Our Shared Ongoing Battle To Not Buy A Tesla

Like you, I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to buy a Tesla at some point.

I can tell because I have read every last scrap of Tesla news and inadvertently memorized every last technical detail about the company and their cars and energy storage systems that has ever been printed or YouTubed. Since about 2012. When this happens to me for any product, whether it’s a new laptop or a different vehicle  or a house in a certain neighborhood, I usually end up buying it.

The purchase tends to happen when the list of justifications builds up to a tipping point where it starts to seem sensible. For the Tesla, these justifications are things like:

  • “I strongly support the company and its mission. Unlike almost any other big company on Earth, Tesla exists primarily to help out the human race. Surely worth a few of my spare bucks, right?”
  • “I can afford to buy it in cash without having to go back to work or anything extreme like that.”
  • “It’s the best car AND the best piece of technology in the world, and at least ten years ahead of the next best. Shouldn’t a lifelong tech expert like myself be taking a peek at the future?”
  • “It would be a lower-pollution way to replace some of my air travel, as the only car that can drive itself most of the time on long highway trips. PLUS, imagine the road trips I could take with my son! Mammoth Caves National Park! Lifetime Memories just like I have with my own Dad!”
  • “They are reasonably priced these days at “only” about $39k for a new Model 3 and even lower for a used Model S.”

In the past, my mind has made up similar justifications for other purchases like, “this lovely camera will help you create more engaging pictures for the blog.”, “this drywall hoist will save you a lot of time”, “you will make a profit by owning this high-end new laptop because it will encourage you to write more.”

And it’s not just me. As I’ve talked to more and more people about this, I find that most of us have some sort of Purchase Justification Machine running in the background of our minds. The PJM’s effects can range from very useful, like a carpenter buying a nailgun which will be used every day to make money, to completely disastrous, like the office worker who buys a $40,000 8-passenger Honda Pilot for his 12,000 annual miles of mostly empty driving on smooth roads, because “I need to make sure I can get to work in the winter, too.”

I like to fancy my own PJM as being at least a bit better than average, after all I have always maintained a slightly-less-ridiculous level of spending than the average middle class worker. Most of the things it has talked me into buying have indeed been things like nailguns or reasonably good quality clothing that just happens to be from Costco or the thrift shop.

Yes, there was once a brand-new $13,000* Honda VFR800 sport motorbike which destroys a lot of my credibility, but that was in 2001 long before Mr. Money Mustache was born.

But I can TELL that it is really grasping at straws when it tries to justify that Tesla. And that’s why I thankfully still don’t have a Tesla.

The PJM has done its work well, but I try to stay ahead of it by tossing in my own list of objections, like throwing gnarly stumps into a wood chipping machine to slow it down.

  • “You don’t even have anywhere to drive that Tesla, dude! If you had a mandatory 20-mile commute and absolutely could not move closer to your six-figure job, that would be one thing. But you’re retired and you bike everywhere, so a car is only for camping and hiking trips. Wait until you are further along in the child-raising project and have more free time to take off for month-long road trips.”
  • “You can’t just leave a $40,000 car out in the searing Colorado sun to bake and fade and collect birdshit, but you also don’t want to sacrifice an entire bay of your tidy workshop garage for a car. So you need to at least wait until you build that master bedroom deck which doubles as a carport, right? So you’d better get out the post-hole digger before you sign into the Tesla Design Studio.”
  • “No matter how much you use that car, it will always cost more per mile than cross country air travel even with full carbon offsets. So don’t get lured in by the nearly-free nature of electric car charging.”
  • “Make sure you try it before you buy it. Rent a Tesla from Turo or from a friend and try your first road trip. If you still crave one after that first thrill wears off, then we can talk.”

See what’s happening here? In order to keep ahead of the relentless efficiency of my Purchase Justification Machine, I just need to throw up nice, rational roadblocks to slow it down.

But the reason this is so effective is that I’m not just flat-out denying myself that Tesla. It’s pretty hard to tell yourself that NO, you can never have what you want. Instead, I’m just telling myself what things need to happen first, before clicking “buy” on the Tesla website.

And if these things are healthy, happy things (raising my son, getting other labor-intensive projects done with my own hands, and planning a great future series of camping and roadtrips), I divert my attention into living a good life right now, instead of doing the easy thing which is just buying myself another treat.

And the further I can delay this or any purchase, the longer my money can remain productively invested in stocks, and the more it prevents my PJM from locking its greedy crosshairs onto the next little lifestyle “upgrade” that it will find.

But this trick is not just for jaw-dropping electric sports cars. You can use it almost anywhere in your own life.

Kicking the Kitchen Down the Road

A friend of mine loves to cook, and has been pining for a kitchen upgrade for many years to make this activity more enjoyable. And I can’t blame him – his kitchen is indeed dated, as is the rest of the house. But he’s also in debt and not climbing out very quickly. And too busy to do the kitchen upgrade work himself, because work and kids suck up all his time. Should he allow himself to upgrade this kitchen?


BUT only after meeting a carefully considered list of conditions:

  • Quit Cable TV, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Twitter, video games, and other time drains. Because getting three hours of life back each day will give you more time to address other shortages in life.
  • Make sure you’re getting in at least an hour of outdoor walking and/or cycling every day. Plus, regular weight training. The joy of a new kitchen is nothing compared to the benefits of getting your heart, muscles and mind in better shape.
  • Use another hour of each day for cleaning, organizing and optimizing the house you already have. Is every drawer in the kitchen well-organized? Could you get more space by hanging up the pots and pans? Adding one of those large but simple heavy duty rolling islands with butcherblock top from Costco? What about just a super nice faucet for 80 bucks and a couple of nice track lights?**
  • How about the rest of the house? Are  the closets well-organized with optimal shelving? Is the garage spotless? Carpets DIY steam cleaned and rooms patched and painted nicely? Gardens and lawn tidy and peaceful?
  • How about the finances? Have you checked around for lower mortgage rates, home and car insurance, mobile phone plans, and canceled any unused subscriptions? Ask your friends what rates they are paying for all these things, switch to the best option, and you cut your bills by $500 per month, which will add up to pay for a kitchen pretty quickly.

See, instead of being constantly depressed because it will be years until you can afford that kitchen, you use it as a trigger to get busy and improve your entire life right now. Which gives you the feelings of happiness and control that were making you crave that kitchen in the first place. Or that Tesla.

And on that note, I am going to get out there and start measuring the post locations for my new deck.


The very day after I published this, I went down to visit a friend in Broomfield to chat and borrow some of his spare video gear (to help me delay purchasing my own, of course!)

But what should I find in his driveway, but a BRAND NEW Tesla model 3, long range all wheel drive in the same glowing red color shown above, which he had just picked up the day before.

I gave him the whole interview on why he bought it, because I know he doesn’t commute to work and has no need for a fancy car either.

They were the same reasons that I had listed above – he’s mostly curious about the future of technology, wanted to support it, and knows that Tesla is it. If it weren’t for Tesla’s existence, he would be perfectly content with a 15-year-old Honda. This company is really pulling out a unique set of buyers that no other car company could ever entice.

So we took it for a test drive. My diagnosis: very similar to the Nissan Leaf in interior size and tight, silent driving feel for standard urban driving – except much more artistic inside and out, and so fast that you literally start to lose consciousness and get dizzy under full acceleration. Kinda silly, but the very existence of cars is silly so you might as well embrace it.

Oh! And unlike the Leaf, when you fold down the rear seats and climb inside, it is plenty big and flat to sleep two people, which makes it a passable road trip mini-camper, even without a proper hatchback.

In the Comments: what is YOUR Purchase Justification Machine trying to make you buy? Have you already bought the Model 3 or are you still milking the 2010 Prius for all it’s worth? How long are you going to push your current smartphone until you allow yourself to replace it? Sharing your battles will give others the strength to keep their own procrastination game strong.

* I forked over $10,000 of my hard-earned cash as a 26-year-old kid in the year 2001, which is about $14,000 if you adjust it for inflation to 2019. But motor vehicles prices have risen slower than general inflation over recent decades, so I split the difference a bit here. But any way you slice it, this was a foolish purchase on my part!

** I linked to those because I have been using that particular track light everywhere in recent years – headquarters, home, and other projects. Way nicer quality/style than the options at Home Depot despite lower price. These LED bulbs are great for it as well.

  • mary w May 9, 2019, 3:55 pm

    I bought a Model 3 last year. So here’s my justifications:
    -I had my previous car for 14 years (bought when it was 2 years old) so I do keep my cars;
    -In 14 years I’ll be 80 and should probably quit driving. It will literally be my last car;
    -The previous month my portfolio gained more than the cost of the car;
    -I had enough cash on hand to pay cash;
    -Federal $7500 rebate was dropping in 2019; and finally,
    -My heirs will likely piss away whatever is left so I might as well enjoy it.

  • Belia May 9, 2019, 4:27 pm

    I am always jealous for car prices in the US. Here in the Netherlands the cheapest Tesla costs €44.000 plus costs of delivering.

  • Joweco May 9, 2019, 5:00 pm

    My PJM kicks in when I lose money on the stock market or an unexpected expense arises and impedes my savings plans. My PJM takes advantage of adverse situations in my life like losing $4000 in investments while I am trying to do the right things, engaging in a frugal lifestyle. It is maddening! PJM says, “You’ve just lost money doing nothing fun or exciting. YOLO, spend your money!” God help me!

    Thank you

    • Barbara May 11, 2019, 3:10 pm

      When the stock market drops, I tell myself, “Yay—stocks are ON SALE!!” As long as I don’t sell, the losses are “unrealized” (as in “unreal”), and it’s probably a good time to buy if I can. So unless you actually had to sell stocks at a loss, tell your nagging PJM to stuff itself—you haven’t actually lost (or gained) anything until you sell! ;-) Besides, Mustachianism isn’t only about avoiding spending money—it’s about maximizing the happiness return from the money you *do* spend. I think of investments like planting a garden: occasionally, a plant’s gonna die, or a berry bush won’t bear as much as you were hoping for, but that wouldn’t make you decide to give up on the rest of the garden…and in the long run, most things are going to grow.

  • Mark May 9, 2019, 5:08 pm

    It’s as if you read my mind! I have that exact conversation with myself daily, and for the exact same model and color Model 3. I have the cash to buy it. And I want to be a part of this revolution. But, my commute is .7 miles by folding Brompton bicycle. When I need more range, there is the electric Trek with 120 mile range (dual batteries). Then there is the 2016 Volt that I bought used and hardly broken in. But damn those Teslas crying their siren call!

  • Married to a Swabian May 9, 2019, 6:43 pm

    My PJM talked me into buying a new Ford Fusion Titanium in 2013. At 48 years old the first new car I ever bought.

    Part of new job was selling to Ford, so need to show up one of their products!
    Comfy ride for lots of work travel
    I deserve it – just ONE new car!

    Purchase price: $32k
    Current value: $10k

    Ouch, that is a shitload of depreciation! Won’t do that again.

    It’s always expensive to be an early technology adopter. I, too, have lusted after a Tesla, but will wait a few years until ALL the bugs are out, the prices come down more and charging stations are more plentiful.

    Hey, MMM – have to ask for full disclosure here: any promotional fees paid by the good people at Tesla for this post?
    Pretty rare that you post about a specific product and how everyone should want it! Seems a little Infomercially.

  • Chris May 9, 2019, 6:52 pm

    Dood!? Just buy the damn Tesla. I love your pragmatism but you’ve wanted one for years. It’s ok to indulge from time to time. You can afford it, it helps progress the Electric Car movement and you would have a blast with it! Buy it, enjoy the hell out of it and write some kick ass reviews for the rest of us:) Life is short… Cheers-Chris

    • Joe May 9, 2019, 10:57 pm

      Buy the Tesla, put it and your minivan on Turo and write about it. Selfishly, I’m curious how we’ll niche vehicles rent on Turo and I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good time with a Tesla

  • yyz May 9, 2019, 6:53 pm

    My 2005 Prius is just fine. Should I upgrade to 2010?

    • Barbara May 11, 2019, 3:14 pm

      “Nope,” said the woman driving a 2001 Subaru ;-)

  • CanStudent May 9, 2019, 6:57 pm

    My current battle is definitely with my cell phone. I don’t require a new one, but my trust in this OnePlus is dwindling with all the information about Huawei. (OnePlus is owned by another Chinese cell phone giant BBK Electronics, the 2nd largest phone manufacturer worldwide surpassing Apple recently.) As well the battery is slowly getting worse and more bugs are cropping up…
    And family members who ask me to get a Samsung on a deal with them…
    And on and on the list goes of reasons to buy a new phone. Ignoring that purchase incentive machine can be difficult for sure. At the same time, the list of reasons not to buy one is so much longer if I think about it for a minute. Lucky me!
    Privacy is sacrificed on any device, whether it be the technogy companies, the Chinese government or the US or my own government,
    FIRE can only come faster with fewer new fancy glass toys!
    Supporting any large corporation by buying into their advertising and our consumerism isn’t good. (Luckily for Tesla I hear they don’t spend money on advertusing hardly at all)

    Anyhoo. Thank you for the great article MMM! Looking forward to the next one and to any new videos on your and yiur son’s awesome YouTube channel!!!

    • Barbara May 11, 2019, 3:17 pm

      I’ve had good luck buying used electronics from refurbishers on eBay; got my iPad Pro and iPhones there. When you can’t keep your old unit going, you might check eBay for a replacement

  • Curtis May 9, 2019, 7:01 pm

    I just bought a 2016 Leaf with 12k miles in Jan for less than 25% of the cost of a Tesla. I wanted the Tesla. I can afford the Tesla. But I just can’t see such a nice car sitting under the huge oak trees on my lot. No room for a garage. Turns out, I love the Leaf. I am proud of not buying into a depreciating asset that cost 4 times as much when they both accomplish my goals. Sincerely-The guy who secretly still wants a Tesla

  • Billy May 9, 2019, 7:37 pm

    This is great timing. I’m actually having a PJM crisis the last few weeks! But not with a Tesla, with an electric skateboard for commuting (looking at a onewheel or boosted board $1-2k). I commute 6 miles by bike every day and it’s incredibly practical but lacking in the excitement factor. I don’t need an electric skateboard…but it would be a blast and get me outside more…someone hit me with some sense.

    • Barbara May 11, 2019, 3:21 pm

      You might try a chat with an ER doctor about the prevalence of electric skateboard injuries, that might do the trick,,,they’re a whole lot more dangerous than bicycles or regular skateboards, and medical bills would put a serious crimp in your budget

  • Carmela May 9, 2019, 8:25 pm

    Completely unrelated to this particular blog post but, I’m FINALLY up to date with your blog posts after weeks of devouring every single one!

    MMM, thank you for giving me that much needed wake up call! Now, onto that next FI blog on my list.

  • Lewis May 9, 2019, 8:27 pm

    I had a new screen put on my iphone 5s. It’s so pretty and the repairs didn’t even cost me anything since the local shop I went to accepted my iphone 5 and 6 (cracked screen) that I had somehow accumulated as payment. It is so nice having a new screen and feeling like it cost me nothing! I’d say this phone has a good 2-3 years left in it.

  • Rob T May 9, 2019, 9:05 pm

    Like you, my PJM has been revving overtime with the e-car idea, esp Tesla. Finally decided to sell my F250 and 30′ Airstream. They sold together the first weekend I listed them. Now I still needed a car, and relatively quickly. Wanted an AWD electric SUV, but north of $75K was beyond the realm of my retirement lifestyle (although I’m still enticed by the coming Tesla SUV) Came across the 2019 Chevy Bolt (Premier edition). The dealer in Eugene was doing a year-end clearance $6K off list + $7500 Fed tax credit+ 2(!) OR tax incentives of $2500 each, later found I could get a $750 Costco gift card, too. So…List $41K-$19500=$21,500 ! Since I had no vehicle at the time the dealer drove from Eugene to pick me up in Bend, too. Not as flashy as a Tesla, although 250 mile range and 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. Hatchback and fold down seats are roomy for what I need to transport. Zippy and fun to drive around town. Don’t miss gas stations and hardly need to recharge it once a week (in my garage, at night). Downside: front wheel drive and we had some serious snow for about a month this winter. Nonetheless, I’m loving it.

  • Servo May 9, 2019, 9:07 pm

    I really really wish you would have posted this a few months ago. It might have saved mr from a big financial mistake.

    Wife and I bought a used motorhome that we planned to move into full time as a way to save on expenses. The cost to rent one for a period of time that would have been worthy enough for us to make a long term decision on would have been about $4000+.

    We bought a 20 year old rig for $17k, and ended up having to put new tires, 2 new AC units, fix the dash AC and reseal the roof. That plus a few odd jobs that I couldn’t do cost us around another 7k. Then we moved into it and I learned something about myself that I didn’t know. I get claustrophobic, plus the new AC units can’t keep up if the temperature is above 85 degrees and we’re miserable. 2 weeks into the journey, we’re done. It doesn’t “spark joy”.

    Unfortunately we’re going to take a bath on this and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

  • Sharie May 9, 2019, 9:31 pm

    Hi Pete! I heard this interesting story on my local NPR station KCRW on Elon’s travel on his personal jet in 2017 and all the carbon he is consuming to avoid the 405 and trot around the world. It’s a quick listen! Ironically, I heard it while sitting in traffic on the 405! A huge thank you to you and this blog! You motivated me to change our family’s spending habits, save a pile of cash, and in November I left my full time long commuting job to work part time 4 miles from home. If you ever come out to HB, there is a homecooked meal and a few craft beers waiting for you!

    Here’s the link from Press Play on Elon Musk’s travel record from 2017. Enjoy!


    • Mr. Money Mustache May 10, 2019, 8:30 am

      Thanks Sharie, I just listened to that link at your suggestion. (In summary he spent about $1 million on private jet travel last year, plus a larger amount of plane depreciation costs).

      While it definitely seems justifiable because it allows him to save time and manage more companies (SpaceX, Tesla factories, Boring CO, etc.), this is still a place where I would do things differently than he does – because he is doing only big picture math (one man burning lots of fuel in order to run companies that will help reduce emissions by a much larger amount), but perhaps missing the political/symbolic effects of his lifestyle.

      As evidenced by the radio report, most people don’t see the big picture and just see one man using a private jet. And of course buying up multiple Bel Air mansions, with a total value over $75M so far. So to compensate, I would personally choose to live in one high-end but compact place near work, and just walk or bike to work. There will still be business travel, but you could pay extra to make sure the jet uses 100% biofuel, offset the travel by funding forestry projects, and so on.

      These changes would be tiny compared to the effects of the companies he runs, but still large symbolically. If you are a role model in the public eye, people tend to want to imitate your lifestyle.

      I also think Elon should take an interest in car-free urban design, since this could be an even bigger impact than just making our cars and power plants more efficient.

      BUT, as I’ve said in other places it is not my place to make character judgements about someone I’ve never met. After all, if he were judging me, he might point out that I have squandered my abilities/opportunities by taking it so easy and focusing on just having time with friends and family, when I could have built up this MMM thing into a much bigger impact if I hired helpers and put more than a couple hours per week into it. We are all doing plenty of things “wrong”, but if we are kind to each other we just might be able to still convey some useful ideas.

  • Mathilde May 9, 2019, 9:32 pm

    I got a new cellphone when my father was on his last illness. My brother would call me to update and we couldn’t hear each other through my old phone. But I didn’t get the latest and greatest.

    My PJM is trying to convince me that a new iPad is an absolute vital life necessity. Apple stopped supporting my old one a few months ago. But a new one isn’t at all necessary because my new phone handles anything a new iPad would.

    • Charles May 13, 2019, 11:30 am

      Mathilde, Apple no longer supporting a device usually only means no further operating system updates, which is a blessing in disguise, as updates regularly break functionality and slow down your device. So now, think of your iPad as being in the clear. Enjoy it!

  • Dana May 9, 2019, 9:42 pm

    I think the technology is badass, and they are gorgeous cars. But until my state (California) and its cities do a better job making public charging facilities available, any model of Tesla (and other 100% electric vehicles) will only be an option for people who own their own homes or live in high-end apartment buildings with Tesla chargers installed.

    Ideally the dream would be to go geothermal or solar for most of one’s electricity and then charge the car from that, but again – home ownership and land ownership required. The Prius and I will keep chugging along till it shits the bed.

  • Brace Wong May 9, 2019, 9:46 pm

    My all time favorite car was my 2005 Prius. I had to replace the hybrid battery at 235,000, but otherwise, it has been the cheapest and most reliable car ever to own and maintain. But then two events coincided – the RMD from my IRA and the reduction of the federal tax credit in Dec 2018. Result, my favorite car is now my Model 3.

    The purchase experience was simple and straight forward. It took just 2 weeks to receive the car. The fit and finish was perfect. There were none of the body issues of the earlier cars. I consider high performance a total waste, so I ordered the single motor configuration. I opted for the big battery. An autonomous vehicle was a priority, so I got the full self driving option.

    My computer (the car) is a joy to drive. The Auto Pilot still needs refinement, but with it’s 8 cameras 12 sensors and radar, helping me to stay alive, I feel safer than ever. I have little doubt that Elon’s claims that upgrades in the next year or two will allow for total hands off driving. Charging has not at all been a problem. I plug in when I get home. I schedule the charging to start when the rates are the lowest. We use Supercharger only when traveling. When I shop at Costco, it’s so nice to drive by the long gas lines now. And I certainly don’t miss using the GasBuddy app when we take trips.

    So was it smart financial purchase? Maybe. But I doubt if I will drive it enough to for the savings to off the cost of the car. The financially smart thing to do was drive the Prius into the ground. But now I have a car that’s much more enjoyable to drive, that’s mush safer to drive, and that’s likely to end up doing the driving for me (when I want it to). And what a joy it is to receive the automatic software upgrades every month or so! The car just gets better and better. No regrets.

    • Brace Wong May 10, 2019, 8:44 pm

      BTW- By purchasing the Model 3 before Jan 1, 2019, I was able to receive the $7,500 tax credit. I also received a Calif refund of $2,500, and an $800 rebate from our PG&E utility company. My charging system in my garage is a level 2 EVSE JuiceBox Pro 40. The entire cost of $549.00 was refunded as an incentive. I installed a new subpanel and breakers myself, so the only cost to me were the parts. And much of my electricity is produced by my 15 year old photovoltaic system of 20 roof top solar panels. All of the above helped me with my PJM.

  • Joe May 9, 2019, 10:27 pm

    Great article MMM! I don’t allow myself beer until I’ve exercised. Both are more enjoyable in that order

  • James M May 9, 2019, 10:29 pm

    You could get Myron’s lift for doing drywall on the walls too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtGh5eGeIi4

  • Hendrik May 10, 2019, 2:00 am

    Man, living in South Africa often has some unique-ish challenges.
    For example, for the last couple of years we have been struggling with the national electricity supplier. To the extent that “load shedding” is now a term even children are familiar with.
    In case you are not, it is the controlled, partial switching off of the national grid, in order to prevent overload, and a eventual cascading failure scenario that leads to a total grid collapse. Fun stuff.

    OK, so what my PJM is telling me is “go solar”.
    I mean, it’s ecologically responsible, it saves me bucks in the long run, it pulls us through load shedding turns (so the lights can stay on, maybe even the internet and TV). AND it seems that tinkering with your local solar grid, shaving of unnecessary power waste etc becomes a fun hobby…
    All good things.

    Except, for the average middle class guy it is still a large capital expenditure.
    So it will have to come out of my home loan.
    My 20 year home loan ,which I’m proud to say, we have managed to kill about 50% in 4 years (by feeding it every bloody scrap we could). The “good” news is, I can actually access the excess funds I put in over the years, so no need to renegotiate with the bank or anything like that.

    So by now, I have whittled the initial grand plan down to a glorified UPS, with a much smaller inverter than originally planned (just to cater for that damned load shedding), with an upgrade path to actual solar power.

    But of course then the whispers start again, and they tell me if I do NOT have PV power from the start,I’m losing, since from the moment I switch on the battery bank, the clock starts ticking – those things don’t live forever! For Li-ION it seems I can hope for about 10years – if nothing goes wrong. And I have no savings from NOT using grid power during the day, as I would have if I put up some panels.
    Oh, just in case you are wondering – already got a solar water heater in (works greats…when the sun shines :) ).

    Anyway, that’s my PJM story!

    Thanks for the blog Mr Mustache! Never fails to amuse AND educate!

    • Catprog May 12, 2019, 1:02 am

      I don’t know if going solar will help take you though a load shedding event unless you have a battery as well.

      It may reduce the amount of load shedding though.

  • Nicolas Saunier May 10, 2019, 2:08 am

    Hi MMM,
    Congrats on another great post!
    As a long time lurker of your blog and professional working to “put the brains into climate change action”, I just wanted to share an insight about Teslas for your many readers who care about the environment and climate change and want to improve their impact.
    Serious climate action should have a measuring stick for its efficiency, and as it turns out, there is an indicator which can be used which is very in line with the type of frugality you promote: $ per ton of CO2 avoided. 100,000 km in a Tesla model 3, vs 100,000 km in a comparably sized gas powered car, will save around 2-5 tons of CO2, depending on how carbon-intensive your electricity supply is: it’s a lot better if you’re in France than if your in Germany, for example. But even in the best case, you’re paying thousands of dollars to save a ton of CO2. Some NGOs that protect the rainforests, like Cool Earth, can have the same impact on climate change for a fistful of dollars. Advocacy and policy based organizations have an impact that is more difficult to measure, but they may be even more effective. So keep your 20 year old minivan, ride your bike and make a $10 donation to an effective organization rather than buying a Tesla if you care more about your environmental impact than about looking cool and green.

  • Tara May 10, 2019, 2:29 am

    My PJM has me looking at teardrop trailers. I’ve never camped in trailers in my life (we have a great tent) and my recently purchased used Toyota Plug-In Prius (which we affectionately call our ‘spaceship’ in comparison to the 2003 Honda Civic it replaced) definitely wouldn’t be able to tow it. So I’m definitely not buying it. That hasn’t stopped me from looking at Kijiji ads and watching videos of the interiors of various trailers. My PJM, is always ridiculous but it is VERY ridiculous when I contemplate this purchase. Thanks for an apt reminder that the PJM is ALWAYS hard at work! Keep on keepin’ on mustachians!

  • St Chit May 10, 2019, 5:16 am

    A timely blog/e-mail!

    This came just when I was looking for a ‘sign’ that it was OK to have one last indulgence as I’ve achieved early retirement last year and was offered to go back to work by with old boss (which would pay for the Tesla)…

    I’d received the e-mail from Tesla announcing that it’s now time to configure my order, so off to the shiny showroom we went. Here in the UK, prices are that bit more, but still they equate to a new 3 or a secondhand S – so the display models could give me a decision point.

    But of course buying cars NEVER makes economical sense. The biggest cost of any car isn’t what you put in it (gas/petrol) nor the insurance, but the depreciation. And Tesla is no exception, with a Model S falling at around $1,500/month…

    A wise man once said to me: buy what goes up in value (e.g. houses) and rent what goes down (Tech, Cars etc.). So from a financial position, keeping my 4 year old paid for car is the only way to go.

    But the Tesla is such an exceptional car; family members know my desire for one and I’ve already been gifted the Tesla hat, jacket and even the T-shirt…

    So when weighing up the decision, I walked away from the showroom, with head & heart in different directions – hence looking for a sign…

    Thanks for the e-mail MMM – you’ve saved me 50k!!

  • Paul May 10, 2019, 7:16 am

    Just go ahead and buy the damn car. I know that you have been intrigued about Tesla cars for years.
    You have worked hard and become an inspiration for thousands of us grateful followers.
    You deserve to treat yourself every now and then.
    Nobody will hold it against you and call you a hypocrite. And if they do, they’re losers.
    Thanks for your website. I have really enjoyed it..

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 10, 2019, 8:05 am

      You are so kind Paul, but that’s just the thing – buying things like this will NOT make us happier unless we have a genuine use for them in our daily lives that can’t be met in other ways.

      For me, it would actually be counterproductive: if you read the list of counterpoints in this article, I don’t even have anywhere to drive in a car right now!

      So I would be looking at this car degrading in my driveway, which I would get to drive MAYBE once or twice per month. For trips I could have just used the Nissan Leaf for, that still I share with Former Mrs. MM. While I manage insurance and registration hassles on it.

      Plus, there is always another use for that 45 grand – through Effective Altruism, you can save and improve a LOT of lives with that amount of money. I missed my donation last year due to the complexities of splitting up the family finances. I want to get back on the program this year, if this blog earns enough.

  • Teddy May 10, 2019, 7:53 am

    I wish I [and my parents] had had a Purchase Justification Machine before I went to a private college to get a Bachelor’s in Philosophy. Not that I haven’t gained a lot from exposure to Philosophy, but I did not need to leverage future 100K to do that.

    I also have never done a PJM. I buy cars under $3000, bike under $500, flipphone under $100, clothes for dirt cheap at thrift shops. My worst spending is books, but ever since I found Baltimore’s Free Book Thing, that problem has been annihilated.

    Good job avoiding the Tesla. But is Elon Musk really interested in helping the human race? I think that remains to be seen. Would be happy to be proved wrong.

  • Axel Hoogland May 10, 2019, 8:10 am

    Have you already bought the Model 3 or are you still milking the 2010 Prius for all it’s worth? – I bought a 2012 Prius about 2 years ago. Had 50k miles on it. Paid $12k. About 1/2 of it’s original sale price! now has about 90k miles. So I will likely be milking this car for a long time! Iowa has high yearly registration fee on new cars until 10 years old, based on purchase price, so that’s another count against a new car, unfortunately.

    How long are you going to push your current smartphone until you allow yourself to replace it? – My first smart phone was in 2013 I think, a Galaxy S4, After 6 years I finally make the leap to a new Galaxy S9+. It was $550 (at $22.87 a month for 2 years). I bought it from Walmart/Verizon’s deal together. At the Verizion store the same phone was $800! No idea why. I also found the same phone used for $600, so it seemed new at Walmart was a good choice.

    My uncle often buys $2,000+ bikes. He explained that with how often he uses this bike it’s worth it to him. I think the same with the phone purchase. 6 years was a good run with the S4 and I’m happily paying $22.87 a month for a better phone.
    i will continue to wait out the Tesla, but look forward to the day that I finally pull the trigger!

  • Wound Licker May 10, 2019, 8:31 am

    How about adult braces/Invisalign? Truely a cosmetic expenditure, but with added benefits of self confidence and a great smile. Insurance pays about half of the $6k but still in the PJM battle.

    • ksmyth May 10, 2019, 3:05 pm

      Have you shopped around? dental schools often perform routine procedures for a lot less.

  • mary stone May 10, 2019, 9:55 am

    Car ownership will soon become a quaint hobby. I stave off my PJM by using watch lists on eBay, Amazon, shopgoodwill.com. A good way to track what I want/wanted, what became of it, and gain an understanding of the min and max prices they command. Consumer voyeurism at its best.

  • Simple Money Man May 10, 2019, 11:39 am

    My purchase justification is being able to write down how often I will effectively use the item or service and how much value it can add to mine and my family’s life. It’s amazing how many things actually don’t!

  • John May 10, 2019, 11:45 am

    Ok here goes… My PJM is working on convincing me of buying a new smartphone (OnePlus 7 Pro!), A better wood-working bench for the garage and other less expensive things like faster SD cards for my video camera, a Lowepro backback, etc. I have not taken the plunge into electric car buying – although it is very popular in my area of Northern CA. I cannot justify a new (or different) car in our circumstances. Our cars are less than 10 years old, in great shape and they are OWNED. We live where we work and can commit to walking to school, riding a bike to work, etc. BUT, I did sit in a Tesla a few months ago and was blown away at the tech. I love that huge display!

    I will say, one of the things that has been on my mind lately is NOT to purchase anything until all existing projects (procrastination/motivation problem) are completed. I still have some pretty big projects that I have already purchased things for and aren’t done. I’ve made a commitment to myself and wife to complete those projects before making more projects. So… I was excited to see MMM bring this topic up after it had already been on my mind!

  • JOE sokolowski May 10, 2019, 12:19 pm

    Speaking of cars: This is my spead sheet of cars I have bought and sold. I am was in the car business and was a certified master mechanic. I’ve spent a net balance on cars of $12,040. I got my driver’s license in 1969. This does not include maintenance, insurance, licensing and gas. The last time I had a car payment was 1983. About the same year 401k’s were started. There are drawbacks not owning a late model car, but there are advantages not having a car with blue tooth, or made before bluetooth was invented.
    1966 Triumph Spitfire $225.00 $350.00
    1972 Toyota Corolla $2200.00 Gave to family member
    1975 Kawasaki 175cc Enduro $450.00 $35.00
    1976 Suzuki 750cc $900.00? $900.00?
    1966 Datsun 1600 Roadster $450.00 $200.00
    1966 Datsun Pick-up Truck $600.00 $2200.00
    1971 Datsun 1200.00 $400.00 $0.00
    1978 Buick Regal Turbo $4200.00 $3800.00
    1966 Volkswagen Bus $1000.00 $1800.00
    1971 Volvo S144 Wagon $900.00 $500.00
    1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Wagon $650.00 $400.00
    1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Wagon $1850.00 Donated/tax ded.
    1984 Chevrolet Nova $400.00 $150.00
    1986 Hyundai Excel $275.00 $600.00
    1990 Oldsmobile Ciera $600.0 $900.00
    1984 Volkswagen Westfalia $800.00 $900.00
    1978 Volkswagen Bus $650.00 $500.00?
    1968 Volkswagen Westfalia $200.00 $200.00
    1967 Volkswagen Squareback $200.00 $200.00
    1971 Volkswagen Westfalia $550.00 $950.00
    1976 Volkswagen Bus $700.00? $1250.00?
    1986 Volkswagen Cabrio $1000.00 $275.00
    1969 Mercedes 280SL $750.00 $900.00
    1968 Volkswagen Bug $250.00 $200.00
    1964 Volkswagen Bug $175.00 Traded for an engine
    1967 Opel GT $450.00 $900.00
    1998 Subaru Outback $7200.00 Still own
    1966 Dodge Pickup $275.00 Gave to family member
    1970 Volkswagen Westfalia $900.00 Still own
    1985 Yamaha 250MX $250.00 $500.00
    1969 Volkswagen Bug-Felix $0 Still own
    2004 Ford Focus $1000.00 Still own
    Total spent: $ 30,650.00 total sold: $18,610.00

  • Nathan Thompson May 10, 2019, 12:24 pm

    My PJM is a nicely finished garage. I list all of the potential tasks I will be able to knock out, if only I had my tools neatly organized in cabinetry and shelving. But if I’m gonna do it, I need to do it right, right?! So the actual cost of nicely finishing the garage explodes to thousands of dollars. Alas, I have beaten back the urge…so far.

  • Ricky May 10, 2019, 2:31 pm

    In general, I have zero interest in cars. But I’ve always said my “next car” will 100% be a Tesla.

    Problem is, some life stuff happened and I wanted a motorcycle but couldn’t justify the risk on the road. I made a compromise and bought a Miata. Most fun I’ve ever had driving. I can’t see the Model 3 being fun for long unless you like speeding tickets or drag racing.

    Since I’m FI I’m going to be taking road trips with my dad in the Miata. The all glass “moon roof” is nice but nothing will replace dropping the top.

    Still, I am quite sure I’ll end up with a Tesla unless one of the big guys somehow comes out of nowhere with a better car (highly unlikely at this point since Tesla is a solar/tech company first and car company second).

  • Mr R2A May 10, 2019, 3:25 pm

    Hehe this article is having the opposite effect on me to what’s intended. I wholeheartedly agree with every word but before reading it I’d successfully suppressed my desire to buy an electric car, now I’m starting to salivate.

  • Jim May 10, 2019, 4:33 pm

    Yeah, my PJM just won’t let me move on from my ‘02 Silverado. Putting only 3,000 local miles on it a year as of late (outside of hunting trips), I can’t justify the depreciation/ cost of trading her out even with a trailer for hauling and a vehicle with > 15 mpg. She’s been paid off since ‘04 and costs $300/ year to insure. The truck has 125k on it and with routine maintenance it should last at least until all 4 of my kids learn to drive, including my 3 year old.

  • Stefan May 10, 2019, 4:57 pm

    Do I need a new bike?
    Looking for advice on my PJM regarding a new bike. I sold my car in 2015 and own two bicycles: A commuter bike, a 30-year old mountain bike, well maintained, that I purchased for $35 in 2016 from my then neighbor who had barely ridden it. I ride it every day for at least 10 miles including through the Michigan winter.

    My second bike is a Bike Friday folding bike that I take with me in a suitcase when I travel including internationally. I bought it used on eBay in 2013 for $1,200, it’s about 25 years old.

    When I ride with others, e.g. on a trip with local enthusiasts to go bike camping, I have a hard time keeping up. I’m in fairly good shape, so I think it’ s my old bikes. I believe a new Gravel Bike would make me a lot faster and able to better keep up with others.

    Ideally, I would like to own a Gravel bike (fast) that I can put into a suitcase (i.e. with S&S couplers). I recently tested a gravel bike at a local store and it felt like a race horse compared to my 30-year-old commuter bike. I have been looking for a used Gravel bike with S&S couplers in my size but those seems extremely rare. Such bike new would probably cost around $3K.

    Is it time to pull the trigger on a Gravel bike so I can keep up with others when on joint rides? With S&S couplers so I can take it in a suitcase when traveling? New since there aren’t many used ones? What’s your advice?

    • Barbara May 11, 2019, 2:57 pm

      You’re the only one who can determine if the Gravel bicycle will improve your quality of life by an amount that would justify its price…if I were in your position, I would make sure I’d exhausted all other reasonable options first. If you wouldn’t use it all that often, would a rental from a shop (or a fellow Gravel enthusiast) be an option? I’m presuming the Bike Friday has been all tuned up to work as well as possible—and I presume you’re planning on selling it, too…Do you have a saved search on eBay for the type of Gravel bike you want, so you’ll get an email if one pops up? Are you checking Craigslist regularly—not only in your area, but in nearby areas that have lots of bicyclists? Can you attach a drag-line to your fellow bicycle campers, to slow them down, or make sure they carry all the heaviest gear? (Just kidding ;-). I generally ask myself in such situations: “Is this the best use of these dollars?” Sometimes the answer is, “Hell, yeah!!” Good luck!

  • JeffD May 11, 2019, 12:30 am

    I think you should go back and look at your swimming pool analysis. For one or two long trips a year, you can rent the Tesla.

  • Tyler May 11, 2019, 8:36 am

    Obviously all the advice here is excellent for the masses and those wishing to become FI.

    But’s I don’t think there’s any risk of you falling into some spending mad-man spiraling ever downwards in net worth from the point in which you purchase this car.

    It’s just a purchase. It’s no different than any of the other hundreds you already make that won’t affect your financial security in the slightest.

    I just think it’s silly to deny oneself things they really want when that is the purpose of working. It’s like we’re so afraid we’ll become this different person that we’re “not supposed to be” and somehow that’s a good thing to be afraid of that. I respect the stoicism and staying true to the values of the site but I just don’t think it’s necessary in this case. Then again, what a branding nightmare if you DID purchase it, right?

  • Stevoid May 11, 2019, 1:16 pm

    I still haven’t bought the original Olympus OM-D em5 (2012) despite my PJM’s best attempts. It’s now around £150 on ebay, but they keep on bringing out new ones to tempt me instead. And, in honesty, I would have given in long ago if it wasn’t for my wife saying, “you already have a camera you never use” every time I mention it. Wife trumps PJM.

  • Evan May 11, 2019, 1:37 pm

    2010 Toyota Prius? I’m still rocking my 2002 Honda Odyssey. I did upgrade the 2000 Honda Accord to a 2009 Honda Civic, though. Bit of a splurge, but I couldn’t pass up a decent car from a friend for half of it’s KBB. Since it has 160k and I drive <6k per year, I figure I've got maybe 8 years left on it? I really should bike for the health benefits; but at a depreciation of $250 per year, I've compromised. Just living the high life.

  • Paul May 11, 2019, 8:37 pm

    My PJM has me searching for NB Miatas. I bike to work and don’t really have a good reason (other than they’re fun to drive). I can even borrow family members’ cars most of the time as they travel oseas a lot. I’ve gone nearly 24 months without a car but I’m telling myself I will try and bike 12K kms this year (lots of commuting and training rides) and get the mortgage a bit further down before I’m allowed to seriously look at one.

  • Stuart May 11, 2019, 9:03 pm

    I have Tesla lust as bad as the next person. But it got cured one day when while I was attending a meeting in the bay area and a friend pulled me aside during a break and asked if I had plans the next evening. I know him and his wife as kind of foodies so I was expecting dinner at some place that would have great food and an even greater price. But when he said he was picking up a model s and they were going on a factory tour… I was all in! The reception at the factory, the tour and how we were treated was great. The actual delivery they put the car in a “room” about the size of a 3 car garage and gave you a tour of the car talking about all of the features, options and what not. Next comes an inspection and where they try to upsell the maintenance plane (I pike my friend and say… uh it is an electric car don’t pre-pay the oil changes for the next three years). I think I managed to knock him out of his trance an he stopped selecting all the extra add-ons .

    For awhile I was super jealous and thought that I really needed a car like this too. When it got to the end and watched him write the check my heart stopped. I knew that the price of the car was so far different from the amount of money I was willing to write a check for that it would not be a car for me. I mean… it doesn’t tow a trailer, I can’t haul livestock or hay in it and about a million other reasons my I could never see me getting one.

    I sat in the back and enjoyed the ride back to his house. As dinner was cooking he tossed me the keys and made me take it for a drive. Not knowing the neighborhood I insisted he come along. My inner teenager surfaced and did a few things that I think would put me in jail for a long time … but I got it out of my system and as we pulled into his drive. I told him thank you. He has a very nice car, but during the test drive I learned that the car was not for me. It was kind of weird. One side of me was greatly relieved that I no longer need to figure out how to buy one but at the same time I realize that not only do I not need one, I really don’t want one at my current stage of life.

    Oh, and to comment on the blog… I apparently spend too much time on the interwebs and on the photography sites the desire/justification syndrome of getting the latest and greatest gizmo is call GAS – gear acquisition syndrome. The lust seems quite real at the time but every time I fight through it I become grateful I didn’t fall victim to it.


    .ps – I am far from perfect. I probably have way more tools that I really need. My current lust is a track saw to finish the insides of a house… but so far I am resisting.

  • Catprog May 12, 2019, 12:47 am

    I wanted to buy an eletric car but work did not feel secure and so I went with the cheapest new car on the market. A about $20kAUD Mazda 2.

    (I really wanted to keep my old car but it was too old and things were starting to break on it. About 300,000km on the odometer.)

  • Paul May 12, 2019, 2:06 am

    Yeah, I felt a bit of Tesla lust, but managed to put out that fire… made easier in my case because my funds are deep into a long term investment, and I’m on a very tight budget (retired) until harvest dollars arrive.

    I think Tesla have managed to seduce themselves with their own hot air. Having to use a screen to trigger some manner of electrical actuator/motor/solenoid/whatever simply to open the glove box is the height of madness. Huffing the Tesla baggy. A simple mechanical latch would carry less weight, be cheaper to make and install, and have a failure rate close to zero, in any manner of circumstances. Multiply this stupid choice many times over, with many other ‘innovations’, and you’ve got cause to wait for a later model, with more practical features, rather than toy tricks.

  • Mattias CF May 12, 2019, 2:27 am

    My PJM urges me to buy a Velove Armadillo cargo bike (https://www.velove.se/electric-cargo-bike). But I cant really say that I need it. My job and most things I need are within walking or (non-electric) cycling distance. Also have great access to public transport. The Armadillo looks like a lot of fun though.

  • Andrew P May 12, 2019, 8:03 am

    This article is a hilarious portrayal of the inner dialogue in my head. One added justification I use: Tesla’s will be self-driving eventually (likely at least) and have a robotaxi service which wich can be used a passive income stream. Or, less cool, but possible today, you can rent your Tesla using a website like Turo.

  • Lynn F May 12, 2019, 8:48 am

    Still pleased with putting about 2k miles/yr on my 2001 Lexus which was a hesitant upgrade from the 1997 Toyota Corolla. I plan to get a Prius next once we have trouble with the Lexus, but such has not been the case. Lexus gets a lot of reasonable criticism, but I have found it to have nice Toyota innerds and a delightful driving environment that is a nice balance of value for our fam of 4, now retired life. Our other vehicle is a 457b.

  • MH May 12, 2019, 9:48 am

    My PJM is wanting a car with all the latest safety features: radar & automatic braking, blind spot alert, etc. It is easy to justify: I won’t die or be permanently disabled!

    I have a 2007 Prius with 215,000 miles so I need to be prepared. I really want an electric hybrid Prius with safety features. Never mind that I live in an apartment & would have to figure out how to get the cord thru the sliding glass door without the bugs getting in. Never mind that I have no money. So i will probably go with the cheapest used car with auto braking.

    So I get others to buy the safety features. I help friends out by haggling down the prices for them. They buy new cars which they drive til it dies. Got one friend a Toyota Corolla with auto braking & extra for blindspot. Another a Kia Optima with blindspot but she did not to spend more for auto braking. My 89-year-old mom got a Kia Sportage with all the safety features. She is having trouble adopting to the high tech, which would probably happen on any newish vehicle. On the other hand, my brother needed a new truck. The new ones cost way too much so got a used one without the safety features.

  • Anne May 12, 2019, 1:51 pm

    Initially I thought for sure this was a belated April Fool’s Day post or something. You can’t be serious about plunking down all that money on a Tesla…a car, of all things.

    I took ER a couple of years ago and sold the car. Haven’t missed it (or sitting in an office) once. For anyone who is also carless and misses a car, try Uber or Lyft every once in a while.


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