Our Shared Ongoing Battle To Not Buy A Tesla

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Like you, I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to buy a Tesla at some point.

I can tell because I have read every last scrap of Tesla news and inadvertently memorized every last technical detail about the company and their cars and energy storage systems that has ever been printed or YouTubed. Since about 2012. When this happens to me for any product, whether it’s a new laptop or a different vehicle  or a house in a certain neighborhood, I usually end up buying it.

The purchase tends to happen when the list of justifications builds up to a tipping point where it starts to seem sensible. For the Tesla, these justifications are things like:

  • “I strongly support the company and its mission. Unlike almost any other big company on Earth, Tesla exists primarily to help out the human race. Surely worth a few of my spare bucks, right?”
  • “I can afford to buy it in cash without having to go back to work or anything extreme like that.”
  • “It’s the best car AND the best piece of technology in the world, and at least ten years ahead of the next best. Shouldn’t a lifelong tech expert like myself be taking a peek at the future?”
  • “It would be a lower-pollution way to replace some of my air travel, as the only car that can drive itself most of the time on long highway trips. PLUS, imagine the road trips I could take with my son! Mammoth Caves National Park! Lifetime Memories just like I have with my own Dad!”
  • “They are reasonably priced these days at “only” about $45k for a new Model 3 and even lower for a used Model S.”

In the past, my mind has made up similar justifications for other purchases like, “this lovely camera will help you create more engaging pictures for the blog.”, “this drywall hoist will save you a lot of time”, “you will make a profit by owning this high-end new laptop because it will encourage you to write more.”

And it’s not just me. As I’ve talked to more and more people about this, I find that most of us have some sort of Purchase Justification Machine running in the background of our minds. The PJM’s effects can range from very useful, like a carpenter buying a nailgun which will be used every day to make money, to completely disastrous, like the office worker who buys a $40,000 8-passenger Honda Pilot for his 12,000 annual miles of mostly empty driving on smooth roads, because “I need to make sure I can get to work in the winter, too.”

I like to fancy my own PJM as being at least a bit better than average, after all I have always maintained a slightly-less-ridiculous level of spending than the average middle class worker. Most of the things it has talked me into buying have indeed been things like nailguns or reasonably good quality clothing that just happens to be from Costco or the thrift shop.

Yes, there was once a brand-new $13,000* Honda VFR800 sport motorbike which destroys a lot of my credibility, but that was in 2001 long before Mr. Money Mustache was born.

But I can TELL that it is really grasping at straws when it tries to justify that Tesla. And that’s why I thankfully still don’t have a Tesla.

The PJM has done its work well, but I try to stay ahead of it by tossing in my own list of objections, like throwing gnarly stumps into a wood chipping machine to slow it down.

  • “You don’t even have anywhere to drive that Tesla, dude! If you had a mandatory 20-mile commute and absolutely could not move closer to your six-figure job, that would be one thing. But you’re retired and you bike everywhere, so a car is only for camping and hiking trips. Wait until you are further along in the child-raising project and have more free time to take off for month-long road trips.”
  • “You can’t just leave a $40,000 car out in the searing Colorado sun to bake and fade and collect birdshit, but you also don’t want to sacrifice an entire bay of your tidy workshop garage for a car. So you need to at least wait until you build that master bedroom deck which doubles as a carport, right? So you’d better get out the post-hole digger before you sign into the Tesla Design Studio.”
  • “No matter how much you use that car, it will always cost more per mile than cross country air travel even with full carbon offsets. So don’t get lured in by the nearly-free nature of electric car charging.”
  • “Make sure you try it before you buy it. Rent a Tesla from Turo or from a friend and try your first road trip. If you still crave one after that first thrill wears off, then we can talk.”

See what’s happening here? In order to keep ahead of the relentless efficiency of my Purchase Justification Machine, I just need to throw up nice, rational roadblocks to slow it down.

But the reason this is so effective is that I’m not just flat-out denying myself that Tesla. It’s pretty hard to tell yourself that NO, you can never have what you want. Instead, I’m just telling myself what things need to happen first, before clicking “buy” on the Tesla website.

And if these things are healthy, happy things (raising my son, getting other labor-intensive projects done with my own hands, and planning a great future series of camping and roadtrips), I divert my attention into living a good life right now, instead of doing the easy thing which is just buying myself another treat.

And the further I can delay this or any purchase, the longer my money can remain productively invested in stocks, and the more it prevents my PJM from locking its greedy crosshairs onto the next little lifestyle “upgrade” that it will find.

But this trick is not just for jaw-dropping electric sports cars. You can use it almost anywhere in your own life.

Kicking the Kitchen Down the Road

A friend of mine loves to cook, and has been pining for a kitchen upgrade for many years to make this activity more enjoyable. And I can’t blame him – his kitchen is indeed dated, as is the rest of the house. But he’s also in debt and not climbing out very quickly. And too busy to do the kitchen upgrade work himself, because work and kids suck up all his time. Should he allow himself to upgrade this kitchen?

Yes!

BUT only after meeting a carefully considered list of conditions:

  • Quit Cable TV, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Twitter, video games, and other time drains. Because getting three hours of life back each day will give you more time to address other shortages in life.
  • Make sure you’re getting in at least an hour of outdoor walking and/or cycling every day. Plus, regular weight training. The joy of a new kitchen is nothing compared to the benefits of getting your heart, muscles and mind in better shape.
  • Use another hour of each day for cleaning, organizing and optimizing the house you already have. Is every drawer in the kitchen well-organized? Could you get more space by hanging up the pots and pans? Adding one of those large but simple heavy duty rolling islands with butcherblock top from Costco? What about just a super nice faucet for 80 bucks and a couple of nice track lights?**
  • How about the rest of the house? Are  the closets well-organized with optimal shelving? Is the garage spotless? Carpets DIY steam cleaned and rooms patched and painted nicely? Gardens and lawn tidy and peaceful?
  • How about the finances? Have you checked around for lower mortgage rates, home and car insurance, mobile phone plans, and canceled any unused subscriptions? Ask your friends what rates they are paying for all these things, switch to the best option, and you cut your bills by $500 per month, which will add up to pay for a kitchen pretty quickly.

See, instead of being constantly depressed because it will be years until you can afford that kitchen, you use it as a trigger to get busy and improve your entire life right now. Which gives you the feelings of happiness and control that were making you crave that kitchen in the first place. Or that Tesla.

And on that note, I am going to get out there and start measuring the post locations for my new deck.

Epilogue!

The very day after I published this, I went down to visit a friend in Broomfield to chat and borrow some of his spare video gear (to help me delay purchasing my own, of course!)

But what should I find in his driveway, but a BRAND NEW Tesla model 3, long range all wheel drive in the same glowing red color shown above, which he had just picked up the day before.

I gave him the whole interview on why he bought it, because I know he doesn’t commute to work and has no need for a fancy car either.

They were the same reasons that I had listed above – he’s mostly curious about the future of technology, wanted to support it, and knows that Tesla is it. If it weren’t for Tesla’s existence, he would be perfectly content with a 15-year-old Honda. This company is really pulling out a unique set of buyers that no other car company could ever entice.

So we took it for a test drive. My diagnosis: very similar to the Nissan Leaf in interior size and tight, silent driving feel for standard urban driving – except much more artistic inside and out, and so fast that you literally start to lose consciousness and get dizzy under full acceleration. Kinda silly, but the very existence of cars is silly so you might as well embrace it.

Oh! And unlike the Leaf, when you fold down the rear seats and climb inside, it is plenty big and flat to sleep two people, which makes it a passable road trip mini-camper, even without a proper hatchback.


In the Comments: what is YOUR Purchase Justification Machine trying to make you buy? Have you already bought the Model 3 or are you still milking the 2010 Prius for all it’s worth? How long are you going to push your current smartphone until you allow yourself to replace it? Sharing your battles will give others the strength to keep their own procrastination game strong.


 

* I forked over $10,000 of my hard-earned cash as a 26-year-old kid in the year 2001, which is about $14,000 if you adjust it for inflation to 2019. But motor vehicles prices have risen slower than general inflation over recent decades, so I split the difference a bit here. But any way you slice it, this was a foolish purchase on my part!

** I linked to those because I have been using that particular track light everywhere in recent years – headquarters, home, and other projects. Way nicer quality/style than the options at Home Depot despite lower price. These LED bulbs are great for it as well.

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