221 comments

Reader Case Study: Working a Crappy Job – for Nothing

Stephen King can afford to drive a Murano. You cannot.

Dear Mr. M.,

My wife and I have been reading your blog, and slowly feeling some of the free-spending ways of our past slipping away from us. But it’s a slow process, and while my wife takes after her frugal immigrant parents, I am not sure if I am quite ready to step up to the plate for MMM-level badassity. I like my toys and my microbrews!

But we have an incentive to get there: two beautiful little boys, ages 1 and 4. The wife and I both work, and we are able to cover our bills with just a little bit to spare each month.

The issue is that while I love my own job (I’m an elementary school principal), she hates hers (marketing department of a midsized firm). I believe her dislike for the job is well-founded: both her boss and her coworkers all sound like they’re training for the world Douchebag Olympics.

She’d love to stay home with the kids, but when we do the math, it looks like we’d fall short of what we need to live on, if we lost her salary. Maybe you could have a look at the details and see if we’re missing anything:

Income:
Me: $80k/year (roughly $5,000/month after taxes)
Wife: $40k/year ($2800/month)
Also, we’re both contributing to employer-assisted 401k plans which leaves our net take-home pay at about $5800

Expenses:
Mortgage Principal+Interest+Property tax+Insurance: $2000
(Mortgage balance $250k at 5%, fairly high taxes, insurance is $70/mo)
Utilities: $150/month
Mobile Phones/Internet/Cable: $200/month
Car payments and insurance, oil changes and other maintenance (2009 Nissan Murano and 2008 Honda Accord, about half paid-off): $900
Gas: $250/month (The school where I work is only 1.5 miles from home (yay!), wife’s job is 25 miles (40 minutes mostly highway) away (boo!))
Child Care: $1500/month (which is actually a great deal in my area for two kids, full-time)
Groceries: $400/month (after reading your latest article, I noticed we eat very similarly to you)
Miscellaneous: clothes, entertainment, other: $300

Total:  $5700

What we’re seeing is that even after subtracting child care, we’d be in the red if my wife quit her job as she wants to do. But our food and entertainment spending is already pretty low. We don’t go shopping. There’s no vacation budget. Where’s the money going?

Principal S.

Dear Principal S,

I’ve got some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, your wife has been slaving away at her awful job at a ridiculously far-away office building, enduring those frequent Showers of Douchery, and missing out on raising her own children, for VIRTUALLY NO PAY! The good news is, she can bring a big cardboard cut-out of a middle finger to work with her TOMORROW, and duct-tape it to her boss’s desk, because she is done with that joint. Here’s why:

First of all, her driving is absolutely ridiculous. At 50 miles per day x 250 workdays each year, she’s spending at least $6250 of her after-tax money per year ($521/month) on the mileage costs alone, budgeting at 50 cents per mile. And that’s on top of the insane 22,500 minutes per year of high-speed life-risking driving time she takes out of her life to get there.

Secondly, your vehicle fleet is off-the-hook. What the hell do you need a 2009 Nissan Murano for!? Bought on CREDIT!!?? If you’re Stephen King, and your $15 million compound in Maine sits atop a 1500 foot cliff with a 45-degree rocky slope of a driveway that is snowbound for four months of the year, THEN maybe that’s a valid vehicle choice. But for the rest of us, the Murano is strictly for comedy relief, as it’s such an impractical vehicle.

So here’s your prescription:

  1. Sell the Murano (book value: about $16,000). Use the surplus cash to pay off the remaining balance on the Accord. If you don’t have enough cash for that, sell the Accord too (value $11,000) it and buy a less costly car like a 2003 Matrix or something else from the MMM Cars for Smart People List. NO CAR LOANS ALLOWED! Monthly Cashflow Improvement: $700
  2. That’s right, now you only have one car. But that’s OK – your days of driving to work are DONE. 1.5 miles? That’s ridiculous! You can walk it, or if you’re in a rush, bike it. No exceptions here. Hey, what do you know, neither of you will be driving to work anymore. Let’s set your gas budget to $50/month just so you have some fuel for random errand running. Additional Savings: $200
  3. No More Childcare! This is the part you already knew about. That $1500 goes straight into your pocket. Additional Savings: $1500
  4. Refinance that mortgage! Damn, brother, what are you doing still paying 5% in this day and age? Don’t you know that three is the new five? You should easily be able to get close to 3.5% with no out-of-pocket costs. Also, if you shop around for homeowners insurance, and get the highest deductible your mortgage company allows, you might save at least $250/year based on the moderate cost of your house.  Additional Savings from mortgage interest reduction and insurance: $250
  5. Drop your cable TV, and get a per-minute cell phone plan, or at least share a family plan. No MMM reader is allowed to pay for cable TV. Life’s too short to spend it absorbing passive and ad-laden entertainment every day. Shop around for internet access if your bill is over $50/month. You may use Netflix, Hulu, or the Amazon pay-per-view movie service. You can probably cut $75 off of your current bills in this area in total. Savings: $75

Total Savings so far: $2725 per month

So, mostly because of her insane cost of commuting, plus the child care, your wife was effectively working incredibly long hours, missing her little boys, and risking death every day, for approximately zero dollars per month.

By cutting that out, and making the other changes relating to your home ownership costs, she can quit immediately with virtually no effect on your family’s cashflow.

Even if some of my suggestions above don’t fly, you can surely find others that are just as valuable. For example, your lower household income might qualify you for more tax deductions after she quits, effectively increasing your own paycheck since some benefits are scaled back as household income increases.

You can comb over your groceries and consider some changes or Costco runs. Look into that $300/month mystery fund. Will it drop now that your wife does not need work clothes or lunches out with coworkers? Your car insurance might drop drastically if you get the same discount as I do from Geico for having low annual mileage and no commutes.

You’ll still be pretty close to the edge financially, but there is room for more improvement over time. During naps or school days, the lady might feel like flexing her marketing muscles in a freelance way from home, bringing in extra income. Your salary might rise as you continue your career in education, or you might be able to build up a side hustle of your own. And depending on your area, you might be able to find a less costly house that still meets your needs. An $80k salary is enough for a great family life in the US and Canada, as long as your housing cost doesn’t eat up too much of it (I’d suggest going for $1500/month or less if possible given your income and family size).

And remember that kids don’t stay young forever. Even if you sacrifice a higher savings rate right now by spending time with them, there will be plenty of time later to crank things up and get Mustachian to get the savings you need for early retirement, helping them with their educations, etc. Once they’re firmly established in grade school, you’ll get your days back, allowing more working time without the need to pay for child care.

In the long run, you’ll do fine – as long as you get out of the consumer borrowing habit and start doing the math before making decisions about where to live and work in the future. Good luck!

  • Baughman April 4, 2012, 6:32 am

    How sad is it that we live in a society where we feel that we need to live off of 120k/year to “get by” and “make ends meet”? This puts us in the top 0.001% (or whatever) of the world’s income distribution, yet we are barely “scraping by”? What the hell are the other 99.999% of the world doing with their money if it is so hard for us?

    I say we take a huge cardboard of our middle finger and duct tape it to the desk of consumerism. Life is too short to constantly buy shiny new things, which we’ll soon forget after a few weeks, and inevitably end up in the dumptster.

    Since the wife is a professional marketer, whose job is to convince people/businesses to part with their hard earned money, I still don’t understand why she didn’t know any better. Don’t marketers get it, or are they so entrenched that they lose sight of reality? Come to think of it, most of the marketers that I know are driving shiny leased cars and toting around an Ipad3 right now (with an Ipad 2 collecting dust in the closet)…and STILL don’t know what the hell to do with an oversized smart phone. They are probably the most clueless around us!

    Why is it that there are a disproportionate amount of engineers among the frugal? Is it because they hate their jobs so much that they yearn to quit? Or is it because they are smart enough to cut through the marketing BS and do the math to balance a budget? My guess is that it’s a combination of the two. (I’m a former engineer in the middle of a drastic career shift).

    Reply
    • rjack April 4, 2012, 7:18 am

      “Why is it that there are a disproportionate amount of engineers among the frugal?”

      This is because engineers are generally more introverted which implies that they think for themselves and are less concerned about other’s opinions.

      Reply
      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 4, 2012, 8:25 am

        as an engineer…this. And I like running numbers/doing the math too.

        Reply
        • Geek April 4, 2012, 9:14 am

          Doing the math… all the time. And I’m not even a sw engineer type anymore.

          Reply
          • Reuth April 4, 2012, 9:57 am

            I’m a poet. And I do the math.

            Reply
          • Brian April 4, 2012, 10:24 am

            Engineers understand that everything has a trade-off, and you have to align those trade-offs with what you’re trying to do.

            One side of the lever gets you distance, the other gets you force. Like leveraging with a mortgage, you get the distance, but no force. Depending on which one you’re looking for, you can get the best solution.

            Also, trying to poke holes through every thing you hear rather than accepting as fact.

            Reply
      • Praxis April 4, 2012, 11:45 am

        Better be careful how popular this blog gets- imagine the complete societal collapse as all engineers start retiring 5-10 years in to their careers! ;)

        Reply
        • Andrew April 4, 2012, 1:24 pm

          No no, you got it all wrong: we FI’s are *creating jobs* by vacating ours to those who still need them! We’re helping reduce unemployment!!!
          :~)

          Reply
        • FreeUrChains April 16, 2012, 2:39 pm

          It will just make jobs available to those studious youngsters not afraid of Math and the Truth every 5-10 years. I am generation Y’er and 3 years into my engineering Career and already want FI. Paid off Student loans, and Corolla (as needed business expense since my job is 15 miles away up/down treacherous hills). Started investing with my Freedom fund after emergency fund was established with 75% saving rate and very low expenses with very high quality of life and happiness. My creativity and mind are wasting away at a cubicle, when i rather program problem solving games and programs, start a nonprofit to make autonmous-self sufficient zero energy input buildings/shelters/warehouses/colonies business, and rather volunteer my efforts to teach other’s what true freedom is, both financially, materially, and happily.

          Age 25, Electrical Engineer, Artist, Inventor, Writer, Programmer, Philosopher, Saint, Creator of a Robotic Army, wannabe husband and wannabe father of +++ children (because it doesn’t take much $ to raise a kid), and Freedom Fighter!

          Reply
          • OWHL August 18, 2012, 11:39 pm

            It is not necessarily Engineers ONLY, but more so the many PHILOSOPHER KINGS.

            Reply
    • Shane April 5, 2012, 5:55 am

      I have two kids too, but my wife is a stay at home mom and I only pull in about $60k a year.

      It can be done, Just have to live small so you can live large!

      Reply
    • Raech April 5, 2012, 8:36 am

      Ummm… They’re MMM readers and TRYING to improve. Let’s cut some slack and not be so harsh, shall we?? ALL of us have room for improvement. Of course “The Wife” fell for the marketing – we all have! If it was so easy, this blog wouldn’t exist! They’re working on getting smarter. It’s a learning process. Instead of barbs and nastiness – how about a hearty – “way to go for making these tough changes – You’ll soon see some AWESOME benefits that your boss could only dream of!”

      Reply
      • fruplicity April 6, 2012, 11:42 am

        I have to agree with Raech – the one thing I get nervous about with MMM is the “holier than thou” attitude that infiltrates so many pf blogs (and lifestyle blogs in general). Or just the general attitude of “I’m/we’re better than you and you don’t get it and it’s impossible for you to get it like we do”. I’d love to see a little more kindness and less assumptions.

        Reply
        • Emmers April 7, 2012, 8:48 pm

          That’s definitely an issue in some of these comment threads. Which is unfortunate!

          In a ‘poor skills’ community one time, I called that “richsplaining.” Although there it wasn’t “drop your cable TV,” it was more stuff like “why are you eating Ramen, don’t you know it’s refined flour” or something like that.

          Reply
      • Paul O. April 6, 2012, 1:17 pm

        This is a great comment because it points out how different people can be at a very fundamental level. It struck me when I read it that if MMM responded to me the way you suggested, I’d probably quit reading the blog.

        I come here because I genuinely enjoy it when people care enough about me to tell me how stupid I’m being without pulling punches. If they can make me laugh while they’re doing it, all the better. So, if MMM wants to reach folks like me who actually hate pats on the head and awkward a-frame hugs, then he’s doing things right!

        Reply
        • fruplicity April 7, 2012, 1:33 pm

          yes these are contradictory parts of my personality that I can’t seem to rationalize – I love and appreciate sarcastic humor and people who are blunt and direct, but I also tend to be very squishy, sensitive, and overly empathetic. ???? I don’t want to shut people down with too much negative feedback, but I don’t like enabling people’s delusional behaviors either (well who does?) It’s true this format works REALLY well for people like you, but I guess I worry unnecessarily about the people for whom it does the opposite.

          Reply
      • Baughman April 7, 2012, 7:08 pm

        I agree that my comment was harsh. I made a personal attack on marketers which is clearly unfair.

        I guess these case studies just remind me how brainwashed we are as a society. I have had the fortune of being born with an analytical mind which constantly evaluates trade-offs. For example, when comparing a 1200 apple laptop vs a 400 hp laptop, I compare the incremental features that an apple laptop would provide me over an hp laptop, then consider how much of my life I’d have to rot away in a cubicle to cough up the 800 of after cash money, which is clearly not 800 in wages, but 800/(1-my marginal tax rate). (Perhaps not coincidentally, I don’t own apple products). I do this in my head constantly, because I realize that life is better spent doing things other than rotting in a cube.

        I applaud the case subjects for their ability to recognize that they may have a problem, and turning to others to help solve their predicament. Yet I remain frustrated that for every 1 person who “wakes up” to the fact that our American culture is so disgustingly wasteful, there remain thousands of others who will continue working and consuming every penny earned (and often times more) without any regard to things that really matter in life: time with family, friends, experiencing the world, serving others, learning, developing talents, etc. I love MMM’s analogy to the matrix and the mindless drones which he wrote on one of his posts. When I read it, it was the first time that someone had so succinctly phrased my feelings on the subject.

        One last thought: I’d love to see a MMM-blessed baseline bare-bones budget. Something along the lines of “What ought to be the baseline of all further discussions….no car payments, no cable TV, no expensive (i.e. >50/year) cell phone plans, no etc). Rather than evaluating these cases on a case-by-case basis, MMM could simply refer to these soon-to-be enlightened people to the pre-approved and pre-vetted baseline solution, then discuss meaningful deviations from it?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2012, 9:08 pm

          Hey, that’s a nice idea. Maybe even several baselines – the single, the couple, the kids option, etc. Then there could be options for beginners, high income people, already-retired/Financially Independent people, etc. I’ve now put it in my “posts to write” folder.

          Reply
          • Emmers April 7, 2012, 9:24 pm

            I like the “baseline budget” post idea, but you should also vary them from community to community. Living in Washington, DC is very different from living in Bristol, VA, and the bare bones budgets look very different in each one — e.g. rents are higher in DC, but you can also get by without a car.

            Reply
            • Brittany June 15, 2012, 11:22 am

              Emmers, I am thoroughly amazed that anyone else who reads this blog knows about good ol’ Bristol. I’m on the TN side myself. It’s definitely tough to live MMM style around here.

              Reply
          • Baughman April 7, 2012, 9:38 pm

            I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve contemplated doing a paramaterised version myself based off of # of people in the household but I’ve been too lazy. I’m convinced that the cost of living increases proportionally to the square root of the number of people living in the household. It is certainly not a linear relationship. For example, the equation for the bare-bones food budget would look something like this: 100/month per adult (defined as 12+) plus 30/month per child (defined as 11-). High speed internet would be baselined in, as would VOIP (close to 10/month through OOMA or 0 through google voice/OBI110). 50/year for cell phones through t-mobile/at&t prepaid. The list goes on, but once the vetted approved budget happens, it would be a great starting point for all future conversations, and an invaluable tool for newbies.

            Regarding Emmers’ housing comment, I find that to be an acceptable complaint. Perhaps the barebones budget could be parameterized by location through benchmarking to median rents/mortgages in the area.

            I can’t think of any other goods/services necessary to sustain life which ought to vary substantially by location.

            Reply
            • Emmers April 8, 2012, 8:49 am

              Food, for one. The cost of living in Hawaii is tremendously high (even compared to DC) in part because everything has to be shipped in.

              But Hawaii is an extreme case; I don’t know if food prices vary a lot within the continental US.

              Reply
              • Fangs April 8, 2012, 9:31 am

                Yes, they do. I live in Michigan near Grand Rapids and our costs are far higher than say, Mr. MM or anyone in CA.

              • Baughman April 8, 2012, 11:45 am

                Hawaii and Alaska are so heavily skewed that they mean nothing to the most of us. I think a pretty obvious solution to the high cost of living in either state is to leave remote paradises and move back to civilization.

                Regarding the variation of grocery expenses within the united states, that’s hogwash. I’ve lived in 4 states in the past 2 years, and there is no substantial difference in groceries….(between Utah, Washington, Ohio, and Georgia) especially if we are talking about the type of commodities that should occupy the bulk of a healthy human diet: legumes, seeds, rice, grains, fruits, veggies, and occasional dairy. There certainly will be differences in dining expenses, but not only are those irrelevant to the discussion of frugality, they are primarily due to differences in labor rates between regions.

                The same complaints could be made of differential utility expenses, but relative to the typical American budget, we’d be arguing over such a trivial portion of expenses that it would be a complete waste of our time. American’s aren’t broke because of unreasonably high utility expenses nor are they broke because dried beans and dry rice are too expensive at Costco. They are broke because they are mindless consumers of goods and services and fail to assess value during their mindless consurism, with the respective implications on the income side of things (and hence the bulk of their waking hours while on Earth) to support the wasteful lifestyle.

              • Emmers April 11, 2012, 8:16 am

                So Fang and Baughman say things which are diametrically opposed to one another, with regard to food prices within the continental US.

                I should note that I think it’s completely unreasonable to tell someone who’s lived in Hawaii for their whole life, whose entire family lives in Hawaii, etc etc, that they should leave their home and move someplace cheaper. Family *matters.*

                But actually, that brings up something that could be an interesting MMM post/spin-off: How much ought we, as aspiring Mustachians, prioritize things like “remaining near family” ?

                For my part, I’m a transplant from a (somewhat) cheaper area into DC. It’s hella expensive up here, and I can understand criticism of *me* for choosing to live here.

                But, now that I live here, I have tons of friends who are actually *from* this area and their whole family lives here. Telling *them* to move to Bristol, TN because it’s way cheaper there is….really really weird, just to start with.

                So: What *is* good advice for people who are native to an expensive area? (I should probably move this to the Forums.)

              • FreeUrChains April 16, 2012, 3:34 pm

                But you don’t need heat or AC in hawaii. Generate lots of Electricity, which the first step would be ship in some solar panels and wind farms and sell excess to the grid at those 24 cent/KW rates! Make some money with their own evils to fend of that Cost of Living!

            • Fangs April 9, 2012, 5:12 pm

              You are off about fruits and veggies–again, I live in rural Michigan. Nearest Costco=45 minutes away one way. Fruits and veggies are FAR more expensive here than in CA. There are no Whole Foods or Trader Joes. One bell pepper runs $1.50 normally. Again, you aren’t looking realistically at different areas. Small, northern rural areas pay far more for fruits and veggies than bigger areas. People on this list have given me great ideas but to say food is basically the same across the USA is not true. Dried beans are cheap here, yes, but fresh fruit, veggies, etc. are not.

              Reply
              • Baughman April 10, 2012, 7:22 am

                Fangs, since you live in a rural area, you will enjoy lower housing expenses as a tradeoff for more expensive bananas. I think we are arguing about trivial things here. If you think that bannanas are too expensive relative to your housing expense savings, I extend the same invitation to you that I did our friends in Alaska and Hawaii: come back to civilization. Either that or stop complaining about expensive bananas because you chose to live in a rural area. You made a lifestyle choice to enjoy a more nature-filled experience with more land for your family to run around in. Just don’t complain about the cost of it when it is a conscious decision. Much like I won’t complain to you of my lack of interior and exterior space when fitting 5 people in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s a choice I made, with positive financial consequences (with great proximity to friends and locations such as Costco and my work, with associated car and grocery expenses), which also has some negative consequences such as the fact that I have to walk 150 yards to find some grass for the kids to play on and I have to be diligent to be sure they don’t get run over by cars. Adult life is full of decisions, and we’d be doing ourselves a disservice by playing victim to expensive bananas as a result of lifestyle choices.

                The biggest irony of all is that your “expensive” rural MI bananas are cheaper than any banana, relative to your income, than most human beings have enjoyed for thousands of years (with the generous assumption that bananas were available in MI hundreds of years ago….which if true, they would have been costly). Our society is so rich that it is hilarious to sit back and think of the irony of complaining about the price bananas, life-saving medical procedures, or combustible fuels harvested from thousands of feet beneath the ground half a globe away, then refined in the gulf, then delivered to your local gas station. Life is so hard for us that magical life-saving medical procedures are available to us….yet expensive! Should we hope for the alternative to the high costs and wish horrible deaths upon us?

                I am sick and tired of being associated with a people who continue to complain about how hard life is while we are experiencing the greatest standard of living in the history of the world, and wealth so great that it has caused us to lose all concept of value and hence intelligent spending. Wake up drones!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

              • Mr. Money Mustache April 10, 2012, 9:17 am

                Wow, nicely said Baughman! I nominate you for a guest posting someday, as I couldn’t have mocked the life-is-hard complaints culture any better myself.

                When life is difficult, it’s very helpful to place the blame entirely on yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have no motivation to attack the problem.

              • Heidi April 10, 2012, 9:30 am

                Sometimes it is helpful to look at a simple problem like the banana from another perspective. I’m eating more bananas after reading about them.

                http://www.amazon.com/Banana-Fate-Fruit-Changed-World/dp/0452290082/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334071600&sr=1-1

              • FreeUrChains April 16, 2012, 3:47 pm

                Thanks to the wonderful Electrical Engineers, Nicholas Tesla more so then Thomas Edison (stupid American History Musuem Neglecting Nicholas Tesla at the Smithsonians in DC), we all can take energy directly from the Sun from our thermal winds, or from oceanic thermals and tides, to create enough Energy which is necessary to grow, create, move objects that we need and want in “The Rich American” lives. If greed didn’t rule the world, everyone person on earth and future person to be born would have a very high standard of living and wouldn’t need to work, except fixing the occasional robot/ program code/ testing of power line.

                Of course Morality would still be an issue even if all necessities for every person were provided for.

      • Andre April 8, 2012, 4:04 am

        I don’t see any “barbs and nastiness” going on; just some direct, clear advice which is exactly what was requested.

        Reply
  • Marianne April 4, 2012, 6:35 am

    I second getting rid of the car(s). We do have two cars but they are paid for. It is great to not have to worry about a car payment! Both of our vehicles are older so we are saving to replace the one this year. We currently have a protege5 and would like to replace it with a Mazda5.
    I always worry that I might be working for nothing (I’ve just started transitioning back to work after having a baby). I can’t seem to get good intel on the tax benefits of staying home (we are in Canada). I really want to make an informed decision but I am not knowledgeable enough about our tax system to figure out the implications of me not working.
    Thanks to our inlaws, the cost of me working is fairly low right now as they are providing childcare but when I go back to work for more hours we will need to pay for a bit of childcare.

    Reply
    • et April 4, 2012, 10:05 am

      Why not talk to someone who knows? Accountant, perhaps. Even if you have to pay for an hour it will be worth it.

      Reply
      • Marianne April 4, 2012, 2:49 pm

        I don’t know why it didn’t cross my mind to talk to an accountant. I guess I just figure accountants are for businesses and what would they want with little old me? I’ve talked to a few people in the financial industry but they are just the people that want to sell me stuff.This is a good idea and don’t I feel stupid for not having thought of it myself.. :)

        Reply
    • DDD April 4, 2012, 9:44 pm

      In general, you add your pay to your partners pay, deduct the personal amount (about 10k I think) from the bottom and RRSP deposits from the top, and the rest is taxed based on the rate scale you can easily find on Google.

      In general, if one of you makes good money, but other works for peanuts, peanuts person is wasting time. Best case is two equal incomes.

      Reply
      • Marianne April 5, 2012, 10:30 am

        We do make the same amount of money. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been having a hard time finding these great tax deductions that others speak of…

        Reply
        • DDD April 5, 2012, 10:43 am

          You should speak to a tax-accountant, to get better idea and answer some what-ifs.

          However, particularly in Canada, it is other taxes that are the biggest issue – sales taxes, property taxes, higher costs of living due to highest product costs based on higher business taxes… You will pay same amount of those taxes regardless of your income.

          Still, we are blessed in Canada. With free healthcare, cheaper education costs, better social programs – it is easier to take the risk of quitting your job and make other drastic choices. In the US, job may be a matter of life and death in case you hit rough patch healthwise. Or, lead to homelessness.

          P.S. I am not anti tax though – I pay tons of taxes, but would gladly pay more for improvements like faster ER times etc.

          Reply
  • The Stoic April 4, 2012, 6:41 am

    “The good news is, she can bring a big cardboard cut-out of a middle finger to work with her TOMORROW, and duct-tape it to her boss’s desk,…”

    Love it!!

    I agree, the vehicle costs and child care are two easy and drastic expense reductions that could be made if mom wants to stay home with the kids.

    Really, it comes down to what you value most. Microbrews and toys are no doubt fun, but weigh that against your wife staying home with the kids and giving them something that is even more fun: time and attention.

    Wish you the best.

    Reply
  • Jimbo April 4, 2012, 6:50 am

    Seriously guys, why do families want 2 cars?? TWO cars? they are such a pain in the ass, and such a money pit, why would you want two of them? I walk more than 1.5 mile to work everyday, in addition to taking public transportation, and the whole thing still takes less than 40 minutes. And I am starting biking next week, so it will be down to 20 minutes of commute.

    It never even crossed our mind I could do this by car.

    The whole ‘we need two cars to survive’ paradigm in America is something I wil never understand…

    Reply
    • Jason April 4, 2012, 7:16 am

      Jimbo, just because your own life doesn’t require it doesn’t mean others don’t have a need. We use two cars because we choose to live in the suburbs of Atlanta. It’s a choice but with this we get great schools and quality of living and at affordable price. Our jobs and life requirements demand two cars as my wife works variables shifts and is often gone in the morning, or night, or afternoon, etc… Nothing wrong with having two cars as both cars were purchased with cash, are insured correctly, and don’t really impact our finical or family lives. Different people do have different needs, especially with older or multiple kids.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 7:28 am

        I think Jimbo (and me, with this whole blog) is sharing the fact that lifestyles CAN easily be designed not to need massive car use. Jason is illustrating the opposite type of lifestyle, that has cars designed into it.

        The fine line between those lives, for Money Mustache purposes, is that most people design in the cars unconsciously, even when they can’t afford them. Like the people in this case study. Then they complain that life is too expensive.

        Even for us folks with infinite money, it’s still worthwhile try to minimize your car use – it’s healthier for you and your fellow man. And it’s a nice challenge, because everybody says you can’t do it, and thus you get major badassity points for proving them wrong.

        Reply
        • Des April 4, 2012, 10:51 am

          When I was a pre-teen, my parents told me “Go as long as you can without a job or a car, because once you get one, you’ll never be able to go without.”

          While not 100% true, their point was once you get used to the freedom of your own vehicle, it will be very hard to go back to not having one. Much harder than if you just never got it in the first place. DH and I have always shared a car, and thus our lifestyle has naturally molded itself to adjust to that. My brother is 26 and has never owned a car. He rides the bus and bikes and doesn’t consider it an inconvenience. He would view a car/gas/insurance payment as much more of an inconvenience.

          I agree that it is a matter of priorities, but plenty of people get the cars first and figure out the priorities later rather than the other way around.

          Reply
          • Jackson April 4, 2012, 3:27 pm

            My parents gave me a car when I was 16. They thought they were doing me a favor, but they were really just making me dependent on a car. Then, when I moved out and had to pay all the bills on my own and do all the maintenance, the car was a huge burden. I didn’t understand until I was in my late twenties that people can live without owning a car. I had to read a lot about how living without a car is completely feasible and how other people do it.

            Reply
        • Mike Long April 4, 2012, 12:30 pm

          MMM,

          Curious about your thoughts on having one car, and one motorcycle? We bought a two year old Mazda3 earlier this year, and I have an old (but reliable) 1999 motorcycle in my garage that gets 50 mpg.

          I’ve got the Wanderlust and as much as I’d love to live with only the one car, wife works 18 miles away and we’re not willing to fix that until daughter graduates from high school in 24 months (we moved her 5 times between 1st and 9th grades, and promised we would leave her in one high school for all four years).

          While I enjoy a good walk as much as anyone, there are times when I need to be AWAY. The motorcycle also has a complete set of luggage which allows me to use it in a few practical ways as well.

          What do you think…good compromise? The bike is paid for, gets good gas mileage, I can do all the maintenance, has enough storage to have some practical applications, and gives me that occasional taste of freedom that is one of my greatest joys in life.

          Oh, and the insurance is $6 a month. :)

          Reply
        • Jeff April 5, 2012, 11:05 am

          I don’t understand why a car is considered such a burden. Just because you own 2 cars doesn’t mean they’re an integral part of your life. You can have 2 cars and not have a 40-minute commute. If they’re older, reliable, paid off, and you do simple things like change the oil, they’re really not that expensive. My vehicles cost me like $40/month (plus gas). I think the problem is most people over-insure themselves. If you can afford to buy another car if you total the one you have, then you shouldn’t have anything more than minimal coverage.

          I don’t think the problem is owning the car. The problem is not owning it responsibly.

          Reply
        • Emmers April 7, 2012, 9:27 pm

          “Cars designed into it” — aren’t most regions in America designed to only work if you have a car? It’s great if you can get by without one, but Jason’s points are absolutely valid.

          Also, what if he and his wife enjoy their wacky-shift jobs? It’s not an inherent moral failing to have two cars as long as you’re frugal about them! :-D

          Reply
        • Thrifty Writer April 15, 2012, 12:47 am

          I once thought I needed a car – until I moved to a borough of NYC. Even with the occasional track maintenance work, the subway is fantastic, and I am very thankful that I don’t have (or need) a car. Not to mention the fact that after moving and using public transportation to go everywhere, I also lost weight – an unforeseen bonus!

          Reply
          • Emmers April 15, 2012, 4:04 pm

            I once thought I needed a car — until I took an arrow to the knee.

            :-D

            (No, wait, that would *make* me need a car…oh well!)

            Moving to an area with good public transit is certainly a good thing! But it’s also very expensive, so you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits, however high the benefits might be.

            Reply
      • Jimbo April 4, 2012, 7:43 am

        MMM answered better than I could. I will just add that when you say houses are more affordable in the burbs, do you consider the expense of the second car? Gas, insurance, repairs… I might also add commuting time. This is costly.
        Heck, we could even do with no car at all if we were more badass. But I do acknowledge that cars are handy. Just having two seems like total overkill.

        Reply
      • GregK April 4, 2012, 1:48 pm

        Even if you weren’t committed enough to design your life around biking to work, you’ve got public transportation on your side in Atlanta. Even if we ignore the bus system and only look at the MARTA (train/subway system for those of you unfamiliar with Atlanta), you can combine biking and public transportation to effectively put a 20-mile radius around downtown Atlanta. You can’t find a good school system and affordable housing anywhere in there??!

        I think you can — if you make it a priority. Good luck loosing at least one of your unnecessary cars!

        Here’s a link to the area in question: http://bit.ly/BikeableAtlanta

        Reply
    • AEBinNC April 4, 2012, 7:34 am

      Playing devil’s advocate here. Most people in the US change jobs every 2-3 years making it difficult to live within a couple of miles of your job for a long period. In the example here of a principal, he has much more job security than most of us so it would make sense for someone like him to move close to where he works. Also, some of the business developments intentionally restrict public transport to them and make their developments bike and pedestrian nightmares. My wife could bike to work since it’s only 3 miles, however the only route there has several merges onto the highway and off of it. We’re both afraid that she’d get killed if she actually attempted to cross that stretch of road by bike. Her office is in a complex that just sprang up recently. My argument to her is that if she’s willing to move, we can buy a house on public transport lines and I would give up my car. My job is 13 miles from our current home.

      Reply
      • rjack April 4, 2012, 7:43 am

        ” Most people in the US change jobs every 2-3 years making it difficult to live within a couple of miles of your job for a long period.”

        For people in those situations, they should rent instead of buy a home.

        Reply
        • Praxis April 4, 2012, 11:47 am

          Or go in to real estate investing…if you’ve got a property manager managing your investment homes, you can just hand him the key to the house you live in and turn it in to a rental when you’re ready to move.

          Reply
    • Poor to Rich a Day at a Time April 5, 2012, 6:47 am

      Jimbo, we have always done with one car. However as a homeschool mom there are times I wished I had a car as we sometimes miss out on being able to go to homeschool groups activities as they are typically held while Dad’s are at work.

      Mostly I do not mind though

      Reply
      • Jimbo April 5, 2012, 6:50 am

        Does he absolutely need the car every day? Can’t dad go to work on a bike or through mass transit one day per month so you can keep the car?

        It seems manageable, unless you guys live in the middle of nowhere, with no transit. Then, having only one car is even more impressive.

        Reply
    • Poor to Rich a Day at a Time April 5, 2012, 6:50 am

      We have always been a one car family but there are times I wished we had two cars. As a homeschooling family we miss out on homeschool group activities many times as they are typically held during the Dad’s working hours.

      Reply
  • Brad April 4, 2012, 7:04 am

    Since when did a car become a casket with wheels? Your take on driving – “risking death everyday” is a bit extreme and slightly crude. I’m a consultant that flies twice weekly – how bad is that?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 7:13 am

      When did cars become caskets on wheels? Probably about the time they started having a top speed above 30 MPH. And you already know that flying is safer than driving.

      I’m not saying that driving is ridiculously dangerous. But doing it unnecessarily for so many minutes per year probably constitutes the biggest death risk in a person of this age.

      I’m bringing it up because people get excited about “safety” when buying giant cars and SUVs, yet they rarely consider the fact that 90% or more of their driving is totally unnecessary – thus they not really prioritizing safety at all.. just falling victim to car safety marketing.

      Note that I don’t think I’m Mr. Perfect either – I know that both my driving and my biking are dangerous. I just make a point of saying “Yeehaw! I’m living on the edge and doing something dangerous, look how ALIVE I am!!!”, while doing those and other dangerous activities. More fun that way.

      Reply
      • kiwano April 4, 2012, 10:22 am

        Amen to the safety remark. When my daughter was small enough to need a car seat more cumbersome than the booster seat she has now, I often found that the legal requirements to use a car seat really made it difficult to mix driving with other modes of transportation, not have a car, etc. (we persisted and did these things anyway). I often expressed my resentment at having to schlep a big car seat around by saying “This giant hunk of plastic reduces the risk that she’ll die in a car accident by about 50%. On the other hand our lifestyle of general car avoidance, which is complicated terribly by having to carry it around, reduces her time spent in cars by about 90%, reducing the risk that she’ll die in a car accident by, well, about 90%. Sure the 95% reduction is nice, and that’s what we’re doing; but how many people are copping out, and quintupling their risk in response to burdens like this?”

        Reply
      • DanD April 5, 2012, 9:41 am

        Nah….new cars today are shiny plasticized crumple zone cakes with creamy airbag filling. Older 1950-70’s era tanks, yeah sure. In fact, its amazing more people arent killed with the general level of asshatery i see on the roads; and if todays cars didnt take that into account and start having 8-10 airbags, avoidance sensors and parallel parking-do-it-yourselfery……man. Did people forget how to drive?

        Reply
        • Emmers April 7, 2012, 9:37 pm

          Hey now, the minute they sell autonomous vehicles I am THERE. Come on, DARPA! Give us our safe robot cars!

          Reply
    • Shiznik April 4, 2012, 7:58 am

      While driving isn’t as dangerous as base jumping, sky diving, or grizzly bear wrestling, it is still pretty high on the Causes of Death list.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate

      Reply
      • Paul O. April 4, 2012, 10:15 am

        I must point out that even though driving is safer by the numbers, the pleasure/risk of death ratio is much higher for base jumping, sky diving, or grizzly bear wrestling than driving a typical daily work commute. Those whose commute involves driving a jeep over a steep mountain are excepted of course.

        Reply
      • TLV April 4, 2012, 10:42 am

        I think this graph from that wikipedia page says it pretty well:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Causes_of_death_by_age_group_(percent).png
        In the US, car accidents are by far the leading cause of death in people under 35.

        Reply
  • Executioner April 4, 2012, 7:10 am

    I’ll add my voice to the “downsize to one car” crowd. My wife and I each had a car of our own when we got married, but decided to sell one of them after two years of living together. This was a great move for us, both financially and otherwise. My office is 8 miles from home, and I regularly commute by bicycle, at all times of year in all weather. The added exercise and enjoyment are certainly worth it. And the reduced expense of maintaining a second vehicle adds up — no insurance, registration, tune-ups, etc.

    I will admit that the change to a one car seemed a bit scary at first, having been used to always having a vehicle waiting for each of us if necessary, but after living with just the single car for the past 4+ years, I can say that these occasions occur extremely infrequently. Of course it helps that my wife and I enjoy each other and don’t mind spending time together — other couples may have a different experience.

    Reply
  • Shiznik April 4, 2012, 7:52 am

    I’m so happy for you two, especially your wife! Listen to Triple M, this advice is GOLDEN. Your wife should leave her job so she can raise your two children the way they should be raised instead of some random childcare worker who may or may not be teaching them good values, and if you listen and cut your spending in the ways Triple M has laid out, there will be no lost income.

    Congratulations!

    Reply
  • carl April 4, 2012, 8:08 am

    If the Principal lives in a typical modern suburb, then walking or biking 1.5 miles is more dangerous than the car commute. Cul-de-sac developments are very pedestrian/bike unfriendly if you want to go to any place of business. An old junker, however, is plenty adequate for such a short commute. (My car is a ’94.)

    BTW: he said he owed $250K on the house, not that it wasa $250K house. I suspect a more expensive abode, and thus the high cost of insurance and property taxes.

    Here is a heretical thought: stop contributing to the retirment plans while the kids are young. Double or triple up on the savings when the kids grow up. The time to live in a good neighborhood with a good house is when you have children.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 11:48 am

      BULL SHIT!!! SUBURBS ARE FANTASTIC FOR BIKING!!! It’s like those places are DESIGNED for bikes! Streets are wide, traffic is light, birds sing and trees and gardens wave gently in the breeze as you coast past.

      A junker car for commuting 1.5 miles? RIDICULOUS!!! Cars must NEVER, EVER, EVER be used to take a single person a short distance like that!

      Even if I lost the use of my legs in combat, I would ROLL MY FUCKING NON-ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR 1.5 miles through the snow before I’d use a car for that distance!

      Fuck, please don’t get me angry like that again, or I’ll end up breaking even more of the letters off of this keyboard :-)

      Reply
      • Erik Y April 4, 2012, 1:14 pm

        Agreed. I live about 8 miles from work and take the bus to and from (my company gives me a free bus pass so they can claim to be “green”). I live in the super suburby suburbs of Orange county where bus service isn’t great so I have to walk about a mile to the bus stop. It is quit safe and pleasant and rather a nice way to unwind at the end of the day before I get home.

        My mom used to do a similar route back home in suburban DC where she walked about a mile to the metro for her commute.

        There is really no way to justify driving a mile and a half to work! What’s that, about a 20-30 minute walk or 5-10 minute bike ride? You wouldn’t even get sweaty.

        Reply
      • Stashette April 4, 2012, 2:44 pm

        Agreed! My dad (65 years old) just had back surgery a couple weeks ago and is unable to drive since he is on pain meds. Instead of being home bound or instead of mooching rides off others, he has been walking all over our small (suburbish) city. In one day he walked to the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, and his place of work (for a visit) which was probably at least 7 miles round trip.
        So, yeah, I think that a 1.5 mile walk for a healthy young person is reasonable.
        And I think my dad gets some serious badass points!

        Reply
      • Ben April 4, 2012, 2:45 pm

        Excellent response! I love these.

        I’ve been bike commuting in several different suburbs around DC and while they can be inconvenient, and there is some risk, it’s not nearly as bad as most people think it is. Once you get enough experience on a bike to assert yourself on the road you’ll probably be okay. Keeping things in perspective, learning to bike commute was a lot easier than learning to drive a car.

        Reply
      • Andrew April 4, 2012, 11:41 pm

        LOL. You crack me up MMM.

        1.5 miles… that’s about a 20 minute walk even if you stop to smell the roses, or a 7 minute bike ride at a non-strenuous pace. I bet it takes more than 7 minute to drive.

        Reply
        • Walt April 18, 2012, 6:06 pm

          OK, I have to say something about “I bet it takes longer to drive than to bike 1.5 miles.”

          If it does then you’re breaking traffic laws on your bike. Bikes are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as cars, and they’re capable of a lower speed top speed.

          You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk. You’re supposed to obey the traffic lights and stop signs. You’re supposed to wait in line with the cars.

          That’s the one thing that ticks me off about bicyclists. They want all the rights (using the roads) but none of the responsibilities (following the traffic laws.)

          Many times I’ve sat at a light and watched a bicycle ride past me on the shoulder, then play chicken in the intersection, not waiting for either a green or a walk sign.

          Yes I own a car, but at least it’s paid for. I paid for it with cash and I bought it used.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache April 18, 2012, 6:49 pm

            Well, you also have to factor in the extra time required to get into and out of a car, buckle in, then bumble around in a parking lot at the destination, park, etc. A bike will cover 1.5 miles in about 4.5 minutes if pedaled with some energy. It’s a bit faster to hop on and go, and you usually get to park closer to the entrance of a large building. Also, bikes are indeed legally allowed to pass cars at most traffic-laden intersections, since they ride to the right of the rightmost lane (often in a bike lane).

            I do agree that bike riders should obey the traffic laws, however. I never run red lights, and I only roll through stop signs when there is nobody around that could be confused or annoyed by it (the same policies I apply in the car).

            The most important consideration, however, is that it is RIDICULOUS to drive a car 1.5 miles. It should never happen, except in the case of severe physical disability.

            Reply
          • superbien August 20, 2012, 3:07 pm

            “Bikes are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as cars, and they’re capable of a lower speed top speed. You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk. You’re supposed to obey the traffic lights and stop signs. You’re supposed to wait in line with the cars.”

            I’m half “amen” and half “bullshit” to your comment. The amen part is to bikers to follow the g-d traffic laws when driving in the street – you’re a g-d vehicle you ninny! I *hate* when bikers break vehicular laws when operating as a vehicle. The “bullshit” part is your incorrectly generalized assertion that you’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk – if your county says it’s legal, then it’s legal; just because you do not know that it is legal to ride on a sidewalk in many places does not make it somehow magically illegal. Pet peeve is researching where I can and cannot ride on the sidewalk by LAW, and then having know-it-all ignoramuses (ignorami?) yell at me.

            Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 April 4, 2012, 8:09 am

    If your wife quit her job, you can probably get rid of one car, but while she continues to work, you probably need 2 cars. At least get rid of the Murano and get a paid off used vehicle.
    Once you get rid of the car payment and day care, things look a lot better.
    After that, your budget looks pretty similar to mine and I’m getting ready to be a Stay at home dad soon. We share one car and don’t have any payment.

    Reply
  • Steve April 4, 2012, 8:10 am

    My wife stays home with our daughter and I make 5K less than you. We cut out cable and kept the cars. Though as close as you are to work, I’m pretty sure we’d go to one vehicle. We’ve also dropped cable, clip a few coupons, prepaid cell phone plans, switched to VOIP for landline, and I do most home repairs now myself.

    With the loss of her salary, we still manage to max out Roth at 10K per year and 6% 4.5K of gross into 401K. We are also paying extra each month on mortgage principle and there is still a bit of money left over.

    If you want to do this, work at it and you can achieve it. There are a few downsides. Your insurance rate is going to go up. Even if your wife stays home, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay for preschool. You will also miss out on any raises or bonuses your wife would get.

    Good luck. It’s possible.

    Reply
    • Melissa April 5, 2012, 3:30 pm

      You don’t have to pay forpreschool if you don’t send them. If she is home with the kids and they are able to get out and about I think the pay for preschool option is highly overrated.

      Reply
  • Naomi April 4, 2012, 8:26 am

    I had to Google “Nissan Murano”.

    Reply
    • abitha April 4, 2012, 11:11 am

      So did I. What an absolute monster!

      Reply
  • Sustainable PF April 4, 2012, 8:27 am

    I commend Jimbo for looking for solutions. MMM is dead on. Some lifestyle changes can really do wonders for the bottom line.

    That being said, some of the criticisms about $120k to make ends meet. This flies in the middle of Idaho but surely is much more difficult in a major metropolitan area. Salaries are also often higher where the cost of living is.

    We bought our house 3/4 of a mile from work and the downtown of our city. Very walkable. MMM isn’t a fan of the fact we bought a new car – I can get that. But it is much better on gas than the used versions of the same vehicle, and, with a baby, his gear, a 110 lb dog (that died prematurely 13 days ago) and its gear taking up the trunk … plus the fact we enjoy camping (more gear) – space was an issue. So we save on gas and car use but paid more for the car. Perhaps the Mirano has some reasons for owning it too. (2 kids, gear – where does it all fit in a Matrix?)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 11:44 am

      You don’t buy an SUV when you need space. You buy an old minivan!

      And you don’t drive either of those two cars when you DON’T need space. You drive a tiny commuter car.

      Ideal strategy: bikes with trailers for primary transportation. Small car for secondary. Optional: Old minivan for those rare times when you need to carry everything. Total cost of fleet: under $12,000 or so.

      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/12/08/turning-a-little-car-into-a-big-one/

      Reply
    • Jaclyn April 4, 2012, 12:39 pm

      I disagree – $120k is a LOT of money even in major metropolitan areas. I live in the Boston metro area and it is one of the most expensive cities in the country to live in. My husband is a full-time student and we manage to live off of my $54,000/year income. We have enough to make ends meet and I have a $1,000 extra a month to dump into my debt.

      Reply
      • The Money Monk April 4, 2012, 9:52 pm

        I agree. The fact is 120k household income is over twice the national average. So the basic fact of the matter is MOST people ARE making do with way less. So to say you can’t is just wrong.

        The disparity is in the definitions of ‘making do’. So this guy was making 120k right out of college? no? oh, so why didn’t the universe explode?

        The fact of the matter is these exact same people have lived off less in years past, and they could do it again if they really had to. Or really wanted to.

        Anytime somebody says they cant live off of $X a year, you just have to add “….and maintain the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed” to the end of their sentence.

        Reply
        • Ana April 6, 2012, 10:07 am

          Yep, I really can’t muster a lot of understanding for people “just getting by” on so much money. My husband makes 50k in a good year (we’re military) and I stay home with the kids. While I wish the cash stockpile grew faster, in truth, we’re saving over half his pay right now. And that’s with two kids and a love of travel (we take a multi-day trip three or four times a year).

          We’ve just chosen what is truly important to us, and what is not. I imagine that will shift over the years, especially as the kids grow up, but I think a little more willingness to cut the fat is all anyone really needs to get out of the “just getting by on tons of money a year” trap.

          Reply
        • Emmers April 7, 2012, 9:43 pm

          “Over twice the national average” is unrelated to how dang high the cost of living is in major cities. It’s just a mathematical relationship between two numbers – it doesn’t permit a value judgment. Yeah, this guy shouldn’t have car debt etc etc etc, but if he has any student loans, or anything else that adds to his monthly expenses, that stuff adds up. And a lot of it adds up *more* in expensive areas — food is more expensive, clothes are more expensive*, etc.

          * I firmly believe in working a job where you don’t have to buy new clothes; but I acknowledge that that’s not possible for everyone. ;-)

          Reply
    • Jimbo April 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

      Hey I just read the last line of your post… I am pretty sure a Matrix has more cargo area than the average SUV.

      Have you seen a Matrix? It’s so bulky, it’s like a moose.

      Toyota just designs their cars to be more efficient, cargo wise.

      SUVs are good for offroad. That is it. They are not even safer as they have a proven tendency to barrel roll for no good reason.

      Reply
      • Walt April 18, 2012, 6:14 pm

        I was about to say this. I’d bet a Matrix and a Morono have roughly the same cargo capacity. Looked it up on Edmunds, and threw in the Infiniti FX just for fun.

        All seats in place:
        2011 Matrix: 19.8 cubic feet
        2012 Murano: 31.6 cubic feet
        2012 Infiniti FX: 24.8 cubic feet

        Max cargo space:
        2011 Matrix: 49.4 cubic feet
        2012 Murano: 64.0 cubic feet
        2012 Infiniti FX: 62.0 cubic feet

        Reply
    • Fangs April 4, 2012, 4:37 pm

      My sympathies on the passing of your furbaby. My pets help make life worthwhile. I hope the pain passes quickly and you are left with happy memories. They go way too quickly.

      Reply
      • Chris April 4, 2012, 8:43 pm

        I’ll second that. I’ve cried about twice in the last five years, and both times were when my dogs died-very sad days. Sorry for your loss.

        On the issue of cargo space- a Matrix has a ton of it!! Big misconception. I’ve made a game out of seeing what I can fit into my Prius, with the seats laid down, of course! I make Costco runs in it and trips to Lowes. My brother and I (both 6’3″) even fit in the back seat once on a road back from the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, CA-as we happily tugged on a Growler of Sierra Nevada Pale all the way home!!:)

        Reply
  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 4, 2012, 8:29 am

    Great post! Especially about the cable TV. We were going to kick cable during Maximum Mustache March, but spring break, a birthday, and two long severe colds (the second of which I am still suffering from), definitely delayed it. But as soon as we’re both healthy and have more energy than just enough to cook dinner and do dishes, it’s out the door.

    Our latest bill, $120/month! WTF!! Internet only is $64, so it will be nice to get $56 back.

    Reply
    • October MacBain April 4, 2012, 8:42 am

      I don’t understand how spring break, birthdays, and sickness has anything to do with cutting cable.

      Reply
      • Bella April 4, 2012, 8:59 am

        Having just come out of hte winter cold season fog – when it’s tough to just get everyone fed and clean – it’s hard to muster the energy to work with the cable company and it’s replacements etc…

        Reply
        • October MacBain April 4, 2012, 9:08 am

          Sounds like an excuse to me. Then again I have no kids at home to drain my energy. I hope you feel better soon and turn it into a Maximum Mustache April.

          Reply
          • Heidi April 4, 2012, 9:17 am

            2 kids. 1 with allergies. Lots of sickness. 5 years later, they have watched 6 movies and perhaps 10 hrs of screen time.

            Reply
          • Heidi April 5, 2012, 7:22 am

            I’ll try again and be more constructive.
            Have you tried audiobooks from the library? These are great on a limited basis for entertainment and sick family times. The age range seems to be 4 and up, though.

            Reply
      • Geek April 4, 2012, 9:11 am

        Entertainment “needs”. You could get Netflix and Amazon Prime videos combined for much less. And still watch Downton Abbey and Dexter!

        Reply
        • Bella April 4, 2012, 2:16 pm

          Needs or wants aside – TV downtime during the week is hubby’s favorite ‘unwind’. I don’t know why but it’s background for web surfing and 401K fund managing. I’ve cut the cable so far back that he’s asked voluntarily to switch to Netflix (I guess that’s one way to get the spouse on board). But here is the thing – we don’t own a spare computer or game console (I know shock and awe – you don’t have a Wii AND a PS3(or 4 or whatever they’re up to these days)). Without actually purchasing one of these items is there a way to take advantage of the cheap Netflix, TV shows etc… If I’m honest, I would *like* a Wii console, so I may run the numbers to see if we save enough to on cable to justify getting one, but it all seems pretty anti-mustachian to me.

          Reply
          • Fangs April 4, 2012, 5:38 pm

            A one-time purchase of Roku will get you Netflix and all the rest for under $100.

            Reply
          • James April 5, 2012, 1:55 pm

            Apple TV is $100

            Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 11:40 am

        Agreed.. I’ve been meaning to address this tendency of our friend Marcia to use the MMM comments as a place to express Antimustachian Excusitis sessions, rather than tell us of her accomplishments! ;-)

        Canceling cable takes no effort and no research. You call, you cancel. Your life becomes better immediately. It has been almost a year since I instructed you all to do this and I am losing patience with all these reports of continued TV watching!

        Reply
      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 4, 2012, 11:43 am

        Man, my sinuses hurt so much the last few days I want to jump off a bridge. As in: never-ending constant pain. I have been sick for a week. My husband was sick for 1.5 weeks before that. We were out of town for a week. I am 6 months pregnant and have been suffering from insomnia for about 6 months, so I am exhausted.

        As Bella says, I can barely muster the energy to get everyone fed and dressed. And today, my very spare energy is going to call an acupuncturist, who can hopefully help me with the insomnia and sinus pain before I end up with a sinus infection.

        It’s hard to understand if you don’t have kids. I’m just happy that after a few years of nagging (and a few years of deciding not to fight the battle), my husband is finally onboard with cutting cable. He was the holdout.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 12:03 pm

          What the hell is this? The Mr. Morose Moaning Mustache blog??

          Holy shit! I couldn’t have written a more ridiculous complaint if I had done it sarcastically!

          This is not the place you come to complain about problems and excuses – in fact, there is NO PLACE in the world where complaints like that are useful.

          I’m only sort of joking here, valued reader. Your Antimustachian ways have become a topic of conversation at MMM headquarters for some time now. Be warned ;-)

          Reply
          • Erik Y April 4, 2012, 1:23 pm

            Secret confession. I work for the cable company and therefore get my cable and internet for free. If I didn’t work for the company I would only subscribe to the internet service.

            Reply
          • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 4, 2012, 1:40 pm

            Well, I kinda thought this was a place where I could be brutally honest about my successes and failures. Because let’s face it, I’m not perfect, and I don’t pretend to be.

            It’s more popular when you have a public persona to be, well, “perfect” – because then you can rag on everyone else for their anti-mustachian ways or imperfections. I get that. I have a frugal healthy food blog, but you know, I’m brutally honest about the days that I throw pre-frozen breaded chicken pieces in the oven because that’s what I have the energy to do. But I’m also proud of the days that I make my own pizza dough and can my own sauce from scratch.

            Yeah, you like going on ski trips to Tahoe, we enjoy the occasional bad TV show. WE ARE TAKING STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, and I guess I considered that would be helpful to those starting on the path…”gee, she’s been pretty frugal for a decade now, and still isn’t perfect!” It’s a continuum, not a black and white thing for me. And like anything, it’s a constant struggle to fight what is “normal” to everyone else. I’m not even going to pretend that the first few months without the ability to mindleslys surf the TV stations is going to be easy. But then again, maybe I can learn to knit.

            But maybe I just need to shut up and pretend to be something I’m not. I can be anyone I want on the internet – I can claim to grow my own food, have no cable, have no car… And right now, really, nobody except my boss and my husband and my kid really care that I’ve been in more pain the last 3 days than the last 3 years combined. Am I being a complainy-pants? Sure. But walk a mile dude. If I weren’t pregnant, I could take some meds that would mean the pain wasn’t an issue, but I can’t. We are getting there, give me some credit for that.

            You’ve had some really good recent articles on how to sell your spouse on these kinds of changes. I really worked on the cable TV angle for years. I got so much resistance because it was my spouse’s favorite form of entertainment, that I decided to stop fighting the battle. And finally, I’ve won! Without really pushing! I consider that to be a success! HE’S made the decision and I’m going to allow HIM to make that phone call in his own time, which will probably be after he gets back from his business trip and finishes the taxes. Would I rather it be today? YES. Have I learned after 16 years of marriage to push in some areas and let him work at his own pace in others? Yes.

            Reply
            • Ben April 4, 2012, 2:54 pm

              I sympathize… I tend to put off making difficult phone calls. But canceling your cable will probably take less time than it took you to write all the comments on this single blog post. You have the time, now you must motivate yourself to take action!

              Other readers have said their cable bill cost about $50-60/month more than Internet alone. So what if someone were taking $2 out of your wallet once per day? That’s essentially what’s happening, and until you call it won’t stop.

              Reply
              • Riley April 5, 2012, 5:54 am

                I made the mistake of making the call the other day without discussing it first. Opps! I figured I was the one who made the mistake to add it in the first place 6 months ago to give it a try. Didn’t believe there was any added value (sometimes you’ve just got to learn things the hard way-doesn’t matter how many times you’re told. Which gets me nervous about our kids’ approaching teen years….but back to the subject), so have switched back to Netflix. It’s true- you call, and instantaneously, it’s disconnected! Ooooo, but should have seen the face I walked into when getting home. Someone had planned to DVR a marathon of “An Idiot Abroad” the next day. Thank goodness Netflix had that series on DVD. Reminds me of a previous topic where it was recommended to discuss any purchase over $10 with your SO- learned the reverse it true as well :-)

            • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 3:31 pm

              Sorry if I was a little harsh there, Marcia :-) — I just have to keep up my strict reputation around here.

              The day Mr. Money Mustache allows someone to complain about allergies and such, in the comments section in front of thousands of people, without giving them a hard time, is the day he is no longer qualified to be Mr. Money Mustache.

              It’s just the rules, I’m sure everyone understands.

              Reply
              • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 4, 2012, 7:12 pm

                Hey, I have a nasty head cold and severe sinus pain so bad I barely slept a wink last night. Someone else was complaining about allergies. :) I get it. Sometimes. Today – I’m a bit tense.

            • KET67RN April 4, 2012, 4:54 pm

              We gave up cable about 3 or 4 years ago. I never thought I would EVER give up my cable and DVD. I felt it was my God given right as a night shift worker. I’m a nurse and usually sleeping or working when anything interesting is on TV. (During my waking hours, my only choices are things like Judge Judy and a bunch of commercials about filing bankruptcy or going back to school for a rewarding career in bartending.)

              Anyway, my husband pays the utility bills and one month he mentioned that our cable/internet bill was $150/mo. WHAT???? I had a cow. I had no idea it was that much. So we canceled both and got free dial up internet. We quickly realized that we would go bananas without high speed internet, but hardly missed the cable TV. We use the 1 DVD/streaming Netflix plan and free Hulu. My husband built a computer attached to our TV in the living room that has a DVD player so I can record any network stuff and watch streaming internet on the TV. The computer parts costs about $500 and were well worth it to us. Our high speed internet costs about $40/mo. And the few times I find myself in a hotel each year, I have myself a House Hunters marathon while husband and toddler splash in the pool. Try it — it won’t be as bad as you thought. Just make sure you immediately start doing something with the money you save, like increasing your direct deposit to savings by commensurate amount. Otherwise it will just get frittered away (at least in my house it would). Good luck and hope you feel better soon.

              Reply
            • lhamo April 5, 2012, 6:03 am

              marcia — come back to the SLN forums! we miss you and we’ll even let you complain from time to time:) Plenty of MMM fans over there, and we’ll give you tough love if/when you need it, but we’re a little bit more snuggly and less bootcampy.

              Congrats on the pregnancy!

              Reply
          • Emmers April 7, 2012, 9:46 pm

            She lost me at “acupuncturist,” but aside from that, please read:

            http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory-written-by-christine-miserandino/

            It’s really hard to grok these things if you’re an able-bodied person.

            Reply
        • MacGyverIt April 4, 2012, 5:48 pm

          Congrats on the cutting cable, Marcia, your awesome persuasion skills are to be commended! Hope you get to feeling better.

          Reply
  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 4, 2012, 8:32 am

    That’s some fantastic advice, as usual, Triple-M.

    The family in this case study is actually doing really well and with the changes you suggest, they could get back what’s most important to any family: time together. Priceless! Those kids will only be kids for so long so enjoy it while you can!

    Reply
  • October MacBain April 4, 2012, 8:40 am

    My partner and I ‘survive’ on $3400 a month. Less, when you consider we’re able to put $500 into savings each month as well as throwing about $650 at our debt. So, really, we’re able to live on about $2250 a month.

    We were barely scraping by month-to-month with little to no savings last year, until we started reading MMM and taking charge of our spending. His advice is worth heeding.

    Reply
    • Dancedancekj April 4, 2012, 7:58 pm

      That’s awesome! I’m glad to hear that such a drastic change was able to be seen in such a short period of time. Success stories like this make me happy :)

      Reply
  • Matt G April 4, 2012, 8:41 am

    I love the Steven King Analogy! If they don’t follow your advice they are crazy.

    Reply
  • Poor Student April 4, 2012, 8:51 am

    I find it strange that some people can be paying two car loans and not know how they can reduce their expenses, and tat he never took into consideration how much they would be saving from having his wife not have the cost of commuting.

    But it goes to show the difference between the modestly frugal life (which he claims) and the Mustachian. It is the difference between working a crappy job or having the freedom to be with your kids all day.

    Reply
    • Steve April 4, 2012, 9:05 am

      It isn’t all that strange. You have a car loan and you know the car isn’t worth the amount on the loan. You give up the car, and you still owe money, and you no longer have a car. It isn’t an easy decision to make for anyone.

      And the difference between working a crappy job and being with your kids all day isn’t as clear cut either. My wife stays home, and now when I go home, I may not listen to crappy job complaints, but I get to listen to how so and so didn’t show up to the play date etc etc. Staying at home isn’t the idealized happy fun time of snuggling and baby learning new words. No, there’s days when she whines all day long…for no good reason and there’s 8 or so hours with little to none adult/adult interaction.

      Reply
      • Heidi April 4, 2012, 9:29 am

        If that is your situation then changes need to be made. I used to whine to my husband and need his help when he came home. We made changes, the kids got older and now every day I am happy and still energized. Its no different from getting finances under control. Its your life and your ability to make changes.

        This may sound a bit harsh, but, seriously, I am a bit incredulous about this case study. An elementary school principal who is responsible for the education of how many children can’t do the math and come up with those simple steps. How is this not deserving of a mighty Moustache punch? Perhaps MMM is just more generous today than I am.

        I bet there are people reading this blog with much more complex financial problems–perhaps a few without college degrees. My own plan involves something like 6 steps.
        1) stay put, live off 34,000, get rid of junk, improve skills
        2) husband interviews for unknown amount of jobs in new skills area
        3) sell house and move family at minimum 2.5 hrs away
        4) go down to 1 or 0 cars, use public transportation
        5)live mustachian for 10 or so years
        6) FI

        Each of these steps involves much work and time. The steps of change in the case study are basically the same–Acknowledge the resource you already own, change it. A few phone calls and ta-duh–your life is back.

        call me out if I am wrong on this perspective.

        Reply
        • Steve April 4, 2012, 11:04 am

          Like you, I have a current list that’s a work in progress. I wish I could just make a few calls and ta-duh, but it’s always much harder going. First there’s my wife, and she doesn’t always jump on the boat when I have ideas for pounding expenses into oblivion. Some things were easy, like going online and getting a prepaid cellphone. Some have been harder. Some, like selling our home – paying an agent – paying for a new loan are much more serious and harder to accomplish.

          Reply
          • Heidi April 4, 2012, 11:15 am

            My husband’s awesome and completely different from me. He cares about FI in a totally different way since he is working FT now. I like numbers and freedom. I learned 3 useful things from book-selling back in college.
            1) meet people where they are at. i.e. My husband doesn’t want to fix our cars. Fine. Eventually, we won’t own a car, will own a newer car that we barely drive, or he’ll want to fix it.
            2) Change what you can. That includes people.
            3) I despise trying to get people to want things.

            Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 11:34 am

          Of course, what you are saying makes sense Heidi. But in case you didn’t notice, you are already seriously badass. This is not the case for most people in the United states.

          Just yesterday, my friend told me a tale of a person who drives a brand-new V-8 pickup truck TWO MILES, five times a week to go to the gym for exercise. During a break, this person, who is neither a farmer nor a building contractor, drove the shiny, empty pickup truck 0.5 miles to purchase a starbucks latte and some bottled water, which he brought back to the gym. The gym already has a water fountain.

          This person has a graduate degree, and borrowed money to buy the truck. It’s still not paid off.

          This person is a completely typical US resident. He is just one of the millions of reasons this blog exists!

          Reply
          • Kenneth April 4, 2012, 12:00 pm

            i drive 5 miles to the Gym which is on the way to work, 5 days a week, before work. I do 60 minutes treadmill or exercise bike and weight machines combo. I don’t get a latte because the YMCA has free coffee and I fill up my travel mug on the way out the door. I’m a junior mustache, but working my way up!

            Reply
        • Gabrielle April 4, 2012, 12:11 pm

          There’s a fine line between a tongue in cheek “punch in the face” and comments denigrating the person asking for advice. There is a valuable community here sharing their learning, experience and advice and there are participants at various points along the spectrum of FI. As earlier commentors have gracefully allowed, even just removing oneself from the paradigm and thoughtfully considering choices on housing, transportation and consumption is a huge first step. With a little encouragement, concrete suggestions and proven success, the ‘stache will begin to grow.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 12:15 pm

            Very wise and diplomatic, Gabrielle. Normally I try to follow your method of counseling, but today as you can see, the fists are flying. Things seem to get out of control for me when the issue of driving vs. cycling comes up :-)

            Reply
          • Heidi April 5, 2012, 7:08 am

            Gabrielle. Thanks. I did denigrate him and I see my mistake. I apologize. I hope he and his wife can embrace this and enjoy their life more.
            I never really joined the paradigm but that cost me. I made other mistakes, one of the biggest being I didn’t understand the benefits of higher income rather than always cutting costs.
            I got stuck in my own viewpoint as well.

            Reply
        • Riley April 5, 2012, 6:08 am

          It’s just like any other change in life- it’s a process that takes time. Imagine my disappointment when we approached Potty Training day. There’s the potty kid, I trained ya, now use it. Stop playin’ with that roll of toilet paper like a kitty on catnip. What do ya mean, “Will I wipe you?”

          Reply
      • Christa the BabbyMama May 3, 2012, 8:03 am

        Some people are suited to staying at home and some people do better with a little adult interaction built into their day. If staying home is making a parent unhappy, there are plenty of alternatives – many of which bring in income!

        Reply
  • Erik Y April 4, 2012, 8:52 am

    Excellent advice from Mr. MM here. I would really like to hear how the giant middle finger goes. I have a similar salary, a much stupider (bigger- mortgage, a passle more kids, and an 8 mile commute (by bus). My wife has been able to stay home with the kids for the past 19 years. It’s all about making choices and deciding what’s important to your family. I hope good things come.

    Reply
  • Zach April 4, 2012, 9:00 am

    Wow I laughed right out loud twice at the Murano comment and the middle finger on the bosses desk bit. I guess I can no longer read this article in the comfort of my office with co-workers present. Nice advice MMM!

    Reply
  • Bella April 4, 2012, 9:04 am

    This was a great article. I love the Stephen King analogy. We are happily a multiple car household (yes they’re paid off). But I got to say – once you have a kid in tow (who hates their carseat) the more errands you can run on foot or bike the better!

    Reply
  • Darlene April 4, 2012, 9:13 am

    I’m sitting at work with tears in my eyes. Can you run the numbers for us, too? I really hope that his wife quits tomorrow.

    Reply
  • Llama April 4, 2012, 10:28 am

    I think the elementary school for my neighborhood is about 1.5 miles away, maybe a little less. The kids in my ‘hood walk it most days. The kids in the poorer neighborhood over the hill walk it even when it’s cold and rainy.

    What a GREAT way for this PRINCIPAL to set a healthy example for his students- WALK TO SCHOOL WITH THEM!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 11:27 am

      YEAH!! .. I hadn’t even thought of that, but Principal S. will become a great landmark in his own community – every day the kids and parents will see him walking – rain or shine, and they might even start to group around him where everyone walks together. He’ll get a chance to talk to and meet kids he wouldn’t have otherwise met.

      Other teachers from the ‘hood might even join in – the tradition will become so entertaining and strong that it is copied across the country.

      Soon, ALL principals will walk to school with a gaggle of teachers and students – it will be a defining tradition the US educational system, which will of course then be copied by all other countries.

      All from just one MMM article and one reader making a change. Awesome!!

      Reply
      • AspiringYogini April 5, 2012, 6:19 am

        Yes, and he should sing “Zippity do da” and perch that bluebird on his finger too.

        This just goes to show you that you can have Disney-like fantasies without the expense of cable TV!

        Reply
        • Llama April 5, 2012, 9:59 pm

          That’s all I’m asking for.

          Reply
  • LG April 4, 2012, 10:45 am

    Plugging Geico for a buck? What gives, MMM – I thought you were above that. Don’t get on the product placement train, it’s anti mustachian after all.

    Reply
    • Jimbo April 4, 2012, 11:04 am

      I disagree. If he feels Geico gives the best service at the best price, why NOT recommend it? People need insurance. It’s not like he is advertising the new Jeep. That would suck.

      In fact there is only so many products MMM can support. Insurance and financial stuff are definitely the main ones. If he makes a buck doing it, then it sounds pretty fair to me.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 11:16 am

        Thanks Jimbo. I’m not “plugging” companies in hopes of making a buck.

        But if there’s stuff that I already use and I feel it would benefit a reader due to lowering their own costs, AND I have a choice between using a standard link vs. a link that pays the blog – I’m going to use the paid link.

        If there’s ever a question about my integrity in recommending based on trying to earn income rather than the best company, feel free to call me out on it and share the even-better company with us. Better companies always get the recommendation, whether they pay for referrals or not. I’ve already changed several things in the “MMM recommends” page based on reader feedback and found better companies because of it.

        As for “why would you want more income?” – in part to start projects that help people in the future, and in part just to learn more about how easy or difficult it is to make a living online. There are at least a few hundred other bloggers that read MMM, and if I can figure out some tricks that allow a writer to get paid for writing, I’ll be pleased to be able to share them with the other bloggers.

        Reply
        • Riley April 5, 2012, 6:14 am

          Where’ the Netflix and Hulu ads? ;-)

          Reply
  • slugsworth April 4, 2012, 12:14 pm

    I just wanted to add – Principal S. would be setting a good example by riding a bike or walking to school. The whole children with obsesity epidemic is absolutely mind blowing – I hope at a minimum he takes MMM advice to walk the 20 minutes to school!

    Reply
    • Tanner April 4, 2012, 5:11 pm

      Plus! Think of the example it would set for the other teachers and other employees of the school. I’m pretty sure teachers make on average half what a principal makes. And if te principal is walking/riding their bike to work and basically saying I’m not wealthy enough to drive a car! It could start a revolution. Basic finance 101 by example. I love it! Our education system ( in my experience) is lacking major basic financial education. And it should start in the elementary age.

      Can’t wait to hear of this families successes!

      MMM here is an idea: follow up 6mths or a year after a reader case study to see how the family has changed their financial situation and whether they earned an approved stache or a need a new punch in the face to continue to change ; ) plus it would probably be an encouragement to new readers on how families/individuals have changed their financial culture! From where they might be?!

      Reply
  • Rich M. April 4, 2012, 12:32 pm

    Don’t forget, when you refinance, Principle S. use the leftover money from selling the Murano, after paying off the other car to drop the principle down a bit. Putting ten grand on the house will reduce the monthly payment $70/month assuming a 15 year loan at 3.38%. Hopefully you have the equity in the home to avoid paying mortgage insurance.

    Reply
  • Rich Schmidt April 4, 2012, 4:23 pm

    Quick note: Sometimes principals have to go to meetings in other places. So his “work driving” might not just be 1.5 miles to work in the morning and 1.5 miles home at night. It might not be a big deal for him to walk/bike that 3-mile round trip, but if he has to be at a meeting on the other side of town during the work day, he might not have the luxury of taking an extra 20 minutes to bike there and another 20 minutes to bike back.

    Just tossing that out there, as the husband of a school administrator in a small town almost no public transportation. :)

    Reply
    • Bella April 4, 2012, 4:31 pm

      Yea, But MMM let them keep a car – she just needs to plan to be car free those days.

      Reply
  • Rita April 4, 2012, 5:33 pm

    I live alone in a paid for small house with a wood stove and a garden on less than $10,000/yr. I do still have an ’05 Honda Civic that I think about selling to get out from under the insurance, but it costs me only about $100/mo (for everything).

    I love that friggin car. If I keep reading this blog, I bet eventually I will finally be able to let go of it.

    Reply
    • Emmers April 7, 2012, 9:58 pm

      Having a paid-off car and paid-off house is awesome! (And a big part of why you’re able to live on so little!) With the car itself, I think you just have to weigh your own costs and benefits. Maybe run some numbers — how much would it cost you to rent a car for the occasional times when you needed it? (And how much of a pain would it be to get *to* the rental place to pick up the rental car?) Etc.

      Reply
  • MacGyverIt April 4, 2012, 5:41 pm

    How the hell does anyone consistently read this web site – or any ER-related web site – and maintain the burden of cable television and a car payment? WTF?!

    Dude, read the English on your screen!!!! If you are reading this post with either of the above expenses, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200 (towards your early retirement!) until you get rid of the car payment and mindless entertainment.

    Unreal. Now I need an aspirin….

    Reply
    • AA June 24, 2013, 12:46 pm

      Simple reason I have cable – I have a 68 year old mother who absolutely refuses to learn to use a computer (so no Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime.) So, I begrudgingly pay for cable each month, resenting the fact that I have to.

      My mom is like the mom on Everybody Loves Raymond… I have no hope of not giving her exactly what she wants.

      I would need the asprin every moment of every day if I had to deal with her complaining about not having cable.

      Reply
      • tbird3077 April 7, 2014, 10:33 am

        Disconnect! Netflix can be accessed on the television through the remote control. You’re just paying to watch commercials. She’ll adjust. Plus think of the all of the “classic” shows and movies she’ll be able to watch!

        Reply
  • BE @ BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog April 4, 2012, 7:19 pm

    This case study is so money! harsh reality is refreshing.

    Reply
  • Derek MacDougall April 4, 2012, 7:21 pm

    I found this site one week ago and have already read all posts. Great site, man! But what about company cars? I live in Hamilton, Ontario, and commute 65 kms each way. The only thing I’m currently loosing is time, since the company pays all gas, insurance, and maintenance. Even for my commute (which apparently is against the “tax” rules.) For anyone considering receiving a company car: think and research hard. If you like to wander off on the odd long weekends, don’t forget that you will be reporting a weekly report. And if ever audited, an overage on 10% personal usage could spell disaster come tax time. But if you play it smart, a company car can be a huge raise to your income. I only make 35,000 per year on my main jobby, without car perks. The car perks can add up to easily another 5 grand/year.

    Reply
  • bogart April 4, 2012, 7:34 pm

    No offense to Principal S., but this seems like boringly low-hanging fruit for MMM to pick for a post. I skimmed the article, started reading the comments, and found myself thinking, “But … But …! I must have missed some detail. Mrs. S. must love her job! It must be where they get their health insurance!” But … no. So, right. I just wonder if something else is going on here. Maybe Mrs. S. doesn’t feel comfortable not being an earner? Perhaps Principal and Mrs. S. could look at putting funds into a Roth in her name after she quits, if so? It’s true (at least in my state of residence) that for a married couple with retirement accounts, they are joint even though in individual names if, heaven forbid, the couple splits, etc., but people often don’t know that, other states may manage things differently, and there’s something to be said for having stuff (e.g. some of your joint retirement savings) in your own name. Because beyond that I just can’t figure out what the problem is.

    Also — oh the scandal — I for one am a huge fan of good quality paid day- / childcare for the preschool set; it helps keep my household sane. But this needn’t (necessarily) be all or nothing, though what’s available, especially part-time, will probably vary by area. Still, if one reason Mrs. S. is in the workforce is that she (like me) sees advantages to some out-of-the-home childcare, there may be ways to maintain (some of) that while also reducing costs.

    Reply
    • Gerard April 4, 2012, 7:50 pm

      But in a way that’s the point… most of the fruit is low-hanging (at least on the expense reduction end). At least it is once we get past worrying about neighbours and friends telling us, “OMG I can’t believe you’re still eating low-hanging fruit when you could finance a 2012 High-hanging Fruit Selecter!”

      Reply
      • bogart April 5, 2012, 8:08 pm

        I’m holding out for the 2013 model, I hear it’s going to have bluetooth ;) (naturally I’ll pay cash)!

        Reply
  • andria April 4, 2012, 8:01 pm

    Okay, I need to know who can I go through to get a 3% mortgage???? It seems impossible and costly because they want a 500.00 upfront for appraisal fee and no guarantee on the percentage since the home dropped about 10k in value.

    Reply
    • Llama April 5, 2012, 11:37 am

      I just refinanced from 4.875 to 3.75 about a week ago. I had to pay $95 or so for the notary and filing paperwork. Since it was a streamline refi (or something- my husband did all the legwork) they didn’t need to appraise or anything.

      Find a reputable broker in your area and see what can be done. I know there was a lot of stuff passed by Obama to help homeowners who aren’t behind in payments. I’m happy I was able to take advantage!

      Reply
      • andria April 5, 2012, 10:27 pm

        Thank you I will try that.

        Reply
      • Blake April 6, 2012, 10:13 am

        I’d be interested to know what kind of legwork he had to do.

        Reply
    • Emmers April 7, 2012, 10:00 pm

      Our credit union has like 3.25%, although that might just be for shorter loan terms, I”m not sure.

      Reply
  • Richie Rich$$ April 4, 2012, 8:54 pm

    Mustache– I’m new to your blog and would like to pose a question. You’re all about cancelling cable, why not go a step further and suggest people also cancel their internet??? People spend countless hours on the internet (comparable in my eyes to watching tv). You could use your savings to market the idea of principals walking their students to school….

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 4, 2012, 10:14 pm

      I guess it depends how you use the internet.. Some use it to stream “dancing with the stars”. Others use it to learn every subject known to humanity and make thousands of dollars per day, as well as for their sole means of communication with distant friends. For the second group, Internet access is a pretty high priority.

      Reply
      • Shiznik April 5, 2012, 8:11 am

        The internet is SO much more useful than cable TV, which has absolutely zero utility. I agree that the internet can be a tempting way to waste time with youtube videos or video games, but it is such a massive wealth of knowledge that is always waiting me me to dip into it if I need some reference material, or when its time for me to learn a new subject. I feel if you use the internet as reference material or as a learning tool then the its cost is well worth it.

        Reply
      • TLV April 5, 2012, 11:10 am

        Spot on! Video chat alone is worth it, so grandparents can see the grandkids more often, not to mention working from home, learning DIY skills from youtube, putting books on hold at the library, accessing consumer reports/chiltons through the library website, craigslist, online banking…

        Some of these things would be available by going to the library and using the free internet there, but some aren’t very feasible. I’d guess that between DIY videos and craigslist alone I recoup the cost of internet every month and then some.

        Unfortunately, my wife does have a tendency to stream “Dancing with the stars” when I’m not looking.

        Reply
  • Klaas April 4, 2012, 8:57 pm

    “She will also become a dependent for tax purposes – more deductions.”

    That’s not true. A spouse is almost never a tax dependent, and the rare exception would only apply to an MFS or HOH return. Filing MFJ, they’re already claiming a personal exemption for each of them. You’re right about the tax benefit of not having any income taxed at 25% any more, but there probably aren’t others.

    Reply
    • Emmers April 7, 2012, 10:05 pm

      “You’re right about the tax benefit of not having any income taxed at 25% anymore” –> what is this, I don’t even???

      If you make (using round numbers) 100k that’s taxed at 15%, and you have the *option* of *then* making $50k more that’s taxed at 25%, why on earth would you think that “just 100k” is a better financial deal? Last I checked, (85k + 37,500) > (80k).

      Or, do you just resent having to pay a higher percentage of your highest (50k) of income?

      There’s not some magical “tax benefit” that comes with earning less gross income. (At least not in the USA, which uses tax brackets.) If you earn more gross income, you *will* take home more net income, even after taxes. That is how it works.

      If I completely misunderstood your comment about tax benefits and 25% being disadvantageous, let me know! But…huh?

      Reply
  • Market Timer April 4, 2012, 9:11 pm

    Don’t forget to include in the analysis that the principal’s take-home pay will increase due to a lower effective tax rate (lower household income).

    Reply
    • Emmers April 7, 2012, 10:07 pm

      Could you expand your comment here with a mathematical example? I’m starting to get the sense that folks don’t understand how progressive taxation works…if you hit the 25% bracket, that doesn’t mean that *all* your income is taxed at 25% — it means that all your income *within that bracket* is taxed at 25%. Income within lower brackets is taxed at lower rates.

      Reply
      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life September 28, 2012, 12:58 am

        Yes, a shocking number of people do not understand how progressive taxation brackets work. People think there is some magic crossover number where everything gets taxed at a higher rate, from $0 on up.

        Reply
  • DDD April 4, 2012, 9:34 pm

    When your wife is ready to give the job a middle finger, instead of that, she could walk in and offer to stay with the company under the condition that she cuts her hours to 20 hours per week and only work from home for say $25,000 per year. Then, you still cut the costs as MMM said, and take her 25k and stash it.

    My wife wanted to stay home when our son was born, and while we had to make adjustments (like living in a condo), all other mothers envy her. She spends hours each day walking in parks, picnicking, laying in the grass and watching clouds fly by with our son. Our almost 2 year old son already knows entire alphabet, counts to 20 etc, something we credit to the fact that she is spending so much time with him. And, since my wife wanted thread of social aspect that comes with work, she decided to work from home a few hours per week. So, I highly recommend MMM plan.

    Reply
  • Jill April 5, 2012, 6:26 am

    I drive to my job that is only a 20 minute walk away, but that’s because I am a single (divorced) parent who has to drop my kids off at a family member’s house for babysitting in the opposite direction. I tried to think about driving them, driving home and walking from there, but I would rather drop my kids off 20 minutes later and get them 20 minutes earlier. But at least my car is a paid off 2007 Honda Fit! Doing the best I can!

    Reply
    • Shiznik April 5, 2012, 8:17 am

      I would agree with you that being able to drop your children off safely and quickly is important, but I’ve got a few quick questions to understand your daily routine a little better. How far in the opposite direction is the babysitter, how old are your children, and if they’re old enough to ride a bike, have you considered bicycling? That would cut it down to a 5 minute bike ride instead of a 20 minute walk :D
      Congrats on the destruction of your auto loan!

      Reply
  • Poor to Rich a Day at a Time April 5, 2012, 6:55 am

    I am a stay at home mom on $17,000 a year family of 5. It is all about choices, there is no reason you can not live easily on the $80,000 a year if your wife makes the choice to stay home.

    You have many areas to cut back in as others have already pointed out,

    Your kids are only young once………..ENJOY them while you can :)

    Reply
  • maverickjsp April 5, 2012, 8:38 am

    I make my living based on people buying cars.
    Other peoples foolish purchases make my FI easier!
    It also makes it easier for everyone who chooses to live by MMM credo easier to obtain as there is more $/Cheaper resourses available.

    SO Please Don’t tell everyone. :)

    Reply
    • himynameisrob April 5, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Ah, the paradox of thrift. I was just thinking about that the other day. The green conservationist side of me wants everyone to eliminate their wasteful habits. The cold, calculating FI side of me hopes that the party continues so my portfolio stays on track for retirement. What to do?

      Reply
  • Raech April 5, 2012, 9:12 am

    Ok, maybe I missed it – I did skim some of the comments – where is the proposal to drop the cell phones? It seems like a lot of our society has bought into the cell phone concept too. If the husband is a principal, they’ve got phones at work. At home, get a cheap landline. We were paying $150/mo for cell phones – and that was with a discount for my work! (two of us, plus $5/mo for my child, w/ taxes etc.) Seriously – how can that be justified, yet, so many folks do! Cell phones are a convenience, NOT a necessity! We did the same – double income to one income, and yes, the numbers didn’t add up – until we made some “tough” choices. Giving up the cell phones really hurt. But $150/mo (or even if we got it down to $100 – for a convenience! Not something that’s justifiable!

    Reply
    • KET67RN April 5, 2012, 9:50 am

      I agree about the cellphones. We have only 1 cell phone, and it’s a Tracphone from Target. We use it very infrequently. No contract, no monthly fees, we put minutes on it every once in a while when we find a good deal. We do have a land line and don’t plan to get rid of that. We have looked into getting an OOMA or some other type of VOIP technology, but so far haven’t made that jump.

      I also agree that most people just assume that everyone has a cell phone (it DOES kind of seem that way). In fact, in the past few weeks, I had at least 3 people ask me questions beginning with “Does your phone have X” — just assuming that I had one. My coworker offered to put me on her plan w/a nice phone w/internet and cost would be $44/mo but she said it would be a 2 year contract and that killed the idea for me. We seem to be doing fine without a fancy cell phone, and this family probably could do without it as well since Dad works so close to home and if Mom quit job to be at home w/kids.

      Reply
      • Tanner April 5, 2012, 10:48 am

        You can get rid of your landline too for a cheap up front cost. You could probably you can find this in the forums. Get a google voice account and an obion device (google it). You can even port your number to google voice for $20 (or pick a number from google free) and the obion I think was $45 or something. It rings just like a landline. I ported my cell number and if people call me if just rings at home. Plus you get free texting with google voice which i think MMM posted about. Also you can plug the Obion into a normal phone jack and get 911 service as well if you are worried about that. It’s currently savings me $50 a month rather than having a cell phone plan. I also do have a cheap tracfone for emergencies. Amazon had a deal for $100 – you get a phone, triple minutes for life and something like 1200 minutes for a year.

        Reply
    • Bella April 5, 2012, 10:02 am

      This is bad advice! With the common adoption of cellphone there has been a DRAMATIC decrease in working pay phones. Like – NONE! The other day I was supposed to meet my husband – and his phone died – he walked through three shopping centers and all of the phone booths were either empty or had a phone but it didn’t work. Maybe it’s a’convenience’ you don’t need, but maybe so is trash pickup, or other conveniences that are now part of modern society. I’m not saying they should have a fancy pants data plan and everything – but the safety net for contact that used to be there isn’t.

      Reply
      • KET67RN April 5, 2012, 10:23 am

        I agree with your point, and this is the reason why we have the Trac phone. MY point is that there is no need to spend so much or use a cell phone that often. Yes, it’s “easier” to have a cell phone, but there can be a high price to be paid for that convenience. Husband and I realize that we are dinosaurs, but if it was really a “need” we would have one too. We manage just fine without.

        Reply
      • Raech April 5, 2012, 10:34 am

        Bella – I have 5 kids, and worried about emergencies. Indeed, with fewer payphones, it’s less likely I’d to be able to use that. However, it’s not bad advice. Paying for something that’s a convenience – which it is, IS bad advice. The husband has a phone at school, get a landline, problem solved. There are emergencies that happen – most often on the road, I’ve found, and that is the ONLY time it’s been an issue. Trying to spend less time on the road, and we’ve found most places will let you borrow a phone etc. It’s really not that crazy.

        Reply
    • Riley April 5, 2012, 1:22 pm

      Admit- do own an OLD School cell phone that flips like a jack-knife. Don’t want to update to the latest gadget, just like having it for emergencies (like the time the school tried to get a hold of me when the kids were sick, and I DIDN’T have it on? Whoops. Not fun when the working hubby gets called to pick up their kids across town, and I’m out walking outside less than a mile away.) We’ve still got a land line as we haven’t given cell phones to our kids (although, have used trac phones when on the ski hills to keep in touch). Also, did have a phone go dead once, and had to stop at a store to use their land line to call home (more upset that SO didn’t pick up our home phone because didn’t recognize the number on caller ID).

      My concern is how this technology is adding onto the instant gratification expectation of our current society. Sometimes wish for simplier times. Gone are the days before voicemail where you patiently waited for hours for the phone to ring from that “special” someone. And, if you were sick at school, you’d need to wait at school until a parent was home to pick up the phone and get you!

      Reply
    • Emmers April 7, 2012, 10:12 pm

      Er, we pay $35 a month for our two cell phones, with a pay-as-you-go plan. The increased personal security and convenience (being able to call if we’re late, being able to call USAA if we’re in an accident, etc.) is *so* worth the $5 (?) increase over a landline.

      Also, if you do any extracurricular activities, being able to stay in contact with others is absolutely vital. We had a huge tournament this weekend that could *not* have happened without mobile technology. I know extracurriculars aren’t Mustachian, hehehe, but even so. ;-)

      Reply
  • SAHM April 5, 2012, 10:00 am

    I gave up my 100k+ job 2 years ago and we are living on my husband’s income of 90k. I am presently home with my 1 and 3 year old. Our home and cars are paid off so basically our monthly expenses are utilities, insurances, property taxes and groceries. We do not live in a McMansion so our home expenses are pretty low. Hubby’s work commute is about 3 miles away and occasionally he has to travel to meet with clients but he gets gas reimbursements . We have been maxing out his 401k, his and my IRA and HSA for the past 2 years and will continue to do so. We also contribute to our kids’ 529s . The point that I am making is when we were making almost 200k (as a double income family with one child) back then, it was unbearable. The daycare cost was almost $1800 per month and we had no time or too hungry to cook, so we ate out or ordered delivery. I did not come home until almost 8:30pm every night on the days that I worked. My oldest child was in daycare during her awake hours and came home pretty much to sleep. The hardest part was making childcare arrangements when my husband had overnight business trips, it was like begging on our bended knees for close relatives to come and help us watch our kid for a couple days. After paying for daycare, taxes, convenience food, my work commute cost, and things that we paid for convenience, we did not have much money left to invest for our retirement. For the past 2 years, my family has been able to enjoy life with mommy/wife home. Hubby comes home from work and is able to enjoy a healthy home cooked meal. We eat breakfast together at home and I prepare his lunch for work on a daily basis. The kids benefit tremendously too with mommy at home with them. We don’t have cable or a phone landline anymore. I have learned how to coupon from couponing blogs and that has helped us maximized our savings. The best thing is that I no longer have to beg anyone to watch my kids so I can go to work. Hubby loves this lifestyle and is totally supportive. We have more disposable income than before when we were a double income family with a child.

    Before kids, we were living on mainly my hubby’s income while I saved mine to pay off the mortgage and to build up our emergency fund and savings.

    I had people telling me that it is a waste that I do not work and stay home to take care of my OWN kids while I could be making 100k+ a year. They said I have wasted my college education and that made me feel guilty and unworthy. Sorry for the long comment but this post has shed some light on me and I no longer feel guilty. You reminded me that I had chosen to stay home because I did and do not want to work my butt off and sacrifice my family for FREE because we were paying for expensive daycare, unhealthy expensive food takeouts and more taxes due to higher income. I totally agree with the phrase… It is not how much you make, it is how much you keep… Thanks and great blog!

    Reply
    • Raech April 5, 2012, 10:38 am

      SAHM, my story is almost identical! It seemed impossible for me to quit my job and stay home, but like you’ve found – it’s AMAZING how much money you save – that you can’t find on paper! Simple things like having more energy to find more resources, more energy NOT to go out and find conveniences to spend money on – we were just so tired. It breaks my heart to see so many others still doing these things – or single parents who really truly don’t have a choice. We’re counting our blessings every day that I’m home now. Excited for you and your family. I may go back to work after my two year leave is up, but I can’t see how it will help us financially – we just get so overwhelmed, so exhausted, that any income gets eaten up by our need for conveniences to just keep going.

      Reply
    • Riley April 5, 2012, 11:30 am

      SAHM- Ditto story. I too have a Master’s in Engineering, and quit some pretty lucrative jobs to stay home. It’s turned out to be the toughest job ever, but the one with the most personal growth potential. My father’s advice was to get an engineering degree because you could go on to do whatever job you’d like, and he wanted his daughter to be able to support herself. I did happen to marry someone I had met at college, but not before having the “opportunity” to live in a town all by myself for a few years (let’s you gain perspective). We now have a beautiful family together, which is number one priority. Glad you’re not feeling guilty about that and have changed your mindset. What’s a waste are the negative comments coming from those that don’t “get it”.

      On the flip side, I do find there are some mental challenges that happen at home….like feeling as if the creative capability you’ve been given is going to waste maybe? Need to channel your energy differently than you were technically trained. I’m still struggling with that, but have tried to challenge myself by seeing how much I can save instead of spend (even if you can spend- being more mindful about it). What’s embarrassing is having your son shout out in the grocery line, “You just cut cable, so how can you pay for that?!” Oh, if only they could only see the big picture; but that will happen sooner than you want.

      You’ve got your hands full now with the 1 and 3 year old. Wait until they are both in school….THAT’s when it’s hard to stay home! I volunteer to get out of the house, and actually have a part-time job…..lunch lady at the kid’s school! It’s a great gig- contribute 100% of the earnings to a 403b, get to see the kids, AND it keeps me out of trouble (a little- must be careful, my hubby has been converted to a MMM reader) ;-)

      Keep it up! You’ve made the right decision!

      Reply
    • Riley April 5, 2012, 12:46 pm

      After thinking about it some more, and looking at your numbers, the only question I would have is why your husband didn’t stay home, and you work? Saw you took home more, so if you only look at the numbers, it’d make sense for you to work- IF you wanted to, and IF your husband stayed home.

      Reply
      • SAHM April 5, 2012, 3:23 pm

        Salary wise, I made more because I worked more hours than him per week but his job provides better work benefits and better quality of life for our family. As a healthcare professional, my work hours would require me to work evenings and weekends which I hate. My hubby deals with numbers for a living so he will always work a Monday to Friday daytime shift . Plus, he would never agree to become a Stay at Home Dad because that would drive him crazy.

        Reply
    • Bill M April 6, 2012, 12:55 pm

      SAHM,
      Can you suggest a good coupon blog. I started looking on line for coupons and I just get overwhelmed with incoming savings “opportunities”

      Reply
  • Chad April 5, 2012, 10:04 am

    Wow, the blog content is good, but the comments are unnecessarily harsh. The advice is warranted, but being belligerent makes some of you sound as bad as the consumerist people.

    Reply
    • rjack April 5, 2012, 10:27 am

      Hmmm…Chad. What you see as harsh, I see as healthy debate.

      The tone of this blog is to try and help people Wake Up from the consumerist BS. There are plenty of other personal finance blogs where all the comments are Nice, but the value of those comments is close to zero.

      Reply
    • Raech April 5, 2012, 10:41 am

      Chad, I agree. rjack – healthy debate is a good thing. Hurtful words aren’t helpful, and they don’t make for “healthy debate.” We’re all here to learn more so we can make a better life.

      Reply
  • LadiesgoFirst April 5, 2012, 10:59 am

    Great job on sticking it to them Mr. MM. There is hardly ever a good reason to stick with a job that you hate, especially when you can be creative and figure out how you can afford to without it! My husband and have been trying to be minimalists for the past year and it has been incredible! We don’t NEED TO buy the fancy shmancy expensive stuff to feel like we are living! I just had a conversation with a coworker last night who told me that i needed to live the high life a little more. He and his wife enjoy stays at hotels that cost 2500 euros, I told him good luck on retiring! That’s a bunch of bologne.

    Reply
  • Jasper April 5, 2012, 11:07 am

    I generally like the site, the articles & the comments for the most part, however, I find the aggressive my way or your stupid / wrong rather off putting.

    Id rather see the focus on looking at the true cost of things, and understanding the opportunity costs…not the flying fists.

    Reply
    • James April 5, 2012, 2:21 pm

      I could find myself offended multiple times every day if I look for it, I choose not to. If you can’t pick up the uplifting principles you need here while ignoring the flying fists, I suggest you look elsewhere, there are other blogs that will provide that without MMM’s personality. Remember that this is MMM’s house you are talking in, it’s his rules and no one else is forced to participate.

      Not that you are wrong to provide that feedback, but many of us here would be offended if MMM pulled his punches…

      Reply
      • Tanner April 5, 2012, 4:28 pm

        Plus I think a lot of the punches are in jest. You have to see it as more of a fun accountability rather than offensive. No one is forcing anyone to change anything. It is people with recommendations to hopefully improve others lives and sometimes it can be frustrating when someone says they want to change, are provided the steps, and don’t follow through. So they get a metaphoric “punch” to help ; )

        Reply
  • Jenny April 5, 2012, 12:22 pm

    I would like to see a case study of a family where one spouse is at home with a few kids already and they are doing ok financially, but don’t have a lot of room for saving for early retirement/financial independence. What goals are realistic and where do they start? Many families are in this spot – someone is home, someone is working, but they are just getting by. How to get ahead and make a change in their lives while raising small children?

    Reply
  • acorn April 5, 2012, 1:10 pm

    MMM, your proposed solution to this family’s money problems hinges on the wife agreeing to quit her job. But that may be unacceptable to her for many reasons- perhaps she likes to work, and would rather just get a different, douchebag-free job, perhaps she is concerned about her prospects for looking for a job in the future, etc. How would your advice change if the wife wants to continue working?

    Reply
    • Ana April 6, 2012, 11:33 am

      You might want to go back and reread it – the central point was that she hated her job and wanted to stay home with the kids.

      Reply
      • Emmers April 8, 2012, 9:04 am

        The kids won’t be around forever. What’s she going to do when they turn 18? Shit, what’s she going to do when they turn *five* and are gone all day long?

        This specific person apparently does want to stay home, so more power to her, etc. But I strongly agree that it would be good to also address situations where the LW’s partner likes the idea of a job, just doesn’t like their current Douchebag Olympics job.

        Another commenter up above suggested that once they hit a good track towards FI, the wife tell her job that she wants to quit, but that she’ll consider staying if they cut her hours to 20, cut her salary to $25k, and let her telework. That seems like a great solution to me, personally!

        Reply
        • Erica / Northwest Edible Life September 28, 2012, 1:15 am

          This may be hard to fathom, but homemaking and non-paid work can take up equivalent or more hours than paid work, even when the kids are gone all day. Managing my home, gardens, food preservation and related activity is basically a 25-45 hour a week job for me depending on season. Kids are on top of that. Some homemakers go a different way and coupon, spending similar amounts of time to score the best deals on food and food-imitating products for their fam. Or who knows, maybe if she has too much time on her hands and yet is living within her means and goals she can start a blog like MMM. ;)

          Reply
  • JaneMD April 5, 2012, 10:56 pm

    I have a few questions about the principal’s scenario. My salary is similar to his and I put away 10% into my 401K, get taxed at a likely similar rate, and take home around 5K. I also get an employer match. How much is he putting away into the retirement fund that 120K ends up with 5.8K take-home pay?

    My back of the envelope math says that their gross pay is 10K/month. Assuming 10% pretax contributions and 28% taxes, they should be bringing in 6.5K per month, a $700 difference. His comments makes it sound like their 401K contribution is post tax.

    At no point does he state that he is near FI or even close, but their family has to be saving alot more money or has high health insurance issues or something to get numbers like that. That additional 700/month brings their monthly 401K contribution to 1.7K – or 17%.

    Anyone else seeing that or is my math missing something important?

    Reply
    • Lurker November 27, 2012, 6:26 pm

      Extremely late comment, but – state & local taxes? Where I live, I pay around 11% in city and state taxes. I also get health insurance, FSA / HSA and transit checks taken out of my paychecks. A combination of those could easily add up to $700.

      Reply
  • Jasper April 6, 2012, 10:23 am

    @ James April 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Don’t worry, i’m not going to cry…just stating my opinion. I was not directing my comment at MMM specifically, rather all comment participators. This is MMM’s house, and the door is open for participation. If everyone agreed all the time I would be more concerned.

    Reply
  • RichUncle EL April 6, 2012, 11:26 am

    Hey I think the reader should take the advice of MMM and slash 2725 off his monthly expenses. This was straight to the point advice that solves a family’s problem of living unsatisfactorly. Just as anybody struggling with a layoff or downsizing learns really quick that things can get cut to make ends meet. I say do it and good luck to your wife for taking a bold move. I think this should be a weekly post.

    Reply
  • Anon April 6, 2012, 12:22 pm

    I think that you misunderestimate the value of the wife’s contributions to social security. To truly understand the financial value of her work, we need to know what her expected benefits are if she does stop working tomorrow, and weigh the value of her future contributions to SS in that light. For American retirees, Social Security is the foundation of their retirement income.

    Reply
    • Emmers April 8, 2012, 9:09 am

      This is an important financial calculation to make when looking at the costs of quitting your job as a young adult. (Or as any adult, really.)

      Reply
  • Diane April 6, 2012, 7:27 pm

    What the HELL??? So many comments… Is it really possible that there is not a single person who has recommended reading THE FRUGAL GAZETTE? Amy Dacyczyn covered this topic exhaustively and beautifully in her ground-breaking frugality series. Get thee to the library. Better still, request it online and then WALK to the library to pick it up. The one with the blue cover. It contains all three books plus bonus material. You will be sorry your wife ever went back to work after those precious babies were born. Get going and pray that you can make up for lost time.
    OTOH, even if you buy it new tonight online and pay for spendy overnight delivery, you will still be miles ahead.

    Reply
  • AEBinNC April 6, 2012, 7:59 pm

    I had no idea that home loan rates are so low right now. I thought that when I got my 30 year loan at 5.0 I was doing quite well. Two years later rates have gone down even further.

    Right now, I’m working with a company on getting a 3.25 loan for 15 years. I got an estimate earlier today and just have to check things over with my wife. In the prior loan my outstanding loan balance is 141k at 5%. I’m paying 7050 per year in interest.

    My new loan is for 137k at 3.25 = 4452 per year in interest. Basically a reduction of 2597 in interest costs per year. Additionally, I would be paying a higher percentage of my payment towards the principal of the loan.

    Usually the reader case study examples aren’t my favorite, but I’m really glad I read this one.

    Reply
  • Prashant April 10, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Ah! So many interesting posts here, but some of them clearly misrepresent or misstate benefits or costs completely. I won’t call people out, but you know who you are!

    1) TWO cars – This needs to be purely a financial decision. If the car is instrumental in letting you work and commute to work, then you need it. Simple as that. Sure, you can take the bus or move (!?) but they all have costs in terms of time and flexibility. The independence offered by owning two cars, if both partners are working, is a benefit that can be assigned a real value. If this value is worth it for you, then you are better off with the car. You can flip this equation your way by owning a cheaper, fully paid off, economy sized car with bare bones insurance. Do the math, people. It isn’t that hard. If you go for the gas guzzling SUV with satellite radio on a 4% loan, well, that just makes it very hard to get the value in your favor.

    2) Taxes – There are too many people confused here about the tax benefits. If you are already married and working, reducing income is not going to have any benefits tax-wise, except for the case where you were making too much money to qualify for certain tax deductions. Otherwise, you cannot “save money on taxes” by reducing your income, you really just reduced your income and therefore have a smaller tax bill. Our graduated-tax-bracket system is not designed to be punitive.

    3) Social Security – As Anon (April 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm) states, the benefit of Social Security is reduced if you do not work. This can be valued as if it were an annuity, and you might be able to calculate the NPV of that now, vs. if you worked through the years. The difference will be in the hundreds of thousands for most people.

    4) Career Growth – You must not discount the ability to jump start your career and how over time, you would expect to make a lot more money, climb up the ladder and be able to hit your FI goals earlier.

    Reply
    • Emmers April 11, 2012, 1:21 pm

      Well and concisely said! I’ve already agreed with 2-4 elsewhere, but to agree with #1 specifically here: Your time has value, too. Maybe you shouldn’t value it at exactly your hourly wage, but cost-in-time does need to be taken into consideration when making financial decisions.

      Reply
  • pachipres April 10, 2012, 3:08 pm

    Twenty four years ago I quite my job as a full time registered nurse to stay home and homeschool my five children-youngest being now 7 years old. I have never regretted a day of it. My dh has had some good jobs and we have been able to be FI shorty but still, I have really enjoyed the years that I have had with them. After now 17 years of homeschooling, I am feeling restless but what I do to help with creativity and getting out of the house, is I am back at school casually-taking one night course at university. I have actually been in some of my older daughters’ classes and can now help them edit their papers. It’s been fun but as far as giving up a career and staying home, I am never regretted this decision.
    Also, I totally agree with the reader who mentioned Amy Dacycyn’s The Complet Tightwad Gazetter-Imust have read this book four times now.

    Reply
  • Coversure April 27, 2012, 8:24 am

    The easiest option is definitely sell the cars. Instant saving with no change in lifestyle.
    Newer cars just lose value hand over fist, especially on finance with the interest on top, and older cars aren’t necessarily any worse. Logically, (if you think about it), older cars are so much more reliable than they used to be, and since 2000, when manufacturers started galvanising their steel, they don’t even rust anymore.
    Recently I downgraded from my sporty v6 which did 25mpg, to a 12 year old low mileage car. Low mileage means reliable. Cost me £600 (about $1,000 american) to buy, so I got plenty of change. It’s big enough for the family, it’s a diesel and does 50mpg, so my fuel bills are half what they were. Have I had problems? Not so far, but then if I do have a problem, I’ve saved £££’s already.

    Reply
  • JCH May 17, 2012, 5:43 pm

    MMM, great blog – found it through ran prieur’s blog. sorry for resurecting what might be a dead thread…

    I have to comment about the cost of living in hawaii. if you think the cost of living here is high, you’re doing it wrong. yes, most consumer goods are more expensive. BUT – needs are much less. I harvest food from the wild, hit the farmers markets for cheap, fresh, local produce, get my entertainment free at the beach, don’t need to buy cloths for winter, have no utility bills (solar power, water catchment…i do spend about $1/day on propane for hot water and cooking)…i don’t want or need a new car, a TV, a big house, fashionable clothes, go to the movies, fly for vacation etc etc etc.

    i’m lucky to have heeded advice to decrease my needs years back, so now at 28 i own outright a piece of land (a farm-in-the-making) on which i’ve built a cabin, two paid off vehicles (a beater volkswagen, and a giant diesel ford for work), and i work for other people for money less than 20 hours a week. i lived in a tent for a year while building my cabin, working freelance jobs for people i like. all my extra money gets put into improving my property – planting fruit trees, buying more solar gear, adding to my cabin – or purchasing tools that will make me money. i have tons of extra time, so i scavenge craigslist for materials to build with and deals on things to fix up and re-sell. I grow a good portion of my own food, help friends with their projects, and generally bum around enjoying nice weather, happy people, friendly dogs, and cold beer. my monthly expenditures run about $1000. That doesn’t include one-off purchases of things like more solar panels, new tools & equipment, etc etc – things that either further reduce my monthly expenses or can earn me money. for example, my truck (bought used with a solid body/strong engine) has since been completely paid for by work i was only able to do because of the truck. now i have a paid-for resource that holds it’s value and cost me next to nothing. i only drive it when i’m getting paid to do so, or picking up materials – the free section on craigslist is AWESOME.

    when i consider buying something, i try to remember a few things:

    i’m too poor to buy low quality shit – i expect my things to last for years
    get the right tool for the job the FIRST time i need it <- this is crucial, wish i had learned it years ago
    whatever i buy should pay for itself over time
    whatever i buy should hold it's value, so that when it's paid for itself, it is standing capital

    having tried to follow these guidelines, i've bought all the tools and equipment i need to build a house and run a small farm, and each tool has paid for itself by providing me with employment (i have no job, i'm 100% freelance – i call my clients and tell them when i'm coming to work). i've learned a whole slew of skills, and gotten paid while learning. i can build houses, install solar, plumb, operate heavy equipment, farm, tend livestock, prune/fell trees, mill lumber, handle a fishing boat, do some basic medical (first aid, stitching, injections etc – i practice on pig-hunting dogs)…etc etc. And i can do these things for free for my friends.

    TL;DR: living cheaply in hawaii (or anywhere) is simple when you don't need much and can meet those needs with your own two hands. Quality tools and useful skills will always have a good ROI

    to be rich, act poor. to be poor, act rich.

    Reply
  • Alexandria August 13, 2012, 7:31 pm

    Great blog!

    This rings very true for me. When we had our first child we were both making $50k per year. Running the math, I figured my spouse could work full-time and *maybe* bring home $10k. The first $40k would go to daycare, taxes, and work expense. & probably didn’t factor how efficient we can be with a spouse at home (more time to shop for deals, sell things when we are done with them, and time to commit to home cooking). I am a tax accountant so I understood that I could increase my take-home substantially (less taxes). Lower tax bracket, more tax breaks at the lower income, etc.

    Anyway, I know when I talk to other people that they think we are insane to give up that $50k income. If I was really losing $4,000 per month? Come on! That would be insane! We were taking home about $5k per month before, and maybe knocked it down to $3500 when my spouse stopped working.. Yes, living on $1k per month would have been a little hard – we live in California. ;) Actually, my job is very low-key and flexible, but since I don’t have to deal with sick days and school and Doctor appointments I have no doubt I make a lot more money than I would with a working spouse. My take-home has almost doubled in the last decade (& I still don’t make six figures – I have no benefits to speak of – but I still pay virtually no income taxes!). These little points *really* add up. The decreased taxes, the ways we save money, and the fact that I make more income than I could otherwise. But there is no real way to describe this to the average person – it is the sum of many parts. The average person hears you gave up a $50k income and they make ridiculous conclusions.

    Reply
  • Josh Porter aka the Porterhouse September 18, 2012, 12:07 pm

    Lets say that the wife worked and enjoyed her job vs didn’t enjoy her job. Do you feel sometimes it can be better to take a loss of some sort if it means that she could keep her job secure? I’m torn on the topic because I’ve seen people stay home that sometimes never get back to work and income is another way to build savings (assume the numbers work out). Are you suggesting that she cares for the children until school then tries to re-enter the workforce? It can be tricky to get back in after you’ve left if you’re not very qualified, and for the people that aren’t they don’t exactly feel like working any retail job paying minimum wage. WWMMMD? (what would MMM do?)

    Reply
  • propertymom June 27, 2013, 8:56 am

    Dear MMM,
    You are my hero. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  • workingmomNJ October 24, 2013, 10:44 am

    Sorry for the very belated comment – I just discovered your blog a couple months ago and am in the process of reading through all the posts! I thought I had always been pretty good about staying on top of my finances, but alas it was only “pretty good” based on the typical American consumer-centric lifestyle model! Thank you for making me see the light! I’ve been making small but deliberate changes to the way our family spends (or rather, not spends) $$, which hopefully will put us in a much better place 5, 10 years down the road. (Planning to pay off the car in 6 months, student loan in 2 yrs, and then start saving crazily for a house so we can make at least a 30-50% down payment, then hopefully FI in less than 10 yrs!!!)

    I know this is a super old post and not sure if anyone will even read this, but I just wanted to add my two cents from a newly-converted mustachian point of view. I think most of your fans would agree that after reading your blog, financing new (or even used) cars should be shunned forever. BUT for those of us who made this costly mistake before stumbling across this site, unless you’ve either paid off or are close to paying off your car, the simple “sell your new car and buy a used one!” advice doesn’t seem to make sense, at least from an immediate cash benefit perspective. Your Principal S. said he had paid about half for both his cars – which means even if he sold them, he probably would have to use most, if not all (or even more) to pay off the balance on the newer cars. Which means he wouldn’t really be getting a cash inflow from the sale of the cars, and would probably have to shell out extra money to buy a used replacement car.

    In this situation, would you still recommend selling the newer cars? I’m in a similar situation now – I’ve paid off about half of our family car (I know, I know, we never should’ve financed it in the first place….but at least we’re a 1-car family), but my balance is about the same as the used sales price of it according to kelly bluebook. I figured my best bet would be to make large extra payments on it and pay it off in 6 months, then maybe consider selling it and using the extra cash to pay some of my student loan. But until my car’s paid off, I’m kind of stuck. Seems like it would’ve been the same for your case study subject. Hopefully by now, 1.5 years later, he would’ve paid it all off already.

    Reply

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