Disclaimer: Finances and money management are personal decisions, and this particular series is not meant to tell the reader what to do or how to live their lives. It’s meant to reflect on my own experiences, lessons about personal contentment and delayed gratification, and kick around some alternative ways of thinking about a fun topic which affects everyone; money.
“You know Mom, a lot of women look at my not having a car as being irresponsible, and not being grown up. Many wonder if I would buy one if we settled down and had children,” were my words when lamenting to my mother on a recent visit to Buffalo. “Of course if I had children I would get one, but right now in my current circumstance, I don’t need to carry the cost of car ownership. I’m saving a lot of money and plus, I don’t have the headaches associated with it.”
Financial literacy is the current seminar module my scholars are working on in the after school mentoring program Higher Achievement. One of the lessons actually spells out the definitions of needs verses wants. Likewise, a crucial part of financial literacy and intelligence is learning when to cut expenses, and live without certain luxuries, when you don’t absolutely need them. It sounds like a simple thing, but it can be difficult to do, especially in the presence of continuous strategic marketing campaigns by retailers, peer pressure and expectations from other people (sometimes significant others).
“We’re going to live like no one else, so that later on we can live like no one else. We’re going to live like no one else so later we can give like no one else,” Dave Ramsey fervently says in his Financial Peace University course.
As a part of his Baby Steps to Financial Peace, people taking the class are instructed to set up budgets and figure out how to cut back on some thing(s) in order to free up money to pay off debts and liabilities. Once those debts and liabilities are paid off, students can now save and invest their money. For some people the luxury cut out is frequently eating out. For others it’s their cable service. For me it was my car.
This series will chronicle the year and a half since donating my car to a nonprofit organization, and my survival using public transportation and renting cars when absolutely necessary for business and volunteer purposes, for example.
“You never got a new car? You still don’t have a car?” an associate from my church asked me about three or four times in the last year and recently. She continued, "You need a car."
We talked about getting together for lunch, but we work on different ends of the DC metro area. The question arose after informing her that DC’s subway system would be my mode of transportation to the suburb where she worked.
We met at a halfway point and she proceeded to hammer and interrogate me about my lack of car ownership again over our meal. A cool thing happened though. Her words neither affected me nor caused me to flinch, as her views about how my life should be lived carried no weight. Through the teachings of people such as Dave Ramsey and Dr. Thomas Stanley, among others, my self-worth and mindset were now substantially less affected by what other people thought about me.
Furthermore, my decision was made with a clear objective in mind; to be debt free and to be able to save, invest and give more of my money. The plan was also conceived with the intent that future car ownership would allow me to better absorb the costs that come along with ownership; a potential car note, upkeep and repairs, insurance, registration and emission fees, personal property taxes (in states like Virginia), and finally, steadily rising fuel costs.
To many people’s surprise, my lack of car ownership has actually been a fun and educational adventure and has improved my personal health both mentally and physically, as my weight has dropped by 20 pounds due to more walking.
This series will be continued in Part 2 of You still haven’t gotten a car yet?