Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 149

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 15


While Adam was living in Newport, Rhode Island, he quit the job he had and, with no money to live on, applied for a credit card. The credit card company gave him a card with a $600 limit and he soon reached—and exceeded---that limit, getting himself rather deeply in debt.

I was determined to help Adam learn to budget his money and to get out of debt as quickly as possible. A friend from our church hired Adam to work at his company as a data-entry clerk. Adam hated this boring job but he knew that this job was necessary; at least for a short time. When he got his first paycheck, we cashed it and divided up the money into several marked envelopes. One envelope was designated for his credit card payment, one for car insurance, one for his smaller student loan, one for his large student loan, and one to begin to pay us back for the money we loaned him to pay his monthly student loans while he was without a job. Whatever was left was for Adam’s personal use. With this simple system, we planned to have Adam out of his credit card debt in as little as three months. It was also a good budgeting experience for him.

After a few weeks, Adam missed his Rhode Island friends and he decided to drive the three-hour trip to spend the weekend there. He would leave after he got out of work on Friday afternoon and he’d return home very late on Sunday night. He was usually exhausted when it came time to go to work on Monday morning after one of those weekends.

In order to renew his registration, Adam’s car, a beat-up Chevy Celebrity, needed a safety inspection. The service station manager called us after it was inspected to let us know that there was no way for him to “pass” this vehicle. He showed us that the metal frame was rotted which made it too dangerous to drive anymore. Adam contacted a junk car dealer who offered $100 for the car if we could drive it down to his business location. Sadly, Adam’s first car was turned into scrap-metal. Until other arrangements could be made, we planned to let Adam use our ten-year old mini-van while Mal and I would share my ten-year old Honda Accord. Our daughter, Cassy, was beginning to drive and it didn’t seem like she needed a car of her own right away. I actually enjoyed driving her to school each day. Since the school was only twelve miles from our home it was an easy trip.

As gasoline prices started rising, it became obvious that the mini-van was too expensive for Adam to drive on his frequent trips to Rhode Island. He couldn’t afford to buy a decent, reliable car from a dealer, so we worked out a deal for him to buy my Honda Accord and he’d make payments to me when he could.

After a month or so of Mal, Cassy, and I sharing one car, we realized it was time to start looking for another car. I went out one afternoon and bought a new Toyota Camry. Mal teased me that it was a boring, middle-aged man’s car. I bought it because it was comfortable and reliable so I guess she was right. Soon, it was going to be time to buy a new car for Mal and she didn’t want a “boring” car. She had driven her very boring mini-van for over ten years and it was time for something more fun.

We still owned the run-down apartment building in Worcester, Massachusetts and it had been for sale for over a year. I was losing about $1500 each month on it because the tenant in the commercial part of the property just refused to pay her rent. I could have evicted her but I had no other tenant willing to rent the location so I just didn’t bother. I got a call with an offer to buy the property for $65,000 and, though I had paid $185,000 for it, I realized that it was time to sell. It had proved not to be a good investment for me. Even though this was a large loss, it was a happy day for me when it was finally sold!

Once we were no longer losing money each month on the apartment building, we began our search for Mal’s new “fun” car. We test-drove several convertibles including the Mercedes Kompressor, a Chrysler Sebring, and the BMW Z3. The Mercedes was just too expensive and the Chrysler Sebring was a Chrysler (looks nice but it’s junk) so we were leaning towards the BMW Z3. Our daughter, Cassy, thought it would be inconsiderate of us to buy a car with only two seats because then she couldn’t go anywhere with us in it.

While watching television one night, Mal caught a 15-second commercial for the newly redesigned Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible. The car flew by onscreen and Mal said, “That’s the car!” There was a Mitsubishi dealership in Laconia, New Hampshire so we drove there the next day, only to find out that these cars were in very short supply. They only had a red one on the lot and Mal and I wanted a silver-colored car. The salesman did a computer search and located the car we wanted at a dealership in Virginia. He arranged to have the car shipped up to his location but we would have to pay full sticker price! This was the first time in my life that I had ever paid full-price for a car and it made me feel stupid, but it was exactly the car we were looking for…a nice looking, four-seat convertible sports car. Driving this car was fun because it handled great and was quite powerful. This model was so new that we’d rarely go out for a drive without someone commenting on how nice the car looked. (Now that this model has been around for several years, it’s not so special.)

Our schedules worked out much better now that we each had a vehicle to use. This happened at a good time because things began to get hectic. Overall though, life was good!

Next chapter: We have a busy season!

Pictures: Mal with her new car...no more mini-van!

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