I am a car guy. Not everyone is, and you don’t have to be a car guy to be a man of style or substance, but I am unabashedly a car guy. I love them, old and new, practical and exotic, fun and functional. I love cars. I love driving them fast in straight lines or on curvy backroads. I love the sound of internal combustion engines of all varieties and sizes, with and without turbos. I LOVE CARS. And this is the time of year when models are being closed and out and new versions are being delivered to dealerships around the country and the world.
And I am driving a car that is nearly 20 years old.
I was thinking through some of the ramifications of this, as I was wondering if the car would pass another inspection easily. After all, if I would just go out and buy the new model, complete with the 100,000 mile warranties and such, I could save myself a great deal of frustration.
But I am driving a 20 year old car.
It’s nice, with a fair amount of power, decent handling, and a convertible top, with easily 50,000 miles of life in it.
But it isn’t new.
According to all the advertising around me, if my car isn’t new, I’m just wasting my time and my life. They sound so convincing, so persuasive about the value of owning and driving a new car, it can be a little frustrating when I get behind the wheel of my 20 year old car.
But there is no reason for me to get rid of it at the moment. It runs fine.
So really, it doesn’t make sense to buy a new car right now. I know that, but the advertising can be difficult to ward off. But I remind myself frequently of other things that need taking care of before that delightfully indulgent purchase, and I share them here for the benefit of anyone else looking for tools to keep them focused on wisdom and substance in the face of rampant consumerism.
1. Eliminate Consumer Debt. Any new car will require some financing, and if I am paying interest on credit cards, I’m flushing a lot of money down the tubes I ought to get control of that first
2. Save $1000 Dollars. Those familiar with various financial advising strategies will recognize this as a major milestone. That amount requires discipline and provides leverage in difficult times.
3. Secure Three Months of Food. A year might be better, but most of the time, when things were lean, they cleared up within three months. Providing for a disaster, large or small, is part of being a man of substance, so this one seems like a no brainer.
4. Travel. A small portion of the price of a new car could fund several trips to places I have always promised my wife and children we would go. Maybe I ought to take them first.
5. Buy a Good Bed. If nearly a third of my life is spent there, it ought to be a good one. We are currently nursing a bed that is older than my youngest child, and it wasn’t top of the line then. For a portion of the price of a new car, a new bed would be easy.
6. Finish Household Projects. I have several that are in process, and the only two things holding them up are time and money. Rather than throw the money at more things, I think it would be wise to finish the ones that have been started.
7. Take care of medical or dental procedures. I have a crown that has plagued me for a while. And I have been talking about having Lasik for the better part of two decades. And what about that orthodontia for the kids? Clearly there are some medical pieces that need to be taken care of.
8. Upgrade my wardrobe. I am a big one for not throwing things out if there is still good use in them, but I have been nursing the same suits now for years. The same is true of my shoes, and these two areas should not be skimped on. Having the right clothes means more than the right stye and colors, it means that they fit correctly and that you don’t look like you are wearing your older brother’s hand-me-downs. It wouldn’t take a lot, but it would take something.
9. Take care of outstanding home improvement projects. Maybe you are better than I am, but there always seems to be more enthusiasm for starting the project than there does for finishing the final details. Maybe it’s because they take so much more time, and maybe it’s just because new projects become more urgent, but completing them would make for a nicer home life and will probably take some of that discretionary money.
10. Finish an educational goal. I have two that are plaguing me at the moment. One is to earn a terminal degree and the other is to learn a language. Both will pay dividends, and both will take money.
Having put this list down on paper, so to speak, I find myself wanting that new car even more. So I will use that motivation to start these projects. I will, no doubt, be replacing my current vehicle some time soon, but a three year old beauty will keep me from derailing long term growth and at least some of these ten things until they are all off the list. I share them with you as food for thought, not as maxims or even as challenges. As men of substance, we should learn to discipline ourselves to pursue the best combination of options that life puts before us. Your combination may include new cars earlier than mine, for a multitude of reasons; my only hope in sharing this post is to let you know that we all struggle with the complex balancing act of prioritization.
What aspects of your personal style are you forgoing in order to become a man of greater substance? Please, share with us.