Today I’m going to let you in on the secret to achieving financial independence. No, i’m not talking about stocks or real estate or anything like that. What I'm talking about is something much more mundane than that. Are you ready? Ok. The secret to our financial independence all lies with one thing: an $800 car!
That’s right folks, her name is Champagne and she is a beautiful, used, $800 Honda. At this point in our lives she is as dear to us as our own kids! Ok so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point- this car is important to us! Why? Because Champagne is more than just an old car. Champagne represents a transformational shift in perspective that is fundamental to achieving our FIRE goals!
As you all know, Amon and I have been on the road to financial independence for years now, and over the years we have managed to maintain our FIRE goals while still enjoying a comfortable lifestyle. We are able to invest 70% of our income (link). We have a number of lucrative side-hustles (link). We made over $400,000 investing in real estate (link). Suffice to say, we’re not hurting for cash.
Now I’m not pointing this all out to brag, but to make it clear that we COULD have bought a newer, nicer car if we’d wanted to. In fact, prior to Champagne we actually drove a brand new BMW X5 (I discuss this in more detail here(link) where I go over our “money mistakes”).
Making this switch required overcoming the emotional, social, and consumerist pressures we all face. These pressures tell us what type of vehicle (or house, or vacation, etc.) we should desire or own. They tell us what is necessary to be considered successful in the eyes of society, what “level” we should be at and by when.
But once we were able to change our mindset and focus on what was really important to us rather than “keeping up with the Joneses”, we realized we couldn't be happier with good ol’ Champagne! Our mindset change occurred when we came to a simple realization: that if we just took the money we were spending on our BMW and instead invested it into the market, we could move our Financial Independence timeline up and reach our FIRE goals significantly faster.
Shifting from luxury to a beater required a shift in perspective, which we were able to achieve by taking a look at 8 specific factors.
What does your car MEAN TO YOU?
What does owning a new car signify to you? For most people, cars signify a level of status. The thing is, this status can oftentimes just be an illusion. Just because you own a fancy car doesn’t mean that you’re rich, or vice versa. So we asked ourselves: do we actually CARE about our perceived status? Do we really care whether or not acquaintances or random strangers think we’re affluent? The answer was simple: no. Considering the more you spend on a car, the less money you tend to actually have, this basically came down to whether or not we wanted to spend money in order to look richer. Ultimately, w e decided that we’d rather look poor and have more money, than look rich but actually be poor!
A car is just a TOOL
Simply put, a vehicle is a tool. It is a mechanism to get you from one place to another, and that’s it. Let's take our car for example. It came out in 2002, a whopping 19 years ago, and we’ve owned it for around 2 years now. In that time we haven’t experienced a single problem with it. We’ve been able to go to work, to school, on family trips, and even on road trips, and it's worked like a dream. Now, we certainly could have spent more on a nicer car, but at the end of the day, the value that we get from a $30K car, in terms of its ability to transport us to and from places, is the exact same as the value we get from the $800 car, so it just wasn’t worth it for us.
Your car only needs to meet your EVERYDAY NEEDS
Maybe you decide to purchase a sports car because you’d love to go fast, but what’s the point if you live in the city and are never able to exceed the speed limit? Likewise, you may decide to get Jeep or a SUV with 4-wheel drive with the intent to enjoy off-road driving in the mountains, but if you’re realistically only able to get out to the mountains once a year, is it really worth it? Personally, we find that our used Honda serves most of our everyday needs perfectly, and if, for whatever reason, we ever need a vehicle that goes beyond what we have, we’ll simply go rent one temporarily. The idea is to keep your overspending in check and limit yourself from making unnecessarily pricey purchases. Ask yourself: what does your car REALLY NEED?
You lead by EXAMPLE
This is so important to me personally because we have 2 young daughters. As parents, we really want to show our kids what’s really important in life and how we value money and time. Through that lens, because our girls observe firsthand the importance that we place on things, buying a used car sets a better example than buying a big, flashy BMW. If you want to teach your kids that happiness and satisfaction doesn’t necessarily depend on having the flashiest car, or the latest smartphone, then make sure your actions reflect this. Financial independence is, for us, all about valuing your time over things, and if our girls ever question our decision to buy a “cheap” car, we can simply point out to them that the alternative would require spending more time working and less time with them. Seems like a no brainer to me!
Used cars allow for more MOBILITY
In the past 10 years we have moved 5 times. The benefit of having a used, $800 car in this context is that we really don’t lose much if we ever need to leave the car behind. We have a lot more freedom in terms of where we go because with a cheap car we have choices! It's not a huge deal if we can't sell it immediately- we can always just keep moving without having to worry about taking a large monetary hit. Generally speaking, the more expensive the asset, the harder it becomes to unburden yourself of it. This applies to cars as well- its a lot harder to sell a $30k car than one that costs less than a grand! And this is an important factor to consider because sometimes the financial pain of having to sell a pricey car at a loss in order to make a move, will prevent you from making that move, even though that move might put you in a better financial situation.
We like being UNCONVENTIONAL
We like to challenge the norm. We don’t like doing things by the book. We are not waiting until our 50s, 60s or 70s to retire- no, we want to retire now! We travel hack, we live for free, we have side-hustles, and these are all things that challenge the norm. I figure if you’re pursuing FIRE or even just thinking about it, you’re probably a bit unconventional, like us. In that context, driving around a used car really shouldn’t seem like a huge deal anyway, right?!
NO ONE is going to STEAL our $800 car
Honestly, having a cheap car really does take a load off my mind. If someone scratches the paint in a parking lot, if the girls spill juice on the seats, if we go over a speed bump too fast- none of this is really anything to stress about for us! Literally anything could happen to this car and it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal because, hey, it's only an $800 car! Having such a cheap car just means having one less thing to worry about!
There are tons of used car OPTIONS
When buying a used car the most important things for people tend to be reliability and safety- fortunately, there are a ton of used cars that are just as safe and reliable as brand new ones! And while buying a brand new car is more convenient than finding a safe, reliable used car- you can walk into a dealership one afternoon and drive off the lot with your own vehicle in a few hours- it is also significantly more expensive. Personally Amon and I ended up saving 30k by taking the time to find a used car. $30k for a week's work is a pretty good deal if you ask me!
All in all, it does take some effort to buy a used car, and you do have to make a few sacrifices. But ultimately the effort is worth it because you’re saving money and investing in your financial independence. There is a wealth of used car options out there, most at great deals, if you allow yourself the time to find them!
So there you go folks, that is the story behind Champagne, our $800 car, and the mentality that we needed in order to transition from a new car to a used car. I get that moving to a used car may not be for everyone, but hopefully this post is still useful in helping you challenge yourself and think about the reasons WHY you’re purchasing a new car vs a used car. Maybe you can apply these 8 factors we looked at and use them in order to shift your mindset as well. Because, if you take nothing else from this post, take this: MINDSET IS KEY. Having the right mindset is vital to succeeding in any financial independence journey!