Question of the week:
Here is my car purchasing dilemma.
I was raised in a blue-collar city in the Midwest, in a community where people had to really work hard to stretch the dollar as far as they could. I also come from an immigrant family and my grandfather left a very impressionable message by the way he lived, helping us understand the value of the dollar and understanding that you should take care of yourself, but never felt a need to go over-the-top or to live a “showy” lifestyle. He was known for generously giving to charity and helping his grand-kids schools, and instead enjoying simple luxuries instead of an extravagant lifestyle.
I have grown-up always living frugally as my parents spent the bulk of their decent size income on our private education. That’s what was important to them, and they really couldn’t afford any luxuries after paying tuition.
Fast forward 20 years, the frugal mentality of a small-town boy is still ingrained in me, although we live in a community surrounded by much more affluent people who are a bit more materialistic.
I still drive a 2011 Toyota Corolla since it is paid off, and it serves its purpose. I bought my wife a luxury car since she was embarrassed to drive in a beat-up Sedan, but I’d prefer to put away our money and save-up towards future investments instead of buying a new car for myself. I’d rather take the short-term embarrassment if it means a brighter and more comfortable future.
Which leads me to my question. To be totally honest, I too am growing slightly embarrassed of driving my Corolla despite its decent condition. According to AJW, is there a point where I should get over my frugality and spare myself the embarrassment? I am also SLIGHTLY concerned that since a car is such a strong status symbol, I could end up depriving myself of future networking and friendship opportunities since after-all, we human beings ARE extremely judgmental.
Your letter raises such great issues. Where does the happy medium lie between being an irresponsible spender and being too tight with money? Your family legacy taught you to appreciate both hard work and the value of a dollar. These are tremendous gifts.
At the same time, you are realizing, correctly, that frugality can have a downside as well. While large parts of our society, with its fascination with social media, encourage people to give false impressions of wealth and happiness, it is nonetheless true that people, quite reasonably, judge you on how you present yourself. For example, we have always wondered at those who turn to thrice-divorced marriage counselors. If you are in the financial industry, it is reasonable for potential clients and referral sources to notice if you present yourself as barely making a living. Their first impression will not inform them that you could afford a better car but choose not to buy one. From that perspective, a more recent car is a business investment. (Apparently, for multi-millionaire celebrities, dressing in jeans with holes and in tattered sneakers is cool.)
Partially because of the semiconductor chip shortage, car prices are skyrocketing right now. We certainly wouldn’t encourage you to buy a new car if that is an irresponsible step at the moment. However, we would say that shifting your mindset to realize that some things that your grandfather would have seen as luxuries may be closer to necessities in your life. In that vein, we are glad that you opted to have your wife drive a car that fills her with pride in your economic success rather than being embarrassed. We don’t for a minute think that she mindlessly splurges on unnecessary items. In that case, if this was important to her, you were wise to recognize that.
David, you and your wife sound like a couple on the path to greater financial and marital success. Treasure the precious teachings of your past while you stay open to being flexible to the shifting realities of the present.
Onwards and upwards,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
In 1999 our book, America’s Real War, is as important and relevant today as it was when it was written.
America’s Real War argues that the real chasm in American culture is not between blacks and whites, rich and poor, men and women, or Jews and Christians. The real divide is between those Americans who believe that Judeo-Christian Bible-based values are vital for our nation’s survival and those Americans who believe that these timeless truths obstruct progress.