black acura nsx

[Really excited to bring you this guest post by Carl of 1500Days.com today. It’s such a breath of fresh air when all you hear from $$$ experts these days is to save save save and hold off on the fun fun fun! And while this post is technically about a car today, try reading it with your own dream swapped in as it’s about the car, but also not about the car. And yet again is another perk to financial freedom – you get a free pass to do whatever the hell you please! ;)]

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Cars are a controversial topic in the personal finance community.

Most of us drive modest vehicles, but not all of us. J$ himself bought a Lexus. It’s used, but it’s still a Lexus. Nine months in, he’s happy with his decision. And if you think a Lexus is bad, I topped J$ in a big way.

Confession: I just bought that car you see at the top of the post. It’s a 1991 Acura NSX, an exotic Japanese sports car. It looks expensive, and it was. How can I reconcile this purchase with a frugal life? Should I even bother?

First, the facts:

  • Purchase price: $45,000 (more than every car I’ve ever owned combined)
  • Our annual budget: ~$40,000 (mortgage, food, insurance and everything else)
  • Number of cars in our household: 3
  • Number of cars we actually need: 1 (I’m retired and Mrs. 1500 works mostly from home)
  • Horsepower: 270 (about 170 more than I need)
  • Holding costs: Surprisingly low. The insurance is under $400 per year and I’ll work on it myself. Plus, Acura is a subsidiary of Honda, so it will be reliable.
  • Number of times I’ve been pulled over by the police in my first month of ownership: 1

Ridiculous, right? Give me a chance to explain before you whip me with a radiator hose.

nsx at bank

The Backstory

I was always a car geek. I was the kid with posters of cars plastered all over my walls. I worshipped the Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborghini Countach and the Porsche 959. Then, the perfect car came along and it was the Acura NSX. It performed like the fancy cars, but was built by Honda, so it was reliable and wouldn’t break the bank to maintain.

I grew up in a lower middle-class household and didn’t have high expectations for myself, so I never thought I’d own this thing. I dismissed it, but never stopped thinking about it.

About 15 years ago Mrs. 1500 was at a thrift shop and spotted this book:

book on nsx

She knew I liked the NSX, so she picked it up for $5. I thought:

Great! I’ll never have the car, but I can enjoy this book for a while.

And then we started working really, really hard. We flipped multiple homes. We saved and saved some more. When we decided we would pursue early retirement, we downsized our home and upsized our savings rate.

All the while, I’d think about NSX occasionally. Sometimes, I’d spot one on the road. Other times, I’d see that coffee table book in my bookcase or stumble across an article about them. I hoped that the urge to own one would die away.

But it never did.

It also didn’t help that a local friend is an NSX fanatic and invites me to NSX parties at his house.

carbeque

The Purchase

My NSX friend alerted me to a really nice model all the way in Wisconsin (I live in Colorado). I had a friend there that I wanted to visit, so I caught a flight. I couldn’t pull the trigger on the purchase though. Instead of driving it back home, I jumped on a plane and flew back.

I told myself that if the car didn’t sell in a week, I’d reconsider. The car didn’t sell. At the same time, two other NSXs with the same price and similar miles did sell, almost immediately after being listed. Why did the one in Wisconsin sit? I suspect that it came down to location. A car like this is going to be much more difficult to sell in rural mid-America than in a rich, coastal city where the other two were.

Reconciling with Frugality?

We’re a frugal family and I’m tight with the wallet. I recently had this conversation with my wife on the way to a friend’s house:

  • Me: We forgot to return the library book again.
  • Mrs. 1500: Darn!
  • Me: This is costing us $.10 per day. Grrrrrr!

And the frugality doesn’t stop there:

  • House: I bought a $176,000 dump and fixed it up mostly with my own two hands
  • Food: We go out to eat once or twice a month. Hamburger Helper is tasty and I’m not above Taco Bell either.
  • Energy: I get angry at the wife and kids when they crank the heat or don’t turn off the lights

So, how do I justify a toy that set me back $45,000? I’ve done a lot of thinking and the conclusion I’ve come to is this:

nsx willy wonka gif

If there’s a lesson here though, it is this:

I’m financially independent which recently freed me from my job. I would never have bought this car if it meant there was a chance I’d have to go back to work. Financial freedom (and really, life freedom) is 1,000,000x better than owning this car.

But, if you’re like me and have silly desires for silly toys, my advice is this: Go for it. But again, only once you’re financially independent and the purchase won’t change that.

An Experiment in Happiness

Deep down, the NSX is an experiment in happiness:

  • Will driving the NSX set my heart on fire, or will maintaining it burn up my bank account?
  • Will changing the oil and washing it give me fulfillment, or will vulgar words pour from my mouth when I can’t get the lug nut loose?
  • Will I enjoy talking to other car enthusiasts, or will the curious people who accost me at gas stations get annoying?
  • Will I enjoy taking turns at speed on the mountain roads, or will representatives from the local law enforcement community haul me off?

At the end of the day it comes down to this:

Will this hunk of aluminum and steel bring me happiness?

I have no idea, but I’m about to find out.

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Carl blogs over at 1500Days.com – a blog all about financial freedom, frugality, and living the good life. You can also find him on Twitter @Retirein1500 or on Facebook.

Liked this? Check out our past financial confessionals:

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