My used mini cooper and the power of saving

For the past two years, one of my top financial goals has been to save for a Mini Cooper. Just like a child with a toy catalog, I’ve spent hours on the Mini website playing with colors and options packages, building my own dream vehicle. Whenever I’m tempted to buy small indulgences, I ask myself, “Would I rather have this or a Mini?”

Until the beginning of last week, however, I thought I still had a long way to go before I could afford even a used Mini Cooper. Turns out I was wrong.

Savings Success

Since the middle of last year, I’ve been saving like mad, attempting to accumulate enough money to buy a car. My progress has been outstanding:

  • After I built my emergency fund, I began to route my regular monthly savings to my Mini Cooper account. I’ve saved about $6,200 for a car during the past eighteen months.
  • I’ve also been putting “found” money into my car account. When I get a birthday check, it goes to my Mini fund. When I sell something on eBay, it goes to my Mini fund. That’s come to almost $700 in the past year.
  • In October, I won a contest at ING Direct. My prize was a $1,000 6-month certificate of deposit. It matured last week, and I promptly rolled the proceeds into my Mini fund.
  • We refinanced our house recently. The last payment on our old mortgage was made in March. Our first payment for the new mortgage is due May 1st. There’s no April payment! That means I can use that thousand dollars for a Mini.
  • Also as part of the refinance, we received a disbursement check of $1879.03, half of which goes to Kris and half of which goes to me. That’s $939.52 more for a car.

All told, by the beginning of April I had managed to save just over $10,000 for a car. That’s not enough to buy a Mini Cooper — not even a used one. But then I found another chunk of change.

Tax Refund

Because I’m self-employed, I pay quarterly estimated tax payments based on income projections I make at the beginning of each year. But because my business has been growing, these projections have been off. At the end of the year, I owe more than I’ve paid, and so have a tax bill due.

The first year this happened, it caught me by surprise. I owed a lot of money, and I didn’t have anything saved to cover the tax bill. Ever since, I’ve set aside as much as possible to prepare for taxes.

Note: For others with their own businesses, here’s what I do: Every month I transfer living expenses from my business account to my personal account. I keep these expenses as low as possible. I leave the rest of the cash in the business to save for taxes. After taxes are paid in April, I pull any remaining “profits” for the year into my personal account.

Well, I paid my taxes last week. When the checks were written, I was amazed to find that I had a huge chunk of cash left over. In fact, there were several thousand dollars remaining in my tax account, all of which was now available for my personal use. I transferred the money to my Mini Coooper account, and stared at the total: I had $16,768.98 in savings.

I almost had enough to buy a car.

New vs. Used

With stars in my eyes, I dropped by the local Mini dealer last Wednesday to wander their showroom. I spent an hour talking with a salesman. He was awesome. He didn’t pressure me, but answered all of my questions. Though I loved the shiny new cars, the vehicles I really wanted were marked at over $25,000. (Most were around $28,000, and one amazing Mini was $40,000!)

“I don’t have enough saved to buy a car right now,” I told the salesman, “but I’d love to rent one for the weekend.”

He frowned. “I’m afraid we don’t do rentals,” he said. “I don’t know anyplace in Portland that rents Mini Coopers. Sorry.”

Then he added, “You know, Mini is offering 1.9% financing right now — if you have good credit. That’s a good deal.”

“Thanks,” I said. “My credit’s great, but I’m not wiling to take on debt. I’ll just wait and keep saving.”

Then a friend called on Friday. “J.D., have you been down McLoughlin lately?” he asked. “There are two used Minis for sale along the strip.” (I live next to a stretch of road that is home to more than a dozen car dealerships.)

I hadn’t considered buying a used Mini (I’m a new car kind of guy), but the more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me.

  • If I bought used, I could avoid the instant depreciation associated with a new car.
  • If I bought used, I could save the price difference for other goals.
  • And if I bought used, I could have my Mini Cooper now.

On Friday afternoon, I dragged Kris with me to look at the two used Minis.

The first vehicle was a 2003 Mini Cooper S marked at $13,800. It had 70,000 miles on it. On the surface, this seemed like a great deal, but the car wasn’t in good shape (even after being cleaned up by the dealer), and the salesman gave me a gitchy feeling. I decided to pass.

The second car was a 2004 Mini Cooper marked at $17,000. It had 60,000 miles on it. This car was more expensive, but from what I could tell, it was also in better shape. I took it out for a spin.

“What do you think?” I asked Kris after the test drive. “Should I buy it?” Though I’ve made tremendous progress with my personal finances, I still have a tendency to second-guess myself. I know I’ve done some dumb things in the past, and I’m afraid of heading down that road again. But Kris has always made smart choices. I trust her judgment.

“Do you like it?” she asked. I nodded. “Then you should buy it,” she said. So I did.

The Negotiator

It’s been a long time since I bought a car. I had forgotten how awful I am at negotiating — and how much I hate it. I tried to do a good job on Friday, tried to remember the tips I’ve shared here in the past, but even knowing this stuff in advance didn’t help me. I don’t think I did poorly, but I certainly didn’t get a great deal, either.

I paid $15,600 for my Mini. Kelly Blue Book says that I could expect to pay $14,790 for this vehicle from a private party, so I paid about $800 too much. (It also says that I should expect to pay $17,240 from a dealer, so maybe I actually saved $1,600?) Kelly Blue Book also says I should have received $1,250 in trade-in for my Ford Focus. I got $550. Ouch.

In retrospect, I ought to have done this differently. Once I realized I had enough to buy a used Mini, I should have been methodical about my search, looking for the best deal. That’s what I do with all of my other purchases! Instead, I let euphoria take hold of me, and I bought the first acceptable vehicle that I saw.

I don’t regret my purchase — not at all! — I just don’t think I was as smart as I should have been.

The Joys of Personal Finance

Time will tell whether I’ve made a good choice. It may be that my impatience has cost me money. Or it may be that the pleasure I receive from this little car is worth every penny. So far — after only two days — it’s all joy and no regret!

My favorite part of this transaction, aside from paying cash for the car, was that I didn’t spend all of my savings. I went into the deal with a budget of $16,768.98, and I spent $15,238.80 after taxes and fees. That leaves me $1530.18 to begin saving for something else.

Who says personal finance is no fun? I’m having a blast!

Note: I’m calling this my “starter Mini”. I plan to pursue Dave Ramsey’s Drive Free, Retire Rich program. I’ll continue to sock away money every month in my car fund. In a couple of years, I’ll be able to take that savings, sell this Mini, and upgrade to a higher-priced model. Eventually I’ll be able to afford a new vehicle!

225 comments

  1. Congratulations! Working toward a goal and reaching it is always fun. Personal finance is no different. 🙂

  2. Wow! Congratulations! This is exactly the reason to get our finances together. You earned that “instant” euphoria, since you’ve been working so hard to save and pining for it for so many years. To pay cash for a dream without sacrificing other goals or going back into debt, it is something we all hope to do someday. Please have no regrets – just enjoy the fruits of your labor!

  3. Congratulations! I love the feeling of purchasing something that I have been saving up for.

    I watched the Ramsey car plan, and it’s quite logical, though I would add that the 12% return rate is a pretty darn high estimate.

  4. Awesome! I don’t even know you and I am proud of you. We paid cash for a new to us car last summer and it was such a great feeling! We are currently saving again for a new minivan. It is amazing how fast the money piles up when you stay focused on your goal.

  5. Congratulations! Why someone else buying a car should feel so exciting I have no idea! But it does! If I had to guess it might be because it’s so good to see someone realising their goal- which makes them happy AND that they achieved it in the way they wanted – which makes them perhaps even happier – esp when that way involved a big change in how they go about doing things!
    AND your car is such a happy colour !

  6. Congratulations! This has been a long time coming for you.

    It’s also a hint that an hour or two spent really learning negotiating would pay off in spades. 🙂

    -Erica

  7. @Erica (#8)
    I think you’re right. I actually have a book about salary negotiations here on my desk. Maybe I should read and review that, eh? I’ll bet some of the principles are applicable to other situations, as well — like buying a car! 🙂

  8. Congrats, J.D.! A well-deserved 40th birthday present.

    Don’t kick yourself too much about not having shopped around very much. Part of the joy of being in control of one’s finances is the ability to capitalize when opportunity presents itself. That is precisely what your saving and planning enabled you to do.

    Now, enjoy the secret thrill of pleasure that runs through you every time you step into the car of your dreams, which you own outright!

  9. Congratulations JD! Don’t feel bad about paying 800 dollars too much, most people would have spent that in the first 2 years of financing the thing. You should probably frame the title and hang it in your office. =)

  10. Wow, I played around on that Mini site for a few minutes. You’re right, the things aren’t cheap and they make all the “options” seem very attractive.

    Congratulations on the new car, JD! Long may you enjoy it. Now you need a new goal/running joke for the site.

  11. Congratulations!!

    I think your story is a strong testimonial not just for the power of focus and discipline but also for the power of visualization.

  12. Buying a car with cash is exciting. One question (ok, 2): did you get the car inspected? What are your thoughts on the pre-purchase inspection?

  13. Oh my god! This is amazing! What a wonderful Easter Sunday story 🙂 Congratulations and hope you have a blast driving it around this summer!

  14. Congrats on the Mini (I own 2, so I understand the appeal). the extra $1500 is a perfect amount to start the next stage of mini ownership after purchasing… Customizing 🙂

  15. Congrtas on the dream come true. Now I have to ask – you wrote “If I bought used, I could avoid the instant depreciation associated with a new car.” Given this, why are you so interested in purchasing a new car?

  16. @RM (#15)
    I did not get the car inspected, but I think it’s a great idea. I don’t know how to go about doing it. Now that I own the vehicle, I do plan to take it up to the Mini dealer, though, and ask them to do an inspection. I realize this is backward.

    @Mary (#18)
    When I buy new (which is usually), I drive the car a long time. The Focus I just got rid of, for example, was my vehicle for 9-1/2 years. I just feel much better about buying new than buying used. If this purchase turns out well, though, maybe I’ll change my mind! 🙂

  17. Hey J.D.

    Congratulations on achieving one of your most sought after goals. Although, it is sad to see the conclusion to J.D.’s comical quest for his beloved Mini Cooper. 🙂 I don’t know the details about your Ford Focus, but did you consider trying to sell it on Craigslist? Also from what I remember many used car buying guides recommend getting a carfax report. A good website to check out is edmunds.com (especially their tips & advice section)

  18. There’s a lesson or two to be learned from every experience – good or bad. But in this case I think you should just…

    ENJOY YOUR PURCHASE!

    You earned it. 😉

    Cheers,
    Adam

  19. Congratulations JD!

    Maybe you should keep the $1500 leftover for repairs just in case unless you already have money set aside for that.

    That’s awesome that you paid cash! What an amazing feeling that must be. We’re also planning on “driving free”, well we are right now, but we’ll never finance a car again!

  20. Congratulations! You are such an inspiration to me. I can’t wait til my husband and I can do the same thing! Enjoy your purchase. You’ve definitely earned it! 🙂

  21. hey congratulations!!!

    I agree, the money you still have will be important. I just got a ‘new’ used car and the costs have really added up including new tires, new brakes, etc., registration, insurance, inspection etc. (it failed emissions at first and took a little more work)….

    plus my new used car has XM radio, a new toy to pay for. 🙂

  22. Congratulations JD, I’m glad you bought used and paid cash :-).

    Dealers don’t make money on new cars paid for in cash. They make money on reselling finance paperwork (more on a lease than traditional payments, too), and in the service garage. They also make money on trade-ins, especially on cars more than 8 years old.

  23. This is excellent, J.D.! I’m so glad you finally got your Mini. Even better that you paid cash . . . I bet that felt great.

    Funny this post came up today — my husband, our daughters, and I were driving home this afternoon from a family dinner and passed 7 Minis in a row on the small road to our house, definitely an unusual site. After we got home, I went online and found your post! 🙂

  24. Hooray! You finally got it! Purchasing used seems to always make the most financial sense, so I think you made the right call.

  25. Congratulations on finally getting your Mini and Congratulations again for being able to pay cash!

    I’m sure you are probably riding around in it right now!!

  26. As a fellow MINI owner, I have to say – welcome to the club! The more I drive my MINI, the more I love it. Now the important question is, have you given it a name yet???

  27. JD, your blog is such an inspiration to all of us. I’m sure you can tell by the positive response you get when you tell us you’ve pruchased your dream car– we’re jumping for joy as much as you!

    I think it’s because your example shows us our dreams are also within reach. Today, you’ve gotten your Mini due to your patient persistence. Tomorrow, some of our dreams will come true–it’s not just a childhood fairy tale. Thanks for showing us that!

    And congratulations!!!

  28. Welcome to the club 😀 I love love LOVE my Mini – I’ve never driven another car that is so much fun. Just make sure you wave at the other Minis when you pass!

  29. Congratulations! I am a newbie to your blog, and I have really enjoyed following your financial tips and this story! It’s inspirational and I’m happy for you!!

  30. Okay so I want to say “good, you’ll finally STFU about the MINI.” But the truth is I’ve really enjoyed the many MINI posts along the way.

    Congrats J.D., enjoy the ride.

  31. Congrats JD. You earned it, and you ought to enjoy it.

    But here’s an idea for a post that you should write exactly one year from today:

    How great does it feel to get behind the wheel of that car one year from now, after you’ve gotten used to it for a year? How much has the experience changed for you?

    I don’t mean this in a negative way at all, but in my own life I’m always amazed and a little disappointed in myself how I so quickly “get used” to something that I wanted for so darn long. And here I’m specifically thinking about my Acura and my 3,000 sf house. When I first bought the car (new, with cash) I couldn’t believe that I could drive something so nice. After a year or so, it’s just a car. It’s a great car of course, but it’s just a car. After it’s 12 years old or so and dead, I don’t know, I might just get a Civic or Corolla.
    When we bought the house (60% down, mortgage principal less than annual income) I had the same feeling. Look at what I was living in! Now it’s just a house. Of course I still love it, but I’m used to it and the thrill is gone.

    So, in a sense, I think the lesson is that what you did was the right way to go. You saved up, delayed gratification, got a good deal, bought used; it’s a sensible car and you can enjoy it. But imagine how depressing it would be if in a year when that thrill has worn off you still had 5 more years of payments?

    In my case, I could look at what I once coveted so badly and now am accustomed to and go two ways. I could say “I need more next time; instead of an Acura move up to a BMW; and once this mortgage is paid off move up to a 5,000 sf house. Or I can stay disciplined and smart enough to realize that the exact same thing will happen one year after I have those upgrades, so it’s really not worth it. Enough is enough. Beyond acquisition and consumption, a happier life is spent with loving family and true friends. Also hobbies and activities that require time, effort, dedication; not just money.

    I guess that’s why I read your blog. I’ve never had debt problems, I make plenty of money, I haven’t gotten interested in gardening yet. Rather your blog keeps me focused on how truly enough is enough.

    Congrats on the new car; if I lived anywhere near you I’d love to go for a drive. Too bad I don’t.

    1. I can identify because I’m the same. If I see it and I want it and can purchase/afford it I will buy it. And these are items that I personally research for some time not purchases made on a whim. Even still, delayed gratification or necessity (lust/must have), after acquiring the item I get so used to it about a month.

      So I started making sure I bought things I needed and prior to, I just ask myself “Do I really need this”… because at the end of the day all it boils down to is consumption.

      I also began asking myself about financial goals and working toward those which give me greater satisfaction and comfort ie. rainy day fund.

      As far as being a consumer goes, I have gotten into the habit of asking myself now “How much is enough” or “How else can this money be spent” to bring about a better experience. And so far, its the way to go for me.

      Buying a bigger house or a more expensive car does not negate that you will feel the same about those purchases as the ones you have already made. So I’d def think 2x about it!

  32. Congrats on your MINI, JD. If you have a MINI dealer near you, give them the VIN to get the service and warranty history. MINIs have three years of dealer service plus a four year warranty. The pre-2005 Coopers were notorious for the transmissions imploding, so hopefully that has already happened and you’ll get information regarding warranty replacement from the dealer.

    Also, depending on how far you want to take this, get in touch with a local MINI club. They’ll be able to give you lots of great tips on maintaining and enjoying your MINI.

  33. Two things:

    1. Congratulations. I haven’t read for very long, but it’s been long enough to become accustomed to your Mini-pining posts, and it’s always nice to see someone get something they’ve worked for.

    2. Ryan2 has made, AFAIC, the comment of the day so far. You really should write a 1-year update (or even a six-month one for starters) on how you view the car, your life, etc, at that point.

    I’d be willing to bet that it would be one of your most introspective entries yet. Everyone always dreams of getting the one thing they want most, but what happens after they get it? How does it change them? How long does the change last? Is there even a change at all? I’d like to see your take on this, with respect to the Mini. Especially since I see the seeds of more wanting in your titling this a “starter Mini”. The hunt is apparently already on for another, newer one. :^)

  34. congratulations!!! what’s the next financial goal/obsession? 🙂 always gotta have a goal!

    if you’ve wanted one for this long and knew what you were getting into, then i think you made a good choice financially, even if you paid a couple extra bucks over what kbb says. the joy of having the exact car you want is that you will love it for years. we got mine on st patty’s day 2005 after much research and waiting, and i love it as much today as i did then. (we didn’t pay in cash, as you wisely did, so there was a renewed feeling of love when it was truly OURS!)

    the upside to continuing to love your car is that it’s not at all painful to keep it for 10 years or more, and wring a LOT of value out of it! smart in MANY ways!

    one thing you could have done better is to get it inspected BEFORE purchasing. this is VERY important- my husband is a master mechanic and has seen plenty of stories of nused car woe. since he’s not a diesel expert, we actually took a diesel into a specialty shop for an engine evaluation before we considered purchasing it- even though he could inspect everything else at no cost to us! that’s how important it is. (and they saved us a lot of money, the engine was in bad shape, so we bought another instead.) go take it for a once-over asap and address any problems with the selling dealership immediately.

    again, congratulations!!!

  35. Congratulations, JD!!! I am so happy when people reach their goals!!

    I just found the car that I want to replace my 2001 Jeep, and I’m saving much the way you are to buy it. I have a car savings fund, and putting any ‘found’ extra money towards it. Hopefully I will have enough near the end of the year to buy it with trade in, and no car loan!!!

    I will definitely do my research on negotiations too. Not my strongest point either.

  36. Congrats on the mini! I’m excited for you! It looks like a great car – and best of all, no debt! 🙂

  37. Happy Motoring fellow MINI owner. (you’re better off buying an older version as well, the engine is better).

  38. Congratulations on your hard earned purchase! Minis are alot of fun…from what I hear they handle like a go kart and as such, I see them at track days all the time. I must admit I am a bit envious.

    So far as buying new…my father has been making a very decent amount of money for some time, and as such has ammased about 9 cars, all of which are CPO(certified pre-owned) or used. As long as you have a dealer do a pre-purchase inspection, you will most likely come out on top. Even with such a big sample of used cars, we have not had any sizeable problems with any of them! Of course you must do what you feel comfortable with. But in any event CONGRATS!

  39. CONGRATULATIONS!
    You will LOVE your MINI-my husband and I both have them and they are the best! Not too many problems, and a blast to drive! I think you made a great choice!

  40. Congrats JD! It’s great to read about someone being able to pull the trigger on something like this, it puts a lot of stuff into perspective about making sacrifices and saving up when you finally get the payoff.

    One question though – 60,000 miles? To be honest, that sounds quite a lot. I have my eye on either a Jaguar XK8 or BMW M3 as my next car (still a few years off), but would be wary of dropping that much money on anything with more than about 30K miles on it. How long do you plan to keep the Mini?

  41. @Russ (#53)
    According to Carfax, my Mini was purchased in Oklahomah in October 2004 (right around the time I started my financial turnaround!). So, it has accumulated 60,000 miles in 4-1/2 years. That is a little high, but it doesn’t bother me.

    I’m not sure how long I’ll actually keep this Mini. What I’ve been telling people is that it’s my starter Mini, and that I’ll upgrade in three years. We’ll see if that comes to pass…

  42. What a STORY and what a FOLLOWING you have! It’s encouraging to hear someone that’s taking time and saving up for things. I love Dave’s Drive Free, Retire Rich. I show it to clients often times if they are considering buying a car and getting that ‘car fever.’ I’d love to know how long you’ve had your blog and attained the following you do. I just started my business BLOG a couple months back and am just learning the ropes!

  43. Hey JD, well good for you! 🙂

    I guess everyone has different priorities when buying a car. A friend of mine recently bought an old-ish Porsche for £20K (I’m in the UK) which I thought was OTT, but if he flips it in a year or so he’ll get most of the money back as it won’t depreciate much from there. I only drive about 5K miles a year, so I’d be looking to buy a car that I can drive for 10 years and still sell it on with reasonable mileage for a decent sum, hence the 30K benchmark.

    Another friend had a new Cooper S for a few years and loved it, so I’m sure you’ll have a great time with yours! And Minis keep their value well, so you’re at the beginning of a very fun ladder.

  44. Just wanted to say congratulations on the Mini, J.D.! Reaching such a big goal is amazing. Don’t worry now if the deal wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, you can always use what you learned from the experience later. Enjoy it! 🙂

  45. meh, having put over 60k miles on my car in under 4 years, it’s a fairly easy guess that they’re highway miles.

  46. Good work! You pretty much described my last car purchase of a new Jeep – I did a bit of research to find out the dealer cost and then went and bought one very quickly…I think I did ok but I should have taken more time.

  47. Congratulations, #1 Son! I’m happy for you, that you have acquired your Mini and in a way that makes you satisfied with yourself.

  48. Hi J.D.,

    I’ve read your blog for a while and really enjoy your articles. It’s obvious that you’re an inspiration to many people, including myself. But as much as it pains me to say it, I don’t think your Mini purchase is a good financial lesson. Instead, it seems like an example of the type of over-indulgent spending that you experienced in the past. The only difference is that now you were able to spend cash instead of going into debt. I hope I’m wrong, but I base this largely on your financial infrastructure post from March (https://www.getrichslowly.org/my-financial-infrastructure/).

    In that post you show a savings account balance of about $6,500, which you said holds the bulk of your money. If that’s the case, then you spent nearly 3 times your entire savings on a car that you didn’t actually need (you had a car that works and you work from home, right?). And let’s face, while $6,500 provides some cushion, it certainly won’t get you very far now, nor will it amount to much during your retirement.

    Even worse, it really concerns me to see that you spent all of this money (relative to your savings) and you’re already planning to buy a new, more expensive car in a couple of years. How much will you have spent on cars by then and how much will you have in savings?

    Sorry to be the party pooper, but I really felt like somebody needed to say something along these lines.

  49. Buying the MIni was good. Your method for finding could have been better. My step father is a king negotiator when it come to cars. His secret: he is always willing to walk and he isn’t embarrassed to offer a low number.

  50. Wow! You did it. I’ve been pining for a mini cooper too. I want a convertible. You have inspired me to start a mini cooper fund and ask myself the very question you asked yourself, “which do I want more, ______ or a mini cooper”. Yep, I know the answer. Congratulations!

  51. @Chance (#61)
    Thanks for being the nay-sayer. You make some good points, but let me assure you that I have more than $6,500 in savings. The graphic I used for that post is recycled from last spring’s post about multiple savings accounts. In other words, it shows my savings from about a year ago, and not today’s balance.

  52. J.D., you really did it! Congratulations! I was seriously wondering if you’d wait another five years, then find out the Mini’s been discontinued…. I hope the thrill lasts for many years.

  53. Awesome! Congrats on achieving your savings goal and finding the car you’ve wanted for so long.

    I’m also glad to hear you bought a used car, since as you said, you don’t take the hit on depreciation that you do with a new car.

    I bought two cars last year – a new Altima and a used F-250 – and I have to say the used vehicle just feels better to own (even though it’s not nearly as nice to drive as the Altima). There’s something great about knowing you can turn around and sell a vehicle for the same or more than you paid for it; it took months before we got to that point with the new car, and we’ll still be making huge payments for two years.

    I don’t think I’ll ever buy a new car again – Dave Ramsey says you shouldn’t, unless you are a millionaire. He means this literally, and now I understand why.

    Congrats again, JD! Thanks for sharing this journey with us.

  54. Portland, OR? Zipcar rents mini’s and mini convertibles, but you’d have to be a member, although I got a year for free and I can’t imagine its too hard to find that deal again.

    Can’t believe you didn’t get the S … fuel economy be damned!

  55. Congratulations J.D. However, I do take issue with the link to Dave Ramsey’s flash movie. I do believe that paying cash for a vehicle is the way to go. However, I feel Dave was a little disingenuous. He does not figure in taxes at all on the turning over of used vehicles. Also, it seems as though he treats the 6 year old vehicle worthless. He also takes the worst interest rates and loan lengths. Finally, my biggest problem is assuming 12% ROI from mutual funds. Even the most optimistic estimates are 10%.

  56. Nice purchase! Good job getting used. Two years ago, I had a good year and made about $500,000. I rewarded myself in 2007, and bought a 2000 Land Rover Discovery II for $8,000 cash. I was pumped! I used the rest of the $242,000 and saved it and bought a vacation property in Tahoe to enjoy life. Life is good! All about spending within your means.

  57. Congrats on your new car! And thanks for sharing your story. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who sometimes forgets about dickering when you see a goal in site! Hope to be buying our next car cash, too!

    Thanks for your inspiration!

  58. Great story. After hearing you pine and plan for the mini, it is nice to see that you pulled the trigger and were successful. Enjoy the car!

  59. Congratulations! I’m really proud of you for paying cash and not succumbing to the 1.9% interest offer.

  60. Congrats.

    I am excited for you. Although I don’t get the mini cooper facination (or most car obsessions for that matter) I can see it means a lot for you. That is what personal finance is all about – once you have everything important covered whatever you spend your “blow” money on is personal.

  61. So I did.

    I actually jumped for joy on the inside for you. This is so cool. Owning a Mini has been a big dream that you made into a reality. WTG!

    Please don’t negate that by adding any regret in the experience. No should have’s, etc.; just use this experience to increase your results in the future, which you are doing.

    Congratulations!

  62. Yay! From one car nut to another, it made me smile to see this post today.

    Your post could not have been more timely. I have car lust as well. I posted about it in the forums a couple of months ago, and it’s time for an update.

    Your points about buying used are absolutely correct. My problem? The car I’ve settled on is a newly-updated model, and has only been out for ~ 2 months. Getting one used is going to be nigh-impossible for a year or so.

    Good job, JD.

  63. JD, you live in (or near) Portland, OR, right? I don’t think I saw anyone mention this, but it’s possible to rent a Mini through Zip Cars in Portland. I live in Boston, but I noticed on the zipcar website that there’s one available right now at the corner of 1st and Davis.

    I’m not trying to plug Zipcars here, but in my family we have one car and one motorcycle for 2 wage earners and 2 children. When we need a second car, we use Zipcars instead, usually for one-hour trips here and there. For us, it’s cheaper than having a second car.

    Nevertheless, congratulations on the Mini. I’ve been following this site for a while and it’s nice to see that you’ve realized a very long held goal.

    ML

  64. I suspected where this post was going and was very happy to see I was right–congratulations! It’s nice to see one of your dreams come to fruition. And, IMO, big whoop on the $800 lost. I don’t think it’s a big deal in this case. Sometimes, we can overanalyze. You might have looked at tons more and saved $800, but settled somehow and been unhappy far more than $800 worth.

    I will be really surprised, and perhaps disappointed, if you buy new next time though UNLESS you do super negotiating. New just usually doesn’t make sense. One method I have not yet done myself, but read about is doing the negotating by email and fax. That completely removes the factor of getting carried away and submitting to any salesmen tactics. You use an email address/fax number that can not be easily traced to you (like no business email address/number), so the dealer can’t check on your buying power and such. You can also go to the dealer’s lot after hours to look (from the outside) at the models available for color and style beforehand. I’m sure you could do more research on this method before you’ll be ready for an upgrade. 🙂

    Shirley

  65. That’s awesome. I love the color too ~ tres sporty! After being ripped a new one several times on different occasions by car dealerships, I now only buy a car if I have the cash. I too bought the car of my dreams five years ago for cash … it still looks hawt to this day with much more mileage left on the engine. I will probably drive this car for another 5 years and still not be tired of it. Congrats on your purchase!

  66. YAY! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and I know how much you’ve wanted that Mini Cooper. I just have to say that I jumped for joy when I read that you bought it. Congratulations and thanks for giving all of your readers hope that someday we can get our Mini Cooper too!

  67. Congrats on your purchase! As a reader of your blog for the past 2 years I know how much you wanted one.
    In a recent post you mentioned that you left your Ford Focus doors unlocked because you park on the street and there is a thief in your area who has entered your car on several occasions. What do you plan on doing to your Mini to prevent this happening?

  68. @Andrew (#82)
    Great question RE: security. We have a two-car garage, but only one door is operational. I guess part of my remaining savings will go to getting that repaired. Now that I have a car that I love, I do want to park inside.

  69. congrats jd! i was so happy to read about your ‘new’ mini! your accomplishment has given me hope that one day i can buy my dream car in cash. i have a specially named savings account and everything 🙂 thanks for the fun journey!

  70. Congrats J.D. on finally getting your car!

    Now what’s the next goal to works towards? Just a newer Mini Cooper? There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think if it was me, I’d probably start working towards something different.

  71. Tyler (#86)
    Well, in the short term, I actually need to use any money I save in order to pay for home repairs, new furniture, and a vacation with Kris. I anticipate all of my money will go to these things for most of the rest of 2009. (Well, obviously I’ll continue to save for retirement — I’m talking about the money I put into savings.) But once these things are done, I’ll split my monthly contribution to savings into a variety of pools, including money to boost my emergency fund, money for future auto stuff, and money for other goals. However, I do not want a boat. I’ll leave that to you. 🙂

  72. Hi J.D.

    Congrats on your new car! I did something similar, but on a much smaller scale. I too use ING Direct, and have nothing but good things to say about them. I bought an apple macbook pro computer last year…I could have bought it any time that I wanted, but something kept telling me to save. So I continued, I was also shopping around finding the best price. Amazon.com had a better price than the Apple store, so I decided to go with them. When the company gave out bonuses and an Amazon.com gift card, I decided to buy. I was able to buy it without going into debt or sacraficing any of my other goals…and it was awesome! After I bought it, I also wanted some specialized software, and other accessories…again I’ve been saving for it, and if everything goes well. I should have some of them by next month!

    Please keep up your blog…it is a very good thing for very many people. I enjoy it very much.

  73. Whee! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now…maybe a year? And when I saw that you got your Mini, I actually YAYed out loud!

    Enjoy it, you’ve earned it! And I am going to think of you (and Dave Ramsey) while saving up for my convertible. 😀

  74. Congratulations! It’s neat how quickly savings can happen when people start being financially responsible and diligent about the details. Two thoughts…

    Dave Ramsey’s plan is to never buy a new car unless you have over a million dollars and want to throw money away. He’s never bought a new car since going bankrupt. So, hopefully you’ll keep letting others take the depreciation even as you upgrade Minis.

    Also, I’m amazed that you didn’t sell your Ford Focus yourself. You really did seem to be acting on impulse by only looking at 2 used Minis and by trading in your Focus. You could have gotten a ton more by selling it yourself – enough to cover a small trip in your travel fund. I just sold a 1987 Honda Accord for way more than I even expected – lots of people are looking to buy cheap cars that get decent gas mileage.

  75. Also, a piece of advice for used car buyers — I ALWAYS go through a private party. You spend much less money, and you avoid dealing with sketchy car sales people. A lot of people can’t shop private party because they need to finance. But, if you’re dealing in cash, you have a huge advantage, you can avoid dealerships and their markups, and you have even more negotiating power with the seller.

    Also, any used car should be inspected first by your mechanic. Mechanics do this all the time and have a standard fee (around $75-150).

  76. Yay! Congrats on your new purchase! May you drive it in health and safety for many years to come!

    Nothing is perfect in life, and this certainly wasn’t an impulse buy – you’ve been researching this purchase forever! The fact that you were able to “impulsively splurge” responsibly says a lot about your current situation – you should feel great about the fact that you could responsibly make such a big purchase at a moment’s notice.

    One of the best things about buying used – there are bound to be a few tiny scratches or bumps somewhere, so no need to feel bad when that first little chip appears under your ownership. Perhaps you should consider buying out a lease the next time around – it can work out very well, sometimes.

    Now you get to drive a car you love, every day! Take a step back and smile at it!!

  77. Bravo! Well done!

    I do hope this experience breaks you of the new car habit! Even buying a car that is one year old is SO much better than those thousands of dollars that fall off the back bumper the second you drive it off the lot!

    That’s a lot of cash to waste just for the new car smell! 😉

  78. Congratulations! I’ve been following the “Mini Story” for a while now. I’m really jealous, too; I’ve wanted one myself, but I don’t really need a car since I live in the city. And it’s yellow, too! Hope it will bring you many miles of joy.

  79. congrats JD! i know you’ve been waiting a long time for that mini.. do not doubt yourself.. you made the right choice buying used! even better that you didn’t have to finance!

    only thing i would have done differently was keep the escort.. it’s always nice to have an extra car

  80. Congratulations JD! I’m sure I’m not the only random stranger who cheered for you! It’s inspirational to see this story out the the climactic purchase, even if it turns out not to have been financially optimal. May she give you many many miles of joy 🙂

  81. Congrats! Having a clear goals always helps you save.

    Next time definitely get a PPI (pre-purchase inspection). It’s easy, you just ask the dealer or seller if you can take the car to a local mechanic and have them check it out. You typically pay about $100 for this, or 1-2 hours labor. Use anything you find (and you’ll always find something wrong with a used car) to either bargain, or if it’s bad enough now you know to walk away.

    As you’ve also guessed by now the other way dealers make money is on trade-ins. They’ll take your $500 Focus and sell it for $2k at least. Heck I would have paid $1k for it sight unseen if it ran. If you sell the car yourself you eliminate one more factor from the negotiations.

    But for now enjoy the car!

  82. One more question, what was so bad with the Focus? I’ve had one for 2 years, it’s a blast to drive, and has required no maintenance other than routine oil changes etc.

    I have modified ours a bit to make it a bit more sporty with an Eibach/Koni sport suspension, 17″ wheels and performance tires, and a custom exhaust. A few small changes can make a big difference, but I’ve always liked the way the Focus drove even when stock. And it was half the price of a similar year Honda when we bought it.

  83. Congrats JD! It’s really awesome to see someone get something that they’ve been saving for, especially when you know how much they really want it!

    My dream car is no car at all – I dislike driving myself anywhere. But since I know that may never be realistic, I find myself drawn to electric cars, hybrids… and BMWs.

  84. A few self-appointed flaws that you do point out aside, congratulations.

    Another time to plug http://www.carbuyingtips.com for anybody shopping for an automobile. My entire transaction of a car purchase in November took about 2 weeks of internet shopping, haggling with 2 dealerships, and ended up resulting in a savings of thousands of dollars of what I thought I would have to pay when I began the process. There are a lot of dealerships out there just looking to move cars.

    I ended up getting more than I thought I may have private party in trade, but I think in this circumstance it would have made a lot more sense to hold onto the Focus and try to sell it on craigslist, especially since you have a job that allows you to be home or nearby much of the day.

  85. Congrats JD! My husband and I just started a car replacement fund with our $650 tax refund. Hopefully in a year we’ll be where you are.

    You are quite an inspiration!

  86. Congratulations on accomplishing your goal, and getting your Cooper! It’s been fun watching you anticipate, save up for it, and then get it. 🙂

    I agree with you…I think you rushed the actual purchase, but you already know that, so I won’t elaborate. As long as you’re happy with the final result, that’s all that matters.

    I’ve had a Nissan X-Terra fund going for about half a year or so (My current vehicle is over 18 years old and will need to be replaced soon). Slowly but surely getting there. I too, plan to buy used, since I don’t want to take the initial depreciation hit, and I can reach my goal sooner. Anticipating and saving is always pleasurable, as is the end pay-off.

  87. That’s great! While I agree that it is enjoyable to see your savings accounts grow and debts shrink, it’s nice sometimes to be able to spend the savings on something enjoyable without the guilt that accompanies frivolous purchases. Congrats!

  88. Congratulations! I’m happy for you and all that buying it with cash represents for you.

    Your story and going for your goals has helped inspire me to encourage my husband to go for something he has wanted to do his whole life and that is “participate in a dig” in Israel.

    I suggested that this summer is the summer to do it, and to take along my oldest daughter. So, he’s heading for for one of his “dreams”. I figure some of his dreams will never be realized (some of the toys he wants like a float plane or home built aircraft) but that he could go for this goal.

    We started using a credit card in 07 that gives us miles and plan to get one of the tickets completely free by using the miles and maybe part of the other one (of course paying the balance in full each month).

    Keep up the good work. Enjoy every mile of that MiniCooper and make sure you write that “year after” post that #41 mentioned. We’d all enjoy your reflections.

  89. Congratulations JD. I am so happy for you.

    I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Make Over book about three months after I leased two cars. I have been kicking myself ever since.

  90. Congrats on the Mini Cooper it looks like a fun car. I am glad you decided to buy used instead of brand spankin’ new, you saved thousands!

    However, the one thing you did wrong was let the dealership ‘STEAL’ your Ford Focus. $500?!? Did this Focus not have doors, tires and a running engine? It would have been so easy to buy a newspaper or autotrader.com ad and put an asking price of $1500 on it. I am sure there are plenty of people out there looking for cheap cars for their 16 year old kid, who will probably end up wrecking it anyway.

    That is probably mistake #1 when someone gets rid of their car to a dealer. You probably didn’t negotiate the price at all for the trade in did you?

    I had a 1996 Pontiac Grand Prix back in 2007 that a dealer offered me $600 for. I said no thanks, drove it home and sold it a couple months later for $1800. Well, at least you know now, for when you go to trade in your Mini Cooper in several years.

  91. Congratulations on your Mini. That’s great news.

    I have advice for anyone who buys a big-ticket item and discovers afterwards that he or she could’ve negotiated a better deal: don’t be hard on yourself. You did the best you could, and then you learned how to do better next time.

    I don’t find financial planning or budgeting fun, and I don’t get that much joy out of paying cash for vehicles (having done it a couple of times), but I LOVE negotiating deals on cars.

    Congratulations again.

  92. Uh Oh, JD.

    You’ve reached the pinnacle of personal finance. Now there’s nowhere to go but down! 🙂

  93. Way to go JD!! Congrats – enjoy your dream ride. Whenever I think of buying a car on credit, I think of you and stop thinking about it!!

    BTW, my next ride will be a yellow Tata Nano – I have already started saving up for it. There is a year long waiting list though!!

  94. Congratulations on the new car.

    The Drive Free, Retire Rich video is a bit misleading. The stock return is closer to 8% than 12%. You should not invest in stocks for a short term purchase because the market might crash right before you need the money. The video does not take into account that the used cars require costlier repairs the older they get.

    Finally, if you accept everything the video says and have $11,000, it makes more sense to invest the money at 12% and borrow money to buy the car, even at 9.6% so that you still make a profit.

    The strongest message is not to borrow money for consumables.

  95. CONGRATULATIONS! So there were some things you would have done differently, but look how differently you already did it compared to the rest of America! The minor “mistakes”…nothing compared to what you accomplished. I bet the amazing feeling of finally owning that car will never wear off.

  96. Congrats, JD!

    I’ve been following for over a year now and I am impressed and proud. Well done.

    You are an inspiration.

  97. Congratulations. I am just starting my dream “nused” car fund and this post has inspired me even more. JD, you have earned this dream.

  98. My jaw hit the floor! Congrats on your purchase. I think you made a wise one buying used. You will be able to get 200,000 miles of joy in this car if you take good care of it. Way to Go!

  99. JD, this is great. I read your site all the time, but this is my first comment. I’m so happy for you!

    Regarding some of the discussion on getting an inspection beforehand- this definitely helped me out when I was used car shopping 3 years ago. I ended up having 3 cars inspected before I bought the right one, so yeah, that added up to $300, but it definitely saved me from committing to the 2 not-so-great cars I looked at first. And, I found a great independent mechanic who I totally trust.

    When I had an oil change at a shop a few months after purchasing the car, they tried to tell me I needed a bunch of work done, to the tune of $1700! But because I’d had the inspection just a few months prior, I knew that didn’t sound right. I took it back to that original mechanic (his shop is a bit of a drive, but now I know it’s worth it) and sure enough, none of that $1700 recommendation was really necessary. That was 2 years ago, and things have been fine ever since.

    Just my story about the value of inspections and finding a mechanic you trust! Congrats again on the Mini, what a treat. 🙂

  100. A “Starter Mini”?
    “I’m a new car kind of guy”?

    These sound like cries for help.

    None the less, saving to buy a car that is appropriate for your income, and buying with cash is a smart move. You’ve escaped the car purchasing prison. Congratulations.

  101. Congratulations J.D.!!!!! You achieved your goal and did it on your terms. Since I’m a used car junky I think you did the right move. Just keep your car in good shape and don’t put miles on it that you don’t have to. Keep the Mini in the shed and walk/bike/bus/train or drive a old beater for daily run around. This will save you money and miles on the Mini.

  102. Congratulations!! I am starting to save for a car and it’s inspiring to read how you’ve done it and gotten a car you’ve been dreaming about.

    I felt happy reading your post because I’ve been reading for a while and know how much you wanted a Mini. Now I’m going to channel that positive energy towards my own car savings!!

  103. This really made my morning! Congrats JD! it is really wonderful to see all your hard work on this site and all your savings go to such a great, FUN purchase! Enjoy, you really deserve it!

    (and v smart to buy used)

  104. When I’m buying a used car and I want to know what it’s “really” worth, I go onto ebay motors and search the completed listings to see what the same year/miles/model generally sells for. I do the same for the car I’m trading in. It seems to give a decent frame of reference.

  105. Oh, this is awesome! Congratulations! I am so excited for you and I don’t even know you – ha! But, seeing you achieve this, just encourages me more in making my goals— thank you SO much for writing about this.
    And, if you do not review the “making negotiations” book soon– would you be able to give me any hints in the meantime or point me in some direction?
    Thanks!

  106. Excellent! MINIs have probably the highest resale value in the country, thus the bigger “perceived” wallet hit via buying one that is used.

    If the car has been well maintained, you got a better than fair deal via the KBB numbers. Plus, buying from a dealer or used car lot affords warranty coverage to a degree above a private sale. The lot (hopefully) has serviced it prior to sale, spiffed it up, and can back the car according to your states warranty coverage regulations. I have no problem paying a bit more over a private sale to accoumadte that.

    Also, with times like they are, any dealer can afford to cut their profit margin slightly to move stock, albeit they make it back (maybe) on the trade-in. Assuming they can recondition your ol’ Focus, they may break even on that, or make a few extra bucks to cover the profit drop in getting your MINI “sold”. Sold is a big deal today for any car lot; many people look, but not a lot of people are buying.

    Motor ON!

  107. Congrats. Our Mini, which we sold last year when we moved to the mountains, was the best car I have ever owned. Most comfortable, most stylish, most fun to drive. Enjoy your new ride – I know you will!

  108. Congratulations and best wishes for fun and safe driving! I love reading Get Rich Slowly and am so happy your hard work paid off.

  109. Wow! I’m so happy for you. I know it’s been a long haul. Thanks for sharing and showing us that it can be done. I want to tell everyone I know that JD finally got his Mini! Even though I don’t actually know you…

  110. JD – you said in your post ” I just don’t think I was as smart as I should have been” in reference to your purchase.

    I must say that understanding personal finance is a journey, not a thing that is immediately mastered. As you may recall, I’m in the industry – I have been educated, trained, licensed, worked, and otherwise dedicated to my practice for quite some time now and I too still have much to learn.

    Based on my experience – perhaps let me rephrase your quote: I “don’t think you were as poor a decision maker as you used to be!”

    The fact that you were able to make an entire blog post out of your thought process, details of your efforts to save, your negotiations, your rationalizations, etc… shows to me that you are in full control of your financial decisions. What a great (and rare) feeling to have!

    Congrats on your purchase and enjoy your Mini!

  111. Long-time reader, sometime commenter. Just wanted to say, congratulations!

    The real questions, since you have the Mini, now what?

  112. AWESOME! Good job JD!!! I am starting my fund for my 3 series Wagon right when I finish my emergency fund!

  113. First, CONGRATULATIONS!!

    After working so hard to save, plan and consistently work towards a goal I know how rewarding that achievement can feel. Good for you and kudos to your honey for her support!!

    Second – NEVER, EVER, EVER buy new – NEVER!!!! Let some other poor sucker pay that depreciation. Buy your next car two years old. You’ll get it at least 30% cheaper. If you have it inspected you can be reasonably assured that it will be a great car. Trust me, new cars break down too!

    Third – now that you have learned how much discipline it takes to save you can really appreciate the value of money. In the future please, please, please do your research and negotiating for the purchase. For example, right now on eBay there is a 2004 beauty with fewer miles and a buy it now price almost $3,000 less than you paid.

    There are lots of ways to find a deal, ebay is a great one. I’ve bought and sold several vehicles and every transaction has been amazing. In each case I bought the car on ebay, then sold it two years later for the same or just slightly lower price. In one situation I sold it for $3,500 more than I paid two years earlier. There are deals to be had!

    In addition, I’m sure there must be plenty of local options, like other dealers, craigslist, etc., etc.

    You did great, don’t kick yourself. Now take the next step and learn not only how to save but how to maximize those hard earned dollars!

  114. Regular reader but got to leave a comment for this! Congratulations! Working toward a goal and reaching it is always fun. 🙂

  115. Congrats man!!

    Now come on, you’ve got to give us a photo of you IN or standing next to the car. This has been your dream for quite some time — celebrate it right!

  116. Congratulations! And you may get 9 1/2 years out of this one too–my friend’s been enjoying his for six and it still looks great.

    I wouldn’t feel too bad about the negotiating either–dividing any possible “overpayment” over 9 1/2 years makes it pretty insignificant. The longest negotiation I had for a car was six hours, and looking back, I’d pay extra to avoid that kind of wait at a car dealer–I just negotiate over the phone now.

  117. Job well done!

    So far this year, I’ve sold my car and bought 2 used cars. It’s probably true that you could have waited longer and maybe found a better deal and possibly saved a few hundred bucks, but it’s not like you got ripped off either.

    You stayed under budget and got what you wanted- that’s a win in my book!

    Also nice to see a PF blogger who didn’t buy a NEW car and try to justify it. 🙂

  118. Congratulations on your new Mini, JD! I hope you get much enjoyment from it. They really are great looking cars.

  119. Good for you!! I hope she’s everything you wanted and then some! 🙂 Enjoy the fruits of your labor 😀

  120. Congratulations on your purchase. Like you I got the MINI bug after we purchased a used MINI for our daughter. I knew what I wanted, did not want to buy new, and spent 8 weeks combing the used auto sites until I found what I wanted. In the end, that saved me a lot of cash and I got exactly what I wanted.

    Enjoy your MINI, they are addictive. I’m lucky enough to live in a city that has a very active MINI community and that makes it even more fun since we have a lot of MINI events throughout the year.

    Happy motoring!

  121. Congrats! You deserve it after saving and being disciplined for so long. Glad you found a deal as we all knew you would. 🙂

  122. I am so happy to see you get your Mini! I’m saving up for my next car right now, but I’ve only got $200 so far… I hope to have enough to get one it three years when I graduate from law school. It is motivating to me to see you get what you wanted. You definitely deserve it! I hope you enjoy!

  123. Congratulations. I too am very happy for you.

    As for feeling like you didn’t get the best deal, there are a few things to keep in mind. Your time and effort for one. how much time did you spend looking up that info on KBB? probably not all that much, but think if you hadn’t actually bought, how much time you would have invested in looking it up, printing out statements and talking to different dealers about coming down on their price and coming up on your trade in.

    Then you have to consider would your car have still been there if you spent all this time negotiating? Are there a pluthera of used minis out there? would you have sacrificed this mini for another one that wouldn’t have been as great because you spent your time and effort looking to save a few (ok 800) dollars.

    the more specific you are in your search, the longer it takes and the more frustrated you can become. Trust me. As someone who has very particular needs when it comes to transportation, sometimes the art of the fast deal is just as good if not better than the slow well thought out, less expensive, deal.

  124. woot!!! That is so awesome! I’m very excited for you!

    Like others, I’m hopeful that this car will show you that the OLD J.D. was “new car kind of guy” and that the NEW J.D. knows what an awesome deal a gently used car is – but more than anything else, I’m thrilled for you that you got your shiny car so much sooner than you expected!

  125. JD,

    Congratulations! I can see that you might have done things a little better with the purchase but the bottom line is you paid for what YOU think it is worth in terms of how much pleasure it will give you. Cheers to paying cash!

    I hope to do the same for my next car.

    -Charlotte

  126. JD

    Congratulations – looks like a sweet ride!

    I remember getting my first “cool” car – a midnight blue Firebird. I loved the exhaust note – a throaty growl – and it was fun to drive. I think it even helped me woo my (future) wife. I certainly remember our first kiss when I dropped her off after our first date!

    Like you, I bought used and had a trade in. I wasn’t too fussed about how much I got for the trade. I knew how much I was prepared to spend, so as long as the purchase price less trade value was close to my number, I was happy. I didn’t get an inspection, either, as it was fairly low mileage and I took it for a long test drive. I enjoyed that car for many years, and other than oil changes and maintenance, the only repair was to replace the starter. I almost cried when I had to sell it, but it was costing too much to fill up every week.

    Hope you enjoy your “new” wheels. But don’t be too quick to give in to “lifestyle inflation” by upgrading in a couple of years. Sounds like they’re pretty reliable cars, so it will probably provide you with many years of happy motoring. And the cheapest car to own is (almost) always the one in your driveway.

    By the way, did you get a “stick” or an automatic?

    JS

  127. Cool JD. I was thinking that the nice thing about cars is that you don’t have to keep them forever. You might just find that next Mini or whatever dream car sooner than later, just like you found this one. I have friends who seem to always have nice cars because they have a hobby of finding new cool deals often. Now maybe every car they buy isn’t the best deal (it fits their persona though) but its usually a really great deal.
    You might want to consider looking for the 30k mile Mini soon when yours still has some value left, and the glut of cars are still on the market. As for paying too much, well you have all the resources available to you and this will just better prepare you for the next vehicle purchase. I always enjoy private party transactions, especially if you can go to the persons home and see how they treat their possessions, it gives you great insight into the quality of the items you are buying from them.
    Enjoy!

  128. Yay! Congrats! I LOVE my 2005 Mini 🙂
    One thing to look into long-term… there’s no spare tire, and run-flats are expensive. You can get a can of fix-a-flat and spend a hundred bucks on a tire kit w/mini air compressor to carry with you. They sell extra wheels as well, but they’re a couple of hundred bucks and the ‘boot’ isn’t very big to store it.

    Have a great time- it’s time to take a trip up to the mountains or to the coast for a day!

  129. Congratulations – I’m glad that you turned your dream into reality. The only thing I’d knock you is not doing a “time out” to make clear whether you truly wanted to wait to save up for a new car, or to get the exact mini you wanted at the best price.
    About not getting the best deal, maybe true particularly about the trade in, but don’t knock yourself. Those guys are pros and do every day (negotiate cars) what you do once maybe every few years. When we got our neused car I did all the research, preparation etc, but were not able to get the price down to what we wanted but still bought. We wanted a particular model that was in demand (and so hard to find) and so bought at a higher price than we should have.

  130. Congrats on reaching your goal – and not incurring any debt for it.

    Just to make yourself feel better, check out Edmunds.com, and see what they’d have priced your Focus at. Kelly doesn’t take into account as many “real time” factors as Edmunds does, from what I understand.

    Kelly gave me an inflated idea of what my traded-in Civic would get, but Edmunds gave me a spot-on price.

  131. Congrats JD! I have been following you on grs for quite some time now and it’s always great to hear real life success stories when it comes to saving and accomplishing your goals. Great Job and have fun driving your Mini! 🙂

  132. Hey JD, Congrats on the car! Enjoy!

    And don’t worry too much about what Kelly Blue Book said. I work for a dealer, and it is really easy to skew the numbers to make KBB spit out whatever value you want. Try NADA.com next time.

  133. I bought a used mini a few years back and I am in love with it, but I failed to notice it did not have cruise control. Those 4 hours drives are brutal.

  134. This may be a bit off-topic, but my wife and I decided that we ought to buy a house in this down market. In a little over two months, we now have saved just over $5000! I’m nopt sure exactly HOW we saved so much so quick, but it’s in our house account!

  135. My wife and I decided that we ought to buy a house in this down market. In a little over two months, we now have saved just over $5000! I’m not sure exactly HOW we saved so much so quick, but it’s in our house down-payment account!

    Now we just need to get preapproved for a mortgage.

  136. It is fascinating watching your own personal development as time goes on… to think that just a month ago you were still viewing this purchase as the ever-unattainable goal… and now you have finally achieved it! Congratulations, and thanks for the awesome inspiration to continue saving towards my own large financial goals.

  137. Congrats JD! Enjoy!!

    I’m a zipcar member; as some others have mentioned, zipcar does have mini’s. I plan to get one for our trip to the coast in a few weeks. Some of them are available for $65 or less for 24hrs – gas and insurance included! I’m looking forward to it.
    😀

    Thanks for sharing the benefits of saving and getting rich slowly. 🙂

  138. Congratulations at reaching such an important and wishful goal for yourself!

    I’ve been very good at setting and reaching physical goals (marathons, half marathons) but not AS good at reaching financial goals (yet.) You’ve definitely been an inspiration for those financial goals…..

    An aside: I think this article fully speaks back to the article from the other day—the one with the PF blog friend who was commenting on ‘being bored’ in reading other blogs, and who wondered what was next in this whole thing after debt elimination. I think you’ve answered him in a way!

    Good job with the Mini!!

  139. I don’t post often, but I wanted to congratulate you. What an amazing goal to reach! And I love that yr mini is yellow!

  140. Congratulations on getting your MINI. Buying used was a good idea.

    One thing I’m curious about is the money you mention getting out of your refinance. You didn’t have to pay an April payment and you got a check back out of refinancing. Where did that money come from? Did they cash out your escrow account? How did you end up paying no payment for April? I remember when I refinanced once there was no payment due for a month. I first thought that this was great cause I’d be ahead $1200 for the month. But then I looked closer and I realized that they had addded interest to my principal so it was effectively being added to my loan balance. I’m concerned that that money you got out of the missed April payment and the disbursement check may actually have been added onto your principal. Maybe you threw some extra money in at the front and got unexpected money back out. But I’d look closely to make sure your principal didn’t actually go up.

    Jim

  141. Jim (#179) wrote: You didn’t have to pay an April payment and you got a check back out of refinancing. Where did that money come from? Did they cash out your escrow account? How did you end up paying no payment for April?

    Jim, the check back after refinancing came from closing the escrow account, and I knew that was coming. I’m still not sure why we didn’t have an April payment. It doesn’t make any sense to me, either. I’ll bet you’re right that it was included in the fees we paid at closing, so that we basically financed the month of April. That’s not a pleasant thought.

  142. Your new car is lovely! I have a 2004 MINI as well (silver with black roof), and looking forward to upgrading to an S in a few years if I can save enough.

    I echo the other owners who suggested joining a local MINI club in your community.

    Congrats and drive safely.

  143. CONGRATS! Seriously; good job.

    As an auto journalist, I’m so glad you got the 2004 because the 2003 model has issues!

  144. A good rule my mentor gave me when i was 26 and splurged on a $80,000 new car, is to use the 1/10th rule. the car you buy should be worth 1/10th your gross income. At the time, i made $200,000, so a $20,000 car would be more appropriate. Sounds about right, now that i’m almost 32. 1/10th your gross income is a good barometer.

  145. Congrats, JD! And what a timely post this is, as I am looking for a new vehicle myself. Unfortunately, the time is ticking before my current car gives out on me.

    I find myself in the current predicament: Should I use my first-time homebuyer credit (Will be deposited this Friday) towards the principal on my mortgage as initially planned and then finance my vehicle, or buy my car with cash? Even though I hate debt, it just may be a wiser move financially to finance.

    If I throw the money towards the house, my VERY conservative estimate is that I save over $6000 by doing so. There’s no way I would spend that much to finance a car. Even with a terrible interest rate I wouldn’t spend more than that, which is not a concern because my credit is excellent. Any thoughts?

  146. Congratulations, J.D.! I’m so happy for you! Tell me though, please…my dear husband was jonesing for a Mini Cooper for awhile, until we finally test drove it. Both his rear end and mine were terribly sore afterwards, as were our backs! Is the Mini a comfortable ride for you? We felt we were riding in an orange crate!
    LOVE your blog, by the way!

  147. Yay!! Good for you. Sure you could have haggled, or shopped around more aggressively. Or, just never pulled the trigger, thinking there would always be a better deal somewhere. Reminds me of the Warren Buffett quote, “that’s like saving sex for old age.”

  148. Budgie – Use your housing credit for your house! Part of the main reason of buying a house is that it forces one to save, b/c most people don’t have the discipline to do it themselves. You wake up 20-30 years later, and bam, you have a multiple 100K asset, you would have not saved up this amount, even if you tried every paycheck.

  149. Congratulations on meeting your goals and savoring the results of being financially responsible. I don’t mean to be a naysayer, but given that this blog is about improving financially, I thought I’d make a few observations. I was a bit shocked by how you impulsively pursued this MASSIVE purchase. You’ve been saving for over a year, and you put so much research into buying a new Mini. I’d have thought you’d at least put as much research into purchasing a used Mini. If so, you might have saved so much money, which would have gotten you a nicer used Mini or would have left you with lots of money to save. First, impulse buys are almost never a good idea, and this seems like a classic impulse purchase. You could have devoted the entire weekend to checking out every used Mini that was for sale in a reasonable radius, giving you more options, more bargaining power, and maybe a better deal. Second, you should have purchased through a private sale. You could have saved thousands in the dealer’s markup. Third, you should have done an inspection with a mechanic. You wrote that you didn’t even know such a thing existed. Again, you research so many things at nauseating detail, such as how to refinance your house. And then you make a massive car purchase with almost zero research (other than about new models). 30 minutes of online research about how to buy a used car would have educated you about getting an inspection, negotiating tactics, private sales, etc. And finally – perhaps the biggest indicator that this was too impulsive – is that you literally cost yourself $1000-1500 in cash by not selling your old car yourself. I have no idea why. You weren’t desperate. You didn’t need the $500 that minute. It’s obvious that the dealer was taking a huge profit margin. Cheap, fuel efficient cars are incredibly easy to sell right now on craigslist or wherever. Mostly, I hope you love your car and that it’s everything you were hoping for. I also hope you use the purchase as a chance to learn about areas for growth in personal finance. Almost nothing needs to be bought quickly or impulsively; there will always be used Mini cars for sale, and you can always take time to do your research and check out your options.

  150. What kind of mileage do you get? Here you can rent mini-coopers through PhillycarShare.
    It’s funny how, even though self-awareness can often over-ride consumerism, it doesn’t ALWAYS work. I have been working on simplifying for years – thinking about downsizing. We went to see a local McMansion and I went gaga for the super fancy kitchen. My husband had to drag me out!

  151. Wow. I am surprised you rushed into buying the MINI so quickly after you discovered you had saved up enough cash. You looked at TWO? And, didn’t do a pre inspection?

    I’ve owned two MINIs. Fun they are. But reliable? That’s why I no longer own them.

  152. Congratulations J.D! I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and am so pleased you’ve been able to make this goal a reality.

  153. @budgie – put the credit on the house. that’s what it is for. if you didn’t have the credit, your car situation would still be the same.

    what if you financed a slightly used car for 3 years, with 20% down and drove it until the wheels fall off?

  154. Thanks to ResortAtSquawCreekTAHOE and Brian for the advice. I have been saving up for quite a while for a car, anticipating my current situation (I drive my vehicles until the wheels fall off!). However, this little thing called home ownership came into play last year, and took a chunk of those savings, although not necessarily wiping them out.

    I like to buy late-model low-mileage used vehicles so that I get maximum value since I’m a high-mileage driver (I have a 37-mile one-way commute). But 0% APR and 1.9% APR only come with new vehicles. Although even with my preferred method of buying slightly used with a higher APR, I’ll ultimately save more money in mortgage interest (Than I’ll spend in financing a car) if I put my homebuyer credit towards my APPRECIATING asset. Thanks for the advice!

  155. Congratulations!
    I know you are probably kicking yourself a little now, but stop! Enjoy it!

    As far as the missing mortgage payment goes, we had that as well, and you do pay some interest at closing towards it, but it’s not enough to break the bank. 🙂

  156. Congratulations on the MINI!!
    I bought a used one in Septemeber and still love it no regrets. 2004 Pepper White with racing stripes.
    I still just getting the car and driving.
    It is the best for two person road trips but the back seat down and you get fit so much stuff.
    The other great thing is that the people I work with always assume that I got it new since the older Minis and the new ones look pretty much the same ( unless you are a fanatic).
    Hopefully you have some canyon roads near you, feel like a kid going go cart racing.
    Don’t regret the purchase you probably could have done it a little smarter but that what saving for it allows you, margin to make some mistakes.

  157. J.D. – yes, mortgages pretty much always do that. Most people are putting down a hefty deposit, and if they close on the 20th, they’d have 10 days to get the next payment together. If you look on your HUD, you’ll see interest for the month of April and the remainder of March listed. Or should see it.

    As to the car, congrats. Sounds like something you really wanted, and it’s the (planned and prepared for) rewards that make the rest worthwhile.

    It is a little worrying to see how much you’re already thinking ahead to the next one though! That’s a big point in the Paradox of Choice, and buyer’s remorse can take a lot of fun out of the new car…

    To combat that, do they have a return period? I’d drive it a lot, get a feel for it, have that inspection, and the final day to return it, pretend you’re buying it all over again, and decide again if you really want it. If so, realize you made the right decision and go forward happily.

    And practice gratitude. Daily when you get in the car appreciate what you like about it, and thank your lovely career as an at-home writer for making it possible to own your lovely car debt-free.

    Heh, an author I read told the story of a famous billionaire meeting him at the airport with his Rolls. Showing off the car, the billionaire whispered, “I got it used – you won’t believe how much I saved!!!”

    As a final note, look for Herb Cohen books – he’s the expert on negotiation, and tells some amazing stories of corporate deals, hostage negotiations, and just trips to the local furniture store. I’ve read ‘You Can Negotiate Anything’, and he’s really interesting.

    And practice haggling at markets like Saturday Market, for things you don’t really care about, and practice walking away. Your enthusiasm for something really gets in the way of negotiating. It’s why realtors sell the kitchen and bathroom – to the wife. When she says, “Honey, we’ve got to live here!” – negotiation is over… (end stereotype…)

  158. The only thing I don’t really understand is why people trade-in paid-off used cars for nothing. I know the Focus isn’t worth much, but this is the second person I’ve heard of this year basically giving one away in a trade in.

    My friend’s wife got like $500 for hers and it was a 2000 with low mileage. I would have bought it- oh well.

    Maybe I am just upset because I have known a few people to give away their trade-ins when I really could have used a car and the same cars would have cost me $2000 or more anywhere else.

    I sold my last car, which was a 15 year old Escort with a salvage title, transmission problems, and 200,000 miles for more than $500.

    In fact, I think you can probably get a grand for anything that runs that isn’t missing body parts.

    I understand the costs of carrying an extra car you dont want/need, but I think worst case you can eBay or Craigslist just about anything fairly easy and get something.

    Of course what’s even worse is when people are trading in cars to dealers and losing thousands of dollars because they “have” to so they can roll in negative equity. At least you go the car you wanted at at a good price and no new debt.

    Otherwise I think you got a deal. Even if you paid a few hundred more than you possibly could have. You got a car you like and will take care of and probably keep a long time.

  159. Congrats JD! I recently went through the same thing (I was surprised how quickly the cash added up) and ended up with a “new” used 2007 Accord that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. I do have to echo some of the naysayers in saying that getting an inspection before you buy is really important, but hopefully it will have worked out this time. Also, Consumer Reports has a great breakdown of the reliability of different years of cars… I used that a lot in my own research. It helped me narrow my focus a lot – I knew I wanted a 2004 or 2007, but not a 2008 because those models were already showing some issues. Someone already mentioned that you got a good year though.

    Anyway, congrats! Bask in the purchase, and soak in all the knowledge for next time you buy a car (or help someone else buy theirs).

  160. With my refinance, there were prepaid amounts and reserved amounts. One of the prepays was interest to finish out the month. It doesn’t roll your interest into principal, but into the closing costs. And the prepays and reserves also contribute to the new escrow. So you pay them up front, and get the old escrow up front. So saving up for your refinance ended up rolling over into your Mini savings plan. While I needed around $4k to refinance, my actual cost was much closer to $2000, and with huge savings each month, it pays itself back quickly.

    When I traded in, KBB indicated $4700 as the trade value. They offered me $2000 with a grin on their face. I did give in, but I managed to get $3700 out of them after a long, long time of them trying to talk me down with various people coming in to talk to me including their “used car manager” trying to tell me how hard it will be for him to sell it. I may have gotten a little more with a private party sale, but I’d rather negotiate for an hour than deal with lots of individuals wanting test drives, etc.

    And… I’m using the “do I want this little thing or that big thing?” now to remind me to do things. Like “do I want to go home and nap or go to the gym and have a smoking body when I run into the girl of my dreams?”

  161. Is a mini-cooper a prudent and frugal financial purchase? No way! And I love that you don’t even bother to try to say that it is. You want it, you saved for it, you can afford it, so you got it. I love that. Personal finance doesn’t have to be about everyone making the choices that will keep the most money in the bank, it is about people making choices that make their life the way they want it.

    Congrats JD. I’ve been a reader since 2007 and… I’m really glad you met this goal.

  162. I traded my 94 del Sol in for $500 and realized that I made a mistake and repurchased it for that and the additional taxes. I have put another 20K miles on it and at 228k miles I hope to get half a million miles out of it. Strong engine and still getting 37mpg. JD, when you tire of the mini get a sol.:)

  163. Congrats! My Mom currently has 2 mini’s (a convertable and a mini clubman) and loves them both. Be sure to check out the local area to see if there are any mini clubs that do rally’s, those are a lot of fun.

  164. Wow! Congratulations. This is really inspiring. I’ve been wanting to save for a new car and this is really going to motivate me to get my savings going. Thanks for this story JD. So awesome!

  165. Hi J.D.

    I am a long-time lurker at your site, but felt compelled to add my congrats to you on the purchase of your Mini.

    As Jennifer said – I don’t even know you either and I am proud of you too!

    Enjoy!
    sarah

  166. Great post! A powerful lesson on how to reach your financial goals– it works. If you can do it– so can others . . .

  167. minis remind me of the old moped joke… You should have at least capitalized on all the free advertising you gave to BMW (if you did, you should come clean as the plug was unbelievable)… what was the ING contest besides being a paid spokesman?

  168. Congrats, JD! You will love your MINI and, needless to say, you will love having paid cash for it. I still owe a considerable chunk on mine, but working towards paying it off is almost as rewarding as owning the car. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from your site and I’m thrilled to hear how your perseverance and dedication have paid off.

    Yes, you should definitely be on the lookout for a MINI club so that you can get involved in all of the events that are organized across the country every year. Owners are nuts about these cars and you’ll find that they make up a really wonderful community.

    I’m sure someone has already mentioned this, but had you sold your Focus outright to a private party, you’d have had enough change left over to put a stabilizer and some performance brake pads on your new ride! 😀

  169. Whoooohoooo!!!! Congratulations, JD :).

    I’ve been a reader since last year, and it has been great watching your Mini Cooper goal transformed from a “dream” to reality. Totally awesome!

  170. Congrats on your purchase! My husband and I both have paid for cars, and instead of paying car payments we make sure to put money aside each month for auto maintenance. I have a ’98 Lexus and he has a 2001 Forrester. We set aside $125/mos. It’s saved our hide many a time.

  171. JD, congratulations!!! Reaching a dream through work and personal finance is wonderful! I’m happy for you! =D

  172. Congrats on your longstanding goal. Enjoy it! This is a great PF success story.

  173. Sounds to me like you did very well! Whether you spent a couple hundred or even a couple of thousand $$$ more than absolutely necessary is NOT the point. It’s your mindset that matters for financial success – for a car, paying cash; researching in advance; buying a MINI that’s reliable, frugal, fun, and has a high resale value; not getting talked into extra this, extra that; all good!

    Yea, I have a 2007 MINI S bought new – also have other BMWs – paid cash, haven’t financed a car in 30 years, haven’t a mortgage or any other debt for 15 years.

    Live below your means and keep doing it for a long time, and you’ll be in fat city! Or, as Dave Ramsey says, “live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later”

    My wife and my philosophies’ could have been the original example of “The Millionaire Next Door” as well as Dave Ramsey’s as we’ve always lived below our means, paid cash for everything but a house (but paid off the mortgage quickly), and retired at age 52. More important than anything else is that both you and your spouse MUST agree with and practice day in/ day out this conservative financial philosophy or it’s not going to work out.

    Just go for it – you and your readers can do it!

  174. Welcome to the MINI family!! My baby (Sebastian) is 2006 MINI Cooper S that was bought new and paid off last year…and the next one will be bought with cash! Don’t worry about what you paid though…MINIs generally seem to exceed Blue Book a bit, since they are more of a niche car and really appeal only to a smaller segment of society…not to mention there just aren’t that many of them out there. Sounds like you got a pretty good deal. How’s he holding up? Does walking out the door each day still make you smile? It does me, and mine is now 3.5 years old with 94k miles. Motor on!

  175. So you got rid of perfectly good car and got another one for 15 thousand dollars?

    Something is wrong with you. I might stop reading this if it is true.

  176. Hi
    Just to contradict the salesman, you could have signed up with Zipcar for $50 year subscription, and taken a Mini out for a day or a weekend rental in Portland. A quick search on their website reveals 6 or 7 minis located in downtown Portland, and since this car is essentially their mascot, everywhere there is Zipcar you will find multiple minis available. Also good if you fly to another city and must have a Mini. =)

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