Definitely “naughty”

As I noted on Twitter, on Christmas Eve the “check engine” light came on in my car. Today I got the bad news from the dealer: the front catalytic converter went out. That’s $1500 in parts and labor. Clearly I was Santa’s “naughty” list this year.

This stings all the harder because six months ago I put about $3000 into other car repairs. Unfortunately, the $4500 in repairs is not tax deductible, since the only work-related use of the car is to drive to and from work; the IRS does not consider that a “business expense.”

With the additional medical expenses I had from my recent health problems, my total set-back for this year is about $10K. Maybe some of that will be tax-deductible, but I suspect not; that is, it won’t be greater than the standard deduction.

Ouch.

Even with all of that, it still does not seem worth it to get a new car. For one thing, I definitely can’t afford the monthly payments until the medical issues settle down; perhaps not even then. $4.5K is still less than what I’d pay per year for a new vehicle.

Aside from that, it’s been my experience that the maintenance costs for a new car are not that much lower than for an old one.

So what are the blessings?

– This hurts, but I can afford it.

– My “cash cushion” for emergencies is now severely reduced. I have to hope there’ll be no major medical events in 2013. However, my job is relatively stable. If I can get through this year with no serious financial events, I have a reasonable chance of building up my savings again.

– My retirement savings are taken out of my paycheck before I even see it. My cash cushion is hurting, my retirement isn’t.

– I’m much, much better off than my friends who are struggling just to get from month to month.

I’ll probably have to give up some plans for 2013: No festivals, even for research on Isaac’s biography; no new computer to replace my aging one; no buying gifts for my friends from their Amazon Wish Lists.

This is definitely a “First World problem” for me. Would that it could merely that for everyone else as well.