He was a born saver and hustler — even if it meant cleaning up poop.

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Carl from 1500 Days to Freedom started working for money at an early age. He lived in the suburbs of Chicago with parents that stressed hard work.

Carl says, “There were no handouts; if I wanted something, I had to earn my own money to buy it. No exceptions.” And although his parents didn’t teach him much about money, they provided him with an opportunity to earn.

“My parents gave me a list of chores to do,” recalls Carl. “I mowed the lawn, trimmed the hedges, took out the trash and picked up dog poop, all for $2 a week. My parents got a great deal, but I felt rich after saving up my money.”

When it snowed, he walked the neighborhood cleaning off driveways for a few bucks. He also delivered papers. Carl hustled. He continued saving and hustling during high school. Although he did admit making one financial mistake: He bought a car that ended up being a “money and time pit.”

But Carl’s financial habits stayed mostly true. “I didn’t spend my money the moment it came in,” says Carl. “I remember debating for months whether to purchase a stereo. My younger sisters laughed at me. They started calling me “Mr. Cheapo.” That annoyed me back then, but now I consider the nickname a badge of honor.”

When Carl attended college, he told me he experienced a financial epiphany. He and his girlfriend at the time attended a money management seminar. Carl noticed most people attending were over 50, but when the instructor started discussing investing techniques, “he locked eyes with me and said: ‘Your advantage is your youth. Start investing now.'”

Carl graduated in 1998 and started working as a software developer for a large retailer. He also started investing and remembers working with a lot of young people making good money — but spending it just as fast. He told me a great story. His manager just bought a new BMW. Carl drove a 1991 Honda with 200,000 miles on it. This is how the conversation went:

Manager: Carl, you should really get a new BMW, too.

Carl: Why? My current car works fine.

Manager: You’re single and you need to demonstrate that you have money if you want to get married.

Carl didn’t take her advice — and didn’t need to.

The consumerist mentality

Carl married in 2002. He and his wife owned a small home. They made some small improvements and ended up selling the home for a $100,000 profit. He says, “We never planned on being home flippers, but the money was too good to resist. After that, we started buying solid, but cosmetically ugly homes. We fixed them up while living there and then sold them two years later.”

Carl always thinks about making and saving money. But that mentality differs from the mentality of many other Americans. He believes too many people spend haphazardly — all because they desire luxurious items.

“Commercials tell us that leather seats, large homes and fancy purses will make you happy,” says Carl. “They will, but the happiness remains shallow and fleeting. Having financial security is much more satisfying, and when you gain financial freedom, it provides you with the ultimate luxury — personal time.”

Carl started his blog on January 1, 2013. “My only goal at the time was to create an online journal documenting my journey to financial independence,” says Carl. “Now that I’ve achieved my goal, I hope to inspire others to do the same.”

With that in mind, Carl provided his three top money management tips:

  1. Record and review all purchases: Seeing how much you spend every month is enlightening. We were surprised when we saw our spending and it caused us to change our behavior.
  2. Always think of the opportunity cost of a purchase: The stock market has historically returned about 10 percent with dividend reinvestment. This means that your money doubles about every 7 years. If you’re 30 and invest $20,000, that money will be worth about $640,000 by the time you’re 65. Would you rather have a new car now or $640,000 later?
  3. Find your level of Enough: If your car works fine, you don’t need a new one. Why can’t a starter home be a forever home? Find your level of Enough and stick to it.

Take Carl at his word and start working toward your own financial independence.

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About the Author

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski has been writing about personal finance for over 15 years covering debt recovery, fraud, and credit topics. He has worked on several personal finance books and guides that help consumers navigate the US credit system. When he’s away from the keyboard he enjoys craft beer and fishing – and once enjoyed a cold Sweet Water IPA after catching a sailfish.

Published by Debt.com, LLC