Avoid This! (Ignore At Your Peril)
For around seven years my main source of income was bartending. It was seriously one of my favourite jobs, one that provided me with both a social scene and a way of earning money. Aside from the remarkable people I met, one of my most cherished takeaways was the lessons I learnt. These would come in a variety of forms and from a variety of people, including the customers, my co-workers and the situations that I experienced.
From the millions of people that I interacted with there was one customer that I’ll always remember. He was a man who regularly came in for a cheap counter meal, he was unassuming and largely kept to himself. Every now and again he’d sit at the bar, this would depend on if it was busy and whether or not he was up for a chat. Over time I began speaking with him and after a few months of interacting, I came to find out that he was financially quite well off.
Now, trust me, you wouldn’t tell by looking at him. Yet, after a few conversations, he somewhat let it slip. In return, I said to him … Wow, no offence but I wouldn’t have ever guessed that. To which he replied, yes, and that's exactly how I want it to be.
This piqued my interest … Why is that? I asked. To which he replied, a lot of people want to look the part but not be the part. They live in a delusion where they think that wearing fancy clothes and looking rich will somehow make them rich. This took me back, in hindsight I think it’s because I was guilty of doing this.
He continued … Yes, I have nice clothes at home but I only wear them if the occasion calls for it. Generally, I prefer to keep comfortable and unassuming. Although I wanted to ask more questions, he had to leave but as he left he said one thing … Just notice, have a look at your co-workers, even the people who come in here regularly. Look at their clothes, I trust you would know how much they cost. Then ask yourself, does the music match up with the words?
When he left I thought to myself … Wow, that was weird. People can buy whatever they want, they’ve earned their money, they can spend it how they like. I then forgot about it and continued working.
As fate would have it, that afternoon my co-worker came in for our shift changeover and showed me a new pair of shoes’ that she’d bought that day. A stunning pair of Nike Air Maxes, they were magnificent! When our change over finished, as I left to go home, I told her how cool her shoes were and made my way to the bus stop. For some reason, as soon as I took my seat I began thinking about what the customer had told me in relation to my co-worker's new shoes.
I remembered how in the past she had told me that she once maxed out her credit card and had to get her parents to pay it off for her. My co-worker was a university student who lived at home and paid no rent or bills. And those new shoes she bought? Well, she bought them using a credit card like service called afterpay, one that she still regularly used.
Then it hit me, shit he was right. And crap, I’ve been doing this too, since I first got a job at the age of fourteen. Every week my paycheque would come in and before my next pay cycle, I’d have to ask my mum for money. Why? Because I’d exhausted my funds within a week.
I then thought of my credit card that had a sizable amount drawn from it. Even though I had money saved I delusionally justified that because I was using my credit card instead of my savings, I was still saving money. At the same time, I was looking past the fact that I was paying fees for the credit card, alongside interest rates for the balance. That instead of saving money, I was doing the complete opposite.
At that moment I began questioning my purchasing decisions. Asking myself what was truly necessary and whether I needed to continue this frivolous spending. When I got home, I paid off my credit card, cut it up and cancelled it. From that weird day at work and the realisations on that bus ride, I’ve since dived into personal finance books. I’m continuously learning about money and how it works and how to utilise it best for my financial goals.
While I never saw that customer again, he did leave a lasting impression on me and taught me a valuable lesson. Which was to avoid trying to keep up with the Joneses and to instead, learn about how money works and what one needs to do to set themselves up financially.
This doesn’t mean I don’t treat myself but I do so responsibly. In fact, I’ve since come to realise that treating yourself isn’t splurging on something you can’t afford and feeling icky about it the next time you check your bank account. That, instead, treating yourself can come in many forms, whether it’s a nice walk in nature or perhaps buying yourself something as simple as a coffee.
Unfortunately, many aren’t taught about the importance of saving, investing and financial independence. It doesn’t help either that society encourages us to look the part instead of being it.
And in the wise words of Suze Orman …
Stop buying things you don’t need to impress people you don’t even like.
Instead, invest in yourself, invest in your growth and development, invest in your financial future.
Love, Tahlia X
P.s. I’m not a financial advisor and money can be a touchy topic for many. We all start from different starting points and that’s important to keep in mind. How you choose to spend your money is up to you, however, this was quite an eye-opening experience for me.