A couple of months ago, my family purchased a different car. Notice I didn't say "new" because it wasn't. It was just new to us.
My daughter was involved in this purchase because she would also be driving the car. My husband and I explained the benefits of buying used, and avoiding car loans, and a dash of statistics about how new cars will lose 50 to 75 percent of their value in their first four years.
Being thoroughly convinced of our miserly ways, my daughter asked me point blank, "So, would you ever buy a new car?"
"Yes, someday," I replied.
Her confused look meant I obviously needed to explain my seeming self-contradiction.
I told her I'm not a cheapskate just for the sake being a cheapskate. I choose to be a cheapskate now, so that I am not forced to be a cheapskate later.
In other words, I want to always be on my way up. I want my finances and my ability to reach my financial goals to continually improve throughout my life.
Years ago, when I had two small children and my first husband was diagnosed with a serious illness, I made a conscious decision to live a very frugal lifestyle. Even though my salary would have allowed us to spend more, I decided to live simply, with future needs in mind. This allowed us to "cover our bases" and still save up for emergencies, start a college fund for both kids, invest for retirement and buy a home.
Since then, my lifestyle has steadily improved (mostly due to the fact that there was nowhere to go but up!) and we continue to try to aim for improvement. Thankfully, my new husband and I are on the same wave-length when it comes to managing our spending.
We have an informal list of financial goals that we're continually working toward. And while a brand new car is on the list, it is so far down, you'd need sonar to find it. I do believe, however, that there will come a time when we've accomplished so many of our goals that the new car will rise to the top of the list.
But until then, I'm driving used, and I'm not going to borrow money to do it. I'm not letting a new car or a car loan get in the way of things I want more.
Maybe it's culture, tradition, status or really good marketing, but too many Americans will recognize a need for transportation, and feel obligated to fill it with something new and expensive and attached to a "requisite" car loan. The main question asked is "Can I afford the monthly payment?"
By saving ahead to buy a used car with cash, we can still have attractive, reliable transportation and a future unencumbered by loan payments and interest fees. But, two separate incidents let us know we are in the minority with this method — first, when one of my daughter's friends asked how you could buy a car without making payments and second, when the lady at the motor vehicle office asked us with surprise, "There's no lien holder on this car?"
There is such a thing as guilt-free spending. It's covering your simplest needs first, then buying things that you know you need with money that you know you have. Will I, the ultimate cheapskate, ever buy a new car? Sure! But I'll do it when the time is right and the purchase can be guilt-free.
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