looking at 2004-2007  Toyota Highlanders, Honda Pilots, and Acura MDX’s between 60K to 80k miles and priced between $15,000 to $17,000. We’d love to buy our next car on Craigslist (after taking it in for an inspection by our mechanic), but unfortunately the inventory is pretty limited when you have very specific models, years, prices, and miles. We’ll keep looking for the next week or two, but chances are we will end up buying from a car broker or used car dealership simply because they have more options. Oh, and in case you are concerned…we will be paying cash regardless of who we buy it from.

p.s. It’s Girl Ninja’s 25th Birthday today, so WISH HER A HAPPY FREAKIN’ BIRTHDAY!

I love the bajeezus out of that girl!

We might have just sold our car.

Girl Ninja and I spent a lovely Saturday/Sunday exploring Seattle (we had a little “staycation” to celebrate GN’s upcoming 25th B-day this Wednesday). Upon our arrival back home on Sunday afternoon, Girl Ninja immediately started cleaning the house. It wasn’t all that dirty, but when she’s been away for more than 24 hours, she has this weird OCD thing where she just has to clean something. As she was going to town on our tiny little rental, she asked me if I would help clean the floors. So I did what any logical, loving, caring husband would do. I said “No, let’s go car shopping instead.”

The last thing I wanted to do after a nice relaxing weekend was get on my hands and knees and start scrubbing. We’ve talked about test driving cars for a long time, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get myself out of some cleaning. Off we went to the Honda certified used car dealership.

We have pretty much narrowed down our next car to either a Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, or Acura MDX. My personal preference being the Pilot, and Girl Ninja’s top choice obviously being the luxuriously expensive MDX. We walked the lot with the salesman, told him some of the things we were looking for (optional third row) and he showed us the five or six different vehicles they had in stock.

I wasn’t a fan of the MDX because I’m not stoked about the mileage to price ratio. Girl Ninja was not a fan of the Pilot as it felt a little boxy and too big. With neither of us to fond of each other’s top choices, we turned to the Highlander.

They had a 2005 Highlander Limited with 81,000 miles listed for $19,976 (which after a quick blue book check on my phone showed it was already about $1,500 over blue book for a certified pre-owned vehicle). We took it for a test drive and really liked it. It’s big enough that it will provide ample space for the baby mill we plan to operate one day (still can’t believe GN wants four kids), but not soooo large it feels like you are driving a monster truck.

After the drive, the salesman asked how we would be paying for our next car and we told him we would be using cash from the sale of one of our cars, couple with personal savings to cover the difference. He recommended, for obvious reasons, that we consider trading in Girl Ninja’s car instead. Although I have NO desire to trade in her car, I did want to see what their trade in offer would be on her car and mine.

I learned two things yesterday; 

  1.  Getting in an accident sucks. I got in a fender bender (my fault) in 2007 in my ’07 Scion tC and it shows up on the carfax. As a result, the dealership only offered a trade in value of $6,000 on my car. Blue Book shows private party retail for my year and mileage at $13,000. Had my car not been in an accident he said my trade in value would have been around $10,500. Accidents suck the value out of a perfectly functioning car.
  2. Trade in values in general are low, low, low balls. After running the numbers and inspecting GN’s car thoroughly they came back with an offer of $5,000. I laughed and told him we could easily sell it for $7,000 on Craigslist. He laughed and said, I couldn’t.

After about 20 minutes of his Jedi mind tricks, even bringing his manager in to “sweeten the pot”, they finally realized we were standing our ground and we wouldn’t be buying that Highlander. We walked away feeling like David must have after conquering Goliath. 

So last night, I got home and posted both of our cars on Craigslist. I posted mine for $12,000 and Girl Ninja’s for $8,200. Of course, my car hasn’t gotten a single bite because of the accident, but Girl Ninja’s did. We are showing the car later today (assuming the person doesn’t flake as many CLers do). We talked on the phone for quite a bit about it and the dude seems reasonable. I told him I’m selling to the first person that gives me cash and he seemed a little panicked by that. He told me he would bring money for a deposit on the car tomorrow, and if everything checks out according to how I described it, he will bring the rest of the money on Tuesday to pick up the vehicle.

Did we really just sell Girl Ninja’s car that fast? I feel good about the $8,200 list price and wont sell for a penny less. Her car does have typical wear and tear (minor dings and scrapes), her headlights are a little foggy, and the most significant issue is the rear window on the driver’s side no longer works (motor died) so it’s not like her car is in tip-top shape. Not to mention, an $8,200 sale nets us $3,200 more than the dealership’s offer.

The only downside to selling Girl Ninja’s car is that we would immediately become a one car family. I have a work car so this doesn’t impact our professional lives, but man would it sure be annoying for personal reasons. We’d obviously be motivated to replace her car quick, but not so quick we buy something we don’t like or is stupid expensive. No, like a good Ninja, I will wait patiently for a reasonable deal.

Crazy that a simple request from Girl Ninja to mop the floors, turned in to selling her car. I’ll keep ya updated if we are carless by the end of the night.

You ever bought a car on Craigslist (I’ve only sold on CL, but not bought)? Are certified pre-owned vehicles worth the dealer mark up compared to private party sales? Why do so many people “trade in” their vehicles when they could probably sell them on CL for a few thousand more?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I ended up mopping the floors later that night. 

p.s. my friends over at USAA sent over a few tips after reading this. Thought they were good enough to share with y’all. Check ’em out if you want…

How to Get the Most Dough for Your Used Car.and From Financing to Floor Mats: How Auto Dealers Make Their Money.

This is why I hate car payments

As you all know, Girl Ninja and I spent the last week gallivanting around San Diego; eating at our favorite restaurants, hiking/running at our favorite spots, and catching up with some of our closest friends. It was an amazing week and a great opportunity for us to charge our batteries before heading in to the upcoming work week. One of the nights we grabbed wine with one of my close friends (and personal finance blogger) Bruce Bucks and his wife. As usual, Matt and I started talking about money, which snowballed in to a conversation about cars.

I don’t know how much gas is where you live, but in Seattle $4.10/gallon seems about normal. Girl Ninja and I spend about $200-$250 a month on gas (thank goodness for a work vehicle, that can only be used for official business). Matt and his wife spend about $450/month. I pay around $160/month for car insurance. They pay $120/month. Let’s just assume in any given year we spend about $400 on oil changes and random maintenance (filters, belts, wipers, tires, etc).

Carry all these expenses out over a twelve month time frame and Matt and I are both paying about $5,000 a year to drive our (and our spouse’s) cars. FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! Do you know how many California Burritos that is? ONE THOUSAND BURRITOS! 

Driving freaking sucks. It sucks the money out of my wallet, and forces it in to a depreciating asset. That is no bueno.

I could drive less and probably find cheaper insurance (we have full comp/coll coverage on both vehicles), but even that wont drastically reduce our annual auto expenses. No. The only thing Girl Ninja and I can really do to ensure transportation has a minimal impact on our budget is a) don’t buy new and b) don’t finance our next vehicle. New vehicles depreciate like crazy (40% in the first four years). While taking out a loan means we will be paying the lender interest. After already allocating about $400/month to our cars, I have ZERO desire to increase that allocation much more.

I personally could not stomach a $400 car payment on top of the gas, insurance, and maintenance payments I previously mentioned. The disdain I have for debt, outweighs the joy I’d get from driving a new vehicle. 

That’s just me though. I have plenty of friends that have car payments (many who read this blog in fact). They are all intelligent people and are by no means reckless when it comes to their finances. I realize that just because I don’t have an appetite for a car payment, doesn’t mean that someone else wont find them beneficial or helpful. This is the very reason I love personal finance. You do you, and I’ll do me. 

So reader, How much do your transportation costs work out to each month? Break it down by line item (gas, insurance, maintenance, and payment). After adding all these numbers up, are you shocked just how expensive driving can be (I was with our $400-ish a month obligation)? Where does it fall on your balance sheet (I’m assuming probably your second largest expense after your rent/mortgage)? Do you hate car payments, find them a necessary evil to have reliable transportation, or love the ability to spread payments out over many years?

Favorite Nail from Yesterday: Awesome Dad

I owe her a car

I promised Girl Ninja that I would put the extra money I made while in Korea, in to a special savings account specifically designated for the purchase of our next vehicle. Now that I’ve received all my reimbursements and paychecks accounting for the overtime I worked, she’s ready to go test drive some cars.

Personally, I’m not thrilled by the idea. Car sales people are probably my least favorite people on earth, well after Girl Scouts that is. They are jedi-mind sorcerers. You go in to the dealership hoping to test drive a gently used compact car, and leave the lot three hours later with a brand spanking new 8 passenger minivan that you don’t even like. You justify this by saying “I got a great deal, $7,000 off sticker price” as though you somehow screwed the dealership out of money, when really you just gave them $25,000.  

Although I’m definitely not as excited as GN about beginning the “new to us” car shopping process, I’d be lying if I said the thought of four doors wasn’t at least slightly appealing (I have a coupe). Let’s lay some facts out as I see ’em…

  • I bought my Scion tC brand new in 2006 and it still has less than 40,000 miles on it. Girl Ninja’s 2005 Toyota Corolla was bought used and currently has 91,000 miles on it.
  • We both acknowledge we do not need an SUV.
  • We both want an SUV.
  • We could sell her car for around $8k no problem and mine for $11k.
  • We have a nice chunk of cash in savings.
  • We don’t want to buy a house.
  • We’d be looking in the $13,000 to $17,000 price range for a used SUV (depending on make/model).
  • The most cash we would be willing to go out-of-pocket is around $5,000. Everything else has to be made up from the sale of one of our vehicles.
  • We are not interested in anything but an SUV (sorry to those that hate SUVs).
  • I’m almost positive we will buy the vehicle through Craigslist.

Even though I’d rather wait until we have kids to upgrade vehicles, I’m only 50% of this household. Girl Ninja definitely wants a new car, more than I don’t want a new car. We work hard and save diligently, so why not live a little?

It’s easy for us to tell other people how to spend their money, and I imagine some of you will hate that we are considering an upgrade when our two vehicles have lots of life left in ’em. But anyone who has read this blog for a while, knows that we are far from careless when it comes to spending money. In fact the last $1,000+ purchase I made was in early 2010 on our plane tickets to Aruba for the honeymoon.

A little luxury isn’t a bad thing is it?  Got any car hunting tips for me? My landlord’s wife is a car broker and she said she could help us out, I know nothing about car brokers…are they legit?

 

The one way savings account

On November 30th, 2010 Girl Ninja and I had exactly $2,824.65 in our savings account (this does not include our Emergency Fund). Between November 2010 and September 2011, this account became very hungry and ate just about every dollar of discretionary income we had. By Sept. 2011, only ten months later, our savings had increased from less than $3,000 to an astonishing $45,017.92.

Our savings account was, and for the most part still is, a one way account. Money goes in, but it doesn’t go out. This is both good and bad. Good because we’ve been able to stock pile a lot of cash over the last twelve months. Bad because cash in and of itself is worthless, its value is only realized when utilized to purchase a good or service.

I leave this Friday for a six-week work trip to Korea. Whenever I go abroad for work, I have the potential to make some serious extra money. This trip should net me about $4,000 in addition to my standard base salary.

Every other time I have traveled (this is my third international trip), I’ve thrown the extra cash I’ve made in to our savings account and called it a day. Doesn’t that just scream….

This time, things are different. I know myself too well. If Girl Ninja let me put that $4,000 in to our “extra” savings fund, I wouldn’t want to ever take it out. I’m obsessed with watching the value of that savings account rise, and I seriously might suffer a mild heart attack (or have at least have really bad gas) if I saw the balance decrease.

So how do we reconcile this silly predicament?

It’s quite easy actually. I’ve created a new savings account with ING and labeled it the “New To Us Car Fund”. As you know, the wife and I plan to sell one of our two vehicles on Craigslist in the coming months (or years) and use the cash from the sale to purchase a gently used SUV from a private party. Since neither of our vehicles will fully cover the cost of a decent SUV, we will have to front the cash to cover the difference. Car loans are definitely not sexy.

If I put the $4,000 I make in to our extra savings fund, there is no way I’d be willing to pull the money out for an SUV. It would be too emotionally difficult for me. I’d feel like we were taking a step backward. The New Car Fund, however, is not a savings account. Instead it’s a spending account that I know we will tap in the near future.

I feel like a crazy person for even blogging about this. I don’t know why I can’t just suck it up and throw the $4K in our normal savings account, leaving a mental note that at some point down the road we will pull that same $4K out. My brain just doesn’t work that way I guess.

Maybe one day I’ll be financially mature enough to keep all of our savings in one main account, but today is definitely not that day.

Do you have a hard time spending money that’s in your savings account? Do you keep separate savings accounts (like I do) so that you don’t feel guilty about tapping your funds?

Two Ninjas, One Car.

We had our first snow of the year on Friday night and it was pretty epic. It was a light dusting over certain neighborhoods in the greater Seattle area that last about three hours. Although there was no SNOWpocolypse, Girl Ninja and I got a much-needed reminder that we no longer live in San Diego; 70 degree winters are a thing of the past.

As we navigated the snowy streets in her Toyota Corolla S, we started talking about what our next car would be. That conversation snowballed (pun intended) in to internet shopping for a 2011 4wd Acura MDX. Which then turned in to a visit to a local dealership. Which ultimately left us $40,000 poorer 🙁

April November Fools suckers, you didn’t really think we’d go buy a new car without discussing it on PDITF first, did you?

While a new-to-us car is still a ways off, we did have a pretty serious conversation about when and how we want to go about making the switch. My guess is Girl Ninja’s 2005 Corolla S would fetch about $7,000-$8,000 on Craigslist. My (two door) 2007 Scion tC, should sell for around $9,000-$11,000. We know our next vehicle will be an all-wheel-drive SUV, priced somewhere around $15,000. An SUV gives us the ability to navigate the snowy roads (have I ever told you I LOVE skiing, which requires driving through the mountains?) with ease, but more importantly we’ll be able to fit some car-seats and strollers in the back when Baby Ninja(s) come in to play.

Since I like to analyze, over-analyze, and reanalyze everything that goes on involving our finances, I’ve laid out the facts of our situation as I see them:

  • My car has 36,000 miles on it. Should drive another decade (at least). But is not family friendly since it’s a coupe (it can seat five though).
  • Girl Ninja’s car runs like a champ but has 89,000 miles on it. If this is the car we are going to sell, we want to get rid of it before it breaks 100,000 miles, since that is a psychological barrier for a lot of buyers. If we keep this car, it should drive another 2-3 years with no significant issues, after that point maintenance will start becoming a financial factor.
  • It doesn’t really snow that much in Seattle. Probably three to five days each winter, it snows hard enough that driving is pretty dangerous. Girl Ninja is a teacher so if it snows that hard, school will be cancelled. And the government wont let me drive in sketchy conditions so we shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to get to work in the event of a blizzard.
  • Since I have a company vehicle, we don’t necessarily need our own personal cars. In fact, I haven’t driven my car now in over a week (this is why it only has 36K miles on it even though it’s five years old).
  • I really like Honda Pilots and Toyota Highlanders, Girl Ninja likes Volvos and Acuras. While GN’s tastes are likely outside of our $15,000 budget, we should be able to find a 2004 Highlander (or similar Pilot) with 80,000 miles on it for around $12 – $16k. We will not buy another car until one of ours has sold. Using the cash from the sale, we’d be out-of-pocket about $5K – $8K to cover the difference.
  • We don’t plan on having kids for another ten years. Oh wait, that’s just me. Girl Ninja says we are waiting one to two more years 🙂
  • We will not drive a minivan. EVER.

::::END FACTS::::

I really am at a loss as to what the heck we should do. I know we don’t need an SUV anytime soon, so I’m not going to pretend like we do. People have kids and drive in the snow with regular sedans all the time. That said, we work hard, save hard, and we want an SUV. We just don’t know how to go about acquiring one.

Before we can move forward with the process, we first have to decide which of our two cars to sell. My car will last longer, her car has four doors. They both have some serious pros and cons. (side note: we will drive whichever car we keep until it explodes)

My plan at this point is as follows:

When the time comes to sell, I will put both of our cars on Craigslist and the car that fetches a better VALUE (not necessarily which one brings in the most money) will be the car we sell. If we don’t get any serious offers, we just keep posting them until we do. Since we don’t need an SUV, we are in no rush to give our cars away for below market value.

As I mentioned earlier, we can easily be a one car family. After we sold one of our cars, we wouldn’t rush in to buying our next one. I could literally spend months browsing Craigslist, newspapers, auctions, etc waiting for a “great” deal. When we finally find an SUV that meets all of our criteria, we buy it and live happily ever after. This is a pretty good plan isn’t it?

Do we sell my car because it has two doors? Do we sell Girl Ninja’s car because it has more miles? What’s the most miles you’d allow on a used car you were considering purchasing (GN’s limit is 40K, my limit is closer to 100K)? What else do I need to be (or not need to be) thinking about?

AHHHH!!!! Planning stresses me out 🙁