Money matters

Sheila the Mazda2

Friday evening, I somewhat impulsively became the proud owner of a new car.

The adorable manual Mazda2’s name came to me by accident in a slip of the tongue in my post-purchase shock—Sheila. Her name is Sheila. And she will be my California car.

Thankfully, I got a great deal—Sheila, brand new, cost about the same as this model costs used, thanks to an employee pricing event. Though it was a quick decision on my part (it was the last day of the sales event!), I knew I’d regret not getting this car for the price. And I was right to do it—I’m so happy to have a reliable (and, omg, CUTE) car. But with a new car comes a down payment and several years of financing, and this was the first of many blows to my bank account with this move to L.A.

John and I are embarking on an amazing journey. We’re following our dreams of living in California, I’ll be getting my master’s degree, and after four-plus years of coupledom, we’ll finally be living together. (I cannot WAIT for John to see my retainer.)

It’s pretty romantic on the surface, and I have no doubt we’re doing the right thing. But with following your dreams comes an inevitable, not-so-romantic side of things: the financial burden of doing so.

By quitting my job and moving to California, I’m giving up a certain level of stability. Though my mostly part-time income was modest, I lived at home, commuted less than 15 minutes to work, and managed to save a fair amount of money. It was the responsible thing to do, and now that I’m packing up my things for this cross-country move, I’m so glad I was patient and socked it away.

Despite all that, I know my savings will vanish way faster than it took to build them up. Aside from the car payments, we’ll have the cost of shipping out our stuff, food and lodging along the way, first month’s rent plus deposit, utilities, insurance, groceries, school (uh, big one), hopefully the occasional fun (but cheap) outing, and gas. (Luckily, Sheila is excellent on gas.) I mean, whoa. This is a lot of new financial responsibility for a girl who has had very little of it living with mom. Consider the factors that many of these costs will be up front in large sums and neither of us have secured jobs out West, and it’s a little intimidating.

Am I worried? I have my moments, of course, but not really. I think about it daily, but I don’t doubt our ability to make it work. I will not be picky in my search for flexible, part-time work because I can’t afford to be. I think that attitude will serve me well because it will keep me both humble and hard-working. I’ve been pretty comfortable over the past few years. Maybe I’ve gotten soft. L.A. will snap me out of that real fast, and I think it’s a good thing.

So I tell you these things to remain transparent. Yes, I’m excited—elated—to be making this amazing trip with John. The new car? I’m in love. But these decisions we’ve made that may seem easy and carefree on the outside are actually the result of a lot of patience and sacrifice, and there’s a lot of hard work and even more sacrifice in our future to actually sustain this “California dreamin'” lifestyle we want.

It will not be easy, but it will be totally worth it. Sheila better get ready for some drivin’.