For Sacramento’s Tina Newsome and her husband, Craig, the annual Lexus December to Remember Event has held a lot fond memories, along with some hard times. “Back in 2010, we had been married for less than a year when Craig came home late from work on December 23rd. I was ready to chew him out for being so late — when I looked outside at our brand new Certified Pre-Owned 2007 Lexus IS250,” she remembers. “I knew right then we’d be happy forever.”

The blue car that left the Newsomes in the red.

Craig cites Lexus’s annual sales push and TV advertising as a major driver in his decision. “You can only see those shiny cars with giant red bows for most of your life before it starts resonate with you,” he says. “So I left work a little early and traded in our 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix at the Lexus dealer. Even though I was upside-down on the car, they rolled it into the new loan over 84 months, so our payment was only $495 a month. That was less than our apartment!”

As the years wore on, however, the car lost some of its luster. With very little factory warranty remaining – and the inability to finance an extended warranty – the Newsomes had to face the realities of their decision: $1,000 sets of low-profile tires, $75 synthetic oil changes, and $150 detailing jobs every six months just to keep up appearances. And that didn’t include unexpected repairs.

The Newsomes during the salad days, which were quickly tossed by stresses and obligation.

By December 2012, just two years after their purchase, the Newsomes learned they were expecting a baby – twins, in fact. However, the IS250’s rear seats quickly became an adventure in contortionism as their twins’ rear-facing car seats just barely fit in the back seat. Even then, Craig says, he had to move the driver’s seat so far forward, he couldn’t take the car on long trips without intense lower back pain. “It was like living in a bunker,” he recounts. “I already couldn’t see much out the back of the car, but once we added those giant convex baby mirrors on the headrests, it was like being tailgated by two poop factories,” he quips with a smirk.

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As Lexus kicked off their 2013 December to Remember event, Tina started asking Craig about considering a larger car, like a crossover. However, when they visited the Lexus dealer, they were informed that their negative equity on their current car was far too great to consider a trade. And when they visited Carmax to look at alternatives, Tina rejected everything she saw. “I don’t mean to sound classist, but once you get a Lexus,” she opines, “You just can’t bring yourself down to a lower level.”

Within six months, the couple was in marriage counseling and on the brink of divorce. They claim the stresses of parenthood in a compact sedan, along with the related financial strains it caused them, were major contributors to their strife. With both parents working and daycare expenses adding up quickly, they felt trapped under a mountain of debt and cash flow obligations. “I wasn’t going to be one of those Stay-at-Home Moms, no offense,” says Tina. “You know, driving the kids all over town in my Honda Pilot and sipping Starbucks Grande Lattés. I think I would just kill myself,” she continued between sips of a Peet’s large Latté while test driving an Acura MDX and daydreaming of a better future.

By the time of the 2015 December to Remember advertising season, things were beginning to stabilize for the Newsomes. They had successfully avoided a foreclosure on their first home, agreeing to a less punitive short sale with the bank. At the same time, Craig’s parents invited them all to live in the family’s finished basement to help them save some money and get back on their feet. “I hated to see them struggle,” Craig’s dad says, “Especially with young kids stuck in the back seat of a Lexus IS250. Nobody should have to face that as a parent.”

White, just like an Apple product or a refrigerator.

After two year of working to get their credit and savings back on track – including recruiting Craig’s parents to act as a full-time daycare service for the twins – the Newsomes were finally able to lease a 2012 Lexus RX350 last week in the 2017 December to Remember promotion. “With our $5,000 down payment and our 600 credit scores, the salesman said it was the best way to get our payment under $500 again. All we have to do is drive under 7,500 miles a year, avoid body damage, then pay $4,000 when we’re done, and it’s on to the next big thing. I couldn’t be happier,” Tina says. “I know things have turned around for us now. What a blessing for the holidays. They even put a big red bow on the roof.”