Heeee! The AMEX bill, which regularly exceeds $1200 (that’s in a good month…), came in at a piddling $955.02.
Hot diggety! I don’t remember when I’ve seen a bill for discretionary expenses under a thousand bucks. And how did this magical event occur?
Simple: being flat on my back half the month kept me out of my car! Not riding around in a car every day or two meant not going into stores. And what can you NOT do when you stay out of stores? Yup…NOT spend money.
Most to the point, I think, it kept me out of Costco, where I can drop two hundred bucks without blinking an eye. Interestingly, that $955 included stocking up on expensive commercial dog food — I’m sure I spent at least a hundred bucks, trying to stash enough to last until I would feel like making real food for the pooches again, which I figured would be about a month after the surgical fact. It also included stocking up on food for myself: the chicken and the lamb shanks I prepared and froze, for example. And, come to think of it, a major wine run: at Total Wine I bought enough cheap, low-alcohol wine to last for the rest of my life.
Speaking of the which, I finally found not one but two reds that are more than respectable as table wines despite a fairly low alcohol content:
Château Bois Redon Bordeau Supérieur. 2012. Alcohol content: 13%, right on the upper border of acceptable. Flavor and bouquet are excellent. It’s a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. This stuff, while not expensive, does not normally fall into the “dirt cheap” range we covet. Total Wine has it on sale just now — I got it for around ten bucks, definitely worth the price.
Bellini Toscana Sangiovese. 2013. Alcohol content 12.5%, a little high but still better than any California reds you’ll see on the market. I also found this wine made a very nice accompaniment to steak, and later to some cheese and fruit. Got it for under ten dollah.
Red wines do not benefit from lower wine content — in terms of palatibility, that is. However, these two specimens show it’s possible to make a decent red with less than 14% alcohol content.
Right now I have another sangiovese open: Pietro Sangiovese di Toscana. 2013. Its alcohol content is also 12.5%. I’d rate it as good enough for government work: not the greatest wine that ever came out of the cask, but an adequate table wine. It was very cheap: well under ten bucks.
For all around light swiggling, I continue to favor the Gazela vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine with an alcohol content of just 9%. Sometimes this stuff can be slightly effervescent. It’s always light and crisp — perfect for a warm day. Can’t wait till the weather gets hot: this will be the drink of choice for an Arizona summer afternoon.
So okay. Back to the subject at hand: the automobile and its influence on the average American’s finances. To wit: mine.
I decided to junk the scheme to buy a new vehicle and instead try to keep the Dog Chariot running for another 20,000 miles. So, the clunk is down at Chuck’s as we scribble, getting a new set of brake drums. Reasons for that decision:
1. I have NO clue how much the Adventures in Medical Science will end up costing me, and neither, it develops, does anyone at the Mayo. They just do not know, so complicated is our ludicrous pushmi-pullyu healthcare system. The only way to find out will be to wait until the last of the Medicare and Medigap payments come in and then pay whatever remains on the Mayo’s books. Though I’m told I may be able to negotiate that amount down, I figure it’s likely to come to four or five grand. That will bite into the car-buying budget… And not knowing to what effect, I think that’s one cliff I’d just as soon not jump off right this minute.
2. The five hundred bucks it’s going to cost to fix the brakes and the current oil leak? That’s a far cry from 26 or 30 grand for a new car! Why should I spend that kind of money while I still have a functional vehicle? One excuse I like to trot out, by way of justifying the scheme to buy a new car, is that I don’t trust the Chariot to drive around on day trips. But…hey…for 30 grand I could rent an awful lot of nice cars to bucket around the state!
3. I’m hardly driving the car anymore. Commuting to campus was the main mileage-burner for that crate. And now that all my courses are online, that cuts out three or four 20-mile trips a week. And while I was convalescing from the surgery, I think I made all of one (count it, 1) trip — down to the church — in more than two weeks.
That happened because I had stocked in food and household necessaries carefully, in preparation for what I expected would be a prolonged incapacitation. Once all that stuff was in the house and in the freezer, I didn’t really have to go anywhere. So I’m thinking I need to make that a regular habit: each month figure out what will be needed for the next 30 days, and avoid jumping in the car at short notice to run down to Costco or Safeway, both of them sinks of impulse buys. I think a lot of the overspending happens because I drive out whenever I think I want something rather than planning what I’ll need and restricting purchases, as much as possible, to trips dedicated to laying in what’s really needed.
4. In 2016 — just another year or 18 months — the lightrail route that will come right past the ’hood will finally open. If the car runs another 20,000 miles, it should operate handily for two years…perfect.
I dislike riding public transportation, particularly when it passes through an area lined with dangerous slum apartments that house not only thugs and hoodlums but people who are crazy as loons and make pests of themselves. However…
• Now that I’m old, I can get a monthly cut-rate pass. It surely does cost a lot more than gasoline…but the longer it staves off having to lay down 30 grand for a new car, the more money it saves me.
• That lightrail line will go past a Sprouts (which I will shop in), an Albertson’s (don’t shop there; but Albertson’s has changed hands and so that store might be improved), a Fry’s (also probably a little too dangerous to shop there), a Target, a Costco, and (lo!!) the beloved AJ’s at Central and Camelback. With a motorized cart (which they’re required to let you take on the train!), I could in theory get a great deal of shopping done without ever burning an ounce of my own gasoline.
• And, also in theory, I could ride the train down to Maryland and walk a mile and a half to the church. That would give me three miles of walking each Sunday — wouldn’t dream of doing it at night, because that would be insensately unsafe). But at this time of year it would be easy and pleasant.
5. In 2016, I will be required to take a required minimum distribution from my big IRA. That could easily be as much as the proposed car would cost. Thus the car could double my taxable drawdown in 2015. And that does, decidedly, not sound like a very cheerful prospect. If I rent a car for day trips or longer junkets around the Southwest and use public transit for routine shopping, the Dog Chariot’s projected driving lifetime of 20,000 miles could last even more than two years. Possibly a lot more than two years. If, say, the vehicle didn’t have to be replaced for another four years, then I myself would have (at that point) a projected driving lifetime of about six or eight years. And then it would actually make sense to buy a used car that would tide me over to the end of my driving days, for a lot less than going out today and buying a new car that would run dependably until I’m 80 or so.
NEWS FLASH! Chuck just called to say the brake drums will only cost about $260, a far cry from his estimate of $500 a couple of months ago. He must be feeling sorry for me. 😉
He does have to figure out where the oil leak is and fix that. But I’ll betcha the whole job comes in at less than five hundred bucks.