I’ve been car shopping for the last couple of months and during those few months I’ve:

  • Dropped my budget down from $20,000 to $15,000 ($20,000–what was I thinking?)
  • Decided to ditch my original SUV idea entirely
  • Learned about mpg
  • Thanked the gods I decided to read up on it
  • Read a million car reviews/guides
  • Thought about leasing
  • Decided to never lease, ever
  • Dropped budget down to $10,000
  • Decided to limit my monthly payment to less than $175 after everything

That’s a lot of information now that I look at it. But I can sum up the above list in one simple word: compromise.

Ideally I would love to have a car with a few upgrades–a cute spoiler, sun roof, integrated gps system, leather seats, etc. They’re nice upgrades, but in my opinion they aren’t necessary. I would love to own a luxury vehicle but I’ve been rolling around in my Toyota Corolla for five years without a problem, so I’m confident that a standard car will cater to my every need.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from car shopping and crunching numbers it’s this: I’m not willing to risk paying a $300 car payment every month for five years just because I would like to step out of a nice car. To me, it’s not worth it. To a car enthusiast, it’s probably a different thing altogether. Someone who takes pride in their car and loves to have a nice ride would enjoy every second and feel that $200, $300, or even $400 a month is worth it. I personally don’t feel that way, so I’ve learned to compromise.

I’ve dropped down my budget considerably because I’m one of those people who likes to prepare for the inevitable. It’s ridiculous, of course–how could I possibly prepare for every scenario? I admit it’s crazy but I can’t help myself. You just never know, people! If something were to happen, like if I lost my job for example, I’d be okay with a $150 car payment. I feel I would be able to afford that on a job that paid minimum wage. Or what if I got a higher-paying job? I would have no problem doubling my payments and cutting down my 5 year loan in half. The point is I’d be financially okay either way, and I like that security.

Plus I’ve found that even though I’m compromising on a few upgrades I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself. At the end of the day I’ll have a stable car that will get me from Point A to Point B, looks cute, has great gas mileage, and is safe. Those are my requirements, and they’re things I’m not willing to compromise on. Everyone is different and has their own list of “I Won’t Compromise On…” and that’s the beauty of it. There’s no set rules or a higher standard, and the end result is always the same: you walk off happy.

That’s my goal at the end of all this. I want to be happy and financially secure (as much as I can be) with the car I end up choosing. And that’s all that matters.

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