The most powerful important thing I did for my financial well being was to learn to live frugal and below my means. The goal for the last 20 years has been to not spend more, just because I make more. My wife and I have not always been on the same page with this issue, but we've managed to come to a happy medium, where the overall gist, has us living below our means. The kicker is: as you earn more money over the years, resist the habit of spending more. Naturally, with inflation, and life's added responsibilities that come with age, you can't live on $400 a month like you did in college. However, you can stifle the urge to hyper-consume, and limit your spending. Easing up on your consumption habits (e.g. eating out 2 and 3 times a week, Starbucks, new shoes every month, mini shopping sprees where you buy clothes you only where once every 2 years, and nights out on the town), will do wonders for your mental health, and your wallet. Cut the credit card up, or at least put it far away, and pay close attention to your money, and budget like crazy. Sounds like a lot, but its really just par for the course when you have a real desire to get ahold of your spending and buckle down in the sea of frugality and living below your means. When you do this, you will really start to understand what is truly important and necessary. For most of us, that is a learning experience that many of us have not gone through.
First, if you have a spouse, get on the same page with them, if possible. Second, take inventory of where you are spending your money. Third, find ways to curtail it. Don't over complicate it. This can become a fun habit, just so long as you don't take it to an extreme that is unbearable or those that are around you. You don't have to separate the 2 ply toilet paper to get a double role, or re-use ice cubes when your guests leave ice cubes in their glass. There is a level OCD that is a bit over the top. But you can do simple, small things, coupled with habits that save on the larger things. Don't get boggled down worrying about a extra $3 purchase at QuikTrip, when you are sitting in a 30 year mortgage paying 6% interest, when you could be in a 15 yr mortgage paying 3.5% interest. It's important to tackle the larger things like your mortgage, your cars, etc. Being "frugal" isn't always about the living like a miser, but it's more so about making wise, smart, and conscious decisions with your money choices and the behaviors that accompany those decisions. Being frugal is about being conscious and focused and purposeful with your money decisions, so that living below your means is a way of life. What most people call "cheap", I call "wise". When you take a look at your expenditures, try seeing what areas you can save money in. Focus on the small stuff, but whatever you do, do not neglect the big stuff. The little stuff helps change your behavior with money and conditions your new thinking, but the big stuff will make the biggest impact.
Living frugal and below our means, has made an incredible difference on our net worth over the course of the years. Whether it's shopping at Thrift Stores, using coupons, reducing your restaurant visits, not going on the vacations, re-financing your home to a better rate, or keeping your small and large expenses as low as possible.....What matters is that you work on living below your means. If you choose "extreme frugality", or just a simple change in your thinking, it's worth it in the long run. If nothing else, it teaches you to put things and material in a healthy perspective. Give it a shot!