We did not do anything that is not available to almost everyone. We did not have extravagant incomes most of the time, and actually only 6 of the last 20 years did both of us work full time!
We made a plan in about 1992 that would allow us to retire well before 50. We are 45 and 50 now and could retire if we had to, though it would be a stretch. We sort of followed the plan but took some detours along the way. But we no longer want to retire. We give a lot to a couple of charities, we have enough saved that we can spend a little more on travel and such without worry now, and we both genuinely like what we do. The point is, make a plan and work toward it. Don't worry about diversions or things that come up. Use it kind of like a roadmap. You might get distracted, make a wrong turn, take a side trip to do something you enjoy, but the map is there to come back to.
We do not have any kids but we helped put a relative's child through private school and will be helping pay her college using savings we've put away for that. We did this without the tax benefits that many enjoy for their own kids so it cost us about 25% more. So we are aware of the costs of a child or two. I don't think however that children would have changed where we are now. We would have had a simila rlifestyle and gotten to a similar place in life.
The secrets were:
1. Live within your means and enjoy a modest lifestyle. Don't spend more than you make. Besides food, water, clothing, and shelter you do not need anything else. But if you want something that will bring enjoyment, save up and buy it. Then take care of it. We have nice stuff and take care of it. We just bought a huge widescreen TV - because our 20 year old TV finally died. We will probably have the new one 20 years from now. Always buy quality stuff instead of the cheapest stuff. It will last much longer. Never buy anything on credit that you can't pay off right away. As I have said elsewhere, we buy almost everything on a credit card BUT we always pay it off every month and never pay interest! We pay cash forcars and then keep them for 10-15 years. The best thing you can do when you want to buy something is simply wait a month!
2. Invest automatically and pay attention to fees. Pay yourself first. Set up an automatic monthly transfer to a mutual fund so that you invest without thinking about it. Do not ever let a broker or anyone else convince you that fees or expenses have any relation to investment performance. This is always a lie! Always. You can get free advice many places. Learn about money and do it yourself.
3. Eat right, exercise, and stay healthy. This will keep medical expenses as low as possible. Eating fresh foods will also save you money. A bag of apples costs less than a package of cookies and will last much longer.
4. Work hard, keep learning, and get promoted. Your employer rewards you because of the benefit you bring not because they feel sorry for you. Make yourself a valuable employee and you will be rewarded. Just show up and do the minimum and you'll stay where you are and your salary will barely keep up with inflation, if you are lucky. You might also be teh first out the door in a downturn.
5. Pay a littel extra every month on your mortgage. Never let the bank charge you for that either. Most banks have a biweekly payment plan that they chareg you for. Don't do it! Just send a little extra in each check. You'll be amazed how fast it adds up.
If there is something you enjoy, do it so that you will be happy. But think of it as a treat rather than an entitlement.