I was able to cut my expenses by selling a house and instead living as a roommate sharing a house with a friend. I do pay rent, but sharing household expenses such as cable, groceries, and so on has been far frugal than even I expected going in. I am a chemical engineer, employed currently at somewhat under-the-market salary of $52,000 a year. When I began this job, after the under-employment had drained my finances fairly hard, I still had a Fidelity Traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account) of about $44,000. I also had all of about $1800 in my checking account.
In the past year, without new contributions, that Fidelity account has hit $50,900. My goal was to struggle past $50,000 if possible, so I'm happy with that. I opened a 401k through my workplace, and contributed the maximum of 28% of my income. That account reached $10,700 in contributions before I stopped them, and has risen to $13,227 by end-of-2006 with a 31.9% rate of return. I gained momementary notoreity in the office by having the best return of anyone on with a retirement account here. I'm invested in the Oppenheimer Growth Fund and the JH Utilities fund 50/50 in that, which is very aggressive but with the high fees John Hancock charges, I thought it was my only good choice.
I stopped the contributions in October, because I needed to save up an Emergency Fund. That currently stands at $6000 - all in CDs with a rotating 3-month release. I have $4000 in my checking to get me through three months until a CD is released as part of the Emergency Funds - which also allowed me to purchase two tires when things got icy here a few weeks back without having to charge anything on a credit card.
I have approximately $3500 in three DRIP stocks, automatically investing each month in LEH ($100), WTR ($75), and XOM ($75), which has earned at about 11-14% since June, 2006.
I have one credit card, VISA, through Pulaski Bank at a fixed interest at 8.3% for a credit line of $3000 in case I need to travel for business. I have automatic draft to pay it $100 a month to avoid late fees. My gym membership at Bally's and my auto insurance to State Farm is also by automatic bank draft. Otherwise, I pay cash for everything, using checks only for my car payment, and phone bill.