149 comments

The Cost of Living is Too High These Days, Waaah, Waaah!

Just one of the necessities of today's difficult lifestyle

On the forum section of this blog, we’ve got a section called “Antimustachian Wall of Shame and Comedy”. This category became necessary, because sometimes the real world out there just begs to be mocked. MMM readers around the globe are dutifully reading and absorbing the world’s information, and sometimes we come across crap that is so frustrating, so pull-out-your-hair-by-the-roots and slap-yourself-in-the-forehead-because-there’s-nobody-else-around-to-punch-in-the-face stupid, that we must share it with each other as a stress-relieving outlet.

So, these articles get shared on the aforementioned Wall, and then appropriate sarcasm is combined with helpful proposals about how the problems described in the articles could easily be solved with simple application of the principles of Mustachianism.

The trend in recent years is for newspapers and magazines to write touching case studies based on the theme “Life has become so hard and expensive these days, that even the high-income people are having trouble making ends meet!”

Let’s summarize a few choice examples:
Almost Rich: an Examination of the True Cost of City Living (in Toronto Life magazine)

That article details five Toronto families, struggling supposedly due to the incredibly high cost of housing in that city. I won’t deny that houses are a ripoff in the Toronto area, but check out these snippets from the monthly budget from a $196,000-per-year family that is just scraping by:

Mortgage : $2,500. Utilities: $500. Gas for their Jeep Commander and Ford F-150 truck: $440. Street parking and two parking permits: $200. Home and car insurance: $300. Cleaning lady: $160. Groceries: $1,000. Baby supplies and toiletries at drugstores: $75. Wine: $400–$500. Eating out: $400. Home phone, cable, Internet and two cellphones: $280. Dry cleaning: $50. Haircuts, nails and waxing: $170. Gifts: $200. (“You have kids, you spend money on toys for other kids. That’s how it goes.”) Daycare for both kids: $2,500. Kids paid activites and lessons: 200. House maintenance: $410. Clothes: $250

Savings: $0 (“Ha! We live month to month. When we have money left over, we go out.”)

Next we move on to The Real Cost of Living: $150,000 per year at money.msn.com

This a news venue where Mr. Money Mustache himself was once featured unexpectedly, and was roundly criticized in 14 pages of comments for fabricating his ridiculous story of spending less than he earned during his 20s and early 30s.

The Real Cost of Living MSN article basically talks about the results of a recent survey done on the US populace, with the following result:

The survey asked respondents to choose which of four categories best described them: I can’t even afford the basics; I can barely afford the basics and nothing else; I can afford the basics plus some extras; and I can afford the basics and the extras, and I’m able to save, too. It is only at that $150,000 level that the survey found the vast majority of consumers, 88%, saying they could buy what they need, afford some extras and still be able to save a bit.

Finally we have a feature from the Bloomberg financial publication entitled “Wall Street Bonus Withdrawal means Trading Aspen for Coupons“.

In that article, they describe the tragic fate of a man named Andrew Schiff :

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.

“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”

The smaller bonus checks that hit accounts across the financial-services industry this month are making it difficult to maintain the lifestyles that Wall Street workers expect, according to interviews with bankers and their accountants, therapists, advisers and headhunters.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Now obviously, the first thing that you’d need to do if any of these people came to you to express their problems, would be to cry out “WAAAAH! WAAAAAAH! POOOR BABY!!” while slapping their face back and forth for 15-20 minutes. But after that initial theraputic session, you could probably get into some real insights.

Why is it that almost everyone in this ridiculously rich country feels that they are just scraping by?
Why do only the top 1-2% on average feel a bit better about their situation?
Why do the Wall Street people feel like they are STILL scraping by when they are in the top 1%?

and equally significantly,

Why do Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache feel they are NOT just scraping by with a monthly spending level of only $2,000, about 80-90% less than most of the people profiled in this article? In fact, they claim they are leading an exorbitant lifestyle with spending that is almost double what they would consider to be “just scraping by”. And what’s more, they are not even spending all of the money they are earning, even with no full-time jobs!

What the hell is going on? One of these two sides of the argument is crazy. And if it’s the big income people that are crazy, that means all the newspapers are crazy too, since they regularly sympathize with the commonly made case that life is too expensive these days, profiling family after family that just can’t make it.

I think I’ve figured it out. Not many people realize it, but food, clothing, housing, durable goods, travel, and a host of other things are cheaper today than they have been throughout most of history. These prices have actually been dropping in inflation-adjusted terms for decades. So if you focus your spending on meeting your needs, as the MMM family likes to do, you couldn’t have been born at a better time. Life is fantastic.

On the other hand, corporate marketing skill and consumer envy have been rising faster than inflation for quite some time. On top of that, the very richest slice of the population has seen its income rising much faster than inflation. They have fallen for the natural human instinct to live very lavish lifestyles with this giant income, which sets an example for the not-quite-as-rich people just below them in the income distribution ladder, who then influence the next level down, and so on.

This Antimustachian Trickle-Down Effect has been so effective, aided by the lubricant of excellent marketing, that we now have people who make $40,000 per year thinking it is appropriate to hire a housecleaner and pay $45 for salon and spa treatments on the weekends. Teenagers who earn $8 per hour drive jacked-up pickup trucks that cost more than the MMM family’s entire vehicle fleet and consume more than $8 per hour in gasoline alone.

So when you see all these articles which measure the number of people who are in debt and struggling to get by and unable to save for their own retirement, what does it mean?

It is NOT a measure of how the cost of living has suddenly reduced its decades-long trend of marching downwards due to technological progress.  What you’re seeing is a measurement of how well marketing and natural human envy is doing in our current society.

Isn’t that interesting? All of these complaints and stories actually have nothing to do with making ends meet. They’re really just measuring our insatiability. And it is indeed very interesting to see that it is rising – this data may in fact be more interesting than what the news reporters thought they were writing about, i.e. cost of living.

Of course, there are still a few people around who realize how good we have it. Most of them are right next to you on the Internet reading Mr. Money Mustache today. But they get a lot less newspaper stories written about them. That’s because people who have got their shit together are considered “Smug”. Newspaper stories do much better when they make people feel like their problems are not their own. Better to blame our terrible and expensive society. Waah, Waaah!

Because of their sensationalist leanings, I’ve pretty much given up on most newspapers. But I’m thankful to have the Wise Mustachian Readers still out there combing the Internet, and reporting the worst of the worst for our amusement.

Happy Monday, and Enjoy your Plentiful week!

 

*I looked it up, and Andrew Schiff  happens to be the brother of and an employee of Peter Schiff, megamillionaire owner of Euro Pacific Capital and author of the bestselling yet rather insane book I just read called Crash Proof 2.0.

 

  • rjack April 30, 2012, 6:33 am

    ” They’re really just measuring our insatiability.”

    In Zen Buddhism, there is something called the Four Great Vows that my Sangha chants every Sunday. The second Great Vow is “Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.” This is obviously very similar to the quote above.

    I’m amazed and pleased at how much Mustachianism and Frugaility dovetail with my Zen Practice.

    Reply
    • October MacBain April 30, 2012, 7:01 am

      I agree, rjack. My interest in Zen is ultimately what brought me to MMM. Having that sense of control in your finances internally gives you a greater feeling of peace externally. Not having to worry about all that frees you up physically, emotionally, and spiritually to pursue the things that *really* matter.

      Reply
    • uspsfanalan April 30, 2012, 7:45 am

      I would be interested to know if there is a significant number of Buddhists that read MMM. Kind of link engineers are over represented in the readership, maybe there are a lot of Buddhists reading. I’ve been practicing for almost three years now and I would agree that the values of thrift and simplicity fit quite nicely with the MMM lifestlye.

      When I read these stories or talk to people that make a lot of money and can’t seem to be happy. I feel sympathy for them and think what a waste our desires are. I still want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them.

      Reply
    • Kenneth April 30, 2012, 8:02 am

      There was an interesting piece on addiction last night on 60 minutes. Addicts of all sorts crave dopamine stimulation, but the problem is their dopamine receptors after continual stimulation start declining in number, so they need more and more of their drug of choice (including food) just to feel normal. I think the shopping and consuming experience falls in this space to some degree. It’s hard, very hard, to give up your addiction, whatever it is. Maybe that’s why Dave Ramsey teaches “baby steps” because very few people can do it cold turkey.

      Reply
      • GE Miller April 30, 2012, 5:12 pm

        Dave Ramsay teaches baby steps because he is a pansy-ass weakling who doesn’t want to challenge anyone. But that 60 Minutes piece was interesting. Will-power was sold too short though.

        Reply
        • Mike April 30, 2012, 6:06 pm

          There is a need for Dave Ramsey in this consumer driven world. Don’t be so quick to slam him just because you may have moved beyond his “Finance for Dummies” starting point. He fills a void, and hopefully, his fans find blogs like this one after they’ve gotten their fill of what Dave has to offer, and are ready to move up the ladder so to speak.

          Reply
          • Emmers May 1, 2012, 10:11 am

            I agree with Mike’s comment here. There’s nothing wrong with Frugality 101 — not everyone figures this stuff out on their own. You weren’t born knowing Calculus, either.

            Reply
          • Heidi May 2, 2012, 6:59 am

            I have several close friends from my past who have used Dave Ramsey’s steps to achieve goals. Unfortunately, I think they are still using him. The more I read and act on advice from this site, the less I need it.* Dave Ramsey’s overall goal is to free you up to be a wise consumer, yet still a consumer. So, can one ever free oneself from Dave Ramsey?
            *disclaimer. I will need this site for a long time.

            Reply
            • Christa the BabbyMama May 2, 2012, 1:46 pm

              I read one of Dave’s books and didn’t get that feeling. his whole mantra seemed to be stop buying stuff, stop comparing yourself to your neighbors, stop trying to find happiness in things. Even at the point where debts are paid off, he advocates investing rather than buying stuff. I can’t say he’s a stunning example of frugality himself, but I didn’t get the wise consumer angle from the book. Admittedly, I’ve only ever read that one book.

              Reply
          • Samantha October 5, 2012, 7:47 am

            I know I’m a bit late to this party, but I had to chime in here. I completely agree with with Mike and Emmers, and this comes from personal experience. My family, friends, and education did not in any way prepare me to manage my own finances. Dave Ramsey provided a structure (at a beginning level, yes) for me to start down the road to responsible spending. Now that we are debt free, with cash piling up, I have “graduated” from his approach and was in need of a more sophisticated level of frugality and tips for investing. Which is how I found this blog.

            I would argue that both DR and MMM provide much needed services. Not all of us can jump right in to live on 25% of our salary, especially if you are already drowning in credit card debt.

            Reply
    • Tatiana Hill May 2, 2012, 4:25 pm

      @rjack…I noticed the same thing. Frugality and Awareness go hand in hand.

      Reply
  • Teresa April 30, 2012, 6:40 am

    Great article. Marketing has been so successful that people cannot distinguish what is a need or want anymore. For the majority of the population everything has become a need.

    Sort of off topic – I have noticed that most people are also unable to tell the difference between a fact or an opinion too.

    Basically, many people have little to no critical thinking skills.

    Reply
  • Sacadoh April 30, 2012, 7:18 am

    Parkinson’s law says “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

    Sacadoh’s law says “Expenditure expands so as to fill the budget available for consumption” (or something that scans a bit better).

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery”. Was Charles Dickens Mustachian?

    Reply
    • MooseOutFront November 22, 2013, 3:04 pm

      Not with that paltry savings rate he wasn’t! :)

      Reply
  • sideways8 April 30, 2012, 7:38 am

    $400-500 PER MONTH on WINE???????!?!?!!? HULK SMASH!

    Reply
    • Geek April 30, 2012, 9:04 am

      I could have some 2-3 buck chuck every day for < 90. And it's better than some 20 dollar wines.

      What the fuck!

      Reply
    • Matt G April 30, 2012, 6:33 pm

      I missed the first time I saw their budget. They must drink wine every night to try and forget how screwed they are, Lots of it.

      Reply
      • Matt May 1, 2012, 4:10 am

        …and it’s not that hard to brew your own to a decent standard either

        Reply
    • mysticaltyger August 11, 2013, 3:16 pm

      That is what I was thinking. Even if it is taxed at a high rate, spending $400-$500 a month on wine is crazy!

      Reply
  • JanMN April 30, 2012, 7:42 am

    Ahhh.. what a delightful, refreshing rant to start the work week! This is right on.

    Reply
  • sideways8 April 30, 2012, 7:45 am

    Also, $250 per month on CLOTHES? I don’t even spend that much on clothes in a YEAR and I thought I had a problem! Sometimes I just want to violently shake people until their brains assemble into something capable of reasoning.

    Reply
    • Anna-Lisa April 30, 2012, 8:10 am

      Ugh yes! I don’t spend that much in a year either and yet I have so. many. clothes. I guess I understand how you could INITIALLY spend hundreds or even technically thousands of dollars on a wardrobe (if you work in a super corporate environment, yeah, you’ll need some nice suits and shoes that don’t look cheap) but as an ongoing thing? Really? If you spend a good chunk of money on quality clothes in the first place they will LAST YOU A WHILE.

      My favorite line in this article is “That’s because people who have got their shit together are considered ‘Smug’.” YES. People act like you must have just gotten lucky if you’re successful but that’s largely untrue – most people start making minimum wage in high school. Some of them spend it on smartphones and bigger speakers for their cars. Some of them spend it on college. And if you dare to point out that there are plenty of people who had the same opportunities as you did but didn’t make the same life choices that led to being successful, you’re just being “insensitive” and “don’t know what it’s like.”

      Reply
      • Emmers April 30, 2012, 11:06 am

        I recently spent $300 on clothes at LL Bean. It was giving my frugal side conniption fits, but I am consoling myself with the fact that it will last FOREVER.

        I may have to buy another set of clothes when my metabolism slows down (I have no interest in perpetuating the weight-cycling industry), but for now, these will do!

        Reply
        • Bill April 30, 2012, 2:06 pm

          “I have no interest in perpetuating the weight-cycling industry”

          Last I checked spending less on food and running around the block was free.

          Reply
          • Emmers May 1, 2012, 7:53 am

            Oh, I meant that from a health perspective, not a financial one. :-)

            Walking is awesome, and free! Biking is awesome, and nearly free (once you pay the upfront cost of the bike itself).

            Reply
        • FreeUrChains April 30, 2012, 2:20 pm

          20,000 years ago, people made furs and wore grape leaves in warmer climates and those would last A WHILE.

          Who knows what we are actually wearing now, or how many thousands of machines are spinning clothes together to increase the world’s wardrobe collection. Technically, I am sure the world has enough clothing for 10x what is needed. I think they are just burying the extra out of Greed and need for a purpose, else they will go out of business…

          Reply
          • Olin May 3, 2012, 3:07 am

            I heard on the Radio some time ago that in the western world we could stop making clothes and shoes for about 50 years and only maintain the once we have before we would need to manufacture another Item that included childrens clothes…..

            Reply
      • KO May 1, 2012, 7:55 am

        I agree with you completely about “luck”. There’s no way we can get credit for making smart choices, or even “sacrifices” (which don’t really feel like it, but others can’t seem to do without). No way; we are not in control of our destinies, just born under a lucky star. This is a huge bone of contention for my husband who can’t stand watching people waste their “luck”, or undermine our hard work.

        Reply
      • Leo May 2, 2012, 3:59 pm

        Oh Ana Lisa, I think most people who complain don’t like to be reminded they have choices. It’s always because they have to…

        Reply
    • Steve May 1, 2012, 7:52 am

      Not to defend here, but these folks are at the top 1%. With their higher salary comes higher expectations.

      Like with my salary, I fit in with my clothes, but I don’t fit in so well in other respects. I don’t have a Harley that sits in the garage until there’s a pretty day outside. I don’t have seats at an arena..that from my understanding…do not get you out of buying tickets. I bring my lunch to work. If I manage to fit in with my coworkers, I’d be just managing.

      These brokers in New York are similar. With higher incomes, comes higher expenses. If they do everything they are ‘supposed’ to do, there is very little left over after.

      In either case, it takes someone to say, “Wait, I’m the one who decides what I’m ‘supposed’ to do.

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque May 1, 2012, 9:25 am

        You’re right not to defend them.
        This blog is all about realizing that the inmates have taken over the asylum. They keep buying more things than they need (whether they can afford them or not). They end up spending more of their lives working undesirable jobs instead of spending time with their families, all the while insisting that they have to “keep up appearances” or “live life to the fullest”.
        Around here, the goal is to make people realize that they can – as you say – decide what they’re supposed to do. Which is to say: stop being a mindless consumer and save your money so work is no longer mandatory.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache May 1, 2012, 9:40 am

          Yeah, I absolutely do not buy that “my coworkers earn and spend a lot, so I have to spend a lot” mentality. I worked with many people making $200k per year, and many people with multimillion dollar net worths as well. Sprinkled throughout the income ranges, were people who were ridiculous spenders. That didn’t make me want to spend more – it actually strengthened my resolve to NOT be wasteful!

          It’s really fun to have the largest possible contrast between your vast wealth and earnings, and your modest needs and wants. Riding my bike around town with ripped jeans and an old plaid shirt and parking it next to an Infiniti Q56 mega-SUV at the grocery store. It’s like a deep and silent form of justice.

          Reply
          • Mike May 2, 2012, 9:59 am

            Agreed. I’ve recently started commuting by bike, choosing to leave my 2002 4 cylinder car at home decorating the curb in front of my house. It’s fun using my commuter bike ($20, garage sale, 2006) to accomplish the exact same task (i.e. transporting myself to work and my daughter to daycare) that other people seem to require 3,000+ pounds worth of late-model imported automobile costing tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish. Reading those articles… I weep for my country. Tears brought on by gales of incredulous laughter, mind you, but tears nonetheless.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache May 2, 2012, 1:52 pm

              I like the attitude, Mike. It looks like we’ve got some competition, check out some of the Antimustachian comments that have sneaked into the Reddit financialindependence forum when this article got posted there: http://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/comments/t2emw/mmm_the_cost_of_living_is_too_high_these_days/

              Favorite quote: “I see where they could save tops 1k per month only if they cut drinking out entirely and downgraded both vehicles.”

              Really? Because I see where they could live on $2000-$3000 per month. Especially since it’s Canada where you get free healthcare. Especially since my own mother lives less than 30 miles from those families, and does just fine on somewhere around $1000, and I went to university in the same area, living on half of that.

              But I guess what you SEE depends on your training, which is the reason this whole blog exists. To open the eyes of the complaining infidel masses like that commenter.

              Reply
          • tammy May 20, 2012, 7:51 am

            I love that final paragraph about justice. There is something quietly revolutionary occuring when we live a life opposite to the expected consumption and slavery to our jobs.

            Reply
      • Christa the BabbyMama May 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

        What I don’t understand how these people have so much out of work contact with their coworkers in the first place. My coworkers have no idea what’s in my garage. I could own six boats or no boats. Where am I vacationing? That’s my business. And if I found myself in an industry where I need certain luxuries to fit in, I’d probably just lie. Taking the motorcycle out this weekend! Going to be sweet!

        Reply
  • Jimbo April 30, 2012, 7:56 am

    “Ha! We live month to month. When we have money left over, we go out.”

    This makes me cringe soooo much… Ugh! What a sucky life to live…

    I also dislike : “Sure, it would be nice to make extra payments on the mortgage, but I like eating out at trendy restaurants too much…” Ugh!

    I wish I had your confidence (and slightly sociopathic character) MMM, I usually just shake my head in disbelief when I hear it from friends and relatives. I can’t muster the appropriate and necessary face-punching reflex quite in time…

    In the U.S. right now with the real estate bubble burst, even housing is at all times low in affordability… We don’t have that here, and yet I can’t believe how good we have it.

    Reply
  • scantee April 30, 2012, 7:57 am

    People with high six-figure incomes are just like regular middle-class people and they deserve our sympathy just as much as anyone else. I mean, after a high wage earner spends a big chunk of his monthly income on luxuries, there is barely anything left!

    Reply
  • Kathy P. April 30, 2012, 8:13 am

    In the Toronto article it says, “Home and car insurance: $300.” That seems really really cheap for two cars plus a home with a $2500 monthly mortgage payment. I wonder if a zero was left off?

    I read everything on this blog, even the comments – but I particularly love the really meaty Mustachian lifestyle articles like this. After making lots of mistakes in my younger days, I’ve recovered enough to be retiring at the end of next month at age 55. Not as young as MMM but still… for a boomer, not bad. The single most common comment from my colleagues at work upon hearing the news? “Geeze, I’m jealous!”

    If they showed the slightest curiosity as to how they too might be able to retire younger than 65, I’d point them to this blog and other resources that could help. But they don’t seem to want to know. (One guy commented that I must have won the lottery.) So I keep my mouth shut.

    Sigh.

    P.S. – Mr. MMM, how’s that Peak Oil post coming? I saw you mentioned it a couple times when going through the archives last week. I’m really curious to read your take on the subject.

    Reply
    • Bella April 30, 2012, 8:27 am

      I’m guessing you’ve gotten the ‘where do you hide the money tree?’ comment too?

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 30, 2012, 10:47 am

      Congratulations Kathy! I didn’t know you were retiring next month…HOORAY!!

      I do still owe you that peak oil post, and I’m excited to finish it. As a sneak preview, I think fossil fuel supplies have expanded quite a bit since I even started thinking about it – especially in the US. That’s unfortunate for environmentalists, but still an interesting development.

      Reply
      • Aspiring Yogini April 30, 2012, 11:37 am

        I guess it is good that there is more fossil fuel, but the global demand for those populations in India and China who are expanding and pulling themselves out of poverty will make the demand way greater than the supply. I suspect this will happen in many of our lifetimes. MMM, I look forward to your article on peak oil (or pre-peak oil?) as well.

        Reply
        • jennypenny April 30, 2012, 1:20 pm

          If demand becomes greater than the supply, and the US is the new supplier, that’s a good thing (economically, at least). If we’re smart, we’ll stop using so much fossil fuel domestically and improve the economy by exporting most of it.

          Anyway, back to mocking these poor wined and waxed people.

          Reply
        • GE Miller April 30, 2012, 5:18 pm

          @aspiring – Why is it good that we’ve found more cheap fossil fuels to pollute and completely destroy the planet?

          Reply
          • Derek September 8, 2012, 12:35 pm

            Energy is a good thing.

            Reply
      • Matt April 30, 2012, 3:42 pm

        You might want to do some research regarding “energy returned on energy invested”, when it comes to extracting those supplies. Not to mention the local environmental effects.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache May 1, 2012, 6:58 am

          Agreed – I’ve done lots of research on the EREOI concept.. in fact, being an engineer I think most of my life decisions are unconsciously based on this. What I’ve found so far is that the most extreme peak oil worrywarts latch onto the concept as a reason we are all doomed, without even understanding it.

          So they mis-apply it to rule out things like, say, the current shale gas boom in the US, even though it is obviously feasible and profitable from an engineering/economic perspective. For better or for worse, oil companies are pretty good at math.

          Reply
      • Matt May 1, 2012, 7:45 am

        So true! Natural gas prices are a third their level a few years ago due to the warm winter and expanding supply from shale gas. Cars can run on natural gas with a conversion kit. Doing conversions in your garage could be a fun Mustachian part time gig.

        Reply
  • Jeff April 30, 2012, 8:14 am

    “the bestselling yet rather insane book I just read called Crash Proof 2.0″

    I would like a dissection of the “insanity” of this book. Everyone labeled him as insane when he said housing was going to crash, and he profited handsomely by it. The man didn’t make millions of dollars in his investments by being insane.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 30, 2012, 11:03 am

      You’re right – I think Schiff has some great points to make in his book, and his take on both the housing market and the unsustainability of a giant trade deficit are pretty sane.

      The part I find insane is how repetitive and hyperbolic the book is. He repeats stuff like “The US manufactures nothing and has dismantled all its productive capacity”. Over and over again throughout the long and rambling book. At one point, he goes on to explain how difficult it is to get a pencil factory up and running, with all of that special equipment.

      He also refers to US government debt mostly as “worthless IOUs”, and is against the entire idea of any currency not based on melted rocks.

      I see his points, but he’s exaggerating so much that he loses credibility. One quick example:

      I did quite a bit of work in high-tech manufacturing facilities as an engineer in the US, Canada, Mexico. I also worked with their competitors in China. All of these factories were productive, efficient, profitable, and were constructed very rapidly out of thin air since the technical knowledge to build them is readily available through the Internet, and through hiring qualified manufacturing engineers from both domestic and international sources. There are still thousands of factories like this in the US, manufacturing very advanced things.

      Sure, we would have even more if China had not underbid us in labor costs, and as a result we are temporarily consuming more, running a more service-oriented economy, and benefiting from cheap imports.

      But as foreign wages rise and imports become less cheap, I don’t see us suddenly being a useless country with no manufacturing base as Schiff does. I just see more factories getting built here again. I think he’s right in his predictions of the general trend of what will happen, but too extreme in the degree. He seems to ignore the natural flexibility that is built into a market system and in human nature, which always makes crashes less extreme than the worst possible case.

      Reply
      • mike crosby April 30, 2012, 3:36 pm

        With your above comment, and also your coming article about peak oil, have you had the chance to read a book called “The Rational Optimist”?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache May 1, 2012, 9:42 am

          Sounds like my kind of book! I’ll check it out, thanks for the recommendation.

          Reply
  • girlgetsjob April 30, 2012, 8:22 am

    Ha! I love how you reinvent “Trickle-Down” in this context. I’m always amazed at the unrealistic expectations people have about what they can afford.

    Reply
  • Dorothy April 30, 2012, 9:17 am

    From the MSN article : “young people — those from the ages of 18 to 34, who have long been the prized target of marketers — were more likely than other age groups to say they don’t have enough money to cover their basic needs.”

    They just answered their own question in the statement about marketers

    Reply
    • CNM April 30, 2012, 10:15 am

      I would, however, say that many people in this age demographic (myself included) still have student loans to pay off. In my case, that takes up quite a large % of our household’s monthly income. I was surprised that debt repayment was not part of the monthly budgets of the mocked families listed above.

      Reply
      • Emmers April 30, 2012, 11:08 am

        This is absolutely part of the puzzle — the cost of education is something that has risen dramatically in comparison with wages.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 30, 2012, 11:45 am

          It’s true about university education in the US.. but that area is still subject to some of the worst self-imposed overspending and debt!

          For example, it never even occurred to me to go to a university in another province or state, because the tuition would be higher, meaning I couldn’t afford it. Similarly, I had no car and cooked my own food. I chose a cheaper lifestyle instead of student loans.

          Today, full self-paid in-state tuition at Colorado University, even without scholarships, can still be easily met by a typical kid’s part-time income if they start saving while in high school and work during the summers.

          I find it interesting that while formal education is getting more expensive, knowledge is getting cheaper. You can learn anything for free with just an internet connection. Now we just need more organizations to find ways to formalize that learning and make it more efficient, while keeping the costs low for the kids doing the learning. Less wealthy students may have to give up campuses and tenured professors, but they won’t have to give up education.

          Reply
          • CNM April 30, 2012, 11:59 am

            I agree that knowledge is easier to access and is cheaper. Unfortunately, may professions still require graduation from an accredited program (i.e. law, medicine, accounting, veterinary med) before you are able to practice. From personal experience, law schools charge A LOT of money both in-state and out-of-state and there are very very few scholarships. (At my law school, in-state annual tuition was $25K and out-of-state was $32K.) There is little incentive for schools to reduce tuition because the demand is so high.
            In any case, I do not mean to debate the value of formal higher education. I was merely surprised that it was not included as a budget item for the families in the article and unsurprised that younger persons feel less financially secure. Arguably, it is in significant part due to student loan repayment.

            Reply
            • Dragline April 30, 2012, 5:01 pm

              This is quite true, and is where people are really getting ripped off on credentials. People need to realize that “education” can be had for free on the internet or elsewhere. “Credentials” — i.e., degrees — cost money. If you are not getting a top 10 credential, you should not be paying top-10 credential money. For example, large law firms who pay the big money don’t look beyond the top 10 schools in the nation and maybe a couple locals. That’s just the way it is.

              Students who do not get into the top rated schools should look for the cheapest option if they want to get their money’s worth. School is short and you don’t want to mortgage your life to it like so many people unfortunately do.

              Reply
              • DaftShadow May 1, 2012, 2:42 am

                Distance learning is growing in potential. The big names are still an expensive pain in the butt (university of Phoenix charges >$10k per year!), BUT international competition is changing things. You can get a full bachelors online from University of London, for $5k TOTAL COST. You wont get “the college experience”, but you will get the education and the accreditation.

                ~ Daftshadow

            • Mr. Money Mustache May 1, 2012, 7:17 am

              Good points, CNM.. however, After hearing from many lawyers during the life of this blog, I’m starting to wonder if it is a good career choice at all for those with limited cash? They say that the surplus of lawyers results in pretty bleak conditions for new law grads. Contrast that to the perpetual shortage of software engineers, which has resulted in them being treated like gold as new graduates. Add in the fact that engineering education is cheap and can even be mostly self-taught, and I know which program I’d recommend!

              Of course, it’s a silly comparison since the type of mind required for those two fields is a little bit different. But still – tuition cost should definitely be compared to expected salary and justified accordingly. That’s why I chose engineering over teaching, for example.

              Reply
              • CNM May 1, 2012, 8:46 am

                MMM, I agree with you about lawyers! Many many of my classmates no longer practice law and hated it while they did. In many ways I think that law school is what happens when people graduate with a liberal arts degree and can’t find a job. I feel very lucky in the work situation I am in and, despite the loan payback, early retirement is likely still in the cards for me.

              • Mike May 2, 2012, 10:19 am

                You should check out the blog over at Lacking Ambition. He’s a law student, zero debt, targets early retirement by 30 and has some great posts on how to pursue a legal education without going into debt. I.e. don’t pursue a law degree just because you want a cushy 6 figure job in a big city. That way you don’t need to go to a top ten school, so you can choose a cheaper school and get through debt-free, go to an underserved area from a legal services standpoint (i.e. a small town) where you’re not competing against top-ten resumes and get a job making plenty of money for a low-cost area.

                Myself, I’m no lawyer, although I occasionally tweak a contract or two. However, I am interested in what you think as a software engineer about some of the free or low-cost programming education tools coming online. Codecademy, CodeSchool, etc.

          • Emmers April 30, 2012, 12:10 pm

            Could you do a math breakdown (like a Reader Case Study) of such a hypothetical college student? I did one recently for Williamsburg, VA and still had my hypothetical young person have to take out loans. I’ll see if I can dig up where that is and I’ll post it on the forum ( http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/continue-the-blog-conversation/baseline-budgets/ ) .

            Reply
            • Sara May 1, 2012, 6:35 am

              These comments about college costs got me curious, so I looked quickly at my two local state universities, one about a 25 minute drive, the other closer and accessible easily by public transit. The suburban college came to about $1060 a month for full-time admission for one year. The other was considerable less, about $700 for the same credits. I also have a community college campus a bike’s ride from my house that is considerably cheaper than either or those.

              Books are obviously extra but I have found that textbooks can often be puchased used and resold for approximately the same amount if a person knows what they are doing (I have been doing through 2 years of grad school).

              If you wanted a bigger name school, you could still do two year local and then transfer. Both local universities offer honors programs that would set a high quality student up well to get into a better school. And a top student at a middle level college tends to get a lot more perks. I received scholarships at undergrad level and a full tuition ride for my masters. And those tuition prices cover up to 19 credits. So if you are a serious student you can load up on them without too much difficulty really. One semester I took 21 credits and still had a 4.0. And I didn’t really work all that hard. I still worked part-time. There are skills a young person can learn that can really help put them through college: high quality office skills (reception, data entry, etc. – part-time receptionist jobs are not all that unusual and pay pretty well); entrepreneirial skills (a friend makes a good living and put herself through grad skill by learning dog grooming, another kid I know was making a ton of money doing simple landscaping when he was 16 and now has a thriving business.).

              I don’t really believe the cries that college is unaffordable. There are ways to make it happen. And about 95% of college students that I know DO NO SCHOOL WORK AT ALL. I work in a university currently so I know that it is true. They cut class, they don’t do the readings so they can’t discuss the work in class, they don’t study for the tests, they write the papers the night before they are do. And student workers in campus offices will just file huge stacks of filing in the exact same place when they get bored of filing, which happens quickly. So a student that puts in minor effort is a star and tends to take the rewards.

              Granted, I haven’t gone to any top tier schools, but since I basically hear the same stories, I think it is common there as well. And richer kids can just purchase their papers off of the internet, easy peasy. The whole thing is a scam.

              Reply
              • Emmers May 1, 2012, 9:58 am

                Yes, community college is definitely one good way to cut costs — go to the CC for two years and get your general education requirements out of the way, then transfer to a rigorous institution for your bachelor’s degree.

              • currentstudent May 5, 2012, 10:01 am

                I’m currently a student at an ivy league, and I take umbrage at your idea that college is “a scam” and students “do no school work at all.” That may be true at some places, but the reason I chose my ivy league institution is because I was tired of being the only kid who’d read the material and had something to say during discussions. The best part of my school is that all the students are actively engaged in class. They not only do the readings, but when they talk about them in class, they come up with thought-provoking ideas and can logically support them.

                Learning is important to me. I really value the environment here because it inspires me to discover and explore new topics. My university is the first place I’ve actually had professors that challenged me, classes where I really had to reach beyond my normal modes of thought. Frankly, I think the way I value my difficult my rewarding classes is along the same vein as knowing the value of hard work, which if MMM is any guide, will serve me well everywhere.

                Since I value the chance to have challenging classes, I’m going to an expensive school. Thanks to the Mustachian values of my parents, I’m going loan-free. It’s true that if I had lived at home, the local university would have paid me to attend (merit scholarships, etc.). One of my friends did this, and now owns a house while still in college. Her way is certainly the lowest-cost option, but I’m getting value too.

                Whenever I hear people say things like “there’s no point to an expensive college,” I think about another friend, who’s not doing quite so well. She got into MIT, but chose the local college for cost reasons. She used to get excited about learning, and now she doesn’t care, and barely attends classes. It seems like a loss of potential, she isn’t nearly the engineer she could have been. The Big-name, private, or just out of state schools can have a much better reputation, and that’s enough to attract a higher caliber of students. If you had the choice, wouldn’t you prefer to be in a classroom with other students who care, not ones who will just sleep through it? I can certainly envision becoming as demoralized as my friend when everyone around me doesn’t try, the way you describe.

                And you know, I could suck it up, be bored in my classes, and get an extra job or two to fill my time until four years are up. If I could do that without totally losing my drive, it would get me the same degree and similar credentials. I’m not in the real world yet, so I have no idea if name brand matters, but at the very least, my ivy is certainly no worse at job placement. During the career fairs, there are more jobs available than there are graduating seniors, and departments also regularly email me with great jobs specific to my interests. That, along with the plethora of workshops for resume-writing and interview workshops, makes me feel pretty well prepared. The real world may not care about the name on my diploma, but at least my school makes the effort to help me launch.

                Also, a lot of top schools cover all demonstrated financial need. Yes, it may include a fair number of loans, but only the people who can afford it actually pay 50k/year

                I realize the sort of education I’m getting is a privilege, but it also has worth. I’m glad I considered the caliber of the experience as well as cost, and I think I’m getting a lot more knowledge and skills out of my college experience than I would have elsewhere.

                Now it’s time for me to get back to studying!

              • Lynae May 8, 2012, 5:36 am

                Re: current student below:

                I just wanted to say that I’m a community college, and university veteran, and the teachers who actually inspired me, challenged me, and got me on my current career/life path, were all at community college. In my entire time of 2+ years at CC, I didn’t spend 1/8th as much as I spent at one semester at my private university.

            • Mr. Money Mustache May 1, 2012, 7:12 am

              Hi Emmers – I haven’t done too much analysis beyond taking the situation of a student attending Colorado University locally while the parents let their kid continue to live and eat at home as their contribution:

              http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/12/the-coffee-machine-that-can-pay-for-a-university-education/

              Obviously, if a student moves away from home and has to pay for their own rent and food, they’ll need to either earn more, get scholarships, or borrow some money. And if they attempt out-of-state tuition or an elite university, the self-funded option gets blown out of the water. (But I hear that the highest academic achievers can still get almost 100% scholarships these days??).

              Reply
              • Emmers May 1, 2012, 10:09 am

                Oh, to be sure, if you live in a university town and live with your parents while attending that university, it is a fantastic way to cut costs!

                (Assuming your parents have a good relationship with you and each other, etc etc etc.)

                My example on the Forums was for a public, in-state student. (Not private nonsense.)

              • Bella May 1, 2012, 12:24 pm

                About 15 years ago when I went to college. There were very few academic scholorships that weren’t also tied to need. I got half of my in state tuition paid thorugh scholarship – but that same amount would have been a drop in the bucket at a high end private school like MIT, or Caltech – whose admissions office quite clearly stated – they did not offer academic scholarchips because all of their students were so highly ranked – that they only considered need.

              • Lisa November 16, 2012, 6:22 am

                What sort of scholarships or bursaries you can get is also related to the alumni base of the college or university. My brother got about $10K when he was at McGill, and I got $2K when I was at U of T. The process was quite easy and we were treated with respect. We were pretty grateful for the help. My sister, however, applied to her university for a bursary to help cover the costs of applying for a second degree (a BSW). She went to Brock, which has less money because of a smaller alumni base, and there was a much more formal process. She had to go to meetings and got a lecture from the dude with the money about how she shouldn’t even bother applying because her grades were too low before she received $300. She was surprised since our brother and I had no problems at all. And she did get into that program despite the dire warnings.

                In our cases, I attended the local university, but needed to go away to Toronto for my professional degree, my sister needed to go away because her marks weren’t quite high enough for the local university, and my brother went to McGill because, as a young gay man, he was facing a lot of harassment in our home town at that time, and McGill had a reputation for being very gay positive.

                The bursaries and scholarships helped a lot. But go big alumni base if that’s one of your strategies.

              • Jen September 15, 2014, 9:19 pm

                Yes!!!!!! There are scholarships for everything!! No one should be in debt from college these days unless they made the choice to be in debt. Also, high school guidance councilors generally aren’t as good as they once were at helping kids get free school (lots of reasons that have nothing to do with the high skill level of our school councilors.), kids must find a mentor that knows. Finally, kids must start planning in 9th grade, the time to start figuring out college is not when you are a senior!

            • Monika May 22, 2012, 12:19 pm

              Regarding living in Williamsburg, it’s totally doable. I lived off campus 3 1/2 years and my expenses were $550/ a month above tuition. Fin. $220/month was rent ($1,100 split 5 ways: 4-bedroom house + dining room converted into a bedroom); $10 in rental insurance; $100 in school health insurance, $150 in food (including the occasional meat dish); $30 average for medical expenses (new lenses for glasses, annual physical); $10 laundry; $30-ish in “fun money”. Fun money included the pad-folio I needed for interviews, a $20 swimsuit from Target, chips & salsa for when I had friends over, and the costs of occasional on-campus events.

              Reply
          • Christine Wilson April 30, 2012, 12:31 pm

            I’m keeping my eye on free or near free education online. There is a lot of activity in this area.

            Here you can find free courses from top universities (they are mostly first year courses)
            http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

            There is also University of the People. You do pay some fees but your fees depend on the country you are from. Richer countries pay more than poorer countries. They are trying to become an accredited University. They offer Business Administration and Computer Science:
            http://www.uopeople.org/groups/accreditation

            “For hundreds of millions of people around the world higher education is no more than a dream… this University opened the gate to these people to continue their studies from home and at minimal cost by using open-source technology, open course materials, e-learning methods and peer-to-peer teaching.”

            However if you just want to learn at a low cost – anyone can apply. There are US and Canadian students too.

            Reply
            • Emmers April 30, 2012, 1:28 pm

              “They are trying to become an accredited University.”

              That’s nice, but without accreditation, things are useless when it comes to credential requirements for jobs.

              Note that credentials are separate from learning — and learning for its own sake is very important! But it is not sufficient, in today’s job market.

              Reply
              • Christine Wilson April 30, 2012, 1:44 pm

                I know! That is the main problem with this University. I think its helpful for people from countries who have trouble affording a post-secondary education.

                There is more free education out there! Teach yourself how to code:
                http://www.codecademy.com/

          • Jaclyn April 30, 2012, 12:43 pm

            This can also come down to being educated before you are educated. Some of us just didn’t know any better. I thought I had to get student loans to go to college. And I had to go to college to get out of my situation. I come from a family who really can’t make ends meet (no heat, no water, no electricity most months). I didn’t learn about finances in High School and I certainly didn’t learn about it from my family. So now, I am drowning in debt. Although, I can’t complain because now I can afford my utilities, a nice place to live, healthy food, and STILL pay down a crazy amount of debt each month.

            Reply
          • mike crosby April 30, 2012, 3:45 pm

            MMM, I’m really enjoying your blog and the comments too. The posts can be of value, but the comments really can flesh out what you write.

            It seems that as your blog gets more popular, you’re getting more comments. Before long, it might be too much to go through and read all the comments.

            Here’s a suggestion: Having a “Like” button for the reader if he especially likes what a commenter has written. Kind of like “USA Today”, where one can read comments from “Most recent” “Most popular” or “From the beginning”.

            Reply
            • drewstees May 1, 2012, 9:11 am

              I agree with Mike. I also think it would be useful to add a similar function to the forums.

              Reply
          • Guitarist May 1, 2012, 2:50 pm

            But that just isn’t fair, MMM. Then the kids who have to work for their education wouldn’t be getting the “college experience.” It’s just not fair, why should people with less money now not be allowed to have fun like the people with money? WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH WWWWWWAHHHHHHH WWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

            Thank you for making the same point I always make about college. I wanted to go to Penn State, I was even accepted. I went to Kansas State. Penn State was $30k/year, K-State was $5k/year. Penn State is a better school, but nowhere near 6 times better. I used my head for that decision. If I wanted to go to Penn State that bad I would have applied for more scholarships.
            I think the best way to force colleges to lower their tuition (because increasing student loan amounts only increases college costs), is to get students to boycott schools that cost over $X/year, but it will never happen.

            Reply
  • Rodent April 30, 2012, 10:18 am

    I wrote about a similar thing when it comes to moving rental furniture and all kinds of other stuff (lawn mower to mow my mom’s place) with a VW Golf and a 5×8 trailer. If I was a complainer I would have bought an F-150 truck to move 200lbs of furniture. It helps to have grown up in communist Poland where my expectations for material good were programmed very low. I think the Mustachians who became mustachian growing up here have done a lot more than I have and I really respect them for going against the mainstream.

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque April 30, 2012, 10:47 am

    It’s true, though: you *are* just scraping by.
    You don’t have a cleaning lady? That’s like living in a van down by the river.
    And *box* wine? That’s like drinking from the same river.
    Look at my impoverishment. I wear the same frugal toque to play in the snow fort in the winter as I wear to bike to work on cold spring mornings. That’s identical to owning only one pair of underwear.
    Mustachians are starving, unwashed ragamuffins living in tee-pees. I can’t believe that I hadn’t noticed it before.

    Reply
  • AJ April 30, 2012, 10:56 am

    I am somewhat baffled by people’s aversion to feeling and/or appearing “poor” (or, in these folks’ case, less than affluent). In so many of these kinds of articles, the root of the issue is that these people don’t realize that they actually cannot afford the lifestyle they are living (umm, if you can’t afford to save anything, you definitely cannot afford $400 a month in wine!) They don’t realize that lack of savings is a big fat emergency. My FIL is like that. He will go out to eat even though he doesn’t have enough cash in the bank to pay his rent this month because he “deserves it”.

    I think my brain must be wired wrong, because I feel totally the opposite. I *want* my friends and family to think I make less than I do. Then, it won’t seem so weird that I drive a 10 year old car and drink boxed wine. Then they won’t expect me to always pick up the tab and bail them out when they act foolishly with their money. I feel like an ant trying to disguise myself as a grasshopper. That probably makes me cheap, but I would rather achieve status through who I am and what I do than what expensive things I can buy. I would rather people think I am smart than think I am rich.

    Reply
    • Jimmy April 30, 2012, 12:13 pm

      It’s like having super powers.. secretly having more spending power than you let on. :)

      It reminds me of why I like the book, “The Millionaire Next Door,” so much.

      Reply
    • Emmers April 30, 2012, 1:30 pm

      Just keep on being an ant and living modestly. You’re doing the right thing!

      Reply
  • RiskyStartup.com April 30, 2012, 11:05 am

    In some parts of the world people live off $2 per month, so it is all this “value-added” BS and brainwashed people that keep the stupid myth about expensive living costs going…

    Example 1: You can buy microwave popcorn for maybe $1 per bag which gives you one portion to snack on. But, for $2, you can buy a 2-pound bag of no-name popcorn kernels which will last you 6 months of every day popping. Just put tiny amount of butter or vegetable oil in the pot, some kernels and you will have better popcorn than one from the microwaved bag.

    Example 2: I just started my own business, and was never aware of the costs of office supplies until I walked into Office Depot this month. It turns out that BIC pen may cost $0.05 or less, but they also sell “Eco Gel Pens” which could go as high as $8 per pen. That is 16,000% increase for the essentially the same thing!

    Example 3: My Jetta TDI (bought used), has 4 wheels, 4 doors, trunk and everything else like any other car – yet some of my employees who make 1/3 of my pay go out and finance 45K SUV’s even though they are single and will never have anyone else ride in their gigantic SUV. They are spending 500-800% more money for the same result (wait, my Jetta TDI is actually using 1/4 of the gas their SUV does – so they are getting screwed on ongoing basis too :)…

    So, high costs of living are simply a choice that some people make. Worst of all – some of the more expensive “value-added” choices are actually BAD for you. My wife cooks all the food for our son from fresh ingredients, and refuses to buy anything processed – yet, we spend less on food than people who buy pre-packaged, processed stuff…

    Reply
    • CNM April 30, 2012, 11:20 am

      On the topic of popcorn- you can also microwave popcorn that does not come in the prefab bags. Take a tablespoon or two of kernels, place them in a brown paper lunch bag, close the bag by folding it tightly several times, and zap them in the microwave. Works just the same!

      Reply
  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 30, 2012, 11:18 am

    I really liked this. I have a hard time having TOO Much sympathy for some of these folks (even though I more than once have fessed up to having a cleaning person, but then again, I don’t pretend to live paycheck to paycheck.)

    “I have to pull my 3 kids out of private school!!”

    Wah. I live in California, 49th in education. We’ve had so many cuts that now art, computers, physical education, music, and SCIENCE are extras in elementary. Meaning: the PTA has to raise money in order to afford to teach our kids SCIENCE. Wealthier schools in our area raise $250k per year. One local school raised $145,000 in their jog-a-thon alone. Our school, which has 50% of students on free lunch and another 25% on reduced price lunch, struggles to raise $80k (with basically that final 25% of parents doing most of the fundraising).

    The teenagers with “jacked up trucks” cracked me up too. My 19 year old nephew is on his 2nd or 3rd truck. He bought his first one at 16 while working as a dishwasher. He still works as a dishwasher, and his latest truck was $16,000. The kid is at least paying for it himself and is in school full time (to be an auto-mechanic), but it makes me cringe that he’s spending all of his money on that damn truck.

    Reply
    • RiskyStartup.com April 30, 2012, 11:34 am

      Friend of mine pays $45K x 2 per year for his kids private school (even though our public schools in Canada are pretty decent) – claims that his kids will have better chance of good university… He did not like when I told him that if he invested the money he is paying for private school and other ridiculous things (estimated at $70K per year per child), university issue becomes moot – his kids will never have to work :)

      Schools are there to keep kids safe, provide some guidance and social development, but parents who depend solely on schools to educate their kids are kidding themselves. Primary (and in part secondary) education is combination of parental involvement, life experiences and some guidance from the schools.

      Reply
    • DaftShadow May 1, 2012, 6:36 am

      !!MUSTACIAN ALERT!! :-D

      I’m going to have to call time-out on this, because it’s a perfect “learning moment.” Perhaps your 19-yr old nephew is more mustacian than you give him credit for!

      When someone has a passion or a hobby, money spent on this passion will often seem wasteful to those with different passions. However, I propose that your young nephew is learning far more about mustacianism than you give him credit for!

      From my understanding, at only 19, while making minimal cash, he has already successfully saved up enough to purchase and resell two cars (note: my assumption…). Each car he has probably fixed up and improved himself, learning amazingly valuable skills that most people DREAM about having. Now he’s onto his third car, which is even better than the two before it. He does this while simultaneously attending a trade school to learn MORE about his hobby and improve his skills to an even greater degree…

      His car may be a gas guzzler with high costs… BUT it’s also a platform for learning, passion, focus, and motivation; which allows him the opportunity to invest in his life in a way that creates useful long-term value…. And an investment in one’s self is likely the best investment one can make!

      If he’s doing this in a fiscally precarious way (e.g. overloaded with debt, living paycheck to paycheck), then there may be an opportunity to help him improve his approach… To me though, what you describe implies a craftiness and get-things-done attitude that is at the heart of mustacianism. With the right sort of fiscal & practical knowledge added to his repertoire, you may have the makings of a truly self-sufficient adult.

      Perhaps you may have more to learn from your nephew than you think… :-)

      ~ DaftShadow
      p.s. Here’s a great article on the topic of passions and expensive toys: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/how-to-afford-anything.htm

      Reply
      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 1, 2012, 8:23 am

        I definitely gave him more credit for the trucks when he decided to go to school to be a mechanic – it’s CLEARLY his passion. Kid loves cars, and my dad was an auto mechanic, so I totally get that (that gene skipped me).

        But he’s on his 2nd truck because he wrecked the first one. However, that was ALSO a teachable moment. He pulled out in front of someone at a stop sign, but waited for the police to come, and fessed up. So he’s really a great kid.

        I think he borrowed some of the money (5k?) for the second truck from my mom. Still, he’s more mustachian than most 19 year olds I know.

        Reply
  • Allison April 30, 2012, 11:56 am

    According to Maslow, there is a hierarchy of needs.  First, we need to meet our most basic physiological needs for life sustaining food and water.  Second, we need to find shelter and safety.  Third, we need to find connections to others and love.  Fourth, we need to find esteem and importance – both from others and from within ourselves.  Fifth, if we are really advanced, we look for a self actualization.  Maslow would say that the first four levels are must haves.  If you don’t have them, starting from the bottom, you will work tirelessly to achieve them.  When people say that their big car or fancy gift or expensive wine is a “need”, I think they are being genuine.  They are trying to meet their need for esteem or connections.  Unfortunately, they will never have enough money to meet these needs, because you can’t buy self esteem, respect, importance, or love.  It’s a shame that so many people don’t even realize what they are working toward.

    Reply
    • A mom April 30, 2012, 2:59 pm

      Right you are, Allison, which is why the whole thing is really very sad!

      Reply
    • nubbs180 April 30, 2012, 6:45 pm

      The funny thing about Maslow’s hierarchy, is that if you think on the people who historically have actually achieved self-actualization–people like the Buddha, Gandhi, Jesus, and the like–they are all people who denied their “most basic” needs. Fasting, removing themselves from society, and the such.

      Maslow’s hierarchy fits the marketers’ agenda. I doubt it actually works as most people think it should.

      Reply
      • Allison May 1, 2012, 11:00 am

        That’s a good point. In our society, needs certainly get distorted by marketing. If you consider the whole breadth of human experience, I think Maslow was close. I have met families who had lived in Sudanese refugee camps who were hungry and sick and brutalized. They were certainly more focused on sustaining life than whether or not their food aid was organic or who was wearing the newest dress or meditating for a higher level of enlightenment. But here, in North America, our perspective on what we need is skewed. “First World Problems”, right?

        Reply
  • Ceaps April 30, 2012, 12:17 pm

    There’s been a TED talk on how things have changed in the last century or so, and indeed we probably live in the best times yet. Here’s the vid: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html

    Reply
  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 30, 2012, 12:35 pm

    These news articles are always good for a laugh. Seems like you’re more than “making ends meet” if you can “afford” to spend that much on entertainment, house keeping, and daycare.

    Reply
  • sideways8 April 30, 2012, 12:40 pm

    I have to admit… I find part of myself wanting a cleaning lady. The rest of me wants FI more, though.

    Reply
  • Anne April 30, 2012, 2:11 pm

    sideways8: I have to agree with you. I want a cleaning lady, but I want FI more. It’s all about priorities.

    Reply
  • Marie April 30, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Check out a recent article on the $2,000 prom:

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/story/2012-04-12/high-school-prom-spending/54224068/1

    The saddest statement:

    “Especially in really affluent households, the parents, in a way, use their kids to proclaim their stature to other parents,” she says. “They use their kids to communicate to the community who they are.”

    Good grief! These are the values we are teaching our children?

    Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 April 30, 2012, 2:40 pm

    It’s ridiculous. Go ahead and pull your kids out of private school if you can’t make ends meet. It’s your choice. People making that kind of money should try to live on the average American family’s income for a few weeks. They need to get grounded again. Oh well, I guess someone must help improve the economy.

    Reply
  • lolconsumerism April 30, 2012, 2:47 pm

    What I god honestly want to know is….. how does one spend 1000 dollar a MONTH on groceries? Unless you’re feeding the military, I don’t even see that as possible. As a single person, I can live on 1000 dollars of groceries for an entire YEAR.

    And their figures don’t even include liquor and restaurants yet. So, 2000 dollars of perishable goods. You gotta be kidding me.

    But I guess you gotta do your grocery shopping at Le Magnifique Foodz, because if you started shopping at Target or Sams, Mr. and Mrs. Jones would laugh, ever so politely, at the next community soiree at your obvious misfortune and inferiority.

    Reply
  • FreeUrChains April 30, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Sooo….Who wants to start up an “accounting firm [MMM, insert your name here] LLP in [internet] who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy.”

    We all can train/baby sit Income earners of over $100k+ to spend $20k or less each year and save/invest the rest; and work on hourly rates of $75-$200 each, or ask for 5% of savings rate after first year from initiation into our client listings/database.

    Once you have read 6 months of MMM articles, and have changed your lifestyle toward FI, then you should quality as a Financial Expert IMO.

    Reply
  • It figures April 30, 2012, 3:38 pm

    Risky startup That is a great point a out investing the private school tuition! I will have to tell my friends who send their kids to private school. Although they are getting a deal at only $20,000 per child. Your friends must be in Toronto!

    Reply
    • RiskyStartup.com May 2, 2012, 10:26 pm

      Nope, that makes it even worse – this school is in a smaller city in Ontario where money he spends goes much further than in Toronto (he could buy a VERY nice house for each kid just from 4 years of high-school tuition alone).

      Worse yet, school expects parents and kids to take part in all kinds of fund-raisers that must add to another few thousands each year!

      School even has a $10K per year “meal-plan” option and they serve junk food and fries 3 times per week! My friend was at least smart enough to have their housekeeper pack lunch for kids :)

      Reply
  • Huck April 30, 2012, 3:45 pm

    Check out this SNL sketch “Don’t buy stuff you cannot afford”…

    http://www.allprodad.com/blog/2012/04/30/steve-martin-debt-and-your-marriage/

    note the “one page” book is FREE!!

    Reply
  • Shanna April 30, 2012, 3:59 pm

    This is making me picture a “reality” show with MMM a la “Supernanny” or that restaurant makeover one with Robert Irvine. A family of whiny pantses is chosen and MMM descends on the house for a good verbal slapdown and excruciating budget makeover. I can picture the intro with video of a wife getting waxed etc. and the husband buying cases of wine with a voice over of them describing their “terrible” situation. Then MMM knocks and the entertainment begins.

    Reply
    • rjack April 30, 2012, 4:25 pm

      What a great idea!!!

      Reply
      • Shanna April 30, 2012, 4:37 pm

        And, really, any income level would do. It just looks more foolish when high income people are wasting such wonderful opportunities.

        I can totally see the college student episode where they buy a car or go shopping with their Financial Aid check and then charge up a bunch of credit cards, a story I have seen repeated many times in my life.

        Reply
      • Charlie Flowers May 28, 2012, 1:29 am

        Reminds me of an article in The Onion (an online news parody magazine) not too long ago. A wealthy family’s butler was murdered, and the rest of the servant staff was too troubled to work for the evening. The article laments the brutal killing, and the equally tragic fact that one of the family members actually had to walk over and make his own drink at one point during the evening.

        Reply
    • Dancedancekj April 30, 2012, 5:24 pm

      Oh. My. God. Yes please. Who do we need to talk to to make this happen?

      “$400 a month on wine? You’ve been very naughty!!!”

      Reply
    • lolconsumerism April 30, 2012, 6:06 pm

      I really like this idea, but you have to consider anyone that is in that lifestyle will have difficulty getting OUT of it. And you would be broadcasting this to the very group that would have a difficulty accepting this concept.

      I see very few rich giving up their lexus with all the extras for a 90s-early 00s vehicle. I see even fewer pulling little Johnny out of private school. It’s a matter of presentation and culture, not about what is actually an educated and reasonable decision.

      Reply
      • Shanna April 30, 2012, 7:11 pm

        The beauty of TV is-no one cares if they get out of it! A remorse filled Relapse episode would be great, all the arm chair frugals could tsk-tsk sternly and shake their heads, the subjects would be spending even more money on a mini Hollywood Car Wash so they looked good on TV, it would be great!

        People watch wierd shows, I have watched Ice Road Truckers, Pawn Stars and the restaurant show and I have no personal interest in any of these subjects. It’s all about drama and editing.

        As for sponsorship, any virtuous money “saving” product will do, the audience would have to actually read stuff to really get into frugality and how many people sit around reading non-fiction books? They are watching a TV show, they will be easily duped by marketing geniuses.

        There will be a lucky lucky few who will have an aha moment and wonder why no one ever explained all this to them in the first place.

        Reply
        • BDub May 1, 2012, 9:41 am

          The best episode would be the one where they focus on a high income urban family going broke doing a 3000 sq. ft “green” addition on their home (including the requisite $2K chicken coop from restoration hardware).. Think of how many hipsters’ heads would explode with that conundrum…

          Reply
      • Matt May 1, 2012, 4:47 am

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. People get so used to a certain budget/lifestyle, and then when prices change, like they have done recently, they complain that their budget doesn’t go far enough rather than change their lifestyle.

        It’s a very dangerous situation. Things have been ridiculously cheap for too long, and it’s going to catch a lot of people out when prices go up.

        For example, when I took out my mortgage originally, (12 years ago now), we got a rate of 6% which we thought was really cheap, and back then it was. NOW, (I live in the UK) our BoE base rate is 0.5% and my mortgage rate is 1% above that. People can get cheap mortgages if they have a big enough deposit, but the problem is rates WILL go up again. (At 0.5% they can’t really go down anyway).

        If you get the biggest mortgage you can afford now, you’re setting yourself up for a fall, and the same thing applies to everything else in your lifestyle, car finance, credit cards, even food. It’s all going to get more expensive, so get used to it, and budget for the future, or you won’t have one??

        Reply
    • smedleyb May 1, 2012, 8:14 am

      There’s a show called “Till Debt Do Us Part” which pretty much does this.

      Reply
    • Allison May 1, 2012, 11:06 am

      There is also a show called “Princess” where a Super Nanny look a like (English accent and all) swoops in and tries to reform over spending young women. She puts them on allowance, makes them sell their extra stuff, forces them to create budget worksheets, etc.

      Reply
      • Tara May 2, 2012, 4:41 pm

        The same woman does Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess – it’s Gail Vaz-Oxlade, and she’s Jamaican/Canadian. Love her shows and her blog.

        Reply
    • pat March 11, 2013, 11:49 am

      Hey, that’s “Til Debt do us Part” with Gail Vaz-Oxlade. She tells it like it is, too.
      The young ones with really serious entitlement issues get to be on “Princess”
      You can see old episodes online at Slice, Mustachians will either end up crying they are laughing so hard, or yelling at the idiots on the screen.

      Reply
  • Joy April 30, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Who would sponsor the show?

    Reply
    • Jimbo April 30, 2012, 5:26 pm

      Financial planners?

      But guys, MMM will never do that. He would have to travel away from home and work a lot.

      Which is why I will pitch this show to TLC… Kidding.

      Reply
      • Dee May 1, 2012, 5:02 am

        Til Debt Do Us Part with Gail Vaz-Oxlade isn’t very different from what’s being described here as a hypothetical.

        Reply
        • smedleyb May 1, 2012, 8:15 am

          Doh! Didn’t see your post Dee May.

          Reply
  • blindsquirrel April 30, 2012, 8:25 pm

    The articles show some folks who are flat bad at math and lack some life skills. Sad.

    Reply
  • George April 30, 2012, 9:10 pm

    I could not agree with you more MMM about these new stories. I especially like the one about drinking $500 worth of wine each month, haha!! They must down a bottle every night or two. Maybe those case study people are too drunk to know where their money went.

    What you said about the media is especially true. The media does not care about telling people the truth, they don’t care about helping them either, instead they just act as a drug to tell the masses, “Its ok, its not your fault that you suck, its society, its the price of gas, its the price of everyday goods”. They know this will keep their readers coming back for more so that the news company can sell their advertising spots for more money.

    I hate to think about how much time I wasted in my younger years reading online news stories. These stories can be just about as much of a waste of time as watching TV. Probably about 98% of the news articles are either crap, distorted facts, or just plain irrelevant. There still are a few good reporters out there but you really have to look for them.

    About the only good thing that I ever got from reading MSN was finding out about this blog. I still remember the day I randomly came across your early retirement story, and I said holycrap!!, there is someone who is actually saving more than me with a regular job! It was amazing to find out about a guy who actually discovered how to climb all the way up the greasy pyramid. Before that, I was saving more than anyone else I knew, including all my coworkers, family, and friends, and they all thought I was crazy.

    Reply
  • woodpecker May 1, 2012, 4:14 am

    Hi there,

    good to see that there are obviously more people than I thought out there who strive to downshift and concentrate on the important things in life.
    I started a little blog myself here in Germany –
    http://gooddaytolive.wordpress.com/
    – as we have to little discussion on this issue on this side of the Altantic so far. And MrMoneyMustache is always a great inspiration!

    Keep it on and Cheers from Germany,

    Woodpecker

    Reply
  • JaneMD May 1, 2012, 10:04 am

    The L-K’s are killing me. Our two job household has a similar salary with two small children – yet we manage to spend half as much on daycare, a third less on rent, sure as heck don’t spend $2000 a month on food, WINE, and eating out! We have money to save for retirement and pay off our student loans. Any extra money goes into that – not ‘going out.;

    While our household enjoys a bottle of wine per week, do these people realize they sound like closet alcoholics? $500/$11bottles = 45 bottles of wine per month.

    And from the pediatrician – your 18 month old and 3 year old do NOT need music lessons or swimming lessons. If you really want, you can stop at the local YMCA and get a 4 week infant swim class for $50 per kid.

    Reply
  • Chris May 1, 2012, 12:47 pm

    How did you avoid the urge to title this “The Cost of Living is Too Damn High”?

    Reply
    • Dancedancekj May 1, 2012, 9:22 pm

      Haha, I was thinking the same thing!

      Reply
  • Shalini Aguilera May 1, 2012, 12:54 pm

    “the natural human instinct to live very lavish lifestyles with this giant income”

    Careful not to extend Westernized economics into biology, MMM. After all, there were tribes of people who ritualistically burned their excess items and signified social status by how much they gave away to others (the potlatch). People who hoarded items for themselves in these tribes were actually looked down on.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 1, 2012, 8:32 pm

      Great point! I didn’t even think about how other cultures have handled the concept of excess wealth.

      Reply
    • lurker May 2, 2012, 8:10 am

      of course we killed most of those American Indians so we could take all their land and cut down all the huge trees….perhaps our biology is flawed but I blame capitalism and consumerism….

      Reply
  • Nurse Frugal May 1, 2012, 2:47 pm

    What a fabulous post!!! It’s just like P diddy says: “Mo money, mo Problems” (I think it was P diddy anyway.) My husband and I too feel like we are living an extravagant lifestyle while making average income and putting away approximately 50% of our income towards our mortgage reduction. MMM is right, this society is so insatiable, even if they got a raise, they would find another monthly payment to add onto their bills, or figure out another purchase that they “had” to have. They wonder why they can never save….hmmmmm…..that’s a tough one. Like Jane MD said above me….I could easily see 5 things that could be taken out of that Toronto budget.
    Right off the top:
    1. Cleaning lady: $160. It’s called, get a workout and clean it yourself ;)
    2. Groceries: $1,000. Unless you are buying gold-studded carrots and cheese, I don’t understand how you could possibly be spending $1,000. Get some coupons, do some research.
    3. Wine: $400–$500. Really?
    4. Eating out: $400. These people have a serious problem if they are spending close to $1,000 combined on eating out and wine. They could probably make a better and cheaper meal at home and they might even find some gold nuggets in their gourmet carrots.
    5. Haircuts, nails and waxing: $170. Do it yourself honey….it may hurt and take practice, but it can be done ;)

    Reply
    • Dancedancekj May 1, 2012, 9:23 pm

      I believe it was Notorious B.I.G. (aka “Biggie”) who gave the quote about “Mo’ money, mo’ problems”. A great quote, nonetheless :)

      Reply
    • Gerard May 2, 2012, 8:32 am

      Funnily enough, Toronto probably has Canada’s lowest food costs, thanks to many immigrants and a relatively low minimum wage. Mediocre markets compared to Montreal, though. But if you can’t walk out of an Asian supermarket with all you can carry for under fifty bucks, you’re doing something wrong.

      Reply
  • Brian May 1, 2012, 11:27 pm

    Couldn’t agree more that mass media is part of the sensationalist marketing that drives our consumerist society.

    I try (as much as possible) to avoid mainstream news and take in a diet of mustacian goodness!

    Reply
  • M.S. May 2, 2012, 8:36 am

    Well, if you are bad with 100 dollars you’ll be bad with a 1,000.
    And so up the scale…

    Reply
  • 5 o'clock Shadowvian May 2, 2012, 1:44 pm

    With the Schiff article (and possibly the Toronto one as well), I do have to wonder if the motivation for such articles was it least partly to provide a laugh at these people’s foolishness. We can’t be the only ones to find these people crazy.

    Reply
  • Mike May 2, 2012, 2:08 pm

    My response to Mr. Schiff:

    Wow. Let’s see, you’re smart enough to talk your way into a job making $350k selling people financial products that, let’s face it, probably struggle to outperform VTI. Let’s work through this by way of a little role playing. My apologies in advance for the sarcasm you are about to experience. You be someone who makes $350k, I’ll be a marketer:

    Me: “Hi Mr. $350k Earner, here it is! [insert name of fancy shaving product, overpriced private school, really overpriced condominium or really, really overpriced imported automobile]. It will finally give you the “New York you’ve always wanted”, you know, the Big Apple. That little something special that all those $500k earners have that makes their lives so much AWESOMER than yours. For you my friend, I’ll let it go for a trifling $400k.”

    You: [insert outcome of potentially life-changing moment of introspection: "Pound sand" or "let me get out my platinum card"]

    Reply
  • TW May 2, 2012, 2:38 pm

    Thank you for this post! I work in an industry surrounded by high net income folk and aspiring high net income folk where image is king.
    Every now and then it is a challenge to stay frugal (2 years strong!) when I park my 8-year-old commuter car in a lot full of shiny BMW’s and Mercedes. Thier suits are custom-made and mine are from various clearance sections.

    But then I think of my saving account, and I smile.
    This site is a nice deep breath of fresh air.
    So thank you, MMM

    Reply
  • Gabrielle May 2, 2012, 5:00 pm

    My friend has a news clipping on his fridge that reads something like “by age 50, half of all people have less than $100K in savings”. I keep wanting to tell him: that is not supposed to make YOU feel better!

    Reply
    • Kathy P. May 2, 2012, 5:09 pm

      According to AARP, 25% of people aged 46 – 64 and 22% of people aged 65+ have no retirement savings. On top of that 26% of those in the first age group and 14% of those in the second have no personal savings.

      Reply
  • John May 3, 2012, 1:29 am

    Excellent article! I think this Country is in for a serious wake-up call. With no one, other than Mustachian types, saving for retirement, I wonder what all of these people will do.

    With unemployment as high as it is, there are fewer and fewer workers paying Social Security. Mr. Money M, I’m amazed at how you kick ass (i.e. living an active lifestyle the 1% would envy) while living at a level of spending that perhaps 20% of the country does. Amazing!

    One thing I have learned though, is that you cannot teach others when they don’t want to learn. My mother has the option of a 115K payout or a $700 a month pension for life (she is 69). She asked my advice. I told her to go for the $700 and then she gave me a laundry list of excuses why she should take the 115K. She is a shopaholic so I knew the motivation behind her rationale. She actually told me she thought she would die soon and then my brother and I could split the 115K.

    I didn’t say anything, but was thinking, okay Joe (my brother) mom’s passed away, you can have the left side of her clothing, shoes closet and I’ll take the right, LOL (but really sad).

    You can’t tell anyone anything who wants to follow the path of financial destruction. They don’t want to be helped!!! For me, a serious revelation.

    Reply
  • Kevin May 3, 2012, 2:04 am

    People actually read newspapers in this day and age? Not only are they sensationalist, but they flat out present propaganda most of the time. That’s why we have the internet and great resources like this blog. Eventually, people will be thinking for themselves far more often when government-controlled news sources are finally considered irrelevant by the majority.

    Reply
  • Asango May 3, 2012, 2:25 am

    Same sickness in my homecountry South Africa : People spending like crazy on luxuries or simply just wasting money without thinking. I may not drive a fancy car or stay in an upmarket neighbourhood, but when I think about my investment portfolio and the fact that I do not owe anybody a cent, the smile of a rich man spread over my face.

    Reply
  • Joggernot April 4, 2014, 5:38 pm

    There is at least one congressperson who thinks he is underpaid at $174,000 salary.

    http://www.caintv.com/democrat-rep.jim-moran-says-im

    Thought we could send them all a sympathy card…:)

    Reply

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