Listen up, fellow budgeters.
As you know, I’m all about being financially prepared for the irregular expenses in life. One of the many expenses I point out when discussing irregular expenses (those that don’t happen monthly but do occur on a regular and somewhat predictable schedule) is tires. Yup, new tires for your vehicle(s).
My family owns two Subarus. We love them. We’re Subaru devotees. But being a Subaru owner means being prepared to replace four tires all at the same time. Unlike 2-wheel drive cars, a Subaru owner cannot switch out tires keeping the two best and replacing the two showing the most wear. Nope. Subarus are all-wheel-drive [AWD] vehicles. On a Subaru if you need new tires, you need four new tires all at the same time.
Putting new tires on a Subaru is a significant cash event.
But it’s not an event that catches me unprepared. As a family, our lifestyle has gone through some major changes over the past decade (teens involved in activities, kids away at college, empty-nesting, me going back to school) but I have a pretty good sense of how many miles we drive each car each year. By taking those calculations, I can predict with a high degree of accuracy when I need to have the cash saved up for new tires on each car.
When I work with clients or give a presentation, I usually get a gaping mouth or eye-roll when I state, unequivocally, that car owners can and should calculate how frequently they’ll need to replace their tires.
I empathize. I truly do. This is not an intuitive nor an easy task. But it is an important task. Coming up with $1,000 cash without any warning or preparation is something most of us can’t do. If we’re not prepared for the expense but we absolutely need new tires, we end up putting them on a credit card. Ugh!
As budgeters, that’s a situation we’re trying to learn to avoid, right? Right.
That’s why I emphasize the importance of trying to make an educated guess as to when this particular irregular expense is likely to occur.
And the process is now a little simpler in that you can put a lifetime cap on your tires: six years. So while you might not yet know how often you need to have saved enough for new tires, you know that it is no more than six years.
So, working backward, can you recall when you bought your last set of tires? Three years ago? Well, then, under the very best of circumstances, you have no more than three more years to have the cash set aside for 2 (or 4) new tires.
Let’s look at it from another angle for a minute. My tire preference is usually a Michelin All-Season tire. These tires usually come with a 70,000 mile rating. Our current circumstances put me in no danger of thinking that it could take us a decade to put 70k miles on either of our cars but my point is that if you’re a low-mileage driver/family, you still need to be prepared to replace your tires no less frequently than every six years. As the linked article points out, seldom-used tires with lots of remaining tread are not exempt from a six year lifetime.
Of course, I’m not saying that your target range is six years. Or even whatever unused portion of six years remains since the last time you bought tires. If you put 20,000 miles on your car every year, even with Michelins rated at 70k, you’ll be looking at a three year window — meaning you’re ideally on target to have refilled your “new tires” budget category envelope three years after your last tire purchase date.
The information we can glean from this article and the six-year lifetime on tires is that the seemingly overwhelming task of randomly figuring out a timeline for this particular irregular expense just got a valuable extra data point: a maximum range of six years. Rather than feeling as if you’re staring at an infinite line with no starting and no ending point, now you’re dealing with a finite, fixed-length timeline. And if you own a vehicle that only gets used occasionally, don’t forget to make a budget category envelope for those tires — and then start filling it!