What Money Cannot Buy

May 08, 2021

"Money isn't everything, but everything needs money," my mother would often say when I was a child. How true is this adage? This principle served as the bedrock of my financial education, imparted to me by my mother. As a youngster, I didn't fully understand its depth, but as I grew older, the wisdom in her words became clear.

2021 05 09

I graduated from university about a decade ago and landed my first job. Receiving my first paycheck was exhilarating, particularly because I had worked diligently to earn it. At that moment, I felt as though I had enough money, even if it wasn't a large sum. This was the first and last time I ever felt that way; my expenses soon escalated, and the feeling of financial sufficiency evaporated. I came to realize that receiving a paycheck was more gratifying than the daily grind of work.

Every job change brought a pay increase and naturally, I adjusted my lifestyle to match my growing income. I used to share a small, cramped room with my parents in Hong Kong. Eager for independence, I moved into a rented condo. This new lifestyle came at a cost, diminishing my ability to save money. Additionally, I splurged on a fine car—a blue Mini Cooper. Though small, it was mighty, and I loved it dearly. I cherished it as a companion in my life.

I met my partner approximately five years ago, and I was instantly smitten. She was not flawless, but she was stunning in my eyes. I couldn't stop thinking about her from the moment we met. I still remember the first time I drove to her house to pick her up. "Wow, your car is really lovely," she exclaimed. Those words made all my expenditures seem worth it.

As a reasonably successful software developer, I supported my parents with a monthly stipend and lived comfortably. However, having a girlfriend doubled my expenses. Fine dining and extravagant gifts, especially designer handbags, became the norm. These luxurious items ate into several months of my salary, confirming my mother's saying: "Money isn't everything, but everything needs money."

Two years into our relationship, talk of marriage began to surface. My girlfriend's expectations began to change; she became more focused and resolute. I didn't have significant savings, but she reassured me, saying, "It doesn't matter, we can start saving for our future today." Despite her gentle demeanor, she became increasingly controlling, pressuring me to save.

Faced with the high costs of car ownership, I had to make a choice: my car or my future wife. I chose the latter and sold my beloved car to save money. It was a heart-wrenching decision, but it revealed the extent of my love for her.

Now, without my car, I've been saving by cutting down on non-essential expenses. Sadly, this also meant discontinuing the monthly financial support to my parents, a decision that weighed heavily on my conscience. Once again, my mother's words echoed in my mind: "Money isn't everything, but it's necessary for everything." Money can buy a car, designer handbags, and even an engagement ring, but it cannot buy love.

Profile picture

Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn