When I went to the street to get the mail on Saturday, the latest issue of The New Yorker was in the box. Walking up the sidewalk to the house, I idly began to remove the subscription cards. I stopped, though, when I came to a full-page cardstock advertisement. I read the front of the ad. I read the back.
At the kitchen table, I carefully removed the ad from the magazine, carried it upstairs, and sat down at my computer. I typed in the listed URL, and for the next two hours, I was at the mercy of the advertiser. What was this ad for? The 2007 MINI Cooper.
I've mentioned before that I hate my current vehicle — a 2000 Ford Focus. I bought it in a hurry after my 1992 Geo Storm was totaled by a wayward tractor-trailer rig. I've loathed the Focus since day one.
Three years ago, as I began my debt-reduction crusade, Kris and I made a pact. As soon as I had paid off all my debt, I could buy any car that I wanted. I never dreamed that day would come so soon, but it has. I'll be debt-free by Christmas (except for the mortgage), which means I'll have some tough choices to make.
During our recent trip to London, I fell in love with the MINI. It seemed to be everywhere, and I was enamored with its compact style. I began to believe I had to own one. But I'm not in the same place I was three years ago. I have a different perspective on money. Do I really want to eliminate my debt only to immediately purchase a new car? That doesn't sound smart.
On the other hand, I drive a lot, and the Focus is like an anchor around my neck. Also, I do feel that it's appropriate to reward myself for achieving a goal. Kris and I had a long chat yesterday. We both think I've licked the debt monster and have shown I can work to pay things down. I have the go-ahead to buy the car.
Of course, in order for this to happen, I actually have to be willing to spend the money. I could probably pay off a new car in just a couple years, but I'm not sure that's something I'm willing to do. This frugal living stuff has become a habit. And although I hate my car, it seems foolish to get rid of it after only seven years.
Last night I sat down to work out the numbers. It's clear that buying a car would impede my larger goals.
One of my goals is to drive less, for example. I want to reach a point where it doesn't matter what sort of car I have. I want to work from home, writing. I want to walk to the grocery store. I want to ride my bike to reach more distant destinations (like the comic book shop). How does buying a car help me achieve these goals? It doesn't.
Not buying a car lets me reach these goals more quickly. By not buying a MINI Cooper, I'm roughly $25,000 closer to paying off my mortgage. By not buying a MINI Cooper, I have more to set aside for retirement. If my dream life is to stay at home and make my living as a writer, then I need to do things that will make this a reality. Buying a MINI Cooper is counter to my objectives.
Someday I really will buy a car that I want. That day has not yet arrived, however. Maybe I'll do it when the Focus dies. Maybe I'll do it when I turn 45. Or 50. Maybe a wealthy aunt will buy me a MINI Cooper — I certainly wouldn't turn it down. If only I had a wealthy aunt…
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.