Drive a Cheap Used Car - forget about peer pressure

I love cheap used cars. They have been an integral part of my frugal living every since I first owned one.

They are inexpensive to purchase, dirt cheap to license, and the insurance costs are generally very low. Just think of some of the "college student" cars you've seen, and you'll start to get the picture.

There are drawbacks to older used cars, but when you want to save money, many drawbacks can be overlooked. Here's a true story that illustrates the point.

In the mid-1980s, I left the federal government and became a junior employee in a consulting and engineering firm. I wasn’t an engineer, but I had some skills and experience that I wanted to put to use doing something good for customers.

I drove a big 1974 Ford LTD – a land yacht for certain. It was a cheap used car that got poor fuel economy by today’s standards, but it was very comfortable, reliable and safe in an accident (I had survived a couple while in it).

That washed out yellow LTD was paid for, the license plate fees were dirt cheap, and it only required a couple hundred dollars a year for liability insurance. Driving it was a great way to save money.

The limited miles driven each year made the fuel bill minor in comparison with the other values the car had to offer. I was practicing frugal living with a focus on total transportation costs, not miles per gallon, and that helped me save money.

I was rather happy with my cheap used car, especially since I had only paid $883.00 for it several years earlier. It was a great running car and it ended up being one of my best frugal investments since I drove it relatively few miles each year, and it served me 15 years.

One day at my new company, my supervisor stopped me and asked why I drove that old beast of a car. I replied by asking simply "why not" and waited for an answer. She began by telling me now that I was a high paid employee (yeah, right) I should have a new flashy car – something sporty and shiny like hers. Of course, her motivation was to have everyone around her (and in her employ) drive something that looked like we were all in the same "club".

I thought that a few questions were in order before I gave her my response. After all, it is better to understand than to be understood.

So, I took action to understand her interest in me getting a really nice new expensive car (instead of driving my cheap used car), by first understanding why she had one.

  • I started by asking her where her nice new car was parked at the moment. She said it was in the parking lot.

  • I then asked her where her car was parked when she was spending time at home or asleep at night. She said in was in her garage.

  • I then asked her where her car was while she traveled to see clients (and we all traveled extensively). Her response was simply “in the long term parking lot at the airport”.

  • I asked whose car did we usually take when the group went out to lunch. Her answer was simply: “Your car”. She was right – it carried 4 to 6 people comfortably.

I think she was beginning to get the picture of how little she was in her car looking and feeling great, and how useful my car was when we really needed it. Just in case it wasn’t clear enough, I rammed home the final nails in the flashy nice new car "coffin".

Using her answers to my questions, I observed that she wanted me to have a nice new car that I will park in the garage when I am at home, a car that spends my entire work day out in the parking lot, and a car that I park at the airport while I rent a different car to visit with clients.

The car would have monthly payments that I didn’t have, it would warrant collision insurance that I wasn’t paying, it would cost 10 to 15 times more to license, it really wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable or as capable of carrying multiple people, and not nearly as safe as the one I was driving.

I couldn’t resist frosting the cake I had just baked by asking, "And why is it again that you want me to have a car like that?" She had no answer to that and simply smiled and walked away.

I had defused the peer pressure associated with my cheap used car.

As she was listening to my rhetorical question, you could see that she was having second thoughts about the large amount of money she was spending each month just to have a shiny, stylish, fuel injected sports car sitting out there by itself in the parking lot without her sitting in it.

No matter how remorseful she might have felt, I am certain that it went away almost instantly when she imagined how other people might view her if she was riding around in some well-used, out of date machine from the days of four-barrel carburetors.

While she was feeling good about her sporty form of transportation, I was feeling good about saving money in my bank account for the time when I would find something really meaningful to invest in.

Forget peer pressure, focus on frugal living and drive a cheap used car to save money. Let others be concerned about image, and let them pay for it too. Sometimes you have to decide whether you're going to be pretty or effective. Either way, you're going to be paying for it. I vote for frugal living, even if it isn't so pretty.

Done with Cheap Used Car, take me back to Are You Frugal?

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.