I have a great deal of trouble budgeting, and the problem is my car. I pay too much for it, between the gas, the insurance, the maintenance, repairs, and so on. However, I can’t live without a car. I need it to get to school and to work, and I don’t have many great options around me in terms of public transportation and stuff like that. So, what can I do? I just can’t seem to stick to any budget, and the car stuff is what messes it up.
Many Americans consider cars essential. In fact, more than 90% of us have one (on a one-per-household basis). However, they often become quite pricey! The average car costs more than $30,000. That’s quite a chunk of change for the typical American; most of us don’t even have enough in savings to cover an unexpected $500 expense. Throw in the cost of maintaining a car and keeping it covered by insurance, and you have quite a burden.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to keep your car, or that you can’t develop a budget that works for you. Let’s talk about two things: how to make your car more affordable, and how to budget well.
For starters, take a good hard look at your car and what you spend on it. Consider how you’re spending that money. Do you pay a great deal for repairs? Perhaps you should spend more on maintenance, which will help your car avoid more expensive problems down the line. Is gas your problem? Consider driving in a more fuel-conscious way (fewer fast starts and stops will help), or arrange to carpool with friends to work and split gas money. Is your car valuable? If so, maybe you should swap it for a cheaper model and pocket the difference (your insurance might get cheaper, too). Or, if your car is not too fancy, consider streamlining your insurance coverage and ditching pricier policies.
Cheap car insurance doesn’t have to be bare-bones, of course. By shopping around and looking for the best rates, you could save quite a bit. We sometimes leave money on the table just because we’re too lazy to compare prices. Don’t let that happen to you! Examine different providers and policies. Think hard about what kind of coverage you need. Is your vehicle valuable enough to merit extensive protection, or can you get by with a slimmer insurance policy that limits coverage to collision? When you get the right car insurance coverage, you’ll save.
Once you figure out a way to spend less on your car itself, it’s time to face a hard truth about budgeting. A good budget starts with the nonnegotiable expenses. If you try to deal with all of your potential expenses at once, you’ll always feel like your car expenses push your budget out of control. You must start with your car expenses (along with rent and other necessities), and then evaluate how much you have left for your social life. You can still have a life, of course! Look for the best deals online when you shop, and find free ways to enjoy yourself (you could take up hiking, for instance).
Budgeting is no fun, but good budgeting is a huge part of building wealth. Try to find ways to save on car insurance and other car expenses, and then make tough decisions. If you stick to your budget, you’ll find that you have the financial security you need to enjoy the life you want down the line.
“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” – Warren Buffett