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As Government Talks Debt, Frugal New Yorkers Give Tips

By Ben Fractenberg | July 28, 2011 7:53am | Updated on July 28, 2011 10:51am

GREENWICH VILLAGE — With no plan in sight for raising the nation’s debt ceiling, New Yorkers taking in the sun in Washington Square Park Tuesday called on the feds to whip the budget into shape — the same way regular folks have  to get their own finances under control.

Walter Summerhayes, 84, who depends on social security and investments to make ends meet, said he's saved a great deal of money by not driving, quitting smoking and drinking and moving into an inexpensive apartment in Briarwood, Queens.

Now he wants the government to follow suit — by controlling spending and changing our aggressive foreign policy.

"I'm very, very disturbed by what’s happening” to our national budget, Summerhayes said. "I live on a very modest income.

“I think the size of government can be reduced by a third. [We should] stop trying to cure the ills of the world.”

Another New Yorker said he had to learn about living frugally while surviving on student loans.

Nate Lane, 35, who is $250,000 in debt for college and medical school, said he has to live on a strict budget to get by in the city while living and completing his residency in Brooklyn.

Lane said he is “disgusted” by the amount of debt our country as racked up and thinks we need to change the fundamentals of our economy.

“We’ve dug ourselves into a hole,” said Lane. “We need to start producing more than consuming.”

Kevin Finn, 36, said he has student loans and a mortgage he is paying off while raising a family.

“We have enough [to pay for] our house and student loan debt, and whatever is left over is divided up,” said Finn, who lives upstate in Cornwall with his wife and two children and works in the city as an architect.

He said, unlike for the US government, there would be “immediate consequences” for him if he dilly-dallied on making payments.

“We need to cut services and increase taxes,” said Finn, who added that those with higher incomes should pay more.

One woman said she has managed to avoid getting into debt through careful spending.

“For me, it’s pay as you go,” said Laura Silvers, 45, who works in Greenwich Village. “I try not to buy things on debt.”

She thinks responsibility needs to be shared between government and the public.

“[The government] needs to set their priorities better,” said Silvers. “And people need to pay their fair share in taxes.”