Mar 092017

A Car Buying Formula 

Someone once said that an old car is like virginity. Once you’ve had it for over 25 years it’s kind of hard to get rid of because nobody else wants it either. 😄 But I’m not here to give relationship advice. This is a personal finance blog after all. So in today’s post we’ll discuss one of the most common questions people face; how much is appropriate to spend on a car? For most people I would recommend the following formula.

0.01s(5h+2i) = Price to pay for a vehicle

= Monthly household spending (before accounting for the potential vehicle.)
 = Number of expected hours the car will spend on the road per person per month.
i = Monthly cost of the auto insurance.

For example, I live pretty close to work so I only spend about 20 hours on the road each month. My car insurance costs $100/month, and my monthly household spending is roughly $2,500. When these numbers are plugged into the formula we see that I should spend about $7,500 if I were looking to buy a car today.

0.01 x $2500 x (5 x 20 hrs + 2 x $100) = $7,500

Let’s look at another example. Susan and Bob are looking to buy a vehicle. It will be used primarily for Susan to drive to work, but will also be used for shopping / recreational activities for both of them. They estimate the car will be on the road for 50 hours per month. They will be in the car together for 10% of that time. Their monthly spending is $3,200. Insurance for the car is expected to cost $150/month for the type of vehicle they are looking for. Using these numbers we discover they should budget in the range of $18,400 for a car.

0.01 x $3200 x (5 x 55 hrs + 2 x $150) = $18,400

Even though the car spends 50 hours on the road, we are using 55 hours in the formula. This is because two people are expected to use the car simultaneously 10% of the time so during those times the hourly rate of utility is doubled.

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Dec 212015

Maximizing Utility

Earning money is a learned skill. If we put in the time and effort, we can learn to increase our earning potential. But making money is only half the battle.

An equally important aspect of personal finance is spending money. 🙂 Some people may not realize it, but spending is a learned skill as well. This means we can learn to become better shoppers. Knowing where to look for deals, buying in bulk, and eating with the seasons will naturally help us save. But if we buy an expensive blazer on sale and only wear it once, then are we really saving money, or are we spending our earnings on something we don’t really want to keep? ?

This is why part of being a skilled spender is understanding how much utility we’ll get out of our purchase. Utility refers to the total satisfaction received from consuming a good or service. For example I normally wouldn’t pay for a donut. ? In fact, even if it was free I probably still donut want one. I’m just not a big fan of the hole thing. ? But I’ll gladly pay for a Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme. That’s my favourite chocolate bar!? So to maximize my utility I would pick a Hershey’s over a donut given those two choices, even though the Hershey’s is likely more expensive. In other words, the value of my purchase comes from how much enjoyment it gives me, – not from what I paid for it. 😉

Consumers who understand this correlation between their spending and utility are smart. 🙂 They tend to be excellent spenders since they don’t waste their hard-earned income on rubbish that doesn’t give them much fulfillment. Economists even have a unit of measuring enjoyment or utility, called Utils. 😀 At the end of the day it’s not about maximizing savings, but it’s rather about maximizing happiness. 🙂 Instead of looking for deals on pricing, we should be looking for bargains on satisfaction. 😀

My $1,500 Gift

I noticed I had some money sitting around. So after considering what brings me enjoyment and satisfaction, I’ve decided this year for Christmas to buy myself some new stocks in my tax deferred account. 🙂 So last week I purchased 20 shares of media company Viacom Inc (VIAB,) and 10 shares of the well-known retailer, Wal-Mart (WMT.) The total cost came to about $1,500 USD, rounded to the nearest hundred. This will be my last investment of the year.