• Posts Tagged ‘automobile’

    You’re Hired! Now Here’s a Car Payment

    by  • December 6, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Highway, Houston

    I'll be stuck in this.

    One of the great things about my current job is that my wife and I can commute together, whether it be by public transportation (in the past) or by car (currently). While I’ve waxed poetic on how much I love my job, I found myself a few weeks ago interviewing for another position. It’s a step up from my current position, with much more room to advance and grow. Apparently I impressed them, which is surprising since I haven’t interviewed in over eight years and I only had a few days to prepare. They’re going to give me an offer soon.

    As I wait for the offer to come in, I’ve had to review my current benefits package and lay everything out to make sure that I can make apples-to-apples comparisons with the offer I am about to receive. That’s the easy part. The harder part is to determine the intangible items and see how they compare.

    One of the things I love about my current job is that it is in the heart of downtown Chicago. I have access to museums, shops, parks, history, you name it, all within a 15 minute walk from my office. But like I said earlier; one of the best things is that normally soul-sucking commute time can be spent singing Christmas Carols with my wife and child and having a grand ole’ time while sitting in traffic.

    One of the downsides about the new position is its location outside of the city, in a suburb almost 30 miles out from downtown Chicago. In taking the position, I would certainly have to buy a new car, in addition to not commuting with my wife and child who make the commute much more bearable. If I indeed take this position, I’d have to have something I haven’t in my adult life: a car payment.

    Knowing that I’ll have to buy a car really changes the outlook of how I’ll approach the new job’s offer. Should I make sure that I get compensated the amount that a new car would cost? That’s somewhat unreasonable as that could increase my income by over 25%. Do I ask for flexible work schedule so that I don’t have to drive as much? Is this a dealbreaker?

    I won’t know if this is a potential dealbreaker until I see the complete offer. Unfortunately, it seems that if I want to pursue a job in my field, I’ll probably end up commuting out to the suburbs sometime in my life. But it doesn’t have to be now.

    The Costs of Two Parents Working Full Time

    by  • October 10, 2012 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    cat in car seat

    Easier to get in the seat than our kid

    Ever since my wife was pregnant with our child, there was no doubt that we would both keep working full time. We thought that we had a good grasp of the costs involved with working full time. Daycare, of course, for our kid when we work, and a whole new slew of costs associated with driving. But that wasn’t all, oh no. We’ve been doing this for about a year and a half now, and, to really no one’s surprise, it’s costing us much, much more than we anticipated. Here’s the breakdown:


    Putting our kid in a place located just inconveniently enough to be a pain in the ass where other people can care for him for nine hours costs us upwards of $1,700 a month. Yes, you read that right, $1,700. Are there cheaper placed in Chicago? Yes. Are there more expensive places in Chicago? Yes. The daycare that we use is on the more expensive side of things, but considering the range of the cost of daycare (including home daycares) in Chicago for full-time care is $1,200 to $2,300 per month, we pay slightly over the mean.

    My wife has a dependent care flexible spending account, which allows us to allocate $5,000 of pre-tax money for daycare costs. That lowers our taxable income come tax time, which translates to a tax savings of about $1,250 a year. That can be combined with the child tax credit, but we can’t take full advantage of because of our total income. Nonetheless, we’re able adjust our withholding to increase our take home pay by a few dollars per month. Every bit helps.

    Is it worth it? Looking at the fantastic care that our child receives, we say YES. I was admittedly very skeptical at the cost, even to the point of having a feasible plan B. However, it didn’t take very long for me to see that the quality of care was exceptional. Now that we have a toddler, we can directly see the advances in development on a daily basis. The teachers genuinely care for our kid, and we have built an incredible amount of trust in them.

    There really is no right answer for how much someone “should” pay for childcare. We found the right answer for us. And this isn’t permanent! We might have to tighten the purse strings for a few years, maybe lots of years if we have many children, but they will all grow up.

    Automobile – Parking

    For a long long time, we were happy daily users of the public transit system in Chicago. After kiddo was born, that all had to end. We now schlep our kid to daycare, and then ourselves to work everyday. The price of parking in Chicago has increased a ridiculous amount in the past few years, but we’ve managed to find parking that doesn’t completely break the bank. Not only that, but it’s close to our work; next door to my wife’s work, in fact. For the privilege of parking our car in downtown Chicago, we pay $200 of pre-tax money per month ($2,400 a year); my wife also has a flexible spending account for parking costs. That offsets our costs a bit by saving us around $600 in taxes.

    Automobile – Gas

    Quiz: What city in the USA has the highest gas prices? CHICAGO. Yay. For a while we used our trunk to store our 25-pound stroller; we took it out once and didn’t put it back, and lo and behold we got better gas mileage. Back then we were paying around $50 per week in gas, but since the removal of the stroller we’re filing up about once every week and a half. In addition, we’ve found some strategies for saving on gas. Let’s call it a total of $150 per month for gas.

    Automobile – Maintenance and Being Stupid

    We have a 10+ year old japanese compact car. We’re fortunate that it hasn’t needed any maintenance above and beyond what is recommended. Oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, fluids replaced whenever they need to be, tires rotated, whatever. The total cost of maintenance is probably around $300 per year if there’s no major things to be done. Our commute is still short enough that we’re not racking up a huge number of miles – maybe 300 miles per month – so maintenance costs will continue to be low.

    However, that doesn’t account for stupid driving mistakes. I’m the primary driver in our family, and I’m far from being a perfect driver. But sometimes, I swear, a pothole or a curb will pop out right in front of me, and then BAM, I’m changing a tire. Fortunately, these incidents haven’t happened too much, but it does cost time and money to get these problems fixed. Add another $200 a year.


    Before parenthood, I didn’t feel the need to be constantly caffeinated. Amazing what a few months of sleep deprivation will do. Each morning I fill coffee cups before we get in our car. We pay $15 a week for locally-roasted coffee which we grind at home, for a total of $60 a month on coffee alone. That amounts to a small savings over buying coffee everyday from a coffee shop, but we’ll take all we can get.

    Conclusion and Rationale

    Here’s the questions you’ve been waiting for: does having both parents work offset the cost of childcare related expenses? The answer is…not really. My wife’s take home is a little over $2,000 a month.

    So why does she keep working?

    Because she’s passionate about her career. Because she works at one of the top firms in the world in her field. Because she can work with some of the smartest people on Earth. Because she can contribute to a retirement plan. I’m of the same mind.

    That said, we have no idea what will happen if/when we have more children.

    Are you a two parent working full time household? How have you handled the costs and other challenges of working full time while taking care of a child or children?

    image: ocean yamaha

    Can Teenagers Afford to Go Crusin’ For Fun Anymore?

    by  • October 28, 2011 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Probably doesn't get very good gas mileage.

    Probably doesn't get very good gas mileage.

    image: mikebaird 

    I remember going to the gas station with my mom when I was a little wee lad. She’d give me $5 and I’d go tell the cashier, “Five bucks on pump three.” (on occasion she’d give me $10 and would also tell me to get $5 of lotto tickets, but that’s another post…) And that $5 of gas would last the week. Oh the days of yore.

    When I was a teenager one of the activities that I loved to do the most was to get in my (or my friends’) car, pick a direction, and drive. However, back when I was teenager I could fill up my crappy 80′s Japanese sports car’s gas tank for $10. Since I had a decent job, filling up the tank was no problem – friends usually pitched in as well. We had some epic drives, all starting from Chicagoland area, and ending up in Wisconsin, Indiana, or some very rural part of Illinois.

    A few days ago I filled up my early 2000′s Japanese compact car’s gas tank for $44.27. (Yay Chicago for having the highest gas prices in the nation.) There’s no way that the teenage me would be able to afford $45 of gas every week, or even every 2 weeks. Well, I probably could have afforded it but I wouldn’t have any money left over for other recreational activities. I got to wondering, do teenagers go out and just drive anymore? If not, that really sucks because it was such an enjoyable part of my teenage life.

    Do you have teenager kids or know of any? What are they doing if not driving around aimlessly?


    Saving on Gas

    by  • September 14, 2011 • Tagged: ,  • Comments


    image: xkcd

    These days Her and I drive much, much more than we used to, for reasons that I’ll explain in a later post. Of course that means that we’re saddled with high costs at the gas pump. We’re having to fill up about once a week, and with gas prices being the highest in the nation in Chicago, that adds up to about $160 a month. Here’s a few things we do to soften the blow:

    • Maintain our car – We have a small Japanese 10 year old car with only ~75,000 miles on it. It gets decent gas mileage, but not as much as newer cars. It’s the simple things like making sure that we have correct tire air pressure that can add up to overall substantial savings
    • Gas up in the ‘burbs - Readers of our blog know that we’re not the biggest fan of the ‘burbs, but recently we’re have more stuff that we have to get done there. Gas stations a block from our home in Chicago are selling gas for $4.19/gallon; gas in the nearest Chicago suburb is $3.94/gallon. No, we wouldn’t drive out there for the sole purpose of filling up the tank, but if we’re out there we might as well do it.
    • Use rewards cards - During the past few months, the Chase Freedom card offered 5% back on gas purchases, so that’s nice.
    • Know the gas stations - On our new commute, we drive by a dozen or so gas stations. I’ve made a mental note of which gas stations have lower prices. Every little bit helps.

    How do you save money on gas?

    Sponsored Post: Maintaining Your Auto Insurance Rate

    by  • August 31, 2010 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    This sponsor post is brought to you by 21st Century Insurance. The views expressed here are solely those of the sponsor and do not necessarily represent the views of Make Love, Not Debt.

    Many drivers spend a lot of time shopping for lower car insurance rates. Once you find a low rate, you’ll want to keep it that way. Here are a few tips for avoiding a premium increase.

    1. Avoid traffic violations.
    Speeding tickets and other moving violations can automatically result in an automobile insurance rate increase. Follow the letter of the law to avoid getting a ticket in the first place. If you do get a citation, some states will erase it if you attend traffic school. See if your state is one of them.

    2. Drive carefully.
    Exercise extreme caution whenever you drive. You can expect your rate to increase if you’re involved in accident for which you are held responsible. The industry standard is to increase your premium by 40% of your base rate after your first at-fault accident. Be sure to look carefully at the next insurance bill you receive after an accident. You shouldn’t be penalized for accidents that weren’t your fault. If you think your rates have been increased unfairly, contact your insurance company.

    3. Lend your car sparingly.
    If you lend your car to a friend who gets in an accident, you’ll be responsible for any deductibles incurred. There’s also a good chance your rates will increase as the result of any claims filed.

    4. Don’t get your license suspended.
    Too many driving violations or a DUI can result in your losing your license. Once that happens, you may find your auto insurance rates increase by as much as 35-40%… or that you may not be able to get coverage at all.

    5. Keep your car locked … in the garage, if possible.
    It doesn’t seem fair, but a stolen car can result in an increased auto insurance policy. Always lock your vehicle and park in the safest place possible. If you have a garage, use it.

    6. Choose the car you drive carefully.
    When shopping for a new vehicle, choose a safe, low-risk model. If you have a few makes and models in mind, call your insurance company and ask will cost more to insure.

    7. Pay your bills on time.
    Many car insurance companies look at credit reports to determine the amount of your premium. The belief is that drivers with higher credit scores are more responsible behind the wheel. A poor credit score could result in a higher auto insurance rate.

    In Which We Put Our Car in a Pothole

    by  • April 19, 2009 • Tagged:   • Comments

    We hit a pothole, and the pothole hit our wallets. This morning we were cruising down Lakeshore Drive when we struck a nefarious pothole. It wasn’t that wide, maybe only a foot or so, but it was also about a foot deep. We hit it while going about 40 mph. That instant I saw our hubcap go careening off in the distance. When we stopped to check the damage, we saw that there were two deep gouges in the rubber tire plus a huge dent in the rim. After I stopped stomping around the parking lot cursing, we changed the tire. Tonight Him dropped the car off at our mechanic to have it repaired. We’re guessing the bill we be around $500. Damn you, Chicago pot holes!!! (okay, so maybe I spent the whole day stomping around cursing).

    I did find this nice blog post by The Expired Meter that explains how we can go about trying to get the city of Chicago to pay for half the repair bill (in 4-6 months, blarg!).

    Weekly Roundup, Expensive Parking Edition

    by  • January 17, 2008 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Living in a big city with big city prices has definitely warped my sense of money. For example, when did paying $16 for parking downtown for the day become “cheap”? I guess when there’s other places charging $25+, I guess it isn’t so bad. Onto this week’s roundup…

    Frugal Law Student asks who actually deposits money in ATMs? Answer: We do. For us, it is convenient, quick, and hassle-free.

    Over at Wisebread there is a good article on how a realistic budget can be a marriage saver. The story is quite endearing, and is almost mirrors the way that Her and I do things. Especially budgeting with a bottle of wine.

    Ask Dong tells you that before you date, get a credit report. That is definitely the way to not let your dong see any action.

    Speaking of getting action – guys and gals, if you’re thinking of getting something to spice up the ol’ love life, remember that vibrators are too expensive (and they break easily). Thanks, Her Every Cent Counts, for that.

    Single Ma tells why she kicks ass goes against the grain. I have to agree, the pfblogosphere gets really old when all you read are the same things over and over and over…

    DINKs give some good tips on how to talk about money. We have our State of the Union talk every so often.

    2 Million
    is going through Smart Couples Finish Rich and creating value circles. When we read this book we did the same thing, and going back to these circles really helps us focus on where our money goes.

    Living Almost Large thinks about the consequences of having your parents move in with you. Since both of our parents’ are getting older, we’re going to have to start thinking about decisions like this.

    English Major is thinking about the the economy and how it works. She muses philosophically about topics like the stock market and corporations. What’s really fascinating are the comments which reveal where to get more information.

    Managing Our Debt – A Review Of How We Live With A Large Debt Burden

    by  • December 19, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    photo: iandavid

    Over at The Digerati Life, Silicon Valley Blogger muses about handling large debt loads. Her examples include two bloggers who have large amounts of debt: the always controversial Casey Serin and a newer blogger Debt Kid. She also narrates a story of a man she knew who bought a $1.5 million dollar home, but who had a bunch of contingency plans should things go financially awry.

    In our own writings, I have to admit that we can be brazenly blase about the amount of debt that we have and how we’re tackling it. I feel that we can do this because we’ve come up with our own action plan to manage our debt. When we first started this blog, we had $18,054.88 in credit card debt, and $135,966.11 in student loan debt. Many people look at those numbers and tend to freak out; we did too. Fast forward to today and we’ve eradicated all of the credit card debt, and we’re working to accelerate the student loan payment. Here’s how we’ve managed this amount of debt without waking up in cold sweats.

    1. We have relatively low rent. This was our first step for our finances after college and has been paramount to freeing up cash. Currently our housing costs are 18% of our take home income (about 10% of our gross).

    2. We used the debt snowball for debts with balances of under $1,000. We had a few cards with a few hundred dollars debt on them; each of them demanded a minimum payment every month. One of things I do like about Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball is that it frees up cash relatively early in the debt payoff. Even though it made more mathematical sense to pay off the higher balances first, when we paid off the lower balances it freed up more cash in that it was one less minimum payment we’d have to deal with.

    3. We applied freed up cash towards the higher interest rate balances. When we first started this blog, I was paying off a debt that was at 20.99%. As soon as a few of the lower balance cards were paid off, the extra cash went towards battling the debts with monster interest rates.

    4. We took advantage of great credit card deals. I managed to lower the debt of my credit cards to 0% and 2.99%; Her got all of her debt on a card with 0% interest as long as we made 2 purchases a month on it.

    5. Since we started this blog, we increased our income by at least 42%. In these two years, I received three pay raises; Her received two. We also have some income from this site. The extra cash definitely made sleeping at night easier.

    6. We have an emergency fund. Yeah, it’s not clearly defined, but we know that if there is an emergency that arises we can take money from our savings. After the wedding, we plan on having 6 months of expenses remaining in our savings accounts.

    7. Once we paid off the credit cards, we took advantage of another offer to put $11,000 on a card at 1.9%. We put exactly that amount of student loan on there, saving us a lot of cash in the future.

    8. We have not incurred any new consumer debt. We vowed to never pay another penny in credit card interest and now take advantage of rewards programs.

    9. We are a one car family. Shortly after moving to Chicago I sold my car; it was costing me a lot of money to have it in the city. With the car we do have, we minimize our expenses.

    10. We continue to look for ways to increase our income, use leverage and arbitrage to get better interest rates, and make solid decent financial decisions.

    For us, it was these actions that showed us the light at the end of the debt tunnel.

    Are you under a mountain of debt? How have you managed it? How do you let it not keep you up at night?

    Car Maintenance = Free Airfare

    by  • November 1, 2006 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    This past weekend we went out to the ‘burbs for dinner with some of Her’s family. Shortly after pulling out of their driveway, we heard thwump thwump thwump thwump thwump coming from the back of the car. I got out of the car to see what was wrong and discovered that one of the tires was flat. We pulled into a K-Mart parking lot down the road to change the flat tire and found there was a philips head screw neatly lodged in the tire tread.

    It was a little past due for us to do some maintenance anyway, so I brought the car in to get the tire replaced and have a bunch of other stuff done. The total cost of everything was a little over $300.

    Instead of this being a major financial headache, we’re looking at it as sort of a mixed blessing. Last week, we received in the mail a special promotion for one of my rewards credit cards: spend $300 from now until the end of the year and they’ll give us a free plane ticket. Fortunately for us, that card has a zero balance on it. We were going to pay for the services with cash, but now we’ll just use the rewards card and then pay that off as soon as we get the bill.

    We believe that credit cards can be used as a great tool to complement our financial plan. We’ve learned our lesson about overspending and credit card abuse. In this case it makes sense to use a card for the free plane ticket. Hopefully we can use it for Her to join me on one of my business trips sometime next year and we can have a cheap vacation.

    How Much Would You Pay For A Non-Feminine License Plate?

    by  • June 28, 2006 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    A few months before we started this blog, I sold my car. The decision was pretty easy and was brought upon by a few factors:

    1. Racked up about $200 in parking tickets in about three months. One fine summer day last year I got two tickets at the same time. When I paid them for some reason the city of Chicago website didn’t process it, but the money came out of our bank account anyway. That was a real treat, trying to prove that I paid tickets with no documentation other than the charges on my bank statement. They ended up only crediting me for one ticket. Note to all: always print out the payment confirmation!

    2. Insurance. When I was younger I got into two minor accidents. Premiums suck.

    3. Gas. Expensive. Even more so today.

    4. My employer pays for our pubic transportation. I love you, CTA.

    5. Driving around and around the block looking for parking spaces. I felt like I had Alzheimer’s going around the same damn blocks over and over and over.

    When I sold my car, I was pretty content with taking public transportation everywhere, and using Her car whenever I needed it.

    Except for her license plate. In the interest of anonymity, let’s say it was “FLUFFY 8.”

    Every time I would drive her car, I felt a little embarrassed. A little emasculated. A little humiliated. Seriously, I couldn’t drive a car with such a feminine license plate. Her car might was well could of had a furry pink steering wheel cover. Ick.

    After much complaining by me, we made a deal. We could get a new license plate at the time the registration sticker expired. I even offered to pay, from my own money, for all of the expenses of getting a new plate, $26 for a new plate and $78 for registration renewal, a total of $104. When we actually renewed it, for some reason we were only charged $26. Someone along the way screwed up, but we weren’t going to correct them.

    $26 dollars for a random number plate. I think that’s a cheap price for a little dignity.