This week is my week off. I am one of the fortunate physicians that has a job that allows me to work 7 days in a row then have 7 days to do whatever I want without being on call. Usually the first few days when I am not working I tend to catch up on sleep since the 80-100 hours I put in during the week can be quite draining. Yesterday, I decided to have some friends over. These are all friends which I have known dating back to high school. Having them visit was quite an eye opening experience since I have not had any company over to my apartment other than my fiancee in years. I know that might sound weird but since we like to spend so much time outdoors our social events usually involved something outdoors and not hanging out at our place.
One of the expensive financial lessons that changed how I spend money
The best financial lesion that I ever experienced was when my father let me buy a used mustang when I was sixteen. I saved up money after working some previous jobs and was able to afford my dream car at that age, which happened to be a stick shift mustang. I let my emotions run wild and did not worry about the financial implications of my decision. My mind was filled with daydreams of riding with my friends in my new car. The only rule my father gave me was that I could not take out a loan to buy a depreciating assert such as a car.
With this one rule in mind I went car shopping. Within two days I had purchased a Ford Mustang with a five speed manual transmission as seen below. The sticker price after tax, title, and license was $12,400. This just happened to be about $1,000 less than my entire net worth at that age. That’s right, at the age of 16 I had just spent 92% of my net worth on a depreciating asset. Once the newness of this purchase wore of I was faced with the recurring costs. All of a sudden I was realizing that insurance, vehicle registration, and gas money were more than I could afford. In an effort to make ends meet I was forced to take a job at a pizza place nearby delivering pizzas on my weekday evenings and every other weekend.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my dream card had become a nightmare and a huge financial burden. I had daydreams of driving around with my friends once I had the car, but the reality was that I was driving around alone on school nights delivering pizzas all over town. From this moment on my mindset changed to never make such an unwise financial decision again. Now, some of you might be wondering how my parents allowed me to buy such a car. My parents have a very independent way of looking at life and parenting. Many times they would offer their advise but in the end treated us very independently even at a young age. Right or wrong, they felt that since I mowed lawns and hauled hay to get this money that I could spend it however I wanted. I do recall that just prior to my purchase my father sat me down and told me that this would be a decision that I regretted but did not say much beyond that one sentence. Being sixteen, this is one opportunity where I didn’t listen and made the choice to buy the car. For what its worth, to this day I have never once herd an “I told you so” from him.
The new frugal mindset
After losing 92% of my liquid cash in one purchase to buy a depreciating asset, I went into college, medical school, and residency trying to cut unnecessary costs out of my life. Debt and recurring expenses that were unnecessary turned into the enemy. I decided to have roommates that had all the furniture needed for the apartment so I wouldn’t have to spend extra money. This also made moving so much easier and cheaper since I could usually fit everything I own in one truck load. I made it till the age of 29 years old without having to buy my own pots and pans set or couch.
I didn’t live alone till I was in residency. When I entered residency I choose to buy everything except my bed second hand to cut back on expenses. Now that I am a board certified attending, I don’t necessarily feel any different but after yesterday I have come to realize that my friends may be looking at me differently. Unknown to me, when they visited my apartment they were expecting to see things that they wanted but maybe could not afford. One of them kept telling me how many different electronics he would buy with my paycheck while another friend tried to talk me into buying a new car. Seeing my apartment was a very eye opening experience for both parties involved since I am living much simpler than they envisioned.
Here are some of the items they were shocked to find in my apartment
I like to video game. I am the proud owner of not the most recent generation of gaming system, but the previous generation since it is much cheaper. (Xbox purchased several years ago for $100 that was refurbished )
Dining room table (Okay its actually patio furniture that I scored on craigslist): (Free)
Yes that’s my kegarator in the background!
TV ($25 estimated second hand)
No TV stand since that is extra money. Instead I just use old books.
My desk isn’t bad (Also secondhand) but this chair is the only piece of furniture I have in my apartment other than by bed, the patio furniture, and two side tables.
Happiness means many different things to many different people
My friends calling out my frugal purchases and lack of amenities or luxuries in my apartment was quite an eye opener. Before I was finished with training, no one seemed to ever care when I was broke and living frugally. However, now that I’m done it seems that all of a sudden they think I should have made a huge jump in how I’m living. I’m happy with the people in my life, the experiences and happen to place little worth on physical items. Luckily my better half is just as frugal as me and does not have a problem with not placing a high importance on luxury purchases.
I don’t look down on my old friends for judging me about how I am living. Instead, I took it as an opportunity to educate that due to student debt and my lack of a desire to have those things that I am perfectly happy as it. I don’t think that a fancy dining room table or brand new BMW will change me or my outlook on life but I will agree that at some point it would be nice to have some matching furniture. I feel the exact same I feel today as when I was temporarily homeless after my parents house burnt down. Happy to be healthy and have good people in my life. Maybe the matching furniture and some other purchases will come in due time.