Valuable Money Lessons I Learned From My Uber Driver

sometimes these things happen and you have no control over anything

It was a normal Saturday afternoon. Well, normal as in the weather was okay and I was being my "normal" self. Otherwise it was pretty unique. I was leaving Dallas, Texas to catch my evening flight back home to Calgary after spending four days at FinCon talking about blogging and money. After looking at the hotel sign that said a sedan could take me to the airport for $70 USD, I scoffed and immediately opened up my Uber app, which generally sits unused because we don't have that amazing luxury where I live.

Immediately, I got a notification that Barbara was 3 minutes away in her Chevrolet Malibu. She had a 4.95 star rating, so I was expecting this ride to be everything and more. And by everything and more, I merely mean "safe".

When she pulled up and popped the trunk for me, I threw my suitcase in and headed for the front seat.

Her purse was sitting there and I then realized that I was the socially awkward Canadian who felt like it was necessary to sit in the front seat so that Barbara didn't feel like a chauffeur.

She quickly moved it and I apologized, eh.

"Sorry, is this okay? I don't have Uber at home so I don't get to use the app often. I can totally sit in the backseat too," I say in my mousiest voice ever.

Barbara is super sweet and tells me to sit there, asks where I'm from, and the small talk (that I normally despise) begins.

When she finds out I'm from Canada, she's curious to know why I'm in Dallas, Texas. I tell her I was at a financial conference for people who love money, and write about it regularly.

She's immediately intrigued. Either that, or confused. Whichever the reason -- she continues asking questions.

I tell her that I have a blog where I write about money, and that I started because I had a lot of debt. I explain that I'm now debt free because of it, and encourage others to try and attempt the same.

That's when it happens.

"You were meant to get in this car for a reason," said Barbara. "Just this morning I had a conversation with myself about how I need to get my money in order."

I laugh, and she starts to get really animated telling my about her financial background. Of course, I'm way too excited and am hoping this car ride isn't over for awhile. I want to hear more about this woman who thought me being in her Uber was a "sign".

Barbara tells me all about her love for shopping, her bought-lunches, and a divorce that really damaged her financial plans. The craziest part about all of it? Anytime I said "I'm so sorry you have to go through that" or "That sucks so much", Barbara immediately cut me off and said this:

"It's hard, but it could be worse. I've got this, and I'm doing great."

It was inspiring to say the least.

Not only did I learn that Barbara was a badass babe with confidence to boot, I learned some other extremely valuable life and money lessons in that 25 minute car ride.

Here are those lessons in writing: 

I thought the things I did to get out of debt were easy and possible

When Barbara asked me how I did it, I told her what I always tell everyone. I told her that I put half of my monthly income towards my debt, didn't step foot in a mall for two years, and stopped going out for dinner and drinks with friends. In fact, when I write it down now and read it aloud (yes, I read blogs posts out loud) it honestly just sounds crazy.

While it worked for me, it seriously is not possible for that exact same plan to work for someone else. Especially someone who can't find a place to rent for under $600, or someone who works in a shopping mall, or someone who desperately needs dinner and drinks with friends to keep themselves sane. I've said it once and I'll say it again: there is no one size fits all plan for someone's money. So, I guess it's a good thing there are so many financial blogs where you can grab bits and pieces of ideas to create your own.

I am lucky to live in the country that I live in

In this Uber ride, Barbara and I managed to touch on literally every financial topic you could think of -- including healthcare. When I explained to her that I could go to my family doctor or the hospital for free, she was blown away. "So, it's free for everyone?" asked Barbara, confused.

I explained that yes, basic healthcare was -- but that I had to play a small amount into my works' health insurance plan to get further coverage. Then I explained that at my new job I wouldn't even have to do that. I sometimes forget that it's not like that for everyone. It saddens my heart and it hurts my soul, but I'm certainly grateful for what I have. This car ride was a reminder of that. To be grateful is important.

Sometimes financial struggle is out of our control

Barbara and I talked about how sometimes relationships can be the downfall of our personal finance. She spoke to friends whose families had fallen a part due to one persons' gambling addiction, how divorce can truly ruin your success, and how sometimes these things happen and you have no control over anything, but are still forced to clean up the mess.

We preach about how important it is to have an emergency fund, a f*ck off fund, and some kind of fall back plan in case of these unexpected downfalls -- but so many people assume it will never happen to them. Money is not always within our control. There are times we have it, and there are times we don't. It is so important that during the times that we do have it we try everything in our power to make the best of those nickels and dimes.

"I started with a quarter"

The last part of our conversation was had just as we pulled into the airport, and is by far my favorite lesson Barbara had taught me thus far. Barbara told me that her financial inspiration had always been her mother. She said that her mother always knew how to save, take care of family, and make each dollar count.

When she reached out to her mom for advice about how to start saving money and pay off her debt, her mom simply told her: "I started with a quarter". Barbara was laughing hysterically about how both silly and sad it sounded to start with twenty-five cents in your savings -- but she also realized the meaning behind what her mother was encouraging her to do. We all have to start somewhere, and somewhere is better than nowhere.

I really do think that I was meant to get into Barbara's car that day.

One stranger was the reminder I needed that everyone comes from a different backstory financially. Some of us get head-starts, while others have to struggle through to even get a start at all.

As much as money is the centre of our universe, it also carries many factors that are sadly out of our control.

Thank you Barbara, and if you ever find this story, I hope you're in the place you want to be financially. Although, I know you'll be looking directly into the bright-side if you aren't.

Have you ever had an encounter with a stranger that changed your views on money? Let me know in the comments!