I’m cheap. I’m not embarrassed to admit that. Everyone who knows me knows it and it doesn’t bother me. I like to shop at 2nd hand stores and when I do need something brand new my first stop is the dollar store! For me it’s not enough to buy something that I like or need, I have to get it at the best possible price. Sometimes after I purchase something I’ll keep an eye on the prices to make sure I didn’t over-pay!
I don’t have a problem with spending money but I have to know that I’m spending it wisely and whatever I am buying it’s something I really need. I need to be a good steward of the money that has been entrusted to me. I hate the idea of wasting money or buying something and getting a bad case of buyers regret. I don’t get over stuff like that easily.
I was faced with a buying dilemma just the other day. I drive a really cheap car (big surprise) and up until the other day it was running great. I only paid $600 for it and I’ve had it for almost a year. I haven’t needed to put a penny in to it since I bought it. It starts every time, gets me to work and back, and has never left me stranded. It’s a little ugly and it has it’s share of duct tape but it runs and moves. Shouldn’t that be enough?
For a couple weeks now I’ve been scanning the auto classifieds ads. It was mostly out of boredom and curiosity. I didn’t need a car but I was wondering what was for sale just in case I decided to buy something. The more I looked at all the nice and shiny cars I started to think, “hey, why am I driving a $600 beater when there are all these cool cars available in my neighbourhood“. And just so you know these were cars that were around $2000. I still wasn’t considering anything more than that. I still planned on being cheap!
The more I looked at all these nice cars the more I got fed up with my little rust bucket. Yeah, it ran great but the body wasn’t perfect and it didn’t have a sunroof or power locks or power windows or leather seats. Wouldn’t it be nice to have those extra bells and whistles? Didn’t I need them?
I even went so far as to go kick the tires on a couple cars. Of course I drove there in my ever-dependable beater (notice the irony?). The cars looked really nice and had lots of features mine didn’t (like no duct tape or spray painted panels!). I could afford these cars without going in debt so what was the harm in upgrading? I could dump my little car, spend $1500 and get something better. Makes sense, right?
I started to get seduced by the electronic features and shiny paint on these cars. They weren’t any better mechanically than what I was driving. One especially shiny one even had more mileage and worse tires than my car and yet I was enamored by the look of it. That was all it had over my car, the way it looked.
I came really close to pulling the trigger on one of the cars but I told the couple I needed to sleep on it. That evening I realized that I was essentially about to spend $1500 of my hard earned money to get a different coloured version of what I was already driving. Sure, it had lots of cools features but would it do a better job getting me to work? No. Would I save money on gas? No. Would it be more reliable? Who knows?! The only reason why I was even considering it was because it looked pretty.
The next day I passed on the car. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was about to spend a fair bit of money just to get a prettier version of what I already owned. Sure, if my car was about to die or had to get an expensive repair (which i have since discovered it does need but I didn’t know that at the time) it would make logical sense to shop around for a good replacement, and if it happened to look cool and have lots of nice features all the better – but that couldn’t be the reason for spending the money in the first place. I refused to get caught up in the mindset that we always need the nicest, prettiest, coolest thing. Sometimes cheap and basic is the right choice.
Now I find myself having to look a car buying more seriously because my little junker needs a clutch and a heater core and that is way more than what the car is worth. It’s too bad someone else won’t be able to enjoy this reliable little car. It’s never let me down and I am very happy that I purchased it. As I keep shopping I won’t forget the lesson I just learned. Sure, I want something cool and having working a/c and power windows would be awesome but I’m not willing to pay extra for those. I simply need reliable transportation. I don’t need this car to define me or play that big a role in my life. It’s just a tool. That’s all.
Please don’t think I’m judging you if you have a $40,000 car or won’t buy anything but new. That’s a personal choice you have to make. However, for me I can’t let myself get sucked in to the image trap or the “new is always better” trap. Whether it’s a car, a wardrobe or your physical appearance, the focus can’t be on looks alone. There are deeper, more meaningful things to consider.