This thread has been an eye-opener for me.
It seems that except for those with the least money on this list, who I really feel for, it is so much about attitude. There are people living on far less than we do who are happy and people living on far more who are not happy.
We have been poor ($24,000 for a family three at the time in NYC, no insurance, student loans to pay off), and I knew what it was like to wonder where the next meal was going to come from.
By the time we left NYC a little over a year ago my husband was making over $65,000, and we still weren't rolling in dough because we were having to pay off all the debts that had accrued in the poor years and replace all the broken things (like refrigerators) that we had made do with or gone without before. We were just starting to feel settled, when it became obvious that the dot.com world was about to collapse and the company my husband was working for was no exception and that jobs he was qualified for were incredibly scarce.
We ended up moving upstate and taking a big paycut (he started here at $50,000 but now makes about $55,000). Even though we left NYC, our expenses have gone up. We had amazing rent in the city. We bought a house because we were tired of throwing money away, and our mortgage payments (including tax and insurance) are $500 more a month than our rent in the city was. To find a house we could afford, we had to accept one that needed lots of work. So a fair amount of money goes into repairs and renovations. We didn't have a car in the city. Now my dh has his 1996 Honda that his parents bought for him (our life is furnished by my in-laws), and I have a '93 2-door Chrysler (ugly and inconvenient with the kids but it works) that I bought for $100 off a relative, and there is the cost of insurance, repairs, and maintenance. Heating this house is a huge added expense since we didn't pay for heat (or gas at all) in our apartment and this house is very drafty. So we are struggling to maintain our lifestyle.
After reading this thread, though, I realize how much we have to be grateful for. We have no savings, the girls don't get to take music or dance classes, we haven't taken a vacation since before we had children. But we do have a house, my husband has a job that is relatively secure, we have health insurance, we have two cars, we never have to worry about whether there will be food on the table, I get to stay home and unschool the children, we get out to the very occasional movie at the cheap movie theater here, my dh's parents are usually there to give us a hand or bale us out of trouble, and my parents live nearby enough to help out regularly with the children. I am grateful, and I will try to keep this with me.
It is interesting though how salary doesn't necessarily have that much to do with things. My parents live nearby and and make less than $30,000. Yet they own their house with no mortgage payments (bought it 15 years ago with money from the sale of my grandmother's house) and love tag sales and fixing things up. There place is filled with broken appliances and furniture. They really let things go in their house. I am very uncomfortable when I am there, but they make it work for themselves so well that they are able to take overseas trips at least once a year, are able to help out my sister and brother who are in school (paid for by another legacy), and more.
My in-laws, too, have no income, and when they did, it was dh's step-father's meager postal worker's income, but they are very well-off. It is because my MIL early on, while still freshly divorced and single, discovered a knack for finding really cheap houses with lots of potential and fixing them up for a song (before this she had had to supplement their meager income by collecting and returning bottles). So my dh moved every few years as a child. His mother would buy a house, they'd move into it, she'd fix it up, they'd sell it for a LOT more than they bought it, and it would start all over again, with a slightly nicer house this time. So over the years they have acquired quite a bit of money and now live in a beautiful home with many acres of land and drive a fully-paid for Lexus SUV (I don't approve of that choice, but it shows where they are).