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As a member of the 40-hour workweek club, my morning routine started with the standard squawk from my phone. An alarm that voices in a forceful way that I need to get up and earn my pay.

My morning routine of yoga, breakfast, and getting dressed started my day in the typical way. I slide into my car and chat with my mum for the length of my 15-minute commute. Then, I rolled into my work’s parking lot and over to my daily spot. I shifted my car into reverse and was checking my side mirrors as I prepared to back into a spot.

As soon as I shifted and released the brake, a scream erupts and sears through the empty lot. It sounded like I was murdering my breaks with something blunt and metal.

I abruptly hung up with my mum.

I quickly put my car in park, lunged over to the front of the car, and looked underneath to see if I ran over a boulder, tire, or toaster – something to give a reason for the awful sound.

Nothing.

Nothing obvious, but it was clear from the looks of my coworkers who were now watching and yelling from across the parking lot – something was wrong with my car.

Step 1: Become Less of a Hazard

I had parked in the moving portion of the parking lot, so I had to finish parking between the safety of the white lines. Even in reverse, my car squawked like I was trying to rip the rotors off.

Our building engineer came over and suggested I drive forward and back. After another earsplitting example, he offered a possibility like perhaps my brake pad fell off.

Once the car was safe and quiet, I wondered about breaks, pads, and options which were get a mechanic to look at it or deploy the handy Mr. BuLL.

After a quick call to Mr. BuLL, coupled with his uncertainty and lack of availability, left me with one choice: take it to a mechanic.

Step 2: Find Good Peeps

I’m fortunate to know a good mechanic place that is 3.7 miles from work. I used them before to replace my spark plugs, and they helped Mr. BuLL when he accidentally fried his battery.

As a boon, every time I mention their name, longtime locals have positive retorts. I called, pleaded my case, and they said to bring it over. If it’s just the breaks, they could squeeze me in that day.

I let my coworkers know, steeled my nerves for a painful and uncertain ride down the hill, to the mechanic with a car that could have only one working brake pad.

Step 3: Keep Calm & Turn Your Flashers On

It was the longest 3.7 miles of my life.

The sound was constant as the movement of my tires. I went slower than the posted speed limit, which at its height is 35 mph. I turned on my flashers and moved over at each pullout. There were frequent scenic waypoints, so I pulled over a lot.

The pullouts were mini-breaks from the screaming and gave me a chance to rally until the next pause. By this point, I thought I was missing half my brake pads, so each mile marker felt like another slice of success at not careering down the hill.

Even with my flashers, the newly established siren caused everyone within the immediate area to stare and wonder about the slow-moving Subaru.

When I finally arrived at the mechanic, he said, “I heard you coming,” and I fired back, “I think the whole town heard me coming!”

Step 4: A Sinking Fund Sooths the Squawk

After I relinquished my keys and was quietly shuttled back to work, I had plenty of time to wonder what happened.

Did my brake pad fall off? Was something loose in my rotors? Did some angry human try to dislocate my brakes because our bathroom was closed?

The whorl of possibilities was limited to my knowledge of brake pads and rotors, but the swirl didn’t extend to finances. Of all the concerns, money wasn’t one of them.

I have a sinking fund for my car.

The sage at Money Mentor states a sinking fund is, “A sustained negative momentum.”

I have $1,000 devoted to car repairs. My car, named Winter Warrior like the winter goddess she is, is a 2014 Subaru with less than 100,000 miles. I keep up on standard oil, tire, and fluid maintenance, but as with anything from fridges to bridges, to keep the chaos at bay, a buffer is needed for repair and replacement.

A buffer became a balm when my car began wailing a siren song of despair. I didn’t know cars could sound so mournful!

Step 5: Declare Before Repair

Currently, I’m stashing all my extra cash in a travel fund. Outside of living expenses, everything from bi-monthly paychecks to credit card rewards is funneled towards my expedition everywhere account.

Once I get to the 3k goal, I’ll be shifting the savings to my sinking fund. The sinking fund, nicknamed adulting adventures, contains all manner of adulting tasks from insurance and registration to possible repairs to my car, phone, and laptop.

It’s an annual slush fund for all the things that go from working order to orderly chaos.

Every year, I contribute what was removed from the prior year and shift as needed. Contributing to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is one example. I need less post-tax money for medical expenses. Instead, I have a new pretax account with deductions pulled from each paycheck which filters into fewer savings needed for adulting adventures.

I use a budget aggressively and track every purchase down to the .01. Having this data gives insight into how much I use annually and if I need to adjust any savings in the future. Herding cats may sound easier than my budget, but it’s an easy process that runs like the rock-free machine it is.

Step 6: For the Love of All Things Shiny and Silent, Remove the $50 Rock

A rock the size of a pea was lodged between my brake pad and rotor. When the mechanic reported that, I said, “I don’t know whether to feel relieved or disappointed.”

Silly human! Relief is the correct answer!

He graciously only charged for half an hour of repair, and they washed my car. Fifty dollars lighter, I drove away and enjoyed every quiet mile back to work.

In less than a day, my issue was declared and repaired. There were plenty of concerns to dwell on that day. But in the end, it was my sinking fund that soothed a small rock and its searing squawk.

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2 thoughts on “A Squawk & A $50 Rock

    1. That it was, but the saga continued! A week later, to the day, I got another rock stuck in the same rotor! This time Mr. BuLL took care of it but still! What are the odds?!

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