Wisdom About Cars From My Grandpa

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Station Wagon Baller!
Station Wagon Baller!

My grandpa is awesome. He has lived an amazingly adventurous life, with 6 kids and a wife of almost 60 years! He has the most awesome stories, and if you get him talking, you won’t be going anywhere for a LONG while (grab a snickers). In the past decade, he got some speech recognition software for his computer, and started dictating his life story. My wife has the privilege of editing this story to eventually be printed soon. It’s probably 250 pages on a traditional book print, over 60,000 words and full of all kinds of fun stories from my grandpa’s life.

I’ve been able to catch parts and pieces of it, and even found ME in the story, being born when my parents were still living with my grandpa and looking for a place to stay (w00t, I was born!). My grandpa has also sprinkled in his life lessons in each chapter of his life, stuff he’s learned by just living. This is what we would call “wisdom”, and comes from experience and understanding that sometimes only time can teach. As my wife was reading through the story last night, she messaged me this tidbit that she thought I would get a kick out of:

“We could not afford the car payment and the house payment. The house payment was $64 per month and a car payment was $70 per month but I only made $70 per week take-home. That made it hard on us for all of the things that we needed for our family; food, clothes, shoes, doctors and so on so I start looking for another car.”

Car Payments Sucked, Even back Then

As I mentioned a time or four, I hate new cars and car payments. They are the life-sucking brood of waste that are keeping broke people broke. And my grandpa illustrates it here perfectly. Not to mention the payment WAS MORE THAN HIS HOUSE PAYMENT! This is crazy nuts, but you know what, people did this! And my grandpa realized very quickly how ridiculous this was, and made plans to get a different car ASAP.

Putting Wants Before Needs Always Fails

The backstory on this decision to have such a crazy expensive car payment ($70 A MONTH! HOLY JUNK!) is one of putting wants before needs. You see, at this point, my grandpa and grandma had 6 kids and could not stuff them all into one vehicle. So they were on the hunt for something that would fit the whole family. My grandma said they NEEDED a station wagon, which was true. My grandpa said he NEEDED a sporty car, which was NOT true. So they compromised and got a sporty, fast station wagon, and it cost a bundle! It also got 11 MPG, which even back then was tough on their wallet.

My grandpa was making $280 per month to live on. THEY OWNED A HOUSE ON $280 PER MONTH INCOME! But he’d  sunk the family budget by getting a car with a payment that cost more than their house! He put his WANT in the place of their NEEDS, and it failed miserably. Luckily, they were able to get rid of the car and buy a $300, good used vehicle that they could afford in cash, and it fit the NEEDS of the family. My grandpa got his priorities back in order, and all was (financially) well again.

Learn From My Grandpa

I have learned a lot about life from my grandpa, and I think you should too. He has lived a long, full life and his wisdom is timeless. He showed over and over again in the story that putting WANTS before NEEDS always ended up badly, and it never served him well in the long run.

And car payments still suck. They hamper your ability to live life and become financially free. Here’s what my grandpa had to say about car payments after learning his lesson:

“We did not have any car payments and that made life a lot easier for us.”

Comments: Are you finding yourself putting your WANTS before you NEEDS? How are you actively trying to make sure you have your priorities in order? Do you think you are getting ahead with your car payment? How?

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

34 thoughts on “Wisdom About Cars From My Grandpa”

  1. That is amazing your grandpa is dictating his life story – that will be an interesting read I bet! I wonder if I could get my grandma to do something like that. In any case, I have cut down a lot, and the only want in my budget is mostly my cell phone plan. We do eat out from time to time, maybe 3 times a month, but we always try to be as cheap as possible.

  2. That station wagon is almost identical to my first car. Mine was from the same year I was born. I was clearly a cool 16 year old.

    It’s really neat that your grandpa is writing his life story. That will be so wonderful to have preserved.

  3. Hi Jacob, we enjoyed reading your blog today. As I read it to papa I had to stop as it made me cry, I thought it was so cool how we learn from grandpa, time passes so fast its unbelievable.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. Car payments are the worst, because most people (and even multiple financial “experts”) refer to them as being a “requirement”. You are spot on when you say it keeps broke people broke.

  5. I think we all fall into this trap at least few times in our lives. Some of us got into debt for the reason and some are still struggling probably because they weren’t able to make such a move as your grandpa finally did. Really good story – can’t wait to read the book, once it’s ready 😉

  6. There are so many great things about this post that I love. It’s amazing that nothing changes! I love talking to my Grandma about when she was younger it’s awesome to hear her stories.

  7. That’s awesome that he’s figured out a way to share his life. My wife’s grandfather wrote a book on his family’s history and it’s something that they all really cherish. It’s going to be really fun for you to be able to share his stories with your children and grandchildren. And it sounds like you’ll all be able to learn a lot too.

  8. When someone older talks to you, you listen… there is tons of wisdom there. I wish my sister in law would see this. She has her eyes on a car and all the logic doesn’t seem to register with her. Putting wants before needs always fails indeed.

  9. You are right on about car payments sucking. I’ve never had any and I never will.

    I agree wholeheartedly when people say if you can’t afford to buy a car in cash, then you can’t afford the car. So much truth to that statement!


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