I threw the car back into park, unstrapped my seat belt and announced, “I’m going to go fight him.” There was silence… and then laughter. My children knew I wasn’t going after a schoolmate of theirs, even though his comment was obnoxious.
We had been walking through the parking lot. It was a beautiful Florida night, about 73°F with a slight breeze and no humidity. We had just left my daughter’s water polo game where, as a freshman, she started on varsity for the first time and played well. We were all in a good mood.
The kids were talking to someone they knew from school. As we got to the car, the acquaintance said in an unflattering tone, “Nice Honda.”
I’ve written before about some lessons to save money. So cars are not that important to me.
Their school has a lot of kids from wealthy families. The student parking lot is filled with BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis.
I drive a 2017 Honda Accord, the subject of the entitled Beemer-driving brat’s scorn.
The car I had before this one was nicer. I didn’t downgrade because I had fallen on hard times. Instead, something far worse happened.
My dad passed away unexpectedly last summer. The Honda was his car. And as you may know, death does not get you out of a lease contract. My mom was on the hook for nearly two more years of the lease.
So I sold my car and took over the lease. Sure, we could have given the car back to the dealer (while still paying the lease) and I could have driven a more expensive vehicle, but that’s not how I was raised. We’re paying for the car, so we’re going to use it until the lease is up. Once it is, I’ll get something different.
To be honest, I hate that damn car. It drives well, but it doesn’t have many of the features of my old car. But mostly, I hate the reason I have it.
Fortunately, my kids get it. They aren’t embarrassed that their old man drives a Honda while their friends’ cars cost more than double the price. They understand that not keeping the Honda would be a waste of thousands of dollars, and they know that while a car can be fun, it does not define who I am or who they are.
They also realize that we prioritize how we spend our money. We could have bought a bigger house, but we decided to buy a smaller one and put in our dream pool and patio.
I could have a nicer car, but instead, we spend money on family trips that I know my kids will tell their children about some day—and summer programs that provide them with amazing and unique experiences they’ll remember their whole lives.
There’s nothing wrong with a nice car if that’s what makes you happy; I just like other things more and spend my money accordingly.
What does make me happy is that my kids know that we have everything we do because my wife and I work our tails off for it. I’ve been working since I was 16 years old (10 years old if you count shoveling snow in winters). I work long hours. My wife and I are diligent savers and investors.
My kids know all this—not because we browbeat them (though I do regale them with tales of exciting adventures from my snow-shoveling days anytime the temperature dips below 60°F), but because they see us working and hear us discussing investments and spending at the dinner table.
Last weekend, we took my mom our for her birthday. The restaurant was a bit pricey. My daughter was sitting next to me when the bill came. Her eyes opened wide. “That’s a lot of money!” she exclaimed. I acknowledged that it was.
“Thanks, Dad,” she said with genuine gratitude. I guarantee that she cherished that nice dinner out with her family more than the snot-nosed kid appreciated his $60,000 car.