Before you call me entitled, or lucky, or special, I realize it’s a privilege to own a BMW and it says a lot about the asshole I used to be.
I used to believe in the luxury car dream. Not anymore.
In 2009, I had the flashiest, nicest baby blue BMW you’ve ever seen. It had beige-colored seats with black trimming and a sunroof. It was paid for by the business I helped create and it was leased.
In 2011, I left that business behind and was broke. I was forced to sell the BMW, and imagined everybody would want it. It turns out that baby blue cars with beige seats have a very low demand. The resale value is terrible.
Related: How do I become a great strategist?
After selling the car to a nineteen-year-old girl dying to use her father’s credit rating to obtain a new image, it was gone. All that was left was for me to pay the enormous gap between how much I got for the car and what was left on the loan.
As soon as the money was paid and the paperwork was settled, the debt was gone and I had nothing left.
I started a new job working in a call center and borrowed my parent’s car for the first few weeks. It became impractical really fast and so, a family member stepped in and gave me their car which they no longer needed. It was a Holden (General Motors) Astra, 2004 model.
It was the ugliest, simplest car you’ve ever driven. It barely had the basics and hadn’t been serviced in a long time. As I drove the car home on its first voyage since 2005 — when it had been in an accident — it had clearly seen better days. The whole car was covered in thick dirt and there were spider webs all over it. When I arrived at the car wash to make her look brand new again, a giant spider, bigger than my hand, crawled out from underneath and parked itself on the windscreen. It’s literally one of the scariest memories of my life.
The spider died, caused by a cocktail full of poison. The car was clean and the best part was it didn’t owe any money.
After selling the BMW, I felt like a recovered alcoholic. Money never looked the same again.
You Don’t Need Flashy Stuff; You Just Think You Do
I fell for the lie of the BMW ad. I thought I needed a luxury car to prove something to people about the success of my business.
The car made me feel good, but it was a lie. I bought the car on finance because I hadn’t earned the money to pay for it, yet. The allure of flashy brands and possessions is that it shows what you have achieved. But the whole world doesn’t need to know what you’ve achieved.
It’s fine to be a millionaire and drive a Toyota Corolla.
Your financial situation is not represented by the flashy stuff you own. In fact, the more flashy stuff a person appears to own, the less financially wealthy they probably are.
Freedom Feels Better than Unnecessary Debt
The BMW was the second and final loan I’ve ever taken. Since then, I haven’t bought anything that I couldn’t pay for outright.
I remember buying a Honda Civic in 2016. The guy in the car yard did everything he could to convince me to pay with finance. He wrote down all these formulas on his whiteboard, and tried to tell me how I could keep my money in the bank and benefit from a loan. Even if he was right, I didn’t care.
With a big smile on my face I said, “I’ll pay cash, thanks. What’s your account number?”
There is no financial formula that explains what freedom from debt tastes like.
Related: How Can I Start My Own Business?
You Shouldn’t “After Pay” Purchases
There is a company where I live that promotes paying after, whenever you’re ready — if you’re ever ready!
The idea is that you buy whatever you want online or in-store and then pay after. If my grandma was still alive she’d be sick with this idea. Her motto was “you should pay before, not after.”
The feeling of saving up your money and paying for a product or service when you can, feels amazing.
If you haven’t earnt the money you shouldn’t spend the money.
It Takes Longer to Pay off Than You Realize
The BMW was bought using a lease. The fine print I never read was the part that said “higher purchase.”
This means on top of all the fees, you pay a much higher interest rate than normal and have an amount left over at the end that you still owe. The interest rate works out to be similar to a credit card.
The debt we get ourselves into takes a lot longer to pay off when we do the sums. But we don’t do the sums, often, because we don’t want to hear the truth.
The Donation of a Car
The part that matters the most about being forced to sell my useless BMW was that I experienced kindness during a tough phase of my life. I had extreme mental illness at the time and felt sick every day.
Living life felt like torture and no BMW could help with that.
The gift of the car from a family member felt like a massive burden lifted from my shoulders. The car wasn’t worth much in financial terms — but in gratitude and kindness, it was worth the world to me. It showed me that no matter how bad things get, kind people will find you and help you when you least expect it. Sometimes, I wish I still had the car that was donated to me so I could be reminded of that feeling.
Once you’ve experienced generosity, the natural response is to help someone else feel the same. That is perhaps one of the strangest lessons you can learn from the forced sale of a BMW.
The Ego Disappears Too
When the BMW disappeared, slowly, so did my ego and sense of entitlement.
If I was talking to my 26-year-old- self, I’d tell him that losing the BMW was the best thing that was ever going to happen to him. It would teach him to appreciate what he did have and to stop worrying about one’s appearance.
I’d also tell him that not having a BMW would help him experience financial freedom later in life, that is one of the best feelings in the world.
Losing material possessions can help you find your kinder, more humble self.