This article is part ofΒ  the 2015 Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival hosted by The Heavy Purse. For more posts in the carnival, follow the link!

For most of us, saving money hasn’t always come easy. Even those of us who are born savers have stumbled along the way. Usually, it takes some education and a few massive money mistakes before we truly find our calling as extreme savers. There’s almost always an “ah-ha” moment (or seven) that forces us to get real about our financial situation. Our story is no different.

I have to admit, I’ve always been stingy, but saving money is something I had to learn. It wasn’t that I wanted to spend it all on stuff. Heck, I’ve probably only spent $1,000 on clothing over the last 20 years (for realsies). However, for years, I never really kept track of my money. As long as I had some in my checking account, I though I was fine. Boy, was I wrong.

“Get Real” Moment #1

When Holly and I first started dating, I was just another broke actor living in Chicago. I spent what I had on rent, groceries, and beer. By the end of each month, I had usually drained my accounts dry. Of course, that led to me putting a few groceries (and drinks) on my credit card to get me by. I’d pay the minimum payment every month, thinking I was doing a decent job handling my limited funds.

Of course, it didn’t take long before I built up some credit card debt. Not a lot, mind you. Just a couple of thousand dollars. Still, my girlfriend/new fiance didn’t like what she saw. If we were going to get married, it was time for me to “Get real, son.”

Holly helped me transfer all of my credit card debt to a 0% balance card with no balance transfer fees. Since we believe in combining finances when married, she helped me pay them off over a period of a few months. By the time we got married, my credit card debt was gone for good…and I haven’t carried a balance since. See, ladies! You really can change a man if you try!

“Get Real” Moment #2

Somewhere between 2010 and 2011, Holly and I were looking at our bank accounts. We had built up a savings of around $10,000 during the first year of our marriage, which we were pretty proud of. Yet, we never managed to save any more than that. We were making plenty of money, but – outside of our retirement plans – we couldn’t seem to sock away any more Benjamins.

So, we decided to start tracking our spending. What we found was both shocking and disturbing. We were spending more than a $1,000 a month on food…for (basically) two people!

It was time for us to get real. We began eating out less. We cut coupons. We shopped sales and ate meatless meals.Β Most importantly, we started budgeting our money…and it changed our life. In fact, it was so much fun watching all our savings pile up that we looked for more ways to cut our expenses! Eliminating everything from cable TV to movie nights, we cut our expenses down to the bare bones. We hurled all the extra money at our debts, and we became debt free in about a year.

Frankly, that “get real” moment set us on the course to get us where we are today. Learning how to budget motivated us to save. It encouraged us to find new ways to make money. And, it was the catalyst for the creation of this blog – something that has led us down drastically different career paths than where we thought we’d be 5 years ago. That moment changed our life. Although it was painful at times, what we learned from our experience has been utterly invaluable…and I wouldn’t change a thing.

What are some of the moments in your life that have caused you to “get real” about your money? Let us know in the comments below!