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“Do you have reliable transportation to get to work?” was the question on the job application that made me hesitate. I had been offered a job but needed to complete the application and pass a final round of scrutiny. Truthfully, I didn’t have reliable transportation. But I felt confident that I could buy a car between the time that I completed the application and the time I was supposed to show up for my first day at work.
As a rule follower (now reformed), I felt a twinge of guilt. I justified my response by telling myself that the spirit of the question indicated that I could and should say “yes.”
I had driven to this interview with a borrowed car from my parents. The proposed place of employment was about an hour and a half from their home. Public transportation wasn’t available in my new town so I couldn’t rely on that. There was no housing nearby so I couldn’t walk or ride my bike. So I needed to get a car and soon.
I didn’t know how to buy a car but I resolved to fix that quickly.
I needed a loan and that seemed easy given that I had just accepted a job with a bank.
However, the bank that was to trust me with analyzing its financial statements and providing guidance to field operations didn’t trust me with a car loan. So I turned to another bank, where my parents did business, in hopes that its larger scope would offer room for someone like me who needed a car to start a career. I was still young and naive, so I didn’t see the catch-22-ness in my dilemma.
Good fortune came in two forms. First, my parents helped me. They had paid my college tuition and fees (about $3,000 per year at the time) so I graduated without student loan debt; plus they had good credit and were willing to co-sign the auto loan for me. Second, my innate tendency to save money came through for me. Though I had failed to establish credit by getting a credit card in college (and thus needed a co-signer), I had saved $500 from my college job. This money allowed me to put a down payment on the car and lower the car payment to a level acceptable to the bank’s underwriting guidelines.
So, this money that I saved — just because I thought it was a good idea and not for any purpose — helped me start a career.
There are many times that I wonder if saving a few dollars here or there really matters. Then I remember how $500 meant so much to me.
How did saving just a little help you?