How I Nearly Threw My Life Away

Being at a glass film company that deals in films for buildings and vehicles, windshield repairs, car wash, parking lot, and all things car related, it’s a given that many people at the company have a love of cars. Some of the people working there are independent contractors who have their own businesses and I got chummy with one of them who deals with second hand vehicles.

So much so that, he always tells me about new arrivals and checks if I want it before letting it go for someone else. A couple of months ago, he brought in a 13-year-old Honda Stream that only ran for under 60,000 km and looks to be in great condition. It costs around SGD$2,500 and disregarding petrol, owning the car would cost me approximately $250 a month. But a Honda Stream is too large for my use. Why would I need a 2.0L MPV when I walk to work. I decided to give it a pass thinking that it’s too expensive.

Recently, he brought in an 11-year-old Nissan Note that clocked a little over 30,000km costing only $650 because it was without the mandatory inspection certificate valid for 2 years. But even including the inspection fees would only bring the vehicle to around $1,500, and with the tax and insurance and stuff, minus the petrol, it would only cost me around $100 a month. Coming from a country where second hand vehicles can cost $40,000, this Nissan Note is crazy cheap. It’s less than my monthly salary, unlike in Singapore where it can cost your annual salary times two. I thought about it and said, “No.”

Yes, it was cheap. But when I calculated the monthly fees including gas and parking when I go out, it would cost me more than what I spend on transportation now.

Do I want it? Yes.

Do I need it? No.

I’m glad I’ve reached a point where I don’t have to make a deliberate effort to look at things like that.

Sometimes I rent vehicles to travel far, but even the occasional rental wouldn’t cost more than if I owned a car. While there’s a car sharing service by DeNA, called Anyca (something like the Airbnb for vehicles), which I could use to reduce my cost, I don’t want to go through all that trouble to own something I don’t need. Imagine how much more money I can save by not owning a vehicle. That’s at least $1,000 more every year that I can funnel into investments.

I recalled the time when I just left the army and started working, I was getting so much pay, I thought I could afford a Merc SLR. I actually couldn’t but I had thought all my money could be used to fund the car and I would be left with nothing at the end of the month, which in my mind was “STATUS.” Especially when I had a boss who was encouraging me to buy a car. At that time, he was pushing me to get a Swift or Bb. But I hesitated even though I had thought about all the “good” that I can get out of owning a car. But in Singapore, there really isn’t much good about having one and I knew that I didn’t need one. Also, having had my bank account often down to under $1 before I started working, I didn’t want to splurge on something that would bring that figure back on my bank statement.

Thinking back, if I had gotten a car then, I would’ve been trapped in the rat race. I wouldn’t have had the money or the option to move to Japan, and would’ve unwittingly thrown away the life I have now. When I was back in Singapore during the Chinese New Year early this year, a university friend took me home in his car after dinner. I asked him how much he’s paying for the car and he said it costs him around $1,000 a month. In my heart, I cringed at the thought of having to lose $1,000 every month that could be used to build a better future (i.e. retirement). Perhaps as a teacher with the Ministry of Education, he feels secure about his future, but for me, I don’t feel secure which is why I can’t splurge on unnecessary stuff.

Interestingly, I enjoy this kind of insecurity although I don’t necessarily like it. I know it sounds contradictory but when you enjoyed the freedom of freelancing, it’s hard to go back. But that doesn’t mean the instability doesn’t scare you.


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