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Turning Trash into Cash: A Tale of a Teen Who Bought a House

A fourteen year old girl bought this house thanks to other people’s trash

What did you want most when you were fourteen? I remember I had a paper route and saved for months and months to buy my very first stereo system (complete with dual cassette tapes, thank you very much!) in order to blast Tonight by New Kids on the Block fifty times a day…Oh what fond memories! (And if you’re curious, Donnie was my favorite!)  I remember the feeling of saving MY money, the money I worked so hard for and walking into that A & B Sound feeling like such an adult that I could purchase such a big ticket item without any help from my parents.

I always thought of myself as a pretty money savvy teen who put her money to good use, creating goals and putting each pay cheque in the bank rather than just spending it on frivolous things like friendship bracelets and Pop Rocks candy….that is, until I recently saw Willow Tufano interviewed on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.  You see, this fourteen year old girl from Florida also had a goal, only hers was slightly larger than a stereo system…she bought a whole house! Really, I’m not kidding about this.

Willow (far left) with her new tenants

This amazing and extremely savvy teenager saved for over a year and managed to purchase an entire house for $12,000 (a very low price due, unfortunately ,to the real estate crisis in Florida.)  Originally priced at over $100,000 at the peak of the market, this two bedroom, one bathroom house succumbed to foreclosure and was left with a price tag of only $12,000. Willow saved $6,000(which is incredible) when she approached her mom to ask if she would go in on the house with her.  Parents, can you even imagine your teenage kids coming up to you one day and asking, “Hey mom, I really, really want to buy this house so do you mind going in halfers with me on it? I promise to keep my room clean for a whole month!!! Please Mom!! Pleeeeeeeeease!!”  Luckily Willow’s Mom did agree and together they bought a house, fixed it up a bit and are now renting it for $700 a month.  So, not only is this fourteen-year-old girl a home owner, she’s also a landlord!  Now, if this isn’t a story to tell your kids in order to teach them about the value of a dollar and setting goals, I don’t what is!!!

So the million dollar question (or rather $6000 question) is how the heck did she save over $6000 in a year at the age of fourteen? Well, she started by finding items at garage sales, on the side of the road and even in the trash and turned around and sold them on classified sites for a profit. She’d see people just throwing perfectly good items away and realized that they were actually worth something if she put in the time and effort to sell them.

Most people just see trash…Willow saw dollar signs!

Now I know everyone has seen that perfectly good computer desk or coffee table just sitting by the side of the road but most of us just think, “I don’t need this for my house” and so we simply drive by.  When Willow saw computer desks or coffee tables abandoned on the side of the road, she saw dollar signs and a chance to not only make some money but also save more items from finding their way into the landfill.  She mentioned on Ellen that she couldn’t believe what people were lugging to the side of the curb on trash day as they were perfectly good items that someone else might be able to use.

This smart teenage girl saw an opportunity that most adults never see and became an instant role model to kids everywhere. As she told ABC News, “If there’s one thing I want people to know, it’s that your age does not matter. If I can inspire another person my age, younger, that would mean the world. Whether it’s buying a house, buying a car, or whatever. If you really work for it and put your mind to it you can do what you want to do.” Boy, don’t you just love this kid? I sure do!

So next time your son or daughter complains they don’t have any money or can’t seem to save enough, I’d simply show them this video of Willow and hopefully they can see that it actually IS possible to make money at a young age if you have the drive and the passion…and maybe also some storage space in your parent’s garage or basement to house all the used finds until they are sold.  A small price to pay to teach your kids the importance of saving money and having goals I say!

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I challenge all you kids out there to take a page out of Willow’s book and the next time your parents are getting ready to throw out that perfectly good coffee table or small appliance, convince them to keep it, snap a quick photo and post it on your local UsedSite. You never know what someone might pay for it, getting you one step closer to your own goal, whatever it is. I’d love to hear your stories if you do!

Coupon Tip of the Week:  Here’s a simple suggestion to help you save money and avoid buying something just because it seems like a good deal.  For instance, you see that a grocery store has Kraft Dinner on sale for $1 each. That sounds like a great deal so you go and buy ten of them. Later you find out Costo has them on for $7.99 for ten suddenly turning your seemingly great deal into a bust. To avoid this from happening again, I suggest doing some research and creating a spreadsheet with all of the items you normally buy when grocery shopping and their regular prices in order to determine if something is a good deal or not. This can save you lots of money in the long run.

Community Coordinator at, blogger, social media junkie, proud mama, fabulously frugal, proud to be from our beautiful city!

5 Responses to “Turning Trash into Cash: A Tale of a Teen Who Bought a House”


I do the same thing. I haven’t made close to that much, however.



This kid is gonna own 5-6 houses before she is 20 years old. I would like to see recent pictures of the yard, to see if she used any of the money from the Ellen show, to landscape that property. The property needs serious fixing it would be cool to see before and after pictures of it. I wish I had this kids drive now, let alone when I was 14.


Carly Russell

I sure hope she does become a real estate mogul…I only wish my son has the same drive as her when he’s a teenager!

Ever since I saw her on Ellen, I keep driving around in hopes of finding some good free stuff on the road I can sell…so far nothing acceptable yet!



That is incredible!! Some people are just born with the entrepreneurial spirit. Someone’s trash is definitely someone else’s treasure!


[…] turned trash into an iPod. This young woman in Florida turned trash into a house. She […]


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