Economics lesson from High School

When I was in high school, I decided I wanted a job. Now factoring that we lived 5 miles from no where and it was another 10 miles from there to anywhere I might find an entry level job, I needed a car to get to and from work.

My dad offered to help with the initial purchase of the car but I would have to make the payments to the car dealer, pay all operating expenses including insurance, gas, license plates, etc, plus pay him back for his money spent.

So, I get the car, we get it legal to drive and I go find a job for $1.50 an hour. Now mind you this was 1975 and things were a lot cheaper. The car cost $450.00, gas was like $0.50-$0.60 a gallon, etc. And since I was working 25 hours (+/-) a week, I was rich! I had it made. I had a job with money in my pocket and I owned a car.

Since I was also driving myself to school (one way at 16 miles) even on days I did not work and since my boss liked to have me work Saturdays and Sundays – 7 days a week I was driving 30+ miles using 3 gallons of gas a day – a tank or more a week, especially once you learn that a high school junior/senior with a car has a lot more ‘friends’ then one without a car.

Now it did not take long for the economics of the situation to settle in. If I worked 25 hours, I earned about $37 a week. Thanks to taxes, I was down to less then $30 a week. Another $10 evaporated in filling the Battle Ship (named by my brother for gray primer everywhere, the fact that to turn it around you had to drive around the block and it consumed gas just thinking about starting). The monthly payment on the car to the dealer was only $20 – or about another $5 a week. And insurance – kiss good bye to $3 a week. Did I mention that dad was waiting at the door every payday for his $5 / week payment for initially funding the purchase of the car plus registration and insurance. (He was nice enough to fill the tank the 1st with gas – but he then informed me that was my Birthday and Christmas gifts for the next two years.)

Thus: $37 – $7 taxes – $10 gas – $5 payment – $3 insurance – $5 (dad) left $7 a week. Now factor in the newly acquired girlfriend and the need to take her out (more gas) and buy her dinner (more $$) and needing nicer clothes (parents assume you have a job, buy your own stuff) and suddenly I realized I was wealthier NOT having a car and a job. Even when I was broke.

The freedom of having a car was replaced by being a slave to a job to pay for the car and no free time to actually be free to drive the car and no money to be able to spend not on the car.

So I solved the problem by joining the Army.

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