Thanks y'all. Its super helpful to hear from likeminded people. Our parking lot is filled with Lexuses and I work with women who live in gated communities and wear very expensive clothes and purses. I admit its hard not to want those things some days. I mean, I have the same degree and job title - why can't I have a Lexus too?
But we persevere with lunches from home, cooking from scratch, shopping sales, and wearing clothes from the clearance rack every day. We don't go to bars, we only go out to eat occasionally at inexpensive places, and we just try to be content with our run-down rental.
I also tried to share with friends about our frugal journey and we hear all the same things. That our expenses are lower, that our lifestyles aren't as active (everyone around here is big into ski season, Ironman, mountain biking, sailing, etc.), or that we don't have the same business/social obligations, etc. Some have just told us our life sounds really miserable! We also always get that whole "wait til you have kids" thing with regards to our finances. I have no doubt that kids cost money, but a lot of these "needs" my colleagues are paying for are "wants." Its a choice. Daycare, private school, sports, summer camp, iPhones, Kindles, music lessons, vacations - these are all choices! They aren't necessities!
In the end, this is all worth it to me because I want flexibility. I don't want to be tied to a job because of "stuff." I work in the public sector and we can get public service loan forgiveness if I sign up to work for the government for 10 years. I'm a few years in already, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't do it. I didn't want that debt hanging over my head for 10 years and the only way that program would work for us is if we changed my repayment schedule to the smallest monthly payment (which would accrue the most interest over time) and hope that Congress appropriates enough money to forgive my massive balance in 10 years. No thanks. Additionally, while we have money going to our pensions (mandatory deductions, matching, etc.) its just the minimum that our employers require and DH has always had private retirement investments outside his employer. While we've frozen those investments while we repay our loans, we'll be keeping that dual track of investments once we return to saving for retirement. I want to work as long as I want to work, quit when I want to quit, and not have debt, health insurance, or retirement programs holding me any place I don't want to be.
At least that's what I tell myself when I get into my beater car every morning.