If there's one thing that we can count on, it's change. Perfectly laid plans are disrupted by unforeseen events and suddenly, they aren't so perfect anymore. The decision that we must make in times of change is if we're going to stick to our guiding principles or if we're going to throw out the playbook and do something completely different.
On April 5, 2005, my uncle took delivery of his brand new Prius. Over the following years my parents bought it and then I did. 10 and a half years and 254,000 miles after he took delivery, I got some very bad news. The check engine light had come on and after diagnostic testing, it was determined that the entire exhaust system needed to be replaced, a $3k repair job on a car that on its best day is worth $2,500. It was the end of the line.
I felt sad. It is just a car and Alison and I had agreed that we'd run it into the ground, but I still wasn't prepared for it to happen so soon. This was my first car, the car that took me faithfully to and from work as I traversed the countryside. It was the car that became the symbol for my growing business and the star of my rap videos. Yet, as with all good things, it was over.
Alison and I enjoyed our month of being a two-car family. Certainly the budget had to absorb the additional expense, but the ability for us to operate independently, especially for Benedict and I, brought happiness to both of us. We had a choice to make: we could abandon our guiding financial principles and take out a note on a car, or we could stay the course and save up for a new one.
The trouble with financial planning is that it's impossible to know the future. What's true today may not be true tomorrow. Layoffs, raises, unknown incomes and medical bills are all a factor, and they all shift on a daily basis. True financial management is about mitigating risk. If you don't overextend yourself, and if you have somewhat of a fallback position, you'll be fine. We all get into trouble when we sign ourselves up for things that will work, but only if everything is perfect.
When plans get interrupted and changed, maturity requires reasoned thinking, proactive decision making, and adjustments to keep you on course. This story ended with a twist. Although we planned to be a one car family for half a year or more, a reliable car came up for sale and we bought it. Life happens that way and its best to roll with the punches.