When Dave talks about driving debt free, is there a voice in your head that says, “That sounds great, Dave. But it will never happen for me.” And even when he and his daughter Rachel talk about how she saved up and bought her first car debt free with her dad’s matching contribution, does that voice say, “Easy for you, Dave. Impossible for me.”
The truth is, buying your first car debt free will be a challenge, but certainly not impossible. Just ask Ben Little who just bought his third car, debt free, in seven years—and he’s only 21!
An Early Start
It started when his mom volunteered a 14-year-old Ben to help out at a restaurant owned by a friend of the family. “He liked how hard I worked, and I kept the job for nearly six years,” Ben said.
His strong work ethic earned him raises and promotions, and his pay went from minimum wage, about $5.15 per hour, to more than $12 an hour by the time he graduated high school. With the pay increases came more responsibility. Ben was the closing manager and held a key to the restaurant at age 18.
Ben was also diligent about saving his money. Less than a year after getting the job, he’d saved enough to buy his first car for $2,000. He was almost 15 and didn’t even have his learner’s permit yet!
“I was so excited!” Ben said. “I couldn’t drive yet, but to say I bought my first vehicle at 14–15 years old makes me proud. And my friends thought it was cool that I had my own vehicle as a freshman in high school.”
After high school, Ben joined the Marines. When he came home after boot camp, he used cash from the sale of his first car plus more he’d saved to upgrade to a newer model for $3,500.
Ben just got home from a 10-month deployment in 10 different countries. He continued to save his money and just bought a “new to him” pickup truck for $7,500. Debt free, of course.
Diligence and Discipline
Combining school, sports and work all those years was tough at times, Ben said. “But I think in the long run it helped make me into a better person and a harder worker,” he added.
Ben’s money-saving advice is simple: “Just don’t spend your money,” he said. But he knows it’s not always as easy as that.
“It’s not an easy thing to do because you see the money you have, and you want to spend it on something you want,” he explained. “But knowing that you paid cash for something, especially a vehicle, feels amazing. You know that you owe nothing on it, and it’s yours—you worked to get it and nobody can take that from you.”
You can buy a sweet first car with cash just like Ben did. You can also drive away from home after high school way ahead of the game, ready for life’s temptations and curveballs.