This month I finally sent the last payment on my car, and it feels so good! The prospect of not having to make a monthly car payment anymore is amazing. This is more than a mere ending to the chapter on car loans because the simple act of being done is a milestone in how far I have come in my financial journey! If you haven’t read Stop Hitting Snooze on Your Wake Up Call yet, I highly recommend you check out this previous blog post. Nearly losing my car was the kick I needed to start taking my money issues seriously, and this is why this final payment is major to me.
Hop into the time machine with me for a bit.
I bought my 2013 Jetta, new in March of 2014 from the Volkswagen dealership. Things were financially great for me during this time. My credit card debt was still manageable at the time, and I had not yet bought a house with my mom (both of which contributed toward my financial mishaps, but that is another post for another time). My credit score was high, and after having been in an accident where my previous car had been totaled, I qualified for a loan through VW Credit for the car with the down payment my insurance payout provided. I felt good because my economic standing and stability also allowed me to have some upgraded features in this new car compared to my previous totaled one. At the time, I would have never imagined I would one day be close to having this Jetta repossessed. Hindsight 2020, everything that has occurred since then has only served as lessons.
As I began to have trouble with my money management skills and debt began to stagger later on, I still always prioritized my car payment among other things. That is until things took a turn downhill, and I began to miss my car payments.
It began like most poor money management habits. For example, I would make payment a few days after the due date because I didn’t have enough money at the time of due date. Telling myself “I’ll pay it as soon as my paycheck is deposited on Friday” became a slippery slope, and I believe this type of mentality can be a slippery slope for anyone! Before I knew it, I had become very late and was flat out not paying for the car. “I’ll pay it as soon as my paycheck is deposited on Friday” became “I’ll pay it with next month’s paychecks. I’ll catch up then”.
For anyone that is good at math, let me remind you that I got the car in March 2014, but I didn’t finish paying it off until this month of May 2019. As I wrote in Stop Hitting Snooze on Your Wake Up Call I fell behind by four monthly payments. When I finally decided to take control of my actions, I asked VW Credit for help. They worked with me as much as they could, and the agreement we came to was that I would pay the current month, plus two of the missed months within a month. The remaining two missing months would then get tacked on to the end of what would have been my last payment of March 2019. I was so grateful and relieved that they had been willing to work with me, and so I had to hustle quickly.
I essentially had to pay about $1,155 in a single month. This payment was broken down into three different deadlines within the month, and the only way I was allowed to pay was through Western Union. I had to run around a lot to get these payments in on time, and fortunately around this time I had gotten a second part-time job to my full-time job. I have learned that when the fire is lit under you, then you really figure things out and go. It was stressful, but not as stressful as when I was ignoring the problem.
That’s the point I want to emphasize when it comes to this blog project. It can be stressful to gain control of your money management skills and financial situation, but it is way better than the anxiety ignoring it causes! Not knowing and not acknowledging is worse because it doesn’t make whatever financial mess you are in disappear. It only gives you less power in knowing, and then things can get more out of control, which will in return add more stress.
Making my last car payment is a milestone for me because of the highs and lows that I have been in financially. Discover what milestones you have in mind for measuring your own steps toward better money habits and skills. These can be anything from “I paid more than the minimum on my credit card this month” to “I paid all my bills on time this month” to (insert your own milestone here). You get to decide what your milestones are, and you get to celebrate when you accomplish them.
Most importantly, do not let others tell you what counts and what doesn’t count as a financial milestone AND do not measure your milestones against someone else’s. Years ago I saw someone post on Facebook that they finished paying off their car within a year, and that’s great but it wasn’t going to be my milestone. Quit playing the comparison game in finances. We all have different jobs, income, responsibilities and lifestyles. This means our financial milestones all look different, and MEAN something different to each of us.