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    Posted September 29, 2008 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Are you a Millionaire in the Making?

    Balance life, balance money


    The best gift I could have received when I graduated from college was from my parents. They presented me a check for $1000 to open my first Roth IRA and told me that they would match me dollar for dollar the first year. You bet I maxed it out and every year thereafter.


    It taught me a valuable lesson that I might not have gotten at such an early age. Save often when you're young and let compound interest do your work. Now I save 17% into my 401k and stock away any annual increases.


    I've since then worked hard at the pricipals of valuing money. I'm frugal to a line but pick a select few things to invest in the best.


    I got my 1999 Honda Civic serviced recently when I hit 100k in miles. It didn't bother me when my trusted mechanic told me that I needed new spark plugs and a few other things for $550 (I had a 20% off coupon). I'm reminded of my fathers words, "You take care of your car and your car will take care of you."


    I pay off my credit card every month and don't spend money I don't have.


    Coupons are my friend and I often ask for discounts. Everything is negotiable, even my internet pricing I talked down when my rates were raised by a major company. I once found a pair of work shoes I needed. I noticed in the heel it had the tiniest of nickx. Instead of putting this pair back and finding a perfect one I asked for a discount on the other pair and got it. One year I kept a spreadsheet based on money spent and money saved by discounts and coupons and on average I saved 35% and nearly $800. I was glad to have $800 more in my account than most others. A little bit of time and a simple task of asking for discounts serves me well.


    I found a way to earn extra income and combine a hobby by working part time in the evenings for fun at a culinary school. Those nights I get to eat whatever they cook, bring home leftovers and I get paid to be there. All of this extra money is set aside strictly for really nice pots and pans and other culinary delights. Oh, and I get to take classes for free too.


    I'm a big reader but no longer have room in my home for books that I only read once. I go to the library and get DVDs there for free.


    I bought my first home, a condo at the age of 26 without any financial help. I had made the decision after trying to live on my own to go back home. I'm fortunate my parents let me come back home, pay off my new car that I still drive today in 11 months, save a lot for my retirement and downpayment on my home. It was tough the first few years having not made much, but my credit was extremely good and I knew I had the discipline to live below my means.


    Now today I buy memories, not things. I've paid for a trip with my father for a semi-luxury East African safari and have done some remote backpacking through Alaska's wilderness. I walk when I can and drive where I must. I turn on a fan instead of my air conditioner. I stretch out my hair appointments to every three months instead of every other month, saving me $120 a year.


    All of this allowed me to hit 100k saved in my retirement before I turned 31 through responsible investing and habitual savings. You can have it all in life if you value the right things. I'm living proof.


    *After note- As one commenter made a point of felt my report above was condescending to those who are hurting by the economy. I am fortunate and grateful that I am in the position to practice fiscal responsibility and that I do have a fairly secured job. As I told one commenter, I make far from six figures but I am in the position to save enough that my retirement portfolio tells a different story.*



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