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I’ll admit, it’s not easy being the person at work with the worst car in the parking lot.
As professionals, I believe we sometimes feel it is a required part of our job to keep up with appearances. After all, you probably wouldn’t want to see your financial advisor pulling up to your retirement portfolio meeting in an old beat-up car. There is something in our minds that has wired us to think in a certain way about success.
For most people, success probably looks something like a luxury car, a large modern home, and picture-perfect beach vacations. If this is the image of success that jumps to your mind, you may be surprised to learn that there are many millionaires out there that you wouldn’t even recognize by their outward appearances. They drive modest, used cars and don’t live in huge mansions. While the things they own are certainly nice, they aren’t extravagant.
So why is it that the people who don’t have a whole lot of money spend it like they do? The upper middle class are usually the ones driving around in those cars that we envy. But they are also driving around huge debt payments every single month. With a high car payment and required full-coverage car insurance, these people could easily be spending $600 a month on transportation. Transportation to drive to and from work, soccer practice, and church, just like you and me.
For most people, it’s just the way they have been trained to think. If we can afford the payment, then we can afford the purchase. For these people, the normal thing to do is go to the car dealership, get financed by the bank the dealership is using, and walk away with a brand spanking new car that same day. Then in a few years when they get tired of driving the same thing, they trade it in for a newer model through the same process. This is why many people believe that a car payment is just the way of life.
But recently I’ve been trained to think differently about my finances. I’ve been learning that fulfillment can be achieved without having the best of the best. That it is a lot easier to have peace of mind when I don’t have a car payment to make each month. That my 14 year old car that I bought from a friend for $1,000 works perfectly fine, and even better in some ways, than my $14,000 car did. That it gets me to and from my day job as a bank teller, where I simply don’t earn a salary that allows me to deserve a brand new vehicle.
Because the biggest lesson I’ve learned? If I can’t afford to pay cash for it, then I don’t deserve it. At least not right now. What I do deserve is the peace that comes from living within my means; the peace that comes from not paying for something tomorrow (and the day after that, and the day after that…) that I purchased yesterday.
Give yourself that same peace of mind. Let go of the pressure from others to finance the life that you can’t truly afford right now. I believe, with all my heart, you will come to find that you don’t need all that stuff to make you happy. Let go of that hefty vehicle payment, and let the relief flood your bank account as well as your mind.