On an unseasonably warm December day, I hurry down the drive way to get to my ten-year old Honda CRV parked on the street in front of my house. I pull the keys out of my pocket to manually unlock the driver’s side door. The keyless entry stopped working over a year ago. As I launch myself into the car and attempt to turn it on in one graceful movement, the engine hesitates, glugging its way to life. Blinking on the dash is the Maintenance Required light, a sight no one wants to see. Immediately, I think the worst, major car repairs are coming. I need this car to get to work. I can’t afford a new car with its requisite loan payment and increased vehicle insurance.
I buzz to work, hoping and praying that the CRV wouldn’t putter and die on Leavenworth Street. Once at work, I shut off the car and then quickly try to restart it. Once again, it lags. The Maintenance Required light flashes as a steady reminder that I can’t simply ignore the problem. I try to put it out of my mind so I can focus on the day’s work that lies ahead.
Because I have seen the impact of people being financially distressed, I live on a strict budget, and I hadn’t budgeted for expensive car repairs. Instead, I had allotted money to the expensive holiday season. With a son experiencing his second Christmas, I feel pressure to provide the perfect experience for him, the foot of the Christmas tree overflowing with presents clad with Santa Claus and snowflakes.
About a week later, the vehicle still does not want to start up. I decide it is time to bring the vehicle to the car shop to have it looked at. All I see is money flying out of my bank account. I drop the car off and will have to pick it up the next day. It means another day worrying about an unexpected expense. On my phone, I shuffle money from savings into my checking account while preparing mentally for the financial hit. I’m nervous the whole day.
The next day arrives and I get a call from the mechanic. This time I luck out. The battery needs to be replaced and is covered by the warranty.
Life does not always work out so well. I have learned that the first step in dealing with a difficult situation is simply taking action. Instead of wasting countless hours and energy worrying about the unknown, I now know to take meaningful action towards dealing with a problem when it arises. I knew I needed to bring my car in for a week, but the fear of the unknown stopped me from solving the problem. Dealing with unexpected or unanticipated financial challenges is no different. The best time to take action is now. Sometimes life does not turn out as expected. But finding a solution is a choice that you can make.