Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Car Buying

The Wall Street Journal published the results of a survey in Stop Acting Rich, asking about the material artifacts that a person must have, in their opinion, to be considered rich.  More than a third (35%) suggested a car worth more than $75,000.  If this one criteria were applied to the millionaires in this book, more than 90% would fail to qualify.

These real millionaires drive sedate, understated Camrys, for example, overall.

I didn't even know what rims were until some of my sons pointed them out on the highway, explaining to me that cool people spent hundreds per rim.

"Daaaaannnnngggg," I probably had replied.  Times 4?  Ouch.

Conspicuous consumption?  Can people really afford such expenditures?  Or are people just heavy in debt?  Or flush with drug money?

Heck if I know.

I fiddle with our Mickey Mouse budget constantly, just trying to get to the end of every month, praying our 2004 van can hang in there for just a couple more years, until it will then be unneeded.  My beloved truck is 14 years old now, and I still love, love, love it.  I really do.

My county is fairly affluent overall, but I'd read yesterday that the average car payment hovers around $600 a month.  Can people really afford that?  Most families have 2-3 cars.  Am I so out of touch with how normal families operate financially?

I really don't think that I am, I really believe that many, many people have struggled hard during this recession, I think it has hit right fairly across the board.

Today's newspaper suggests that families have more credit card debt than savings.  They charged these symbols of affluence, giving the appearance of wealth, called Aspirationals in this book I'm slowly reading.

Maybe debt doesn't bother them at all, maybe they feel it is worth the price they are paying to then feel good about themselves?  I dunno.  I don't think debt feels good.

My kitchen cabinets and hardware are only 14 years old, yet already completely outdated according to what I see on HGTV.  Does that make me feel bad?  Nah.

Would I prefer an updated look?  Maybe, but not at the price it would take to do it.  I would have to go into debt.  And what's the point right now?  I still have rambunctious teenagers living here who act surprised when over-used cabinet doors come off in their hands.  New stuff would likely just stress me out.

But how on earth have we managed to crack tiles?  It's like we are heavy loader equipment - do we weigh too much?  Shouldn't tiles be able to stand up to foot traffic?  Did my cheapness cost us?  I clearly remember picking these out solely because they were on sale.  I've since regretted the choice, I should've sprung for some darker ones, but again, oh well.  I can live with this.

We used a push mower last year, we have two now thanks to Michael, but I wanna see if we can take our broke down riding mowers and cobble one functioning one together.  We just didn't have enough manpower to stay caught up last year, the meadow can take hours to push mow, we'd tag team, and by the time it was finished, the other end had already grown back.

I keep telling myself I don't need a gym membership when I have all these outlets for calorie expenditure, plus anyone knows that'd be too much socializing for me.  I'm getting worse and worse about that, feeling misunderstood, or stupid for even trying.  I'd rather just stay home, hunkered down, avoiding the real world.  I find the real world to be stressful, hurtful, and overwrought.

I just wanna sit quietly in the dirt and weed my gardens.

I've been reading a lot of this book Stop Acting Rich aloud to my sons, even as teenagers they enjoy the librarian mentality here.  "In America, 86 percent of all prestige/luxury makes of motor vehicles are driven by non-millionaires."

I think that's critical.  The author suggests that folks are trying to enhance their self-esteem and how others perceive them.  Stanley goes on to say that all the data, all the studies show that, "there are no shortcuts to Happyville and that self-esteem can't be bought at a dealership."

My prayer is that my kids will listen to Thomas J. Stanley, PhD when they won't listen to me...although they do listen to me reading Stanley.  I think his books are must reading.  I'd just had a discussion with a kid regarding banking, how long a check takes to clear the bank, the need for savings, etc and she frustratedly asked, "Why don't they teach us all this at school?"

"That's what parents are for," I explained to her, "My parents taught me, you're gonna teach your kids.  Bottom line, spend less than you earn."

"But everything costs so much," she'd wailed.

That just means you have to lower your wants and expectations.  She's not even a very materialistic girl either.

We can't have everything we want.  Period.  It's that simple. No one wants to hear that.

One of them told me this morning, sitting on the comfy chair in my office that costs $15 at a yard sale years and years ago, "You know this really makes sense," in reference to cars and millionaires.

Yeah, it does.

If I had a Porsche to toot around in during the day, I'd still be a poorly-dressed 58 year old dirt digger, but I'd also then be one who owes a great deal of money vainly trying, and failing,  to look good.  No, thank you.

A friend of mine many years ago did drive a used, yet gorgeous Porsche, and if anyone should've been doing so, it was him.  He was a brilliant mechanic, bought it used and cheap, and could fix anything that needed fixing.  "Women look at me differently," he'd told me, "when they see me driving a Porsche."

In many ways I understood because to me at least it indicated ambition and hard work on his part, not an aspirational wannabe at all, so I don't want to paint anyone broadly with the wrong brush, especially if you drive a Porsche that you can afford.

I just wanna help my own kids to make appropriate car decisions and to know that they look good no matter what they drive.  My kids are all so good-looking they can make walking look great.