For the past five years, my family’s prime mode of transportation has been a banged up 1997 Subaru. I bought it used back in 2004 before I knew how to drive — at 37, I was late getting behind the wheel — figuring it would protect me from inevitable accidents. And it has: The front license plate is bent back from where I’ve overshot front-facing parking spaces and perched it on the curb; a side door is scraped up from a faulty merge with an ice cream truck. (I had the right-of-way, dammit.)
Early on, I figured that when I became a better driver, I could give up what was essentially a bumper car and get something more grown up: No dings, no chips, something made in this century, literally. Something that wouldn’t be an eyesore on the school parking lot.
But here’s the thing: The car’s a tank. It has now outlasted and outplayed two other used cars we bought before and after it, and it is still going strong. Last time we took it to the mechanic, he said that if we replaced the head gasket, it would go for another 200,000 miles. If it was a child, we’d be thinking about colleges by now. And, honestly, I’m frugal—I can’t give up a vehicle that reliably gets me from Point A to Point B. So the car has become something else for me: A sort of barometer of how serious I am about all this blah blah I spout about living simply. Because what I’ve realized in the last few years is that, if you’re going to be cheap like me, you have to truly own it.
Fact is, there is no hiding cheapness. There’s no hiding my car. There’s no hiding the fact that I take my lunch to work when I work in the city. There’s no hiding the fact that I think that restaurant my friends just chose is a wee bit pricey, and I’d rather we go somewhere cheaper or just have coffee or take a walk instead. Or that, yes, if I go and I don’t finish my meal, yer darn tootin’ I’d like that doggy bag.