A Twig Cracked Our Car! And Frugality Let Us Spend Freely To Fix It

Cracked Bumper

My wife was driving her car to the grocery store on her day off the other day. She slid on some ice, veered to avoid a couple cars, hopped the curb, and took out a small boulevard maple tree (probably a maple).

She’s okay. She didn’t get hurt. I think that was second question out of my mouth… Should’ve been the first.

In my defense, she had just texted me a photo of the accident and relayed to me how frustrated she was with herself for taking a road called “Diagonal Boulevard” to Target. Sounds like a road that should be avoided at all costs. I hold her completely responsible for that.

The accident cracked the front bumper on the passenger side all the way through, leaving a medium-sized Maine-shaped piece hanging by a Christmas-tree clip. God forbid a bumper now-a-days hold its own against a tiny twig-tree.

That little sapling caused $1,000 in damage to her car! The whole bumper had to be replaced. Even though it was a clean break, we were told by the body shops that gluing and buffing and trying to piece together the bumper would be just as much trouble and take just as much time, labor and money as replacing the whole thing.

Boulevard Tree
A real tree was hurt in the production of this post

By the time I got home from work, my wife had already called around to get quotes and set up the appointment to get her car fixed for that $1,000. Maybe if the estimate had been $990, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But somehow, at that moment, $1,000 seemed like too much to pay for a minor accident like that involving a 10-year-old car…

Maybe it had a little to do with me booking a $1,500 loss in GoPro stock just two weeks earlier (More on that big, completely avoidable, money mistake in a future post).

…Whatever the reason, I went Frugal Ninja all over her and quickly turned cheapskate

“I’ll tape it. I’ll make it look decent. It’s going to be my car anyways in less than a year, probably, and you’ll have a newer car. It’s completely cosmetic and I don’t really care.” I said, or something like it. “I bet they’re just quoting high on the bond and buff job, because they think we want it looking like brand new. Let’s call around and see if there’s a guy that’ll paste that sucker on for a couple hundred bucks and we’ll tell them it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

I could tell the whole conversation was stressing my wife out (She told me it was stressing her out). She just wanted to get it fixed, get it looking like it never happened, and be done with it. I grumbled something about, “wouldn’t you rather have that money go toward a new car?”…”$1,000 is outrageous for something that small.” Grumble, grumble, “waste of money,” grumble, “irresponsible”, grumble…

I eventually backed off. She was right. For a variety of reasons, this time was the time to spend the money to get the car fixed right and move on with our lives. Looking back, I learned some things from the whole thing…

We kind of have to manufacture money stress now (humble-brag 🙄)

Now, I’m not Oprah. For those of you trying to unmask Crispy Cabbage, you can cross her off the list. It was probably pretty clear when I botched my t-shirt giveaway last October (I’ll get to the drawing for the t-shirt. Don’t worry). I’m a guy too. Some sharp-eyed investigators may have already discovered that.

Nope. Not Oprah. My wife and I don’t have millions or billions of dollars to brush off really big bills. But we do have enough in savings and enough daylight between our income and debits that the unexpected thousand-dollar or even two and the occasional three-thousand-dollar bills can, sort of, melt away.

And that’s huge! I just realized how huge it is for our marriage… Instead of festering and boiling and globbing together with other little disagreements into potentially a full-on marital crisis, our little money tiff over fixing the car will only be remembered in the deep archives of the Crispy Cabbage blog in a forgotten corner of the World Wide Web in this long-winded humble-brag.

We have to manufacture most money stress now. The $1,000 only really became a big deal when I created the crisis. And I was only feeling the loss on paper.

It doesn’t affect our everyday living. It didn’t knock us off our overall financial plan. And in the grand scheme of the 7-Year Plan To A Runway Retirement, at worst, it means an extra day or two of “forced” work on the corporate hamster wheel. Probably not even that.

This is why we’re frugal

Don’t let this spending fool you. My wife and I are still frugal people. I’m borderline cheap (working on it). We can’t afford to be too freewheelin’ with our finances. We strive to be intentional with most of our spending.

After all, I’m still the guy who calculated how much Financial Independence (FI) time I can buy if I don’t spend on that $6 mocha when I created The Time Bank spreadsheet (3 seconds). But that’s just a game I play to work my frugality muscle and make sure I really want what I’m going to buy.

It boils down to this… All the intentional money decisions (big and small) we’ve made over the last seven years, sprinkled with some good fortune, somehow added up to us being able absorb some pretty large losses here and there. And now we can choose to be a little frivolous when we simply wanna save our sanity.

CNN Money says most Americans aren’t as lucky. Most don’t have even $500 in savings. Yes, some are struggling with poverty and misfortune and just scraping by. But too many in the middle class are riding the razor-thin edge of a self-imposed paycheck-to-paycheck life. This annoying humble-brag about my life is just another reminder to myself and others why my wife and I have made the frugal decisions we’ve made up to this point…

Give yourself a little space to breath! Squeeze a little daylight between your spending and income. Use that money to build a little emergency fund. Then build it up a little more. Be intentional when you spend and make sure the stuff you buy really adds value to your life. Be frugal now and you have my full permission to spend freely when it counts. Especially, when it will make your wife happy.

I have to tell you, it makes all those cracked bumpers in life so much easier to handle.

What do you think? Should I have spent the time to fix the bumper myself and banked that money? A true Mustachian might have. Or was this the right time to spend freely? I love to read your comments.

9 comments

  1. What a rookie question, as a guy who has been married nearly 40 years you fix your wife’s car so it looks like it never happened. Her piece of mind is priceless, padawan. Trust me on this! You did the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We just had this happen! Yesterday our water heater finally broke. If we hadn’t been on our frugal journey, this $750 bill would have been an EMERGENCY. But since we prioritize how we spend our money, it wasn’t a big deal. In fact, we bought the water heater and installed it ourselves, saving on plumber costs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well done on the install! Especially since I’m guessing it was gas. Gas and water scare me. More than electricity, for some reason. Electricity should scare me more, probably. It’s a good feeling. Well worth some of the other “sacrifices”. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  3. I think you should have sued the tree for damages and emotional distress.

    But I’m glad you had the cash to make this go away – being frugal in small things can make a bigger thing like this not so big a deal. Nice story and message

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point! I wish I had a lawyer in the family to help me file suit. That tree had no business being 50 feet off street in those conditions. Didn’t even try to get out of the way. And it had recklessly gone leafless, nearly invisible. Shame. Ha ha. Thanks for reading, Paul!

      Like

  4. Those trees will get you every time. My husband used to park under a tree and prided himself on never washing his car. Then the sap from the tree corroded the paint on the hood. He stopped parking under the tree but somehow the paint on his next car also became completely corroded. I guess I’m lucky he doesn’t care about how our old cars look, but it’s almost to the point of getting embarrassing.

    For the sake of marital harmony, and as a sometimes cheapskate, I agree its best to spend freely on the spouse’s fender benders, parking tickets, and seemingly constant flat tires (within reason, of course)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re everywhere! They really are a nuisance. I come from a place where there are no trees. The magical flatlands of North Dakota, where you can slide on the ice for miles and not hit anything at all ;). Thanks for reading, Frieda!

      Like

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