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- My dad had many creative ways to save money, including zigzagging all over New York to avoid road tolls.
- Growing up, I learned the value of money from him and applied his lessons over and over again.
- When I wanted to buy a house, I cut my expenses and took backer gigs to save a down payment.
Whether he was sitting by the meter as a kid so as not to have to waste a dime or zigzag all over New York City to avoid paying a road toll, my dad’s habits taught me a lot about how to save and use money wisely.
Growing up during the Great Depression, the son of immigrant parents, he learned about the value of money and instilled it in his own children. Following in my father’s careful footsteps allowed me to afford two houses and a new car, all on a teacher’s salary.
So how did I do it? It’s simple, I imitated my father. Well, for some things anyway.
My father’s habits erased me
Even though Sanremo was the first card of our Rolodex, we never received their pizza. This would mean paying a tip. So we order a large cake instead and one of us (usually me) would go get it. We did this for all of our takeout. It may seem like such a small thing, but I quickly learned to be careful with money. That if you were able to do something for yourself, you didn’t have to pay anyone else to do it for you.
As I grew up, I found that some of my father’s habits were erased on me. When video stores were in vogue, I ended up in the middle of the night before paying a late fee. In fact, I can say that I have never paid a delay on anything. never.
When my friends in college were loading their credit cards with large purchases, I took a part-time job. Then another. I’ve always made sure I have enough money to spend on my own. I know people who pay only the minimum each month on their cards; that never made fiscal sense to me. I often use cash to help me balance my finances better, so there are no surprises when the bills come.
I love to travel and, as a teacher, I can take advantage of the free summers. From South America to South African safaris, there are no limits to destinations. Instead, swap luxury hotels with hostels or host families, or even free or reduced cat accommodations. I go online for hours, sometimes days, until I find the best rate. I have never felt like I am missing out on anything and it allows me to get to know the locals better.
I’m probably one of the few people without Uber or Lyft on my phone. I will walk for hours or take public transport before taking a car service. All these little things add up and I’ve never been in debt.
While I used to go shopping spree when receiving my tax refunds, I realized that if I wanted to have a home, something had to change. So, I spent five years saving all my tax refunds, cutting corners and dealing with minor chores until I had the down payment for a second home. I saw how little my father needed to be happy and tried to emulate him.
His penny pinching may have gone to the extreme at times, but I still follow his lead
My father’s focus on money can sometimes be too much. When we were overheated in the summer or were staying in cheap motels, my mom would say he was just fed by a bargain. And he is. You can still see his face light up when he gets something for free or a bargain. They are the same way, but every now and then I like an elegant item.
A few years ago, when Covid hit, I was able to purchase a small second home of my own in Upstate, New York; I mainly live in a cooperative in Brooklyn. It was tight, but I knew I had the tools to support it. I used the money I have carefully saved over five years for the down payment. I bought second hand furniture from reputable companies to decorate it, took my own items and objects from Buy Nothing sites and created a cozy home.
While not very practical, I try to cut costs and do what I can around: build furniture, paint, and even DIY in my garden. Many people would have renovated the house right away, but I work around it. I’ve learned that being creative is a lot more fun than buying from a catalog. When I am unable to use it, I entrust it to help with maintenance.
My dad came to see me recently and together we fixed an old stool instead of getting another one. He turned out great. Never washed anything. I too am fed by a covenant – and my life is richer for that.