Oh, the joy of returning home after a five and a half week overseas holiday! Or not 🙂
So it’s now back to reality.
And surprisingly it has been a struggle, even though my new role at work is much less stressful compared to what I did before. I finished up at the stressful site at the end of the financial year, then sauntered off to my longed for holiday.
After spending weeks of only being concerned about where I would spend the day or what meals to eat, it was a rude shock to come back to chores and waking up to go to work.
My biggest shock though?
I no longer had access to a work car!
Let’s backtrack ….
My work car
I have had a work car for the last 26 years, ever since I started work for my present employer. There were a lot of deliveries to clients and we always had a fleet of cars. One of my perks was to take a car home. And over the years, it became a part of my remuneration package.
They were not flash cars – just cars that did the job. Variously, I drove a Toyota Corolla, Camry, Hyundai, and most recently a Honda CRX. That is, until I was involved in a car accident in November which wiped it out. But thankfully I was ok.
Due to the tough economic times of my industry, I did not ask for another car – I just drove one of the other cars in the fleet. My boss agreed to get me a new car in the new financial year ie in July.
But of course since then, I had resigned from my stressful role and negotiated a much less stressful role to start from July; but the car perk was attached to the stressful role.
My boss offered to pay me a bit more to compensate for not having a car but I chose to have a car instead.
Savings from having a work car for 26 years
Not having my own car has saved me thousands of dollars over the years. My ‘back of the envelope’ calculations are as follows –
Car registration – $800 annually x26
Comprehensive insurance – $1000 annually x26
Maintenance – $800 annually x26
Total = $67 000 !!!
That is not including fuel. When I first started working here, I lived with my parents 30km away so fuel costs would have added up. It was only the last 16 years or so that I lived 15 minutes away from work.
Upon my return from holidays …
I discovered that I could not use one of the other cars in the fleet from the other workplace. As technically I am no longer employed on that site. And my new car was not ready.
But luckily my boss was negotiating a better finance deal with the car dealer and that had delayed the whole process. So I was still getting a car, just not right now.
During those ten days, I relied on my colleague to drive me to and from work. And on the weekend, I borrowed a car. I live in the suburbs where public transport is just not readily available. A 15 minute car commute to work would take an hour by bus and train.
All this brought home the fact that over the years, I have taken for granted the availability of a work car. Transport has not been a line item in my expenses for the last 26 years. I am incredibly fortunate.
It was a good reminder that it is not a God given right and that really, it can be taken away just as quickly.
But the biggest reason why I fought hard to have a work car is that I cannot cash flow a car right now without touching my emergency fund. Which I am so loathed to do. It is taking me so long to build this up that I really do not want to touch it. Unless maybe a life and death issue? I am so close to my goal of having 6 months’ expenses saved.
And I most certainly do not want to borrow money to buy a car. I so enjoy being debt free ever since I finished paying off my mortgage. That feeling of freedom … I just cannot stomach being in debt again.
I know in the FI community, the prevailing advice is to buy a second hand car. But I want a car that will last me till the end (maybe the next 20 years?) and that I can drive around Australia on road trips. That is a dream for when I retire; when maybe I no longer feel the need to travel overseas. And when I have time – Australia is rather big.
So an old bomb is out of the question – I don’t want to break down in the middle of the Outback.
In saying that, I also don’t want an expensive European car with all the mod cons. Can you tell I am not a car person at all? I don’t know enough car lingo. I just want a reliable car that is not going to break down every 5 minutes.
So, I am open to buying a 2 to 3 year old car but I guess with my inexperience, I am worried that I may pick a ‘lemon’. My estimate is I may need $15000 to $20000 for a decent car.
Ever since I discovered FIRE, it has been at the back of my mind that I need to save up for my own car; for the eventual time when I retire and no longer have access to a work car.
This episode just highlighted the urgency. It made me very aware that I really must start saving for a car as soon as possible. Though I must confess that my secret strategy is to buy my current car from my employer when I eventually retire 🙂