Friday, 3 May 2013

Frugal Friday...

Squint carefully...that's a small blue car just to the left of Tigh Alasdair...! happens to us all, you're trotting along nicely, minding your own business, and then all of a sudden something comes along and socks you one square in the wallet! In this case it was my car - which has for a while been making a slightly odd squeaking noise from the front end. I thought at first it was wheel-bearings, but the noise didn't seem to be following the right pattern for that. The garage had checked it out and found nothing to worry about, and it didn't seem to be getting any worse - just a squeak at slow speeds - people knew when we were coming along the road, but nothing worse than that....then, on the way to Ipswich for speedway earlier in the month, it suddenly got a LOT worse - the squeaking became rather more piercing, and was actually rather uncomfortable on the ears. Hmmmm. Then, on the way home, it stopped. not altogether, but more or less back to where it had been - for some bizarre reason this worried me more than the louder noise had done! The following week was the first time I noticed the sort of metallic rattling/grinding noise. Again, not all the time, and it seemed to be worse on braking, and on turning was definitely present though, and not being a fan of driving cars which are making untoward "metal on metal" noises, I decided that it needed to go back to the garage.

Gracie the Clio & MrEH waiting patiently for a ferry...
The garage called me on Saturday morning having had the chance to take a look. It seems that the alternator bearings were worn (that'll be the nearly 80k miles she's done in the past 5½ years then!) and that squeaking was them making that fact known. The metal-on-metal rasping was them finally giving up the ghost (so I was certainly right not to drive any distance in her after first hearing it!) and a new alternator and tensioners were required. £493 - ouch. Never being one to make a snap decision when £493 is involved, I said I'd call them back, and set to a bit of research. My poor little car is a bit Friday afternoon-ish, so I wanted to know whether the fault was fair for the mileage - although I had a feeling that, in fact, I'd probably done quite well with it, and so it proved - mostly these faults develop at about 5 years of average mileage - and mine is well over that. I also wanted to check that the price I had been quoted was reasonable, and whether there was anything else I ought to be asking. Research completed I called back and spoke with the mechanic dealing with it - who clarified a few points, and agreed with me that yes, for the additional cost involved (parts only) the auxiliary drive belt might as well be replaced too - the existing belt was coming off to carry out the repair anyway, so it made sense to me to think of the long-term and replace all the bits at once and start afresh. the belt proved to be another £22 - and I decided to get cheeky and asked whether - for a regular, returning customer - they would do the lot for £500, which they agreed to. Not much of a discount, but everything helps, and I had already checked that the price they'd quoted for was right anyway. We use a local independent garage who we've always been very pleased with and they know us quite well. This faith was borne out when, having run into some problems with the job and not got the car back for a couple of days longer than planned, they very kindly increased the discount still further, and carried out another small job that they had noticed needing doing as a goodwill gesture as well. From our perspective, we'll continue to take both cars to them for any work that's required and will happily recommend them elsewhere.

As you know we budget carefully for all things to do with our cars in any case, putting aside an amount every month to cover insurance, tax, MOT and servicing. Thankfully we also budget a bit over the odds - meaning that the cost of this repair is already covered. The service on the Clio will be put off until after we have been on holiday - although technically due on time, it's a few thousand miles off needing done on mileage yet - and that will give the car account the chance to replenish a little. All this makes me glad all over again that we work like this - that sort of bill could be a huge shock and a complete budget-breaker to a family without any contingency savings of this type - this is exactly why the experts in such things recommend you have an "emergency fund". We can all budget for the planned spends - insurances, car servicing and car tax are all annual expenses, we know when they will be arriving, and have only ourselves to blame if those expenses cannot be met when they are due. Christmas, and holidays again - we have time to plan and surely only foolishness would lead to not budgeting for these. Our holiday will be our next "big spend" but once we have returned, and paid (from the designated savings) the credit card bill for the diesel etc, there will be NO debt remaining for this whatsoever - we don't borrow money from anywhere to allow for our annual fortnight away, if the money wasn't there, then we simply wouldn't go, or would go somewhere different, or for less time...hearing of folk taking out three-year bank loans to pay for the "holiday of a lifetime" terrifies me - far more sensible surely to delay the holiday until you have set aside enough cash to pay for it? Personally I wouldn't want to take out credit for a car-purchase again, either. Yes there are some excellent 0% finance deals available, but these usually require buying brand-new (which is rarely cost effective thanks to the depreciation as soon as you drive the car off the forecourt) and usually come with some pretty nasty clauses and conditions attached...also we are working hard to become completely debt free - with our mortgage being the only debt we still have to get rid of - and 0% or not, these arrangements ARE debts - we none of us know what is round the corner and I'd just as soon not have monthly repayments hanging over my head in the current economic climate.

How do you cope with the unexpected bills that rear their head from time to time? do you budget to pay insurances etc annually, or pay in monthly instalments to make them more affordable for you?




Sara @ A Frugal Wife said...

Urgh cars... ours is due for its service soon and I have everything crossed that nothing major is required. Like you we put money away each month for this, MOTs, road tax and our home insurance annual payment.

Like most things, it seems to be getting started is the hardest part. Paying a big bill and putting a little away can be tough if you've not planned out your finances.

We're not taking a holiday this year. We decided that cutting down our debt is a higher priority. We may take a short break later in the year, but it will be with money we already have. I couldn't go on holiday and stick it on the credit card or use the overdraft. It would stress me out, probably enough that I'd need another holiday to recover! :D

Scarlet said...

We budget to pay for annual expenses, and Christmas is done very cheaply ( almost every gift was hand-made or thrifted last year and our 'extra' food cost around £3. Saving has become more and more difficult over time. When our car finally gives up we won't be replacing it. I refuse to get into debt, J cycles to work and I can walk to my Mum's or get a bus if absolutely necessary. I'll have to order shopping online, and order Mum's too as I won't be able to take her shopping anymore. It will curtail my carbooting trips, but that's a small price to pay for not getting into debt.

Marksgran said...

Your post just made me realise I don't budget for tax, servicing or mot on our car. So far we've been lucky that hubby had enough in his business account to pay for it, but he's been really quiet this year so far so I've just sat down and divided the (rough) annual amounts by 12 to see if they can be incorporated into our budget now. Given the recent health scare my hubby had you are right to worry about the unknown. We have gone from 2 reasonably good salaries to almost none - only our works pensions - in the last 3 years and neither of us were expecting to be 'retired' this early - we had little or no choice. We still have some savings from our pension lump sum and we'll be hanging on to that for as long as possible as some of it may have to buy us a new (to us) car in the future. x

Robyn said...

Sara, it really does horrify me when I see people getting into debt to pay for holidays. There are certainly some debts which are "good" - student loans, mortgages for example, but paying for a holiday?! I don't think so! Well done you for deciding to take the path you have!
Scarlet - we've discussed before whether when MrEH's car finally gives up on us we'll be able to justify replacing, but on the basis that there are times that we have to travel into London for work separately, and the high cost of that commute from here, we most likely will.
Marksgran - we budget £155 per month for our cars per month and that (mostly!) covers tax, insurance, servicing, MoT, ongoing expenses like replacement tyres (based on the mileage we do) and an amount for contingencies. last year we built up a bit of a cushion. This year, we...errr .....won't!