We aren't paycheck to paycheck. We are now saving over 33% of our take-home pay. It helps that we are both educated and in good jobs, which I know gives us a leg up.
I think the key is that we have done everything gradually. Like, we got a new house (after saving 15% downpayment). It is modest, a 3 br 2 bath, 1450 sqft. But, we haven't done a lot to the house. We went from one bathroom to two. For our bathroom, we just use the shower curtain liner. I thought about getting a cute shower curtain at Target for $20, but I put it back because we don't need it. Doing that over and over again is the key. We bought a used couch and some furniture off of Craigslist. One of our rooms is still empty and I am using a rubbermaid storage bin for a nightstand.
I guess it is delayed gratification. I can definitely see how an accident or a sick family member's medical bills could wipe out savings, or someone layed off could be living paycheck to paycheck for a short period of time. But honestly are 45% of people on here in that boat?? I doubt it.
My advice would be to deny yourself something that you want today. Don't deny things you really NEED. Just the things that you want. Like that magazine, or candy bar, or your favorite ice cream. See how it feels. Do you really regret it when you get home? Don't you feel better knowing that you are in a better position financially from having said no just once?? What if you said no to your inner child over and over again?
Also, just USE LESS of everything!! Use less milk in your cereal. Use less gas. Do you really need to take that trip for bread? Could you use something else instead until the next time you go? Could you walk somewhere and get some? Shop places where you can park your car and go to multiple stores without getting in your car. Hypermile. Use less electricity. Get CFLs. Trust me, they will pay for themselves. Sell something on craigslist to get the money for the CFLs. Take shorter showers.
I guess where I am going with this is that it is always possible to spend less money. You just have to be willing to sacrifice. I frequently hear people (on here and other forums) complaining a lot about how they never have enough money. Well, for some people $1,000,000 will never be enough, and for others $1000 is plenty. It is all in your mindset. I don't "deserve" a manicure every month. I don't "deserve" to go out to eat every night. Sure, do I want these things, yes, but I deny myself because I know that I am making a positive future for my family by doing so. I'm not suggesting that we all be martyrs and not buy any new clothes for ourselves for 20 years, or force feed our children Ramen noodles because it's cheap. I just think we all need to take a look at the big picture and see how small changes can really add up.