How We Broke the New and Shiny Cycle

IMG_20160613_084516361

See that pic? That’s the odometer on our 2005 Chevy Suburban. It just hit 200,000 miles this last month.  I love our 2005 truck. It runs great. Looks good. And fits all of our needs. The fact that it’s eleven years old doesn’t phase me a bit, but it wasn’t always that way.

For years we were addicted to “new and shiny”. In our defense, we stayed mostly away from “big” new and shiny things after we moved to our McMansion in 2001. We moved to the McMansion right along with our 1999 Ford Windstar and our 2000 Chevy Silverado, both of which were bought new and shiny off the showroom floor.

In our world, we were livin’ the dream. Big fancy house, new cars. We were successful, right? Never mind that we borrowed to the hilt on all three of our new and shiny things.

But after awhile the $450 loan on the Windstar became a burden. I absolutely hated driving to the bank and giving them $450 of our money each money – even if it was interest free.

The pain of the situation became more unbearable than they “privilege” of our new and shiny car, and thus began a slow and painful journey to break free of the New and Shiny cycle of living.

If at First You Don’t Succeed

The first step we made in breaking our addiction to new and shiny was to stop buying BIG new and shiny things. We just kept reminding ourselves of the burden of that $450 van payment and that would cure us of the temptation to buy big.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. You see, we hadn’t yet acquired the change in mindset that is needed to break free of the cycle of debt.

So we switched to buying little new and shiny things.

  • A new gadget for the kitchen
  • A new DVD movie
  • New inexpensive clothes
  • A meal out at a restaurant

Nothing was expensive, but together it added up to living above our means. Every. Single. Month.

We kept telling ourselves the common lies that broke people tell themselves and making the common mistakes that broke people make.

So even though we weren’t buying BIG new and shiny stuff, we hadn’t truly cured our addiction to new and shiny.

The Straw that Broke that Camel’s Back and Made for REAL Change

In October of 2012, exhausted from the rat race that is keeping up with the Joneses and eager for a more peaceful life, we sold the McMansion for an equally expensive hobby farm out in the country.

Our mortgage payment stayed the same but our level of peace skyrocketed.

When you’re stuck by yourselves in a quiet yard where you can barely see your neighbors, the lies that broke people believe aren’t drowned out any longer by the justification of what your neighbor is doing, buying and financing.

We were left to, as Dave Ramsey says, face the man in the mirror (or in our case, the man and woman in the mirror). We saw that we were financially fat. We also were able to see the keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle was nothing but a farce. We were able to see the hamster wheel of that life from the outside looking in, and we finally figured out how very little our pursuit of “stuff” really mattered.

Living in the country, we began to realize the value of peace. Of quiet. Of freedom – the freedom of not having to depend on an employer to survive.

Suddenly, our addiction to New and Shiny was replaced with a desire for more peace, quiet and freedom. We didn’t care any longer about what people thought of us and our possessions; we cared only that we were living life in a way that was making a difference for the better; in our own family and in the lives of the people around us.

So we made our debt payoff plan. We began tracking spending and started creating a monthly budget. We began tracking our debt totals each month so that we could see them going down, down, down.

Sometimes the debt totals went back up, not because we fell for new and shiny again, but because we’d dug ourselves into such a hole of debt (can you say “65% debt-to-income ratio”?) that any extra expense put us in the red again.

So we cried. And whined. And felt sorry for ourselves. And complained about how life wasn’t fair.

Then we pulled up our big boy and girl pants and got back on the debt pay off train.

Our debt isn’t gone yet, but it’s going down. And with each month that those numbers drop, we are one step closer to complete and total debt freedom, because every dime counts.

When we totaled our Suburban last spring it would’ve been real easy to get something new and shiny. It was a super tough year and we could’ve used a pick-me-up.

Instead we shopped around and I went by myself to a dealership to check out a Suburban that was ten years old – a year newer than the one we totaled.

It was in much better shape than our old one, and they were asking 9k. I offered 8k cash including costs. We settled for 8k plus costs, saving our family a thousand dollars.

Last week our Suburban hit the 200k mile mark, as is evidence by the photo above. My mechanic brother recently replaced a couple of belts and some other gadget of which I can’t remember the name, so it’s running perfectly.

We keep it spic and span inside and out, which helps us to appreciate the 11 year old truck more and keeps the value up too.

Recommended Reading: America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams

I often think about the day when all of our debt will be gone. Rick and I talk about what we’ll buy when these vehicles need to be replaced. We don’t have the van any longer, but we still have that 2000 Silverado and it’s got less than 100k miles on it. Rick drives a commuter car to work. We bought it new in 2013 and it’s almost paid off.

We’re pretty much set on never buying new again. We’ll likely choose to save megabucks like the Millionaires Next Door do and buy three to five-year-old used cars and trucks when we’re debt free.

It feels good knowing that we’re driving around paid off cars. It feels good knowing that we no longer have to run to the bank to give them nearly $500 a month of our hard-earned cash.

We’re grateful that we have solid running vehicles that serve our needs well.

More than that, we’re grateful that we no longer rely on New and Shiny to pick up our self-esteems. It feels good to be happy with who you are, no matter what you own.

Have you broken the addiction to New and Shiny? If so, what was it that caused you to see the light?

 

43 comments

  1. Very little in our lives is new and shiny anymore. Our Toyota is a 2006 and it is decidedly “not cool”. Our 1950s home only seems cool if you like midcentury architecture mixed with renos done in the eighties.

    But I’ll admit we’re getting the urge to make the house seem new and shiny. We want to reno the baths and kitchen, at least, and put some new tile in some of the rooms. I suppose it’s just vanity: everything existing works fine. But, within reason, maybe some of the new isn’t so bad.

    • Laurie says:

      I think that new is great – as long as it’s done for the right reasons. In our case, we were buying new and shiny for the purpose of fitting in, and even thought we didn’t have that cash. Not good.

  2. I have a Hyundai Sonata which will hit 200,000 miles in another year. Although it is only a 2009, I have a long commute. I’m sure moving to the farm was a big help since it’s a lot easier not to keep up with the Joneses if you don’t live near them. I think if I worked in Manhattan, I might be more tempted to buy shiny and new but I work in government in a suburban area…my co-workers aren’t as flashy as the high flying wall street traders in the city, I don’t feel the temptation. Plus, my co-workers who do like buying nice things…I see all the stress that comes with the debt and I want no part of that.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, I think the atmosphere definitely makes a difference. In the ‘burbs somebody was always buying something new and shiny. And showing it off. 🙂 Out here, no one cares. It’s wonderful. 🙂

  3. New cars are the biggest money pits. So smart to buy a gently used car and maintain it well. I have had one car loan in my life never want to beholden to anyone for my means of transportation ever again. A great lesson to pass on to our children too! So many young people get in over their heads in car payments.

  4. It is really inspiring that you’ve made such a huge lifestyle change. I love that you’ve traded in new and shiny for peace, quiet, and freedom! Friends have joked that my husband loves anything that is free and broken. The added challenge of having to fix it is a plus for him! I’ve definitely fallen prey to the little “pick-me-ups” of new clothes or kitchen gadgets, but I finally realized those highs last such a short time and just add clutter and cost to my life.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, Kalie!! So true. There is a high there, but then the high wears off and the reality of the 5, 6 or 7 year payment sets in and it’s not pretty. Great comment!

  5. We both have older cars too and we are happy with them most of the time. I’ve wondered about buying something newer after our car broke down on me and the twins once or twice, but we just got it fixed and went on down the road.

    • Laurie says:

      Good for you, Cat. Reliability is important, definitely, especially when you’ve got kids. But quality, used, paid in cash cars are out there.

  6. My shiny and new addiction was geared towards smaller items, likes clothes and jewelry. Technically I could afford them but I was just mindlessly spending to alleviate stress, to make me feel good and so on. I’ve mostly curbed that habit but every once in awhile I have to really fight temptation. We’ve been trained so well to shop to make ourselves feel good. I bought my last two cars new but paid them off within a couple of years (I put down large down payments) and will likely buy new for my next car. I know it is not financially smart but I am not car smart, so my Dad (who is a mechanic) encourages me to buy new and go to the dealer for all my tune-ups, oil changes, etc. 🙂 My car is 10 years old so I also keep them for a long time too!

    • Laurie says:

      “We’ve been trained so well to shop to make ourselves feel good.” So true, Tanya! So happy for you that you’ve broken your addiction too – wonderful victory!

  7. Jenerra says:

    My husband and I are early in our transition but we tackled our two biggest “new and shiny” issues first: traded expensive cars for budget cars and sold our oversized new construction home to live in a rental nearly half the size. It’s the little things that I have a tough time with – I went 6 months without buying clothes and then found myself needing a few things and ended up in a shopping spree. The guilt I felt afterward tainted the purchases and I ultimately ended up returning several items.

    We still need to work on eliminating our need to reward ourselves with small purchases that don’t actually improve our happiness in the long term. I’m attempting to do this by replacing things with experiences during the times we really feel we want to do something special for ourselves.

    • Laurie says:

      Jenerra, it sounds like you’re doing great!!! Those small deviations are tough, but you recognized it and recovered nicely. Great job!! Keep up the good work!

  8. Oh yeah – I can relate to this so much, Laurie! We loved new and shiny for several years. For a while we didn’t go more than 2 years without a new car (sometimes a newer used car, but always a payment). We woke up about 3-4 years ago when we added up exactly how much we had spent buying and trading cars over the years. The numbers were astounding ($85,000+). We could have put that money toward the mortgage, student loans, or invested more in our retirement. It just seemed like such a waste!

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Ray Ray says:

    Our car has just hit 211000…. I’m really trying to hold off buying another car. (it would hurt my net worth too much 😉 )

    It’s still going strong…. for now. It needs to last 8 more years until I’m debt free 😀

  10. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I think my wife and I are still susceptible to the “keeping up with the Joneses” lifestyle. We have a modest home right now (that is pretty outdated but we delay the renovations to save $) but I have to admit we’ve lusted after the shiny new/recently new $500k+ homes that go on the market. If we could just stay in our current house as long as possible we’d be much better off.

    • Laurie says:

      Having been there done that, I can tell you that you’re right when being careful about upgrading. Remember to think long-term, big picture when deciding on a new home, my friend. 🙂

  11. Tre says:

    The temptation of new and shiny things can be hard to fight. Mr Tre was eyeing a fancy new truck for a while, but realized that it wasn’t worth adding more debt. He has a 7 year-old paid off truck that runs fine (but could use a good cleaning 🙂 )

    • Laurie says:

      I hear you, Tre!! I’m the one looking at those new trucks for Rick, while he’s eyeing a nice new and shiny fishing boat. But like Mr. Tre, it’s just not worth adding the debt and delaying our debt freedom date. Great work on resisting those temptations!

  12. Kelly says:

    Laurie, it’s really about making a commitment. I changed my spending habits when I became a mother as the circumstances I was in made me change for me to help my husband build a good future for our family.

    • Laurie says:

      Parenthood is a powerful driver. It drives us every day. When temptations come, we simply need to look at the kids and we’re driven to do better.

  13. I recently bought my car at 39k miles on it (it was a 2015 car, really amazed at how much the previous owners drove in 1 year). I’m planning on driving it until I at least reach the 100k mark. Though at the current rate of driving, I don’t know if I’ll ever reach 100k miles but time will tell.

    With your continual efforts and successes on breaking the shiny and new habit, I am certain your debts will be crushed!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, FS! Glad you’re planning on holding on to that car for awhile. And it’s great that you don’t drive it much – that will really help for longevity purposes.

  14. I had a nice new Chevy Equinox that I loved. The way it looked from the front with the truck like grill made me love to drive it around town. Then I had all these problems with it, the sun roof leaked, and i had to sell it for 50% less than what I paid for it. Just want boring cars from now on

    • Laurie says:

      Ouch!!! That would be SO frustrating. Glad you are driving less expensive, boring cars now. Better for the net worth. 🙂

  15. kay ~ THE BAREFOOT MINIMALIST says:

    As long as a car looks great and is at least 10 years old, I’m happy, because we don’t feel badly running a $3,000 car into the ground and ultimately to the junkyard within 5 or so years. I don’t need new, but I do admit, I still love shiny! 🙂

  16. Bravo, Laurie & Rick! Once that last payment it made on the 2013 car, think of how you’ll be able to switch gears and pile it against other debts or into savings. The snowball will get a whole lot bigger all of a sudden.

  17. Janeen says:

    I think my biggest motivator for moving away from “new and shiny” is realizing (as you did) the value of people and experiences over STUFF. Maybe that’s just part of growing up? I’m hoping this rubs off on my kids as we continue to eschew the cultural norm.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, yes!! Not sure if it’s part of growing up, but I know it’s part of really thinking about stuff and working to determine your true goals. Awesome!

Comments are closed.