Taking Advantage of the Rain

We get a lot of rain in Florida. It’s known as the sunshine state but this is kind of a misnomer. In the summer (the “rainy season”) it rains almost every day for a half hour in the afternoon, and in the winter (the “dry season”) it rains about every three or four days when a cold front blows through. With all of this rain it would seem like the plants would be just fine on their own, but there’s some nuance to the weather that led me to install some rain barrels to the downspouts on my house.

First of all, I live pretty close to the coast, which means that the sea breeze can keep the summer storms just inland. It can go weeks in the summer without raining at my property, while every afternoon I can look west and see huge thunderstorms. So it’s good to have a free source of water for all of my plants in case the thunderstorms don’t make their way over to me for a few days.

Additionally, since the rain comes down so hard so quickly, the water management organizations in Florida actually encourage people to get rain barrels because it reduces stress on the storm drain systems. Always nice when the local government is on board.

So I have one system with a 165 gallon capacity in the back which is hooked up to a pump and a hose, but I recently put in a smaller system closer to the house for filling up watering jugs. This is just a 55-gallon drum that the city gives out to property owners for free, which is already equipped with a spout, a screen on the top (to keep debris and mosquitoes out) and an overflow hookup. I have a small section of roof with its own gutter, so this small system is perfect for this spot.

First, I had to grade the area a little bit and limit erosion. There was a little slope leading down to the only crawlspace access point so I found some concrete blocks in a neighbor’s garbage and used them to build a little retaining wall. Some other concrete blocks serve as the platform for the rain barrel itself.

When I bought this house there was a hot water heater tank in this spot in its own little house. It was horribly constructed and took up way too much space, so I pulled it out and put in a tankless hot water heater. That freed up some space for the rain barrel and, as a bonus, I can take hot showers of unlimited length now.

Rain barrels are a great way to get water for plants or for whatever you need (although it’s not good to drink it without proper preparation) and they can help your local ecosystem too! I plan to add a few more and do a more thorough how-to in the future based on my other solar-powered pressurized rainwater system.

It’s Decaf!

Since I live in Florida, I have the opportunity to grow various types of plants pretty much year-round. In the past year, I’ve started growing sugarcane, harvested one bunch of lackluster bananas, and started a raised bed vegetable garden that has given me as many as six okras. After all that work, imagine my surprise when I learned that I had shrubs already growing in the yard that I can make tea from! Wow!

The plant in question is a common ornamental yard plant in south Florida called hibiscus. It’s part of the mallow family (along with marshmallow and okra) and produces beautiful flowers that can be bred into almost any color, although most common varieties are red, orange, pink, or white. The plant is an important symbol of many Asian and Pacific countries including South Korea and Malaysia. Most of the plants I’ve seen here are used for show, but it turns out that using the flower’s petals to make a tea is a common drink in other parts of the world. The leaves can also be used to make tea, but I haven’t tried that out yet.

Step 1! Gather the flowers, either from the ground after they have fallen off of the plant, or cut fresh flowers off of the plant directly.

My hibiscus flowers only last for a few days on the plant, at which point they fall off. The flowers also close up at night, presumably to protect the interior of the flower from the elements. This is why they appear closed in the picture; they fall off the plant after closing for the last time. The petals can be opened and separated from the rest of the flower.

Step 2! Separate the petals.

At this point, I either make the tea right away or set the petals out in the house to dry so I can store them for later. This time I made fresh tea though!

Step 3! Put them in a pot.

I boil the water on the grill’s side burner. I’m not sure if this is more energy efficient than the electric stove in the house, but at least if I spill anything outside I don’t have to clean it up. I bring the water to a boil, add a whole bunch of sugar, then turn off the gas and add the petals to steep for about 15 minutes.

Step 4! Remove petals and drink.

The petals lose their color quickly and take on the appearance of boiled cabbage. This is fine! From here I either strain the petals out of the tea or scoop them out of the pot with a wooden spoon. I also like to chill it in the refrigerator for a couple hours (hot beverages haven’t really sat well with me since moving to Florida). I experimented with adding lime as well but didn’t really care for it.

So that’s it! There’s no caffeine in hibiscus, though, but apparently there are some health benefits and it also tastes pretty good. Score! After finding this out I added a few more bushes to my yard to make sure I have a fresh supply of petals at all times.

Photo: a flower on my hibiscus that I definitely plucked from the plant to make this batch of tea.

Carrying the Torch

Whenever I’m working on a project around the house, I try to do it in a way that minimizes cost to me, sometimes to the extreme. For example, I started painting my house a few months ago because the previous owner chose a ghastly color combination for the exterior. Rather than rent a paint sprayer, or buy a bunch of different rollers and pans, I went a different route: painting my whole house with a 2.5″ brush.

It’s probably important to note that my house is around 1000 square feet and is a single story, so this task isn’t exactly herculean. Maybe I saved myself a few hundred dollars on renting a spray gun and compressor, and maybe I saved a few tens of dollars on rollers. But in general, this is how I try to get things done: by buying as few “things” as possible while still effectively completing the task.

In addition to the “cost-savings” approach I normally take, I also like to learn new skills if I can. Recently, I’ve come across a whole set of projects I’d like to do that are a little out of the realm of my meager handyman skills and woodworking abilities. I have a laundry list of projects that need some basic welding to get finished, and since my garage (and probably house) don’t have a big enough electrical service to support an arc welder, I bought myself an oxygen-acetylene welding rig. Needless to say, this was a little more expensive than a paintbrush or two, but it’s the tool I need to get the job done.

Up until I bought these tools, I had never welded anything. I have been around welding, and have spent the past few weeks watching videos of people welding all sorts of things together so I’m not completely clueless. So far my experience has been that it’s much harder in real life than it is on YouTube.

But I plan to keep practicing and getting better, so I can start working on projects that I want to work on, and that I think will improve my life and home in measurable ways. Some of the projects I’d like to do include:

  • Building a mount for some solar panels in the back yard. My existing mounts are made out of pressure-treated lumber, but don’t last long in Florida’s high-humidity environment
  • Setting up a stand for hanging pots in the backyard. There’s an area on the side of the property where virtually no plants will grow because of the extensive roots of my neighbor’s beautiful sabal palmetto. This is a great place to have a hanging garden, though.
  • Building bicycles and bicycle attachments. I like the idea of modifying a bike trailer originally meant for toting children around into a trailer I can use to tote a cooler and tackle box to my fishing spots. I’d also like to build a bicycle sidecar so I can pick up larger loads from Home Depot (like lumber and mulch) and maybe one day will even build something like a tall bike.
  • Fixing my pergola. The 4×4 lumber posts are starting to rot, and I can’t think of anything better than replacing them with steel posts (especially since I live in a hurricane-prone area). This might not require any welding, though.

Once I start practicing more and getting more involved, I will certainly be posting some of my work. Get ready for some great examples of rookie welding mistakes!

Photo credit: This is my current welding setup. Not the most safety-conscious, but until I can weld together a welding table (kind of a catch-22), it’ll have to do. Maybe next time I’ll put on some shoes.

Maxing Out the 401k

Two years ago I started a new job that came with a small bump in pay. In the past, I had always let my raises trickle into my checking account without thinking about them much. But, after a year of reading other personal finance blogs, I decided it was finally time to take action and I bumped my 401k contribution up two percentage points. This isn’t the end of the story, though; this simple action led me down a long winding road which lead up to where I am now: contributing over a quarter of my pre-tax income to my 401k.

First, some background: my company matches 401k contributions, but in a needlessly complicated way. They match 100% of the first 3%, 50% of the next 3%, 25% of the final 1%, and nothing for anything above 7%. What it boils down to for me is that if I contribute 7% of my salary, my company match is 4.75%. So it had been sitting there for years while I contributed the “minimum” 7% of my salary.

When I changed jobs though (internally, I still work for the same company) I decided that I would bump that amount up to 9%. For me, that was an increase of about $56 a month, but remember that this is pre-tax dollars so it’s really only about $42 from my actual take-home pay. I still had a nagging PF guru in my head though who was telling me I could do more. I’m lucky enough to live below my means and won’t miss another $100 or so a month, so after a few weeks of back-and-forth I raised my contribution anouther 3% to 12%.

From there, though, I realized how easy it could be to put my nose to the grindstone and try and get up to the maximum contribution of $18000 per year. I made it a sort of game: anytime that I could save myself 1% of my after-tax salary per month, I would raise my 401k contribution by 1%. (Expert personal financiers will note that this nets me a significant tax savings.) The first of my bill cutting measures was to switch from the family cell phone plan that I had been on for years over to a company cell phone that I only have to pay $10 for. (For that low rate I have to accept work emails and calls on my phone, but most of that gets funneled through Google Voice and not my actual cell phone number.) This saved me $40 a month, so I raised my contribution another percentage point.

After that, I realized I had an index fund that was just about the same amount as one of my student loans. At the time the market was stagnant so I decided a better choice of action was to sell it off and pay off the loan. That saved me $60 so I raised my contribution 2% (how you choose to round is up to you).

I chugged along at 15-16% for a few months before I saved up enough to pay off another loan, and raised my contribution accordingly. I had another moment where I decided I wouldn’t miss another $40 and raised it again. I also made some lifestyle changes, like realizing that grass is a complete waste of money and that I could raise my contribution a little more if I let it go brown and put native, drought-tolerant plants in its place. As a bonus, sweet potatoes grow extremely well in my front yard and the greens are edible, too!

Anyway, I finally paid my student loans off in full about a year ago with a bonus, and made a few other lifestyle adjustments that saved me enough money to finally max out my 401k contribution. For example, I bike to work full-time now, which means no fuel costs (even though my car is electric, it still saves some money) and a nice fitness bonus to boot. I work on the side as a freelance writer which doesn’t bring in much money but it helps. I also don’t have cable, and I don’t have Internet access at the house outside of my phone (which I fully realize isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for me.)

I didn’t quite make it to the maximum contribution amount of $18000 last year (it was around $14,500) but this year I am on track to get to that magical number. Early in the year I didn’t think I would make it because I had to lower my 401k contribution amount temporarily to funnel money into my HSA for laser vision surgery. (Side note: totally worth the expense! Contacts and glasses are terrible.) Luckily there was enough time left in the year for me to catch up and as long as I keep my job I’ll make my goal. Also, don’t forget that the 401k is pre-tax money, and my additional contributions have saved me thousands in taxes in these two years. I’ll have to pay taxes eventually, but this is a pretty good perk for now.

I still have a little ways to go, though. I have a payment on my car (which is mostly covered by the fact that I don’t have to pay for fuel, for anyone worried why I contribute so much to retirement when I still have debt) and I still have mortgage insurance that I should be kicking to the curb in less than a year. But now that I’ve maxed out my 401k, all of that extra money will go right into my pocket! (read: right into a Roth IRA until I max that out too!)

While a lot of my circumstances are very fortunate, like being able to pay off debts and funnel that money into my retirement, or having access to a company cell phone, or getting bonuses, most of these steps are something that anyone else could do as long as they believe in themselves, and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. As proof, my take-home pay is actually slightly less than what it was when I first started working for this company five years ago even though my net pay is much higher. My mortgage now is more than my rent was then, and I am still able to put a little extra towards principal every month, but I am on a better footing financially than I was back then. This is what has enabled me to keep raising my contribution, all while maintaining the same lifestyle I had when I started this adventure.

If my story has any meaning, though, it’s that you don’t have to go from your company match contribution to the maximum contribution overnight; this whole change took place for me over the course of two years. Additionally, you don’t have to get to the maximum at all but think about at least raising that contribution a little bit if you can. The more you save now, the faster you’ll be free.

Photo: I recently started an Instagram like all the cool kids are doing. I do some photography on the side as a hobby, so I’ll pull images from there from time to time. This is one of my favorites that I took at a ruined jetty on Palm Beach.

Keeping Up with the Florida Joneses

South Florida is a great place to live, but there are two things here that most other places don’t have that take some adjustment: an extremely long, hot summer and a wealth of wealthy people. It’s sometimes difficult to stick to a minimal lifestyle and, at the same time, be surrounded by people who don’t just keep up with the Joneses, but have blown them out of the water in every way possible.

For example, a few of the historic neighborhoods around where I live have “home tours” every year, where a handful of homeowners open their homes up and invite the rest of the neighbors to come through and see how they’ve improved their old homes and tended their (often expansive) gardens. I go to these so I can meet the neighbors, get style ideas for my own house, enjoy some frosty beverages in the block party-like atmosphere, and genenerally make myself feel completely inadequate as a homeowner.

I don’t necessarily feel like this is a bad thing, however, as long as I remind myself that most of these people are either much more well-off than I am or are swimming in debt. Since I don’t want to go into debt just to have a nice back yard, and I don’t try to spend money to keep up the appearance of a wealthy lifestyle (have you seen my car?) when I could instead use that money to retire early, the opulence rolls off of me like rain on a freshly-waxed car.

It would be nice to have a perfectly manacured back yard with palm trees providing shade everywhere, but not at the expense of everything else. After all, I can appreciate the engineering and style that’s in a $100k Mercedes while, at the same time, not have any desire to get rid of my old beater car. It suits me, but there are some times that I have to focus more on my long-term goals than short-term pleasantries.

There Is No Free Lunch

I recently started doing one of the most basic things anyone can do to cut expenses: bringing my lunch to the office. It seems really simple, but for some reason I resisted this for a long time before finally realizing the impact that eating out every day was having on my financial health.

My first “real” job was as an engineering intern. Most of the engineers in the office would go out every day for lunch as a way to escape the office, and I started developing this sentiment about lunch as well. Most of us didn’t become engineers so we could sit in cubicles all day, so when 11:30 rolled around, it was time to hit the road and unwind a little. And spend money on food. It wasn’t exactly “the dream” but it was at least a little escape.

I didn’t think much of the money issue at the time, either. It was nice to be able to afford food that wasn’t in a can, as I was getting paid pretty well (for a college student). And I didn’t like being in the office any more than any of the other engineers so I didn’t have a second thought about it.

My first job out of college was in the middle of nowhere, and I brought my lunch to the office because there was literally nowhere else to eat. The nearest restaurant was a Taco Bell 20 minutes away, and my lunch was only 30 minutes long so this wasn’t exactly feasible from a math perspective. Unfortunately, I didn’t put together how much money I was saving by bringing my lunch to work every day.

Fast forward to now: I work in a more developed area, and it’s possible for me to eat out for lunch every day. And for a few years, I did. Let’s crunch some numbers:

$10/day for four years adds up to around $8,000. I’ve been spending about $8/week in lunch since I decided to bring it in to the office instead, which should save me around $7,000 over the same time frame.

I think another reason it’s so tempting to spend money every day on lunch is that it’s not a lot of money all at once. If it were, I would have thought twice about my habit a little earlier. Luckily I’m still in my 20s, with some time left to make up for past mistakes.

Even so, I still treat lunch as a “sacred” time where work doesn’t get done (or even get talked about, for the most part). But I realize now that I don’t have to spend money in order to take a break from the hustle and bustle of office life.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

It’s Saturday, October 31!

Spooky! I’ll be dressed as Waldo tonight. Last year I counted 13 Waldos at the Halloween shindig I went to, so it ironically won’t be that easy to spot me.

The awesomeness of not being important by Steve, thinksaveretire.com. This is a great, if under-appreciated, goal to achieve in one’s career.

Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal has a long, complicated history by Megan Geuss, arstechnica.com. This has been a really interesting story to follow, both from an engineering point-of-view and a business point-of-view. This story goes into depth over the history of why (probably) Volkswagen did what it did.

Financial Independence: How Long Will It Take? gocurrycracker.com. An interesting look at how tweaking some numbers can make early retirement much more feasible, or at least move that retirement date a little closer. Always run the numbers!

The IRS Tax Code Makes No Sense – What You Should Know About IRA Tax Deduction Phase Outs, genyfinanceguy.com. The tax code is complicated. It’s especially interesting how marriage isn’t the financial benefit it once was, too.

BONUS: What I’m listening to this week:

Photo: I’m in this picture somewhere. Can you find me? 

401k: Not Just A Bunch of Numbers and a Letter Anymore

I’m one of the lucky ones whose employer makes matching contributions to a 401k. For that reason alone, I contributed enough money to get that company match when I hired on, but only just enough to get that match. Free money, right?

In the past few years I’ve been promoted and have gotten a few modest (cost-of-living) raises as well, but I’ve never increased my 401k contribution. I had a “set it and forget it” mindset, though, and it never occurred to me to contribute more to it even though I make a little more money now. If I wasn’t getting more company match, then anything that I added above that was money that would go into nothingness, and that I wouldn’t ever get to enjoy it.

I was falling prey to a common fallacy with retirement and financial independence: it’s so far away I’ll never get there.

Recently, though, with my adventure into a simpler way of living I’ve realized that minimalism is a route to financial independence. For me, retirement isn’t 62 or 65, it’s more in the 42 to 45 range. That’s only about 15 years away! I can easily remember what I was doing 15 years ago: I was about to start high school. Really puts this time frame into perspective! At least, I don’t feel like high school was that long ago…

Anyway, this made me realize one thing, in bold neon letters: I need to step up my saving game!

Of course, I was doing this somewhat indirectly. I don’t buy stuff just for stuff’s sake anymore. I sold a ton of my junk and I don’t order non-consumable things on Amazon with reckless abandon like I once did. However, this is all after-tax saving, and the more I looked into it the more I realized there was more I could be doing for myself.

So I increased my 401k contribution a few percentage points. Even though my company won’t match my contributions above the amount I was already making, the tax shelter that the 401k provides is kind of like getting free money anyway. Even though I’ll have to pay taxes when I make withdrawals (one day!), my tax-free earnings can grow unfettered until then.

I started off with a 2% increase above what I was already contributing. This amounts to well under $100 for me per paycheck which won’t hurt me at all, and will account for well over $1000 per year at my current pay rate. I’ll look to increase this even more in the near future in order to increase my savings percentage and progress with my goal of becoming financially independent. Right now my savings rate is about 20% but with some more lifestyle changes hopefully I will be able to increase this even further.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It’s Saturday, October 24th!

Spend $25,000 to Save $9,000? by J. MONEY, budgetsaresexy.com. I don’t make quite enough money to have these problems just yet, but it’s interesting to see how the tax code works sometimes, and how the government kind of wants you to save for retirement.

A 23-year-old Google employee lives in a truck by Kathleen Elkins, businessinsider.com. I would definitely do this if my company served breakfast, lunch, and dinner for free. And if they made me work 100% of my waking hours. Relevant Dilbert.

How much is your job really costing you? by Steve, thinksaveretire.com. Unless you live in a truck, probably a lot more than you think. And if you live in a truck because you work 16-hour days, it’s probably costing you more than money, too.

My Three Favorite Really Stupid Reasons Not To Save For Retirement, proceeduntilapprehended.net. I’ve fallen guilty to every single one of these. No more! On a related note, I just upped my 401k contribution, so that’s cool.

BONUS: What I’m listening to this week!

Good Charlotte is in my fall music playlist, and since I’m currently in Oklahoma City and it feels more like fall here than it does in Florida, I pulled out some music that I used to listen to in middle school for all the nostalgia.

Photo: This is why I’m in Oklahoma. My first time climbing a wind turbine, and what a view!

Is a Classic Car Cheaper than a New Car?

I’m a big proponent of buying an antique car if you need a vehicle get around. As long as you take your time and pick a model that’s known for reliability (hint: no K cars!), and look at a lot of cars to make sure you don’t get a junker, you can get a great deal. Of course, you’d probably like for someone who is advocating something as unusual as this to put their money where their mouth is, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve bought a classic Mercedes to use as my daily driver.

Until recently, I was driving my motorcycle every day, and it was great! Motorcycles are a great combination of exciting and cheap. And, in certain situations, the risks can be mitigated well enough to enjoy the 50+ mpg that most motorcycles will give. I recently took a new job in an overdeveloped and poorly-planned section of suburban sprawl in South Florida, however, and while it’s much closer to work I felt that the risks of driving a motorcycle every day were unmanageable in that environment.

On the plus side, though, my commute is about 20 miles per day closer to my home. The math tells me that I can drive a car that gets around 30 mpg in order to spend about the same amount of fuel as I was spending on my motorcycle.

I also wanted something that’s decently safe. My old Beetle is fun and cool, but there’s little more than sheet metal protecting me from any impacts. At least on the motorcycle I’m wearing a helmet. Anyway, I remember one of my friends in high school had a diesel Mercedes from the 80s and T-boned an SUV with it. The SUV (which a lot of people would presume would be safer) had a higher center of mass and rolled over, while my friend walked away without a scratch. I know this is anecdotal evidence, but those old Mercedes really are built like tanks.

I’ve had my eye on a Mercedes station wagon for a while. It’d be much easier to transport surfboards and building materials in a wagon than in a sedan, but that wasn’t really in the cards for me. The wagons of that era are about three times as expensive now, and pretty rare to boot (British pun intended). Since I needed a car pretty urgently to get me off of my motorcycle, I settled on the sedan. A 84′ 300D turbo diesel, to be specific.

These cars are notorious for going hundreds of thousands of miles without needing major engine work. Diesel engines are built much more robustly than gasoline engines are. They have even been known to go a million miles, in which case Mercedes has been known to buy the car back and put it in a museum, or at least give the owner a cool badge to put on the grill. They’re over-engineered in pretty much every area which gives the driver the illusion of driving around in a bank vault, and so far this has been my experience.

I looked at a few before picking one up, and none of them were perfect. But it’s unreasonable to expect to buy a 30-year-old car and have it be flawless, unless you’re buying it for tens of thousands of dollars out of someone’s showroom. This Mercedes cost me just north of $2k, which is what I would have put down on a new car. But it did need a little bit of work.

The obvious things were the tires and the battery, so I estimated about $500 right there. It had been sitting for a while, so I knew it would need all of its fluids changed sooner rather than later. The most pressing of these is the engine oil, which is especially important in high-mileage engines in general and diesels most of all. So I took care of those things, and then a couple other things popped up.

The car snapped one of its alternator belts when the alternator bearings seized. The cab filled with smoke from the broken belt rubbing against the other belts, but really this was no big deal: I just changed the alternator and the belts. Then the glow plug relay stopped working, which meant that the car was likely to kill the battery trying to start (it’s a quirk of diesel engines, since they don’t have spark plugs). The car also needs new fuel filters. But after all of that cleared up I seem to have a pretty good vehicle on my hands. It doesn’t burn engine oil, there’s no coolant in the oil or vice-versa, and it gets 31 mpg which means I could go about 600 miles on a tank of gas.

The car’s still not perfect, but for just north of $3k I have a very capable tool to get to work. That’s only slightly more than a down payment on a new car! Not to mention that it’s a stellar ride that turns heads. But there are a few more quirks that may or may not get fixed. Neither the odometer nor the fuel gage work, so it’s difficult to tell how much fuel is left in the tank (not to mention calculate my mileage). The air conditioning doesn’t work, but I don’t need air conditioning to get around; it’s just a luxury to me. It also has some rust on the body. If you get an older car, it’ll have a few quirks like this that you should be prepared to either live with or pay to fix. I have a tendency to go with the former option.

Mechanic work aside, I created a spreadsheet that will document all of my expenses with this car. Hopefully it’ll end up being cheaper than a new car, but right now that’s not QUITE the case.

Purchase 9/19/2015  $2,300.00 total
Registration/sales tax 9/21/2015  $   199.35  $3,875.75
oil/filter 9/21/2015  $     51.91 per-month cost
insurance 9/21/2015  $   285.00  $1,937.88
voltage regulator 9/22/2015  $     51.93 hypothetical monthly payments
glow plug relay 9/27/2015  $   116.59  $1,391.40  per mo
fuel filters 10/2/2015  $     52.50
tires 10/3/2015  $   411.20
alternator 10/5/2015  $   144.68
battery 10/9/2015  $   154.84
belts 10/9/2015  $     43.75
diesel purge + fuel cap 10/12/2015  $     64.00

I’m counting everything I spend money on except for fuel. So far it’s just parts because I do most of my own work. This is a key to owning a classic: if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty it’ll be orders of magnitude more expensive to take it into a shop every time something goes wrong. Especially if it’s something small like a belt or an alternator.

The “hypothetical payments” cell is what I’m keeping track of. I want to see how the costs of a classic car would compare to a repayment schedule on a loan for a new car. First, I deducted $2,000 from the total (to account for a hypothetical down payment on a car) and I deducted the cost of insurance and registration (because I’d have to pay those on a new car anyway). Then I divided that number by the number of months I’ve owned the car. This gives me a per-month cost that approximates what “payments” I would have had to make on a new car to equal the amount of money I’ve spent on this old one. Right now, if I can go just four months without anything major happening, I’ll have broken even with “hypothetical payments” around $280. It might take a little bit longer to “break even” in this fashion because I think I’ll have to replace the brakes pretty soon. But even assuming I spend $1,000 on the brakes, it’ll only take me about four more months to pay that cost back down.

After one month I have a “monthly payment” amount of $1,400, which is the same monthly payment I could have had on a 2016 Mercedes S-550. After two months, though, I’d be down to driving a 2015 Mercedes E250 for about $650/month. (How does anyone afford a car like this in real life? It’s crazy!) Hopefully after a few more months I’ll be hypothetically driving around in a Honda Fit, and then every month after that is a month that I paid less for my cool, old Benz than I would have paid for that Honda.

I hope that this car will save me some money in other ways too. For example, it’s crazy slow. I would estimate the 0-60 time to be anywhere from 30 seconds to a week and a half. (There’s some work that I need to do on the fuel delivery system, which might improve its pickup a little bit. It’s criminally slow now though.) I’m counting its snail pace as a feature, however, considering how much trouble my 300ZX and my Miatas got me into. Tickets (and crashes) cost money too! It does cruise really nicely on the highway, though, although I haven’t figured out how to turn the cruise control on yet.

I also haven’t figured out how to lock the doors, but my solution to this is to make sure the cab is empty and all my valuables are in the trunk. The trunk locks independently from the rest of the car, so I think this is a cheap and effective solution. Oh, and one of the windows is stuck and won’t really roll down, but it’s one of the back ones so who cares?

Part of the fun of a classic car is getting in and having it start up. It really makes me appreciate having a car that works! It’s too easy to take a newer car for granted. But (mostly through paranoia) I’ve mistaken a number of things for sounds that my car was making since a greater possibility exists for it to break down from time to time. These include, but are not limited to: a squeaky minivan passing me, someone else’s stereo, a jackhammer at a construction site, a nail gun being used in a house in my neighborhood, a train on the tracks beside me, and an ice cream truck.

I have the motorcycle if it needs something done to it that takes longer than an afternoon, and I wouldn’t recommend a classic car as a daily driver unless you have some sort of safety net like this. You could even use public transportation in a pinch (maybe). But if you have the right mindset and a set of wrenches, a classic car can be a cheaper, cooler, and more unique alternative than sitting in a boring new car.