Upgrade Your Home Not Your Car

   

Upgrade Your Home Not Your Car simple money man

 

My commute right now is pretty sweet. It takes less than 30 minutes to get to and from work. Since I go to work four days a week, my commute is a total of 120 minutes or two hours per week.  I’m fortunate because, for some people, they are commuting two hours or more per day, but that’s a whole other story.

 

On the weekend, I’d say typically car time could be two hours in total. So for seven days or 168 hours, I’m in the car for four hours. That is 2% of my time. A large percentage of my remaining time is spent at home.

 

Given I work around 40 hours per week and add 10 more hours of cushion (e.g., friends and family homes, parties, mall, grocery store, errands, etc.), I can comfortably say for most weeks I am home for 114 hours (168-4-40-10) or almost 66% of my remaining time.  Right off the cuff, 2% in a car versus 66% at home is significant in time.

 

From time to time I ask myself, does it make sense for me to upgrade my car? Will it add value to my life?  Will it significantly increase my level of happiness? It turns out that the answer always ends up being “no.” And I know this already from experience since I owned a luxury car in the past. It didn’t take long for the excitement to go away.

 

I’m not saying that it’s not worth it to upgrade your car and if it makes sense to you, go ahead. I’m saying at least for me and many others, the math doesn’t add up and the satisfaction of owning one is not there either.

 

 

Commute Increases May Not Matter

 

Looking back just a couple of decades ago, there’s no doubt that the commute time on average has increased and significantly. Per the chart below from the U.S. Census Bureau commute time has gone up by 18% between 1980 to 2015.

 

Upgrade your home not your car commute simple money man

 

 

 

However, the opportunity to telework one or more days has increased too depending on the nature of your work. So you’re commuting time may be offset with the perk of working from home one or more days per week.

 

 

You Spend More Time At Home

 

In the area I live in, people commute on average of one to two hours to and from work. A lot of that time is sitting in traffic. What are you going to do in a fancy car if you’re just sitting in traffic? You’ll be stopping and going just like everyone else at the same speed.

 

On a typical weeknight, I get home around 6:30 pm and go to bed around 11:00 pm. My wife gets home at 4:30 pm and goes to bed around 11:00 pm as well. Both of us have five to seven hours at home to relax. We want to make the most of it for ourselves. We’ve tried to optimize this experience with upgrades that will continuously provide relaxation and for our happiness.

 

Easy upgrades to your home to optimize relaxation, enjoyment, and happiness:

 

  • Comfortable and durable furniture
  • Smart TV with crisp picture and clear sound
  • Comfortable and durable mattress – a good night sleep is ultra-important for your health
  • Outdoor space for when the weather is nice. We have a table and chairs in our garage that can be folded up. We can just roll up the garage door on a nice day and hang out in the driveway!
  • Cozy and relaxing atmosphere through wall paint and artwork.

 

And with these updates, if you ever decide to sell your home, you can take them with you to your next place too. So you’re actually updating your living experience within your home and not the home itself. Sometimes you can even roll up your sleeves to make updates to your living experience yourself and learn a new skill in the process.

 

Thus your home is not just an investment of money; it’s an investment of your time and dividends in the form of relaxation.

 

 

Your Home Appreciates In Value, Cars Don’t

 

Chances are your home has appreciated in value. This calculator from CNN Money can show you how much your home is worth and if it was a good investment.

 

On the other hand, installing cool gadgets and upgrades on your car may seem nice in the beginning. But after a while, you may not use those gadgets.  And according to Linda Richard, it may become difficult when you try to sell the car as it gives off the impression that you ran it hard. Finally, if you are desperate and take your car to a dealer for sale, they may offer you an even lower price if you have installed after-market items to your car because it may not attract at many future buyers.

 

Suze Orman definitely agrees, in that cars are a “lousy” investment because they only lose, not gain value. She says it’s best to purchase a car outright instead of taking on a loan. But if you do need to take out a loan, make sure it is paid off in less than three years. The money afterwards can go towards a better investment: your home.

 

 

Homes Can, Cars Can’t

 

When you’re in your car, how many aspects of it provide happiness?

 

  1. Ride/Performance – you can only go the speed limit; maybe 5-10 MPH more, but I don’t endorse that!
  2. Style – you can’t see the outside of the car when you’re driving it. You can walk around your home anytime and appreciate the updates you’ve made J
  3. Music – can you still drive effectively with the music up really loud?
  4. Navigation – use your phone’s navigation; it’s free to use and free to update. You’ll have to eventually update your car’s navigation system maps and that’s an additional expense.

 

When you’re at home, how many aspects of it provide happiness?

 

  1. Good area – good schools, nice parks and shopping centers, helpful neighbors, and less crime
  2. Fairly new or recently renovated – don’t have to worry about rotting wood, vermin, good HVAC system, water pipes and electrical wiring
  3. Relaxation – mentioned above

 

 

 

Your thoughts:

  1. Have you made upgrades to your home which you continue to enjoy? Have you regretted some?
  2. If you have a luxury car, do you enjoy the driving experience on a regular basis?
  3. If you had an extra $1,000 to spend on a home upgrade, what would it be?

 

 

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I use Personal Capital because (1) it’s free, (2) it tracks all of my accounts and overall net worth, (3) my account balances automatically update, (4) it shows how my investments are diversified and allocated in various sectors, and (5) can use built-in tools like “Investment Checkup” to get….wait for it…free personalized advice!

 

Simple Money Man (SMM)

4 Comments

  1. Hey SMM,

    Super agree. We prioritize our home much more than our car, which is mostly used for commuting, from our garage to a parking garage at work. We spent too much on our current car, but will be downgrading this year. It just makes little sense to drive an expensive car, especially since it will be parked the vast majority of the time.

    Cheers,
    Miguel

    • I didn’t even think about parking and costs for it to just sit there. If you have a really fancy car and want to protect it living in the city costs for parking in a garage is a consideration too. Glad to hear about your downsizing! 🙂

  2. Hi SMM, Does my 2009 4 cylinder base model Camry count as a luxury car? During my pre FI years, I spent so many hours commuting it about killed me. I do not miss it at all. It’s one of the things that led me to pursue FI with urgency. Tom
    Tom recently posted…What’s Your Retirement Formula?My Profile

    • I think you’re ok with a Camry 😉

      I don’t think it matters what type of car we are in when it comes to traffic. It won’t magically disappear if you’re in a fancy car (unless you’re Bruce Almighty).

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