Back to Reality

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.

My new work car

Emergency Fund

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.

Final thoughts

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 🙂

Do you enjoy a current perk at work that you will miss when you retire? How will you cope with the loss?

10 Replies to “Back to Reality”

  1. I recently did the same as you and gave up my stressful full-time job for a 2-day a week lower level job. I’d factored in the lower salary and lack of higher level pension contributions, but the day I had to give up my phone was an unexpected shock. For the past 8 years i’d Been able to use my work phone for private so i’d Taken for granted being on the best package and a new phone every 2 years, and now all of a sudden I’m having to pay for it myself! Not as big an expense as a work car but a shock to the system nonetheless. Good luck with your transition

  2. Hi Maria, I have a work phone too that I can use for private calls etc so that will be another shock to the system when I have to give it up 🙂 Thank you for commenting!

    1. Yes but I suppose I’ve been so used to it – it’s a matter of coughing up the upfront costs. Hmm … food for thought. Thank you

    1. Yes!! I like Prius. I am open to purchasing second hand cars, just need time to research – I guess time will not be a problem when I retire. And you need a car to visit the seller

    1. Maybe … time will not be such an issue then – definitely can go by bus to shops for groceries on weekdays when the schedule is much better. Visiting my parents will probably take 2 hours one way. Unfortunately, public transport sucks in Melbourne unless you are in the city. Rent/carshare services in the suburbs not well established either. Perhaps it will all have improved by the time I retire – fingers and toes crossed.

  3. I’m with you about being wary of older second hand cars. My parents’ first cars were second hand, each was about 7K (which was still a lot in the 90s!) and one of them was definitely a lemon. We managed to drag out that car’s life for 10 years but it was expensive to run and repair! I splurged rather more on my first car, at the end of 2011 (gosh, it’s been longer than I thought…) and it was almost-new, only 3 months old. It did cost 17K but its been 9 years now and the upkeep is still cheap. And it’s a good sturdy Toyota which has seen me through a few accidents with barely a dent!

    1. That’s the problem with second hand cars – the possibility of buying a lemon! I don’t have a problem with buying new cars if you are going to drive it till it dies AND that you can afford to pay cash for it

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