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Living Below Your Means
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By WhitemiataXP
February 21, 2006

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Today is a very special day.

But don't let me get ahead of myself; we'll get to that in a minute.

A long long long time ago someone pointed me to this site "The Motley Fool" telling me it was a Mecca of financial information with founders who believed that people could take control of their own financial future and thrive.

I started avidly reading sometime late in 1998, early 1999 and graduated quickly from just the articles to the boards.

It didn't take long for me to start enjoying reading the "Living Below Your Means" board and sometime in early 2000 I actually signed up to start posting rather than just reading.

Reading the posters' stories, the debt-free dances, the snowballing, the plans for the future gave me a boost in my confidence.

I bought "Personal Finance for Dummies" started slowly saving money, then more then more then more.

I got un-addicted to the spending. I learned that a little today, a little tomorrow adds up big time. Started using Microsoft Money religiously to track my progress.

It didn't take long before I started really enjoying it. Progress started to happen faster and faster, I enjoyed the ups of my index funds and loved the dips (better time to buy!).

There really wasn't a goal in mind, my mindset just changed. I became first a value investor, and then a value individual ... meaning that today I spend my money on value regardless of whether I'm buying a fund or buying a chair. My behavior has slowly changed and I'm now in a place where spending less for stuff gives me the same *high* that having the *designer version* used to 7 years ago. I was lucky enough to find a wife who shares this same worldview.

Every year a new milestone was achieved, smaller at first, and bigger and bigger as time passed. I posted about many of the milestones, paying off my car, paying off my house, paying off debts. It was awesome.

The *net worth* chart in money kept getting taller and taller. No, I'm not amongst the *wealthy* in absolute terms, nor is my income (which is very respectable and I'm very grateful for) some flashy 6 digit extravaganza. But the net worth chart is getting taller and it's a great feeling.

And today, as I said is a very special day.

It's a special day because today my family will start reaping some of the benefits of my careful savings and investment decisions.

Around noon, my wife's coworkers will be throwing her a party, and then at 5:00 sharp, her mother will drive over to her office and help her pack her things.

As of Monday, she'll be staying home with our daughter (my dad's been babysitting since she went back to work in January) in her new chosen capacity as a SAHM.

Given the un-enormousness of my income, that would never have been possible if we had a $1500+/mo mortgage or $500+/mo car payments as most of our friends seem to have (the prices of homes have just gone totally through the roof around here... last I checked our place is worth about 3x what I paid for it in '98) so we both credit our ability to make this choice to the many, many choices I've made since reading "the Motley Fool" website for the first time in the late 90s.

There is a point to this post.

Actually there are two points I'd like to make.

One is that sometime if you do what's right, you might not know why you're doing it (there were countless times when I asked myself "What am I saving for?") but the reason will pop up unexpectedly (in our case in the form of our adorable baby girl).

The second is that when I started steering my financial ship in '98 I was millions and millions of miles away from where I am now. Had I set my sights on our current situation, within this timeframe I would have concluded that it was unattainable with my income, debts etc. Your situation may be much worse than mine. You may have bigger debts and a smaller income. But I amazed myself and so will you.

So keep it up.

Alessandro


A big sincere thank you to "The Motley Fool" and everyone here on this board for your help in guiding my ... now our ship.


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