When my daughter turned 17, my parents very kindly gave her 2 things for her birthday: firstly, driving lessons and secondly their old
banger car which they were replacing. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that, although the 11 year old Ford Ka (street value ~£200) cost us nothing, we’ve temporarily become a 2 car family…with all the cost, paperwork and general bullshit that goes along with that.
As a rule, I’m not a fan of owning more cars. As all good FIers know, Satan commutes to Hell in his 4×4 money incineration unit, knocking down cyclists, running over kittens and spewing poisonous fumes into the air as he goes. Against that, we have to live in the real world, I want my daughter to be able to drive (its a life skill) and The Escape Artist has learned over time to pick his battles wisely.
One of the core principles of financial independence is that all assets shall be used as efficiently as possible. Nothing should be wasted. This is the missing link between personal finance and environmentalism.
One of the ideas I learned working in corporate finance is that assets have a natural owner. The natural owner is the person (or company) who will put the asset to best use; they will get most value from it. Ultimately the economy functions best (is most productive) when assets are owned by their natural owner.
This is why you should get rid of stuff that’s lying around unused in your garage. And when you get let something go from your life, it should go to someone that values it properly. This is why selling it might be better than giving it away.
Wherever possible you should either be selling your old stuff on eBay or giving it to a charity shop or to friends or family or otherwise re-homing and / or recycling it. When it comes to money, more is more. But when it comes to stuff, less is more. Most people have too much stuff. De-cluttering frees your mind and it frees up your living space. So why not carry out a de-cluttering exercise in your life?
De-cluttering is not just a space freeing exercise, its a mind-altering and character building exercise. By letting go of stuff, you let go of your inner hoarder. You recognise that maybe that novelty toilet seat did not transform your life nor did it make you any more popular at parties. You acknowledge that YOU ARE NOT YOUR STUFF. Thanks to Marie Kondo, its even trendy right now and you can
boast to tell your friends and spread the word.
So, for now, we have 2 cars. More cars = more hassle. And so it came to pass that last week my daughter came home with the news that the car had a flat tyre and it was up to Dad (that will be me) to remedy the situation.
She’d abandoned the car with a flat tyre nearby in a quiet suburban road of biggish detached houses. I walked there. The car was safely parked by the pavement so I started to change the tyre. At this point, a little side story played out. A grumpy middle aged man approached me and asked why I was parked on his street (errr hello: can you see the flat tyre??) and warned me that the street was patrolled by The Neighbourhood Watch.
This guy lives in a large detached house with high metal fences and an electronic security gate. It looks like he made money, but at the cost of turning into a fearful and mean-spirited Suburban Nazi. If these are The Joneses, who would want to keep up with them? Don’t fall into that trap, people.
He’d seen the age of the car, the way I was dressed (mechanic jeans) and assumed that I was some peasant / gypsy / burglar come to rob him (or, worse, lower his house price). The Escape Artist invited him to
fuck off go away and call the neighbourhood watch, the Police and the SAS if he wanted.
Once I’d removed the flat and put on the spare tyre, it was off to the local garage to get a quote to change the tyre. The bad news was that it wasn’t just a flat tyre: the wheel had dented. The garage contacted Ford and quoted me something like £220 for a new wheel and £80 for a new tyre…so about £300 all in. Given that a rusty 2008 Ford Ka with 3 wheels is worth about £100, this didn’t seem like a good investment and, to the garage’s great credit, they suggested I find a second hand wheel.
When I was 17/18, my first car was a
deathtrap 1974 Mark I Ford Escort which I couldn’t afford to get mended at a garage so I bought a Haynes manual and fixed stuff myself using second hand parts when it broke (which it did A LOT). I have ZERO natural talent when it comes to things mechanical but it just goes to show what you can do when you’re broke and desperate resourceful.
So I checked the internet for a local(ish) scrapyard and I found A1 Car Spares in Wokingham and set off. The place itself was amazing. Hundreds of scrapped cars as far as the eye could see, stacked 4 high on great racks like a warehouse for dead cars.
Between the aisles, electric forklift trucks buzzed around like worker bees in a hive, lifting cars down from the racks and plonking them on the floor where the customers could select prime auto parts from them.
Although the place looks like an environmental disaster movie, it’s actually the complete opposite. It puts perfectly good assets back to work without the environmental impact of new manufacture or melting down. It may not look like it, but these people are actually doing God’s work. It reminded me of fallen tree branches on the forest floor being tidied away by ants and bacteria, breaking old stuff down to create new life.
The customers were a mix of scrap dealers, petrolheads, mechanics and ordinary members of the public. I’ll be honest, it was the sort of place that
soft nice middle class people might find slightly intimidating as it was not sanitised nor dumbed down for clueless consumers. You had to know what you wanted and find it yourself in the scrapyard.
The Escape Artist had prepared and I knew I wanted a 165/60R14 75H (I cunningly got this from the old tyre) wheel with tyre for a 2008 Ford Ka.
I spotted a 2008 Ford Ka high up on the rack and could see that one of the tyres looked almost brand new. The guy in the forklift whipped the Ka down, the wheel off and it was mine.
The new wheel is a thing of beauty. The tyre is as good as new: the tread is deeper than a Stephen Hawking lecture (and more useful). The cost of this trophy was an amazing £30! £30 for something that I could easily have paid £300 for new if I’d been lazy.
It’s not just cars, this principle applies to just about anything. So let’s have another example, this time based on smartphones.
Given the mass insanity that is today’s worship of smartphones, this is a good place to examine your recyling policy. Apparently a new high end iphone is £750+ for something, as far as I can see, does no more than my £130 Moto phone. And people are buying this stuff, many of whom are not even millionaires. I know!
Son #1 recently declared that his phone was broken and that he would “have to” get a new one (to avoid social humiliation at school). The Escape Artist staged an intervention. I got him to agree that if I could get his existing phone fixed, then he would hold off on buying an iphone 3000 at vast expense (he has a job washing up in the local pub and so has his own money that he is free to spend as he wishes).
And so it came to pass that I found myself in my local phone repair shop. Run by a hard-working immigrant family, this is another example of people doing God’s work, improving the environment and making money whilst doing so.
Whilst I was in there, I got chatting to them. I have to report that the consumerism-out-of-control situation is not as bad as I thought…its worse.
Did you know that both Apple and Samsung have been fined for slowing down their phones? So what you think is just the phone slowing down with age or the battery wearing out might have been deliberately engineered in? Jeez…this is the sort of shit that gets capitalism a bad rap.
They told me how people just throw away their phones in the bin rather than recycling them. This is despite the fact that the shop will always take people’s old phones – either paying cash for newer models or collecting the older ones and giving them to charities that give them to people in developing countries.
And most importantly of all, they fixed my son’s old phone for a fraction of the price of a new model.
If you don’t know your friendly local phone repair shop, then go find them and get to know them. True, this won’t make you rich by itself. But remember the power of The Aggregation of Marginal Gains.
Ken from The Humble Penny and I are having another meet-up for anyone interested in financial independence. Come along and have a drink and chat with other financial freedom seekers.
The venue is The Marylebone Pub, 93 Marylebone High St, London, W1U 4RE. You can find directions here. Drop in for drinks from 6 – 11pm on Friday 29 March to celebrate the impending start of British Summer Time.
Hope to see you there 🙂