Extreme Savers: Greg and Tara Black

Immediately starting their savings after grad school has let this Virginia couple watch their wealth grow.

By Keisha Lamothe, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- No cell phones. Dial-up Internet. Before Greg and Tara Black spend a buck for something, they make sure they really need it.

The two were high-school sweethearts and married after Greg's first year of grad school at Cornell, where he was studying astronomy.

Greg Black and his wife Tara
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Now 37, Greg is a research scientist and lecturer at the University of Virginia taking in an annual income of $48,000 while Tara, 35, is a stay-at-home wife.

Greg says they manage to sock away about 60 percent of that gross, partially owing to principles they picked up while living in a small West Virginia town where there wasn't a whole lot to spend money on.

Now the two rent a 3-bedroom house in Charlottesville, Va. while they are saving to buy a house.

Most of their money is spent on grocery items that are on sale, using coupons on top of the discounted price. Tara also makes sure to send in every mail-in rebate to put money back into savings.

Greg's job doesn't require him to wear a suit and tie, so he likes to keep his wardrobe casual. He shops at discount retailers, including Kohl's (Charts) and JC Penney (Charts), and looks for items on clearance.

"The most I would spend on a single item would be $20 if it was a new pair of jeans or shirt," Greg said.

During the week as entertainment, they watch DVD movies at home that they order from the online rental site Netflix (Charts) because they think going to the theater is too expensive.

They also like to take trips on weekdays to other towns within Va. and sometimes venture out of the state taking a drive to Washington D.C. for free events or visiting parks and museums.

And when it comes to dining out, they keep it to a maximum of 2 to 3 times a month at inexpensive to mid-priced casual restaurants, such as Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's. They do not spend more than $20 to $30 altogether and always use coupons or gifts cards that they mainly get from Restaurant.com.

Where the savings go

Greg tacks on a couple extra thousand by tutoring, and Tara sells various items online at auction sites such as eBay (Charts) and occasionally does marketing studies.

Greg puts half his savings into a 401(b) plan, which is similar to a 401(k) but is offered to employees of an educational institution.

They both have IRA accounts with $40,000 in total and including his 401(b) plan, have amassed $150,000 in funds.

Even though Tara doesn't have a job, she stays at home and manages their money while keeping track of every purchase, making a job within itself.

"It works out better in terms of money because she's here working the numbers and managing the money and we don't have to spend on other things like another car and gas," Greg said.

They own a 2002 Toyota Corolla that they bought brand new with a no-interest loan, which they made a huge effort to pay off after a year.

Keeping a low gas and electric bill also enables them to put more money into savings and if something major ever comes up, they evaluate their money situation and cut back on purchases to accommodate their needs.

Plans for the future

Although Greg wishes he started saving 10 years earlier, he still feels they are well on their way to having a substantial amount of money stashed away when he decides to retire around his late 50s.

Their main goal is to buy a house and they have been putting money aside in a regular savings account that has reached nearly $70,000, which they will tap into when they decide on a permanent place to live.

With the holiday season coming up, they got an early start by purchasing most of gifts earlier in the year when they spotted good deals.

For now, they make sure they keep track of every little thing to properly manage their money. "Don't think that the little things are nothing, because they will start to add up," Greg said.


Are you an Extreme Saver? Tell us about your saving strategies at saver@money.com.

Millionaires in the Making are smart about their investments and get a kick out of saving money. To be considered for this feature, e-mail us at millionaire@money.com.

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