If you do not already have a car payment, do not add one to your budget. While it is tempting to get that pretty new car, it is NOT necessary. You need safe, reliable transportation and you can get that much less expensively than buying a new car and adding a monthly payment to your already tight budget.
If you already have a car payment, chances are it is killing you to make that payment every month. If you are not completely upside down in your car loan (which is the exception), consider selling it and paying it off. You can make your life easier and immediately lower your monthly expenses by doing this. Buy a used car and pay cash for it. DO NOT GO TO A BUY HERE PAY HERE LOT AND FINANCE A CAR WITH THEM! Their interest rates resemble loan sharks and you will pay more than that car is worth. Watch craigslist.org and e-bay.com. Check out the Auto Trader and your local penny saver papers. Never underestimate that car on the side of the road or in a yard with a for sale sign on it. It won’t cost you a cent to stop and look and you just might find a gem.
I will NEVER buy a new car again. I am fortunate to have a master mechanic for a husband so we find diamonds in the rough and he polishes them up makes them run well and we don’t have a car payment to worry about, and we are paying less for car insurance with three vehicles than we were with one new one. If I ever win the lottery (fat chance) I will still buy a used car that I love and he will make it my dream car. For now, my little Ford Ranger gets me where I need to go work, errands, etc. and it’s reliable. That is all I need.
Keeping up with the Jones is expensive. That BMW or Mercedes might look pretty and all, but at the end of the day, it takes more food off your table than it puts on it. My Ranger is paid for and gets me to work and back. It does put food on my table.
One major tip from my husband. CHANGE YOUR ENGINE OIL EVERY 3000 MILES OR 3 MONTHS. This is the single most important maintenance item you can perform on your car. At the same time, change your air cleaner, check your coolant, transmission, and brake fluid. These simple things can make your car run better and save you costly repairs because of neglect. Check your tire pressure frequently also, this can save you money replacing worn tires because of inadequate tire pressure.