Overextending

I drove to McDonald’s for breakfast this morning. I went through the drive thru. The line was long, but this McDonalds splits into two lanes and moves quickly. The lady ahead of me was driving a nice Elantra. I was in what one of my sons refers to as my “ghetto car”. I love my old car. Yes, it has some bumps and bruises and badly needs a body shop and a paint job, which I plan to get, but it is the only car I’ve driven in years that doesn’t make my back hurt. I have a 1995 Ford Escort Station Wagon.

I was sitting behind the lady in the brand new Elantra. I know it was brand new because she had those cardboard tags you get when you first buy a car, and are waiting for your tags to arrive. When she got to the window to pay, she seemed to be doing a lot of talking to the cashier. The cashier took back the receipt and looked at it. She handed it back and they talked some more. The cashier actually disappeared from view . . . gone to consult a manager? I wondered.

Behind me everyone was at a stand-still. I glanced at faces and saw a sea of frustration. It was the morning breakfast rush. Folks were grabbing something on their way to work and now they were sitting still as if stopped at a ten minute red light.

With all the wrinkles I’m proud of, I was just waiting to get my breakfast and drive back home to enjoy it. Still I wondered why the woman didn’t pull over and go in. If she could afford that nice, new car, how many pennies was she arguing about?

I always have a general idea of what the total will be when I place the order at the drive-thru. They tell you then how much your order costs. Then is when I ask about the price, if I have any questions, which I seldom do.

I was proud of the self-control I used as I sat waiting in my old car for this woman with the nice, new car to argue about the price of her biscuit. I wanted to get out and go up and say, “what’s the problem? I’ll pay whatever she thinks she’s been over-charged, if she’ll just pull on up”. But I didn’t.

I was getting ready to turn off my car – I had the car in park with the emergency brake up when the arguing woman in the nice, new car finally pulled up to the next window to get her order.

I pulled up to the cashier to pay. I could tell the woman at the cash register was flustered and slightly upset and I tried to smooth the waters a little. I told her I would pay whatever that woman was arguing about if she’d just gone on. She smiled and said she was sorry for my delay as she handed me my change with shaking hands.

The only thing I can imagine is that the woman in the nice, shiny, new car just realized she couldn’t afford it. She is now watching every penny she spends and worrying. Is it worth it? Not to me. That’s why I drive the car I got for free and pay little in car insurance costs monthly. I know what I’m worth. I don’t have to prove it to anyone else.

So I drove back home. I had to zap my food in the microwave because it wasn’t as hot as it usually is by the time I got it. I also wondered how many dollars in gas we waiting folks burned up as the woman with the car she could not afford argued over the price of her biscuit.

Overextending yourself is something many do in America. Why? Ask yourself why you have to have the best cell phone, the nice car, the beautiful clothes, a home in a certain neighborhood and jewelry . . . whatever impresses others . . .

We all need to set aside about 15% of our take home pay for unexpected things. If you’re not doing that, you’re overextending yourself. It doesn’t matter how much it looks like you paid for your things, if you have to argue with the cashier at McDonalds over the cost of a biscuit, you’ve paid too much for other things.

Oh, and next time, please go in to dispute your charges. Otherwise I’m going to get out of my ghetto car and walk up and pay the money you think you were over-charged to you while everyone looks on and cheers.

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