Ode To An Old Car: Our Money-Saving Machine
Oh Frugalwoods-mobile the oft-mentioned, but rarely glamorized, work horse of the Frugalwoods family. Today, I dedicate a post to you. Fear not, this isn’t a eulogy for she’s not dead (yet), but rather this is a reflection of gratitude for the tremendous schlepping performed by this fossil of a vehicle. While certainly it would be thriftier to exist sans car, Mr. Frugalwoods and I consider Frugalwoods-mobile a luxurious element of our lives. It’s just plain easier to own a car, which we can say with authority since we went many years without one here in the city.
And so, I hope you’ll join me in singing the praises of the second most put-upon member of our little family (Frugal Hound feels that she’s undeniably first since she must suffer the indignity of not only being forced to wear ridiculous outfits, but then secondary humiliation by having the photos posted for all the world to see. Indeed, the tragedy.)
Oh but first! Allow me to properly introduce you to ol’ Frugalwoods-mobile: she’s our 1996 Honda Odyssey station wagon replete with 206,000 miles. As the one car Mr. Frugalwoods and I share, she holds a special place in our frugal weirdo hearts.
15 Reasons Why We Love Frugalwoods-mobile
1) No car payment.
No one in their right mind would buy this decrepit beast of a vehicle, but since we already own her, we love her. And what we really love is that we pay $0 per month for her (and always have). Anytime I’m inclined to think an ill thought towards Frugalwoods-mobile, I just remind myself that we pay nothing to keep her.
2) Daily gratitude.
There’s no better way to infuse gratitude into your daily routine than by driving a 19-year-old car. Every single time she starts, we’re thrilled! I’m not kidding when I tell you that we high-five when the engine turns over. It really is the little things.
3) Redefines beauty.
Frugalwoods-mobile is both unique and distinguished in the cosmetics department. I like to think of her as redefining our culture’s standard of beauty. Yeah, she has some dents and yeah, she has some rust, but they’re really just indications of the rich and fulfilling life she has led.
4) Time capsule of Mrs. FW’s mistakes in parking garages.
Speaking of said dents, Frugalwoods-mobile serves as a living reminder of the tragic driving errors I’ve made in various parking garages across the east coast. Thankfully, I’ve never been involved in an accident with another driver, only with myself.
The right-hand back door in particular tells of the infamous episode of The Green Concrete Pillar. While in grad school, I’d drive to campus when my classes let out at 11pm rather than take the metro home at that hour. And on one such night, I decided to park in the underground parking garage at my office (since I also worked at the university in order to get free tuition–hey!). What I didn’t realize is that this parking garage has–at least according to moi–abnormally wide green painted concrete pillars denoting the parking spaces.
While gingerly (I swear) turning into such a space, I heard what can only be described as a prehistoric and guttural noise that I initially attributed to a wounded animal. In actuality, that was the sound of Frugalwoods-mobile scraping mightily against aforementioned green, concrete pillar. In a desperate attempt to rectify the situation, I threw her into reverse, which only served to execute the same abrasion in the other direction.
Uh, needless to say, that door has never been the same. But rather than dwell on my stupidity (and the fact that I called Mr. FW in tears because I thought I’d “broken the car”), I now view that blemish as exemplifying the many journeys Frugalwoods-mobile and I have been on together. There are myriad other parking garage-induced disfigurements, which I also take full responsibility for. In my defense, parking spots should not be delineated by concrete blocks. Just saying.
5) Frugal Hound loves Frugalwoods-mobile.
For a bizarre reason known only in the brain of a dog, Frugal Hound absolutely dotes on Frugalwoods-mobile… as long as Frugalwoods-mobile is stationary. Yep, as soon as the car is actually, you know, moving, Frugal Hound launches into perturbed greyhound state (which principally involves whining and shedding profusely). But stationary? It just might be her favorite toy.
What we’ve discovered is that Frugal Hound fancies leaping up into the car, running around a bit, and then jumping back out. She appears to view Frugalwoods-mobile as a sort of tiny greyhound jungle gym. To indulge this houndy predilection, Mr. Frugalwoods lets Frugal Hound vault herself into the car when I happen to get home from work as he’s taking her out for her evening walk. She gleefully leaps up into my lap on the driver’s side and sniffs around. Why she enjoys this we may never know. But suffice it to say, Frugal Hound is a fan (as long as the car isn’t actually turned on).
6) Hiking delivery service.
One of the chief reasons we adore Frugalwoods-mobile is that she serves as our conveyance device to the mountains. Since the best hiking in the region is in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a healthy 3-hour drive from our home, Frugalwoods-mobile is an indispensable partner in our hiking adventures. For us, it’s seriously worth it to own a car for the trailhead access alone. The luxury of being able to indulge in our favorite hobby anytime we want is priceless.
7) City-proof parking.
Given Frugalwoods-mobile’s already, shall we say, spotty complexion, we park her on any old city street with no qualms. And since we boast neither a driveway nor a garage at our house, Frugalwoods-mobile must be parked on the street at all times. So if another driver clips her while parallel parking, or a kid accidentally bangs into her with a skateboard, or a bird, uh, does their thing, we don’t care!
It’s quite liberating not to worry about the appearance of one’s car. Sometimes on our narrow one-way street ,parallel parking resembles a bit of a demolition derby, but we don’t quake in our boots–we know Frugalwoods-mobile can handle a few bumps and scrapes.
8) Weather-proof exterior.
If it hails, who cares! And when 10 feet of snow pile on, who cares! Frugalwoods-mobile handles any and all weather like a boss and didn’t even complain when her tires froze to the ground during our epic Snowpocalypse of a winter this past year. There are too many far more important things in life beyond the superficial looks of our car–let me tell you what, it doesn’t even rate.
No one would ever steal this car. It’s so ugly, no ruffian would be caught dead driving it. Enough said.
Frugalwoods-mobile is a champion hauler. That car has hauled more things than most mules! Every stick of furniture in our house made its way home from the wilds of Craigslist in the back of Frugalwoods-mobile (yes, our couch included). And countless great trash finds were shepherded home in the safety and security of her ample trunk. Furthermore, her all-time record for toting people + hounds simultaneously is four humans and three greyhounds–now that was a fun drive let me tell you.
Frugalwoods-mobile ferried us across state lines for our move from Washington, DC to Cambridge, she carted Frugal Hound home the day we adopted her, and she’ll carry the most precious cargo of all this fall–a brand new Babywoods (strapped safely in a car seat, never fear)! Tangent: did you know they make doggie car seats? You’re welcome.
11) Decent gas mileage.
Contrary to our initial assumptions, Frugalwoods-mobile has proven herself to be a rather dainty sipper of petrol. She gets shockingly excellent mileage for being: 1) older than most college freshmen, and 2) a minivan.
Certainly her stats aren’t terrific in comparison to more efficient smaller vehicles, but she clocks in at a not-too-shabby 25 miles/gallon. Not the best, but not the worst! Since we typically get by on just one tank of gas per month, the impact to our budget isn’t substantial.
12) Passes inspection.
Talk about practicing gratitude–Mr. FW and I emit yelps of sheer elation every year when Frugalwoods-mobile passes the state inspection. Again, it really is the little things that get us excited around here.
13) Dirt cheap insurance and excise tax.
Thanks to Frugalwoods-mobile’s advanced maturity, our annual excise tax is a cool $64. This is determined as a percentage of the value the city asserts the car is worth. So hey, she’s not worth much!
And our insurance is a meagre $404 per year, which is a result of our perfect driving records (yes it’s true, neither of us has ever had a moving violation) and the antiquity of Frugalwoods-mobile. Now that is some freakin’ cheap car insurance.
14) The frugal treatment from our fabulous mechanic.
We have a stellar local mechanic. Huge shout out to CLM Auto in Cambridge because those guys rock. Each time we take Frugalwoods-mobile in, they brainstorm with us on ways to fix her on the cheap. They recognize that she’s a 19-year-old vehicle and that it’s not worth pouring a ton of money into repairs. Thus, they encourage us to get parts from the junkyard and are extremely forthright in what they think is worth fixing and what isn’t
15) Dang reliable.
For all her mars and relatively geriatric age, Frugalwoods-mobile is one reliable beast of a machine. Her only challenges in the past few years entail several flat tires (really not her fault), an exhaust pipe that just plumb fell off (both hilarious and awkward), a need for new brake pads, and regular car-related maintenance such as inspections (which yes, Mrs. FW totally forgot about and was nearly arrested for), oil changes, and car food (aka gasoline).
Knock on wood here–no major repairs or maintenance issues have befallen dear Frugalwoods-mobile. What I fervently hope is that she’ll go out in a blaze of glory one day whereby all of her wheels fall off, the doors pop off, and she just sinks into the earth in final, peaceful repose. In other words, I have completely rational expectations for car deaths.
Tail Pipe Thoughts
While we’re slowly coming to terms with the fact that Frugalwoods-mobile can’t live forever (and we’re prepared to buy another used car in cash), we’ve loved this ancient vehicle of ours. In addition to the money we save every single month by not having a car loan, we’re also creating less waste in our world.
By not buying a new car every few years and simply reusing what we have, we’re lessening our environmental impact. And by recognizing the tremendous value that Frugalwoods-mobile brings into our lives, we’re acknowledging the appreciation we have for our possessions. Finding pleasure and happiness in what we already own, despite imperfections, is a key element of the frugally joyful and luxurious life. Drive on, my frugal friends!