A Sacrifice Is Not A Loss But A Gain

Returning Thoughts

I am in my car a significant amount of time.  I have tons of time to think about so many things.  One of the questions I find myself asking is “What in the world do people say when they see my car?”.  My first response is usually laughter because I imagine what people might say who would never be caught dead in such a car.  To make it even more amusing I have a sticker on my bumper that says, “Act Your Wage”, beside another “Anti-Debt” sticker.

To me this makes TOTAL sense, but the average person might say something like, “Hey look, that guy is acting his wage and from the looks of it he doesn’t make much!”.  Hahahahahaha!  It’s real funny until you consider how much we are actually saving each month.  We’ll get to that in a minute, first let me tell you what I currently drive.  I proudly drive a 1985 Honda CRX.  Honestly, for a 24 year old car it’s not all that bad, but it is missing some body work here and there.

Do I Care What People Think?

I used to care, but not anymore.  Society encourages us to try and keep up with the Joneses, so as did many, I fell into the trap too.  Coupled with our desire to “need” more than we could pay for, it was real easy to justify such a purchase without even considering what we were giving up in the process.  Would I enjoy driving a newer, easier on the eyes, smoother riding car with power steering?  Absolutely!!  The question then becomes, “Life is too short and I work too hard, don’t I deserve to have a “brand new” vehicle?”.  The short answer is that you only deserve what you can honestly afford, and you still have to consider your priorities.  If your car payment is made but your struggling to feed the family you can not afford the car.

For me it has become very simple.  If you have to go into debt in order to get something, then you can’t afford whatever it is, hence the fact that you would have to borrow to get it.  Many would disagree with that until they turned blue, but let’s simplify it even more.  Suppose for a second that credit cards did not exist.  If you walk into a store to buy something only to realize that you spent the rest of your money on the bills, the truth of the matter is that you can not afford anything because you don’t have any money.  Some would still argue that there are more complex issues to consider, it’s not that easy.

There is nothing complex about distinguishing a need from a want and making a mature decision.   I have decided to care more about planning our future than what someone who is broke might think of me because I am driving a $500 beater car. (it looks like a hippo tried to take a bite out of the side.)  Although I would much rather drive something newer, the sacrifice that I am making now will be more beneficial than the feeling I would get if I had a white BMW with leather seats.  A feeling does not pay my bills, take care of my family, or put food on my table, but saving money and making smarter financial decisions do.  I will work on the feeling later when I have plenty of wiggle room to do so comfortably.

Burden Or Blessing?

If you have a car payment and are obligated to make that payment NO MATTER WHAT, even though it may not seem like a burden now, it could easily transform into one in the future.  How many people are upside down on their car loans right now because they could not predict a rapidly declining economy?  Certainly, this is a burden.  The truth is that when you put yourself in this position, you are limiting your options so severely that the only real options are bad ones.  Burden!  It is better to make a decision based on strength rather than weakness.

Consider the alternative.  You have a nice $2,000-$4,000 paid for car that has already lost most of it’s value.  (Someone else took the hit on the depreciation.) Now add the current economic decline and ask yourself if you are experiencing a burden or a blessing.  You don’t owe anyone any money.  Blessing! The economic crisis is easier to manage when you don’t have that extra chunk of money going towards car payments, higher insurance premiums, and higher property taxes.  Blessing!  In extreme hardship, you have the option to sell the car if you have to, and even if you do take a small loss from what you paid, you will have that cash in hand to get you that much further.  Blessing!

Our Car Snapshot


  • Paid for Volvo
  • Debt-Infested Vibe (Monthly payment of approx. $290, property taxes of approx. $250/yr
  • Insurance for both vehicles was $146 per month


  • Paid for Volvo
  • Paid for Honda (saving $290 per month plus tons of interest, with property taxes well under $50 per year.  We no longer owe someone else $8500)
  • Insurance for both vehicles is approx. $53 per month

I’ll leave you with this final thought.  If you answer this question honestly you will get the most logical answer every time.  Is owing someone money better than NOT owing someone money? There is only one right answer. Even if you agree with using debt you must acknowledge that not owing someone money is ultimately better.

My recent upgrade to a newer vehicle without going into debt.

About Brad Chaffee

21 Responses to “A Sacrifice Is Not A Loss But A Gain”

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  1. Tanya says:

    Thanks for this post Brad! It is so timely. I have 2 more car payments then I will have an extra $300 to add to my budget! But, knowing this time is coming, I have had to talk myself out of talking myself into why I need a new car. I have been looking forward to driving a paid for car for so long but I could come up with some reasons why it’s a good idea to trade this one in, many of which you have listed in your post. But my car runs fine, it’s a Nissan Altima with 128,000 miles. I know it can last at least another 150,000.

    I was at a bible study last night and one of the families commented on how they are embarrased by their 10 year old beater with duct tape on the windows b/c they are living in a more affluent community now. We just all reminded them that the affluent community is not paying their bills and they don’t really know how ‘affluent’ (in debt) their neighbors are. They decided to keep their beater until they could pay with cash.

    So, you just reminded me again, why I am in a good position right now and why it is wise for me to be content with what I have and not try and justify why I need to owe someone else money.

    Thanks! Keep driving that beater!!

  2. Mindi says:

    Hey Brad! I’ve been remiss on checking out your blog lately, so this was a great one to come back to!

    Stumbled you! (and finally added you to my feedreader!)

    Mindi´s last blog post..CVS: 1/11 to 1/17/09

  3. Brad Chaffee says:

    Hi Mindi! It has been a while. I hope you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and I am really glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks for subscribing!

    Tanya! I know what you mean when you talk about fighting the inner voice. For me it happens with more than just cars. I used to have an XBOX360 but sold it when I started the TMMO. Then there was the big flat screen TV. lol There are so many times where I have had to talk myself out of buying a new game system or a new TV and usually the reason is always the same. I start trying to convince myself that I “need” them, when in reality we are doing just fine with the PS2 and the smaller old school box TV. I could name so many more things. I am just glad that I have fought the impulse. I have actually had a Wii in my hand but then my rational more sensible side slaps me around a little to remind me of what my goals are and why I got rid of these material things in the first place. I still have not been “perfect”, but who the heck is? lol I put back more than I purchase and that is a 110% improvement since starting the TMMO.

    I also have duct tape on my car, which I guess is a common characteristic of beaters. 🙂

  4. Money Funk says:

    They have bumpter stickers? How cool! This is a great post. Very nicely said.

    I have that detrimental car payment at $400 per month. It’s upside down too. 🙁 But it will be paid off next year. I don’t plan on financing another. I have to say that I am fortunate to have my DH working at BMW because we get a new BMW every 8K – 12K miles. So, I get to feel indulged at an extremely good price. 🙂

    To keep your car maintained… doesn’t cost too much?

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      @Money Funk – You want a bumper sticker? I’ll send you one if you want. Let me know. I am glad you liked the post!

      Yeah I have to say I am pretty glad that we do not have the car payment anymore. A new BMW, that rocks!! I am jealous! haha!

      Well I have had to put a few dollars here and there, but honestly it is still WAY less than what were paying for the car plus the added cost for insurance and property taxes.

  5. Just to chime in – don’t you think that a paid for car just drives better? Even if it is a beater?

    We paid cash for our last car, and it feels so good not having a payment for it every month. Instead we just stock that cash in the bank! Lovin it!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      I absolutely do feel that it drives better knowing I have no payment each month. Releasing ourselves from that car payment each month has been a blessing. I hope more people start to realize the benefit not having a car payment provides. Thanks for stopping by Peter. BTW…I love reading your blog!

  6. threadbndr says:

    Those of you who are driving paid off cars or about to pay off your car – piece of advice. Start paying into a car replacement fund.

    Otherwise, when the beater finally dies, you’ll end up with a car payment. 🙁 I didn’t start my new car fund soon enough, but I did have enough to make a BIG downpayment, so I’m not underwater on my new (to me) car.

    I could have bought another beater, but now that my mom doesn’t drive, I don’t have a back up car of any kind, so dependability became a major factor.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Great piece of advice! Definitely important to start saving for repairs and possible replacement early on. I paid $500 for my car, have put 50,000 miles on it, and owned it for a year and a half. We have had to use our Emergency Fund a few times to fund repairs, but never considered getting another car, especially one with a car payment. The most important thing is to have an emergency fund!

      I am completely against having a car payment so I personally would have bought a cash car that is reliable. Often times people will justify getting a car payment in the name of reliability or some other “need”. There are tons of used cars out there that cost $2,000 or less that are reliable.

  7. Dave says:

    First, I love the license plate.
    A couple things:

    When I was 19 years old, I was looking to get a new car. I, at the time, had a Baby Blue Bronco 2. I went with my dad to a few dodge dealership cause I wanted and “must-have” a v8 ram hemi. The price tag was going to be about 18k. Mind you I lived in the city so 1)there was no need for a hemi, 2)I was in college working full time paying all my bills making only $11/hr, 3)my friends pushing me to get it had shitty cars so why was there pressure to be like them. I ended up still taking on debt for new (but reliable) ford ranger. I look back and realize how much I would have wasted by buying that unnecessary Hemi. It was all about the look and I didnt need the look. I was in college for gosh sakes. Everyone is poor in college. Thankfully, I steered my way away from such a bad decision but I know many people that don’t.

    The best feeling with cars is when you own them outright. When you don’t have to think about that dreaded bill each month. Currently I don’t have a car as I sold it before heading to Australia to try and live there. Now, as I have moved back to the States, I am hoping my GF and I can get by with only one car (hers). I am trying to reverse the societal way of ‘Every driver must have their own car in a household’ and become more ‘Green’ by using other very accessible modes of transportation. I will try and use these things called feet for trips under a mile and a bike for anything within 10. I think this will benefit in more ways than just cost.

    Long story short….I completely agree on sticking to being car-loanless.

    Well wishes….

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Glad you like the license plate! It has become my identity, LOL! Just one more thing I decided to do to keep people thinking debt free.

      The mindset you are referring to that tells us we must have something cool, is something we have all suffered from. Thankfully you settled for the Ford Ranger, which is not all that bad of a truck. You are right! Driving debt free is absolutely refreshing. No worries. I know some people that are upside down on vehicles where they make $600 payments every single month. The thought of that is nauseating to me.

      Again thanks for stopping by Dave and I hope you stick around!

  8. Love it! Well done Brad! If you check out my site, I have a car problem, so I wrote “8 Cars In 10 Years. I Have A Problem But You Won’t!”. I think you’ll find it a kick.

    I told myself as soon as I turned 30, i would get a new car, and I resisted. I also told myself as soon as I made over $500,000, I’d get a new car, and I also resisted! I’ve had my 2000 Land Rover for the past 3 years now, and it is a record. All paid for, and I love it!

    I don’t care about what other people think either. I just need something to haul a lot of stuff to Tahoe during the winter, and is relatively safe.

    Hope to see you over at Financial Samurai one day.

  9. Dave says:

    when is the update coming for your new ride

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