As much as I would like to brag in the purity of our commitment and the single-mindedness of achievement, I can’t. Our focus stayed strong during the debt payoff phase, mostly because of the simplicity built into Dave Ramsey’s prescription for paying off debt. Follow the baby-steps, and you know exactly what you should be doing when. We fell off the wagon in that dangerous blink of time between debt payoff and wealth building.
By Spring of 2012, things were going well. We had our six month emergency fund, all of our consumer debt, the student loan debt, the second mortgage on our house, and the unsecured portion of the first mortgage were paid off. It was time to direct our extra toward saving cash for the trip. We had momentum, our stockpile was growing, we felt more free every day.
Then struck a disaster of our own making.
I am sitting at home one evening trying to finish up some work and arm wrestling waves of distraction. I click on the Facebook app, scroll, scroll, scroll, realize what I’m doing, close the damn thing, and get back to work. Fifteen minutes later, scroll, scroll, scroll…
“Click your body shape here”
*click on the pear*
“Your ideal nutrition profile is ArugalaCabbageLemonBroth Diet. Enjoy! If you eat this 7 times per day you will look like Jennifer Lopez.”
Damn! I know I will not ever look like Jennifer Lopez. Why do I click on these things? Obviously, my brain is tapping out for the night. Just then, a friend calls.
“Hiiiiiii,” she says, then laughs nervously.
“Hi? What’s up? I ask.
“I need you to come pick me up. Will you come pick me up? Bring Andrew.” More nervous laugher.
“Sure, where are you?” This is an odd request. Not that she would call me and ask for lift - this is one of my best pals - but odd that she would need a lift. And why do I have to bring Andrew?
“Don’t get mad!” She says, laughing again.
“Why would I be…oh no!” I stop short realizing why she probably needs a ride and where she might be. “What have you done? Where are you?”
My friend and I had been carpooling for the last few months. She was short on her available lease mileage and was trying to minimize miles on her BMW; she was so desperate, she was even willing to slum it with me in Bandit (Green, Two-door Honda Civic, Circa 2000).
“Don’t get mad!!! I’m at the Lexus Dealership.”
I groan. “I thought we were in solidarity! What would Dave Ramsey say about this!? Did you lease or did you buy?”
“I bought.” She said, happy enough. I rub my face and resign myself to the lonely toil of frugality. Andrew and I load into Bandit and drive across town to the Summerlin Lexus Dealership.
I poke my head into my friends new car and sniff the new-car-carcinogens that always smell so good. Leather seats, wood dashboard paneling. It’s pretty; it reminds me of Cinderella’s magical pearl carriage. I dub it the pearl-pod.
“You have to drive the BMW back home so I can take it in to trade next week.” She explains, handing me her keys. This is her evil plot to convince me I can’t live without my own BMW, I just know it. I nestle myself into the sport bucket seats. Even though this car is two years old (at the end of its lease), it feels new to me and it feels German-Tight. The gears are tight, the acceleration is tight, the steering is tight. Precise. I drive it home, nervous most of the time that I may wreck the damn thing and then owe the BMW dealership a bunch of money on their leased car.
That next week I have two depositions and some court hearings scheduled for a client with out-of-town representatives. I spend the weekend considering how to lead my witnesses down the rosy path to give me the evidentiary answers I need. Monday, I pull and organize the key documents for each witness. I’m in the office late that night, matching the documents to my deposition plan. The client representative calls. He arrived at the Golden Nugget, could I pick him up in the morning on my way to the deposition?
Of course I can. I run Bandit through the car wash on my way home, furiously vacuuming the floor mats with one of those industrial vacuums outside the auto-wash, in my suit, at approximately midnight. I race the vacuum’s time counter, trying to finish the job within the two dollars in quarters I have in my possession. Home; neighborhood walk; something for dinner; sleep. I’m up again the next morning a 5:30 a.m., to pick up the client at 7:00 a.m. so we can have breakfast and discuss my expectations for the deposition before it starts at 9:00 a.m. I arrive in front of the hotel’s Guest Drop Off/Pickup Driveway at exactly 7:00 a.m.
When the client marches out the gold brocade doors, he stands stands right next to Bandit and looks around. I lean over from the driver’s side and wave at him through the passenger window. He continues to stand and look around. I roll down the window and wave again, still nothing. I open the door, stand up, and wave while calling out his name. He looks at me, looks at the car, then his eyebrows raise. He opens the passenger door and takes his seat. Off we go; I try not to over think it. Bandit is clean, he operates well, and the air conditioner is good - which in Las Vegas is key.
A few days later, the Pearl-Pod was in the shop having it’s windows tinted. My pal and I carpooled to work in Bandit, again, discussing the merits of her ass-cooling seat air conditioners. That evening, as we packed up to leave the office, the Boss’s 6’2 Right Hand Man asks for a ride home. His Audi is in the shop, too. (This is why you should just stick with Hondas, people.)
“Sure, no problem!” I say, but as I survey Bandit’s available space, I realized there is a problem.
As the gentleman he is, he refused to sit in front and allow my pal (a lady) to sit in the back. Folding his body in three places, he ducks into the back seat. "It's fine!" he insists, and I make my way to the driver’s seat. My pal and I both scoot our chairs as far forward as we might, but it didn’t matter. I look in the rear view mirror and Right-Hand-Man’s ear is pressed against Bandit’s roof. He couldn’t even sit straight up. I try not to overthink it. Bandit is still clean from the frantic pre-client midnight vacuum session and the air conditioner is still good.
At the same time, Andrew got a new company car and had to spend a day at his bi-annual driver’s training course at work. He reports back over dinner how handy anti-lock brakes can be. He gets a bee in his bonnet to get me a vehicle with anti-lock breaks, and I already had the bee in my bonnet about putting clients and colleagues in my cute little college-girl car. By the end of the weekend, I pet the dashboard of my new car (Anabelle), as I guide her onto the freeway entrance. We purchased Annabelle brand *spankin* new, from the dealership on a 5 year 0% Interest loan.
WHAT!? A LOAN!?!?! I know. I hang my head in shame.
We justified this purchase in so many ways: 0% interest for one year! I will be much safer with anti-lock breaks and side airbags! I needed a different car for professional reasons! Let’s be honest; the pearl-pod is beautiful and new cars are contagious like the flu. I just wanted a new car, NOW. We could have bought it cash, but it felt too painful to let go of those early seeds of the Sail Kitty. So we held onto our cash and made a deal with the debt-devil.
It didn’t end there. When the ArugalaCabbageLemonBroth Discipline breaks down, one errant Oreo can send you face first into six cans of Spaghetti-Os and a quart of rocky road ice cream. As soon as we opened the money-spigot for the car, we couldn’t help but look around at a few other things we had been putting off for sake of our other plans. We bought two mountain bikes, a round of new office clothes, and a (used) piano. When we finally came up for air, we both looked around - appalled and a smidgen panicky.