The Long Road to Buying a Car

6. July 2011

Each month we ask students to share their stories about saving money as part of the Young America Saves program. To learn more about the program or to enroll visit

By Andrea Pelligrini, University of Illinois Student

Even as a child, the thing I remember wanting more than anything was my license. When I was about 11, I realized that having a license didn’t mean anything without something to drive. With this new realization, I began saving towards my car fund immediately.

Obviously, 5 years is a long time for a child to work towards a goal, so I had to pace myself. My allowance was small so I needed to diversify my income. As soon as I could, I started babysitting. I also earned money through cleaning houses and helping my father with special projects every summer. Any extra money I received from birthdays or good grades also went towards my car fund.

Sometimes I gave in to the urge to buy things, but I tried not to beat myself up over it. I set limits on how much I would spend and stuck to that budget despite what I wanted or what my friends would say.

The summer before I turned 16, I began looking for my first car. With a $900 limit, I had to make sure that I was getting the best deal I could. A family friend helped me make informed choices about the cars we looked at and even offered to loan me money for cars that were outside of my price range.

As easy as it would have been to take the loan, I decided that I was going to stick to my budget. After months of searching, I finally purchased a white 1991 Buick Century Custom a month before my 16th birthday.

The purchase of my first car marked the first major personal accomplishment of my life and has influenced the way I view my responsibilities, goals, and even independence ever since.

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