Cash for Clunkers

May 13, 2010 by

My dad helping me fix the truck

I drive a 1991 Ford Ranger. Its awesome. It has nearly 500,000 miles on it and its still going strong (knock on wood).

I love this truck.

We almost traded it in when the cash for clunkers program was going on.  I’m glad we didn’t.

I like the idea of living car free like Tammy Strobel talks about over on her blog, Rowdy Kittens. She talks about and has a book on living car free.  I think that’s awesome, but I’m not there yet. Not right now.

Right now I’m happy with my 19 year old truck.

This post is about 2 things.  Money and happiness.

Lets start with Money.

Some say you can’t buy happiness.

Daniel Tosh  says “its hard to frown on a wave-runner

NEWSFLASH: New cars are expensive.   Even after the cash for clunkers rebate we would have gotten I would have been in debt another 16k and had a car payment for another 4 years.  Why?  I could certainly afford a new car.  But again…Why?  Why buy something you don’t need? Especially something so expensive!  There are plenty of ways you can save money with an older car.

My truck gets me from point A to point B just fine.  My dog likes to ride in the back of it when we take her places.  It just works.  I admit, its not the nicest of all cars, but it works and I like it.

Actually I love it.

And that leads us to the happiness part.

Another favorite quote of mine is ““It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got” — Sheryl Crow

The secret to this one is to make yourself consciously think about it.  Take a look around you right now and look at everything you have. Think about the access you have to way more than you could ever need.  Hold on to that feeling for a second.  Truly appreciate it for what it is.  Do this with specific things you own.   Next time you drive your car, take a moment to think about your car.  Is it getting you where you need to go?  Does it do it with relative comfort?  Does it have a decent radio?  Learn to appreciate those things.

Happiness is a decision.  Its a conscious attitude toward your life.   You can choose to think you will only be happy when you have purchased that new “thing”, or you can choose to be happy now.

Happiness and money are not related.   Too often we make that false connection.  I don’t know anyone in deep amounts of debt that is happy. Usually its the opposite.

Save your money.  Learn to want what you have.  Choose to be happy now.


Not everyone agrees with me on this.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below and let me know what your take on this is.

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  • Tom

    I'm 100% with you on this one. I've been tempted once or twice through the years when my friends and coworkers pull up in their shiny new BMWs to upgrade whatever less-than-impressive vehicle I happen to be driving at the time, but I always arrive at the same conclusion: I don't need a new car. I don't really *want* a new car. I *like* my car. I like the Star Wars stickers my six year old has plastered all over the back passenger side window. I like not worrying about dents and scratches and upholstery. I like the air conditioning and the radio and the (wait for it….) automatic windows!! I like to think back to the way I felt when I was about to turn 16, when the concept of (gasp) owning a car seemed like such a huge step. And then I think: I own a car! I can go wherever I want, whenever I want! I can listen to whatever music I want in my car, however loudly I wish! That's good enough for me.

    -Tom H

  • Ben

    and you hit on a point I didn't even mention, but one of the best parts of owning an older vehicle with “personality” aka dents and scratches, is you don't worry at all about where its parked, people scratching it etc. If you have a new BMW, a scratch or ding is horrible and very costly to fix. I'd rather not worry about such things.

    thanks Tom

  • DaveB

    I don't live in California, and have relatives in Washington so my 1994 Ford Ranger only has 300,000 miles on it. I, however, did buy a new vehicle. Since the trade in value was nil, I kept my Ranger. As it gets 20-25 mpg, and it only takes about $25/month for liability insurance it's kind of a bargain when you look at just the dollars. Looking at the next 15-18 years (yes, I do actually plan that far in advance), I wanted to make a lot of family memories. Now there is that “Do I really need something NEW” question to ask, but there's also the “How long do I plan to keep it, and am I getting what I actually wanted vs. what I could find” question. All of that being said, My wife and I decided for our family to buy a full size F-150. My brother works for Ford, so we got a family deal, so as new vehicles go, it was a good deal. I wanted something that would fit my family, tow various trailers, was an automatic, could haul just about anything I wanted, was 4-wheel drive, and had good resale (although I am planning on dying in, or with this truck). I know how long my Ranger has lasted me, but it is not capable of the requirements listed above. I'll drive the Ranger to work because I park in a high school parking garage and have been keyed 4 times, had a window broken out twice, and been hit once and I'd like to avoid that with the newer truck. The first month out with the new truck, it took my family and I, plus a car trailer and 1963 Austin MIni, all the way to Minnisota. Now, I could have bought a used truck, but I waited 17 years to buy just exactly what the truck I wanted, and that I could trust to do exactly what I wanted. I plan on being in the truck until the end of time. And just sitting in it, or veiwing it, or driving it makes me happy. It's also a little like sex. Having it with someone that has been with other people is not bad. Might even be better (although you would have to try a few yourself to find out). You might not be able to find someone that hasn't been “driven” that works for you, but there is that feeling, whatever it is, of knowing that you're the only one to ever take her for a “drive” or ever will. That makes me smile too. Does all of this create some stress in my life? A bit. It would be easier to have no payment. It will be easier in just a few more years. The dealership where I have major work done on the Ranger laugh when they see my truck because they are so amused that I have been driving it so long. I have friends who have never seen me drive anything but the Ranger. I think that I should be able to do that with the F-150 too. And now we are using it to make memories with my 3 year old son and infant daughter as we use it to tow our travel trailer to parks and places to camp. (although the trailer is another story). I don't think I am disagreeing with you here, but I am thinking that you can do both if your plans are such that you know what you're planning on doing for the next 15 years and are happy and at peace with that idea. I'd like to think I am happy now, and planning and spending in such a way that the stress of my life is no more than it should be.

  • nateon

    Living in the city (and especially in North Beach), and sharing a car with my girlfriend, I have absolutely no need for a car. I love riding my bike around, I save a ton of money, I'm less stressed . . . and I know almost exactly how long it will take me to get anywhere in the city, regardless of traffic. THAT in and of itself is worth it.

  • Ben

    good stuff Nate. I wish i could ride my bike. I'll do it on Friday for National Bike to Work day… thats my one day a year i ride to work. haha

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