By RAY QUIROGA
South Padre Parade
March was noteworthy in my household because it marked the final month I had to pay an installment on a four-year car loan. In all, this has been only the third car I have owned in my life, the first, which was purchased my senior year of high school, and I owned all through college, was, in large part, paid for by my parents and grandmother. The first car I can truly say I bought with my own money is my trusty 2003 Toyota Corolla — a no-frills, no nonsense machine that has seen the inside of a mechanic’s shop only once since it’s been in my possession.
For some reason, the past four years that I’ve spent paying off this other car seemed more like 10, probably because owning this particular vehicle hasn’t been a pleasant experience. When I bought it, I was making a bit more money than I was when I purchased my first vehicle, so I figured I’d splurge on one of those fancier European makes. The automobile proved easy on the eyes and with its impressive specs, looked even better on paper, but it turned out to be a classic lemon, costing me in repairs almost the price of a used car (albeit one of much lesser “value”). Added to that, as a guy who doesn’t mind changing the oil or tweaking things under the hood now and then, I found it nearly impossible to do the most basic of maintenance work on this vehicle due it all its high tech advancements and gadgetries.
Yes, there were a lot of life lessons to be learned from this experience and all the while I heard the voice of my deceased grandfather whispering in my ear and laughing a time or two as I wallowed in self-pity. You see, gramps was ol’ school. A World War II Vet who, till his last day, started his morning at 4 a.m., the retired railroad/construction worker turned entrepreneur left behind a wife, six successful adult children with families of their own, three free and clear houses, and three vehicles, also free and clear. And he did all this without the use of loans or credit cards and with only a seventh grade education.
Aside from a vintage 1950’s Ford pick-up truck and a 1980’s era van fancied after his favorite television show, “The A-Team,” grandpa’s main ride was a late 1970’s Ford LTD. But while the engine purred like a kitty and the AC was unparalleled, the doors were held together with duct tape and the upholstery left much to be desired. No, it was not easy on the eyes. You see, despite having a healthy pension and living off his investments, he still lived on a self-imposed budget, and when he needed extra cash, he basically held garage sales, selling off stuff he had little use for.
Yes, gramps lived by a specific set of rules which included the belief that if you can’t afford it, you don’t need it. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, that was a lifetime ago, when gas prices topped 99 cents and every trip to the grocery store didn’t cost you $200. You can’t live without credit in today’s world.” You may be right. But the thing is that there was nothing fancy about my grandpa nor the clothes he wore, the vehicles he owned, and the homes he lived in, and yet he also lived his final years the way he wanted, with the woman he loved, in the home he loved, doing what he loved, which included tending to his award-winning yard, watching ball games every evening while sipping on a can or two (or three) of Lone Star Beer. Grandpa had put in his time, and he was no longer a slave to the grind in his twilight years. Even has kid not yet out of high school, I’d wonder if my life would ever be so perfect when and if I was ever given the opportunity to live to his age. Now, has I turned the ripe old age of 39 just last week, my wonder has turned to worry as I see what our national economy has become. So with all these factors swimming around in my head, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit an article I scribed a few weeks back about a local woman who has a unique approach to educating everyone, but especially women, on finances. I hope you enjoy it and in the meantime check out Saturday morning’s kid fish event in Port Isabel and don’t forget to visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com!