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money mistakes part two

The other day I was standing in our "back backyard," a large lot behind our backyard that we share with several other houses in the area, watching my son kick his soccer ball again and again into the net that someone had set up there. Parked nearby was a red SUV, and the appearance of the driver reminded me of one of the "stupid money mistakes" that I referred to in my last post.

I think I posted over and over about my problematic previous vehicle, the red Ford. I had just put out another large sum to keep it on the road in July 2011. About two weeks later, one of the graduate students was in my office, and she mentioned that she had to sell her Toyota in two days before she left the province for good. I asked her about it, and she mentioned it was a 2005 Echo with 72 000 kms on it. I asked her how much and she said $5000, to which I replied, "Sold!" Then she told me that it was a standard, and I decided then that it was time to learn how to drive manual transmission.

My VISA had recently sent out a couple of 0% balance transfer cheques, and I wrote one to her for $5000. I covered the cost of the safety inspection and the emissions test. I also had to pay for transfer of ownership, and I decided to get new license plates, since my red Ford was still officially on the road. These expenses were about another $600, and were not stupid money mistakes.

For a couple of weeks I desperately tried to learn how to drive the Toyota, but I just could not get the hang of it. I felt quite indulgent owning two cars, but I was not ready to get rid of the Ford because it was just so much easier to drive. I thought about selling the Toyota, and even spoke to the local dealership about trading it in. But a part of me was so determined to learn how to drive it. I told myself that I did not want my son to watch me quit something because it was difficult.

I decided to call about driving lessons. I tried a couple of local places but they did not teach standard, only automatic. The last place I called was Young Drivers, and they said an hour lesson was $140!! I was so desperate by this point that I booked the appointment.

I met up with the instructor in a parking lot, and he got in the driver's seat of my Toyota and started to drive. He asked me if I knew of any side streets near hills we could practice on, so I mentioned a quiet area not far. I was surprised he did not have a spot picked out. Then he pulled over to the curb and showed me how he could get the car into fourth gear without going above 20 kms. I was not impressed because I did not understand the mechanics of the system yet and what he was doing, and he was cutting into my precious learning time.

A few minutes later we reached the hilly street, and he had me practice over and over with the hand brake. I still could not get it. I was so frustrated, and could not quit stalling. After an agonizingly long 40 minutes he took over into the driver's seat again to take us back to our meeting spot. I asked him why he would not let me drive the car myself, since I have been a licensed driver for at that point over 20 years and really needed to practice in traffic, not just at curbside. He laughed at my question and said I was not ready to drive and needed ten more lessons with him. At the cost of $900.

A few days later a friend of mine took me out to a parking lot where I had previously stalled and stalled and could not get out of my spot. He practiced with me for over an hour, and would not accept any payment. I felt foolish, and wished I had not just handed over $140 to Young Driver's for nothing, since I could have easily gave my friend $40 for his time and effort.

And you know what, after my hour with my friend, I had a lot more confidence, and within a couple of weeks was driving the car with no problem. I even taught my partner how to drive it!