Dear Penny: My Boss Is Nagging Me to Get a New Car… and She Knows How Little I Make

An old station wagon car is parked on a brick street in front of a brick building.
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Dear Penny,

I'm a recent college grad who's been working an entry-level job for the past year. I only make about $33,000 a year, but I'm doing OK. I'm able to pay my bills without taking on more debt. One of the reasons I'm able to do so is that I drive an ugly old car with more than 200,000 miles on it. It typically breaks down a couple times a year, but the repair costs add up to way less than a car payment, even for an older, used car.

The problem is, my rich boss won’t stop nagging me about how I need to get a new car. It’s really frustrating, because while she knows nothing about my finances, she definitely does know how little she pays me. When I tried to brush her off, she kept pressing and suggested I ask my parents for a “shiny new set of wheels.”

For the record, my occasionally broken-down car isn’t interfering with my work. My dad is extremely ill, and my mom is majorly struggling with bills as a result. But the boss lady doesn’t get that because she still pays the bills for her grown kids. I don’t want to say anything that could jeopardize my job. How can I get my boss to butt out of my financial choices and let me do my job?


Broke But Not (Usually) Broken Down

Dear Broke,

Let’s look at the good first, because everyone needs some encouragement: You graduated college (yay!), got a job (excellent work!) and are living within your means (wahoo!). You have a lot to be proud of right now. There are moments when you feel underpaid, and there are moments when your car will sputter out on you, but overall, you’re holding the reins on your life with good control. Don’t lose sight of that.

The reason I’m reminding you about all the good things you have going for you is that I have serious doubts you’ll be able to get your boss off your back. Since you’re a reasonable person who wants to stay employed, I vote for the humorous approach. Practice a few not-so-snappy comebacks for when your boss starts to nag about your wheels. Here are a few suggestions:

“Look, it’s not pretty, but it gets me around.”

“I’m committed to a lifestyle of only unshiny, old wheels.”

“I know it’s not much to look at, but I’m pretty attached to that car.”

“I’m actually in a bet for how long the car can last. You don’t want me to lose, do you?”

Look, some of them may not be true, but the broken record of lighthearted brush-offs will eventually get old for your boss. It sounds like you work at a small company and can’t avoid interacting with your supervisor, but you can choose not to engage further.

Even if your life at home were filled with puppy dogs and rainbows right now instead of stress, I still wouldn’t want you to have to justify your financial choices to anyone but yourself.

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Lisa Rowan is a personal finance expert and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, and the voice behind Dear Penny. For more practical money tips, visit