My Dad’s Penny-Pinching Taught Me How to Save; I Bought 2 Homes


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  • My dad had many creative ways to save money, including zigzagging around NYC to avoid tolls.
  • Growing up, he taught me the value of money, and I’ve applied his lessons time and time again.
  • When I wanted to buy a house, I cut expenses and took part-time jobs to save on a down payment.

Whether it was sitting by the meter as a kid so he didn’t have to waste a dime, or zigzagging all over New York City to never avoid a toll, my father’s habits taught me a lot about saving and spending money wisely .

Raised as the son of immigrant parents during the Great Depression, he learned the value of money and taught it to his own children. Following in my father’s footsteps has enabled me to afford two houses and a new car, all on a teacher’s salary.

So how did I do it? Quite simply, I imitated my father. Well, for some things anyway.

My father’s habits rubbed off on me

Even though San Remo was the first map in our Rolodex, we never got their pizza delivered. That would mean paying a tip. So we ordered a large cake instead and one of us (usually me) went over and picked it up. We made this for all of our takeaways. It may seem like a small thing, but I learned early on to be careful with money. That if you were able to do something for yourself, you didn’t have to pay someone to do it for you.

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As I got older, I found that some of my father’s habits rubbed off on me. When video rental stores were all the rage, I’d go out in the middle of the night before paying a late fee. In fact, I can say that I have never paid a late fee on anything. je.

When my friends in college loaded their credit cards with large purchases, I took a part-time job. Then another. I always made sure I had enough pocket money. I know people who only pay the minimum for their cards each month; That never made sense to me from a tax point of view. I often use cash to better balance my finances so there are no surprises when the bills come in.

I love to travel and as a teacher I can use the summer holidays. From South America to safaris in South Africa, there are no limits to the destinations. Instead, I swap fancy hotels for hostels or homestays or even cat sitters for free or discounted accommodation. I scour the internet for hours, sometimes days, until I find the best plan. I never felt like I was missing anything and it allows me to get to know the locals better.

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I’m probably one of the few people without an Uber or Lyft on my phone. I will walk for hours or take public transportation before taking a car service. All these little things add up and I’ve never been in debt.

While I used to go on a shopping spree when I got my tax refund, I realized that if I was going to have a home, I had to change something. So I spent five years saving all my tax returns, cutting corners, and doing side jobs until I had the down payment on a second home. I saw how little my father needed to be happy and I tried to emulate him.

His thrift may have gone to extremes at times, but I still follow his lead

My father’s diligence with money can sometimes be exaggerated. When we overheated in the summer or stayed in cheap motels, my mother would say that he was only fed by a bargain. And he is. You can still see his face light up when he gets something for free or a deal. I’m the same, but I like a quirky piece every now and then.

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A few years ago, when Covid hit, I was able to buy a small second home in Upstate, New York. I live mostly in a co-op in Brooklyn. It was tight but I knew I had the tools to hold it up. I used the money I carefully saved over five years for the down payment. I bought second-hand furniture from reliable companies to decorate, and I took used items and items from Buy Nothing sites and made a comfortable home for myself.

Although I’m not very practical, I try to cut costs and do what I can – build furniture, paint and even tinker my own garden. Many people would have renovated the house in a heartbeat, but I’m working on it. I’ve learned that being creative is a lot more fun than buying from a catalog. When I can’t use it, I rent it out to help with maintenance.

My dad recently came to visit and together we fixed an old stool instead of buying a new one. It came out great. Never waste anything. I, too, live off a trade – and my life is richer as a result.



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