Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cars as Presents, Part II (The Insanity Continues)

If you really want to maximize the status value of any purchase, be sure to put a bow on it and let the neighbors see it.  Do this for everything - small appliances, your groceries, etc.  Makes sense, right?

A friend came over the other night and remarked how proud they were of their son, as he bought his wife a new car as a present.  "He's doing so well with that new job, he could afford to buy her a car!  He took her to the dealer and said, 'see that one there? I bought it for you!' and she is telling everyone how romantic it was!"

Of course, I scratched my head and said, "wait a minute.   These two are married, right?"

"Well, yes of course!"

"So he really didn't so much 'buy her a car' as he took some of the marital assets and spent them on a big-ticket item, without her permission, right?"

"Well, uh...."

"And it's kind of misogynist, isn't it, to pick out a car for your wife without consulting her as to make model or even color?   Particularly when she is paying for half of it, right?"

"But you miss the point, you see it was romantic!"

"And how romantic would you feel if your husband showed up with a brand-new car one day and said that "he" bought it for "you" with "his money"?

"I'd kill him if he ever did something that stupid!"

It wan an interesting conversation.  But it pointed out how this "cars as presents" thing really works.  In addition to the actual car itself, you are buying status both for you and your wife and even your parents.

You see, a car is an appliance that you use in life, and eventually, like all appliances, they wear out.   And if you are married, you and your spouse should sit down together and decide carefully what kind of car to replace it with - make, model, and whether new or used.  It is a large financial decision for anyone other than a Billionaire, and the idea of one party "surprising" the other by spending martial assets is insane, to say the least.  It is poor financial planning at a minimum - but as we shall see, the parties to this dance have been doing that game for a long, long time.

But it struck me as to why people do idiotic things like this and the answer is status plain and simple.   The husband works at a blue-collar, manual labor job, and is my age.   He has sort of bummed through life from one pretty good paying union job to another, but kept losing jobs over time.   Each time the company was "fucked up" or the boss was an "asshole" and yes, marijuana is involved.  (Just once - once - I would like to meet a pot smoker who actually likes his job, the company he works for, and his boss.   Every time I meet one, though, I am entertained with a diatribe about how shitty he has it and what a rotten country we live in - but I digress).

So this fellow is sort of a ne'er-do-well and struggling to get by on his own, and in fact, living in his parents house at age 55.  And yes, the parents view him as damaged goods and he lives right up to their expectations.

So for a schmuck like this, life doesn't provide a lot of status.   And buying brand-new cars is one way the lower classes and middle class tries to make themselves feel better about themselves.   And buying one as a gift (even though you can't "give" your wife something using half her money) is one way of leveraging this status.

You see, ol' Bubba here can now regale his friends and family with tales about how he "bought the little missus" a new economy car right off the lot as a gift for her!   "You know, that clunker she was driving was nearly five years old and giving her trouble so I went out and bought her a new one!"   He gets to imply to his friends that he is so wealthy that he can just buy cars at a whim as gifts.

The wife can now tell her girlfriends about how "romantic" it was that her husband "bought her a brand new car as a gift!" which also implies that the husband is rolling in dough and that they are rich folks!

And even the parents get in on the game, being able to regale friends (except for me of course) about how "successful" their son is, because he bought his wife a car as a gift!   He's rolling in dough now!

But if you think about it, all they did here was buy a car for themselves.   It was not a "gift" as you cannot "give" your spouse things like this, as you are also spending her money to do it.   Marital assets belong to both partners - 50/50 - or at least they should in a real marriage.  You are basically giving yourself a car, is all.

If this is a "gift" then why not put your new washing machine in the driveway with a big bow on it and tell the neighbors you bought it as a "gift" for your wife?   Or why not each bag of groceries?  Or the electric bill?

"I was feeling generous this month, so I told the little missus I'd treat her by paying the electric bill!" - it makes no sense at all.

But it struck me that this is how poor people think and another example of poor decision making in every sense of the word.   A guy 55 years old, with nothing saved in the bank, no house of his own to live in, and the first thing he does when he gets a good-paying job is goes out and buys brand-new cars.

Oh, yea, I forgot.  Prior to the "gift" to his wife, he of course had to buy a brand-new monster truck for his own use.   Was that a "gift" from her, or doesn't that count?  How fortunate that the Republicans won the mid-term elections and lowered the price of gas, right?  Sadly, this is how people think - or fail to think.

Now lest you think I am taking a piss on ol' Bubba, I am not.  I am merely reporting the facts and using them as a learning tool.  And what do we learn from this?
1.  When you buy a car for your wife as a "gift" you are not "gifting" her anything, but rather spending a large amount of marital assets without her permission.   It would like me buying you a car, using your checkbook.

2.  A big reason people do this is for status - to brag about how they can buy cars as gifts.   Think I am wrong?  Who is the big bow for, the wife or the neighbors?   And why do people brag about these sort of things?

3.  The road to middle-class poverty is paved with new-car payments.
Chasing status and chasing bling is one sure way to end up poor - or middle-class poor - the rest of your life.  Buying cars as "gifts" is just chasing status - and it is a false status that anyone with half a brain can see through.