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If you can’t afford to lose it…

My last car was 12 years old, had 160k+ miles on it, had dents, hail damage, murky lights, and an ugly cheap interior. It shook when it idled, it made lots of noises, and the hub caps were hideous.

When someone dented the door in a parking lot, I could barely notice it among all the existing dents. When some of the paint chipped off, I didn’t care because it was already ugly. Hail evened out the hail damage, mud covered up the rust, and every new noise just added to the cacophonous symphony. As much as I wanted a car that worked how it should, I learned a valuable lesson from that car. Because that car was in such poor shape, I didn’t ever worry about it, and the worse it got the less I worried about it. Every new problem just turned that lemon into sweeter lemonade.

Do you know anyone who has a nice car but is afraid to drive it for fear of the car getting dirty or damaged? They park at the back of the parking lot where no other cars are, they are stressed any time they leave it for an extended period, and they are distraught over any small scratch or dent. I always have the same question when I see this. Is it worth it? What luxury is worth taking on the additional fear and stress?

The point of this is not to tell you to only drive beaters, because they often cause more stress than a newer car would. What I’m saying is that if you can’t afford to lose it, you probably can’t afford to own it. This doesn’t just apply to cars.

Financial

From a financial standpoint, if a material possession represent such a large portion of your net worth that losing or damaging it would make a significant impact, then owning it presents a significant risk to your financial health. You should be focusing your resources on getting to a more solid financial position and then making large purchases from a position of financial strength. Even if you pay cash for it, expensive possessions tend to come with costly upkeep whether cleaning, repairing, maintaining, storing, insuring, protecting, etc. The ongoing cash flow requirements can hinder your ability to give, save, or invest for any other goals.

Non-Financial

From a non-financial standpoint, if you can’t afford to lose it, then you can’t afford the fear and stress that will come from the possibility of losing it. Most people make large purchases to improve their quality of life in some way. If the purchase is a source of constant stress and worry, how well is it fulfilling the purpose you bought it for?

Clearly this concept does not apply universally to all large purchases, but my hope is that it will cause you to think twice before buying anything that you “can’t afford to lose” and ask if it is worth it. Is it worth the opportunity cost of using the funds for other goals? Is it worth any ongoing financial requirements that come with it? Is it worth the stress of maintaining it?  Is it worth the fear of losing it? Is it fulfilling the purpose you bought it for?

Josh Roberts

Josh grew up in Tyler and after graduating from Baylor with a degree in financial planning, moved back to Tyler to pursue a master’s degree in accounting at UT Tyler and a career in financial planning. Josh holds the Certified Financial Planner designation and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Texas.
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