Recession Watch: $1,000 a month for a new minivan? No way

This post is part of a series about real-life signs we're in a recession.

It has been fun for the past year, since my son was born, driving around in a 1999 Ford Taurus with three kids crammed into the back seat. But the plan has long been to buy a minivan.

The only one my eight-year-old daughter, who loves our Taurus almost as much as my husband, would consent to is the new Dodge Grand Caravan, for 2008. That's because it is the one with the seats that spin and face backwards and the little pop-in table for in-van picnicking.

Am I a sucker for swivel and go seating? Yes! I thought we had an easy decision and I even joined Costco (more on that decision) to take advantage of their no-haggle car buying program. I had my special incentives and zero percent financing deals all lined up when I went to the nearest participating dealer, ready to buy.

Only problem: I thought I could buy a car for about $22,000. But when I got done talking to the salesman, he had me convinced I needed a model that cost $36,000. With my cheap financing deal, that was still $1,000 a month.
In more optimistic times, I might have rationalized the purchase. I mean, we'd probably have the van for 10 years. Maybe I'd let him convince me to lease one. Or take out a five year loan. But this year? When we're trying to cut back on evenings out, new clothes, vacations, anywhere we can, to suddenly take on that kind of expense? All I could think of was all the things I could do with that $1,000 a month.

Owning a Dodge Caravan paled in comparison. I decided to swivel and go myself -- right out of that dealership.

I talked it over with my wise and frugal colleague Sarah Gilbert. She advised waiting a year when I can buy one used at hopefully about half the price.

See, I'm still a sucker for swivel and go seating -- just not at a $36,000 price tag.

Update: Finally buying a minivan: Why we chose a three-year lease
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