How to Pay Cash for Large Purchases
Yesterday I challenged the common assumption that it’s impossible to make large purchases without borrowing money.
You absolutely can pay cash for large purchases like cars, college tuition, and houses if you want to.
You just need two things: To have your finances in order, and to have a little patience.
Now when I say that you need to “have your finances in order”, I don’t mean that you have to be independently wealthy or anything. You just can’t be in the kind of shape I was in back way back when. So let’s talk about the choices I made that left me struggling so much as save even a dollar a week.
While in college, I bought a brand new $8500 car by putting a couple of thousand dollars down and then financing the rest. It didn’t even occur to me to buy a used car, or to wait until I had the money for the car. (Which would have been very feasible at the time, since I was living at home and working quite a bit while attending college on a scholarship.) I just wanted a “reliable car”, and I wanted it N-O-W. I really should have kept my old car instead.
I encouraged my then-boyfriend/now ex-husband to buy a new car too, which was also bought using borrowed funds.
Those two mistakes right there really cost us when we got married — because we ended up spending about 35% of our GROSS income on paying for, maintaining, driving, and insuring those cars. (And my “reliable car” turned out to be very UNreliable.)
That, of course, left us no money. Or rather, a theoretical $1.58 per week. If we hadn’t bought those new cars that we didn’t even need, we would have had close to $650 a month available to save or do whatever we wanted with after we got done paying our bills.
In other words, in two years we could have saved up enough to pay cash for TWO brand new cars if we had wanted to. Or we could have paid cash for two good “beaters” in just 6 months and had plenty of money available if they turned out to need repairs. Like my brand new car did, ALL the time.
In fact, in four years, we could have saved up about $31,000 — nearly the price of the condo we bought shortly after getting married. But instead of being a little bit patient and quickly getting to a very nice financial position, we chose more than a decade of debt and constant struggle.
This is kind of a long way of saying that it’s easiest to pay cash for large purchases if you aren’t already sending a chunk of money to debt because you’re buying things on credit that you can’t afford. So, if you want to pay cash for things (large or small) and you’re in debt, the most effective way to do so is to first stop borrowing money, and then get out of debt. Then save up.
Actively going out and making more money works too, and speeds up the process. You could take on a second job, get a raise, do various odd jobs, or all three.
Now obviously if you want to buy a $200,000 house fairly quickly and you make $22,000 a year, you’re going to have to really focus on the making more money part — or move to an area with a lower cost of living.
Either way, you just have to know that paying cash is possible. Which it absolutely is, if you have a little patience and get your finances in order. Sometimes what looks like the slowest way to what you want turns out to be the fastest in hindsight.