David Sapper, a car salesman, and his wife, Tina, a real estate broker, live on a set budget of $2,500 from their two paychecks that must cover all groceries, health care bills and extracurricular expenses.
Even in their home in greater Las Vegas, where the cost of living is far lower than it is in other parts of the country, the Sappers have to budget carefully to make it work.
They rarely go out to dinner, they shop at discount chain stores and many of their recreational decisions are dictated by Groupon.
Such a way of living gives one the illusion that the Sappers are poorer than they actually are—yet in reality, they make an annual combined income of about $500,000.
“We put over 90 percent of our income into savings or investments,” says Sapper.
He and his wife decided to make the transition to a more frugal, savings-oriented lifestyle when they wanted to save up enough money to go into business for themselves. Today he runs his own car dealership in a niche market, for people with poor credit who want to buy cars.
After nearly seven years of living strictly within this budget, the Sappers have accumulated $50,000 in emergency savings, maxed out their IRAs each year, paid off their house and hit other key financial milestones.
According to a 2013 Bankrate study, about three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
But while that term traditionally means living off exactly what you earn with little or no savings to cushion a financial blow, a new breed of workers like Sapper are redefining the term to mean something different: the act of reallocating your actual paycheck so at least 20 percent, if not more, of your earnings is set aside for long-term financial goals.
The catch? It takes discipline to prioritize, say, saving for retirement over the instant gratification of buying whatever catches your eye.
“We cook at home almost every day,” says David Sapper. “We are huge on using coupons or Groupons when we do eat out. We shop mainly at stores like Ross or Nordstrom Rack to save money on clothing.”
But while the Sappers aren’t driving Lamborghinis or rolling in Prada, there’s something to be said of their lack of stress from living on less.