[Really excited to bring you this guest post by Carl of 1500Days.com today. It’s such a breath of fresh air when all you hear from $$$ experts these days is to save save save and hold off on the fun fun fun! And while this post is technically about a car today, try reading it with your own dream swapped in as it’s about the car, but also not about the car. And yet again is another perk to financial freedom – you get a free pass to do whatever the hell you please! ;)]
Cars are a controversial topic in the personal finance community.
Most of us drive modest vehicles, but not all of us. J$ himself bought a Lexus. It’s used, but it’s still a Lexus. Nine months in, he’s happy with his decision. And if you think a Lexus is bad, I topped J$ in a big way.
Confession: I just bought that car you see at the top of the post. It’s a 1991 Acura NSX, an exotic Japanese sports car. It looks expensive, and it was. How can I reconcile this purchase with a frugal life? Should I even bother?
First, the facts:
- Purchase price: $45,000 (more than every car I’ve ever owned combined)
- Our annual budget: ~$40,000 (mortgage, food, insurance and everything else)
- Number of cars in our household: 3
- Number of cars we actually need: 1 (I’m retired and Mrs. 1500 works mostly from home)
- Horsepower: 270 (about 170 more than I need)
- Holding costs: Surprisingly low. The insurance is under $400 per year and I’ll work on it myself. Plus, Acura is a subsidiary of Honda, so it will be reliable.
- Number of times I’ve been pulled over by the police in my first month of ownership: 1
Ridiculous, right? Give me a chance to explain before you whip me with a radiator hose.
I was always a car geek. I was the kid with posters of cars plastered all over my walls. I worshipped the Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborghini Countach and the Porsche 959. Then, the perfect car came along and it was the Acura NSX. It performed like the fancy cars, but was built by Honda, so it was reliable and wouldn’t break the bank to maintain.
I grew up in a lower middle-class household and didn’t have high expectations for myself, so I never thought I’d own this thing. I dismissed it, but never stopped thinking about it.
About 15 years ago Mrs. 1500 was at a thrift shop and spotted this book:
She knew I liked the NSX, so she picked it up for $5. I thought:
Great! I’ll never have the car, but I can enjoy this book for a while.
And then we started working really, really hard. We flipped multiple homes. We saved and saved some more. When we decided we would pursue early retirement, we downsized our home and upsized our savings rate.
All the while, I’d think about NSX occasionally. Sometimes, I’d spot one on the road. Other times, I’d see that coffee table book in my bookcase or stumble across an article about them. I hoped that the urge to own one would die away.
But it never did.
It also didn’t help that a local friend is an NSX fanatic and invites me to NSX parties at his house.
My NSX friend alerted me to a really nice model all the way in Wisconsin (I live in Colorado). I had a friend there that I wanted to visit, so I caught a flight. I couldn’t pull the trigger on the purchase though. Instead of driving it back home, I jumped on a plane and flew back.
I told myself that if the car didn’t sell in a week, I’d reconsider. The car didn’t sell. At the same time, two other NSXs with the same price and similar miles did sell, almost immediately after being listed. Why did the one in Wisconsin sit? I suspect that it came down to location. A car like this is going to be much more difficult to sell in rural mid-America than in a rich, coastal city where the other two were.
Reconciling with Frugality?
We’re a frugal family and I’m tight with the wallet. I recently had this conversation with my wife on the way to a friend’s house:
- Me: We forgot to return the library book again.
- Mrs. 1500: Darn!
- Me: This is costing us $.10 per day. Grrrrrr!
And the frugality doesn’t stop there:
- House: I bought a $176,000 dump and fixed it up mostly with my own two hands
- Food: We go out to eat once or twice a month. Hamburger Helper is tasty and I’m not above Taco Bell either.
- Energy: I get angry at the wife and kids when they crank the heat or don’t turn off the lights
So, how do I justify a toy that set me back $45,000? I’ve done a lot of thinking and the conclusion I’ve come to is this:
If there’s a lesson here though, it is this:
I’m financially independent which recently freed me from my job. I would never have bought this car if it meant there was a chance I’d have to go back to work. Financial freedom (and really, life freedom) is 1,000,000x better than owning this car.
But, if you’re like me and have silly desires for silly toys, my advice is this: Go for it. But again, only once you’re financially independent and the purchase won’t change that.
An Experiment in Happiness
Deep down, the NSX is an experiment in happiness:
- Will driving the NSX set my heart on fire, or will maintaining it burn up my bank account?
- Will changing the oil and washing it give me fulfillment, or will vulgar words pour from my mouth when I can’t get the lug nut loose?
- Will I enjoy talking to other car enthusiasts, or will the curious people who accost me at gas stations get annoying?
- Will I enjoy taking turns at speed on the mountain roads, or will representatives from the local law enforcement community haul me off?
At the end of the day it comes down to this:
Will this hunk of aluminum and steel bring me happiness?
I have no idea, but I’m about to find out.
Carl blogs over at 1500Days.com – a blog all about financial freedom, frugality, and living the good life. You can also find him on Twitter @Retirein1500 or on Facebook.
Liked this? Check out our past financial confessionals:
- “I’ve Spent over $40,000 on Amazon”
- “We Used to Blow Our Money on Motorcycles & Airplanes”
- “I Turned My Back on My Wealthy Parents to Live a Life of My Own.”
- “I Became So Obsessed With Being Rich That I’m Now Sitting in Prison”
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NSX’s are fantastic cars. I still remember Brian Mitchell of the Washington Redskins racing his NSX down Route 28 in Virginia. I remember thinking that this is the car that you get if you make it in life. Which is funny because there was another player, Michael Westbrook, who drove a Lambo but nobody liked him so I didn’t think highly of the car. Funny how certain people can influence car taste. Anyway pumped to see how your experiment in happiness works out.
“Funny how certain people can influence car taste.”
Uh oh; now you probably don’t like the NSX! :)
Yeah Redskins!! You know who was SUPER frugal too there? Chris Cooley! I remember chatting with his brother once about how we still rides a beater around, haha… And that was when he was a starter in his prime!
The frugal community shuns cars in such a way that they often completely ignore the happiness they can bring to certain people. I do not spend much money on many things, but I do plan on having a sports car in financial independence – it’s in my budget.
Congrats on the NSX, it is a timeless car that only gets better with age – great choice!
Thanks Jeremy and I love the attitude! Cars are fine; just take care of your finances first.
“Live like no one else so that later on you can live like no one else!” I understand completely. Right now I drive a beat up 2000 Toyota Corolla worth maybe $1,000, because while building our nest egg it doesn’t make sense to drive an expensive vehicle. Once we hit F/I I can easily see buying a nice vehicle, or 2.
There’s nothing wrong with buying something nice you love after years of sacrifice and hard work to be able to afford it and other things. The whole point of reaching FI is to have options in life. There’s certainly no reason to feel guilty for buying something nice. Buying something like this and writing about it helps show other bloggers and readers that at the end of the journey you can do amazing things; that pursuing FI is totally worth it.
Congrats, your car looks amazing!!!
Previous cars owned by the 1500 household include:
1987 Toyota Corolla FX
1993 Infinity Q35
1991 Acura Integra
Go ahead. Google them. See these unbelievable feats of design awfulness.
Some of those cars had fancy badges, but the most expensive one of the bunch was ~$2500.
I think my old Cadillac beats yours – in both “character” and price :)
Frankencaddy had loads of character! But don’t take that in a good way! Just kidding. Maybe…
Congrats on the purchase! The car looks absolutely gorgeous! If I saw this car on the road, it would definitely turn my head. 45k is not a cheap price, but I’m glad you have it a lot of thought and came to a conclusion that makes you happy!
Mr. FAF wants a Tesla, but that will have to wait.
Mr. FAF has very good taste.
Congrats on the purchase Carl! You’ve clearly worked hard over the years to amass some FU Money, that same status earns you the right to do whatever the F you feel like with it.
I myself was very partial to the Toyota Supra of those days. It was my dream car growing up. I’m still shocked to see how much those babies (Supra, NSX, RX7, etc…) go for 25 years later.
It’s great you found a clean version. Enjoy it…guilt free!!
Supras! I drool when I see last generation ones that haven’t been molested with tasteless modifications. And they have shot up in price like crazy!
The biggest spoilers in the world too, haha… (although probably all aftermarket. I remember thinking the bigger the spoiler the cooler you are – hah)
It’s not the size of your spoiler… Well, that’s what men with small spoilers say anyway…
I like me some Taco Bell too… :)
Funny how it’s always a friend who leads us into temptation. Yours was with cars and mine is coin collecting (which I am successfully fending off for the time being.)
Congrats again on the awesome purchase. Enjoy!
WHAT!! You didn’t tell me you’re into coin collecting! Oddly enough I hardly know anyone in our space that collects. Guess we like it more in our bank account than to look at? :)
I’m trying not to get into it. Have loved it since I was a kid but think it’ll be a money pit, so I’m trying to avoid it. ;)
Ah, what a beauty! I agree with Max your Freedom… this seems like a perfectly acceptable use of F you money! Rev up the engines and enjoy!
Hahaha. :) I remember my eyes bugging out when Mr. 1500 said he wanted to buy a sports car. I even checked the date on my calendar to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. :) But hey, it’s a totally different animal once you have no debt and you’re financially independent. Was it a responsible choice? Eh, probs not, but it’s his money and he’s achieved FIRE, so the haters can back off.
Wow those cars have really gone up in price. I was thinking about buying one a few years back and they were pretty much all in the 20-30K range. Man I should have bought one then, a nationwide search on autotrader confirms it. $45k is a decent price at today’s going rate.
I know, right? While I didn’t buy the car as an investment, it’s nice to know that there is a chance I won’t lost money when it comes time for the NSX and I to part ways.
This car is one of a very rare breed indeed. Your use of the vehicle will nearly certainly be matched or outpaced by it’s price appreciation. As soon as I saw this post I saw this as the greatest argument for the purchase but then also understand why you chose not to highlight that in the explanation as very few people and even fewer in the FIRE community would understand where the market is going on these right now. You bought it right and it’s a beauty, happy trails!
Excellent choice on the car. There is a huge difference between wanting and having. During the wanting stage, the dream evolves into a passion, desire and appreciation. It works well in your case because it turned into an opportunistic purchase to fulfill your very own car of your youthful dreams. Besides, you picked a wiiner. The NSX will hold it’s value while you enjoy it. In fact, if you keep it maintained, it will appreciate as the new NSX is here. The trickle down affect of the model will shine onto it’s predecessor, Now, back to having. I’ll bet you $20 that you walk into the garage at the strangest times and just stare and oogle at her. If so, good, because you’ve crossed over to become the responsible caretaker of her for the future owner while you enjoy her. So please learn how to wash, clay, polish and seal her and care for the leather will guide. (Adam’s polishes out of Colorado will help)
“I’ll bet you $20 that you walk into the garage at the strangest times and just stare and oogle at her. ”
Ummm, are you stalking me or something??! :)
Really though, I’m not counting on any appreciation, but I admit that it’s fun to think about.
I was babysitting a couple of little boys last weekend. We went out to the garage to see it, and they both pointed and said “Look, Batman’s car!”
That alone makes it worth it, haha….
Congrats on upgrading from the stealth Mazda 5 to a police magnet. :)
I’ll stick with our Mazda 5 for now.
Hope the price keeps going up. That would be awesome.
I know, right? The Mazda5 is actually a police repellant. Silly me…
Hah! This car purchase is awesome. It’s well thought out and intentional. Who the hell cares!
I’m going through a similar bout of spending. We almost moved to a bigger house but then pulled back. Instead, we’re using the down payment money to upgrade our kitchen cabinets/counters, got a new TV (our last one was 8 years old), a PS4 (PS3 was about 8 years old as well), and a switch (I LOVE ZELDA. This is my first early purchase for a video game system since the nintendo 64). Also got new living room furniture (our old stuff was a free couch and one from college).
I’m just worried that my younger brother sees all of this and expects that he should be similar right out of the gate after college. What he doesn’t see is that we’ve lived “without” (or at least with the same) for YEARS and we’re finally in a space where we’re saving enough and comfortable with our situation to improve some of our living situation. On top of that, we’re all ready for emergencies (3m emergency fund, money for hot water heater, furnace, and HVAC replacements, car emergency fund).
3m emergency fund… I’m sorry, was that 3 million? O_o
LOL 3 month. :-P
If I had a 3 million dollar emergency fund I would not be working. That would be my income fund.
This. I can totally get with this.
While I watch my finances carefully, cars are a high value source of pleasure for me. I currently pay $600/mo for a used 2011 car w a 2.2% loan with a full warranty. I had been buying older cars and paying cash for them. Honestly, I am coming out about the same under these scenarios.
Recent Cars: Range Rover Classic/Porsche 928/MB W140
While I work on these cars myself, they are not considered the most reliable. I work from home, so that is not an issue. The wife’s car serve’s as the shuttle and mine is for myself, the dog, and occasional emergencies.
All of the above cars were owned about a year and totaled around $7K in each year I owned, just about the same as I am paying now for a reliable late model car that I am driving. I like buying and fixing up cars myself, but they always needed work and I was spending about the same I am now with a financed car. The only difference is that I now have a loan (which I am not thrilled about).
I do make a good living, so it is not breaking the bank.
Whoah, 928! I remember those things fondly! You don’t see many of them anymore…
Nice work, well done! I remember when those came out, I always loved the look.
Hey when you work hard you get to play hard. Fun article too read.
Thanks very much! I play hard, but I don’t drive hard. Well, not most of the time anyway. I’m OK with spending 45K on a car, but I’m NOT ok spending a night in jail!
Hey good choice for car and color. You’ll attract less attention and fewer tickets with a black car, than a fancy yellow one. If at the end of the experiment you have no happiness my brother will be glad to buy it off of you. He’s a car junky too. Good luck Carl.
Nice car. If my memory is correct, Harvey Keitel drove a black NSX in the movie “Pulp Fiction”. In my opinion, buy what you can afford and what makes you happy. I am hard core when it comes to FI. I have saved 40-50% plus of my salary for over 20 years. That type of savings has allowed me to buy a few nice things over the years. For example, my wife bought me an expensive diver watch for my 40th birthday. It was totally frivolous, but as long as it did not impact our savings or cause us to go into debt it is a none issue. Enjoy the car without guilt and be safe.
Oh man, I totally remember that scene! It was at the junkyard. Mr. Wolf jumps in the NSX with a female companion and speeds off. Such a good movie!
40-50% for over 20 years??? You were FIREing before it was even trending!
I totally relate to this car purchase. I have always been super frugal and rarely ever splurged on anything I really really wanted, because I had bigger, loftier, long-term goals in mind. So I saved, saved, saved more than I spent and was very practical in my purchases. My parents bought each of us our first car and told us it was our responsibility to pay ourselves a car payment so that when we needed the next car, we would have cash to pay for it. If we followed this routine, we would never have a car payment in our lives. That first car was a 1979 MGB. I WANTED a two-seater red Mercedes convertible which was my “dream” car, but, of course, I made do with the MGB at the time since it was a red two-seater convertible.
We followed my father’s advice and always paid cash for vehicles. My next car was a Toyota MR2. A red, two-seater, not a convertible, but at least it had a decent sunroof. And the spoiler was cool. Reached 300,000 miles about the time I had a baby and a two seater was no longer practical or safe, so I went with an SUV. Wasn’t even red. So you know this veer off the path would only fuel my desire for another red two seater. Sure would like a two-seater Mercedes, but I need a backseat for the car seat and I better save for college instead.
Then the next generation of the MR2 came out, as a convertible! Could I, should I? I certainly couldn’t justify having a second car, but I did it. I justified that it was waaaay cheaper than a Mercedes. To further help justify it in my mind, I still saved for college AND directed my laser focus on paying off our 30 year mortgage in 7.5 years. So. House paid off. College fund funded. Retirement maxed out. Everything on autopilot. Coincidentally, I ran across a red two-seater Mercedes ad online that met every last one of my pickiest of specifications. (It’s hard to find a red sports car with black interior instead of tan!) It was at a Mercedes dealer clear across the country. The price listed seemed to be a bargain to me, since it was less than 2 years old and super low mileage. Surely it must not have an engine, or must have something mechanically wrong with it? Curiosity got me so I contacted a salesperson. He assured me it did have an engine, runs well and was clean as a whistle. Mentioned it had the “airscarf” heating system in the headrest for when the top is down on chilly nights. Best. Invention. Ever. SOLD! I told him I would take it, sight unseen. Wired the money, was Fed Ex’d the title and I arranged for a personal transport of the car to me.
Most irresponsible thing I have ever done in my entire structured, predictable life. My husband was shocked, my parents were shocked and my friends were shocked that I was actually spending some of my hard-earned money. A day later, the dealer called me in a snit and said the salesman was new and the price listed on the website was a mistake and I had to return the car. Um. No, I don’t, I have the title on my desk. And I’ve waited for this car all my life. That was 8 years ago and I have never had one second of buyer’s remorse. I love, love, l o v e that car. Dream fulfilled. Took 30 years, but worth every penny I spent.
Oh my, that is a wonderful story! I love how the dealer wanted you to return it! Ummm, don’t hold your breath silly Dealer Man!
That’s so great that you have the car 8 years later and are happy with it! This gives me hope that my purchase will work out the same!
Incredible story!!! Good for you!
As a fellow car nut I don’t regret my sports car purchase for a moment. The answer to all the questions for me are yes. I expect you’ll find type same thing.
Hi! I’m your local loan officer at your neighborhood Credit Union. So you wanna borrow $45,000 for a 1991 NSX? Great! I see you have a great credit bureau score in the mid-750s so you would get our best interest rates on auto loan but since the vehicle is a 1991 that puts you in the signature loan rates that start at 9.99%. You want this on 36 months of payments? Okay! Let me run this in my loan projection calculator…. $46,500 (purchase price, registration fees, temp lien fee, etc) loan amount, 36 months, 9.950% interest rate… that will be a monthly payment of $1,499.50. Did you want to throw payment protection on there for Loss of Life, Disability, and/or Unemployment? That will add to the monthly payment. Your first payment will be due on 07/02/2017 and your final payment will be 06/02/2020. Total interest on the loan comes to $7,481.64 and total of payments is $53,981.64. Just sign here_____________.
Thank you for coming to see me today and enjoy your new ride!
Borrow $45,000 at 9.99%? No baby, no! Can’t finance a silly toy. This transaction was a transfer from the bank account.
My NSX friend alerted me to a really nice model all the way in Wisconsin (I live in Colorado).
Something tells me we have the same NSX friend :-) as he turned me onto a ’00 Monaco Blue in New York City back in April.
WJ? That man is connected!
You’ll make $$ when you sell this car. How much smarter is that than the “stealthy” Mazda5, which will do nothing but depreciate.
Taco Bell drive thru is gonna be tough from that close to the ground, tho! (We love the same cars, congrats on finally taking it home!)
As much as I love Taco Bell, it isn’t good road food! If I went through the drive thru, the drive-thru person would either dump my Diarrhitto all over me/the car or I’d do it myself.
I personally am not a car enthusiast but congrats man. If you can afford to do it without sacrificing your lifestyle then I suspect it will bring happiness! Rock on!
I think it’s healthy to be honest about purchases while pursuing a debt free life.
I spent $600 for front row tickets to see Adele and I wrote about it and it was the best concert experience I’ve ever had. We were next to the stage. So, I get it.
The real issue is whether the purchase will continue to bring you joy in the future.
That’s the problem with big purchases. We make them. Feel good for a little while, but the payments keep coming way past the good feelings. Thx
“The real issue is whether the purchase will continue to bring you joy in the future.”
Yep. I paid cash, so no payments. Still, I wonder how I’ll feel about it in a couple years. The worst case scenario isn’t so bad though. I’ll just get bored of it and sell it for probably close to what I bought it for.
We might do this one day. Mrs. Root of Good likes the old Honda S-2000. She can’t drive a stick and I think that’s the only option for that car.
As for a car we actually bought, we laid out cash for a minivan. It’s more expensive to maintain and operate (and buy!) than a large sedan that could easily fit our 3 kids and us, but it’s super nice and comfortable. Most of our annual miles driven is road trips, so comfort is a big deal. It kind of sucks in terms of driving it since I LOVE the feel of a smaller sedan, but having all that space and comfort is totally worth the extra few thousand dollars we’ll expend over the life of the vehicle.
S2000s are pretty awesome! But yeah, Mrs. Root of Good needs to learn to handle a stick. Hmmm, that didn’t sound right. Never mind.
I love your minivan story. Road trips are important to you, so you bought car that fits your lifestyle. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I think you were expecting us to ream you out for this, but I mean, what’s all this financial responsibility for if not to spend money thoughtfully on our true priorities? You go on doing you!
I was kinda of hoping someone would ream me out for it. Not harsh, but a gentle reaming. Yikes, that doesn’t good. You know what I mean. I hope.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the time to have a little fun. You lived a frugal life to set yourself up for retirement. Now that you’re there, enjoy yourself.
Thanks Steve! I hope you take it for a spin next time you’re in Colorado!
Love this: “Go for it…only once you’re financially independent and the purchase won’t change that.”
I don’t think you HAVE to be frugal. Frugality has been one tool that you’ve used very well to become financially free. Well done! But you aren’t tied to frugality, and you don’t need to reconcile your purchase with it. You waited a very long time for that car, and good things come to those who wait. You bought it mindfully when you could easily afford it. And it isn’t a symptom of losing your consumer compass – this really is a special case. I’m interested in knowing how your experiment will turn out. My prediction is that you won’t regret the purchase.
You spent how much on a what now? Stupid dummy. Midlife crisis much? ;)
A friend of mine used to drive a Mitsubishi 3000GT. I don’t know if it’s a remotely comparable vehicle, but it looks fairly similar and you can nab one for under $10,000. Maybe that’ll be my frugaler crisis vehicle.
“Stupid dummy?” And I was going to let you drive it…
“Midlife crisis much?” No. You’ll know I did that when I buy a second home! Wait, oh crap, I’m sitting in yours right now! :)
Oh wait, your second home was a fraction of the NSX price. Maybe I am a stupid dummy!
Warren buffet enjoys coke every single day, even if he knows that its bad for him. His reason, its better to enjoy life while you still have it.
Even in a frugal lifestyle, money is a tool to get to a net worth to live the life you want. If that means financial freedom + a NSX, then by golly you better get it. Enjoy the new car!!
“Stupid dummy” Heh.
Don’t worry PoF, you’ve lost nothing. I was with him when he bought it and I didn’t even get a ride let alone to drive it. :)
Still, it has already brought me pleasure watching him up close agonize over the process and purchase. I even, diabolically, encouraged it. Aha, ha, ha! (rubs hands)
From a happiness research perspective,a fancy car has lasting happiness dividends if it’s not your daily driver. As long as it remains special, I doubt you’ll regret it.
Source: “Happy Money” book
I heard Mr. 1500 is driving it to FinCon and anyone that follows his twitter gets to drive it!
let’s make that #realnews!!
Great post Carl!
I guess I could see why some people may frown upon this, but I think it’s good and healthy to splurge every now and then – especially if it’s something you’re truly passionate about!
I also have to say that I’m very jealous of you… I’ve always loved NSXs :)
Isn’t the point of FI to make conscientious choices with your hard earned money? You earned this. Congrats!
Money is a tool and sometimes it should be used for happiness! You used frugality and investing to change your life so that you could purchase something you’ve longed for for decades without hurting yourself financially. I think this is wonderful! Enjoy!
You’re right about location being important. I once bought a sweet ’67 Toronado in great shape for dirt cheap. Nearly tripled my investment a year later when I sold it on Ebay.
But I had to run up to Iron Mountain, MI to get it!
Oooooh those are nice! Who knew Oldsmobile made pimp cars like that? :)
Carl, I feel the same way about my tractor. I get it.
“She thinks my tractor’s sexy…
It really turns her on…”