Ask Abbie: Do I rent or buy a home, vehicle?

Published 10:37 am Saturday, June 16, 2012

by Abbie Long

Question: I am a single 79-year-old white male, incarcerated in a Virginia state prison.

I will be released soon. My question is, which is the cheapest for me to do. Buy or rent a home and a car? I could pay cash for a $130,000 home and $20,000 for a car.


Still incarcerated


Answer: First, let me congratulate you on your upcoming release date. Every person deserves each day to be as if the first one of a new life. Embrace your day!

“Cheaper” is a very complex term and must be looked at with regard to both the short and the long terms.

Renting instead of buying let’s you keep more on-hand cash. This cash could be set aside for emergencies as well as daily expenses, most of which you haven’t had while incarcerated. Also, with renting a home and vehicle, you do not have the expense and responsibly of upkeep, maintenance and repairs.

In the long term, ownership does provide equity, a sense of “it’s paid for and it’s all mine,” and wonderful gifts for a loved one upon your passing. However, there are many more responsibilities associated with ownership.

Depending on the physical effort needed to fulfill these responsibilities, one can easily become overwhelmed with responsibilities in turn finding himself too busy and tired to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Ask yourself, “How many responsibilities do I want in my life right now as I reacclimatize to society outside of prison?”

If you find you can’t or don’t feel the time is right to meet the necessary responsibilities of ownership, then ask yourself, “Will I have enough money to pay someone to do these things for me?”

Your current situation may reveal renting as the better option.

Now, let’s think out of the box, hey after all you will be outside of your own very confining box very soon.

You have another alternative, a motor home. Car and home all in one. If you choose this route, look into leasing.

A traveling home gives you opportunity to experience the many sights and sounds you have been missing while incarcerated. There’s a whole world out there and now is your time to enjoy it without the burden of unnecessary responsibilities. Spread your wings and soar!


Question: My husband and I have three school-age kids and are on a very tight budget this summer.

This is the first summer we cannot afford a week vacation. We have not broken the news to the kids and were wondering the best way to do this so to minimize their disappointment. What do you suggest?


Answer: Do not let your own personal disappointment transfer to your children. Children sense their parents’ emotions and will follow that energy and thought pattern.

Once you change your own thinking to realize this summer as a different yet exciting opportunity to create the best “staycation,” or stay-at-home vacation, the excitement will start to build, and in turn, in your children. Now, come up with five staycation days.

Some of my favorite staycations include taking behind-the-scene tours of local attractions. Formal ones are available at company museums and factories, as well as fire and police stations.

If parents ask nicely, they can get their kids a tour of a movie theater projection room or the pinsetters at a bowling alley. Television stations, radio stations, and newspaper production facilities also offer tours.

Another idea is to have “sundae day.” Stock up on multiple flavors and all the trimmings — whipped cream, fudge sauce, nuts and cherries. Get some cones or hit the dollar store for fun containers for your dessert creations.

Make sure to give everybody a disposable camera and have a contest to see who can capture the funniest moment. The winner gets a prize.

A couple of other ideas include indoor and outdoor camping. Backyard camping, pick up the camping gear and head to the great outdoors in the backyard. Pitch a tent, lay out the sleeping bags, and set up the portable s’mores maker.

To make this camping trip more authentic, use a camping stove to make dinner and breakfast. Sing some campfire songs while enjoying s’mores and when bedtime arrives, tell scary stories in the tent before going to sleep for the night.

Indoor camping, build a fort as an alternative to sleeping in the yard. Use indoor pop-up tents to sleep, eat popcorn and watch a video inside this mini-bungalow.

Once you have your ideas finalized, send mysterious invitations to your family, inviting them to a family meeting — be creative. Don’t tell them what the meeting is about to build their excitement and curiosity.

At the meeting, put your ideas in a hat and let them each draw one including you and your husband, five total. Let the fun begin!

If you’re not disappointed, neither will your family.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to