Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trying to stay Frugal in an emergency/crunch...

Wowsa! What a week...As you can tell, I have been absent from the blog (and from home) for about 3 weeks. I intended to be out of town for about 2 weeks, but apparently someone upstairs had a different plan for me. 
I left for Utah to visit my family on June 1 right after the kids got out of school. My plan was to drive (with my mom's help-thanks mom) to Utah and visit with the kids until my husband flew out the evening of the 7th. We were then leaving the 8th to drive to Scottsdale Arizona to check out the new digs (we are moving there next year at this time). We were staying there until the 10th when we were going to drive over to Lake Powell for half the day then move on to the Ranch in Southern Utah with my husband's family. We were staying there until Tuesday the 14th, then back to Salt Lake where Wes had a flight home on the 15th. I then planned to leave Friday the 17th and drive to Cheyenne, WY, then continue on to Omaha on the 18th so we would be home with Wes for Father's Day on the 19th.
All went as planned all the way through Wesley's flight home. Shortly after he landed for his lay over in Denver, my van broke down and overheated majorly in Salt Lake. I had it towed to the place Wes has brought cars to since he started driving. My van was old and we had driven it into the ground and I had a bad feeling about this...(It is a 2000 Chevrolet Venture).
The next morning the call from the shop came, and it was bad news...lots of major things wrong, and let just say it boiled down to van was dead and NOT worth fixing. So, here I was stuck in Utah with no way home, which begs the question of what to do, and how to afford to do it!

So, I askyou does one stay frugal and get the best deal in a crunch? I NEEDED to get home, but how? Let me tell you what I did (and I will preface it by saying I am sure I could have saved more money than I did, but I think I did pretty well all things considered).

My biggest tip for staying frugal is this: Take the time to do your homework-SOOO worth it! I realized quickly that nothing I had going on at home needed to be done emergent-ly, so I took a day to do some homework. I researched my options-flying home with the kids, renting a van to go home or buying a new van in Utah and driving home. After a few quick internet searches and some phone calls, I knew I needed to just figure out how to accomplish the third option: Buy a new van.

So, the work began...researching new and used vans of all makes and models and looking to see what I could find. I did not know how to get financed when the money maker of the family was in a different state...Thank goodness my husband's brother-in-law works for a bank in Utah and was able to tell me what I needed to do to most easily make this work (thank you Cody). Also, in my research I realized that for my needs and my current financial situation, I needed to find a reliable used van.
After a day of research, I set to work last Friday getting preapproved for a loan, and looking for the available, reliable used van of my dreams. I am sorry to those readers that are not religious, but I need to tell you that here is where I believe prayers were answered and a miracle occurred in my life. On Thursday as I was researching, I searched for Used vans in the area over and over and found nothing that I thought I could afford that would be reliable. So, I prayed...a lot...all night and I asked to find a reliable van for less than $10,000 that was going to last for at least 3 years. I had a whole list of things that this van would ideally have-I wanted a Honda Odyssey if possible. I wanted lots of features that I thought I would NEVER find that I had in my dead van-like an entertainment system, like power doors, like a CD player. Nothing remotely like this was anywhere online that I could find on Thursday.

I learned on Friday that my husband's best friend owns a Used car dealership in Salt Lake and headed over there on Friday morning thinking this would be the answer to my prayers. I was wrong-they had no minivans. So, I went back to work and did another internet search. HERE IS THE MIRACLE: The first search I did popped up with a van that had everything I asked for (except a bit more mileage that I wanted). EVERYTHING else and more was included with this van-it was a 2002 Honda Odyssey with a few minor cosmetic issues (cracking leather on the arm of the drivers seat, and a tiny ding in the side that looks like another car door dinged it when it opened-tiny). And  it was well within the range of money I wanted to pay! AND it runs like a beauty AND (amazingly enough) comes with a warranty from the dealership-not factory, but dealership for an additional 100,000 miles of 5 years (whichever comes first)...WHAT?!

To make an already too long story shorter, I will just skip some details of that day and tell you I bought this van! JOY! It took until Sunday morning for my insurance to kick in and I still had to deal with the broken van and get it off the mechanics loton Saturday, so I planned to leave on Sunday. My dad helped me get the dead van back to his house where it will sit until I get it donated (donating and taking the tax deductions was a better deal than the trade in value for us). That was a stressful 15 minutes getting it home as it died and died more...There were other stresses-I had to go buy 3 of those skinnier booster seats to make them fit easier in the new van, and had to buy a 5 point harness car seat for my 3 year old since her car seat was built in to the other van.
So, I thought the nightmare was over and I would at last be returning home. Sunday morning my sister-in-law and I set out with the kids to go home. Not too far from my parents house, my daughter's seat belt broke-YES broke. So, we returned to Salt Lake where there were people that love us to help us figure out this next part of the saga. My dad looked at the seat belt and fixed it, but we wanted to get a replacement to make sure it would not come out again like in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming or something. Stefanie (my sister-in-law) had her friend who does collision repair for a living check it out as well. We all came to the same conclusion that it seems ok but I should probably get it replaced to be safe. Remember though, this is Utah on a Sunday so nothing was open.

So, I went to church, heard my mom give an excellent lesson on families, then tried to relax for the day since there was nothing to do about the van until Monday. My aunt was having a short birthday party for her daughter and asked me to take the kids up to it. I decided to go, and while there, my other aunt who owns a Honda, told me that Honda has a lifetime guarantee on safety features (read seat belts) even if you are not the first owner! WHAT?! REALLY?! Yes, I found out Monday morning that it is true (Thanks Kris).
Monday I took the van to the dealer and they fixed the seat belt (for free) and we were finally able to leave for home around noon Monday. We (Stefanie and I witht he kids-thanks Stefanie) drove to Cheyenne and stayed overnight at the Little America (it was the best deal) and I splurged on room service (at that point I did not want to take the kids out of the room again until we were driving home the next morning-not frugal, but it was fantastically good food and a relaxing thing for me after all the stress).

Tuesday morning (yesterday), we got in the van to get home and made it a mere 2 miles before the throwing up began...I won't go into that, but let me say, it was a lot longer drive home that anticipated with more stops that we wanted to make...let me tell you this throw up got in the new van-we managed to keep it in buckets and on the side of the road (sorry I-80).

So, here I am at home...with a new van that I am loving...(pictures coming soon)...As far a frugality goes, I did OK (well except the room service). I did not but a car out of my means to pay off, and I feel I got a good deal. I probably could have talked the dealer down on the price a bit, but the stress of it all made it not worth the possibility of losing the van...Here is my question to all of you---do you manage to stay frugal in an emergency/crunch? If so, how in the world do you do it? Give me some tips and tricks to share!