My DH and I also live in the black with $$ to spare that goes into the fun fund and savings each month, living in the heart of San Francisco. Our retirement and just general savings fund is better than most people's I would say, especially if you consider where we live and the fact that we don't earn 6 figures even. We always have an emergency fund, we have three cats and we go on holidays at least once a year, but more like twice (went to the Middle East for Christmas and just got back from Guadalajara, and in November, going somewhere again so we can reenter with a new visa status... next year going home to Toronto and then Moorea for my sis' wedding). I don't drive, so we only have one car, a 1995 Maxima which we paid in cash back in 2003 (When we were still living in downtown Toronto, having a car was more of a burden). We rent...with the way the SF housing market is, there is no way we can afford anything except for a small little box in the sky they call condos. I'm frugal, but wouldn't say cheap, since I do save up for stuff I really want, even if they are extravagant. But I would never buy anything expensive on a loan. DH is more free with the $ but with me around and coaching him, he's getting it. Since I decided to take time off work, I have had the time to really penny pinch without compromising our lifestyle....I discovered coupons and freezer cooking. We also try to live green, making my own homemade cleaners whenever I can. I would attribute this trait to my mom, who has always been a penny pincher (she is however really really cheap, to the point of, in my opinion, making a dumb move sometimes, when she fails to see that quality needs to be factored in to your purchases as well...sorry mom, but you do buy junk). Oh and the one thing that got me going....I know this might sound impossible to some, was when we were living in San Diego a couple years back, we learned to live on about 68% of our income (I don't use budget softwares....plain old Excel spreadsheets work fine for me since I design the spreadsheet to my own understanding), after taxes. Of course this became impossible when we moved to SF, as we both refuse to live in the suburbs, but at this point, although our savings are a bit less, we are still living beneath our means, at around 75-80% of our income. With a baby on the way, however, I could use some more advise.
greenegirl - I read your whole post! I could not stop reading it. What an inspiring story!
We live debt free, and the single most important financial decision we made was buying a house we could afford on one income. Dh and I bought it before we were engaged, but we talked about the eventuality of me being a SAHM "one day", so that we should buy a house that we could live in on his income. Before dd came along, and I was working, most of my income was saved up for paying off my student loan debt, and I was able to write a $20,000 check (which meant NOT buying a lot of other things)!! When we do buy big ticket items, we save up for them in advance to pay cash, or very near tax return time so our refunds will pay off the balance (only done if it a purchase that can not be put off till later).
For us, living debt free requires sacrifices on some level. We had to relocate to find a house we could afford on one income, and our cars are oooolllllllddddd. But that's ok...