64 comments

A Wealthy Future for Junior Money Mustache

You’ll never hear me claim that being a parent is even remotely easy or convenient. But it sure does have its golden times, and this week has been one of them here in the Mustache household.

My son (known here affectionately as Little MM or Junior ‘Stash) has finally discovered the joys of bike riding, and it is making me a proud Dad. He was a little late to start  – when he was 2 through 4 years old, he generally resisted the frustrating prospect of trying to get around on a tricycle and later a “scoot bike”. He is unfortunately just like his father was at that age: afraid to try something new, unless he is sure he can master it on the first try.

But at age five, late last fall, he had a breakthrough. We took the scoot bike down to the slightly sloped parking lot at the high school, and he just started coasting on it. And scooting, and coasting some more. Within an hour, he could balance indefinitely, given a long enough hill. Over the following months, we progressed through a few more scooting sessions, but then the habit was lost with the shorter days of winter and various trips.

Early this year I got him a basic bike with pedals and no training wheels, which led to another breakthrough: unassisted, real bike riding. It was sufficiently fun that he started wanting to ride more often, and suddenly he and I started heading out on father and son adventures around the town. Over to the park to use the play structure, or down to the creek to splash around and make dams. We were covering some real miles, he was growing quickly, and this first bike was a bit of a junker: a heavy-as-a-tank single speed Mongoose model that we found for only $14 at Play it Again Sports. Good for learning and crashing, but at 65% of his bodyweight with very short cranks, not much use on a steep hill.

So it was with great pride that I recently set out to find him his next bike. This would be his first “Real” bike – one with more than one gear ratio, a bigger frame and wheels, and enough room to grow that he could enjoy it for 3-4 years. As a family that treats bikes as the main form of transportation rather than just toys, we wanted something that will help him cover hundreds of miles per year. I also wanted him to be able to ride with me on country road adventures to the other towns around here, and to start checking out some of the excellent mountain bike trails in the foothills.

After a bit of research, it looked like the most likely candidate for the job was a bike called the “Specialized Hotrock 20″. It’s a cute little number with 20″ wheels, a light aluminum frame, and a 6-speed rear gearset. There’s even a decent quality front suspension fork to absorb bumps and increase its curb-hopping and trail riding abilities.

Checking one out in the bike store when buying some parts recently, we found that this model came highly recommended by the shop owner. The $350 retail price seemed reasonable for something with that level of quality. But obviously you never buy anything new in a store without first doing thorough research on Craigslist. And true to form, Craigslist offered up a plethora of Hotrocks from which to choose.

I did the usual round of reading all the ads, contacting the sellers who lived closest to me, and conversing in detail with the ones who ended up getting back to me. The winning seller had a matching pair of the bikes up for sale, only 2 years old and barely used, with an asking price of $200 each.

Over email, I politely negotiated a selling price of $150 using the techniques in the article above, because most of the other Craigslist sellers were asking the lower amount (although they were further away from where I live). The offer was accepted, so I set out to pick up the bike.

The seller was exactly the type of person from which you want to buy things. A friendly, meticulous, lady in Boulder with a $1.3M home (according to Zillow).  The matching bikes were sitting there in a garage full of other nice stuff, very shiny and barely used. “Yeah, the twins enjoyed these bikes. They just didn’t use them much since they mostly used their scooters last year, and this year they grew out of the bikes.”

You might be pretty excited that I got this $350.00 bike for only $150. But it’s even better than that: in four years when he grows out of it, the resale value will still be at least $100, making the real cost of ownership about $12.50 per year. From an economics perspective, buying it used also helps to reduce the demand for new stuff. And it helps to close the irrational gap between new and used pricing, which will encourage more trading of used goods and less waste.

I brought the bike home and things have been a whirlwind of riding ever since. Little MM loves the speed and the ability to climb hills. I even installed a digital speedometer on the bike, because I knew that the little Mini-Me would love tracking his records and stats and reporting back to his parents (5.11 miles last night, in case you were wondering).

I almost felt a little out of character when his new bike made its debut among the other first graders. It is clearly one of the nicest bikes in the schoolyard, and I was suddenly aware that it might cause envy or upgrade pressure to the other kids and their parents. It’s the opposite of what I usually try to do when it comes to setting an example in the community.

On the other hand, a bike is a tool just as much as it is a toy, and getting in the habit sets the foundation for a lifetime of health and wealth.  Riding instead of driving can make the difference between a crushing college education debt, and complete debt freedom upon graduation. And it can make the difference between “broke” and “millionaire” over the period of just part of an adult lifetime.

Heck, now that I think back, I believe my Dad got me a pretty good bike at just a couple years older than my son is now. I might even have a picture of it scanned in somewhere:

Oh yeah – Mr. Money Mustache, 1983 edition, loving the new bike.

 

We have a family tradition where I draw a different picture each school day and stick it on his sandwich container. Then he gets to discover it when he opens the lunch bag. For today’s picture, I made this one:

So congratulations Little MM on your new skill! I can’t wait to ride our butts off together over the next 60 years or so.

  • Dragline August 29, 2012, 6:19 am

    Love your family tradition. Your kids will remember that with fondness the rest of their lives.

    Reply
    • Nurse Frugal August 29, 2012, 3:16 pm

      That is an awesome tradition! You should save all of them and make them into a scrapbook later, or maybe Mrs. MMM can do that. I love that you plan on riding over the next 60 years! That will make you…..85 year old? lol, The other day I had a patient well into their 90’s that told me that for her 90th birthday she enjoyed a 10 mile ride with her cycling friends…..isn’t that awesome? That will be you someday with little stache junior.

      Reply
  • Heath August 29, 2012, 6:26 am

    Another beautiful story! This website’s positivity is making my mornings feel awesome :-)

    It’s great that you exist and are spreading The Word, MMM. I enjoy having a badass role model who enjoys the crap out of his life. I dream of the day when I can ride around with my son or daughter and see the world through their lens of Everything Is New. Keep us posted on those personal mileage records, as 5.1 miles is quite impressive for an initial outing!

    Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty August 29, 2012, 6:35 am

    That’s what I love about craigslist! Buying used means you can typically resell your items for about what you paid for them….as long as they are well taken care of. I have so many nice items from craigslist…furniture, clothing, kids toys, and almost all of my kids clothes.

    To me, it almost feels like I’m giving a giant middle finger to corporations by buying used. I like it.

    Reply
  • KO August 29, 2012, 7:04 am

    What a great post! We’re expecting our first child in December (a boy) and reading about your happy little family just motivates and excites me to no end. The love and closeness you, Mrs.MM and Junior Stash share is inspiring and exactly what we are working towards. Three cheers for spending time together as a family instead of being stuck on a corporate treadmill!!!

    Reply
  • James August 29, 2012, 7:25 am

    It’s great to hear about his biking, I agree that it should be a fundamental part of a lifestyle for any child. I try to keep my kids biking as much as possible, and focus on it as a means of transportation not just a fun thing to do.

    Last weekend I biked 34 miles with my 13 year old over two days, running errands in town and having fun. The other night my 13, 10, and 7 year old all rode with me into town and back, over 6 miles total, and they don’t even think of that as a long bike ride. I’m hoping the steady practice of using bikes as a means of transportation will set that in their head as an option through the rest of their lives.

    Reply
  • Rod August 29, 2012, 7:32 am

    Awesome seeing the little birds learn to fly! Nice bike and a great price. We all ride daily,wuse old bikes mainly, a hiawatha stratochief, and 2 old Chicago Schwinns (I have a trek for off roading, and showing off). The kids all seem to come here for free air and small repairs. I can change a tube in 5 minutes usually and I keep common size tubes in my garage ( I don’t charge for them, I do it for goodwill, and the parents usually end uphaving a nice side job for me eventually). In fact I taught my 2 neighbor kids how to ride. Seems mom and dad were too busy. They missed out on the magic moment when the baby birds wobble about on their own. The parents have bikes, but they are on garage hooks. I used to make notes to my kid in his lunch everyday also! Love the vintage picture!! A wheelie? NO helmet?? Oh my goodness. I do wear a helmet now, on the hard rides in the sticks, but back then, I don’t recall anyone having a helmet. Suppose that makes me old timey. I am sure Jr stash will learn the finer points of maintenance, that’s part of the fun having a trushworthy machine and knowing how it all works and it saves money. Congratulations on the new rider and thanks again for the postings.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2012, 7:38 am

      Yeah.. Did bike helmets even exist in 1983 when that wheelie picture was taken? I have no idea.

      Junior ‘stash, on the other hand, does ride with a helmet. In fact, it came in handy last night on a ride more recent than this article. He went slightly out of control and bonked a railing with the helmet while the rest of him and the bike landed in soft grass. I was very thankful for the helmet and so was he!

      Reply
      • Rod August 29, 2012, 7:46 am

        I was a 70’s kid, I think they were still in testing mode on helmets back then. My son used one while he learned, and I am glad he did. He had a loose shoestring one day… Now he is 14, into motorcycles and girls. I miss the simpler days, but look forward to the next golden moments!

        Reply
      • J. August 29, 2012, 9:49 am

        Gotta get a new helmet. They’re only reliably good for one impact.
        Most of the big helmet companies will replace a crashed helmet at about 50% of retail, so long as you send them the dinged lid. They use them for crash research, making better helmets.

        Reply
      • janti August 29, 2012, 5:48 pm

        I had a helmet in 1986. My folks were the first people in a small WY farm who wore helmets that they brought with them from SoCal in the early 80’s. And great article that brings a smile to my face. My own kids are sprouting their bike wings

        Reply
  • superbien August 29, 2012, 7:55 am

    That article was great, but it was the picture in his lunch that just made me all schmoopy. Awwwwwww! You’re a great dad.

    Reply
  • Mike August 29, 2012, 8:08 am

    Congrats to Jr Stash! He will love it and just wait until he hits a trail or starts jumping it off things. I just bought a Specialized Hardrock yesterday from CL for the same price. Mine is a lot older though and more beat up, but a thorough washing and some minor adjusting and it was ready for my commute this morning. it was pretty awesome to see that specialized visiting the site this morning :P

    Reply
  • JJ August 29, 2012, 8:19 am

    Oh man, that brings back memories. Evil Knievel eat your heart out – who needs a motorbike, professionally made ramp, safety gear and buses to jump over when an old push bike, a plank of wood and some bricks, shorts and dumb friends lying at the end of the ramp will do. And no, mum & dad wouldn’t have been proud if they had known. I often wonder how so many males of our species make it to breeding age.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2012, 11:09 am

      You’re right, JJ – your story brought back memories of the dirt BMX ramps my own friends and I used to make. We held flying distance competitions, moving an old can to mark each record.

      Later, inspired by a TV series about a stuntman called “The Fall Guy”, we jumped off of progressively higher balconies and other things outside, seeing how high we could go while still landing “safely”.

      It was all extremely dangerous my modern parent standards. Then again, maybe had an X-men like effect on my skeleton, which ended up making me more unbreakable in my adult years. :-)

      Reply
      • J.Reid August 29, 2012, 3:17 pm

        Yes! My bike ramp was a log and a piece of siding, seriously. We knew every bump and rock in the neighborhood that you could possibly catch the tiniest bit of air off of. And the locations of the too-steep hills and the legends of hurtling down them. You can sum up the thought process of a small adventurous boy in three words: “This. Might. Work.”

        Also, MMM, here’s a happy secret that I bet you already know: when it comes to having big fun with the kids like you did with Little MM, it just gets better. And better. And better! My son (10 y.o.) and I did our annual Boys Camping trip in Bellingham this summer — I think you’re familiar with the area — and he and I did 22 miles of trails & town one of those days, an unprecedented feat for him. It’s the best thing in life to be sharing things like bikes and baseball and superheroes with him and my girls as they grow older.

        Reply
  • Debt Free Teen August 29, 2012, 8:37 am

    Love the story and love Craigslist. I bought a stand up paddleboard for about 300, cleaned it up and added rail tape and a paddle. Used it for about 8 months and resold it for 700!
    Chase

    Reply
  • BC August 29, 2012, 8:50 am

    I’m very frugal regarding purchases for my 3-year-old son wherever it’s appropriate, but sometimes quality is a must. My coworker’s 14 year old son was just injured while bike riding home when his handle bars broke off! They live is a dense urban area and so he is lucky that he is okay and wasn’t hit by a car. If you’re going to put your little on wheels they should be good ones! Great story of how you don’t have sacrifice the quality to get a good price.

    Reply
    • Jamesqf August 29, 2012, 12:59 pm

      Better low priced but quality used goods, than cheaply-made new.

      Reply
  • Gillian @ Money After Graduation August 29, 2012, 9:15 am

    What a great deal on the bike. Glad he has finally started to like biking, it’s such a great activity for kids. Also, love the pictures you draw for him, a very special thing for him. Those will be the things he remembers when he gets older.

    Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 August 29, 2012, 9:20 am

    That’s awesome! I can’t wait until my kid is old enough to learn to ride. He is pretty daring and I don’t think he’ll have much trouble trying it. I’ll see if I can find a tricycle for him on craigslist.

    Reply
    • Constance August 31, 2012, 2:14 pm

      Skip the tricycle and go for a balance/scoot bike (no pedals) instead! Two year olds can start with them and they learn to ride “real” bikes easier.

      Reply
  • Mr. Everyday Dollar August 29, 2012, 9:26 am

    You’re such a great dad. I love to use Craigslist as a place to store things. I find it painful to see people rent storage spaces or Pods because they have too much stuff.

    Your penalty because you have too much stuff? A monthly bill to store it. Ouch.

    If I have something I no longer use, I store it in the Craigslist cloud. When, and if, I need that something again I can simply re-download it. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Nice job scoring the bike for the little one! Takes me back to how we rolled in the 80’s – no knee pads, helmets, brakes or over cautious helicopter parents…bring on the ramps!

    Reply
    • julia August 30, 2012, 7:55 am

      Mr. Everyday Dollar – i love the “Craigslist Cloud” thought! That is fantastic.

      Reply
  • Nunayo August 29, 2012, 9:26 am

    Am I the only one filled with self pity after reading this? What I wouldn’t have given for a decent bike as a kid. The bike I learned to ride on was so huge that I had to use cinder blocks to get up onto it, and getting down required a patch of grass to throw my body onto, because my feet couldn’t touch the ground. No helmets, and no adult involvement. That big bike belonged to my older brother, no one bought me a bike until my first boyfriend in college gave me one. Despite these difficulties, I still became an avid bike commuter in college and still am to this day. I buy all my bikes used, have never had a new one.

    And the pictures on Junior Staches’ lunch are enough to bring tears to eyes. My parents were too busy & miserable to even make me lunch. But on the bright side I learned to be independent at a very young age.

    Okay, enough of the pity party. I’m glad the MMM family is doing right by their son.

    Reply
  • Cecile August 29, 2012, 10:15 am

    Good job Jr Stash !
    And for long rides on the mountainbike, some people use a clever trick with an elastic band to pull their Jrs in the long climbs…

    Craigslits and ebay are great for bikes. Buying used saves you money, and reduces your footprint on the planet. Only benefits !
    I just found a mtbike on ebay, from 2011… It still sells new online. Crazy to think that people change bikes every year.

    Reply
  • Lance@MoneyLife&More August 29, 2012, 10:42 am

    With as much as your family rides bikes buying a quality model makes a lot of sense! I bet for the same price e there were plenty of lower quality bikes at toys r us and that is where most parents end up!

    Reply
  • RubeRad August 29, 2012, 11:44 am

    I LOVED reading this, as it resonated so many ways with my own family; my firstborn also has the “if I can’t be awesome immediately I don’t want to try” syndrome, and we have a nearby school with a hill in the parking lot that played a pivotal role in early biking practice.

    Also, my latest hobby is basically reading http://sandiego.craigslist.org/bik. Personally, I think you overpaid (a little country-wide searching on searchcraigslist.org yielded prices of $85, $130, and a bunch of $150s), but if the market is what you expect, and you can sell it on later for a net cost of only $50, then that’s awesome.

    Another recommendation, my youngest just graduated up from his Trek Mountain Lion, which is a similar bike to the Hotrock; 20″ wheels, 6 gears (rear-derailleur only). I received it for free from a friend whose youngest son had outgrown it; he had bought it used himself, and I just passed it on to another family with a smaller boy than mine. That’s four owners, and that little Trek is solid as a rock, so it should be good for four more.

    Single-speed 20″ bikes are a dime-a-dozen (in fact less than that, because there are dozens for free on any local CL at any given time), and may be the right answer for your kid while they learn to ride, but if you want them to learn to ride far and up and down hills, and keep up on a family ride, they will need a geared bike.

    In fact, now that I think about it, of all the 20″ bikes I’ve seen (and remember, my hobby is trolling CL), I can’t recall a multi-gear one that was not from a reputable brand. Specialized Hotrock, Trek Mountain Lion, Raleigh Rowdy, about the closest you’ll get to crap is Diamondback and Mongoose. So as an experienced cycle-dad, I’ll go out on a limb and say, you probably can’t go wrong with any 20-inch multi-gear bike you can find.

    Reply
  • jd August 29, 2012, 12:13 pm

    Nice story; my 2-year-old has recently taken to his ‘scoot bike’, and it’s been quite a bit of fun for both of us. Those scoot bikes tend to be a bit expensive for what you get IMO; fortunately I managed to find a really nice wood one (MSRP $300) for $40 used–he gets lots of complements on it, and I might be able to sell it for a profit when the kids are done with it.

    Reply
  • Brave New Life August 29, 2012, 1:08 pm

    Awesome!

    My 4 and a half year old son (the one you met) asked to have his training wheels off about 2 months ago. I didn’t think he was ready (even though he did learn good balance on his Strider bike), but I figured “what the hell, I’ll take them off, let him scratch up his knees a little, and we’ll try again in a few months.”

    Boy was I wrong! He took off on those little 12″ wheels at what seemed like 1000 RPMs and I started sprinting after him. I could barely keep up, and I was sure he was gona take a spill. But it never happened.

    By the next day, we were going on 5 mile bike rides to the park and back on a paved trail near our house.

    And tonight, I’ll be picking up a 16″ Mongoose off Craiglist so he can pick up the speed a little. :)

    Reply
  • Mr. Risky Startup August 29, 2012, 1:27 pm

    We got one of those new fancy “balance bikes” for our two year old. Those come with no training wheels and no pedals, so it is basically a scoot bike. What an ingenious idea – at the tender age of 2 years and couple months, our son is already scooting and keeping balance. We get stopped every single day by people who cannot believe that 2 year old can ride a bike (it takes them a minute or two to realize that there are no pedals :)

    I was sceptical at first, but now I believe that seamless transition from this bike to pedal bike is possible. This is the one we purchased:

    http://www.balancebikescanada.ca/categories/Balance-Bikes-%252d-Metal/

    Reply
    • Brave New Life August 29, 2012, 4:27 pm

      Yeah, my son learned on a Strider like that, and even though we had a 3 month stint on training wheels after that (Christmas present from Grandma and Grandpa), he still immediate relearned the balance he had originally learned from the Striker.

      Reply
  • Michelle August 29, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Awesome. My very tall 5.5 year-old son just graduated from a 16 in Hotrock up to a 20 in bike this weekend. Been looking a while and couldn’t find any 20in Hotrock 6 speeds on Craigslist so we ended up buying a new REI Novara Duster. Very well made and one of the very few aluminum multi-gear bikes for kids in this size. We bicycled 7 miles on our first outing and he’s getting used to both handbrakes and shifting. Not as fabulous a deal as you got but we put in fair effort and I suspect it will last us quite a while ;)

    Reply
  • Marcia August 29, 2012, 2:23 pm

    We just recently took the training wheels off our 6 yo’s bike. We take him to the park. We don’t yet bike from home because our hill is very steep and he’s not that good yet.

    I’m looking forward to bike rides. I didn’t quite time the 2nd baby thing right for that.

    Reply
  • Financial Penguin August 29, 2012, 5:18 pm

    Everything I’ve seen you post about your family life has pointed to you being great parents. I think you’re going to see dividends in the form of a great relationship with your son far down the line. I feel like this especially is great, because of how serious you are about biking, you could have easily slipped into trying to pressure little MM into biking all the time, and possibly causing him not to like it as much, as I know my dad did to me with baseball! Seems like you let him go at his own pace as he got interested in it! Great!

    Reply
  • Mr. Risky Startup August 29, 2012, 11:37 pm

    Unrelated to subject, but wanted to congratulate MMM on building a web site that will shortly become one of the top 10,000 in the US. Currently you are rated 10,029th in US. It does not sound like much, but going from obscurity to top 10K in 12 months is cool.

    (Sorry for snooping, but I use Alexa professionally and it just occurred to me to check my favourite site :).

    http://www.alexa.com/search?q=mrmoneymustache.com&r=site_screener&p=bigtop

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2012, 9:15 am

      Thanks Risky! … but I always like to caution that the Alexa rank means nothing!

      If you don’t believe me, look up “Yakezie.com” – a site where a few financial bloggers do some online chitchat. It has an Alexa rank far higher than this site, with only a tiny percentage of the traffic. It’s because Alexa only measures the traffic patterns of Alexa toolbar users. Who would use that toolbar? It is useless, except to bloggers and website owners. So it’s a measure of “how many bloggers read your site”.

      The real measure of blog success is monthly page views and RSS feed subscribers. This site is up to about 1M pageviews per month if you include the forum, and we’re getting close to 10,000 subscribers. I’m very happy about all these people who have joined us, although I have no idea how it works out in terms of ranking. Maybe in the top 10-20 among personal finance sites if we’re lucky!

      Reply
      • Mr. Risky Startup August 31, 2012, 9:31 am

        I agree that ranking numbers can be deceiving, but I am more interested in relative growth compared to other sites. Yours has had a rocket-ship like uptake. Good work.

        Other good stat is number (and even names) of sites that link to you. There are some very impressive names there.

        In any case, people make careers in trying to achieve success like yours, and some never do. You did it by doing it as a hobby – which confirms that you found something that was missing in the market, and then you did good job writing the content. Again, impressive.

        Reply
      • Mr. Risky Startup August 31, 2012, 9:47 am

        And, I am also worried that you would become too successful at this, decide that it is too much like having a job and quit. Hahaha.

        Kidding aside, many people (like me) are using your site to keep us in check from sliding back to consumerism bandwagon. I realized how dumb I was late in life, and then changed my life and habits after realizing that I was practically a bank slave. However, it felt awesome to discover that I was not the only one out there.

        Just yesterday, I was trying to convert one of my employees – by explaining that in her case, if she keeps the Cable TV at $100 per month, she will end up working almost two years of her life just for the Cable company (her answer – maybe, but what would life be without TV :) – )

        Before discovering ERE and your site, I was in the closet about living fuller life by eliminating dumb expensive crap that I used to buy on credit which in turn ended up costing me multiples of the original cost, and it never brought joy I expected. Now, I am open and willing to share my story with others around me in hopes that some of them will see the light (I have to say, most of them do not).

        Reply
  • Tradies wife August 30, 2012, 12:16 am

    I can’t help myself from joining in the conversation on this one. I am so happy to see more bike blog posts. I think it is absolutely terrific that your son can ride, without training wheels at 5. My daughter is also five and not quite there yet. My son is 3, and doesn’t like riding bikes much, preferring his scooter. But I’m thinking I will lend a balance bike from the local toy library (yep, no charge, a frugal masters dream).

    However, your posts have inspired our family further. We have just brought a family cargo bike, to do all the little trips in town. Our town may not be as bike friendly as yours, but I’m confident that I can reduce all those little car trips. My ‘mountain bike’ has stood idle for years because it was just too difficult to get little ones out and about. The cargo bike is much more practical.

    So myself and my daughter are just about to head out on our first voyage to nanna’s place. My husband, the tradie he is is making a few adjustments before we set off. So excited. I don’t even care if it is raining, I’ll chuck a coat in the cargo bike. Thanks heaps, keep posting and I’ll keep reading.

    Family biking- We are really following your lead and loving it.

    From Belinda, stay at home mum to two little ones, in country Victoria, Australia.

    Reply
  • Yabusame August 30, 2012, 2:55 am

    For someone who seems to love their family life so much, I’ve got to ask a question that has been on my mind for a long time… Are you planning to have more kids or is there a reason you’re not?

    I ask, only, because I’ve always wanted a minimum of 2 kids myself.

    Reply
  • julia August 30, 2012, 8:07 am

    Great post. We have two kids, 8yo girl and 5yo boy, who have grown up riding bikes for transportation (first on the back of ours, now on their own).

    But since we also use a car when time or distance is a significant factor, our daughter now gets whiny about biking places. (Our son whines about riding in the car – says it’s too stuffy and he’d rather bike or walk.) We’ve started offering to drive our daughter if she will pay us for it from her allowance (typically $5 per car ride around town). So far, she has never bought a car ride, and once she gets on the bike, she is usually happy as a lark.

    Would love to hear more from you and other readers about your experiences & advice biking with kids for everyday transportation.

    My husband and I are new readers of your blog – he read many posts to me while I was driving us across country home from our vacation last week. We are both in our mid-30s, and have been living “semi-retired” since we had our first child (we had saved up enough to pay off our house so we live completely debt-free). Now that the kids are school-age, we are contemplating going back to full-time work for a while to save some more, and relocating to Colorado (Longmont has been our “dream city” even before we came across your blog!).

    It’s great to come across so many others with similar values – keeps us motivated. Thanks for what you are doing here!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2012, 11:17 am

      Haha, that is a very funny concept: threatening to charge one’s own children cab fare..

      Looking forward to meeting you and your gang out on the streets – look us up when you get here!

      Reply
  • becca August 30, 2012, 1:12 pm

    “Riding instead of driving can make the difference between a crushing college education debt, and complete debt freedom upon graduation”
    Do you really think so? I certainly biked everywhere during undergrad and still ended up with debt (albeit not necessarily “crushing” debt).

    Anyway- the lunchbox pictures are awesome. I would suggest taking photos of them, because digital storage space is so cheap these days (scrap booking them sounds admirable, but would be too much effort for me).

    Reply
  • Tamara August 30, 2012, 6:44 pm

    Here’s another reason to relish having made the effort to introduce your son to the joys of an activity already enjoyed by you and your wife – it will be a reason to bring you all back together again and again after he is grown and gone to a home of his own.

    We spent tremendous effort introducing our daughters to the worlds of hiking, running and biking that my husband and I enjoy. Now that they are grown and living elsewhere, these are the exact activities that bring us all back together on a regular basis.

    I turn 50 in October, and plan to celebrate with a 50 mile bike ride. With me on the ride will be my oldest daughter. She’ll likewise be with us in March when we attempt our first Metric Century, and joins us for hiking trips whenever she can. The youngest and I spent two recent weekends together at running events, and have plans to do a third next spring. My husband and I believe that the family that sweats together stays together.

    Reply
  • HM August 30, 2012, 11:11 pm

    Do people think it’s fair to go into a shop and take up employees’ time with no intention of buying anything? I’m a volunteer head mechanic of a bike co-op (we’re a non-profit and teach people how to fix their bikes) and we recently received an email from a gentleman looking to try fitting a new rack to his bike before buying it online. We couldn’t help him but did point out that if everyone simply used shops as testing sites before purchasing goods elsewhere, the shops won’t be in business for very long. I fully understand the desire to purchase used goods for both sustainable and financial reasons, as well as the need to make a good decision. But your local bike shop is not trying to rip you off, they’re trying to stay in business. I would suggest using a search engine rather than employees next time.

    Reply
    • Mike August 31, 2012, 7:18 am

      You’re right and I can’t believe I missed that. I don’t think it equates to comparison shopping either, you are wasting the time of someone else with no intention of buying.

      Reply
    • julia August 31, 2012, 8:08 am

      You raise a point I would love to hear more discussion about. I prefer to buy things used if possible, including through online sources, but sometimes I want to physically examine or compare products before I decide what to buy. I don’t feel too bad about going to big box stores to do this, but I do draw the line at locally-owned stores.

      I can’t imagine ever buying a bicycle brand new at my local bike shop, but for accessories, etc., they are my first choice. I’m just not a serious enough cyclist to warrant buying a brand-new bike.

      I did buy my first pair of new running shoes at a local retailer recently, since I’ve become a more serious runner. It was such a feel-good experience – getting their expert help, and supporting a local business with knowledgeable staff. Shaded, of course, with the knowledge that the shoes were made in China, quite probably by underpaid workers. But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

      Reply
      • Mike August 31, 2012, 8:20 am

        I don’t think the big box stores are any different, it’s not like they fly in people from out of town to work there and it’s still not ok to waste someone’s time. Maybe if you just go in to look at something and you don’t ask sales people any questions, maybe.

        Reply
        • julia August 31, 2012, 8:32 am

          Okay, I suppose you’re right about that. I generally don’t ask or even want help from big-box sales people, though – they usually don’t seem to know any more than I’ve already learned from my online research anyway.

          I live in Minnesota, where recently Best Buy closed a number of stores, citing this very problem – people using their store as a showroom for Amazon, eBay, etc.. This problem isn’t going away, and I wonder what kinds of realistic solutions we can come up with.

          Reply
          • Mike August 31, 2012, 8:48 am

            Microcenter here in Colorado has been advertising matching prices with newegg, their biggest online competitor. That’s one way a business can fight at least the pricing. But Microcenter is a larger company and not local, how local biz fights that I’m not sure. it really resides with us as consumers, and I’m glad people are recognizing that it’s wrong to use any store as a showroom for a used item or something online, but it isn’t a prevalent belief and I’m guessing most people don’t see it as wrong. One thing I do is use amazon for reviews, even if the price is less I’ll still buy it in the store. But I’m “gotta have it now” type of person so this is really easy issue for me to deal with :)

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2012, 9:26 am

              I think you guys have a good point in general, but are blowing the issue way out of proportion.

              I’m very conscious of wasting anybody’s time in any context – whether it’s a store employee, a friend I’m talking to on the phone, or a Mustachian taking the time to read this blog. But I don’t mind peeking into my local bike shop occasionally and ogling the bikes.

              I didn’t ask the store owner for help, he just came over and volunteered the information. I was quick to point out at the start of the conversation that we were just there to look, not to buy a bike on that visit.

              And we also buy plenty of stuff at the bike shops. Accessories and tubes, and other stuff that is needed quickly. I’ve bought full bikes at those shops in the past, since I am not opposed to buying new when Craig’s cannot deliver.

              I think it’s all about balance and politeness. Plus, when you go in and meet a store owner, you might end up becoming friends, opening up more possibilities for ties in your community and people to do business with in the future.

              A local store is not just an outlet for goods – it’s a place where fellow entrepreneurs hang out, and a good place to meet them!

              Reply
              • Mike August 31, 2012, 9:33 am

                Your case in particular isn’t that egregious, it’s the folks that do use their local businesses (even big box) to test and research knowingly without any intent to buy there. Simply to get a feel for a product before ultimately purchasing online. So while your particular case isn’t really an issue, the majority our and I feel it’s good to point it out regardless. It may be worthy of an article at some point, I wonder how many Mustachians use this method or don’t.

    • Alphabet Soup September 2, 2012, 6:19 am

      I think you just described what happened to Best Buy. It’s collapsing because it’s now just a showroom for people to browse before they purchase the same product cheaper on Amazon.

      Reply
  • anonymous August 31, 2012, 1:36 am

    The lunchbox pictures make for an awesome tradition.

    I wonder something, though: you previously showed the whiteboard you and your son use for sketching, and the digital pictures you use to store the results, providing near-waste-free doodling (since markers last a very long time). Why not find a lunchbox-sized whiteboard slate, for reusable memories? Bonus: send a small marker along with him and he can bring home a sketch of his own.

    If you really do plan to save the pictures in physical form, by all means do so; however, your previous example of digital pictures suggests that you wouldn’t harbor an urge to hoard the paper.

    Reply
  • Trevor Brown August 31, 2012, 3:37 am

    In the UK, after tricycles kids typically move up to bicycles with stabilisers from age 5 years and then fall off repeatedly when the stabilisers are removed.

    In Switzerland I discovered that kids from about 3 are given wooden bikes without pedals (no stablisers or three wheelers) and so have to propel themselves along by pushing with their feet against the ground.

    In no time they discover (i.e without being taught) that they can balance well enough to take their feet off the ground and cruise along for short stretches.

    A few weeks later, unbruised, they demand a conventional bike and are able to ride it without falling off – job done!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2012, 1:10 pm

      We do the same thing here – the “Scoot” or “Balance” bike has replaced the training wheels in certain circles. It is indeed a pretty magical improvement. And you can get a free scoot bike just by taking the cranks and pedals off of an old pedal bike, which is how I made the one my son learned on.

      Reply
  • Hope August 31, 2012, 9:48 am

    Do check out the great cartoon on cycling and beards ….https://www.facebook.com/#!/LondonCyclingCampaign

    It is a perfect one for you to clip and put on the lunchbox.

    Reply
  • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 1, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Okay, I could not find any more excuses – and I am finally a bike owner again. Until I landed my current job, which at the time required suit and tie, I used to ride bike to work (maybe 12 miles roundtrip) and then get home and use bike to do everything else. Since then, I gained 50 pounds and got 15 years older (41 now).

    All this bike talk reminded me just how much I loved to bike. More importantly, I wanted to give good example to my son, although he is already riding at barely 2 years old. I figured, I better get in shape or I won’t be able to keep up with him in 2-3 years.

    I tried Kijiji and Craig’s but bikes I found were either too expensive for this experiment, or in bad shape. So, go ahead and mock me, but I got a brand new Schwen at our Canadian staple – Canadian Tire. Due to end of season, all bikes were on sale – mine was 50% off the “regular price” (meaning, it was priced at its almost true value).

    Since I am fat and live in a condo building with limited bike security options, all I wanted to spend was $200. I did have to buy a lock but whatever.

    Wow, bike technology improved since the last time I rode! Fancy shocks, gears, brakes!

    Anyway, just saying thanks for the inspiration. My ass hurts, but it feels good to ride my bike again. And, my son was impressed too – daddy can ride a bike.

    Reply
  • tradies wife September 4, 2012, 12:12 am

    Well MMM :) Thanks heaps for the tip on the balance bikes for kids. I borrowed one from the local toy library today, and my little boy (3 years 5 months) has got the hang of it. They are terrific. Thanks for the heads up. I’m sure that he will be looking cool on a non-training wheel version sooner than if I had not read this blog.
    Thanks also for the inspiration for biking. We have been on town suing the bike daily. I can’t believe how much we actually used the car before, seems like now I think about it it would be 2-3 times a day! CRAZY. I’m enjoying the slower pace, and have had such a laugh with my husband. Particularly when I was giving him a lift home on the back with the two children in the front of the cargo bike. I’ve done groceries, brought seedlings, done a library run, returned toy library toys, carried the balance bike in the cargo, done some more grocery shopping for things that we run out of, and of course visited parks. We are really enjoying the bike. Oh, and when you said in another blog post that there is more danger in NOT riding a bike and having the benefits, compared to the danger of an accident, you were spot on :)
    Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

    Reply
  • Bullseye September 4, 2012, 12:12 pm

    Your son must be a giant if he’s 5 and already on a 20″! My 7 year old just moved up to his 20″ Trek this spring, and my 5 year old is rocking a 16″ GT Mach 1, and will likely not move up for two years. Granted, both boys are small.

    The Trek was $140 on Kijiji (2 years old), and we also have a KHS that is about 5 years old and was $125 on Kijiji. The GT was effectively free, as the person sold me it with a Trail a bike, which I re-sold for what I paid for both! We ride a ton, road and trail, for fun and transportation. The 5 year old is good for 10km (6 miles), the 7 year can do 20km. Both had their training wheels pulled at age 4. The 5 year old is tiny and baby faced(42 lbs), but so awesome on his bike, that on tough trails, other cyclists stop and point with jaws agape.

    Like the other poster above, my house is a gathering point for neighbourhood kids, for air, fixes, and lessons.

    Reply
  • Saving mom September 7, 2012, 6:26 am

    On the comment related to MMM wasting the store owner’s time, I would think that time would be worth it given that MMM is a huge biking advocate. Just think….loyal MMM devotees might start flocking to his store!

    Reply
  • jet September 11, 2012, 8:41 pm

    That is awesome. I saw a little 5 year old smashing it on the bike path with his family on Sunday. Was the cutest thing ever. It’s such a common thing in Europe, seeing kids riding confidently along with their family, often carrying their own stuff on a rear rack. I wish I saw it more here!

    Reply
  • Ralphy September 19, 2012, 6:45 am

    Great photo of MMR the early years- I smiled so large @ the lunchbox art!- my guy rides a Kona Blast that was previously enjoyed- hes older than your guy and we truly had an epic ride last month for about 22 mi… mostly flat but so fun. He no longer gets ‘art’ in his lunch as he is now 14:) First time on your site as I was listening to CBC yesterday….

    Reply

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