Farewell, slush fund…we barely knew ye

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life47 Comments


Money out the door in still life, 2012

It could have been worse.

If your car's transmission is going to go, what better place than in a parking lot just 2 miles from your home?

Last Thursday, I was heading over to my daughter's school to pick her and a friend up to drive them to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum—an event they'd been selected to attend last week—and when we got into the car to go, the car decided it didn't really feel like going.

I put it into gear and…nothing. Then, it lurched ahead a few feet. Then nothing. Lurch. Nothing. Lurch—you get the picture.

I managed to pull out into the street only to realize pretty quickly, "Um, Cathy, you'd best get off this street," and pulled safely into a parking lot where another parent came to the rescue of the girls, driving them to the forum.

Dan showed up. Jim the Towing Guy showed up. I figured it was the transmission and knew this wasn't a good thing, but during the whole thing, I remained pretty calm.

In fact, I asked Cole, who was in the backseat, "Cole, how do  you think I handled this today?" And he replied, "Oh, pretty good, Mom."

The therapy is working!

Here's the thing about my car. It's a 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe that I bought new in early 2003 and it has been just about the most reliable, comfy vehicle I have ever had the privilege to drive. It is clean, rust-free, just sporty enough and best of all, it is now paid for.

We had it towed to our local mechanic who confirmed that yes, it was the transmission and that we'd have to send it to another shop because he told me, and I quote: "I'm not a tranny guy." Tommy, please tell me you got that!

When the final estimate came in ($2,300, plus a few parts that may still be needed) I didn't flinch. "Do it," I said. Right now, it's worth it to me to fix this car as opposed to getting out there and taking on a car payment.

Sure, in a year from now, we'll probably start looking, but this week, hopefully in the next few days, I'll get my curvy, grey SUV back for many more hours of glitch-free driving.

It really did surprise me was how little I freaked out. I mean, what happens happens, right? And you just deal with what's real, as they say.

I can't tell you how much this concept used to be completely foreign to me. I mean, if you don't freak out, how do people know how you really feel?

Again I say: the therapy is working.

Afterall, it could have been worse. The day before we were hit with snow and sleet and it would have sucked a great deal more to have broken down then.

It would have sucked even more to break down on the freeway at night when I drive the kids to their play rehearsals.

And I am fortunate that I have a credit card and the ability to get something like this fixed.

So you see, there is always going to be a sunnier side of the street for a lot of the glitchy, pain in the ass, why'd this have to happen today kinds of things.

Life's always trying to teach me something.

Cathy ZielskeFarewell, slush fund…we barely knew ye

47 Comments on “Farewell, slush fund…we barely knew ye”

  1. #1
    Kendra B

    Ugh! I hate car trouble!! I’m a glass half full girl, so I can appreciate you looking for the positives!

  2. #2
    Jennifer Larson

    Sorry about your car! Congrats on handling it well.

    If it’s not fixable, get a Kia Soul. They’re really cute and affordable. Plus, they come in one of your favorite colors.

  3. #3
    madeline St onge

    Maybe I need to get me some of that Therapy stuff Cathy, we had a Tuscon and I just love it, it is about 7years old and paid in full, so I am happy

  4. #8
    michele skinner

    i feel you. my ’01 toyota needed a new transmission AND a new radiator last summer … $4700. and that was about 16 months after i had to replace the 4wd system … $5000. i think i’ve hit the break-even point on repairs vs “suck it up and take on a car payment.” this was probably the last fix that will cost less than the car is worth. i’m still holding out hope and praying to the toyota gods that it can make it another four years and be henry’s car … we’ll see. i have to say, though, when i saw your photos on instagram, it looked like you’d had an accident! so glad it was just a mechanical issue, and you were all okay, and aidan was able to go gear herself up for her nobel win. ;o)

  5. #10

    So you and I will both be getting back our respective ’02 vehicles…complete with new transmissions… on the same day! And we’ll both be thrilled to sink into the familiar seats that have been finely molded to our respective backsides over the years! Mine cost our entire tax refund plus a grand, but I’m going with the flow! So what if I can’t have a vacation, I’ll have my car back!

  6. #11
    c@rol w

    Oh, Michele! I thought Cathy’s story was rough but you take the prize today – and not in a good way. I’m so sorry for you. Definitely sounds like it’s time for a new ride lest you will be on foot patrol soon! 🙂 Best wishes!

  7. #12
    c@rol w

    Sorry to hear your tranny went out, Cathy! Glad you’re safe and sound, too!

    I live with 2 shade tree mechanics (hubby and son). Happily, we own 2 cars that don’t have all those bells and whistles and have found it worth the money to simply fix them. I don’t need a computer to operate my car, a TV screen or digital lights to tell me my tire pressure is low. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take a “classic car” any day!

  8. #14

    Sorry that happened but you are so right that it could have been worse. I think you made an excellent call of having it repaired rather than running out and buying a new one. I would however say that it would have probably been even more stress-free had you had some cash (a.k.a. greenbacks) stashed and didn’t have to charge the repair bill.

  9. #15
    ana roat

    After being out ill for better than 2 weeks(norovirus and then pneumonia), our ’02 diesel pick up wouldn’t start on my first day back to work. I sat in the driveway and cried for 10 minutes. After my meltdown, I pulled on my big-girl pants and called AAA. By 6pm that evening the truck was back in the driveway with only a $200 bill. Thanks Cathy for reminding me that “stuff just happens”. Not a personal attack from angry gods or any such foolishness….just stuff.

    Here’s to a great week for all!

  10. #16

    Way to go, being so calm about things. Glad that the car breakdown was relatively convenient and that your personal breakdown was relatively non-existant.

    The transmission work last year on our 2003 Honda Odyssey van was more than $5,000 and this year we seem to be looking at drive train, exhaust, and heating repairs as well as new tires to the tune of over $3,000 (not including air-conditioning that I guess we’ll live without), so are in a big dilemma about whether to make that investment in the van to hopefully get a few more years out of it or to take the plunge and get a used/new Subaru Outback wagon (we would like 4-wheel/all-wheel drive to get into our cottage during winter). Yikes!

  11. #20

    My mom, my grandmother and now I all have a theory in life: Even Stevens. You get (or save) extra money, something happens to take it away, and you are left with being thankful that you had that extra money, but no extra money.

    Example: when I was 23 my grandmother sent me $4000 as kind of an early inheritance. Hayden and I were thrilled, we had a little bit of savings to fall back on if we needed it. We put the majority of it in the bank and went out and a new desk for me (I had just went back to school and a puppy).

    4 weeks later a kid in the apartment below us caught the building on fire and our apartment was gone. Actually, it was our neighbors coming up to save the puppy that saved us as they thought we were gone. (The fire was in the wall behind our headboard, we were asleep when it started and all ready knocked out from smoke inhalation). 3 weeks after the fire, 90 percent of our savings, even after renters insurance, was gone. Even Stevens. We were thankful we had the money, but was sad to see it flow out of our bank account while trying to get back on our feet.

    Anyway, long story short, I am glad you handled everything well and sorry uyou had to shell out $2300 smackeroonis for your car.

    Even Stevens is a unwelcome visitor.

  12. #23
    Sabrina L

    We have a 2006 Santa Fe that will be paid for next month. I CANNOT WAIT. Not a single major thing has ever gone wrong with it. And my husband drives a ton for work so it has almost 300,000 kilometres on it. Hands down the best vehicle we have ever purchased. Now that I’ve said that of course it won’t start tomorrow and will cost a bajillion dollars to fix. Here’s to Hyundai’s! 🙂

  13. #24
    Stephanie Hackney

    Yeah for you Cathy!

    I am also a former freaker-outer (OK, truth be known, I do still freak from time to time). I am learning, though, that all it does is raise my blood pressure (not good for heart health) and my cortisol levels (not good for the waistline)…the challenge is still the same, no better, no worse.

    Still, car woes suck! I can think of so many things I would rather spend a grand or two on!

    We currently have our GMC truck in the shop, again. It was in a couple weeks ago and released after a $1k+ bill. Now, another repair bill is looming. But, we bought it with cash back in 2003 and we have not had a car payment since…and it has 125k+ miles on it! And, it’s just a great, very comfy, truck (which I am reminded of every time the dealer gives us a new truck/car as a loaner and it’s so NOT as nice! lol).

    And yes, it could have been so much worse. My hubs has a great saying: you never have to look very far to find someone who has it worse than you. True, so true.

    I applaud you for looking at the situation and dealing with it rationally and calmly. It is what it is and you are all safe. THAT’S what really matters, right?

    May the repair bill goddesses smile favorably upon us all. 😉

  14. #25
    Beth R

    Oh my dear Cathy,
    I feel your pain. The last few years have taught me a multitude of lessons mostly due to the death sprial of MY economy. Needless to say a slush fund is a luxury around these parts and so I’ve been praying and hanging on for dear life. Luckily I have had no major breakdowns (other than mental that is) or mechanical failures in or around this little house.
    In the last 3 weeks I have had:
    The washing machine crash
    The 7 yr old furnace (with the 5 yr warrenty) motor seized up.No heat in Michigan makes me cranky.
    And saturday morning at 5 am I look out to the backyard to find 8 sections my p.o.s. fence blown down to the ground during the 40 mph winds the night before !
    Needless to say I can not afford nor is it possible to put a fence in the ground at this time of year in my general vicinity, so with a drill,a 16 lb sledge hammer and a mouth full of F bombs I managed to wrestle the fence upright and secure it until better days or at least until the ground thaws.
    I could also benefit from that “take it as it comes” attitude. Lets just say this month I regressed just a bit. Every muscle I never knew I had hurts, including my armpits !
    I admire your attitude. Such a great way to look at things Cathy, it really could have been worse. You and your family are fine and at the end of the day that really is what matters most.

  15. #26
    Christy P

    “It is what it is”, such a tough concept to really take in and accept. Great example of practicing this 🙂 Thanks for telling your story- a reminder I needed today with my own therapy work!

  16. #27
    Dalon Gage

    Thanks Cathy – you are such a good writer! Sorry to hear about the tranny, but so glad you shared your story – your perspective – the amazing reminder that “it’s all in how you play the cards you’re dealt” … thanks 😉

  17. #28

    Just an FYI: When a repair costs more than the current Blue Book value of your car, it’s time to put the money toward a new car and not the repair. Sure, it sucks taking on a car payment, but putting $2,300 toward your down payment would have been awesome! Completely understand that everyone’s circumstances are different, and you have to do what you have to do, and I do understand the reason for your choice. But I just wanted you to think about it …

  18. #29

    Well done! Sorry about the car, but I think it is great you handled it so well! I don’t really freak out over stuff like that, but I did freak out today. I lose patience with the kiddos more than I would like. Maybe I should get me some therapy.
    As a long time reader of your blog, I remember when you bought this car. I can’t believe it was that long ago, though!

  19. #30

    I did check blue book. My particular car currently is worth more than the value by a few more thousand, so it just seems to be worthwhile! : )

  20. #31

    We always put our vehicles on life support (fix them) until the cost of repairs and expected life expectancy out costs the price of a car payment. We’ve put more than 200,000 miles on three vehicles so far. Reliable and paid for….two of my favorite words. My last transmission replacement lasted four years. It was the big ole engine leak that did it in. The money you save in the long wrong can help pay for therapy since it seems to be money very well spent! Pat on the back to you.

  21. #32

    Thanks for helping me remember to look at the bright side after a crappy day. I can get pretty stuck in my problems, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that big, and it could always be a whole lot worse! Good luck with the repairs–hope it lasts a good long time!

  22. #33

    You’ve arrived! Handling major motor vehicle malfunctions with aplomb is a sign of being a well-adjusted GROWN-UP : ) (one of the nicer parts of aging!)

  23. #34
    Karen Thomas

    Well done on not freaking out. No car trouble here but the fridge carked (died) it today, which means another expensive outlay. Wonder what life was like without technology?

  24. #35
    Jamie Danford

    Totally get it! My hubby called me outside, just tonight to show me that our septic tank has overflowed and is gurgling our fecal matter all over the yard (and our dogs and our neighbor’s dog) and I was like, “hmmm… guesss we better call a septic pumper asap eh?”
    Sure maybe it was the cheap yellow wine, but I’d like to think it’s my years of wisdom and patience that have built within me a wall of peaceful reconciliation to the full shitters of life.
    Cheers C!

  25. #37

    Ugh Cathy,

    I can totally relate to the car trouble blues, but I have a 2009 F250 pickup. And still making those $550 a month car payments, plus paying for the repairs, like new injectors, $3800. three months ago, and then last year it was a fuel pump, $1800 and then the computer went haywire, which was $1800 and then there was something wrong with the oil being pumped and it over heating, so they put on a new kit to fix that problem, and that was well over $2000. In two years it’ll be paid for.

    Then two weeks ago we were in a very small car accident, it wasn’t my fault, the car heading west lost control of his car on slushy icy roads, and ended up in my lane of traffic, and I tried to hit the ditch, but with being locked into four wheel drive, we just couldn’t turn that sharp, but we hit his back bumper. The car was horrible, trunk smashed up into the back seat of the car, but the pickup wasn’t that badly damaged really, the headlight was pushed over, and the pickups grills were broken, but no body damage, but it’s going to cost $4700 to fix it, it did $10,000 damage to the little ford focus.

    I’m thinking that after this is all done and over with therapy is going to be needed.

  26. #38

    I can totally relate, this year has been trying for us too, at least the cattle prices are up, highest they’ve every been, shocking really.

    But with the pick up being in and out of the shop, I looked it up and we’ve paid $9500 in the last two yrs we’ve owned it.

    The heat pump died in the house last month, so that was a $8400 repair.

    The tornado last summer wiped out our irrigation system, which cost $70,000 to replace, the barn roof, which was $6000, 3 miles of fence, and 65 round bales which were worth $77 a ton. We’re still in the process of cleaning up the trees.

    Then we had a fire last fall and it burnt up half the cornfield, and another 16 bales of hay.

    Then there was the pick up wreck that did $4700 worth of damage to the pick up.

    We’re to the point where all we can do is just shake out heads and wonder what the new day will bring. Guess it’s just the joys of cattle ranching.

  27. #39

    Oh… I envy your glass is half full attitude. I’m a glass is half empty kind of girl. Both my hubby’s and my cars are from 2002. My son had just turned 2 and I remember thinking he would be 8 when they were paid off. Well, he’s now 11 going on 12 and cross every finger I have, we still have the cars and they are both doing well. Thankfully, prior to getting laid off in 2009 I worked from home for 9 years, so my car has low mileage for it’s age. Unfortunately, my hubby drives 30 miles to work daily and his car has very high mileage. Every-time his car breaks down I automatically jump to the worst case scenario, which for us would be a new monthly car bill.

  28. #40

    I think you did veddy veddy well Cathy, esp since he wasn’t a ‘tranny guy’. If I had had a cuppa tea, I would have spit! thanks for the laughs amidst the pita.

    Yep, therapy has been internalized.

  29. #43
    Pam S

    The last 6-8 months at work have been really, really busy. So much so that our mantra is “it could always be worse” and I think of it as looking on the bright side, in a slightly different way. 🙂

    Hope the grey mechanical baby comes home soon!

  30. #44

    I totally relate to the pride in self for handling a car problem without upset or emotion. I did the same just a few weeks ago. The tow guy was deftly able to start my car by pounding on the gas tank, so Iwas able to drive it to the reapair shop.
    Enroute I called my husband and while talking to him on my cell I hung up the phone, put it back in my bag, all the while talking to him like I had a mic in the car, which I don’t! I was a little discombobulated after all, but yyes, therapy is working!

  31. #45

    You totally just opened my eyes! Last year my OLW was FOCUS(as in focus on the positive). So when that didn’t work so well, I chose BREATHE for 2012. It’s only March and I am pretty sure my One Little Word for 2013 is gonna be THERAPY!

  32. #46
    Isabella Pospisil

    Though the car wasn’t in good condition on that day, I’m glad that you handled the situation calmly. After all, everyone can think more clearly if they are not freaking out. I hope your Santa Fe will be as effective as it was a decade ago.

  33. #47
    Sebastian Gaydos

    Car troubles can ruin our day, but these glitches also serve as instruments to help us learn something, in spite of everything that has happened. It’s nice to know that the therapy is working well. Yep, staying positive is essential to having a stress-free day. 😀

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