I want a new car. An Audi. Or a BMW. I've got that New Car Itch.
I've never been a fan of my Ford Focus. I like the leather seats, it's true, and I know it's relatively safe, but the car just doesn't suit my style. It's no fun to drive. Acceleration is unresponsive. Every little piece of it rattles and squeaks. Sometimes the road noise is oppressive. The whole car just feels cheap.
It's not that I'm a Car Guy. I'm not. I'm the kind of guy who buys a practical new car and then drives it until it dies. But my dislike for the Focus is so strong that I've spent the past couple days researching new vehicles, trying to calculate whether I can afford to purchase one. And if I can afford it, ought I purchase a new vehicle or a used one? (There are pros and cons to each choice.)
And what kind of automobile should I buy? The Toyota ECHO is cheap — $12,000 new — and gets 38mpg while providing excellent customer satisfaction, yet it's small and not very safe and surely cheaply made. The Acura TL looks appealing with its agile handling and near-luxury status, yet could I really afford $35,000 for a car? That seems obscene!
What about the new Scions? They're the ugliest cars I've ever seen, yet they get fantastic gas mileage and offer decent customer satisfaction. Hondas are always good. And Toyotas. (I've always wanted a Toyota Camry V6 XLE.)
But I'm frugal, right? I don't need a new car — it's just a want.
Rather than incur another debt, I've made it a goal to pay off all my remaining debt, and then reward myself by purchasing whichever car I choose, without compromise. If I want an Audi A4, I'll buy one. If I want a BMW 330i, I'll buy one. Because it'll take me two or three years to meet this goal, and my Focus will then be nearly ten years old, it'll make more sense to retire it and get a new vehicle. (And I will probably have changed my mind by then, and be content just driving it until it dies.)
In the meantime, I've made some small upgrades to my current vehicle, making it more fun for me. I changed the fluids. I cleaned it, inside and out. I bought an FM transmitter so that I can listen to my iPod over the radio. I'll research what it would cost to have a moonroof installed. Maybe there are some other little things I can do to make the car more appealing.
I know I ought to save this money for other things, but if $100 can keep from succumbing to the New Car Itch, I consider it money well-spent.
I once knew a fellow who, when he got this itch, would rent a fancy car for the weekend. He'd drive it around town, trying to get the feel for what it was like. On Monday morning, he'd return the car. He was always satisfied to return to his little Ford.
[this originally appeared in slightly different form at my personal site]
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.