I Hate Cars (aka How to Prioritize $)

I hate cars. They are one of the most painful money sucking leaches out there; don't hold their value, start depreciating (a lot!) the moment you drive them off of the lot, and tack onto that a hefty maintenance burden -- gas, insurance, tag, etc. -- egh!

After getting a sweet taste of what reliable public transit is like -- ie. NYC and Chicago -- and loving bicycling, I can't help but hate the idea of ever owning a car again; I'm on year 5 of operation car-boycott. But now, after going car-less for a year in the pathetic public transit desert-swamp that is Miami, FL -- where I once waited 2 hours for a bus that runs "every 20 mins", and is one of the most dangerous states (thanks to Miami) for walking and bikin in America (WTF Miami?!) -- I'm biting the bullet...and reallocating debt annihilation funds to get a car...ew! I know, I'm not too happy about it either, but am glad I have the flexibility to make the choice. 

You may be wondering how I get around without a car nor reliable public transit (especially if you're a Miamian) -- easy, the awesome shared economy:
  • "Cabs" (follow these links for limited-time discount codes): Uber, Lyft
  • Renting by the day: Relay Rides
  • Renting by the minute Car2Go & hour ZipCar
  • A scooter. Yeay! I have a scooter. Super fun, but also not terribly safe in Miami's cut-throat traffic
  • Trading family members gas money for quick last-minute jaunts (Thanks Mom & Sis!)  - I know this one verges on mooching, but when they buyer agrees to the trade (gas $ for car use in this case), then I'm okay with it, if they're okay with it.  

Why not keep this up you ask? For three reasons:
  • Time: Having my own car is more reliable and flexible, so I'm not just buying a car, I'm also buying/saving time..which we know is the best thing ever, and thus makes us happy.  I also have a car waiting for me to buy it! A family member is selling their car (which I know they've taken immaculate care of) right around the time I'll finish paying my loans. This makes the timing great for us both.
  • Money:  Given the car I'm getting (used of course), it also comes out to about the same amount of $ as using all the shared economy options. I also actually have the money! Finally, I have money for something other than my debt black hole. You'll notice that my January 2015 to February 2015 "% Paid" was a measly ~2%, a far cry from my average ~27%. The difference is the $ I'm saving for the car purchase.
  • Goals on Track:  That's right, I've reduced my student loan payment in order to save for a car. Were I earlier in my debt annihilation journey this would give me nightmares, but now, I'm only 5 payments away from FREEDOM (it's so awesome I have to write it in all caps) and it won't impact my ultimate goal - being done by age 30. If it did impact my goal, then I wouldn't do this (or would delay it more).

To summarize, here are handy questions to ask yourself when making a purchase that will impact your bottom line:

  1. Will it buy/save you time and/or happiness?
  2. Do you have, or can you save, the money required?
  3. Will your financial goals still be on track if you make the purchase?
If you answer yes to all three, then it may be okay to re-prioritize, and incorporate the purchase into your goals. 

My top two financial goals right now are #1 nuking my student loans (obviously), and #2 saving for a car. 

In an effort to help you out -- after all I spill my money guts to you, so feel at peace with your own confusing/burdensome finances -- drop a line in the comments (anonymous is okay) letting me know...

What are your top two personal finance goals? 
Or, what questions do you have about how to prioritize your goals?

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