In my last post I mentioned how my husband has become a disciple of Dave Ramsey. For those of you not familiar with Dave, he is the author of Total Money Makeover. Mr. Ramsey’s motto is “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” In other words, suck it up now and forget about keeping up with the Joneses. Later on the Joneses will still be in debt while you are mortgage-free and living it up.
Now let me stop right here and I say that I get it. I completely understand the plan and the philosophy, and I have read Dave’s book. He makes sense. However, his plan is not easy, especially for people like me who like the finer things in life. Even though we are not as strict as Dave, we are on what I like to call a “modified Dave Ramsey plan”, which allows for some splurges while still being a lot stricter than most American household budgets.
However, there is one area of the plan where my husband refused to budge, and that is the vehicle rule. That is, if you can’t pay cash, then don’t get a new car. (And if your car is in decent shape you probably shouldn’t get a new one anyway, even if you do pay cash).
A few years ago my husband decided to purchase a 1995 Cutlass from his mechanic. It’s old, it’s smelly, it’s rust-laden, it’s just plain embarrassing. However, it’s paid for and it runs, so he prefers to play the martyr and drive it, extolling Dave and cranking his radio show from the ancient speakers.
This car is the epitome of “living like no one else”. Let’s just say that the Cutlass does not exactly fit our house. While you’d expect some nice SUV or luxury sudan in the driveway, instead you see a rusty Cutlass and a 2007 Honda Civic with 110,000 miles on it. The Cutlass stands out so much that our neighbor simply asked us, “What’s up with the old car?” Another woman from church commented, “That’s what they drive?”
Is this embarrassing? Of course. It’s kind of like being 13 years old again and having your parents embarrass you on a regular basis. Only the parents are a car. And you’re thirty-seven.
However, there was one recent incident that mortified me so much that it almost made me sprint to the nearest 0% financing deal. It was the episode with The Golden Couple. This would be the successful, hip, beautiful couple with beautiful children and equally beautiful cars.
Now the day started off innocently enough. I was at my stepson’s football game when my husband asked me to switch cars so he could take the Honda to a meeting 30 miles away. No problem, I said.
Since I still have not gotten over the snobby factor, I hate being seen in the Cutlass. I avoid it at all costs. Therefore, I know that it will be particularly tricky to avoid being seen by the other parents. My first maneuver is to drive by the hoards of parents after the game ends. However, the trouble starts when I have to pick up my stepson from school. I pull up among the other cars, parents waiting in line for their sons. As luck would have it, it’s none other than Golden Couple who pulls up right behind me in their shiny black luxury sedan. Let the mortification begin.
Now since freshman boys are notoriously slow, this gave Golden Couple plenty of time to scrutinize the piece of sh*t car in front of them and recognize it was yours truly slumped down in the driver’s seat. And if they weren’t quite sure it was me, my stepson erased all doubts when he came out of the locker room first (of course) and made a bee line toward the car. Could he have just come out fully dressed like a normal kid? Sure. But no, he chose to come out barefoot, socks in hand, walking across the parking lot to get into the car whose windows can be rolled down but not up. I swear I could hear Dueling Banjos in the background.
As you can imagine, I was quick to recount my humiliation to my husband later that night, probably using the word “mortified” about 30 times in as many seconds. As expected, he laughed at my tale but did promise to look at some other cars that were slightly less embarrassing.
The next day I get this phone call:
Husband: I found the perfect car for us. What do you think of a 1994 Lincoln Town Car?
Me: Hmmm. That would be great. If we were EIGHTY.
Husband: Okay, how about a 1997 Buick LeSabre?
Me: Again, that would be perfect. If we were EIGHTY.
Since then I have settled down a bit. We are getting new tires for the Cutlass. We are doing well on the modified Dave Ramsey plan. I have learned to laugh about the Golden Couple incident. (Okay, it does help that I have since found some dirt about them).
But just remember this: Even if there is a clunker in someone’s driveway, they might not be pennyless or tasteless. They might just be following Dave Ramsey.