By Sarah Netter
When Kelly Dixon graduated from college and landed a job teaching first grade, she headed to the car dealership to buy her first new car.
Now 33 and married with two kids and two dogs, Dixon is the blogger behind Smart School House, a fun-filled DIY extravaganza born from her love of Pinterest and family-friendly activities.
Dixon, whose easygoing DIY crafts have earned her 1.7 million social media followers, also published a book based on her website, Smart School House Crafts for Kids.
Dixon recently headed back to the car dealership to drive away with a new SUV that will fit her family of four. It’s been years since she first test-drove a new car, but she still fondly remembers that sporty little sedan she worked so hard for.
Here’s what she learned:
Who were you when you bought your first car?
I was a first-year teacher. I had put myself through college, got my teaching credentials, finished student teaching, landed my dream job and finally got to buy myself a brand new car. My first new car ever.
Did it make you feel like an adult?
It did. The responsibilities and even just talking the contracts—that’s adult stuff right there. Taking out a loan with the bank, test-driving on an actual car lot—it all made me feel like an adult.
What surprised you the most about buying and owning a car?
Maintaining it—the price just to maintain a new car, especially one that didn’t come with a maintenance package. My first car was a Volvo. At the time they didn’t have a maintenance package.
Volvos are more expensive to maintain. I knew that going into it, The tires are more expensive—just little things like that. But it still surprised me when I had to shell out that cash.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I can reach my own goal, that I can be a hard worker. I could do the right thing and good things would come to me if I did that. I was proud I actually had given myself the opportunity to go and do that: get a new car.
Describe your lowest point.
It was not even a year old, maybe a year old. I was teaching summer school and the car broke down. What kind of new car just dies? I was trying to get to school one morning; it was the battery, and a few days later it was dead again. I took a picture of it in the school parking lot on the back of a tow truck, like, Are you kidding me right now?
After everything I’d done to get to this point, I had this brand new car, I was paying an arm and a leg for it and it was a lemon.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
A car is going to be more expensive than you anticipate. Little things come up between the car payment, the maintenance, the keeping-it-clean, the gas, the insurance, the registration… The costs are never-ending, but it’s super exciting.
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Sarah Netter is a Yahoo Storyteller. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and ABC News.