After getting my first “real” job six years ago, I immediately maxed out my 401(k) contribution at the insistence of a coworker. It was very difficult for the first four months, but then I adjusted to living on a smaller take-home check. I don’t miss the money one bit and have never been tempted to decrease my contribution.
Approximately four years ago, I paid off my last credit card (mostly tuition and textbook charges from college) and have not charged since. Being credit-card debt-free is very liberating; again, I’m not even slightly tempted to use the card unless it’s for travel arrangements which I pay off when the bill comes due.
I also bought a home almost three years ago, commit to making one extra mortgage payment at least once a year, and invest in improvements to increase the resale value as I plan to upgrade to another home in about a year.
The heavy layoffs in 2002 (especially in Austin, where I live) scared me to the point of finally opening a money market account and funding it with three months worth of living expenses (in case I got laid off from my computer programming job). I had never imagined I could afford to save thousands of dollars on my own, but it became a priority.
A month ago, I purchased a new (used) vehicle after driving my other car for 11 years and 160K miles. I was constantly teased about driving an older car, but I didn’t care. My family/friends/coworkers all had car notes, and I happily did not.
I basically read everything I can get my hands on that deal with finances–magazines, Internet articles, books (including The Automatic Millionaire, Smart Couples Finish Rich (I’m single), and Smart Women Finish Rich). I even have two friends and a casual acquaintance who’ve asked me to help them get a handle on their finances. One friend suggested I become a financial advisor.
I live pretty frugally (which I get teased about, also), and I limit myself to a $20/week cash allowance for things like lottery tickets, cheap fast-food, occasional Happy Hour drinks, and vanilla milkshakes (my “Latte”). When the $20 bucks is spent, I rarely return to the ATM for more cash. This has made a world of difference.