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8 Jul 2016

Cars And The Identities That Drive Them

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by Jesse Mecham

For the last ten years, I drove a very, beat-up Honda Civic. May she rest in peace.

That Honda Civic served us well for a very long time. I think it was four or five years old when we bought it. It was an old car, had a lot of mileage, and with our big family, we drove it pretty hard. But it did the job, and reliably got us from point A to point B.

Sticking It To The Man!

When she finally gave up the ghost, and it came time to shop for a new car—and it’s a fancy new car—I will admit right here to the interwebs, that the hardest part for me was giving up my identity as a hard-working guy who drives a beat-up old Civic.

If I’m being totally honest I was pretty proud of the fact that I was doing well, a successful business owner with lots of employees (at least far more than I’m comfortable with) and I was still driving around in this little beat-up old Honda Civic.

I was sticking it to the man! I was saying, or more accurately, implying that, “I’m actually a little too good for that nice car! Look how humble and frugal I am!”

It’s fascinating, that all that identity was wrapped up in a car, a mode of transportation designed with the sole purpose of getting me from one place to another.

Frugality As A Badge Of Honor

But I was hanging on to an identity I’d built over the last ten years of driving that sweet little car—and it was one I was proud of. I was proud to be frugal.

I wonder if any of you are like that?

You kind of wear your frugality on your sleeve a little bit. You’re proud of it. I know my dad is. He quite often tells me how many miles are on his truck. He’s proud of it and I’m proud of it for him.

But it’s interesting because normally we associate pride with having riches or all this fancy stuff. But pride can take many forms, “Oh look at that guy and his fancy car. I don’t need that fancy car. Me and my big bank account are cool driving our old, beat-up Honda Civic.”

What Is Driving Your Identity?

It is different for everyone. But I think it’s important to be aware of where/how/what is contributing to our identities, which inherently influences our priorities, and ultimately, as with all things, our budgets.

There’s some psychology to it, and definitely a therapy session or two. I’m not necessarily taking a stand either way—I drove a very old car and now I drive a fancy one—but it was interesting to think through it for myself and it might be for you as well.

As you are shopping for a car or any big purchase, ask yourself, “What message am I sending? Am I doing it on purpose? And why?” Just go through the exercise of peeling back the onion a little bit as it relates to who you are, what’s important to you, and why you are making whatever purchase you are making.

It’s something to think about. When it comes to your money, your priorities, and your budget, there is always something to learn, isn’t there? I love it.

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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