Why I Bought a Tesla – The Balance of Saving and Living

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whoa whoa whoa, hold the phone here. Tesla and Financial Independence?! Those things do not mix, right?

A central tenet of the Financial Independence space is spending on what is important to you and cutting mercilessly on things that are not.

Now, I’m not going to say that driving around in a fancy car is super important to me. However, I’ll give some context as to why I made this major purchase in my life.

I’m doing well financially, but that doesn’t mean that I should jump on the hedonic treadmill of lifestyle inflation. No need to start attempting to keep up with the Joneses.

I’m still currently holding down a W2 job and heard the all-too-common phrase as of late — RETURN TO OFFICE. That’s right, my sweet 1 day a week in-office promptly changed to 3 days a week in-office.

Once again, I’ll call out that I’m still extremely privileged to be able to work in a hybrid work environment. It provides me way more flexibility than someone who has to be in-person at their job 100% of the time.

All of that being said, COVID has changed the game when it comes to employers (especially in my field of Technology). I also want to add that my commute, 40 minutes one-way, while short to many around the country is fairly long for the St. Louis area.

Cue my engineer brain to begin to justify the big purchase. Because that’s what engineers do, right? We look at a problem and try and find a creative solution to solve it.

At the time, I was driving a fine piece of South Korean machinery in the form of a Hyundai Accent.

I bought the car from a friend who was upgrading to a truck and he was the single owner. I purchased it in cash and drove it for multiple years. It was quite reliable and got good gas mileage when I was making my commute. However, in doing the commute calculations and the energy cost it gave me pause.

Some other factors included that the model I was looking at, a Model 3 RWD, still qualified for a full $7500 tax credit, greatly reduced energy costs (including charging stations at work), and not to mention it wasn’t exactly the fanciest car out there for a night on the town (and yes of course I wanted it!).

But you may say, ah yes, a person that drives a used Hyundai Accent is much more like the FI person that deprives themselves of all the niceties of life just to retire and live on a paltry sum of money to call themselves retired, right? *End rant from Internet Retirement Police*.

Well, I’m sure I’m not the first Financial Independence blog you’ve stumbled upon. As you may well know the movement has moved away from the cut to the absolute barebones and pull the ripcord as quickly as possible mentality.

The above-mentioned mentality is also why many followers of the movement have abandoned the moniker FIRE, Financial Independence Retire Early, as it raised many questions from contrarians and followers alike. Some of these questions might arise such as “What if I like my job?“, “I want to do whatever I want in retirement and don’t want to live a smaller life than I have to”, etc.

My response to that? Great! One of the best parts of Financial Independence is that it is personal. This is not a one size fits all approach. I encourage everyone to do what makes sense to them and makes them happy.

As opening quote emphasizes, it is important for each one of us to view this journey as a marathon and not a sprint. There are countless stories out there of other FI practitioners that took the nose to the grindstone approach thinking. Often, they thought they’d feel different once they got to that magic FI number. Only to realize that they did not.

All of this to say would my bank account be healthier if I didn’t buy a new car? ABSOLUTELY. But am I enjoying my journey as I work towards my ultimate goal of Financial Independence? You bet.

I hope you too see the importance in enjoying the ride and take some time to smell the flowers on the way to the epic journey of financial independence. The goal is not to optimize for speed, but to optimize for happiness.

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