Right in the middle | Money Matters

Right in the middle | Money Matters

Frugality is a forgotten concept, but it served me well during my sojourn in the US decades ago. I learned new ways with money. For instance, the bank staff asked me to plan cash withdrawals keeping in mind the dates of interest payment so as to maximise the interest due. I was also told not to carry a $100 bill in my purse always. Five dollars would do. “Loaned cash? How will you get it back?” How indeed?

“Buying paper napkins costing 32 cents? Something for 26 cents will do just as well,” my friend MJ said. Once I had exchanged the napkins I put into the cart using MJ’s precept: why pay more when something costing less would do just as well?

During a ‘gas war’, everyone made a beeline for the gas station where one could save a few more cents than what they might at another. A ‘gas war’ would be declared when the gas stations suddenly decided to boost their sales by progressively reducing the price.

Gladys, the second in command at the clinic where I worked, said she was late as she had stopped to fill up the tank during a ‘gas war’. Gladys lived in a million-dollar house with her paediatrician-husband. Noticing my car in their driveway, Gladys said that Betty, her 13-year-old daughter, could wash it for me for a dollar! But I continued to wash it myself.

My father had sent me the money to purchase the car and for taking driving lessons. Pravin, whose help I had enlisted to drive the car home, said that I shouldn’t have paid the entire amount, $3000, in one go to purchase the car. I should have made a down payment and paid the balance in instalments. I didn’t benefit in any way from making the total payment all at once, but it was too late for regrets.

Having a driving licence was mandatory before the car could be insured. I needed more practice before I could appear for the test. Without insurance, the car couldn’t be taken out. So it remained in the garage gathering dust. At last, one agent agreed to insure the car. After getting my signatures on some papers, he left saying he expected to hear from me soon regarding the licence. Thus, the new car was taken out to practice for my driving test on the busy streets of Los Angeles. Soon I could boast of possessing a California driving licence.

Three months later the insurance agent called to chide me at not informing him of my getting the licence. Was my car not insured? He said that indeed it was. He came over to collect the cheque to pay the premium, which gave coverage for 12 months starting that day. Thus, unwittingly, I had gained free insurance for the previous three months!