Monday, August 05, 2013
Paying Paul Without Robbing Peter
Maybe that doesn't sound shocking to you but for me it's rather monumental. I have never had a new car, EVER. I have always bought used cars, frequently from family members or friends, occasionally from strangers and once from a VERY small, independent used car dealer (I think there were a total of ten cars on the lot). I've never walked into a new car dealership and said, "I want a new car."
When I got my divorce over a decade ago I didn't think I would EVER be able to do that. Trying to financially rebuild from the ruin of my first marriage was daunting...at times it seemed impossible.
And the truth is, until recently I didn't have much income coming in. There were some years that were significantly better than others but not so much better that they compensated for the tougher times. My economic challenges were somewhat compounded by the fact that my son has never been the kind of kid who's well served by the public school system (and trust me, we tried it more than once).* But paying private school tuition, even with financial aide, was insanely difficult. I did it but it came very close to breaking me.
JUST ONE NIGHT. The phenomenal success of those novellas has turned my life upside down...in a good way. My finances are now officially in order. So when I walked into the Toyota dealership and said, "I think I'd like to lease a Prius." They checked out my income and all the rest of it and said, "Okay."
"Okay." NEVER thought a car dealership would say "Okay," to me, just like that. I was totally ready to bring a co-signer on board. But I didn't have to. Not at all.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not rich. I'm nowhere near the threshold I'd have to cross to be part of the infamous-but-coveted-Top-Two-Percent. But I'm not struggling either...and for me that's completely new. Every time I'm presented with evidence that I can now live a comfortable, middle class lifestyle, complete with a reliable car and yearly vacation, I am literally sent into a state of shock for about ten minutes. Frequently it's the little things that get me. Like when my laptop started to crash with increasing regularity I bought a brand new Macbook. Just like that. I didn't have to charge it and pay it off over months and months. Nope. I just bought it outright. And not the cheapest one but the one I actually wanted. Or how 'bout the fact that I can now donate a little something to my favorite nonprofit. Or that I can lease a new car!
But the thing is, I actually needed a new car. My old car is 11 years old and has well over 200,000 miles on it. I'm practically on a first name basis with all the folks over at AAA. So this wasn't a luxury purchase. And note that I didn't get a Tesla, I got a Prius.
And I shop at Trader Joe's rather than the notoriously expensive Whole Foods. And when I saw that ADORABLE Marc Jacobs handbag on sale at a local boutique I didn't buy it (that one was a little painful). I'm incredibly grateful that I'm no longer on the brink of bankruptcy and I'm so THRILLED that I'm no longer robbing Peter to pay Paul (in this case Paul would be a nickname for my son's private school). But my success is so new it still feels a little tenuous. I just know too many authors who went out and bought Mercedes after the runaway success of a book only to have that Mercedes repossessed three years later. Hopefully my financial good fortune will last for a while but no matter what I need to be careful and I need to ease into this new reality.
In a weird way, I don't fully know how not to struggle.
But I gotta tell ya, even while being careful, I'm having a lot of fun figuring it out. My Prius rocks.
* Before I start getting angry emails, this is not a slight against public schools, I'm just saying that it doesn't fit every kid's emotional and cognitive needs. So everybody chill ;-)