I’ve been saving for a car for the past 4 years.

For the first two of those years, I had saved nothing in my somewhat dedicated “car” savings account (my fellow Nigerians with an average of 6 accounts will understand this). By year 3, I had started to panic because I knew I would need a car soon and since I had rejected the bank financing option, I definitely had to come up with the money. 

Let me quickly explain my reluctance with taking on debt to buy a car

  • First of all, while I needed a car, it wasn’t a ‘do or die affair’, at least at that point, there was no real sense of urgency. 

  • Secondly, I felt the proposed interest rate was astronomical. 20% for a depreciating asset?? I rather walk(literally). A quick calculation showed that at the end of the loan tenor, I would end up paying the price of the car, in interest. 

  • Finally, taking a loan was restrictive. It meant I always had to have a steady source of income. So, resigning or being laid off from work will greatly affect this. It would have been an invisible chain holding me down to my job, whether I liked it or not. 

I’m now in year 4.

I have made some notable progress on my car saving plan but with the current foreign exchange (FX) issues, which has been particularly volatile in recent months, I seem to be in a losing battle. 

These days I mutter variations of “life is beautiful”(my way of remaining positive) and try not to explode. Honestly, what else can you possibly say when you’ve saved what was enough to buy a car in year 2 but can only buy 2.5 tyres, a bonnet and boot with no engine? I even lowered my standards and car year, yet, the prices show no signs of decline notwithstanding the contraction in  ‘real’ demand. 

What would you do if you were in my shoes?

• Spend the money on other things
• Wait it out, or 
• Review your choice

Here are four things I’ve had to do and I’m still doing–

1. Acceptance 
I had to accept that life happens. Even when we have the best intentions, things can go horribly wrong. I was recently informed that some companies that usually provide cars for certain positions are changing their polices. We are all having to manage somehow. For others who would have bought a new car, a used car seem like the only available option.   

2. Re-strategise 

I’m back to the drawing board since plan A(buy a car in year 4), didn’t work out. I have had to re-strategise. Don’t be deceived by the name, this stage is more spiritual than technical. There has been a lot of prayers, incantations, pleas of love and the like, on this matter. 

The first point was to determine if I still needed to buy a car. The answer was a quick yes. However, I had to change my timeline and budget in view of economic realities. 

Interestingly, my budget is now a moving average, in line with the movements in FX, which seems to be swinging vigorously day by day. 

I also had to reconsider what I wanted vis a vis what I needed. I wanted comfort but needed a reliable car. So, comfort had to take a back seat on choosing the right car (pun intended).

3. Focus
Focus is an instrumental state but hardly ever achieved. It’s very easy to get sucked into the problem rather than considering the solution. Pessimism vs. Optimism

According to Michael Posner and Mary Rothbart, our attention(focus) provides systems “that underlie our awareness of the world and the voluntary regulation of our thoughts and feelings.”

Qui Gon Jinn(Jedi Master) says it best – “Your focus determines your reality.”

I must say that this has been tough. Avoiding the distractions and focusing on my goal has taken some time, particularly, as we are constantly inundated with the issues and problems in the country. 

To that, Herbert Simon says a “wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

4. Be innovative and Save more 

Did I mention that I like structuring things? Not in a dodgy way. As a lawyer with some knowledge of finance, structuring is a welcome part of my job. Now, I’m considering realistic ways to earn more(legally) and save a huge chunk of it. 

Have you had a similar experience or even worse(hope not)? Please share your story.

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