Dear Mrs. Riches:
My husband and I are in perpetual disagreement when it comes to our family's cars. I come from a family that drove cars into the ground. For example, my dad is proud that he's owned each car an average of 12 years. My husband comes from a family that likes to drive the newest and best; they churn cars through the mill every two or three years. I have tried to show him how much we could save just by keeping our cars a little longer, but that doesn't seem to curb his desire. I won't even go into the types of vehicles he buys and all of the "options" that seem to have become necessities. He has that gleam in his eye again and we've only owned his car shy of two years. Help!
-- Dealer's Delight
Dear Dealer's Delight:
Your husband does sound like a dealer's dream customer: He wants the newest and the best, offers repeat business, and allows the dealership to add to the sticker price for expensive options packages. You (and your dad), on the other hand, represent a dealer's worst nightmare: folks who aren't easily swayed by the sleeker, sexier model, who buy and keep for the true lifetime of the car, and from whom the dealer is likely to make very little money. Your car-buying personalities couldn't be more different.
While it's not exactly as harmonious as the marriage of chocolate to peanut butter, there's hope here for compromise. Here are a few things to try:
1. Show him the money. Try again to detail in black and white exactly how much money the two of you can save by delaying a new car purchase for even a year. If saving doesn't seem as compelling as the new convertible, equate the dollar amount to another goal or another big-ticket item he has always wanted to purchase. For example, "Do you realize that, with the money we'd save, we could purchase a hot tub and a trip to Italy for two?" While I'm not advocating these as the best use of your money, perhaps stating it that way would encourage him to think about the magnitude of a car purchase.
The truth is that any time you choose to spend money, you are also making a conscious choice not to spend that money on millions of other possibilities. Whether he is compelled by a hot tub or a heftier retirement account, showing what else the money can buy may be enough to convince him to keep a two-year-old car another year.
2) Look into leasing. If you and your husband plan to own a vehicle for a short time, you may want to consider leasing. The monthly payments for a two-year term may be substantially less than the cost of purchasing a new vehicle during that time. There are some exceptions -- if you are likely to sustain vehicle damage or to incur excessive mileage charges -- so do your homework first.
3) Seek an expert opinion. You may want to enlist help with showing your husband that buying a new car isn't just an isolated expense, it's part of your whole budget. A good financial planner will help you and your husband articulate financial goals, develop a realistic budget, and save for retirement. As part of that financial checkup, be sure to discuss your car expenses and the impact of those on the rest of your savings goals. The Motley Fool's Personal Finance Workbook may be a helpful resource as you and your husband discuss your goals related to budgeting, saving, and spending.
4) Get a good deal. If you can't deter your husband from buying a new car on his timetable, you can at least make sure he gets his money's worth. The Fool's Buying A Car area details how to walk away from the dealership with the car of your choice at a bargain price.
For much more on the ins and outs of the car-buying process, ask any questions on the Fool's Buying and Maintaining a Car discussion board.
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Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. To get your money and relationship questions answered, send her an email .