116 comments

Challenge: Who is up for Maximum Mustache March?

It has been a while since we ran an MMM challenge here at Mr. Money Mustache. The last one, where I instructed you to start getting your groceries with a bike trailer, was way back on October 20th. And even that one was a bit of a cheat for me, since I didn’t have to change anything in order to meet it (although I’m still proud to say I’ve made only one car-based grocery trip since October 20th – due to needing supplies for an impromptu party in January immediately after an 18″ snowfall in my area).

So anyway, over in the Forum, someone came up with the idea of  this March becoming “Mutilate the Mortage Month”.  We agreed to broaden the idea to include non-mortgage-holders and hardcore mortgage leveraging investors, and thus we settled on Maximum Mustache March.

So here’s the deal:

For just one month, find a way to increase your hardcore focus on monetary efficiency, boost your badassity, and supercharge your ‘stashing. Cut your spending in novel and healthy ways, and see how well you can do. Reducing total outlays by 10% is a nice goal.

My personal goal is to up my game in healthy cooking for the family in a strategic way that allows us to spend at least $100 less on groceries for the month. With an average that had crept up towards $400/month throughout 2012, I’d like to keep it well below $300 this month with a goal of $250. This means eating less meat, and more things that are lower in cost on a calories-per-dollar basis. Spicy bean and rice dishes, an Indian vegetarian curry recipe, the occasional baked potato with cheese and chives, and plenty of fresh fruit come to mind. The remaining meat dishes can have more things like grilled tilapia, which is cheap and yummy, instead of organic beef and chicken, which is expensive and yummy.

I’ll also make a point of taking on one extra full day of paid work in my construction business (which will be nice since I’ve been a bit lazy since finishing the Foreclosure Project). This will add a few hundred dollars to the family income for the month.

Other ideas for setting a new record in your own performance this March:

  • Make it a “buy nothing month”, where you eliminate all optional purchases except groceries. It’s okay to make exceptions when needs come up (prescriptions, things for kids, fixing important things) but gadgets and wardrobe upgrades are out!
  • Take the “One Tank Challenge” where you fill your car’s gas tank before the month begins, and make it last through all of March. This would be too easy for for the MMM family, so we could shoot for a “One Gallon Challenge” – driving less than 40 miles in our 40MPG car – instead. But with a family camping trip already planned, we might have to apply the challenge only to the portion of the month we are in town.
  • Get new quotes on your house and car insurance to see if you can drop the rates. See if you can beat the ones we’re getting as mentioned in the new “MMM Recommends” page.
  • Set a goal to ride your bike at least 100 miles (3 miles per day) during the month – for work commuting or errands.
  • Consider switching to a new cell phone plan or internet plan that meets your needs at a lower price. Some neat ideas came up in this forum post on that subject.

These are just a few ideas out of thousands of ways to improve your bottom line. Then you take all the profits and roll them into either paying down your highest-interest debt, or investing some other way into your Early Retirement Fund.

And there’s actually something quite tricky about this challenge: I am fooling you into thinking this is a one-time exercise, so it sounds easy. But really, trying any of these things where you push one of your boundaries, will automatically result in new frugality skills. You’ll find that a portion of the new behavior just sticks, effortlessly, and you will benefit financially from the new skill for the rest of your life.

In my own case, I’ll learn a bit more about affordable cooking, with a new recipe or two to go with it. That knowledge will help me spend less on groceries, forever. And I’ll invest 100% of the extra few hundred I earn from my day of work, resulting in a higher stream of passive income, forever.

Yahoo! What will you do with YOUR Maximum Mustache March?

  • Knince February 29, 2012, 6:10 am

    I’ve recently learned how to prepare dry beans using a pressure cooker. That alone has saved me a bundle by substituting my protein intake of meats with a much cheaper (and still tasty) substitute. Between that, picking through the grocery sales, and eliminating fast food, my wife and I are able to keep our monthly food budget under $200 and still eat very healthy!

    Lentils and rice are also staples to our healthy and frugal mustachian diet!

    Reply
    • Heidi February 29, 2012, 9:46 am

      The pressure cooker is really great for making beans more quickly. I got that tip from Jacob.
      For the MMM’s, watch out for lentils. Cross-contamination with different grains happens either in the field or the factories so Mrs. M may get sick if you don’t screen the lentils carefully first. see link for more info.

      http://www.nourishingmeals.com/2011/11/lentil-and-kale-dal-video.html

      Reply
  • Knince February 29, 2012, 6:16 am

    By the way, MMM… My wife and I went on our first bike-powered grocery trip two weeks ago and now we’re hooked. The extra exercise is fantastic and I can almost feel my money mustache growing by the minute! Thanks for the challenge.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 29, 2012, 9:00 am

      AWESOME Knince!

      Your grocery tale really warms my heart. I wish everybody would try taking the bike to the grocery store – it is really fun and brings a much more local, hip vibe to your life even if you live in the suburbs.

      The cool thing about this idea is that it is uniquely possible even with the current poor US urban planning: although many people live quite far from their current jobs, very few people live more than a few miles from a grocery store, since the stores tend to be distributed through suburban areas.

      Reply
      • Knince February 29, 2012, 10:26 am

        Right on MMM!

        As an additional benefit, I’ve found that I know the layout and geography of my area much better now that I’ve been through it first hand instead of viewing everything from behind a windshield.

        I’m certain that this territorial knowledge will serve me well (aka save me $$) in the future real estate investments because I have a better feel for where the bargains can be found.

        Double bonus!!

        Reply
      • Carolyn October 17, 2012, 1:23 pm

        I used to be able to walk to my grocery store, but then they went out of business. Now the closest one is several miles away :(

        But I did see a bike trailer at the Goodwill over the weekend, so I might have to try the bike riding.

        Reply
      • insourcelife June 19, 2014, 11:53 am

        “I wish everybody would try taking the bike to the grocery store – it is really fun and brings a much more local, hip vibe to your life even if you live in the suburbs.”

        Getting groceries by bike sounds like a great idea but there is something that stops us from doing it… it’s the fact that one of us simply goes grocery shopping on our way home from work. It’s faster than a separate 5 mile round trip bike trip and does not cost anything extra. Yes, there is a health benefit but instead of that extra bike run to the grocery store, the two of us go bike riding with our son. Much more entertaining than going to the store. So unless one of us quits our job I doubt there will be much grocery shopping by bike. Am I overlooking something??

        Reply
        • Oh Yonghao August 13, 2014, 3:49 pm

          You might be overlooking biking to work in the first place. Why are you driving to work instead? If you live too far consider moving closer. This gets more complicated with two workers if you work in different directions and already live in the middle.

          Reply
    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 29, 2012, 12:11 pm

      That’s great! I used to go to the farmer’s market that way.

      I’m kind of looking forward to maternity leave again. Last time, I would take a daily walk with my son in the sling. About every 2nd or 3rd day, I would walk the 1.2 miles to the grocery store, buy the few things I needed to make whatever I saw on the Food Network, and walk home.

      We ate like kings and I got good exercise too. I still walk to the grocery store on weekends to pick up a few items here and there.

      Reply
  • Physics February 29, 2012, 6:17 am

    In addition to new frugality techniques, I’ll be devoting Maximum Mustache March to completely finalizing the organization of my finances to be low-cost, tax-efficient, and easy to manage moving forward.

    Complete your 401K rollovers, consolidate your investment positions with the lowest cost broker you can, examine where you have different investments and make sure the ones that would generate taxable events are in tax-deferred places, and more tax efficient ones in your taxable accounts, update your will, etc…

    Reply
    • Debbie M February 29, 2012, 10:37 am

      I am doing this right now, since I am between jobs. I am:
      * taking a cash distribution (minus 20% tax) on my 457(b) for my sabbatical fund
      * rolling over and converting my 403(b) to my Roth IRA
      * rolling over my Roth 403(b) to my Roth IRA
      * re-balancing my Roth IRA

      I also found an HSA to go with my new high-deductible health insurance policy and will be contributing the maximum to that each month.

      Reply
  • joseph3000 February 29, 2012, 6:21 am

    this is great!! i actually decided to use the whole of lent (but not reallly for religious reasons) to cut all non-essential spending to $0. i did a “buy nothing” lent a couple of years ago as an experiment and like you said, it was a trick to my own brain because i found myself continuing the practice long after and had learned so much from it. unfortunately i haven’t solved the problem of commuting a great distance to and from work everyday, so i still pay a lot on gas, but aside from that i spend mainly on health insurance and food and have a little for entertainment ($20), but im slashing my budget by cutting even that small chunk out and i did some research and found health insurance at 1/3 the cost ($55!), which i will be signing up for today. been looking into prepaid phones lately too, which would cut the bill immensely, although i don’t pay for this since i’ve been on a family plan under my parents for years (but why not save them some money too??).

    i’m looking forward to march even more now because of this challenge! i’m a new reader of the site and a first time commenter, and i absolutely love the encouragement i get from reading it!

    Reply
    • Debbie M February 29, 2012, 10:38 am

      Have you looked into carpooling?

      Reply
      • joseph3000 February 29, 2012, 8:20 pm

        yes, i’ve considered it but i work such odd late hours and also leave at weird times that it’d probably be hard to find someone fitting my schedule :/

        Reply
        • Debbie M March 1, 2012, 8:21 am

          Oh well. You do what you can.

          Reply
  • gestalt162 February 29, 2012, 6:30 am

    For the foreseeable future, my fiance and I are going to have an allowance.

    I’m sick of our Mint budget for “Everything Else” not necessity-related go over every month, so every week on payday I will take out what we SHOULD be spending, and split it between my fiance and I. Any money that I don’t spend in that week (which, as a loyal MMM reader, is quite expansive) goes toward paying off my credit card debt. Any money she doesn’t spend in the week goes toward our savings fund for a house downpayment. She has completely signed on, as nothing motivates her more than the prospect of a house. Our “allowance” is quite generous, so I predict big savings! Here’s to maximized mustaches!

    Reply
  • Jimbo February 29, 2012, 6:46 am

    I am getting itchy in the legs to start biking to work for the season ( i know, i am a winter biking wuss), but this week in still wintery Montreal we have/will receive over a foot of snow. It is quite depressing, and i cannot wait for spring.

    However, I accept the challenge, ESPECIALLY since March hosts my birthday… We were thinking of homemade sushis (with quality seafood) instead of restaurant… That should save a bundle, be yummier, and make for a kickass party with friends… DIY sushi night.

    By the way, I laugh at your idea of biking to the groceries… That is waaaaay too easy. Walking is the real deal : it motivates into buying less because you WILL be carrying that stuff in bulky bags… We have three different groceries within walkable distance and we usually get our needs met by the applicable weekly specials. I would loooove to write a guest post professing my love of grocery shopping, MMM.

    As a final note, any good advice/website on negociating insurance (both car and house) for canadians? I have started shopping for those as renewal is in April, but I can’t seem to get a lower offer than waht I already pay… And I should be able to, we pay too much (especially for the car). Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 29, 2012, 9:12 am

      Ahh, I didn’t realize you were in Montreal. Now THAT is a harsh winter (same climate as my former city of Ottawa) – take note Americans, since it out-freezes and out-snows almost any US city except a very few along the interior border.

      Still, riding a mountain bike with nice knobby tires down a well-plowed bike path is pretty fun in an Ottawa winter.

      I like your walking and grocery shopping ideas Jimbo – email me a guest posting if you want!

      Reply
      • Jimbo February 29, 2012, 9:31 am

        Harsh winter, shmarsh winter! I see bikers doing their commute all around town during wintertime. Which makes me feel like even worse of a sissy. They seem to enjoy it too, but they are usually wearing 300$ of gear I don’t possess…

        Plus, Montreal is hands down the most bike-friendly city in North America, maybe with Portland… So I don’t really have an excuse. I usually bike from end of March to December, just as long as there is little snow and below freezing temperatures. But when it hits -20 Celsius, my motivation usually freezes as well.. Not to mention the snow.

        This being said, I should really do this.

        Reply
      • TOK February 29, 2012, 1:01 pm

        I bike to work every day in Winnipeg, MB, and have for the past 4 years. I believe Winnipeg is considered to be one of the coldest cities in the world, with our winter temperatures often reaching -30 C. With the windchill included, it often gets to the -40s. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back, but rather to point out that if I can do it here, it can be done anywhere. There’s absolutely nothing spectacular about me, and I’m not some extreme outdoorsy type of guy. I’m just an average 30-something cubicle dweller.

        In all honesty, it’s really not that bad as long as you’re dressed appropriately. It’s only really cold for the first 5 minutes or so, and then your body begins to warm up. I’ve found that investing in a good pair of gloves and a good pair of boots is key. The rest doesn’t really matter.

        I will acknowledge that one of the advantages of biking in Winnipeg is that there aren’t any hills, so other cities might be worse in that respect. Also, our city generally does a really good job of snow clearing, so it’s rare to have to bike on roads or bike paths that haven’t been cleared.

        Reply
        • Susan October 9, 2013, 2:21 am

          I lived in Winnipeg for a few years and can attest to the BRUTAL weather there! Some days, they close the schools because its dangerously cold. Our windows were frozen shut all winter and we had to get a guy with an axe up on our roof to chop down the ice.

          Reply
      • Anthony D. Nelson February 29, 2012, 8:57 pm

        I’ve been itching to attempt the bike ride to work. Despite it being an unusually mild winter, you still gotta be pretty brave to go 7 miles on a bike in Fargo, ND.

        In April, I shall try it.

        Reply
        • Gentleman Trekker March 1, 2012, 3:41 pm

          Fargo is really flat, should be pretty easy to bike in Fargo any time of the year as long as the sidewalks/roads are plowed.

          Even Bismarck should be possible, despite that it is quite hilly in places.

          Reply
    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 29, 2012, 12:22 pm

      I’d love to read your guest post about grocery shopping! I have 3 grocery stores within 1.5 miles of my house. I used to walk there with my son in the sling or Bjorn, and buy 1-3 bags of grocies, at least 2x a week.

      One of my friends would see me at the store and marvel. “Here I am with a baby in the carseat, exhausted and frazzled, and there you are with your baby in the bjorn, hat on, walking shoes on, grocery bags in hand, just be-bopping along.”

      Eh, you get used it. I’ve always loved having SOME of my exercise be “incidental”. You know – biking to work (when not pregnant), walking to the store or farmer’s market. Even back in the day when I was in the Navy and living in DC, I walked a lot. For awhile I walked to the metro station (about a mile on each end of the ride), then I moved closer and walked the mile or so to work.

      Reply
  • rjack February 29, 2012, 6:55 am

    My cable contract just expired, so I’m targeting a major reduction in my cable tv/internet bill in March.

    Reply
    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 29, 2012, 12:24 pm

      My husband just suggested canceling cable (who IS this man??) and piecing together something different with just pay-as-you-go for the few shows we watch and cable internet. I said no (selfishly thinking of the summer when I will be at home and nursing 5x a day). But maybe I should just go for it!

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache February 29, 2012, 12:40 pm

        GREAT GODS!! Marcia, you have been reading and commenting all this time, and all the while secretly ‘nursing’ a TV habit at home! I feel so cheated!! :-)

        You don’t need TV shows to feed a baby. In fact, I think it is proven that watching shitty daytime TV creates a toxic substance in a mother’s milk that causes her child to grow up to be a Sukka Consumer.

        Reply
        • MStephens February 29, 2012, 3:05 pm

          Marcia, even switching from $40/mo cable to $9/mo Netflix would still get you shows to watch but be a huge savings. Baby steps are ok!

          Reply
        • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple March 1, 2012, 8:13 am

          Actually, I have been pushing my spouse to get rid of cable TV for a long while. I gave up a few years ago, because I decided it’s a battle that I didn’t want to fight anymore.

          But as time goes on, we realized that we really aren’t watching as much TV. Really, who has time? I’d rather cook, read, or sleep. There were always shows that my spouse wanted me to get into, but I wasn’t interested. These days, nothing is really “no miss” in my household. To me anyway. I still watch a few hours a week, I won’t lie.

          When I was home nursing my son, I would queue up a bunch of shows from the Food Network (Barefoot Contessa, Rachael Ray, and Giada), and watch them while I nursed. Then I’d download some recipes, walk to the grocery store, buy the food, and cook. I probably tried 4 new recipes a week thanks to that.

          But really, I have over 100 cookbooks. I don’t need to queue up food network shows anymore. I watched so much of that while on Mat leave, it was probably a year before they showed an episode that I hadn’t seen after that. You’ve inspired me! When he gets home from his business trip, we’ll do it!

          Reply
  • Stashette February 29, 2012, 6:58 am

    I’m not sure if this counts for the challenge or not, but March will be the month that I start a new job closer to home (inspired by the cost of commuting article). It’s been a work in progress for a few months, but I will finally start my new position in a couple weeks.

    My current job is 25 miles (45 minutes) each way, but my new job will be only 3 miles away, and possibly bikable. Thanks, MMM for helping motivate me to make this change which will save me tons of time and money each year!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 29, 2012, 9:06 am

      YEAH!! Wow Stashette, that is a huge improvement – congratulations. It’s like you got yourself an entire new life by cutting out such a commute.

      Your new 3-mile commute is not just “possibly bikeable” – it will actually become “not possibly driveable” over time, because you’ll eventually get angry at the very idea of using a car for such a short distance* once you get used to biking.

      * (unless the weather is really bad, in which case you’ll dust off the car and truly appreciate what cars are useful for – giving you a cozy break from wet slushy/snowy weather).

      Reply
      • Stashette February 29, 2012, 9:52 am

        I already have a possible bike route planned, using the bike lanes and bike paths that my city is building. Google maps estimates it at only a 17 minute ride. I also have the option of a “scenic route” using bike paths only that is 6 miles, which might be nice to enjoy after work.

        The only thing that makes me nervous is that I am going to be working 3rd shift, and I’ve never biked at night before. I’m also worried about leaving my bike outside at work overnight. BUT, I’m planning on asking about showers, bike racks, etc at my orientation day and keep everyone here updated with my progress perhaps through the forum.

        Thanks again for forcing me to make a change instead of just being a complainypants!

        Reply
        • MStephens February 29, 2012, 3:09 pm

          Biking and running at night are the same- light yourself (and your bike) up like a christmas tree, paying attention to the parts of you that move, like ankles and feet. Reflective tape is good. And getting a little LED headlight for your handlebars will light your way ahead. A blinky red rear light under the seat of your bike is good, too.

          Reply
  • Brandan February 29, 2012, 7:08 am

    This is a good recipe blog for the mustachian crowd:

    http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/

    The ingredients are broken down by price, then serving cost. A whole lot of these are really damn delicious too. (Cuban Chorizo Stew being my favorite)
    http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/2011/04/cuban-chorizo-stew-882-recipe-110.html

    Reply
  • Mark February 29, 2012, 7:42 am

    I decided to not drive my car for the month of February. I put it “in storage” with my insurance company, bringing my monthly insurance payment down by ~$65. Insurance was $10 for the whole month and obviously, I bought no gas. It was so easy taking my bike and the bus everywhere, I’ll be doing it again for March.

    Still not sure if I want to keep my car for “emergencies” or just sell it all together. When I spoke with the insurance company (USAA) they said I can call any time, get my car “out of storage” and be driving it within 10 minutes.

    I guess for the March challenge, I’ll have to do something else though. Maybe take a look at my fancy cell phone plan…

    Reply
    • Debbie M February 29, 2012, 10:49 am

      When I had no car, I usually rented a car for emergencies (well, really, just visits to my family 200 miles away). Or sometimes a friend who needed a trip to the airport would lend me his car while he was out of town and then I could my bulk shopping with it. I once used a taxi to bring home something big (okay, I admit it, it was a TV and VCR). Nowadays there are also car share companies.

      FYI, car rental places geared toward people whose cars are in the shop work better for this than car rental places geared toward travelers. My favorite in my town was Enterprise. They had good prices and they will pick you up and (unless it’s Sunday night when they are closed) drop you off, though I generally used a bus to get there and back.

      Reply
    • Bill M March 26, 2012, 11:45 am

      I love that car ins idea. I called my carrier (safe auto in Pa.) They said they don’t offer that service. I have become so skeptical lately that I’m convince that the rep looked up my acct and saw that I’m already paid up for the next six months and figured they “got me” already so why bother letting me know about any way I could save.

      Reply
  • Adam February 29, 2012, 8:05 am

    I used kanetix.ca last week to get a car insurance quote from a bunch of companies all at once. The cheapest one for me came from SSQ Auto (http://www.ssqgenerale.com/en/). They just launched the Kilo Program as well, which lets you pay less if you drive less. Pretty Mustachian for an insurance company!

    Reply
    • Adam February 29, 2012, 8:06 am

      This was supposed to be in reply to Jimbo but it would appear I clicked the wrong Reply button

      Reply
      • Jimbo February 29, 2012, 8:58 am

        Thanks! I’ll look at that during lunch time here…

        Reply
  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple February 29, 2012, 8:26 am

    This month, I want to start commuting to work which is a hair over 7 miles away. Very difficult (for me) but also doable.

    My wife just left her job to work at home so we are already going to save money on gas from not commuting. Additionally, she will be focusing on maximizing our food dollars!

    Reply
  • KO February 29, 2012, 8:58 am

    Great challenge!! I already picked up a couple of assignments at work for the month of March that will give me extra $$ to stash, we have finally made the switch to include more vegetarian dishes, and I know my husband has a couple tricks up his sleeve as well. I look forward to counting the savings at the end of the month :)

    Reply
  • Swalt February 29, 2012, 9:00 am

    I had no idea you could do this. Mind = blown. Going to check this out immediately.

    Reply
    • Swalt February 29, 2012, 9:02 am

      …and that was supposed to be a reply to Mark regarding putting your car in “storage.” Would anyone happen to know if this is a practice that is available with most insurance providers?

      Reply
      • Tamara February 29, 2012, 5:15 pm

        If one carrier in your area does, chances are they all do in the name of competition.

        Reply
      • average guy March 1, 2012, 9:29 pm

        State Farm does it. I call them before going on vacation if car will sit in the garage unused for a few weeks. Gets me a good ‘rebate’ on my already-paid insurance. I think there is a minimum amount of time car needs to be unused to qualify.

        Another insurance thing. Some companies (State Farm has it) if you sign up to report your mileage twice a year, they will partially base your insurance on mileage used. So if you do not drive a hell of a lot, you probably will get a reduction. I did.

        Reply
  • Ben February 29, 2012, 9:07 am

    I’m actually on the last day of completing “The February Challenge,” which is to spend $100 on food and drinks for the month of February. This was a challenge my friends have done for a couple years now but it was my first time participating this year. I blogged the experience here: http://februarychallenge.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/whats-going-on-here/

    Reply
  • smedleyb February 29, 2012, 9:19 am

    Cool. Already told the wife a couple of weeks ago that March is “austerity month.”

    Reply
  • Quakerplain February 29, 2012, 9:23 am

    It is a noble idea, but difficult to implement when you live thirteen miles from
    the nearest shopping on a death to bicycles two lane country road. Perhaps
    I might change the challenge to fit my circumstance.

    What if you only went shopping for groceries once a month, or once per
    quarter, or once a year?

    What if you planned ahead such that you made a list and did “the trip” leaving
    you wanting for nothing for the prescribed time? If you forget and leave it
    off the list you must do without. No nappies? To bad so sad. Get your act
    together next time.

    This idea actually comes from the cruising community where it is difficult to
    run to the market for a quart of milk when you are several days from the
    nearest landfall. We implemented it nicely to our circumstance and buy
    by the fifty pound bag and #10 can from a restaurant supply.

    Reply
    • Emmers February 29, 2012, 9:55 am

      I’d be concerned about “once per year” due to the lack of fresh food in your diet. Bread you could bake yourself, and vegetables you could grow yourself, but in the winter? Buy some orange juice already! ;-)

      Maybe for folks in non-bikeable areas (I grew up in one such) the goal could be to grow more of your own food, instead of getting it all at the store?

      Reply
      • Gerard February 29, 2012, 5:49 pm

        I live in a city with crappy produce options (in the winter) and I’ve been getting into sprouting stuff instead. Easy tasty healthy crunchy cheap. My friend the internet helped me get started.
        wrt the main March challenge, I feel like a fraud because I just did a big stock-up trip. I think I can get through for a hundred bucks or so, but you’ve motivated me to actually write down what I buy all month.

        Reply
        • Heidi March 1, 2012, 6:33 am

          That’s not fraud. Having a well-stocked pantry full of thrifty basics is an excellent way to save money.

          Reply
    • Heidi February 29, 2012, 11:11 am

      You could try to find 5 like-minded neighbors and start a food-buying club. We get most of our fruits, yogurt, and a few staples like rice this way. We meet at church 1 mile from our house which beats another trip to the coop 35 miles away. We grow our own veggies and buy meat in bulk.

      Reply
  • Carrie February 29, 2012, 9:36 am

    I just switched our cell phones to pre-paid last night. We hardly used 1/2 of our minutes each month and I was sick of paying $60 for $30 worth of usage. I’ve been tracking our food spend each month and we were down in Feb, but I’d like to take it down another $50 during March. We need all the extra we can get to help fund our adoption. Thanks for the added motivation! We welcome this challenge.

    I just heard on the news this morning that more and more people are using the old-fashioned TV antenna again for free broadcast channels. We jumped on that boat last year and haven’t looked back.

    Reply
    • Emmers February 29, 2012, 10:42 am

      Yeah, pre-paid cell phones are the best plan. We went from $70 a month on a two-phone “family” plan (would have been $80 or $100 to do separate plans) to about $40 a month (or less) with prepaid. Awesome savings!

      Reply
  • Emmers February 29, 2012, 9:53 am

    March is the month we’re starting on our CSA — it’s $150 a month, and should give us a great quantity of healthy foods (not just produce, but eggs and herbs and jam/honey type processed foods!) to be cooking with. Hopefully that will bring down our too-high grocery budget (and our eating-out expenses, for that matter).

    Unfortunately, we can’t take full advantage of locavorism, because I have a milk allergy — and I don’t know any local farmers who make coconut or soy based milk or yogurt. But if all we buy from the store is things we can’t get from our CSA (soy milk, coconut milk, soy yogurt), that’s still an improvement!

    Reply
    • Debbie M February 29, 2012, 10:53 am

      There are recipes out there for nut milks. And sunflower seed milk. Would that help?

      Reply
    • Heidi March 1, 2012, 8:37 pm

      Regarding milk allergies, I bought a SoyJoy soymilk maker a few years ago for around $100. I recently saw one on craigslist for $30. If you drink a lot of soy or nut milks they are great. My fav is almond milk. They will eventually save you money, if you actually use it for a while. Organic soybeans are around a $1 a lb, and almonds are around $4 a lb here. That will make a whole lot of milk.
      Heidi

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache March 1, 2012, 10:16 pm

        WHAT!? I can MAKE my own soymilk?? Will it be yummy like commercial soymilk? I must try this!

        Reply
        • Greg October 10, 2012, 11:31 pm

          Old post, but nobody responded. It doesn’t taste the same as commercial soy milk. It tastes much better if you ask me, but I spent a year in Taiwan in college and grew to love fresh warm soymilk for breakfast. It is dirt cheap to make. A few cents worth of beans, 20 minutes of electricity at 800 watts, and I add 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Once I calculated 17 cents a gallon for the beans. I use a soyajoy machine I bought about 8 years ago. I think the only reason cow milk can compete with soy on price is volume and major dairy subsidies. The only downside is remembering to soak the beans the night before, and cleaning, but just takes a couple minutes if you do it right after you make a batch.

          My girls will drink it if I add a few drops of vanilla (“ice cream milk”). The commercial soy milks usually have thicker and things and try to mask the soy flavor. Even the plain Costco organic soy milk has vanilla flavor added, just not as much as the one that is labelled vanilla flavored.

          If you haven’t had “real” soy milk, you could look for a small jug at most Asian grocery stores to see if you like it. Just look for something with Asian writing on it. It usually comes in sweet or salty varieties. I’d go for the sweet. E_mail me if you have any questions.

          P.s. I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks now. You’ll probably hear more from me. I’m a physician, and looking to ‘half-retire’, I.e. cut down to very part time. Step one is getting more frugal so my wife agrees we can live on a lot less and still save if I do. As someone who loves to bike commute, and experimented in quasi-hippy vegetarian coop housing on a micro budget in college, I think I learned the background skills… just need to counteract a few years of lifestyle inflation and hedonic adaptation…

          Reply
        • alewyfe October 12, 2012, 8:44 pm

          Yep, and it’s so easy, I wanted to teleport myself back to the vegetarian years when I bought the stuff all the time and kick my college behind. You don’t even need a machine if you have basic kitchen tools (pot, blender, strainer). Soak a cup or so of soybeans overnight (bonus if you buy 50# bags of organic beans from your nearest farmer or mill- it’s $30 or so for them here) in about 4 cups of water. Then throw em in the blender with another cup or two of water and get them as smooth as you can. Add in another 4 cups of water and put the whole mess in a pot. Stir and bring it up to a boil (it will foam up like crazy at one point, don’t make a mess that ms.stache will hassle you about, haha). Simmer for 10-15 minutes (this de-activates the trypsin inhibitors in soy that make it impossible to digest the protein otherwise). Strain it through a fine mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth (or a clean pillowcase? use what you’ve got…). Rinse a bit and strain again if you want thinner soymilk and to get out the last of the goodies. There you go! You can add vanilla, honey, sugar, or anything else that strikes your fancy. The bean pulp that’s left is called okara- you can season it and use it as a meat replacer or stretcher, or feed it to your chickens! What will really blow your mustache is how easy it is to make tofu at this point… mix up a cup of water and 1 1/4 t. epsom salts (or nigari or calcium sulfate if you have those… I don’t). Bring the soymilk back up to a boil, add the mixture one third at a time, letting it boil again and stirring gently between each addition. Kill the heat and let sit for a few minutes, and you should get soy curds and whey! Ladle into a mold (anything food safe and porous… strainer works fine again) and let drain… press with a weight on top if you want firmer curds. Use the whey in your next soup stock. Mind blown! Sooo cheap, it’s almost free. Dang, I just wrote a blog post that I’ve been putting off for a long time… now to cut and paste and add pictures! Just as soon as I take those pizzas out of the oven… mmm.

          Reply
  • TLV February 29, 2012, 10:12 am

    Perfect timing! We’re moving to a new apartment this weekend, which will have lower rent than our current apartment would have been by $235 – that’s 10% of our typical monthly expenses right there. At the same time we’ll be shopping around for insurance (and dropping coverage we don’t need), and our new location is only 2 miles from work and less than a mile from the grocery store. The savings won’t show up in March due to deposits, cost of moving, paying 6-12 month premiums, etc. but I expect record ‘stash growth over the next year.

    Reply
  • Lo February 29, 2012, 10:25 am

    Looking forward to the challenge…just called my cell phone carrier and reduced my plan by $25/month…with a move to pre-paid in April most likely.

    Also:
    * Saying bye to basic cable ($25/month) this week, which was junky, anyway.
    * Dialing back the gas and electricity a tad more ($10-15/month for each).
    * Shaving off maybe $30 for food–usually runs around $120–I’ll step up the beans and grains and start sprouting at home.
    * Telecommuting at least once a week (40-mile roundtrip) to work, combined with hypermiling should knock down transport costs from $160/month to maybe $120/month unless fuel costs skyrocket.
    * Biking to grocery and library (3-4 miles) at least once this month.
    * Finding a way to do a partial commute by bike (park car halfway) at least once–mostly bike-friendly farm roads (but with the few odd unskillful drivers to look out for). Here we have both serious bikers and Mennonites who use bikes as basic transport. So I feel that this is realistic to give it a go.

    Conservatively, I hope to save $150 this month, maybe more. Should be fun and, as MMM says, becoming more frugal becomes built-in behavior in no time!

    Reply
  • Debbie M February 29, 2012, 11:14 am

    Okay, my mortgage and other debt are already gone, and I just compared prices on insurance.

    But I’ve decided to try at least four new super-frugal (and healthy) main dish recipes, to have oatmeal when I’m having cereal instead of cereal from a box, and to ride my bike to the library, which will help me get my bike muscles in shape for longer rides later.

    Any money I save (not much–my grocery budget is already only $100 per month, and I walk to the library) will go into my sabbatical fund, which will allow me to put off getting a job as long as possible (so far I have enough to last me 6 months, but I have 6 years until my pension kicks in).

    And of course any new recipes that turn out to be delicious will help me reduce my expenses indefinitely.

    Reply
  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 29, 2012, 12:08 pm

    Aw jeez, can I postpone this until July? (When I’m stuck at home with a new baby? No commuting!) Normally I’d be all over this, but March has my son’s birthday AND spring break (we’re going to visit friends in the Bay Area and then Yosemite so spouse can ski and kid can take a skiing lesson). That means hotel stays (after freezing my butt off in Joshua Tree camping 2 weeks ago, I decided against it in Yosemite – temps are the same this time of year). It’s also my last chance to “vacation” until most likely the end of the year (no, I do not consider maternity leave to be vacation).

    I can certainly cook while on vacation (we rented a duplex in Yosemite and should be visiting with friends in the Bay Area), and we’ll be packing our cooler too. I think the hotel there has a microwave and fridge.

    But biking to work for this girl is out. Maybe I can get my spouse to bike a couple of days a week or we can carpool. Or a combo. We drive in together, he bikes home.

    We did just cut back our cell phone plans from $0.25/min to $0.10 a minute.

    I think I’ll do a “pantry challenge”. I’ve got plenty of food in the pantry. See how long I can go without buying groceries, with the exception of milk. And I’ll see what else I can do.

    Reply
  • K February 29, 2012, 12:41 pm

    GREAT BLOG! I found it just in time for Maximum Mustache March!!! I’m already doing a lot of this stuff, and working hard to get better at certain things.. Like, how I used to ride my bike through snow to class in college (and loved it!) — so my challenge is to start riding to work through whatever weather Denver can throw at me.

    Reply
    • K. March 1, 2012, 12:52 pm

      … And the first day gives me SNOW!

      Reply
  • Danielle February 29, 2012, 1:35 pm

    I love everyone’s comments. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that even if I’m frugal I can always stand to shave off a few more dollars from my budget.

    My big sacrifice, that I’ve already instituted, is to buy only Charles Shaw wine unless we have a special event to celebrate. I already was buying inexpensive wines, and we only manage to drink about a bottle a week, but still it adds up.

    Reply
    • MacGyverIt March 2, 2012, 2:48 pm

      In an earlier MMM blog post and I believe on ERE they’ve mentioned wine by the box as the most frugal alternative. It sounds cheezy but my cousin is a wine/champagne expert and he said the boxed wine has a bad wrap, it’s a good option b/c:
      1. doesn’t suffer from oxygenation since it always remains sealed even when it pours so it lasts far longer
      2. you can find good flavors (i.e. the “Bota Box” brand)
      3. you’ll get four bottles of wine for the cost of one cheap bottle (~17.99 for 4 bottle Bota Box at Shoppers Food Warehouse or 9.99 for a 2 bottle box at Target.)

      Reply
  • smurfett February 29, 2012, 1:55 pm

    speaking of groceries, have you ever done a cost analysis on whether or not it saves you money in the long run if you have your own vegetable garden (even in the winter) plus chickens? Taking into account cost of building, soil supplies, tools, water (which is much more expensive in the city than farmland) etc?

    Reply
    • Lindsey February 29, 2012, 5:36 pm

      I did this for two years, keeping meticulous track of how much I harvested. At the end of the summer, the husband went to the grocery store and priced out what we would have paid for all the foods at the listed prices that day. Then I subtracted all the supplies. I ended up saving $1500 (and a few cents), and giving the food bank a lot of carrots as a donation. The second year it was a bit more we saved because I changed it so I grew the crops that made us the biggest bang for the buck. We also started harvesting the chickweed and tender dandelion leaves, and using them in salads, stews, chili and stir fry. We figure that over a summer,we saved about $25 with this foraging from our own backyard, plus we blanched and stored some that lasted us until November. Since I would pull that stuff up anyway, once I read how nutritious they were, I just had to train myself to separate them out of the other weeds and bring them into the house. All of which is a long winded way of saying it saves money. It also means I spend so much time exercising by gardening for at least an hour each weekday and more on weekends, that I cut out my swimming at the city pool for the summer so that was another savings that gardening provided…and, there is always the fact that eating such fresh food is better for you so in the long run it may have saved me some medical bills. (Partly because last summer I lost 45 pounds and have kept them off!!)

      Reply
      • JanMN March 1, 2012, 7:00 am

        This is badassity in action – inspiring! I’m definitely going to up the garden game this year and doing more foraging. We live in an area where there are lots of wild berries. No excuses!

        Reply
  • herbert salisbury February 29, 2012, 2:04 pm

    chicken thighs are good for your mustache.

    i buy a kg of them, put them in a casserole dish and bake them all up in the oven. drain the stock into a tub for making soups and sauces, and shred the meat into a bunch of containers that I freeze. when it’s burrito time, I throw some in a frying pan with some beans and onions.

    one kg is enough to make 16 delicious and healthy burritos, all for $8 (which is cheap for here, expensive for the rest of the world).

    Reply
  • Dragline February 29, 2012, 3:01 pm

    Just went to overhaul my primary home-owner’s insurance and was able to save $400, mostly by raising the deductible to 5K.

    Reply
  • Value Indexer February 29, 2012, 3:14 pm

    This is a bit unrelated to the challenge, but I’ve been wondering something since you regularly mention doing paid work. It sounds like your income isn’t fully dependent on your investments. So in hindsight, how much earlier could you have retired without risking your future options? Despite all the people who think you’re an “extreme early retiree”, it sounds like you may have been too conservative :)

    Reply
  • Bakari February 29, 2012, 3:15 pm

    I feel a little left out – I already have gone through my spending, and there is really nothing left to cut.

    I did take your advice, MMM, and put some effort into getting more work hours (for the first time in the 5 years I have been self-employed, I printed up some of those posters with the tear-off tabs at the bottom, and put them up at strategic locations around the city). Plus I started advertising on Craigslist again. So hopefully that will mean some more income this month.

    A tip: for any ground meat dishes, you can extend it substantially with texturized vegetable protein, found in the bulk bin of natural grocery stores.
    It has about the same protein per calorie as meat, but costs about 1/4 as much (and the processing removes much of the phytoestrogens that make some people worry about soy)

    Reply
    • Lindsey February 29, 2012, 5:40 pm

      And you can extend ground meats by adding oatmeal and finely chopped or shredded summer squash or greens! I would swear our chili is half non-meat and my husband (a meat and potatoes and corn is a vegetable guy) has not complained.

      Reply
  • Marlene February 29, 2012, 3:43 pm

    Well, I´ll be travelling this month also, so we´ll se how that goes with saving, still:
    – want to ride a bike to work at least once per week
    – want to check out the supercheap grocery-store if I´m convinced of the offers (reports said that the groceries were ok healthwise ;-)
    – want to put 3 articles on a selling-platform to get into the habit.

    On top of that I´m trying to go sweets-free for the easter-fasting time, just to get out of the christmas-sugar habit again. At the moment I apparently just think of that, when the first bite is in my mouth. Up until now I still ate the cookie or whatever but I think as of from now on I´ll have to trow it away instead to get rid of the sweetshabit. Somewhere there has to be at least some badassity ;-)

    Reply
  • Jeff February 29, 2012, 3:48 pm

    In my best years, I put fuel in the car 7 times a year. The average is 8 times a year.

    Reply
  • Poor Student February 29, 2012, 4:54 pm

    I am going car free. I am not going to use my car at all for the month and hope that it proves to me that I can live without all the time.

    I am also going to make sure I work up $1000 and invest it. I do not know where this money is going to come from right now but I am going to earn it and invest every penny.

    Reply
  • rosarugosa February 29, 2012, 6:23 pm

    I’m in! I need to rebalance my 401K portfolio and do some insurance price comparisons. I think we can definitely reduce our grocery spending with a little bit of effort. I would also like to do a total scrutiny of the budget line-item by line-item, and leave nothing unchallenged. Fortunately, we have already eliminated all debt, including the mortgage. MMM helped nudge us to use emergency fund money to pay off our HELOC balance, and the HELOC is available for emergencies, along with a somewhat reduced e-fund. Our goal with any savings is to build our fund up again. I’m sure we can come up with some other tactics if we give it some thought.

    Reply
  • Parizade February 29, 2012, 7:05 pm

    I’m game, this is just what I need. I’ll follow up over in the forums.

    Reply
  • Caitlin March 1, 2012, 7:10 am

    I’m totally on board for this! I just started reading your blog, and coincidentally recently agreed with my boyfriend to try to go for two weeks without eating at a restaurant (we live in China, where labor costs are super low and there’s no tipping, so restaurants are very, very cheap. I’ve used this as a way to excuse my multiple-times-a-week restaurant habit, but now I’m getting all steely-eyed with myself). Eating at home, we can potentially bring food costs for two people down to less than 50 U.S. dollars per month. I’m also probably going to be working some overtime this month. My mustache will grow like face-kudzu!

    Also, MMM has successfully shamed me out of using the elevator in my apartment building. At first I started using the stairs out of a vague sense of embarrassment, but realizing that I can get up and down seven floors faster than the elevator can has gotten me hooked. Am I the only one whose motivation to do things like eat healthy and exercise seems to come mainly from the awesome power of smug?

    Reply
  • stagleton March 1, 2012, 8:14 am

    oh dear, I already booked a trip to Singapore and Thailand this month….looks like I’m out.

    Reply
  • Steve March 1, 2012, 10:05 am

    i can wholeheartedly endorse freeganism as a means of saving money on your grocery bills:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeganism

    happy dumpster-diving

    Reply
  • Tom March 1, 2012, 10:47 am

    As I’m two months off being debt free, I’m going to squeeze my budgets down and clear the lot this month.

    Reply
  • Lea March 1, 2012, 12:05 pm

    My personal goal for this month is to bring my lunch in from home 3-4 days a week. I’ve been in the habit of buying lunch every single day, amounting to $40-60 every week. That’s money I’d rather be stashing away in a down payment fund. I’m working on a broader goal of saving at least half of my take home pay every month and I think this will make a huge difference.

    Reply
    • Lea March 23, 2012, 2:15 pm

      There’s still a week left in March, but I’m doing so well! Turns out that by bringing in my lunch every day (why stop at 3-4 times a week?), the frugality seeped into other areas of my life as well – I’ve gone out for dinner just once per week, and I’ve done absolutely no extraneous shopping. The results? I’m going to be saving close to 60% of my take home pay this month! I guess saving “at least half” wasn’t an ambitious enough goal!

      Next on my list: I’m going to see if I can get my phone moved over to the company plan (fingers crossed!), and then I’m going to break the news to my cats that we’re living a frugal lifestyle now and they’ll have to make do with slightly cheaper food.

      Reply
  • Nick March 1, 2012, 2:48 pm

    I’m increasing my 401k contribution by an additional 10% in an effort to tighten up my budget and not have “leftover” money sitting in a high yield savings account (rather than a retirement account). I was $54 under budget overall for February across all categories, so if I can maintain that level of diligence, I should be able to maintain my various account levels and not miss the “extra” money.

    Reply
  • pachipres March 1, 2012, 5:45 pm

    Hi MMM,
    I have been doing your $100.00 week challenge since June 2011 and I have met this challenge every week since that time. Now I have tightened up so well I can no longer do the $100 in a week and now I have to see how much I can save monthly-mostly by saying no to myself and my kids. So yes, I am a testimony that these challenges work.

    Reply
  • Fangs March 1, 2012, 6:01 pm

    I was wondering where everyone here does their grocery shopping because my SO and I buy groceries weekly. Excluding pet food and supplies, our monthly food bill runs around $450.00 and that includes shampoo and paper products. I’m vegetarian, she’s mostly vegetarian, and we try to eat mostly wholesome foods. We live in rural Michigan with three grocery stores in our town–a Sav A Lot, Meijer, and Wal Mart. Fresh fruit which we love–well, one pineapple is 3.99. Grapes run around $5.00 for 1.5 lbs, apples about $4.00 a bag, oranges $4.00 a bag–and none of this is organic. Veggies are cheaper but still the bill is so much higher than anyone else here seems to pay. We buy dried beans, pastas, and rice a lot.

    Reply
    • Heidi March 1, 2012, 8:50 pm

      Grocery prices vary extremely by region. I am originally from Sault St Marie Michigan and it’s pretty limited! Of course, now I’m in the desert, so food is pricey here too! I may be in the minority, but I don’t think $450 is that bad.
      I miss the blueberries and blackberries that were everywhere there. Do you do any food foraging? Do you eat fish? There are a lot of fishing opportunities in MI. I certainly miss that, especially the smelt runs. Also gardening – the season is short but we always had a great amount of strawberries, raspberries, zucchini. One of the most efficient gardening ideas is fruit trees. Apples do fabulously there. Maybe a cherry tree depending on where you live.

      Reply
  • Nami March 1, 2012, 7:13 pm

    I’m in, too.
    Since Dec 2010, my husband and I brought our mortgage down from $112k to $45K by cutting cost everywhere. But after reading all the suggestions above I think I can do even more. We want to kill this mortgage baby by the end of this year so I’m ready to take on this challenge! Bring it on.

    Reply
  • Holly March 1, 2012, 8:04 pm

    Haven’t had a mortgage for years…but am now really stashing it for retirement. How about saving (tax) money by donating everything. Give away everything you don’t want to charities and get a large tax refund next year. Donate those household items to a Women’s shelter, canned goods to the food pantry, used towels, pillow cases and sheets to the animal shelter, Artwork…how nice that the local auction can use it to raise funds.

    It’s in giving …that we shall receive.

    Reply
  • Alan D March 1, 2012, 8:43 pm

    http://www.agribusinessweek.com/is-tilapia-really-worse-than-bacon/

    Please be careful with the tilapia MMM. Too much of a good thing might not be a good thing.

    I’m gonna be working on getting my school loans. Not gonna spend ‘em just going to use them for credit improvement. Then I’ll use that good credit and a VA loan to buy a 4-plex/income property and try for net 0 or maybe score profitable living expenses.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 1, 2012, 10:12 pm

      Nice plan!

      I checked out the tilapia/bacon article, and wasn’t too impressed with it. First of all, the fat profile only MAY be bad if you happen to have corn-fed Tilapia, and even then it only MAY affect people who already have inflammatory problems due to heart disease.

      Plus, the article had spelling and grammar misakes, as well as factual errors like this:

      “Tilapia has 26 grams of protein, while bacon has a measly 0.07 gram. Tilapia’s fat content is 3 grams compared to 100.76 grams for bacon”

      I’m sorry, but anyone who writes a sentence like that, even once, needs to be locked up and kept away from any computer with internet access, for life. Are we talking about “per serving”? And are these serving sizes equal?

      One thick slice of cooked bacon has about 4 grams of protein, and 4 of fat. The article is off on the protein/fat ratio by a factor of about 1400. A similar mistake in calculating my life expectancy would have me dead about three weeks after being born.

      Reply
      • Cruz is growing a mustache September 9, 2014, 2:02 pm

        Misakes :) I don’t mean to be the spelling police here, but I thought that was funny considering the context of your comment. :D

        Reply
  • Dee March 2, 2012, 4:56 am

    OK, I’m in. No buying lunches at work for March. As there are 22 working days in March, this will be an extra-long lunch-buying hiatus for me. I will make an exception if something comes up in terms of having a nice sit-down lunch with a friend. As I’ve already started to brew my own coffee at work, my spending during the work day should be near or at zero.

    Reply
  • Kenneth March 2, 2012, 2:06 pm

    I saved $1,049 converting over my home and auto insurance from Allstate to Liberty Mutual, a friend had recommended an agent. Paid a year in advance, and I escrow biweekly to match my pay cycle. $85 a month more to pay down my mortgage with!

    Reply
    • Kenneth March 2, 2012, 2:09 pm

      I already brown bag my lunch every day to work, have replaced cable tv with broadcast, netflix and hulu plus (total cost $16/mo not counting my $48 high speed internet bill). Our dining out expenses (thank you MMM for the Mint.Com suggestion) were $201 in December, $100 in January and $44 in February. AND – I’ve lost 12 pounds since January 1.

      Reply
  • MacGyverIt March 2, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I long ago stopped buying lunches at work, rarely spend on anything else at the office ($2.05 cents for coffee week before last b/c I didn’t have my thermos of coffee with me and I’m still ashamed of that purchase…..), dropped cable (use Netflix, Amazon and Hulu), buy only what is on sale at the grocery store unless it’s a rarely on-sale item/out of a staple (i.e. tp!) but the one place I can (and have previously) reduce my spending is commute/mass transit.

    Taking mass transit to work doubles my commute time however this saves a lot of gas money, vehicle wear and tear and it’s a greener option. I did fairly well over the last few months then it slowly died on the vine b/c I was so tired. Waking up far earlier in the morning and since I’m wired to be a night owl it makes me miserable. Which means I need to UP MY BADASSITY. So I will answer this challenge by re-committing to mass transit (and probably more coffee consumption…. LOL).

    In August I plan on returning to another office that’ll put me back to a 3 mile (bikeable!!!) commute. My career may very well take a bad hit with this job change but the cost of commuting, the stress gained and hours lost will likely make it worthwhile. And the concept that career hits are for those who plan on working far longer than I plan to…. If it delays any promotions, so be it, I’m doing very well and quality of life matters more to someone with an ER goal than a promotion!

    Reply
    • Bakari March 2, 2012, 9:20 pm

      “I’m wired to be a night owl”

      I have a theory about that, and if you are planning to try to shift your schedule to accommodate catching transit anyway, maybe you can help me test it, in the name of badassity.

      My theory is that human “night owls” are really a product of the invention of electricity (and lanterns and candles before that) which trick our brains into thinking it is still a sort of daytime.
      The experiment in this: do not use ANY artificial lights of any kind after the sun has gone down outside, ever. This includes computer and TV screens, as well as car headlights. This limits you to only those activities you can do by moonlight.
      In addition, the shades in your room need to stay open and you can’t wear a sleep mask) so that your room gets bright in the morning – even on the weekend.
      If it is true that some people are NATURALLY night owls, they will stay up just as late every night anyway, but I’m guessing most people would naturally start drifting to a normal diurnal sleep cycle. If humans were meant to be active at night, we’d have eyes designed like a cats.

      As a bonus, you’ll see your electric bills drop a little too.

      Reply
      • MacGyverIt March 3, 2012, 7:18 am

        Hmmm. I have to leave in the morning before the sun is up and don’t get home until the sun is down — with the extended commuting hours, my time away from home is over 12 hours. So I’d need artificial light in the morning and evening to handle mundane things around the house before work/bed time.

        You’ve helped remind me that I read an article a while ago that said LCD screens are a no-no one hour before bed, so I’ll reinstitute that rule. To your point about the effect of light — when my alarm goes off I turn on a 150 watt bulb with a reflector (the type used on work sites) to flood the room with bright light, it does help me *a bit*.

        Next week (well, starting Wednesday) I’ll likely start out with caffeine in the morning and end with Sominex at night until my body gets into that rhythm… *sigh*

        I’ve got to just say no to a gas tank refill in my tank for the rest of the month!!!!! Wish me luck, Bakari :-)

        Reply
        • Bakari March 3, 2012, 10:12 am

          wow, I’m sorry! I used to have a job that kept me away from home for 12 hours. I only lasted 10 months there (to be fair, I lasted 10 months or less at every job I had up until my current one…)

          Well, on the plus side, we are past winter equinox, so it will only get easier (for a few months…)

          Best of luck MacGyver

          Reply
  • Kimmie March 3, 2012, 2:47 pm

    BTW… we were really excited to be taking the drive from Rexburg, Idaho to Boulder this weekend to hear Sam Harris speak, however, things weren’t able to come together to make that happen.

    WOW! I’m so glad I found your website! It always makes my hubby and I smile with how clever and funny your writing style is and with ALL of the awesome tips you share with us.

    We have made a lot of bad financial choices in our lives and about 7 years ago we really got in tune with our finances and are on the fast track to being debt free. For the past 2 years we have done a challenge every summer where we go 3 months with no major shopping. In 2011 we went 20 weeks with no major shopping. We took all of the money we would normally spend on food/entertainment and put it towards debt. Our challenge did include us spending $20.00 a week on fresh produce and buying a gallon of milk every other week. The rest of the food we ate came from food storage..my goal was to show just how GOOD you could eat using food storage.
    (here is a link to a post I did when we were able to pay off loan from doing that challenge:….It was awesome that our son was able to come with us when we paid the loan in full. http://pinkcookieswithsprinkles.blogspot.com/2010/08/kimmie-in-real-life-weeks-13-14.html

    Here is the email thread from 2011 of us going 20 weeks with no major shopping.
    http://pinkcookieswithsprinkles.blogspot.com/search/label/3%20months%20of%20no%20shopping%202011

    Anywho, we love your blog…(we found it from the MSN article)…we read each post when it’s hot off the press and really connect with your way of thinking. (here is our journey towards voluntary simplicity: http://pinkcookieswithsprinkles.blogspot.com/2009/03/voluntary-simplicity.html)

    Have a wonderful day and thanks for making a difference for good in our lives!

    Reply
    • Heidi March 3, 2012, 5:04 pm

      Your pantry list of supplies that were used is impressive. I just made our first pantry inventory and will be curious to see how much we actually use of our bulk purchases.

      Reply
  • Kim March 3, 2012, 3:36 pm

    Wow, great challenge. It makes me think of a couple of things:

    1. Currently living in Amsterdam, we bike everywhere. Unfortunately balancing a bike with a 40 pound kid on the back isn’t something I’ve mastered. Families here have box bikes so I thought that would be our route, too, but with only 1 kid and a €1700+ price tag for a box bike I’ve been hesitating. Just got a freelance pay day so I figured I’d go for it when I learned from another mom on the playground that her bike trailer was only €300. She let me and the 40 pounder take it for a spin and we both loved it. When I returned to the playground my friend told me she had one she would sell me, for €10!!! Brought it to the bike shop today (it’s a US model not designed to fit my Dutch bike) and the guy happily MacGuyvered the hitch for free (well, included with an overdue €60 tune up). So, for about $100 US I have a car replacement, a happy kid, my pay day in the bank and a perfectly tuned bike!

    2. Back in NY I was great about monitoring spending but here I haven’t quite mastered online banking just because it requires a little ATM card device and I never asked my spouse how to use it. No more! I make all the household purchases so I need to see where the money is going. We have an appointment for a tutorial on Wednesday.

    3. Since we are likely to stay here longer than expected and our landlord likes us I’m going to ask for a small rent decrease when we renew our lease. I see a lot of vacancies around. He may well say no, but I’m going to ask.

    4. Most importantly a renewed zeal for frugality. I’m originally from New England so get a real kick out of Yankee thrift. Thanks for helping to reconnect with that.

    Reply
  • Hair Raid Offense March 5, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Great idea – I’ve grown an actual mustache in the past for March…This is much better. Here’s what I’m doing:

    1) Packing my lunch. I was eating out way too often for BOTH breakfast AND lunch. Ouch. Savings? $200+ for the month.

    2) No “going out by myself” aka “laziness”. I call this laziness because pretty much the only reason I ever go out to eat by myself is because I’m being lazy. I will cook on these occasions. I expect to save $100-200 this way.

    3) I was going to say survive on the last 1/4 tank of gas, but I can’t as I have a 3 hour drive (one way) coming up this month. Whoops.

    4) Knock Netflix down from the DVD & Streaming service to just Streaming. Savings? $10.

    5) When I go out with my buddies, no eating anything more expensive than an appetizer or salad. Additionally, only the cheapest drinks and no more than a couple as they easily start to add up in a major city. This will probably be worth $100-200.

    5 days in and going strong. Still a long way to go and it is pretty helpful that my best friend is out of town – he can be a savings drag!

    Reply
  • carolinakaren March 11, 2012, 12:29 pm

    I’m chiming in a little late, but up to the challenge! I found MMM through Jacob’s site ERE ( read all his posts)….found you guys about the third week in Feb and read EVERY post here too! Since I didn’t finish until Mar 7th I’m late starting this challenge.

    1. Already paid over $27,000 toward my mortgage this month (saved for a long time to do that, it was a second mortgage).

    2. Last Thursday I negotiated a cheaper internet package and cancelled Netflix because I don’t watch videos very often. ($33 saved)

    3. Tonight or tomorrow I’m slashing the phone bill using the advice offered on one of the MMM forums.

    4. I am terrified of riding a bike in traffic, but it’s out of the storage shed! We pumped up the tires today and I can get to the grocery store, pharmacy, and several restaurants by avoiding major roadways…. thanks MMM for all your posts about cycling! I am now able to see how useful and healthy using a bicylce can be!

    5. Cooking at home more and eating out less….eating out is one of our favorite things, so it’s VERY challenging! This is one of the few areas where we spend money that is anti-mustachian.

    6. Finally, I’m working lots of extra time this month to boost income and further pay down the mortgage!

    *We already don’t have cable and I almost always brown bag my lunch, but John is trying harder to pack his lunches and begining to grow a mustache too!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 11, 2012, 9:21 pm

      You ROCK Carolina Karen! I am totally amazed that people are still reading every post here. It gets to be a more and more daunting challenge every day.. but that is yet another expression of Mustachian Badassity, I suppose.

      Reply
  • Kathy March 16, 2012, 7:26 pm

    I like everything you said in the blog post, but … what about those that live in the country? I highly doubt that riding a bike to work will do the job for me, when any town is a major distance away. We do have a horses…lolol. I wonder if the Amish neighbor will borrow us a buggy??? We won’t be able to drive our horse until it is sent for further training (by the Amish – great deal too).

    Our horses support themselves. I just finished college for a second time and was just hired for two jobs (1 full-time, other part-time). Hubby just lost his job due to plant closing.

    We do not have TV (only for videos which we rent FREE from the library). We don’t eat out much. Hubby builds wood boilers on the side; hence, our heat is cheaper than anyone elses (wood takes two days before ya really have to refill it). Our hot water is endless and heated by the boiler. It is so warm in here during the winter we can wear pratically nothing ;)

    We get most of our clothes from thrift stores. We have reusable coffee filters. Most of our food is home-made. So, I am not sure what else to do for being smarter… other than reading your blog posts :D

    I do know fuel is killing us since our little KIA Sportage is now running on 3 cylinders, and we have to drive the big boy truck (fuel filled not gas). So that will have to change; although if it rains here we are mud boggin in 4-wheel drive ;)

    I finally invested in my feet which I should have done a looooonnnggg time ago. I ended up costing more because I didn’t take care of the feet. I have posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. So shoes… you pay for what you get. Walmart didn’t work on that conservative note.

    Any advice for country folk? Oh… we have eight laying lovely ladies in our barn that give us awesome eggs… and soup if they don’t ;)

    We are open for advice…

    Reply
  • Sweta October 10, 2012, 12:30 pm

    I know I’m wayyyy late in posting this, but I just wanted to say that I recently dumped Sprint and signed up w/ Tracfone. I was paying Sprint way too much considering I have a dumb phone that I don’t use too much. Now I pay about $11 every 3 months for enough minutes to serve my needs.

    Reply

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