Keeping the inside of my car clean is a battle that I have not given up on, but I am clearly losing. I like to think I am like most people in that at first you keep the new shiny object spotless. Even that one spec of dust on the steering wheel that you can only see when it catches the sunlight has to go! Then as the months roll on you forget a coffee lid here, hair tie there, then the slow decline begins. The outside of the car on the other hand, now that is a different story. All I have to do is pay my $18/month subscription and drive on up. One morning this week the sky was gray and dark, but I dropped my daughter off at pre-school and I had just a few minutes to burn. Knowing full well it was going to rain, I decided to take Donny (my car’s name, please don’t judge) for a wash because I figured it had been a while and all the salt and dirt just couldn’t be good for him. Not surprisingly, the wash was empty and I pulled right in as the drops started falling. As I sat there watching that kind of kaleidoscope of colors and foam falling down, I started to think about how often I wash Donny for the image vs. how often I get a wash because it’s actually the best thing for him. My exact thought was “if there was no one else around, how often would I get my car washed?” If I were Tom Hanks, yapping away at my volleyball like in “Cast Away”, would I be wheeling around to the other side of the island a couple times a week to get the coconut hairs and sand off my ride? The answer is probably not. I would be too busy thinking about whether I would get rescued in time to make my 2021 Roth IRA contribution 🙂 And so my best guess of washes for image vs. washes for car health has the scoreboard at 137 – 2. Vanity wins by a landslide, and for the most part, I don’t have any issue with it. I feel better with a nice clean car and so what the heck, life can be short so I’m worth it and you’re worth it too! As I’ve written about before, these smaller, and in some ways unnecessary, costs can add up quickly, but are often not the leading source of financial stress. June will mark my 18th year as a financial planner and the theme of “having to keep up with the Jones” rings just as loud today as it did back in 2004. In the early days I was taught the gospel of a budget and the discipline of “tightening up the belt.” These approaches seemed to work great in theory and on paper, but life is messy and money can be complicated. Whether you find yourself perfectly comfortable, and especially if you are feeling the weight of every purchase, I think it can be very productive to check in on your spending from a different perspective. This perspective doesn’t need to require hunting down every penny, instead simply asking yourself “if there was no one else around, how often would I…” Happy Friday!