Do You Need a Bugatti Education?
This month’s issue of Road & Trackmagazine contains a road test of one hot car, a Bugatti Veyron that costs $2.65 million. It has some unusual and attractive features, like a 16-cylinder engine with four turbochargers and a body that is made mostly out of carbon fiber that glistens in the sun.
It also has a top speed of about 260 miles per hour. That means that you are only paying about $10,000 for each mile per hour that you use. So the car is actually not as expensive as the price tag would imply.
That is dumb thinking for sure. And sadly, it is the same kind of thinking that many people use when they are considering college costs. Sure the overall four-year cost of an Ivy League college (and lots of other middle-tier colleges too) is going to exceed $250,000 in the near future. But heck, individual courses at those schools don’t cost much more than $1,000, right? And when you stop to think about room and board, those costs aren’t really college-specific, are they? I mean, you are going to have to live someplace anyway, right, and you are going to have to eat meals, even if you are not going to college.
So when you stop to break it down, spending a quarter of a million dollars on college really isn’t so bad, right?
But let’s take a look at that Bugatti again, and its cost of only $10,000 per mile per hour of speed. Because the fact is, for a little more than $20,000 (the cost of going two miles per hour in the Bugatti) you can buy yourself a perfectly great new car, like a Honda Accord, a Ford Fusion or a Toyota Corolla, and drive to college every day for four years. Then you can drive the car to work for another decade or more and maybe even give it to your kids someday so they can drive to college in it too.
The bottom line is, there are always ways to justify spending ridiculous sums of money on things that should cost far less. (Think of John Edwards’s haircuts or those $1 million toilets that get installed on the space shuttle.) But there are also ways to spend less and enjoy genuine value, whether you are buying a car or four years of college.
Which path will you choose? If you focus on value instead of status, the choice becomes pretty clear.