FI Lifestyle

We Bought a Gas-guzzling, 54-year-old Car (and Are Happier for It)

classic mustang

The ‘new old’ car (from 1965) and the ‘old new’ car (from 2008)

I aim to live as Mustachian of a life as possible, but my family has some very non-Mustachian habits! Topping the list of face-punchable offences is… my husband’s love of muscle cars. 

He especially loves 1960s Ford Mustangs, and we ended up buying one in June. In my most-recent FI progress update, I wrote: 

“This car purchase is about as non-Mustachian as it gets! The car is 54 years old and a gas guzzler. It’s car number three for our household (but we only have a one-car garage!) To top it all off, we did the unthinkable and paid for it with borrowed money.”

I also mentioned in the post that there was more to the story… and that’s what this article’s about. It should (hopefully) convince you that we’re not totally crazy.

The car Q&A

We received a lot of questions from friends, family, and my readers—so I thought it’d be fun to explain everything in a Q&A format. 

The questions below are a combo of real questions and ones I made up (because they’re questions I’d want to ask of myself!)

Q: Have you lost your minds?!

A: It sure seems like it, but no, we haven’t! This was a carefully-considered decision and M and I did a lot of talking and planning before we went ahead with the purchase.

Q: Is M having a midlife crisis?

A: LOL, the theory lines up—M’s 43 after all! But no, he’s perfectly happy with life and had other important reasons to buy this car.

Q: Okay, what were these ‘very important reasons’?

A: I’m glad you asked! We have four big ones:

1. M’s eye health

This was the biggest reason by far. It’s what convinced me to set my Mustachian beliefs aside and make this purchase happen.

You see, M has a condition called Coats Disease. In a nutshell, the blood vessels in his left eye leak. This leakage causes swelling in the retina, which can lead to retinal detachment, blindness, and even enucleation (removal of the eye). 

To treat this, M gets a monthly steroid injection into his eyeball. (Yeah, it’s as fun as it sounds. 🤢) While M’s specialist is amazing and has given him the best care possible, his vision has continued to decline.

We fear he’ll one day lose complete vision in one eye, which could mean he can’t or won’t want to drive anymore. At the rate his vision’s declining, that could be in less than 10 years. M’s only 43, so that’s a pretty upsetting proposition. 

For this reason alone, buying the car now, while he can still fully enjoy it—is an obvious choice. Because… YOLO, right? 🙂

2. M’s promotion

Back in May, M finally received a long-awaited promotion and pay increase. While the increase wasn’t a huge amount, it was something. That got us thinking about what we wanted to do with the extra money. Initially, we mulled over a few options: investments, travel, stuff, or nice food.

As we continued to discuss it, M came to a realization. We’re pretty happy with how much we spend on all those things… so what if instead, we got his dream car now?

Based on the fact that we try to live the FI life every day (instead of waiting to do everything post-FI) M’s suggestion made complete sense.

3. The right car at the right time

mustang park

Another reason we decided to purchase the car so quickly was a simple matter of timing. It just so happened that this car was on the market right when M was ready to buy. Additionally:

  • It was beautifully restored. No detail was overlooked and all the work was done properly.
  • It was located locally—less than an hour away in Langley. 
  • It was originally from California, which is desirable for used cars. That means there’s likely no damage from snow, rain, or road salt.
  • M did a lot of research and knew exactly what he needed to watch out for. He also brought a car-savvy friend with him to check it out. (The car passed his inspection with flying colours.)
  • The price was very fair—at least $10,000 less and in better condition than comparables.

With so many things lining up, it felt like this car was meant to be! And based on how long M’s been looking for a car like this, we knew it could be decades (or never) before M came across another car as beautiful and well-priced as this one.

4. M’s happiness

While a new car wouldn’t make me happy, I know it makes M very happy. And you know what they say: happy spouse, happy house! 

I’ve got a lot more to say about the happiness factor, but I’ll save it for the next question… 

Q: But you know material possessions don’t bring happiness… right?

2008 mustang
M's 2008 Mustang (that he's keeping, because the convertible will only be for summer use)

A: For many of us, that’s true. But cars do make M happy. The 2008 Mustang he bought 11 years ago still makes him smile every time he drives it. His heart still flip-flops when he looks at it. And he misses it when we go on vacation. (It’s true! M loves his cars that much.)

Cars make M happy

While most of us believe that material possessions can’t make us happy, cars really do that for M… but why? One of my friends had a very insightful response to this:

“Maybe it’s because he’s already happy. M has everything he wants in life. This car isn’t filling a void. It’s adding to an already-happy life. That’s why this ‘thing’ makes him happy.”

My friend was right—I couldn’t have said it better myself.

It’s about the experiences

I also have a second theory about this… remember how I said that it’s experiences, not things, that make people happy? Well, when I think about it, the car does bring experiences into M’s life.

He gets to drive friends around in it, tinker with it, and hang out with other car enthusiasts to talk and learn about it. That is, M does things with this car—it’s not just a passive object that he owns.

My takeaway

Here’s what I’ve concluded: sometimes, things can bring happiness. But there are two caveats:

  1. It can’t be used to fill a void. You have to be fulfilled and have all the ‘big rocks’ of life in place already. 
  2. The ‘thing’ should be something that brings new experiences into your life (ideally with other people).

If those two conditions are met—congratulations! You’ve just bought yourself some happiness.

Q: What happened to the Shelby that M wanted?

2016 shelby mustang
This was the car that M originally wanted (but in blue, with white stripes). Photo credit: Pxhere

A: I mentioned in another post that M’s dream car was a Shelby Mustang. For the last few years, our plan had been to save up enough to buy one once we reached FI. 

But as M considered how to spend his new earnings, I asked him to think about what would make him happy. Was this high-end car really what he wanted? As it turned out, it wasn’t. 

After some time and thought, M realized his real dream car has always been a 1965 convertible Mustang. And it still is. 

He would’ve loved that Shelby—just like he loves his 2008 Mustang. But neither of them will ever be this car. He’d always still dream about it and wish he had one. So, the Shelby got shelved, and the hunt for a classic Mustang began.

Q: What’s so special about this old Mustang?

90210 brandon walsh mustang

Brandon Walsh driving his convertible classic Mustang (via GIPHY)

A: Believe it or not, M’s love of classic Mustangs started because of Beverly Hills, 90210. (Yep, the original show from the 90s—we’re that old!) When M was 16, he saw Brandon Walsh driving a ’65 convertible on the show, and he was hooked.

For 27 years, M pined after this car. But practicality (and a frugal wife) always stopped him from actually purchasing one. There was also the issue that these cars are old. Most that came on the market were in rough shape and needed a lot of repairs.

When M found the car that he ultimately bought, he knew it was the one. It’s the realization of a nearly 30-year-old dream!

Q: What about you? How do you really feel about the car?

My favourite part of M’s car: the retro styling

A: I’ll be completely honest—this car and its purchase go against every one of my Mustachian sensibilities. Based on all our big, important reasons, the purchase should’ve been a no-brainer. But I still had a hard time getting on board.

I’m frugal by nature, and spending such a big chunk of money always gives me pause. It’s not easy for me to part with our hard-earned cash! 

I turned to Ed Rempel (our amazing financial planner) to help me plan this big purchase. I told him I was uncomfortable spending so much money and delaying our path to FI. In response, Ed sent me this:

“There is nothing wrong with spending ‘too much money’ on 1 or 2 things if they are fun or meaningful for you and don’t mess up your long-term goals. You and I are focused on financial freedom and wealth building, but that’s not the only priority in life… you can’t let your desire for financial independence drown out your passions.”

Ed was right, and I was grateful for his perspective. I needed to quiet my rational brain and let my emotional brain take the lead on this one. 

Ed’s advice, combined with lots of honest conversations with M, allowed me to move on. I let go of my natural urge to frugal things to death, and focused on the happiness it would bring to M.

Fully on board

I’m now fully on board with the car, especially when I see the joy it brings to M. Even better: he’s been learning how to service and repair it himself. Not only does he get quality time with uncles and friends who are teaching him, but he’s also growing his skills. (And as we know—connections and learning lead to more life satisfaction and happiness.)

For all of this, the car has been worth every penny. (I just have to breathe and stay calm when I reconcile the gas receipts in YNAB! Gulp.)

Thank you Women on FIRE!

I also have to give a shout-out to the lovely, supportive women in the Women’s Personal Finance (Women On FIRE) Facebook Group. I asked them what they would do in my situation, and their replies echoed Ed’s: life’s too short, and M should definitely get the car. 

Receiving this near-unanimous reply from these financially-savvy women helped so much to further validate our decision. Thank you, ladies!

And that’s the story!

See—we’re not so crazy after all! As I like to say, I’m all about living the FI life now. I don’t want us to save all the best experiences for our post-FI life. Waiting could mean it’ll be too late to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard for. 

That’s why we take expensive international trips with our kids now. Or bite the bullet and drop $500 on a dinner out with friends. Or, in this case, why we bought a third car—even though it’ll alter our journey to FI.

But wait—what about the financing? Didn’t you say you borrowed money to pay for the car?

Ah yes, the elephant in the room… we broke a cardinal rule of personal finance and borrowed money to pay for a car. Yikes! What kind of FI blogger am I?

Despite appearances to the contrary, this was a sound decision! We came to it with our financial planner’s guidance and a lot of careful thought. 

Doing the math, it made more sense for us to keep our money invested, and pay for the car with a personal line of credit. We will quickly pay down this loan with any extra cash we have—after topping up our RRSPs and TFSAs.

What’s your verdict?

Let me hear your thoughts! Do you still think we’re crazy? How’d you handle it when your partner’s purchases didn’t align with your values? I want to hear about it!

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  • Reply
    July 22, 2019 at 6:59 am

    These are all great reasons Chrissy – but I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that I fully agree with your rational!!!

    I love your financial planners advice as well! Wise words, and as someone who also has difficulty balancing my frugal roots against living a balanced life, it can sure be nice to hear another financially savvy person say those reassuring words!!

    • Reply
      July 22, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      Right? It meant so much to have Ed’s ‘blessing’ for this purchase.

  • Reply
    July 22, 2019 at 9:11 am

    That is one beautiful car 😍

    • Reply
      July 22, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks Darlene. It is pretty easy on the eyes!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2019 at 10:54 am

    I could have written this post myself! My husband loves old Mustangs. He has RP and his eyesight is starting to limit his driving. It didn’t make sense to get into an expensive car he wouldn’t drive very much. So, instead, he bought a 1970 VW Karmann Ghia convertible to restore. Like you said, the social aspect of his project makes the money we’re putting into it worth it. Enjoy those rides around town 🙂

    • Reply
      July 22, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      Hi Ana,

      What a crazy (and terrible) coincidence that both of our husbands have eye conditions and a love of old Mustangs. M also loves old Karmann Ghias! They’re gorgeous cars. Thanks for coming by to comment. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 23, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Congrats! You guys are crazy, but it’s your life. 🙂
    We love convertibles too, but it’s not practical at this point. I’ll definitely get one later when things line up.
    So how much did it cost? A classic car like that should maintain its value very well, right?

    • Reply
      July 25, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      I know we’re crazy, but I guess it’s okay since we’re happy and having fun, right? Ha ha.

      Let’s just say this car cost more than my Mazda 5 but far, far less than what a brand-new Shelby (the car my husband originally wanted) would’ve cost. 😉

      Apparently these classic cars, if well-maintained, hold their value or even increase in value. Only time will tell if that’s the case…

  • Reply
    July 24, 2019 at 1:57 am

    Congrats to your husband finally being an owner of a classic mustang. That’s a pretty sweet ride and he should be elated since he’s been wanting a Mustang for a while now. Purchases like this are worth it because it brings joy and happiness to him and it seems like a purchase that will not give him a buyer’s remorse. As long as it won’t damage your finances in the long term then it’s worth the money.
    Btw, I secretly watched 90210 in the ’90s and Brandon was one of my favorite characters on the show along with Dylan(RIP Luke Perry). Probably the cars they both drove( Brandon’s Mustang and Dylan’s Porsche) and not their sideburns were the reason I liked them.

    • Reply
      July 25, 2019 at 8:44 pm

      My husband loved your comment Kris—especially when you said you liked Dylan’s Porsche! He also loved that car (and Steve Sander’s Corvette!) Yeah—he’s a car nut!

      LOL about the sideburns! I think that’s what attracted us girls. 😍

  • Reply
    Abigail @ipickuppennies
    August 7, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Especially given the vision situation, I think it was the right move. Though obviously advances in medicine may extend the life of his vision/fix the issue, that’s not something you want to count on. And it sounds like this would be a major life regret to have missed out on. Sometimes you have to prioritize happiness over the most austere financial logic.

    And you have the money — or are getting the extra money for it, anyway — so it’s not as though this derails your plans. I’m glad he’s loving the car so much!

    • Reply
      August 9, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      M really does love this car! I’m still getting used to the extra expenses associated with it, but it’s getting easier. Thanks for such a kind and thoughtful comment!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2021 at 7:56 am

    I would like to give you some encouragement with your husband’s vision. I have had eye problems all my life, and have one good eye. The other eye has a little vision, but not much. I am in my 60s now and have been able to live a normal life. I am able to drive a car, but my license is for daylight driving only. I am able to do most everything I want to, and have made adjustments as needed, like leaving extra room when I am driving to compensate for the lack of depth perception. I wish your husband the best with his issues and wanted to say there is hope and encouragement with having one good eye.

    • Reply
      November 2, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Hello Chris—you’re very kind to have left this supportive and encouraging comment for my husband. He often feels anxious and sad about how his life might change as his vision worsens.

      Your experience gives us both a lot of reassurance that he can still lead a very happy, productive life. Your optimism is inspiring. I’m sure that’s played big a role in the way you’ve thrived, despite your challenges.

      Thank you so much for sharing. It means a lot! ❤️

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    It is the reality about your hubby’s eye condition, which makes alot of sense to get a car where he can happily spend some time.

    My partner (who passed away a few months ago) gave up having a car post his divorce. I already didn’t like driving and gave up my license in early 20’s. So when he and I knew each other, we lived a car-free life in Toronto, Vancouver, etc. Occasionally we rented and he drove us for a few hrs. However he had a lifelong sleep disorder where increasingly with age, he had narcolepsy..and if he didn’t stop every 2 hrs. or so, he would fall asleep at steering wheel. So he and I were long time cyclists. I still am.

    • Reply
      November 16, 2021 at 7:46 pm

      Hi Jean—I’m sorry to hear of your partner’s recent passing. It sounds like you lived a wonderful, mostly car-free life together.

      His sleep disorder must have been challenging to cope with, but it sounds like you found ways to live with it and still enjoy your lives. I hope my husband and I will be able to navigate his increasing vision loss as successfully.

      I’m hoping to follow in my father’s footsteps, and, like you, become an avid cyclist (and maybe go car-free) one day. thank you for the thoughtful comment. 💗

  • Reply
    Moe (Moementum Finance)
    February 25, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    Sorry to hear about Mr. M’s eye condition. Hope he’s doing better. What a great gesture and way to add to his happiness! Yes, saving and frugality is amazing but it is not worth much if we sacrifice our happiness. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      February 26, 2023 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Moe—thank you for your concern. Sadly, M will likely never recover the vision he’s lost in his eye, but at least his other eye is totally healthy. We intend to take extra good care of his good eye for the rest of his life!

      You’ve shared some wise words. Yes, money means nothing without happiness. Fortunately, the FIRE community has done a really good at sharing this message. 🙂

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