I’ve got some big news. The bank finally came through. And I’m holdin’ the keys to a brand new Chevrolet –Brad Paisley, in Mud On The Tires. This is not how we purchase vehicles.
So we’ve learned that playing good Defense, or learning how not to waste all our money, is really really important when it comes to achieving financial independence. But how exactly do we do that? Well, we need to think of all the major categories of spending and optimize them to meet our goals. I figure it’s best to start with a piece of very low hanging fruit:
If people in our society mindlessly spend tons of money on something without considering the consequences, this is it. Remember this: driving costs upward of 50 cents per mile. This cost is based on IRS estimates and takes into consideration both gas and wear and tear on the car.
Consider these two facts. First, driving is really freaking expensive! This cost is often avoidable in many cases, which we’ll discuss. Second, driving costs per mile, not per month, even though many people pay for their vehicles by taking on debt and making monthly car payments. Do not EVER purchase a vehicle on credit! In fact, this is a good time to introduce a golden RULE on the path to financial independence: Do not EVER go into unnecessary debt! Buying a car on credit and making monthly payments definitely qualifies as unnecessary debt. Anyway, we are getting off track.
Driving. Having a car is a pleasant but expensive convenience that should be used when other methods of transportation are prohibitively time consuming or pricey. In fact, other methods of transportation that are usually neglected are often much more convenient (and more pleasant!) than driving. A few weeks ago, I had dinner at a friend’s house who lives half a mile away. It was a seven-minute walk. A year ago I would’ve driven, but that is not really the purpose of a car. To get from my place to work, the fastest and most convenient method is biking. I stay on the sidewalk to avoid all the traffic on the busy main road, then hop over to side roads, and then bike right up to the door of my building, slam on the brakes, and take my bike up to its secret indoor parking spot. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. Driving would take much longer.
As a matter of fact, not driving to work or school will save you TONS of money in the long run. Consider a person with a 35-mile commute each way in rush hour traffic, something people actually consider “normal.” This person is spending an additional $35 a day, $175 a week, or $8,750 a year (not to mention the lost two hours of life every single day). And what about the opportunity cost? Let’s assume that money was instead invested in the stock market over a 30 year period: it would be worth $889,918 (inflation adjusted). That’s nearly a million dollars!!! Just seeing that number coming out of the investment return calculator is making me all amped up!!! This is why it’s worth it to live closer to work even if housing is a little more expense. By biking or walking to work and to run other short, intra-city errands, you will save tons of money in the long run. If you don’t have a bike, buy a bike (Craigslist is great for this). If you’re cold, dress warmly (I have a balaclava that I got for $1.50 on Amazon that is amazing). If it’s dark, get a bike headlight and taillight. If you need cargo space, bring a backpack. If you need more, get a bike trailer. You’ll quickly find that biking is really not much of a hassle at all, and in some cases the most convenient method of transportation. Even if you don’t want to bike to the grocery store, or even if you don’t want to bike at all, you can still drastically reduce your transportation costs. Live close to work, use public transportation, consolidate several short trips into one trip, and follow the advice below when purchasing a car.
Consider your needs.
Take a look at the tank featured at the top of this post. This is the best-selling vehicle in America. No. 2 is also a pickup truck. And No. 3. I didn’t realize that so many Americans were construction business owners or farmers!
You should purchase a car that suits the majority of your needs. If the majority of your needs include transporting yourself or you and one to three other people on nicely paved roads in a city, then you should buy a fuel-efficient compact car. If the majority of your needs include scaling rocky mountain roads while carrying seven passengers, then you should buy an SUV. Even if you rented a car every time you needed to tow a lot of cargo or make a road trip with a bunch of friends, it’s still way cheaper than buying a large vehicle. You DO NOT NEED a pickup truck, complete with fake engine noise, to drive around on city roads by yourself! Wake up people!!!!!
New or used?
Used! Cars depreciate very rapidly after they are first purchased. Nothing like losing a few thousand dollars on your drive home from the dealership! Seriously, why wouldn’t you just buy the same car after someone else has driven it home?? But the best deals are likely to be found on durable, good quality cars that have some miles on them. Craigslist is a good place to start, but even a used car at a dealership is a WAY better deal than a new car.
You aren’t stuck.
Even if you currently drive a pickup truck with fake engine noise or a super expensive sports care to commute 35 miles to work every day, that’s ok! Making the decision to downsize your vehicle or move closer to work may seem daunting, but that decision can literally save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and give you the freedom to pursue goals that are actually important to you–like spending time with your family, travelling the world, or just knowing that you’re financially secure for the rest of your life.
Realize how much driving costs. Be shocked. Minimize driving as much as possible. Buy a car that suits your needs (probably a compact car) and buy it used. Don’t be afraid to make BIG, scary-seeming life changes, because they will pay off in the end.