Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

We bought a new car! October 12, 2019

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 8:48 pm


My last post was about hoarding cash. I guess now we have a little less cash in that stash!

My husband’s car was getting pretty bad. He’d bought it used over a decade ago and had put at least 150k miles on it. The last time he brought it in for repairs and maintenance, the quote to fix everything was pretty much about what the car was worth. So we decided it was time to get something new.

My husband took the lead on shopping around for the best deal (mostly because I don’t like trying to negotiate with people). We knew what kind of car we wanted, so he sent emails to all the local car dealers who were selling that car. He collected the offers in a spreadsheet and continued to negotiate with the different dealers, sharing what the best offers were to see if they could beat it.

We finally made our way to the dealership that had the best offer. We took a test drive just to make sure we liked it. And while we were on the test drive my husband got an email from another dealer with a competitive offer. When we got back to the dealership from our test drive, my husband told them about the competing offer. He showed them the email, and they were able to match it!

We had to transfer money from our savings accounts to our checking account so we could pay for the car, but after that went through a few days later, we picked up the new car!

I know a lot of folks focused on personal finance suggest that you should only ever buy a used car, and even then, don’t spend a ton of money on it. Yes, we know a new car loses value immediately after buying. But we plan on having this car for a long time, and it fits our current and future needs, and we plan on getting our money’s worth from it. Like Tanja of Our Next Life wrote, “decide for yourself what spending you value, then spend without guilt“. We are frugal in a lot of ways, and have been saving for a long time. We wanted a car that was safe and reliable, and could accommodate our family’s needs now and for years to come. And we believe that’s what we got.

When’s the last time you bought a car? (It was over 11 years ago for me!)  What purchase have you made recently that goes against standard personal finance advice?


Christmas Car Commercials, I Hate You: 2011 Redux December 2, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 7:08 pm
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You remember when I posted about my hatred of Christmas car commercials?  Well guess what.  I still hate them.

Again, it’s the Lexus ads driving me nuts.  This year, all the gift giving occasions revolve around recognizing the somehow universally known “Lexus song”.  You know, because when you hear that song, you know your significant other dropped a minimum of $34k to surprise you.  Was it on your Amazon wish list or something?

I did a little research, and it turns out that “Lexus Song” is actually called “Family & Friends“, written by Steve Kujala, a prolific composer and flautist.  I actually listened to the whole piece.  Luckily, listening to the actual piece doesn’t fill me with infinite range.

So, back to the commercials.  The couples are together, and then they hear the song, played by some clever means, like in a music box, as a ringtone, or the Muzak playing in the elevator.  I will admit, as a video game fan, I was least annoyed by the one where they programmed the song in Guitar Hero.  But still.  You don’t buy cars for people.

Unless, of course, you’re a millionaire:

Like last year, I was able to make an exception for commercials that amuse me and make fun of other ads. 🙂

So, what commercials are making you angry this holiday season?


Christmas Car Commercials, I hate you December 6, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:40 pm
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Well, the holiday season is here.  And with that comes lots of car commercials where one spouse surprises the other with a brand new luxury car, with a big red bow on top.  And guess what?  I HATE THOSE COMMERCIALS!

I suppose part of this is from my personal finance views.  Would you really surprise someone with a car?  I mean, that would be quite the surprise.  But that would also surprise me when I looked at my bank account and discovered $50k+ missing, or saw a new car loan in the mail.  It tends to be the more expensive, luxury cars or sports cars, too.  You wouldn’t surprise the love of your life with a Honda Fit, would you?  A large expense like that is something you plan, discuss, and make sure you can afford.

I started writing this post a while back, but I’m currently watching the Patriots/Jets game, and it seems like every other ad is a car ad, with most of them being the Lexus ads, all complete with red bows.  I’ll admit, the idea for the ads (that they need more giftwrap, or a bigger chimney, stocking, or tree) is a little cute.  But still…I don’t like the whole message:  give your love a ridiculously expensive car.

My boyfriend knows I hate these commercials.  I got a text from him the other day:  “Saw an ad for a car with a giant bow on top while I was watching the morning news.  Made me think of your infinite rage.”

I guess I just think cars are a weird and expensive thing to surprise someone with.  How easy is it to return it?  Exchange it for a different color or size?  I’d rather get a nice sweater.

I do have a few exceptions to my hated car commercial list:

From a few years ago, a Mastercard commercial promoting a giveaway they were hosting.  The commercial is mocking the traditional Christmas Car Commercials:



I also really like Pomplamoose’s music/videos, and so, even though it seems like they sold out a bit, I like their Hyundai ads:



How do you feel about these ads?  What Christmas (or general holiday ads) do you hate?  One from last year that I both hate and love is the one that lumps all the December holidays together

Do you have better ideas for surprising your loved ones this holiday season?


A Commercial Holiday December 3, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:41 pm
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Usually, I leave the advertisement discussions to my friend at Drink Moxie, but since this one has a bit of a personal finance relationship, I figured I’d mention it.

Every year, when Christmas starts to roll around, there’s a whole slew of ads.  And the ads that bother me the most are the ads for new cars.  Almost all of them involve someone surprising their loved one with a brand new shiny car.  Complete with a bright red bow on top.

Do these ads bother anyone else?  How many people actually do this?  I’m guessing it’s usually just the luxury cars on these ads since it’s the more well-to-do people that could actually afford to surprise someone with a car.  But how often do people do that?  Every Christmas?  But like most ads, they’re trying to convince you it’s the thing to do; everyone else is doing it!

Do you let the commercials out there impact what you buy?  I’d like to think that most commercials don’t affect me.  The only ones that make me crave what they’re selling are ads related to chocolate.  M&M’s and Toll House ads get me drooling every time.


An update on my car discoveries October 3, 2008

Filed under: Boston,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 3:15 pm
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So, the other night, I told you about learning more about my car (including how to pump gas).  I actually got linked to by a Boston-related blog, Universal Hub, which is pretty cool.  I think I might start reading them!

And today, I discovered a few more facts.

The top number the instantaneous mpg reading can hit is 99.9 (it only has room for those digits).  And I’ve found that I can hit that number pretty often!  Basically, if I’m coasting (taking my foot off the gas), I can pretty much max out, since I’m using so little gas.  Let this act as a reminder that you should try to coast as much as possible (when it’s safe!) because your momentum can take you pretty far!

I also browsed around GasBuddy some more after my post.  One thing to note is that it sends you to the local site (for me it was BostonGasPrices).  One feature I’m a fan of is the Fuel LogBook.  It lets you keep track of what you’re spending on gas.  And it also tracks your gas mileage, so if you don’t have that fancy feature on your car (like I do), you can still see how you’re doing on gas mileage.  And it’s easier to just enter the information there than set up a spreadsheet to do it.

I also wanted to note that this is in no way a sponsored post.  I realized I’ve now posted twice about GasBuddy…I just wanted to share some things I’ve found!  You can also use MSN’s Gas Prices page to look at local gas prices.  They get their numbers from OPIS, rather than from local price-spotters.  Do you have a favorite place to go to find gas prices?

So far, it looks like my average mileage is 35.8 mpg.  I’m going to keep trying to drive as efficiently as possible!


Gas gas gas! October 1, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:35 pm
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Today I did something that I’ve never done before.  It may come as a surprise…but today I pumped my own gas.  For the first time.  Ever.

Yes.  It’s true.  Now, I’m not a spoiled or lazy limo rider or something like that.  I got my license in New Jersey, one of the few states where you can’t pump your own gas.  And I rarely drove in high school anyways.  Take four years living in dorms in Cambridge, and two years taking public transportation, and you have a girl who didn’t really need a car.  And whenever I did need gas (borrowing my boyfriend’s car on occasion), the nearby station had full serve (and the cheapest gas in the area), so I didn’t have to pump my gas there, either.

And so today came…I was halfway through my drive to work when I noticed “the light” go on.  You know, the warning light that says that you only have a gallon or two left in your tank.  By the time I got to work, the needle on the gas gauge was nearing the zero line.  I hopped online briefly and took a look at GasBuddy to see what the prices were for gas in the area.  And since the nearest gas station to work was a little pricey, I bought a few gallons to make sure I got home, and rode the rest of the way home feeling a lot safer knowing I wasn’t running on fumes.

The funny/sad part is, I probably could have made it home…or at least known if I could make it home, had I read a little further into my owners manual.  When looking at the manual to see what gas level the warning light signified, I saw something about other information besides speed, miles, etc. on my dashboard.  I figured that was only an option for the “fancier” version of my car.  But nope, it turns out my car has all sorts of information!  While one meter shows the odometer and a few “trip” odometers, the other meter shows, among other things, the time, the outside temperature, instantaneous mpg, average mpg, and, the one that would have helped me out:  miles left on the tank.  Yep, they have an estimate for how much farther I could have gone.  But I didn’t try that out until after I’d gotten some gas.  Well, I guess now I know for future reference.

The mpg information is pretty cool, too.  The instantaneous mpg value fluctuates quite a bit, which makes sense (based on your speed, incline, gear, etc.).  The coolest moment was when I saw the reading go up to 99 mpg.  Yep.  It was pretty cool.  It was only on there for a moment, but I was kind of excited about that.  And I’m glad to report that my average mpg is above 30.  I don’t remember exactly what it’s at, but it’s pretty good.

So, there you have it.  I’ve finally pumped gas.  It’s really not hard at all!  I’ll keep you posted about the gas mileage I’m getting!


I finally have my car! September 16, 2008

It all started when I got a new job.  Remember that?  Those were good times.  I knew I was going to have to buy a car for the job offer I accepted, but I figured I could work my way through that slowly and surely.

Then I started narrowing down my choices.  I knew I wanted a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic.  So I went to a few different dealerships to see what kind of deals I could get.

This is where it gets tricky.  When I originally put down my deposit (on August 23rd) they told me that I’d have to wait a bit for the car to get here.  They didn’t have any meeting my specifications (not too fancy, not too basic), as Corollas are in high demand due to the recent rise in gas prices (though they’re going down…but that’s another story).  They told me that the car should be in NYC by around the 28th, at which point they’d have the VIN for me (so I could finalize my insurance and everything).  They also said that after it hit New York City, my car would take about a week to get to Boston.  And I was okay with that.

The 28th rolls around.  No VIN, I don’t think it had even reached NYC.  A week passes.  By then, the car should be in Boston.  No such luck.  Basically, I kept calling.  Friends suggested I call and threaten to go elsewhere (or not just threaten, but actually go elsewhere), or demand extra perks for having to wait so long.  On September 9th I called a few more times.  By then, the car was supposedly in New York City, but they still didn’t have the VIN.  I was pretty angry, because I was then told that they had originally told me that the car would be here by mid-month…which is NOT what they had originally said.  I called and spoke to the manager.  I started out trying to be really demanding, but he somehow had a way of calming me down (that’s why he’s the manager).  But I believe talking to him helped, because they knew I was serious about my car…maybe. And that maybe they’d give me a bit of money off of the car, or give me a few free oil changes or something.  He suggested that he could get me a rental car for the interim.  His main excuse was that the transit from wherever the cars came from was delayed by all the hurricanes.  I wasn’t so sure about this.  By the 11th, I was assured that my car would be in Boston by the 12th-15th…which calmed me down a bit.  I finally knew the end of the debacle was in sight.  By then, I figured it was worth it to just wait instead of see if I could get a car through another dealer more quickly (and I didn’t want to go through the whole hassle again).

The afternoon of Friday the 12th, I get a phone call.  My car was here!  FINALLY!  Of course by that time, it was too late to finish up the financing before the weekend…but I figured that I could go in on Monday to get the loan finished up at AAA.  I plan with the dealership to come in on Saturday to do all the paperwork.  I get a call Saturday morning…the dealer informs me that they don’t have the seal yet.  I really have no clue what that is.  I agree to wait until Monday, when they should have the seal, because at this point, I’m figuring I can’t do anything until I have the check for the dealer.  That, and I felt pretty lazy.

Monday, I head out to the dealership after work.  I’ve called the insurance company (since I finally got the VIN) and had my insurance selected and the information sent to AAA for finishing up the paperwork.  I sign all sorts of forms, and have the necessary forms faxed to AAA.  They try to sell me all sorts of different “packages”, including Lojack and assorted teflon coatings and things for the car.  He even said that I could extend the warranty to 8 years for almost $2000 extra.  I am almost certain I don’t want that, but call home quickly to confirm.  It was funny, because the guy said “I wouldn’t let my brother buy a car without this package” in response to the warranty and lojack.  He rattled off a statistic that a Carolla is the 3rd most likely car to get stolen.  I head home after all the paperwork and wait.

Today, I went to work as usual, but took a few hours off to get this car thing all settled out.  I’ll admit, it’s pretty convenient that I am allowed to modify my time at work, which allows me to use some time for appointments and the like, and just make up the time within a few weeks.  Anyway, I get out to AAA, and sign all sorts of papers, and then drive over to the dealership with a hefty check.  When I show up, my dealer seems a bit worried that they wont get everything done by the end of today (since it took me a bit longer than expected to get to the dealership).  I cringed, but hoped for the best.  I drive back to my place (I borrowed my boyfriend’s car) and try to get some work done.  Within the hour, I get a call from my dealer saying that everything should be done by 5pm.  I get out, take the T to the dealership, and sign a few more papers, and drive off.

As I’m driving away, I’m freaking out a little bit.  It’s like a new toy…it’s exciting!  And I’m having trouble coming to grips with buying a new car.  But the funny part is, it’s the biggest purchase I’ve ever made, and I am not regretting it.  Which is really weird for me…I’m always second guessing my decisions, and looking back and wondering if I did the right thing.  But in this case, perhaps I know that, at this point, it’s pretty much too late, I’m in it for the long haul.  And I’ve wanted/needed a car, and this fits my needs.  So I’m happy.  It’s a big step, a “grownup” step, and a pretty large addition to my debts.  But I think I’m going to be okay.  It’s a weird feeling.

Whew.  So, yes, I probably should have stopped waiting sooner, and demanded more.  But I think they’re willing to give me a free oil change or two.  And I’ll be happy to finally have a car of my own.  I’m excited to see how many miles per gallon I can eke out.

Have any of you had experiences like these?  What “grownup” steps are you taking?


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