Lea Satterfield, MBA, is a course instructor for MPowered Couples course.
My husband and I had to have a tough conversation about gifting a car to someone we love. It’s something that could have brought friction to our marriage but instead at the end of the day through communicating about our feelings we came to the same conclusion: It just wasn’t right for our family.
We both were at peace with our decision and we appreciated each other more at the end than we did before. It affirmed we were in this thing together.
We hope that by sharing an example of a tough conversation in our house, it can be an example for you when it comes to making decisions together, like whether you should gift a car to someone.
I drove a 2010 Ford Fusion. This picture is me on the day I drove it home. I owned the car for over nine years. It is a great car and at the time of our discussion it still had a lot of use in it, had never been in an accident, and had no issues.
I bought this car just after college and it was the first thing that I ever had to take a loan out to buy. It was the last physical item that we owned that wasn’t a purchase we made together.
By most measures, it is a modest car as it doesn’t have leather or navigation. However, it has so much sentimental value to me. And a sunroof—that was my one wish.
My husband and I planned, researched, and agreed that about a year from then was when I would be in the market for a new car. But about the same time, we got the news that a big change was coming for someone important to us. That change was going to leave them without a car.
So, we thought maybe we should gift the car to that person. It would be reliable, last a while, and insurance and gas costs would be low for them. It would take a lot of stress off that person.
With that in mind, I started researching specific cars for me, scheduling test drives, and the like. While we had saved, we also always thought, even though not a lot, there would be some value to trading my car in as well.
At the end of the day, we had sticker shock. Everything was more expensive than we had figured, so we started looking at smaller vehicles. However, that meant compromising something we wanted out of my next car—a vehicle that would hold our immediate family and extended family. I was becoming increasingly deflated and disappointed. It didn’t feel right to settle for an expensive thing that didn’t meet our needs.
I stewed, talked with my closest friend to make sure I wasn’t being a jerk, and really tried to reflect on why I was so dejected about the entire situation. Buying a new car should be an exciting thing. It’s a big deal for me. I’ve only bought one car in my life and I plan to have this one for a long time, as I had that car.
Through reflection, I figured out why it upset me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to give my car to someone. I did want to help the person, but it wasn’t our plan. It wasn’t putting the needs of our family first.
The day I realized that was my truth, I knew I needed to talk with Mark. I worried he would think I was being selfish or worse greedy. I was afraid he would be upset. But I knew I had to tell him how I was feeling.
So after our daughter was asleep and when it was the two of us undistracted, I laid out how I was feeling. I made it focused around me and I’m sure it was a rambling, “I hope you don’t think less of me, but I want to feel excited and this wasn’t our plan.”
His response: A sigh of relief.
He had been stewing on it as well and had come to the same conclusion that we needed to put our family first and we agreed that we wouldn’t be in a place for a new car for about a year. He was afraid to tell me his conclusion because he didn’t want to take away any excitement if I did want a new car.
Not only did we make a financial decision in that discussion but we affirmed to each other that we are in this together. We are building this life together and we have each other’s interests first. Now I realize that not every tough conversation goes this easily. He could easily have countered with reasons why gifting my car was important to him, how we could make it work, etc. I would have needed to have been open to those arguments, and listened and countered him respectfully.
The point of this article is not about if you should give a car to someone for free. It’s that we both figured out what our truth was individually and that we talked about it. We heard each other and we arrived at a conclusion that was right for our family. It was a decision we could both live with.
- Reflection can bring clarity.
- Take stock of the source of how you are feeling.
- Do things that align with your values.