We are now less than two months from a PCS move. Deciding how to best manage our money right now is hard for me. I like clarity in my financial planning: what is coming in, what is coming out, what money is going to go where. As you know, things are rarely clear when you are PCSing.
Our recent car purchase is a perfect example. I have been saving money diligently, hoping to pay cash for a car, or at least take out a smaller loan. We have a goodly amount of money in our savings account, which is also our emergency fund. We could have nearly paid cash for the car, but we would have been wiped out. We also could have put down a huge down payment, but it would have seriously compromised our cash reserves and I wouldn't have been able to contribute to our 2009 IRAs before the April 15th deadline. I'm not at all comfortable going into a PCS without the safety-net of that emergency money, so we ended up doing the thing that I absolutely did not want to do: financing the whole car purchase.
It has been several years since we've had a car payment, and even with a great interest rate, I am absolutely shocked at the size of the monthly payments. One part of me wants desperately to pay that car loan off RIGHT NOW. The other side of me thinks that this was a good decision because financing the car gives us flexibility if any surprises come up during the moving process. Once we are settled, I can review the situation and then work on getting rid of this car loan.
Sometimes the right choice is hard to make, especially if it goes against your usual thinking. Flexibility is an important key to keeping your finances working smoothly. Looking at the big picture and keeping your options open can help prevent disasters down the road.