Every so often someone strikes up a random money conversation with me.
They don’t know that I spend my free time researching, analyzing, brainstorming, living, and breathing money management, frugal hacks, and the like.
To them, I’m just some chick with a beater car and a familiar-looking face (about 80% of people who strike up conversations with me swear that we know one another…I guess I just have one of those faces).
I must confess: I absolutely adore these conversations. Sure, I’m an introvert. But talking about money in any capacity brings a sparkle to my eye.Talking about money in any capacity brings a sparkle to my eye. Click To Tweet
A conversation that I had two years ago that’s stuck with me was with my car mechanic/used car salesman Fernando.
Fernando’s not exactly a stranger; he’s worked on my beater car several times in the past. But we’ve never had full-on conversations before. Our interaction has mostly gone something like this:
Me: Hi! I’ve got XXX wrong with my car. Can you fix it for me as cheaply as possible?
Fernando: Sure. Let me take a look at it.
Leaves and comes up with some miracle cure after announcing how much it would really cost to replace the part entirely.
Me: You are fantastic! Thank you for working with me.
But on this one particular visit, he got quite chatty about money.
What are You, Ancient Egyptian?
On this particular occasion, I came in with a very leaky coolant problem. So leaky, that I was having to add water to the system at least once a week (and by add water, I really mean empty a whole gallon jug in).
After Fernando came back with the initial $700 quote to properly fix the leaking heating core, I played my usual part by asking him if there was a super cheap workaround that would help me squeak out another 5,000-10,000 miles. He scratched his head and said something like, “well, I could re-tube it so that your A/C still works. But there’ll be no more heat in the car. I could do that for $95.”
Sold (for the record, I’ve now been driving the car for two years on this workaround).
While his mechanic got to work, Fernando struck up that conversation. It went something like this:
Fernando called a customer and left a voicemail for them. He knew this man closely, and decided to talk to me about how this man has lots of money but his home is just falling apart.
This is unacceptable to Fernando. He doesn’t understand it at all.
He then said, “I want to ask this man, what are you, ancient Egyptian? You can’t bury your gold with you. You won’t be resurrected and use it in your afterlife. So why not punch the card and use some of it while you are still alive and can enjoy?”
I nodded in agreement. This is certainly advice that I could use (me, guilty of sitting on my money instead of using it to live a little? Nah…).
Fernando then got up to check in on the status of what in the auto world probably amounts to a duct tape job on my rusty old beater car. As he was leaving, he put his hand up to the side of his mouth. With a smirk he said, “buy a new car!”
Hahahaha! A good salesman (and mechanic) for sure.
The Lesson Beyond the Obvious One
I could say that Fernando’s lesson was obvious (especially in the context of him trying to get me to buy a vehicle from him − nice try, Fernando). Most of us have probably heard the ol’ “you can’t take it with you” mantra before, though dishing it out by way of the ancient Egyptians certainly puts a cool spin on it.
But that’s not the true lesson I got from him that day.
I looked around at his tiles (circa 1985) peeling off, the fingernail-thick grimy walls, the curbside-worthy couch I was sitting on, his 1960s desk, the cruddy air conditioning unit barely taking the heat out of the air, the Kennedy-era marks on the wall, his splintered front door, the shoddy overheard fluorescent lighting that reminded me of my strobe phase… and thought to myself, “perhaps you should spend some money on renovating this place.”
But guess what? It wouldn’t make sense for him to spend his money on renovating his office.
Just like Fernando needs to spend his extra dollars on the things that are important to him − and no one can decide that for him − you need to spend money on things that are important to YOU. Not on what others think is important to you, and sure as heck not on status symbols that bring you no pleasure.
We all have limited resources, and the best way to extract as much pleasure out of this life as possible − since we certainly can’t bury ourselves with gold and resurrect it in the afterlife − is to decide on what brings us that pleasure, spend our extra dollars on those things, and then ruthlessly cut spending elsewhere.
Fernando may squawk at my beater car in all its roof-rusting, paint-chipped, dented-bumper glory, but wait ’til he gets a look at my gleaming Tupperware collection, or my passport stamps, both of which have given me great pleasure. And I may cringe each time I have to spend several hours waiting in his decaying wait room, but the man has spent lots of money travelling the world for enjoyment.
It’s by prioritizing, and then spending very little in all other areas that non-rich people can live the life of a pharaoh in this life. Otherwise, we might as well bury ourselves with our gold for all the good it’s going to do us.It's by prioritizing, and then spending very little in all other areas that non-rich people can live the life of a… Click To Tweet
P.S. This, of course, doesn’t bode well for Fernando’s car-selling side hustle, but he certainly can’t complain that my beater car isn’t helping him keep the shoddy strobe lights on.