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- My dad had many creative ways to save money, including zig-zagging all over NYC to avoid road tolls.
- Growing up, I learned the value of money from him, and I’ve applied his lessons over and over.
- When I wanted to buy a house, I slashed my spending and took on side gigs to save a down payment.
Whether it was sitting by the meter as a kid so he wouldn’t have to waste the dime or zig-zagging all over New York City to avoid ever paying a road toll, my father’s habits have 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 has allowed me to afford two homes and a new car, all on a teacher’s salary.
So, how did I do it? It’s simple, I mimicked my father. Well, for some things anyway.
My dad’s habits rubbed off on me
Even though San Remo was the first card in our Rolodex, we never got their pizza delivered. That would mean paying a tip. So we’d order a large pie instead and one of us (usually me) would walk over and pick it up. We did this for all our takeout. It may seem like such 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 need to pay anyone else to do it for you.
As I got older, I found some of my father’s habits rubbed off on me. When video stores were all the rage, I’d run out in the middle of the night before paying a late fee. In fact, I can say I’ve never paid a late fee on anything. Ever.
When my friends in college were loading up their credit cards with big purchases, I took on a part-time job. Then another. I always ensured I had ample spending money of 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 better balance my finances so there are no surprises when the bills come in.
I love to travel and, as a teacher, I’m able to take advantage of summers off. From South America to safaris in South Africa, there are no limits on destinations. Instead, I trade fancy hotels for hostels or host families, or even cat sit-for free or reduced lodging. I scour the internet for hours, sometimes days, until I find the best fare. I’ve never felt like I was missing out, and it allows me to get to know the locals better.
I’m probably one of the only people without 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 have never found myself in debt.
While I used to splurge on shopping sprees when I got my tax refunds, I realized that if I wanted to have a home, something needed to change. So, I spent five years saving all my tax refunds, cutting corners, and taking on side hustles until I had the down payment for a second home. I saw how little my father needed to be happy and I tried to emulate him.
His penny-pinching may have gone to extremes sometimes, but I still follow his lead
My father’s carefulness with money can sometimes be excessive. When we were overheated in the summer or stayed in cheap motels, my mother would say that he was simply nurtured 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 way, but I do like a fancy item every now and then.
A few years ago, when Covid hit, I was able to buy a small second home of my own in Upstate, New York; I live primarily in a co-op in Brooklyn. It was tight, but I knew I had the tools to sustain it. I used the money I carefully saved over five years for the down payment. I bought second-hand furniture from reliable companies to decorate it, and I took hand-me-downs and items from Buy Nothing sites and made a cozy home.
While not super handy, I try to cut costs and do what I can around the place — build furniture, paint, and even DIY my own backyard. A lot of people would have renovated the house right away, but I work around it. I learned that being creative is much more fun than buying from a catalog. When I’m not able to use it, I rent it out to help with the upkeep.
My father came to visit recently and together we repaired an old stool rather than getting another. It came out great. Never waste anything. I, too, am nurtured by a bargain — and my life is richer for it.