How an Uber driver helped me rethink the art of saving money

Bharat Sharma
Nov 6, 2018 · 9 min read

I know the rules but I am bad at playing the game.

Money is the currency of life.

Saving money is a good habit — ask anyone and they will most likely agree.

All these years, I have hardly managed to save enough for the rainy day.

On most days, I am not poor. Still on most days, I have been borderline broke.

If you are a millennial, chances are, you too would relate to this.

For someone in their late 20s, the time couldn’t be any apt to build a saving habit. My goal isn’t to build a retirement fund — it is simply to build better money managing habits.

I don’t shop or spend a lot — yet labeling myself ‘smart with money’ is a huge stretch of imagination.

Despite being financially literate and surrounded with people who are sound advisers — I could never get a grip on the right way to approach saving money.

This was about to change.

Without talking about the trivial side of the coin — let me share a real-life story that forced me to rethink the way how I should build a money saving mindset.

A few weeks ago, I took a trip back home from work. It was just another day, just another Uber ride.

Usually, my journeys are filled with the sound of music, sitting quietly in a zone. Be it a pool ride or a personal one, conversing while commuting in a cab isn’t my preference on most days.

There is nothing wrong with sharing silence, but for a rare instant — I decided to initiate a conversation and ask my Uber driver about how many trips was he making in a day and if business was good?

The usual ice-breaker, you know. Breaking the silence barrier isn’t pleasant but sometimes it’s worth it.

The Uber driver was polite and courteous, and seemed interested enough to share his thoughts with me.

As he started answering my questions, a conversation began.

Small talk was soon about to change into a meaningful conversation.

Before I could reach home, the conversation had already taken many turns through the mindset of a man who clearly had it figured out — the crucial art of saving money

So, what had happened during this journey?

An Uber driver had shared his secret of saving money and made me rethink my approach.

Here are the 3 key takeaways from my Uber ride that day that I want to share–

Takeaway #1 : Starting Small

As humans, we often tend to set big or huge goals from start.

It is our brain’s way of tricking us into believing that anything is possible. Scientifically, these little affirmations are called cognitive biases.

Let me ask you a simple question — how many times have you fallen into the spiral of the same habit after trying to build a new one?

We have all been there. Starting but not progressing.

This isn’t because we are not fit to achieve a goal — it is because we set the goals too high sometimes and then fall back in the same loop (or routine).

During my journey, the cab driver explained that by simply saving a small yet fixed amount from his daily earnings as an Uber driver — he could finally get to own a car in two years.

I was impressed by his realistic approach.

Despite being the sole bread-runner for his family — his small habit of saving something every day gave him a big return of driving a self-owned car.

By taking every trip as an opportunity to earn more and grow his income — the Uber driver was gaining little but meaningful momentum over the years.

So how was he doing it — by starting small. Turn-by-turn, he turned every trip into milestones of a journey towards his goal.

The Lesson

The first lesson I learned while having a conversation with my Uber rider is to start small and prepare big.

Starting small has a clear advantage.

We gain momentum by easily achieving practical goals without letting procrastination get the better of us.

The little ‘wins’ that we feel in our heads are a huge booster in motivating us to build any habit in the longer run. Step by step goes a long mile.

My saving goals were huge but my drive to achieve them wasn’t. This was first reason I could never gain enough momentum to fuel my journey.

I was trying to take giant leaps without even learning how to take firm small steps first, thus I was falling (and failing).

The Change

Now my goal is to save two months worth of my monthly salary by the next quarter.

The idea is to bite only what can be chewed properly.

No more wishful thinking of climbing mountains while ignoring the small steps that I needed to take.

Time to take control of each day and then win the weeks and months ahead.

Takeaway #2: Getting Enough Motivation

The more our conversation grew, the more was I trying to connect the dots.

If there’s one thing that about reaching our goals, it’s the sheer act of perseverance.

How do we persevere? By staying motivated.

Motivation is an essential ingredient to achieve any goal. Whether you are writing a book or toning down your body, motivation is the fuel that drives ambition.

As the ride back home continued, the Uber driver continued explaining his modus operandi for staying motivated to push even harder.

Without going into the seemingly trivial details — he highlighted with pride on gradually increasing the total trips in a day from a decent 10 to an impressive 20+ in a few months.

Clearly, in his case, the transition had not happened overnight (as it never does).

This time, I was impressed by his mental and physical motivation.

This cab driver was churning in more laps per day without feeling burned out or depressed about doing his part of the job.

Better yet, he was motivated enough to do this everyday (even though he had his days off).

He clearly knew how many hours he had to put in (input) to get to the desired monthly income (output).

So how was he doing it — by setting realistic targets that gave him short-term motivation boost to go for his long-term goals.

Realistic goals helped the Uber driver feel happy while slogging day and night for his dreams.

The Lesson

The second lesson that I learned while having a conversation with my Uber rider is to get enough motivation (and get some more).

Saving money becomes a habit when you set achievable targets. Positive feedback loops are important.

Motivation cannot be in excess — the more, the merrier.

All this time I was aiming for the monthly moonshots and thus, failing miserably to achieve anything considerable.

The lack of achievement of these moonshots kept triggering the negative feedback loop in my head — which never motivated me to pursue a goal for long enough.

The Change

No more monthly money saving goals — now my goal is to plan my week financially.

If its a marathon that I am preparing for, running it like a sprint won’t work.

The idea is to stay focused through bite-sized momentum and motivation.

I aim to train the brain and get micro-doses of positive reinforcement to keep going for the goal.

Takeaway #3: Being Consistent

Habits are formed by repetition.

Thoughtful and purpose-driven repetition builds consistency.

As I was reaching closer to my destination, the Uber driver had almost turned philosophical on how he is doing all this and working extra hard to secure a better future for his family.

During this point in our conversation, he was gladly sharing examples of how by driving more for months, he could spare enough money to gift his son a cricket kit.

Just like every working class hero — he too had his share of dreams and wanted to make them a reality.

This time, I was impressed by his vision.

He was consistently working hard to give shape to his vision of a better future by becoming a vehicle of prosperity for his family.

So how was he doing it — by being consistent.

By working his butt off more than 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, the Uber driver was slowly but surely inching towards his goals

A vision driven by purposeful persistence..

The Lesson

The third lesson I learned during my Uber ride was to be consistent towards a goal. No excuses.

Even if you have ‘cheat days’, make sure that they don’t turn into cheat weeks or months.

Persistence is the key.

Saving money isn’t about depriving yourself of materialistic pleasures and experiences. Rather it is about staying in control of your indulgences on most days.

Too many cheat days in a row wasn’t help going to help me get closer to my goal of savings more.

The Change

Now my aim is to save on days that end in ‘y’.

Cheat days and humor aside — being persistent on most days will go a long way towards building positive habits. This consistency will pay off, eventually.

The idea is to do one thing every damn day.

Time for me to do it with discipline. Period.

Final Thoughts

The conversation was coming to a close and I started gathering my stuff together.

For the Uber driver, it might have been just another conversation (with just another passenger).

For me, it was nothing short of a revelation.

The lessons hidden in his story were practical, motivating and best of all — doable.

An Uber driver had shared his approach for making his money work for him. It wasn’t anything special or genius, but it was simple, effective and clear.

I have decided not to let go of this experience and learn something from it.

These lessons may sound obvious — but even the best of planners and thinkers sometimes need an external ‘nudge’ to build their confidence and clarity again.

For someone who has been struggling to build a saving habit throughout his working life, this journey wasn’t just a chatter-filled ride back home.

It was an authentic conversation and it felt like a valuable discussion that will help me change my approach to saving money.

At the end of it all, I know it is time for me to make a change.

I rated and complimented the Uber driver once the ride was over. For the lessons I had learned, this was the least I could offer in return.

Plus, I made it a point to tell him how inspiring his journey is for anyone. The humble guy thanked me for listening attentively and went off his way.

As it turned out — lessons can be learned from anyone, whether at front or at the back of the wheel — sometimes it just takes a hello that can go a long way.

Hope there’s some lesson you can take away from this post.

Here’s to better habits and more meaningful conversations on the journey called life!

Bharat Sharma

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