My new motorcycle arrived late last week. When I started this journey in the spring, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stick with it, and I certainly wasn’t intending on buying a bike this soon. It’s a little more powerful than I was thinking for a first real bike and I definitely blew through the vague budget I had in mind for the first year of my new hobby. I’m okay with it though, happy even. You might think I’m just trying to justify myself, but let me tell you what this experience shows about letting life take you where it goes even if it’s not what you thought you wanted or needed, and how you, too, can trust the ride life gives you when it takes hold of your bank account and doesn’t seem to want to let go.
As part of the learning process, I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past few months sitting on different motorcycles. A breadth of experience, even if brief and not entirely educated, can be an essential part of building a knowledge base that helps you make future decisions quickly. Since I started from zero, I needed to learn basics like what styles of bikes exist, how high a particular seat height might feel, and the various seating positions that a bike might have. Browsing the Internet and watching videos only helps so much compared to getting hands-on time seeing and touching in person. That exposure and repetition alone were enough to help me understand what I liked and didn’t like, especially when paired with knowledgeable people around me to guide aspects that I should pay attention to. While preference and comfort aren’t everything, and additional research for the factual “book” knowledge is still important, they are still important things to know. Even if you don’t think you know enough yet, sometimes the only way to learn is to get out there and do and see and touch and feel, so that you can build a mental and physical vocabulary about the general characteristics that define what you’re interested in. And you might fall in love with something.
I’ve also been absorbing information about features and prices. Getting familiar with the universe of what’s out there when you’re starting to toy with buying a thing will make it easier for you later. You’ll already know, for instance, that ABS for your brakes is a good idea, or that there are only a few common colors that what you want is likely to be available in. You’ll also have an idea of what’s coming down the pike in the market, perhaps a model refresh that will add a number of new features, or a highly anticipated new product that might be extra interesting to you – or make it likely for prices to soon fall on what you think you really want. You’ll get a sense, too, of how much it will cost for various options, both generally and specifically. That way, you’ll be able to identify a special opportunity or an excellent price when it’s in front of you, in addition to budgeting for your dream. You might not have decided you were ready to buy yet, but timelines may be worth moving up when an unbeatable deal presents itself. Alternatively, you might avoid buyer’s remorse by waiting a little while longer to get exactly what you’re looking for. Either way, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s worth buying and how much is worth paying for it, so when a sale hits, you’ll know if it’s worth going after it.
What can you afford? Really, truly? Having a handle on your financial situation at any given moment means you should be familiar with all of the moving parts that make up your income, your savings, and what you can put towards that purchase you’re contemplating. Saving is important and you probably will need to do that for big things you are looking at buying. You might not, though, especially for smaller, impulse buys. It’s true that too many impulse buys can keep you from meeting your long-term financial goals, but the journey can be part of the destination here. If your budget is already accounting for necessities and savings and the bigger things you want to get, any extra is a slush fund that can be spent less thoughtfully. That’s part of the reward of financial discipline, that you can buy something just because you want it, perhaps earlier than your master plan allowed. The trick is to remember to look around at the current state of your money management instead of always and only being focused on the end game.
Wanting something just because you like it or it’s fun is okay. Buying something just because you like it or it’s fun is okay too. I’m right with you on how hard it is to accept that, and to not feel guilty about buying the thing that sparks joy in your heart, because it might be an irresponsible use of your money. But if you’ve done your homework, if you know you’re paying a fair price, if you aren’t spending in ways that will prevent you from paying necessary bills or meeting necessary financial goals, then why not? Why not make your soul sing?
Say hi to my Triumph Bonneville Bobber. She’s more bike than I need or is probably wise for me as a new rider, but she looks an awful lot like the classic motorcycles I’ve discovered I love, I fit on her like we were meant to be together, and I got a great deal on her, so we’ll take it slow and figure it out. We’ll grow together and smile together with every mile together, and that’s what matters.