273 comments

Is it Convenient? Would I Enjoy it? Wrong Question.

A recent paraphrase from a Beginner Mustachian:

“Hey MMM. I can see the financial benefits of your lifestyle. But I just have different tastes. I like my better wine, and my husband really likes his books and his iPad. So we figure that if we would really enjoy something, we might as well get it. And, you know, at this stage we can really afford it.”
- person who still has mortgage debt and a cost of living that will require them to work for the next 20 years. 

Mustachians like you and I are engaged in a lifelong process of increasing our wealth.

In the beginning stage, the goal is mostly monetary wealth, and I see no problem with that. Money is a big and exciting part of our culture. And most of us start out with our arms and legs tangled up in the stuff to the point that it is a source of stress, status, and a loss of autonomy. The need for money is forcing us to set alarm clocks and drive to other cities every morning, give up on the chance of raising our own kids, and sign up for terms of voluntary slavery that can extend 45 years or longer. When you arrive at the door of the Temple of Mustachianism in this condition, it is natural that you’ll have your mind on your money and your money on your mind.

But as powerful as the problem of money seems to a beginner, there really is a solution. Applying the principles of this blog (or many of the other books and websites on financial independence) will almost certainly make you wealthy enough to be free from the need to work for money in a reasonable amount of time.

But then what? The pursuit of wealth still continues, but it just moves to the higher level of accumulating Life Wealth. Freedom, self-actualization, learning, generosity, and other fancy stuff that seems like an untouchable luxury to someone who is struggling to survive, will become your day-to-day challenge. And it’s a happy place, although not one without its own pitfalls.

Now that I’m really old (38 next month), I’ve had a chance to study both sides for quite a few years. And there really is a pattern that shows up as people transition from desperate consumer to seasoned retiree.

That pattern could be summed up like this: “Getting rich is more mental than it is tactical“.

When people first start reading up on how we’re all becoming rich here, their first questions are ones like these:

“How could I possibly live on 50% of my income? Or 25%?”
“How can I cut costs? What are your top three tips?”
“Why is your electric bill a third of mine, and your grocery bill half?”
“How will you pay for your healthcare? Your son’s education? Valuable travel experiences?”

They’re all good questions. But you’ll notice that they are tactical in nature. People want tips and recipes for saving money.

Solid tips are valuable resources, but they work a lot better if they are combined with changes to your mind that make the tips turn into real improvements in your lifestyle, rather than temporary deprivations which are simply means to the end of getting more money in the bank.

“What do you mean, changes to my mind? We’re all born with a certain mind, and it’s fixed for our whole lifetimes. I just want the money-saving tips please, Mustache.”

If you find yourself agreeing even remotely with that statement, I’m excited on your behalf, because it means we have a lot more to learn together.

Even if you’ve never heard of the ancient art of controlling your own mind, that doesn’t mean your noggin is an untouched virgin which has never been modified. It just means that until this point, someone else has been doing all the controlling. Your cultural values and beliefs, your attitudes towards hard work and struggle, and virtually all of your desires to own anything, from a certain style of house to a vacation destination, have been programmed into you by the outside world. Most of your desires are not your own!

To balance the scale a little, all you need to do is understand that you can program your own mind in completely the opposite way. You can build habits, you can eliminate most of your irrational fears, and you can even eliminate most of your irrational desires. The idea of programming your own mind is extremely powerful, it has been practiced since even before the ancient Greeks (see: Stoicism), and it’s relatively easy to do. And yet it’s a practice so rare that the standard Joe Consumer type will think you are a magical superhero if you have the ability to do it. Don’t believe me? Check out this quote:

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.

Old-time Mustachian H.D. Thoreau, 1817-1862 

Is this antique, folksy wisdom that no longer applies in the modern world now that iPads have been invented? Or is Thoreau actually a mind-control badass who figured something out that most people who have come after him have forgotten?

The answer is of course option b). You really ARE rich according to how many things you can train yourself NOT to want. But note that this is completely different than just perpetually wanting things, and aching inside every time you can’t buy them. It’s a much more powerful skill.

One of my friends has a $75,000 motorboat. I have more than enough money to buy a boat just like his and park it next to him in the marina. I wouldn’t even have to come out of retirement to be able to afford this purchase.  But yet somehow, I don’t even want a motorboat. Even with ten times my current wealth, or one thousand times, I still would not want the boat, or a luxury car, or even a bigger house.

 This freedom from desire is actually making me richer, because it allows me to focus on things other than things. And as it turns out, wanting less is an age-old recipe for having a much better life. But to believe it, you need to have control of your own mind at first. So let’s start getting some of that control right now, with a couple of examples.

Let’s suppose you want the latest iPad. You want it because it is convenient to be able to look at pictures and websites and books and play music around the house. Sure, you already have other computers that do those things, but the iPad is special because it lets you do them while holding it in one hand, sitting on the couch.

Wow, that couch is pretty convenient too, isn’t it? It is comfortable, enjoyable, convenient, and joyful to sit and lie on your couch. In fact, wouldn’t it be best to just lie on that couch all day? Forever? Yeah! Maybe you could even hook it up with a catheter and a bedpan, and a friend or robot could bring you all your food on the couch too. With each release, the latest iPad could be delivered to you, and you’d have the most convenient and comfortable and effort-free life ever.

Maybe you were with me for the first bit of that paragraph, but it probably lost its appeal by the time we reached the end, right? And indeed, with proper understanding, almost any consumer purchase (and almost any bad habit) these days, beyond the necessities, should start to sound like a catheter and a bedpan to you.

“I really like my Land Rover, and I deserve it because I’m a big executive now. It’s much faster than biking those five miles to work. Especially since I don’t want to arrive at work all sweaty”. Uh-huh. And it’s much more convenient than a compact hatchback, because you don’t have to bend your knees to get into the driver’s seat. And you no longer have to wait a whole ten seconds to accelerate to 60MPH, because it has a big enough engine to pull its enormous bulk to that speed in only six seconds. Would you, by any chance, like a catheter and a bedpan to go with that?

“I like running my A/C at 72 degrees, because it’s just so nice to come in out of the Texas heat into a fresh, cool house. Then I do the laundry and use my electric clothes dryer to get crisp, hot clothes ready to wear without all that hassle of hanging them up to dry”. Uh-huh. If only your clothes were equipped with catheters and bedpans, then you’d really be set, wouldn’t you!?

We could go on and on with this theme (and you’re welcome to do so in the comments, because I find it pretty funny). But the bottom line is, virtually everything we buy is actually a form of false happiness, a slippery slope that ends at the catheter and the bedpan, and the earlier on the slope that you catch yourself, the richer and happier you will be.

Mental Exercise: The next time you really want to buy some sort of treat for yourself, whether it’s a latte or a Mercedes, try the trick of not buying it instead. Mockingly offer yourself a catheter and a bedpan as a substitute.

Then over the coming months, make a note of your feelings of desire for that item you skipped. How do you feel about not owning it? Are you happy? What are you doing with the time and money that would have been spent in acquiring that item? How do you feel about the accomplishment of voluntarily controlling your urge to buy something? Do you feel more in control of your life in general? Repeat the experiment with more items over time, and note the change in your feelings

Once you master this basic mental framework, you are truly ready to breeze through the tactical aspect of getting rich. Now that you know that virtually no purchases, regardless of their convenience or enjoyability, will actually make you happier, you can instead make the decision based on whether or not you can afford it.

You just need a new definition of “can I afford it?”

If you still need to work for money, or at the very least, if you’re not saving at least 50% of your take-home pay, you can not afford it. Where “it” is anything.

In certain cases, you will still buy things you can’t afford. Groceries are a good example. A bike is another one, because like all good investments it earns you money rather than costing you. Housing, clothing, and plain old FUN with your friends and family are also things worth buying when you can’t afford them. But your decision-making process will simply be made differently – you’ll be maximizing the Lifetime Wealth delivered by each spending decision, rather than the convenience or short-term pleasure.

You’ll have more fun in both the short term and the long term. You just won’t have as much of that catheter-and-bedpan “convenience” we’ve all been spending our money on up to this point.

Only by gaining control of your mind and the conveyor belt of false desires it serves up, can you get true freedom in your life. Freedom, unlike convenience, can really bring happiness. It’s a bit dizzying, and maybe even a bit difficult. But once again, it is the good kind of difficulty.

So who is up for some difficulty?

 

  • EJ September 18, 2012, 6:10 am

    Bring on the difficulty. Love the motivation – now forwarding to all family members.

    Reply
    • Dave September 18, 2012, 7:43 pm

      Hah. I did the same thing.

      Mustache, I’m going out on a limb here to say this is perhaps one of the single best articles that you’ve written to date. I think it conveys the essence of mustachianism beautifully.

      Thanks for the entertainment and continual motivation.

      Reply
    • Lou September 19, 2012, 11:33 am

      I heard about you on the radio (CBC) yesterday during my commute (by bus) to work. I couldn’t wait to go to your blog. What a great article. Love the catheter and bedpan humour. What a sick world we’re in it’s true and I’m a victim. This spending for no good reason is truly a disease. I hope to retire early. I’ll keep reading your blog from now on.
      Cheers.

      Reply
  • Lorraine September 18, 2012, 6:16 am

    Amen! This is exactly how i’m feeling today. I still gotta work a few more years as I have a nice house for my family that we all love living in, but as for all the other superfluous stuff? I don’t want or need it anymore. My parents & siblings are stuck in the traditional mindset and just don’t understand what my husband and I are trying to do and the values we want our kids to share. They think we are weird but I like being weird and makes us want to keep pushing on. Keep spreading the word!

    Reply
    • Jeff September 18, 2012, 11:16 am

      I try to remember this one when I’m at work and feel the urge to go grab Chinese food from the restaurant around the corner. I brought food to work; it’s not only tasty, but it’s also really healthy because I made it myself, but man do I want that sesame chicken, which will cost me $6 and make me fat. At noon the cravings are pretty serious. By 2PM I’m feeling awake and happy and good about the fact that I avoided the temptation.

      Reply
      • Angela September 18, 2012, 12:14 pm

        I’ve been bringing my lunch to work for so long now, I’m talking years and years, that I no longer feel the need to pick up food or join the group when they are going out. I feel so free!

        Reply
        • Nurse Frugal September 20, 2012, 1:49 am

          Me 2! It feels awesome to be able to withhold from my coworkers daily starbucks or mcdonalds runs at work. Not only do I get to keep my money, I also have control over the nutrients going into my body! Such a great article Mr. Stache! It’s all about telling yourself “no” every now and then. We can live without so much and we don’t even realize it.

          Reply
        • Steve Castro January 19, 2014, 8:51 am

          I really enjoy walking downtown with my coworkers while they pick up fast food to bring back to the office I just don’t buy anything and eat my packed lunch when I get back. I like the break, the socializing, the exercise and sunlight, without the expensive and less healthy food.

          Reply
          • blaze April 28, 2014, 2:05 pm

            Excellent compromise Steve. Saying no to the expense doesn’t mean you must become a hermit and avoid all social contact. You just need to do it on your terms. Who knows, you might inspire a few of the others to do likewise. It may even turn into the lunch hour walking group and then everyone eats back at the office.

            Reply
  • Lance@MoneyLife&More September 18, 2012, 6:31 am

    Whenever I buy something I make sure it either fulfills a true need or it will make me happier. This has help me cut back my spending a lot. I have been asking my girlfriend if the things she wants will do either of those and if they don’t then I ask her why she still wants it. I think I am slowly getting her to see the light.

    Reply
  • Grant September 18, 2012, 6:32 am

    I’m at the point of feeling guilty and questioning purchases, but I still slip up a hellofalot. You’re paragraph about “you will still buy things you can’t afford…” actually struck a chord with me – I think I have been feeling that about certain things that are more mustachian, but have been lumping it in with the guilt of truely unneccessary purchases. Diferentiating these purchases (based on a side order of catheter and bed pan) I think will help to prevent relapses in the future.

    One example recently is over the purchase of a tent so the family can go camping. I loved camping as a kid (my folks didn’t have much money, but it is not something I actually noticed on a day to day basis as a kid), and want to get my kids into it, but as a bonus it is a frugal holday – there is just a bit of expense in my near future to get set up.

    p.s. In case you’re wondering, your publishing time matches my before-bed internet time here in aus…

    Reply
    • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 12:50 pm

      Camping in Australia? You are one brave Aussie!

      I think I would rather surf with the white sharks than camp in Australia. Years of watching science shows about killer spiders and snakes freaked me out!

      Reply
      • Grant (a different one) September 18, 2012, 3:59 pm

        Heh. It’s just marketing :) Sure, we may have 9 of the top 10 most poisonous snakes, but they generally keep to themselves. In over 10 years of mountain biking, the worst I’ve seen is a red bellied black snake.

        As for spiders – most of the cranky ones like holes or crevices and are happy to be left alone. I can remember as a kid it seemed like if you left a plank of wood of the ground for half a day, there’d be a family of redback spiders living under there – doesn’t seem to be as many around these days though.

        What you really need to look out for when camping is drop bears.

        Reply
        • Jen September 18, 2012, 8:21 pm

          Drop bear, hehehe :)
          My family visited Aus (NT) last month for the first time (don’t ask about the Mustachian perspective on this – now I feel a great heartache over the cost of this trip for 5 people and after this trip vowed not to travel until we are FI… That was the thing we could not afford and should not have done… A very expensive lesson learned… But Aus was awesome!). So back to the drop bears – before the trip, my father, an avid viewer of Animal Planet, gave us an hour long lecture how we all are gonna be jumped by spiders and snakes and white sharks and crocs and jellyfish. We ventured through national parks and camped with two toddlers and never saw any dangerous creature. C’mon, is it really just marketing? :)

          Reply
          • Saskaussie Fraussie September 19, 2012, 8:34 am

            Yup, pretty much….. though I do occasionally partake of a bundy and coke that those drop bears promote!

            Reply
        • anonymous September 19, 2012, 8:26 pm

          Reply
  • Hoppy September 18, 2012, 6:36 am

    <> ok, I might sell my iPad now. I just bought a refurb Mac Mini last night to replace our dead 6-year-old computer. It’s hard to justify the Mini and the iPad. The couch metaphor is what got me. It’s too freakin true. We *do* sit on the couch for hours gazing at the iPad. While I haven’t actually used a catheter, I do remember last night sitting on the couch and really needing to, er, use the restroom but I just didn’t want to pull myself away from the shiny retina display and get up. That went on for a while and I remember chiding myself, “You lazy piece of shit, put down the damn iPad and go pee before you injure yourself!”

    With any luck, I can almost get what I paid for it on Craigslist. Somebody give me strength to follow through on this, and to withstand the wailing of the wife and kids who will hate me for this.

    Reply
    • Heath September 18, 2012, 8:33 am

      DO IT! :-) I’m backing you up on this one. The iPad is an entirely unnecessary purchase for EVERYONE who isn’t a developer for iPad-exclusive apps :-)

      Reply
      • Hoppy September 18, 2012, 9:11 am

        Thank you Heath for the moral support. So much of the MMM website is really about keeping your motivation to stay frugal. I’m about 90% convinced to sell the iPad, once the Mini arrives.

        Reply
      • Amulaire September 18, 2012, 12:52 pm

        It’s not a need. But then I think of my ageing grandfather’s face when he was able to see photos of my fathers “new” 1960 Chevy Impala, and flip through them (the same model as the car my grandpa had owned and adored). Since then my father has added historical photos, current photos, photos of relatives on it and my grandpa enjoys *seeing* these photos. They are all much bigger on the iPad then they are in print. So I can’t help but think, “Why not?”. It was a good purchase. That’s my biggest challenge in becoming a mustachian, I justify everything.

        Reply
      • Leigh September 18, 2012, 3:36 pm

        THANK YOU. I work in tech and so many people think that is the most amazing thing EVER and that drives me absolutely bonkers. Why would I spend $500+taxes on the thing when I can instead pay down the mortgage by an extra $500?!

        Reply
      • Jen September 18, 2012, 8:37 pm

        I was against spending money on iPad, but my husband got it for me for Christmas last year (surprise!). I must say, it is the best gift I ever had. I guess it depends on what you really use it for.

        I travel for work quite often – almost every day, each time 20-60 minutes by train, and I use iPad to run my errands during these trips – order groceries, pay bills, manage our bank accounts/investments, answer personal emails, read this blog (basically cyberloafing at work – and nobody minds, as otherwise I would be just sitting in the train). Means I don’t have to do it at home and have more time with my kids – the time which my work robs me of.

        Another thing – my iPad is my GPS (a device approved by MMM :)). We no longer own a car, but we travel around our metro by buses or on foot. Very nice that I can whip out my iPad and guide myself through unknown streets or find a bus that goes to my home.

        As I have an iPad, a smart phone is really out of the question. Sticking to my cheapo dumb phone.

        Important things in case you own an iPad, I guess, is not getting suckered into app buying, as well as “upgrading” your tablet to the latest model. Mine is an iPad2, and I guess several more generations will be released until mine breaks down.

        Reply
        • Karawynn @ Pocketmint September 19, 2012, 3:14 am

          This is the way I intend to go as well. I don’t own a laptop or a smartphone, just a 4.5-year-old desktop. Eventually, I expect to buy an iPad or other tablet computer for mobility and convenience.

          But I’m not in a huge rush; I’m saving my money and letting the class mature for a while. Maybe in 2013.

          Reply
        • AnnW September 19, 2012, 11:17 pm

          My husband has converted from reading three newspapers a day to reading them on his iPad. This saves him a lot of time, is cheaper, and leaves no waste at the train station or at our house. He has also changed his financial magazine subscriptions, Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, the Economist, etc to on line subscriptions. He has to commute 2 plus hours a day on the train, so the iPad is invaluable. He also has all his favorite photographs on it. My 91 year old father was really intrigued with the iPad because it made the type so large. I was going to buy one for him, but he died unexpectedly. For some people the iPad is a tool, not a toy.

          Reply
    • Osprey September 18, 2012, 9:39 am

      Do it! My smartphone broke so I’ve been using an old phone with no internet for a month now and I thought it would drive me crazy but actually it’s awesome and makes me feel so badass. After the first week I didn’t even miss it and now I’m more engaged with my environment instead of constantly checking the phone!

      Reply
      • Kenneth September 18, 2012, 11:58 am

        Thank you! This article was meant for ME, I want an iphone 5 in the worst way, the price is not bad but it’s the $110 a month for 2 years minimum with Verizon that I could not stand. With accessories, initial cost and monthly service, we’re looking at $3,000 for 2 years.
        I currently have a flip phone with PlatinumTel that I buy a $10 reload card for every 3 months, so it costs me $3.33/month. That makes my heart sing to not be beholden to $125/month all in costs.

        Reply
        • Hoppy September 18, 2012, 12:13 pm

          I hear you Kenneth. At some point I might need to break myself of the iPhone habit. Of course, I pre-ordered the iPhone 5. Granted, I will sell my iPhone 4 for a bit less than the cost of the new iPhone 5. I must say that your monthly cost of $110 seems high. I’m paying $110 for AT&T family plan (the lowest minimum) with no texting, and we actually have two lines (husband and wife) and we both have iPhones. I have the unlimited data plan at $25/month and my wife has the limited data plan at an extra $15/month plus $10/month for the extra line. If this were a solo plan for just myself, it would be “only” $80 per month.

          Reply
          • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 12:57 pm

            Apple is so addictive. I tend to think of myself as not being an Apple zombie, but then I counted my Apple products and realized what a sucker I am. In the past 10 years I bought 4 iPods, Apple TV and one iPad (second iPad I won in a sales competition). Not to mention, I bought so far two iPad keyboards (Apple, bluetooth – I broke one already), tons of $45 per pop accessories and probably hundreds of dollars worth of apps.

            I give myself a praise for holding firm on the iPhone and Mac Air (although Mac has been calling my name for months now).

            Reply
          • Mr. Everyday Dollar September 18, 2012, 9:24 pm

            Do you realize that $80 is really costing you $16,000 every 10 years if you were to invest it (assuming a 7% rate of return)? I think a lot of people don’t realize how small monthly expenses build to huge losses of equity, losses that could have put you closer to an early retirement.

            Reply
            • Sweta October 3, 2012, 11:27 am

              Can you explain how you came to $16,000? $80 x what? Thanks, I’m genuinely interested.

              Reply
              • Robin November 1, 2012, 11:35 pm

                Hi Sweta, (apologies Mr. Everyday Dollar if I’m jumping in):

                $80 a month x 10 years = $9600 with interest at 0%. Then with interest at 7%, I make it $13766.78… maybe my maths is off but it’s still a lot more! Basically you work out the monthly interest on your total balance, which for the first month is $80 x (0.07 / 12) = 0.47, and add that and $80 more each month, 120 times over. Excel is your friend for this (though the ‘stached equivalent may be Google Docs Spreadsheet).

      • Lindsey September 18, 2012, 4:51 pm

        I did something radical and gave up my iPhone entirely, a year ago now. I realized I was spending too much time on stupid conversations, or glancing to see if there were emails waiting for me when I should have been paying attention to the person I was with. I also realized I DO NOT want people to be able to reach me all the time. I feel freer and more engaged in the moment. Only once have I really felt the lack and I was able to use someone else’s phone and do them a favor in return later. I am happy saving money and my sanity.

        Reply
    • chris paton September 18, 2012, 5:58 pm

      To help you along a bit, I have had a mac mini for about 2 years now and that’s all we have my wife and I. It IS all you need……(along with the catheter and bedpan of course!!) Go ahead, sell the ipad. Your wife and kids will get over it before you know it.

      Reply
      • Christian September 23, 2012, 11:37 am

        As with all things, it depends on what you use it for. I think that Apple products in general are ridiculously overpriced. There are also many alternatives like cheaper Android tablets or netbooks.

        We can live without many conveniences but lets not go back to the stone ages either, LOL.

        Reply
    • Jeff July 3, 2014, 5:12 pm

      Apple products? Those are very expensive. Take a few hours and learn to assemble your own computers from cheap parts available online. (New ones last so much longer than used ones that you should not buy used computer hardware.) Then invest in yourself, your freedom, and you future by taking some time to learn to install and use Ubuntu. Don’t be bled dry by Apple.

      Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque September 18, 2012, 6:37 am

    I just had a Facebook argument with people who insist that anything less than $250k per year of salary is “middle class”.
    You’re simply not “rich”, apparently, until you hit that level. (although another person insisted that, while $250k seemed a lot, you wouldn’t think it so much if it were the household income of TWO PEOPLE!)
    I can’t even imagine earning that much money. I’d be retired two years from now. Or I’d work three months a year and spend the rest of the year in Ninja Training.
    And yet, there were these people who had seen the clouds from only one side, insisting that $249k per year was not “rich”.
    Why?
    Obviously, as you said. because they want too much.
    They haven’t any control over their desires. So if they walk through a car dealership and see a car they can’t afford, well, then, they can safely conclude that they must be poor.
    And, I suppose, in a way, I have to agree with them.
    Poor, poor, bastards.

    Reply
    • jlcollinsnh September 18, 2012, 6:52 am

      sometime around 1993 or 94 I was in Chicago having lunch with a pal of mine.

      It was shortly before Christmas and he’d just cashed his bonus check for $800,000. He spent the lunch complaining that he just couldn’t make ends meet on only 800k per year.

      Listening to his cost structure, he was right.

      Reply
      • Grant September 18, 2012, 6:55 am

        *choke*

        Reply
      • Mike September 18, 2012, 7:02 am

        Ha. He can take per-year. I could make ends meet with 800k for the rest of my life. What I couldn’t do is keep whatever high-stress job it took to generate that 800k for more than one year.

        Reply
      • Lindsey September 18, 2012, 4:54 pm

        How did you stop yourself from giving him a Mustachian punch in the nose?

        Reply
      • Jen September 18, 2012, 10:08 pm

        Poor guy. I just recently talked to one of my relatives, who is truly cash strapped at the moment, as leasing that new Lexus and paying mortgage on his (castle?) are enormous burdens to his finances. Somebody should arrest that guy who pointed a loaded gun to his head and made him lease the car/buy that house.

        Reply
      • The Roamer April 22, 2014, 8:14 am

        Ugh it honestly hurts me to read these comments. Like I really want to cry. I just did the math and if my family brought in 250,000 a year at our current spending we could retire in 4 years… Now I yearn to make that much because the prospect of retiring in 4 years is wonderful since I have little ones and I want to raise them… However I never use to want to earn more than I did because I wouldn’t spend it so I always thought what good would it do…. But now that I know I can buy my freedom I am actually concerned with increasing my earning power… I just can’t believe those people… I mean if they saved just 50% they’d have amassed 1 mill in just 8 years.. But I guess that wouldn’t mean much to them…

        Reply
    • Mike September 18, 2012, 6:55 am

      Hedonic adaptation at work. No matter how much money you make, be it 25k, 250k or 2.5 mil, there is somebody out there hard at work, trying to turn your money into their money by selling you something you don’t need. At 25k it’s a motorboat with low monthly payments. At 250k it’s a nice sailboat so you can cruise up and down the coast. At 2.5 mil it’s a 52 foot yacht that sleeps 10. Take it to an extreme, if you make a billion it’s a 300 foot super-yacht with a submarine.

      Reply
    • Heath September 18, 2012, 8:41 am

      “Poor, poor. bastards”
      HAHAHA! Doesn’t it feel fantastic to have control over your own standards? As Mike replied; blame the Hedonic Adaptation. It can either be the rungs to the ladder that leads to you Mustachian Peaks, or the grease on the slippery slope that drops you into Consumer Hell. It’s great to climb those rungs one at a time, and feel the burn. Bring on the difficulty! :-)

      Reply
    • Matt September 19, 2012, 8:43 am

      Do you have kids, Mr. Frugal Toque? Do you have more than one? Are they healthy?

      I suppose had our household been earning 250k right out of college, instead of slowly building up to it over 8 years, our ‘stache may have already been fully grown out: Bushier than even MMM’s!

      Instead, you will find that as you earn more, more expenses creep into your life: Specifically children. And health costs. I applaud MMM for retiring early, however, with only one child and his wife currently supplying his family with health insurance, I would say he has made financially prudent decisions, as well as happened upon a bit of luck.

      Early Retirement Extreme, Financial Samurai, Get Rich Slowly? No kids. Adam Baker, MMM? One kid. Can anyone point me to a site that gives advice for my soon-to-be four person household?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache September 19, 2012, 9:10 am

        Hahaha!!! Oh boy, Matt is going to get an earful from Mr. Frugal Toque, father of two young children and upcoming Single Income Early Retiree.. But I don’t want to steal his thunder.

        By the way, the MMM family just started paying its own health insurance premiums last month. Article forthcoming!

        The $239/month cost is certainly unpleasant, but even if my retirement income was precariously balanced before with no safety margin (which it wasn’t), the expense would still take well over 350 years to drain our savings. And yet, we have less than 27 more years to Medicare eligibility!

        When you have solid savings and even statistically average health for an active person, health care is just not all that expensive relative to your assets, even in here in the country with the world’s most expensive medical industry.

        The usual disclaimer: if you do have existing health conditions through no fault of your own, the situation is different, and the US does not deal with these well as a society. I’m not an expert on how to best handle that situation, so I don’t write about it on this blog.

        Reply
      • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 19, 2012, 9:40 am

        Not preaching here – my wife and I blew $8K before our son was even born, now we are regretting it.

        However, having children is all the more reason to do better in becoming financially independent, if not for any other reason, but to provide example to our kids.

        Truth is, most important things kids need is free – our attention. My wife has been struggling with the urge to buy every new cool toy, 6 pairs of shoes for our son etc. I was lucky – I grew up in a third world country, and while we were well off, I had at times only one pair of shoes and one pair of jeans.

        So, before you make another purchase, ask yourself – will my child be worse off if he did not have the X or if we replace X with Y that is fraction of the cost. I bet you will be surprised.

        Create a budget for your kids expenses and stick to it – we did and it is working great. Some people think it is cruel to limit our sons spending on toys and clothes, but because of our decissions, my wife retired when he was born. So, he has what few kids get these days – a stay-at-home parent that takes him to adventures every day.

        Another example is books – before we knew it, we bought dozens of books. Yet, our son prefers going to the library to play and pick his own books.

        So, yes, living frugally with kids is possible. It is harder for sure, and you do have added costs compared to a single person, but it is possible. And best of all, while it is hard, we receive ultimate prize for our efforts – watching our kids grow up happy and well adjusted.

        Reply
        • Matt September 19, 2012, 10:20 am

          Hell yeah!!! Things I need:

          1. Earful of advice from the Toque (MMM Brief History style!)
          2. MMM patented punch to the face

          Seriously though, even after finally breaking the 250k+ “rich” barrier, I’m not feeling ready for “early retirement” anytime soon. The most expensive cost of having kids seems to be the need for additional living space. Want a tiny house with an even tinier yard here? 750k+. Want to send your two children to college? Add 150k (present value) to the ‘stash. Plus we now need to rely on the ‘stach for increased food, school supplies, etc. So what are we up to now, a cool 2 million? (Coincidence: I like the guy at http://www.2millionblog.com) his estimates seem to be pretty reasonable.

          But no. We’ve got 3 people packed into a tiny condo, soon to be 4. We’re shopping mostly at garage sales. Still, it will be many years before the ‘stach has been grown to a sufficient level.

          Yeah yeah, I’m only 30 so quit my whining. Pass the catheter and bedpan for now I guess…

          Reply
          • Bullseye September 19, 2012, 10:43 am

            Everyone always thinks they need more space, for kids when what they really need is better social and communication skills. There are families of four living in tiny houses (-300 sq ft) and blogging about it. My grandparents, and my wife’s as well, grew up with large families in 800 sq ft houses.

            No, the largest cost in raising children is foregone income (or daycare). The latter is fine, as you are exchange it for more time with your kids.

            As a father of two boys 5 and 7, my biggest dilemma currently is extracurriculars. We all do jiu jitsu, and this costs us $250/mo in fees, and the car costs to get there. Debating leaving this, which would just leave us with swim lessons (which are cheap). Just not sure if I’m doing my kids a disservice by having no sports. We do lots of biking, hiking, skating, and swimming, but they’d probably be the only kids in their school not in some organized sport.

            Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque September 19, 2012, 10:09 am

        Yes, Matt, I have two children.
        I’m putting away enough money in RESP accounts to provide a reasonable amount of assistance for them, as my parents did for me. I do expect them to work summers, before and during University, to help out with the rest, just as I did.
        But I think that’s beside the point.
        “Instead, you will find that as you earn more, more expenses creep into your life: Specifically children.”
        This is dramatically, tragically, incorrect.
        I don’t know how can you read this blog and not realize what’s gone wrong with that sentence. It’s so basic, it’s almost grammatical.
        Expenses do not increase simply because one makes more money. The reason MMM started this blog was to point out how wrong this is.
        You see, in our family, we kept our expenses very low, even with the kids on board, even with our increases in income. There’s no reason to spend more just because you have more.
        What expenses do you think my children will cause? Do they both need sports cars? Designer clothing? The very latest video game devices? Constant restaurant and theatre outings?
        It turns out they just need clothing, food, a bed and … y’know … parenting.
        And yes, we’re on track to retire, with our current expense levels, in the next four to five years. That includes a substantial educational nest egg set aside for the kids.
        So if you want to live an expensive, fancy lifestyle and delay your retirement for many decades, please go ahead and do so.
        Just don’t blame it on the presence of children.

        Reply
        • Matt September 19, 2012, 11:10 am

          (Read my first misplaced reply above: Matt September 19, 2012 at 10:20 am)

          OK Toque, you are a worthy opponent to my frugality muscle. No need to throw around insults. Anyways, what I mean to say is that as you get older, i.e. become responsible for people other than yourself, your expenses go up. This happens for probably 99% of people who don’t live alone in a camper (Yeah you, ERE). As this happens, your income usually goes up too. But technically, yes, they are completely unrelated. Damnit. I am still more frugal than all my friends, but will admit I’ve been slipping since college. Weak.

          The bottom line to me is MMM’s ‘stach of a hair under 1MM is the bare minimum any sane “middle-class” person with a dependent could even think about retiring on. (In their early/mid 30’s…) Wanting to enjoy a little more “consumerist” lifestyle than him, plus another kid in the mix leads me to believe my bare minimum is around 1.5-2MM.

          I’d love to see a guest post from you. Two kids with one earner who says: “I can’t even imagine earning… 250k”. It just doesn’t add up. Retiring in your mid 30’s requires either ‘stashin a boatload of cash quickly, or projecting very low future spend rates. Kids don’t help with the latter, and having one of you drop out of the workforce to care for the children doesn’t help out with the former. So please, guest post!!!

          Reply
          • Heath September 19, 2012, 11:23 am

            I too call for a guest post! Every comment I’ve read from Mr Frugal Toque has been impressive. This last bit about having 2 kids and managing to stay on track for ER, WHILE saving a big chunk for the kids’ future education…well that was probably the most impressive of all!

            What do you say MMM and MFT? (if I may be so bold as to acronym you)

            Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque September 19, 2012, 11:44 am

            I’m in my mid thirties now. We’re financially on track to retire before I turn 41. Just so we’re clear.
            A lot of that delay is due to some fairly dumb decisions earlier in our lives. There was a sports car, a giant TV, a motorcycle, an expensive honeymoon and a number of other silly uses of money. (To be fair, though, my sports car was faster than all of my friends’ sports cars. So there was that.)
            I don’t know what I’d write in a guest post. How can I summarize this entire blog?
            Is it all about how we keep our non-mortgage expenses down to $2k/month + property taxes? Then the rest of the money goes to either the mortgage or savings accounts. We max out RRSPs and get the max. tax benefit for the RESPs.
            What else is there to say?

            Reply
            • Matt September 19, 2012, 1:23 pm

              Specifically, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the decision to have children, why (if) you wanted multiple, and why you decided to have your wife be a stay-at-home mom. How did finances impact each decision?

              Many might point out that having one child may return peak happiness (Similar to making 75k/year). However, my wife, and myself to a certain extent, have semi-agreed that having two is preferable even if it will chain me, and possibly her, to the desk for a few more years. Financially, this is certainly a bad decision. So why did you and I do it?

              Depending on income, it may have been a no brainer for your wife to stay home. I’d like to hear input from someone who has forgone 100k+ a year to do this. Did anyone start out as a working Mom/Dad with child #1, but then stay home once #2 arrived? This seems to be our strategy at this point. Has being home to change diapers and go to the park been worth the other spouse working 5, 10 or more years longer to get to FI? There are no wrong answers; I would just be curious to hear retrospectives on this.

              Applaud you for being on track to retire at 41. That is certainly a major accomplishment!

              Reply
              • Grant (a different one) September 19, 2012, 4:06 pm

                Word of warning when going back for that second kid – spontaneous twins happen! It meant a hell of a lot of changes for us!

                My wife and have both worked part time since our first daughter was born, and I have been full time stay at home dad since the twins were about 4 months old – leaving behind a 100k (aud, so more in usd!) salary. Partly this decision was made as having 3 kids in daycare is stupidly expensive, but even more importantly, I wanted to spend more time with the kids… Also, my wife earns more than me, so it made sense for her to go back to work.

              • Mr. Frugal Toque September 20, 2012, 6:45 am

                Mrs. Toque decided that she would stay at home with any children she had *long* before she even met me. It was basically a condition of marriage and I was completely on board with it.
                So when we bought a house, we got permission to build some crazy mansion from the bank. Instead, we made it about half that size, so that our two incomes could pay it off quickly – or one of us could pay it off in a reasonable amount of time (which we considered to be about ten years).
                I guess the answer to your question was that we factored in the idea of eventually going to one income way ahead of time and never let our lifestyle adjust to double income. Until we had kids, when we had two (roughly equal) incomes, the extra money went entirely to the mortgage.
                As for me being “chained” to a desk by this decision, I guess I’m okay with it because it made the before-school years of our kids’ lives that much easier to bear – without all the daycare handing off that seems to be such a headache for a lot of our friends.
                I guess it’s a lot like our desire to own the shelter in which we live: we have a basic belief that we should raise our children, not a daycare provider or babysitter. So the Present Toques sacrificed some financial savings to be with the children. And Future Toques will have to work a bit longer because of it.
                Of course, if we’d been as on the ball as the Mustaches, we could have retired first, then had children. But we weren’t *that* wise at the time.

              • JaneMD September 20, 2012, 11:52 am

                I am giggling a little bit on this. Anyone who knows me is aware that my household has two kids under 2, works full-time, and lives on 33% of our pretax income. The other 77% goes to taxes (30%), student debt (30%), retirement (15%), and mortgage (2%). We make about 200K per year, rent in a trendy neighborhood, give generously to charity and feel rich.

                Oh, and we hope to have 6 kids. I can quit my job when daycare costs more than I make.

              • Woodreaux February 7, 2014, 7:50 pm

                I’m 37. Wife is 36. Rugrat Number #3 will be born in less than a month.
                Wife will be staying at home with the baby and other two (5&3) after the baby comes.
                This will drop our income to 110-120k from 156k.
                I am on track to join her in retirement in roughly 7yrs once mortgage is paid off.
                Once mortgage goes bye-bye our expenses will be around 25-27k a year.
                Thanks to the guidance from this blog and others such as jlcollinsnh and MadFientist this is incredibly attainable.

              • jlcollinsnh February 7, 2014, 8:41 pm

                Congrats Woodreaux…

                It’s great your wife can be a stay-at-home mom. One of the best decisions Mrs. jlcollinsnh and I made. Nothing money can buy is more valuable.

                Good to hear my blog has played some small role. Thanks!

          • Melissa September 19, 2012, 3:57 pm

            Matt, I’m not sure why you think the number has to be over the $1M mark.

            I am a 38 year old SAHM with THREE kids and our target is just over $1M and we plan on helping out with college. I’m also not sure why you think it will cost that much to send two children to college. We just check Ohio State University and the tuition is just over $10,000 per year. They will be living at home while they are going to school. If they choose something else, that is fine with us, but that is the absolute most we would pay for college. And it still allows for a nice retirement.

            Reply
            • Matt September 19, 2012, 7:21 pm

              Correct: $10,034 a year! And at my own alma mater: The Ohio State University! I will concede that maybe my estimates are too high. But… what if my kid wanted to go to Harvard or something? That runs nearly $40,000 a year… would I have to say “no” because I miscalculated and “retired” at the age of 35? I’d rather not find myself in that situation.

              It would seem prudent to plan for a midpoint: $20,000 per year x 2 children x 4 years. $160,000 which is damn near my off the cuff estimate. Plus room and board. Ouch. Here’s to 7%+ yearly returns on their 529s!!!

              Reply
              • anonymous September 19, 2012, 8:36 pm

                You need to re-read the comment you just wrote very carefully, and think about the entitlement you’re attributing to your kids. If they desperately want to go to Harvard, there exist numerous scholarships, grants, and other options to help them do so, assuming they’re truly willing to work their butts off doing so; and if they’re *not* willing to do that, they might as well be not willing to do that at a local college. :) You’re being quite generous by offering to cover a reasonable amount of college expenses, but you’re by no means required to satisfy every possible scenario, especially those that involve your kids as adults capable of doing for themselves.

                Would your kids rather go to Harvard, or remember that they had their father around all the time when they grew up because he managed to retire while they were still young? If you’re even a remotely intelligent and caring person, and I strongly suspect so from your comments, I guarantee they’ll get more value from the latter than the former.

              • Jamesqf September 19, 2012, 10:16 pm

                “…what if my kid wanted to go to Harvard or something?”

                Just say no. Or say “OK, then better buckle down and get a full-ride scholarship, ’cause mommy & daddy aren’t paying for it.” Honestly, you do not have to give your kids everything they want. Try giving them what they need instead – which just might be a dose of self-reliance.

              • Dr. Beard October 8, 2012, 1:44 am

                Seriously. My husband and I both worked our way through college and ended up with essentially no undergrad debt. We both had Uncle Sam pay for med school (yes…I really am a doctor), and although we traded indentured servitude for indebtedness, the servitude is almost over, and we are school-debt free and within 2 years of FI (woohoo!). I am all for letting the kids find their own way through college the same way we did. That’s why state schools and community college were invented. I took night classes at a state school, and it didn’t exactly hold me back.

      • The Roamer April 22, 2014, 9:50 am

        I can ! Actually I was a 4 person household about a year ago now it’s 5 people…as we just had a child. I’m sure having less kids is helpful ( and even no kids more so) but I don’t agree that there is that much more cost added… We easily house and feed everyone on 35k spend and we had student loans and bought cars or credit and all that.. But we are still aspiring for the simple life and early retirement. Which is besides the point on your comment.. You just said spend will increase making retirement harder to reach.. Well using MMM’s chart its say 12 yrs away and only 27yrs old so still before 40..but you’re right earning that much would be nice as I would get to retire in just 4 yrs. I have just started my journey if you want to check it out..

        Reply
        • The Roamer July 12, 2014, 6:43 am

          Just finished a post which addresses this a bit. If your first year of baby cost is astronomical then its easy to see how you need more money every year and with every kid. But its not the case. I am hoping to cut our costs even more. We just finished paying off all the debt i listed earlier. So no more student loans, car loans etc. We are now sitting around 35K , it was higher with loans. Anyways if you figure how to save with a kids first year I’m sure you can just keep it up.

          Reply
  • Jonas Blake September 18, 2012, 6:37 am

    I had an inspiring discussion with a friend of a friend last night. She said that a few years ago she was unemployed, but with a lot of savings from her last job, so she bought some land. Then, as she was looking into building a house on it she met some people who had a different way of looking at life, kind of like Mustachianism is a different way of looking at things. It’s not really relevant, but they were a bunch of people who were into Permaculture, where you look at your goals first, and try to get rid of some of your preconceived biases to do it.

    Anyway, she had been planning on going into debt to build a house quickly, in the traditional way, because “that’s what people do”. Her new friends gave her permission, in a way, to think outside the box, where questions like “Which do I prefer, not having to work, or having electricity?” exist.

    She chose to live in a camper with no electricity while she builds her house herself, so that she can have the freedom to do what she wants with her life. I don’t know that I would make the same choice, but as soon as she said it I felt this amazing lifting of my spirit as I imagined that life…yes, living without electricity would be hard, but for her, having financial freedom is worth it.

    BTW, I am going to be helping her install solar panels on her house soon, so she’ll finally have electricity. ^_^

    Reply
    • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 18, 2012, 7:24 am

      Different way of doing things would be not building the house at all.

      Reply
    • Heath September 18, 2012, 8:51 am

      Seeing people Think Outside The Box uplifts my spirits as well! The alternative is rather depressing. It means not really seeing the walls that you’ve built for yourself, and simultaneously feeling trapped.

      I have a very good friend, whom I’ve known for years. She worked at a job that she hated horribly, so that she could make enough money to make house payments, while living paycheck-to-paycheck. It scared her, as it should! When I asked her why she didn’t just get out of the house and move somewhere much closer, so that it would free her from the job that she hated, it was like I was talking to a deaf person. She literally could not understand that she didn’t HAVE TO OWN THAT HOUSE, or that it was even possible to WALK OR BIKE to work instead of driving. It blew my mind, in a very sad way.

      On the other side of things, I hadn’t even realized one of my own ‘walls’ until I read this comment. I had always assumed that I need to live somewhere with electricity. But, of course that’s not true! WOW! I mean, people lived without electricity for damn near all of history. Realizing these types of things makes me feel so powerful. Like I can do ANYTHING. It’s rad, and thank you.

      Reply
      • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 11:07 am

        I did a “plan” for my brother in which he can make some modest sacrifices and be financially independent before he is 40 years old (9 years from now). He and his wife together make loads of money (in my view, $140K per year is loads)… But, they refuse to make any sacrifices, so even with high pay, they are in debt, house has no equity…

        Point is that you cannot make someone see the light, they have to discover it themselves.

        Reply
  • Joe September 18, 2012, 6:42 am

    I was driving home from visiting my parents the other night, and decided to go to the drive through car wash. It struck me how everything is about convenience, and that to not seek every convenience is somehow looked down upon. From my knowledge of the last few generations gleaned from conversations, TV and movies, it seems like this rush to eliminate the slightest struggle from our lives comes from the baby boomer generation. Those who grew up during the toughest times of the 20th century wanted their lives and the lives of their children to be easier, and the post-war economy was all to eager to accomodate them. It’s hard fo me to tell if this trend is accelerating or not. Obviously ipads are an indicator that it is still going strong, but in some circles (of which this blog belongs) it is clearly declining. Maybe it’s just because my interests align well with those of this blog that I think there is some hope of declining consumerism, even if it’s just a whisper in the crowd. All this from 3 minutes in a car wash.

    Reply
    • Kenneth September 18, 2012, 12:04 pm

      True Mustachian would have washed the car in their own driveway or parking spot..

      Reply
      • Amulaire September 18, 2012, 1:04 pm

        True car lovers would too! ;-) I drive to the in-laws to do it, visit and car wash all in one! (they live 20 mins from me)

        Reply
      • Jamesqf September 18, 2012, 1:29 pm

        Nope, TRUE mustachians would have waited for rain :-)

        Reply
        • BobTX June 26, 2013, 12:39 pm

          I thought I was the only one that runs out into rainstorms a couple times a year with a hand towel. It’s free, and it is exhilarating in a Texas thunderstorm.

          (unwise, maybe, but worth the tiny risk I think).

          Reply
      • Joe September 18, 2012, 2:24 pm

        Yes, I knew that was coming. It wasn’t my car, nor my $6. The explanation wasnt material to the story, so I didnt bother.

        Reply
      • Lindsey September 18, 2012, 5:03 pm

        Car washes use less water than hand washing. Why wash your car at all?

        Reply
        • Kelly September 18, 2012, 10:04 pm

          In many areas it increases the longevity of the car. Salt can do a number on your car.

          I use a green car washing product that takes ONE bucket of water to wash-you just wipe it dry and you’re set. I also use child labor-my kids help. ;) I’ll still go through the car wash during the winter (the $3 one) to get the salt off probably 2-4 times in the winter.

          Reply
        • Gerard September 19, 2012, 6:28 am

          True mustachians wouldn’t have a car! :-)

          Reply
  • elkbark September 18, 2012, 6:43 am

    Since seeing my dad’s nice bathroom remodel, I’ve been considering the replacement of my new, but unadvanced toilet seats with the newer fancy kind that damp the closing mechanism so they dont slam down… now i think I’ll just have to get the kind that automatically fire off a urin-seaking cathider.

    thankyou mmm for a mind changed with a mind trick.

    Reply
    • Macs September 18, 2012, 11:56 am

      Do not buy that new toilet seat! They really are more trouble than they’re worth.

      Let’s just say the job-I-hated-so-much-I-quit involved selling bathroom stuff, so I know ;-)

      Just think – how many times in your life can you recall when you’ve needed to get that seat down (or up) in a REAL hurry? And how messy it is if you can’t get it into the right position in time? And of course, trying to force it will break the mechanism.

      Hope this doesn’t leave too many graphic images in reader’s minds…

      Reply
      • Dancedancekj September 18, 2012, 1:34 pm

        Maybe the catheter might be a cleaner solution :)

        Reply
  • jlcollinsnh September 18, 2012, 6:46 am

    I have always felt blessed in never having much desire for owning stuff.

    Living on 50% of my income was never much challenge. I used to think:

    “Sure, I’d drive a Mercedes. But I wouldn’t borrow money to have one and it would have to represent a small portion of my wealth.”

    The irony is that living this way over time you can’t help but become wealthy and well able to afford such things. But you still don’t want them.

    Reply
    • Grant September 18, 2012, 6:52 am

      It’s been a big step for me to not want a fancy car. I think the catalyst was having kids – my focus became all about practicality. In hindsight, the first real indicator that I was not the same as my friends and colleagues was when I made the decision to NOT buy a new car, and went for a 12yo car with 100k km on the dial.

      Now I just have to shift it a little more to focus on efficiency and frugality.

      Reply
    • BadassCPA September 18, 2012, 4:44 pm

      I have a love/hate relationship with the whole “can we afford it” question. My wife is always trying to talk me into purchases by saying, “We have ___ thousand in our bank account, of course we can afford it!” I always have to remind her that we didn’t save up our stash thinking that way.

      It’s also a good reminder to myself to to lower our cash fund. If I put more into investments, she won’t see as much in the liquid cash account so it won’t figuratively be burning a hole into her pocket. Roths and 401k are maxed, I’m thinking some tax-deferred I-bonds next which would be 20k a year. Other ideas?

      Reply
      • Tara September 18, 2012, 5:03 pm

        I guess you could put some into CDs, although the return is ridiculously low… if you just need to put it into an investment account, you could open a regular taxable account and dump it into a stock or bond fund… I purposely funnel all my money out of my checking account as fast as possible so it doesn’t burn a hole in my pocket like your wife…

        Reply
    • Chris September 18, 2012, 9:29 pm

      The more hard earned money (investments or cash) I accumulate, the less I want to spend it. Sometimes just knowing I can buy that fancy car for cash is just as satisfying.

      Reply
  • Mike September 18, 2012, 6:50 am

    I just heard a very interesting story about education on the radio. The main thrust is that while a person’s cognitive intelligence is more or less fixed for life at a young age, there is another type of intelligence (un-creatively referred to as non-cognitive intelligence) that plays a large role in individuals’ success and CAN be altered throughout life. “Cognitive” intelligence represents your ability to do things like calculus, while non-cognitive intelligence represents “soft” or “social” skills. It seems to me that non-cognitive skills are needed to succeed at something like mustachianism. The abilities to go against the grain, resist marketing and delay gratification are more about discipline and less about complex math.

    Reply
  • rjack September 18, 2012, 6:52 am

    MMM – All of your articles are at least good, but this one is destined to be a CLASSIC! I really appreciate this article because as you say it gets to a level above basic tactics. It changes your outlook on life and consumerism. It is the punch to the face that most of us need to WAKE UP!

    Reply
    • jlcollinsnh September 18, 2012, 6:56 am

      +1.

      on my blog I tend to avoid discussing the “hows” of frugality and living on 50% of one’s income. Others, like Mr. MM, do it better.

      now when the question comes up, I can just link them over here! :)

      Reply
    • George September 18, 2012, 11:33 pm

      I second that.

      After reading all the articles on this blog, there is really like about 15-20 really truly core fundamental articles to learning Mustachianism. This would definitely be one of them. This article is taking wealth creation to its most basic and purest form.

      It seems that never has wealth and the road to being financially successful been so well explained and mapped out before in one place.

      I have read a lot of books on this topic of Personal Finance, and each book it seems has bits and pieces of the whole picture, yet never has the whole picture in one source. Take Thomas Stanley’s Millionaire next door for one example. Dr. Stanley always was able to establish correlations between habits and being rich, i.e. most wealthy people buy cars 3-5 years used or most wealthy people have furniture refinished rather than buying new.
      Yet in his books they were always correlations of events, he never made attempts to determine causation; he could not point to event A and say yes that is definitely what made this guy rich.

      In contrast, this blog is really one of the most comprehensive and easy to understand guides to becoming financially independent (FI). Note only is MMM telling you about things that FI people do but he is actually explaining how (the causation) that this process occurs. I don’t know how MMM learned it himself, but Mustachianism sure does work for people who want to make it to FI in a realistic manner (no daydreaming about lottery winnings or long lost uncle inheritance checks here).

      This blog is one of the blessings of the information age. Just imagine, a road map to wealth mapped out that any can have access to and its free;

      you don’t even have to spend 40 years of your life waddling through and doing all the trial-and-error mistakes to find the road to wealth; its all here for you or anyone, if you are willing to make the initial steps and have an open mind

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 22, 2012, 7:18 pm

      I’m always happy when an article gets rjack’s official “CLASSIC” designation! Those are the ones I will adapt into the book we will eventually make out of all this fun stuff. :-)

      Reply
  • Devin September 18, 2012, 6:59 am

    I really like the start of the article and the title wrong “question”. I thought you were going to continue on that theme. Can I afford it, is it actually a convenience, is there anything more important than this that deserves my time and attention. Then the article turned into an exercise of will. I get it, I do similar things in my thought process, but there does come a point when you have multiple saving goals. If there was only one goal and one thing to do in life this would be “convenient”, however with all things in life it is rarely that simple. I prefer the idea that a percentage once you are saving roughly 30-40% of your gross pay, allows you some freedoms to replace items that you have been using for quite sometime. Not necessarily all at once, but everything has a life cycle and when you truly use them everyday replacement is inevitable. Yah yah I know that doesn’t mean you get the newer version of “x” ever year it comes out, it means I replace my 2002 dell inspiron notebook with something I can afford. Or those tires that are pushing 100,000 kms need to be planned for replacement. No I do not own an iphone, ipad, or i(insert gadget here). This is another type of saving that is outside of the 30-40%. I know you will probably say that should be planned for, and I have been doing that as well, but the idea that you should train yourself to deny the satisfaction in what you have accomplished by rewarding one’s self with a replacement (not tires) is starting to push my boundaries. And for this I thank you. You are making me think and now that I type this (visual of me smacking my forehead with palm of my right hand) that is truly the message you were trying to convey. Just took me a minute to get there.

    Reply
  • Chaz September 18, 2012, 7:14 am

    I myself have a more strict definition of afford. I don’t count “earned income”. Afford means your unearned income (from investments, etc.) can pay for the thing desired.

    That being said, the thing I desire most is freedom. That takes quite a bit of unearned income to afford it. The quote in the beginning:
    “So we figure that if we would really enjoy something, we might as well get it. And, you know, at this stage we can really afford it.” really makes me cringe.

    So many people have this mentality – they say “you only live once” and “life is too short.” But that’s exactly why you shouldn’t settle for anything less than freedom.

    (Though I don’t see how wine and an already purchased iPad can really set you back – perhaps this reader has other costs that weren’t mentioned?)

    Things that are not adequate substitutes for financial independence:
    1. Too much house
    2. Diamonds
    3. Too much car
    4. Cigarettes (at least $200 a month)
    5. Coffee habit
    6. Alcohol habit (going out to buy drinks)

    Reply
  • MB @ 12 Year Career September 18, 2012, 7:17 am

    Epic post. Additionally, I think having a bunch of Stuff is actually quite inconvenient. Use boats as an example, since we live near the water and so I have seen this in action. Boats are a total freakin’ pain in the ass. You have to maintain them, winterize them, dock them somewhere, drive to that somewhere whenever you want to use it, etc. etc. All for the few weekends each summer that you stroke your ego by showing it off to all your “poor” friends who “can’t afford” a boat. COUNT ME OUT. I would much rather not have to do any of those chores and enjoy someone else’s boat while they are showing it off to me. Suckers.

    Reply
    • M September 18, 2012, 7:30 am

      Amen!

      Reply
      • swimming_naked September 18, 2012, 9:02 am

        I bought a used canoe. I love it. Considered just renting them when I want to use them but I go fishing out of it and don’t want a specific time when I have to have the canoe back. There is no engine to maintain. Nothing to winterize. I never wash it, or clean it other than spraying it off with a hose. My kid loves going down the river and stopping at the various gravel bars to fish and swim.

        So, I guess I love boats (but only the self propelled type that are cheap and cost nothing to maintain).

        I guess an even more frugal way to do the same thing would be to buy a couple of inner tubes and just float down the river (you still have to buy a sticker from the state to put on your canoe/kayak in Ohio). Hopefully the price of the sticker helps pay to clean up the river that we fish and swim in.

        Reply
        • MB @ 12 Year Career September 19, 2012, 8:46 pm

          Now, a used canoe is something I can totally get behind. We actually got a real cheap kayak as our way to enjoy the water.

          Reply
    • slowitdown September 18, 2012, 10:30 am

      Or swimming pools

      Reply
    • October MacBain September 18, 2012, 12:58 pm

      You know what “b.o.a.t.” stands for, right? Bust Out Another Thousand.

      Reply
  • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 18, 2012, 7:18 am

    Guilty as charged :)

    I drive cheap cars, live in a condo and spend less on utilities than MMM, but tech gadgets are my downfall.

    I actually did not even pay for my iPad (got it from one of my suppliers as a gift for sales numbers), but then I bought $45 cover, $15 stylus, then Bluetooth keyboard ($70), apps ($200)… Then I lost my charge ($45)… I could have sold the iPad and make $500 instead… Best part is the internal monologue that I conduct before buying a new toy or accessory (devil on my left shoulder says “just buy it, you cancelled cable TV years ago”, or “don’t you deserve to splurge once in a while”… Angel on the other side does the calculation on the other shoulder on how much money will this new toy cost me in terms of delaying FI… Devil wins too many times)

    I am lucky that my company pays for most of my tech toys, otherwise I would be in big trouble. It is not cheap being a nerd these days.

    Reply
    • James Kiffmeyer September 18, 2012, 7:36 am

      I got a second generation ipad from work which I sold on ebay, but the third generation ipad I got last year I kept. My wife uses it a lot, but I rarely touch it. I thought it would be really handy to have, but I’m realizing it just doesn’t fit into my life in any significant way. The fact that work paid for it helps.

      Reply
      • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 3:20 pm

        My excuse is that I use iPad exclusively for work, but to be honest, I could just lug my laptop around and never use the iPad. Let’s face it – my name is Mr. Risky Startup, and I am a gaget-o-holic. I have been sober for 60 days now (last purchase was $70 bluetooth keyboard for my iPad after I dropped and broke the other one). LOL

        As a side note, my original iPad was stolen from me by my 2 year old son (who was then not even 1 years old). I have to say that as a education tool there is no better. My son already speaks clearly, knows alphabet, numbers up to 20, he can spell his name etc.

        I know, some people are against little kids using technology, but we limit it to an hour per day at the most, and we cancelled cable so our son only watches TV maybe once per week (mainly music videos).

        Reply
  • M September 18, 2012, 7:26 am

    My yoga teacher wisely reminds us to check our thoughts. That most of what rumbles around in there is repetitive, discursive and just plain not helpful. But that’s the nature of mind. She suggests not to attach to it, but just watch. Then she says. “Lean into it”. I never knew why that was so. But she commented that it’s an opportunity to dig underneath to see what drives the thought. Then just watch it transform into something else because nothing is static.

    And that blew my mind (pun intended). Yogis are badass, too.

    Reply
  • Art September 18, 2012, 7:40 am

    MMM writes: “if you’re not saving at least 50% of your take-home pay…”

    Can someone confirm that I got this right? To make the numbers easy, assume person’s TAKE HOME pay is $60K which is AFTER taxes, health insurance, maxing out 401K. The only debt is mortgage. I am assuming that principal payments on the mortgage are counted towards the 50% saving. Additional principal payments to pay down the loan are also counted towards the 50% saving. Mortgage interest and escrow (taxes and insurance) are counted as spending. Right? So if this person is saving 30K via mortgage principal payments, additional principal payments, investing the rest outside of 401K (like Roth IRA, index funds), they are saving 50% of their take home pay.

    401K is pre-tax and of course it is saving – how/where do you count that?

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 18, 2012, 7:56 am

      When they asked me what percentage I was saving, I counted RRSPs (the Canadian equivalent of 401ks) despite their non-taxedness.

      So subtract off your taxes, which I guess includes health premiums in the U.S., since those come off taxes in Canada, and count everything else as “take home”, including your RRSP/401k.

      Then declare your RRSP, mortgage and any other savings as “Savings” and everything else as expenditures.

      When I do the math that way, my “Savings” are around two thirds of take home.

      Income: 60k
      Taxes: 4k
      Health care: 1k
      401k : 11k
      mortgage: 11 k

      Take Home: 55k
      Savings: 22k (40%)

      Reply
      • Clint September 18, 2012, 10:56 am

        I’m not following the math. Please help: 22k isn’t two-thirds of 55k.. What am I missing? There’s more savings than just 401k and mortgage, right? That’s what’s missing that brings it up to two-thirds?

        I never realized we should include mortgage as part of the savings percentage. I’m feeling much better about my rate today.

        Reply
        • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 11:12 am

          I do not think that mortgage payment should be included in savings – only portion of the payment that is paid against loan principal.

          Interest should be considered expense.

          Reply
          • Art September 18, 2012, 11:26 am

            Yes, an easy way to think of it is – escrow (taxes, insurance) = expense (PMI is an expense as well, if you have that); principal payments and any additional principal only payments you make = savings. At least that is how I look at it.

            Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque September 18, 2012, 2:00 pm

            I would totally count my entire mortgage payment as “savings”.
            I plan to live in my house, not sell it for a profit.
            So any money I put into the mortgage is a tax-free savings account at whatever my interest rate is.
            Also, from a philosophical point of view, it’s money I’m not spending on Hedonically Adapting myself to a fancy lifestyle, so it counts that way, too.
            Plus, once it’s paid off and I’m retired, that cost will disappear, which is another property of money put into savings.

            Reply
        • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 1:17 pm

          Actually, I also warn people about including house equity in the net worth calculation.

          People often say how they have equity, and how their house appreciated in value, blah, blah, blah. What they fail to account for is the fact that if your house appreciated in value, so have others around you – and it is not like you can sell the house and live on the street. And if you sell, you will still only be able to buy so much house for the money.

          Only people who will actually enjoy the equity you built are your kids (after you die).

          Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque September 18, 2012, 2:04 pm

          By counting the mortgage and the RRSPs as savings. they total 22k (in this totally made up example).
          Your income, not counting taxes, is 55k.
          $22k / $55k = 40%
          So you’re saving 40% of your take home pay.

          Apparently, whether or not you count mortgage payments as savings is up for debate. I count it because the mortgage stands between me and my retirement. Therefore, any money put into the mortgage counts as saving towards retirement.
          I wasn’t aware that this was controversial.
          — ON EDIT —
          I see the confusion: when I said “two thirds” I was referring to my personal finances. Everything else in that comment was related to the fictitious example.

          Reply
          • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 3:56 pm

            Best way to decide if something is savings is to ask yourself – can I live off this if I had to without going back into debt (for investment, test question is – would this item provide returns)

            So, in case of mortgage, the answer is “no”. If you paid off your house tomorrow, but had no income, you could not/would not move to the street and sell the house, would you? You would probably end up renting some other place, or buying a new house.

            Yes, you may “downgrade” – sell your house and move into something smaller, or rent out a room. However, if this is the case, that means that you have too much of the house to begin with.

            Still, if counting it as savings works well for you and motivates you to be frugal, that is awesome!

            I just feel as if many people in North America are simply brainwashed to think that getting a mortgage is an investment. Mortgage is an investment for those who lend the money that is used to provide mortgages. Those who pay mortgages are not investing, they are purchasing housing solution. Again, if house value appreciates, great – but most likely, other houses appreciated in value too, so you are back at the square one.

            People kept telling me that I am stupid for paying rent, but I kept sticking the money into investments instead – now I have enough money to buy the condo I am renting for cash, but I am still not sure that this would be smart thing to do.

            Consider this:

            Rent – $1000 (includes $240 in condo fees, $200 or so in taxes, maybe $50 in insurance and I estimate that maintenance adds up to maybe $100-$150 per month (last year furnace was 5K alone, when we moved in landlord spent another 5K to bring it back to shape, and then he had to replace washer, dryer, fridge etc – condo is 13 years old so everything is now dying slowly and needing replacement).

            OR Purchase – $129,000 (it actually dropped in value since I moved in due to recession from $149,000).

            So, I would perhaps save $400-$450 per month that my landlord gets (which he uses to pay the mortgage).

            My $130K in investments brings easily hits $400 in returns per month (hilariously, nice chunk of my RRSP’s are invested in mortgage/banking stocks – safe Canadian ones of course).

            So, I could use my $130K to buy a condo, and then my $130K would not work for me anymore (maybe condo would raise in value, maybe not, maybe inflation would eat my gains, maybe we get termites or someone builds gas station next door… who knows).

            But, with my investments, I have fairly liquid money that may in the long run actually return better than 4% (last few months have been better than 4%). And, if I need to move for a better job, or because I want to live closer to work, or if I want to take a year and travel the world – I can move on a 90 days notice (actually 30, but I am nice). And, in the past year alone, his condo did not appreciate at all (probably lost a bit), while my $130K had some dollar sex and produced offspring – about $6K in returns.

            What do you think?

            Reply
            • jd September 19, 2012, 12:37 am

              I could also buy the place I’m renting in cash, but I’m enjoying the flexibility that renting provides, as well as the larger returns from my other investments. The main downsides I’ve found to the invest-and-rent approach are the increased taxes and reduction in social benefits caused by the additional investment income. (Plus there is the chance the landlord will decide to sell the place before I’m ready to move.)

              Reply
            • Mr. Frugal Toque September 19, 2012, 6:19 am

              “Best way to decide if something is savings is to ask yourself – can I live off this if I had to without going back into debt (for investment, test question is – would this item provide returns)”

              I can see that argument, but another example is student loans.

              Suppose you graduate from university with $30k in student loans and you get a salary of $60k right off the bat.

              Obviously, you’d max out your RRSP/401k for the tax savings, but then you’d put a good chunk against your student loans. Since those student loans are going to cost you a lot of interest in the future, aren’t you “saving” money by paying them off as fast as you can.

              In that sense, the student loan and the mortgage are “savings” because they are “paying returns”.

              Of course, this is dependent on my rule that I want to own my house and have the matter of shelter permanently settled in my mind before I can declare myself financially independent. If other people can be comfortable in a permanent rental situation (with the understanding that your living space might be sold out from under you), then that’s their game – but not mine.

              Reply
              • MP September 19, 2012, 1:11 pm

                Couple things…first, please tell me you Canadians have TFSAs? In most cases those should be topped up first before putting money into RRSPs. I won’t go into details why at this point, but look into it.

                Second, I don’t think mortgages are savings either. I agree N Americans have been led astray on the values of owning a home. Those values are even more skewed in Canada because the national average house price is somewhere north of 350k. Yes, nearly double the US (around 180k last I heard).

                Third, student loans are a bad example as most of these are low rate (at least mine were a few years ago at 2%). To truly build wealth, one should be investing their money for 4-6% and using those investment gains to pay the monthly student loan down, tax deducting the student loan interest (in US) and coming out on top.

              • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 19, 2012, 3:14 pm

                Actually, TFSA vs. RRSP depends on many factors, most importantly current and future income levels. That is because taxes are only deferred when on RRSP.

                Still, any self respecting Mustachian should be maxing out both ;)

              • Mr. Frugal Toque September 19, 2012, 5:06 pm

                I would need to some serious math to make me think TFSAs are a better idea than RRSPs.
                First of all, TFSAs did not exist until five years ago and, before that time, the company for which I worked kicked in 50 cents on the dollar for RRSP contributions. That’s a real no brainer.
                Second, putting money in RRSPs comes off the top of my income for tax bracketing purposes. When I’m retired, my income will be the lowest (non taxed) bracket and the second (barely taxed) bracket. So I get untaxed at 46% or so and retaxed at a much lower rate.
                When it comes to mortgages, I view house ownership as necessary for my peace of mind. I like to be able to configure my house to suit my needs. I can’t do this with a rental. I’m aware that this is mildly irrational, but I enjoy the security of living in one place that belongs to me.

              • MP September 19, 2012, 7:28 pm

                Agreed. TFSA vs RRSP need many calculations and using both is prudent. I also assume people know TFSAs can be self directed investment accounts. I just cringe when people only mention RRSPs.

                Only using an RRSP or having a huge sum in there can get tricky. I’d caution some research as you are required to draw out money at age 71, which could substantial increase your income and tax bracket..

                Also, by deferring your taxes using an RRSP you are betting your future tax rate will be lower. Realize that taxes can change – read: go up (when do they go down?!). Someone is going to have to bail out all these over stretched homeowners sooner or later. CMHC is backed by you and me.

              • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 19, 2012, 8:32 pm

                @Mr. Frugal Toque

                I am by no means expert, and I recommend reading more about it and talking to people.

                In my case, since I have fairly good pay currently (around 110K in average year, my wife adds 10K more), but plan to retire “early” (in about 10 years when I turn 51-52) and leave “modestly” (40K per year) – RRSP is a very good option for me. I am saving bundle on taxes, and when I get to take the money out later in my life, my tax bracket will surely be much lower than it is now.

                Of course, employeer sponsored plans should be maxed out – it is like getting 100% on your money upfront. In fact, if you have an employer who adds $1 for each dollar you put in (mine does up to a certain amount) – that is actually more important than even paying your credit card in full. Nothing else will give you a 100% return.

                However, if you have average pay, and your expected income in retirement will be close to what you are earning now, TFSA is a VERY good idea. Yes, you use after tax money right now, but any gains are TAX FREE! Yes, if you max out your TFSA (for you and your spouse), and you invest into some stock that returns 100x profit, you pay NO TAX on those capital gains.

                For example, lets assume that TFSA was available in 1997. You took $10K and bought the Apple stock. Those stocks would today be worth around 1.3M – and you could use that money to produce more money for you and you would pay exactly ZERO tax on all that income.

                That is why TFSA is not automatically to be pushed to the second place behind RRSP. Again, I am no expert, but there are many situations where TFSA is better.

                Also, as I mentioned earlier, if you can, you should max out both. Stick RRSP’s into some safe mutual funds with decent return, and use TFSA to buy things like Vanguard ETF’s or some other low cost index or dividend producing product. TFSA’s can be cashed out fast if you have an emergency (which reminds me, if you keep “emergency” funds in cash or low interest savings account, you are wasting your money), they are more flexible, and they could be used for some things that offer more risk/reward kind of returns.

                Lastly, for all Canadians with kids, don’t forget RESP’s – governament adds 20% to first $2500 that you add each year. Again, free money, and if s**** hits the fan, you can still take the money out (after penalty).

              • Bullseye September 20, 2012, 5:45 am

                ‘Also, by deferring your taxes using an RRSP you are betting your future tax rate will be lower.’

                RRSP’s function the same as TFSA’s if tax rate in is same as tax rate out, so you only need your tax rate to not be higher than it is now for RRSP’s to not make more sense than TFSA’s.

                Both are great vehicles to use, but RRSP’s are the ones that require careful planning to use properly. Only contribute when it makes sense. Don’t die with lots of them. lol

              • dottie September 20, 2012, 6:46 am

                I’m on the fence regarding the Entire mortgage payment being counted as savings or in fact the princ. only being counted as savings.
                However, money used to pay off debt ( student loans) counted as savings does not make any sense to me.

              • David Wendelken November 24, 2012, 5:22 pm

                The 50-30-20 Budget (http://money.msn.com/how-to-budget/how-much-should-you-spend-on-weston.aspx) is pretty radical to most Americans, but pretty tame to Mustachians.

                They split the budget into 3 categories, Required (50%) Optional (30%) and Savings (20%).

                Required includes food to survive (not steak and lobster) , other expenses necessary to survive, and pre-existing (even if stupid) contractual obligations.

                Savings is defined as saving money, investing, or paying down debt IN EXCESS of the required contractual amount.

                So, if my mortgage contract requires me to cough up $1000 a month, I’m not saving anything. I’m just paying my bills. If, however, I put an extra $100 in the payment, that $100 is counted as savings.

                Optional is, of course, anything that’s not Required or Savings.

                I actually like the definition of savings, though.

                I think it nicely accounts for the fact that you’ve got to pay for living quarters regardless, but extra payments are pre-paying your living quarters in the future.

                I know folks here would consider the 50-30-20 budget insanely wasteful, but by modern American standards, it’s awesomely thrifty. If you can’t convince your friends to be Mustachians, you might get them started down the right path by converting to the 50-30-20 budget.

            • PFgal September 20, 2012, 6:56 pm

              “while my $130K had some dollar sex and produced offspring – about $6K in returns.”

              This is by far the most hilarious way to phrase this I’ve ever seen! I hope “dollar sex” becomes the new reference phrase!

              Reply
  • James Kiffmeyer September 18, 2012, 7:40 am

    Love the post, excellent in so many ways. I love the fundamental shift you focus on rather than the technical aspects. Stoicism really is worth looking into, A Guide to the Good Life really helped me realize much of what you said here.

    When I first started focusing on finances I started adding a million different budgets for every expense hoping to micro manage my way to wealth. I’m now working to change my focus to a more mustachian idea of giving every purchase the catheter eyed vision, looking at it as though through a bag of urine… :D I’ve got a long way to go, thanks for keeping this idea in front of my face.

    Reply
    • Osprey September 18, 2012, 9:53 am

      “Catheter eyed vision” made me crack up! There are very few things I would buy after looking at them through a urine bag. Thanks for the awesome image, it will definitely help keep me on track!

      Reply
      • RW September 18, 2012, 4:19 pm

        I was thinking catheter-bedpan mustachian mind trick…

        Reply
  • CL September 18, 2012, 7:55 am

    Thanks, MMM, for reminding us in the wake of Apple’s latest event that none of us need an iPhone 5. I actually looked at my Mint account after reading the article. I congratulated myself on having let a few months pass since buying physical objects, even though going only a few months means that I can do better. Those objects were shirts at the FBI Academy, though, and my Behavioral Analysis Unit shirt is actually worth more to me than the money that I paid for it. The money was equal to a half hour of my time at my internship. I’m still happy with that expenditure.

    Reply
  • Georgia September 18, 2012, 8:00 am

    Where on this spectrum does education fall? For instance, something I find challenging and fun is playing guitar. While I can read music and teach myself some new things, when I’ve had a teacher in the past, I’ve found that I learn and progress much more quickly. (I guess this might be akin to Mrs. MM’s taking CrossFit classes, needing the external motivation?) Leaving out the question of formal education, how do people feel about/justify the cost of lessons or classes?

    Reply
    • M September 18, 2012, 8:17 am

      Georgia, As I posted earlier, I’m a big fan of practicing yoga. I could do it alone, but I always benefit from attending classes with others (or in a community of learners as it’s presented). Costs can add up however. I do consider it a part of my planned medical expenses and it keeps me out of more expensive physical/mental health treatments (a cost-effective expense perhaps). However, I barter a fair numbers of my classes. I raise some of my own food and I trade for that. My husband also trades classes by doing home repairs for my teacher. It seems to work for us.

      Reply
    • Rob September 19, 2012, 1:32 am

      This is about community. Once you have been to say 10 get fit classes you don’t really need the teacher telling you what to do. As for learning the guitar, as a guitarist myself, the best way to learn is through community. Get together with other guitarists and learn / play together (along the lines of lets learn this for next week and help each other out with any trouble).

      Oh and most reasonably skills guitarists love showing off and teaching counts as that. I’d wager there’s someone you know who would show you things when you need them shown for free that you haven’t realised would do it. It builds a bond and it builds community… that’s surely part of what this is all about.

      Reply
    • Esther October 12, 2012, 3:51 pm

      My parents always said, invest in education first, because they can take everything away from you, they can take your home and your possessions, but they can never take away what’s inside your head (my parents lived through a war, so they experienced that). Personally, I think that it’s very important to invest in yourself and anything that makes you a better person.

      Reply
  • SavvyFinancialLatina September 18, 2012, 8:19 am

    I’m guilty of cranking up my a/c in my apt down to 72 degrees during the summer in Texas. It’s hot, and I can’t sleep in the heat.
    However, in the winter, we rarely use the heater, so it averages out.

    Thanks for this post. It reminds me that I don’t need all the stuff that people want. I’m pretty happy with life right now.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2012, 3:31 pm

      Just work your way up to an 82 degree setting on your A/C, and we can call a truce. In the MMM household, we wait until 86 to turn ours on these days, and nobody even notices – the unit runs a couple of times a year at most.

      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/14/the-worlds-most-efficient-air-conditioner/

      If you set your A/C to 72 degrees, you must also install a boxing glove on a cordless drill and strap it to your head so you get repeatedly punched at 2100 RPM until you mend your ways.

      Reply
      • Mr. Risky Startup September 20, 2012, 6:32 pm

        Hate to disagree with MMM, but it depends where you live.

        I used to have a house on the seaside back in Europe – it was hot, reaching 90-100 some days, but because it was dry climate, we never even owned the AC, nor did we ever want one.

        Now I live in Southwestern Ontario close to Great Lakes, and humidity gets so bad that even at 80 you sweat constantly. We tried to do keep AC around 84, and it was impossible to sleep – sheets get wet in an instant.

        From our experience, here are some options that can cut AC spending:

        1. Buy a fan – open windows and circulating air helps a lot.
        2. Make sure you have good shades on the windows. Ones that let the air in, while completely blocking the sun rays.
        3. Insulate your place well (so that AC work is not wasted). Dual pane windows, insulation etc.
        4. If not already, change light bulbs to lower power and do not use incandescent ones.
        5. Put your electronic equipment (TV, DVD player, Internet router, computers etc) on a power-bar with a switch. Even when modern equipment is off, it actually uses the power and producing heat. It has to be actually powered down.

        Any other ideas that I forgot?

        Reply
    • Esther October 12, 2012, 4:06 pm

      I live on the southernmost point of continental Europe, so you can imagine that it really gets hot here in the summer (100 degrees). It’s also quite humid, cuz it’s on the sea. BUT, this is also the poorest region in the whole country, with an unemployment rate of 40% (which is way higher than the national average), so people here are too poor to afford AC and most people don’t have any. So really, it’s not necessary. Sometimes my kids can’t sleep because it’s too hot. They get used to it.

      Reply
  • Jane in London September 18, 2012, 8:38 am

    Here’s an equation that I often find it’s helpful to keep in mind:

    Hedonic adaptation + learned helplessness = sukkas!

    Reply
  • Peter September 18, 2012, 8:58 am

    One of your best articles so far MMM!

    I would love to hear more on how this mindset could or should be adapted though, to non-material things and necessities.

    I have just finished school and will be starting work shortly. I have purged my mind over the years of school of wanting frivilous stuff, and the past couple years I`ve focused only on buying necessities and life-long purchases. Now that I`m starting work though I have two burning desires that I want/need/DESERVE!…
    The first being, a one bedroom apartment all to myself. I could have a roomate or rent a room in a house for 1/2-2/3 the price of my own small apartment, but damnit! I want it!
    The second, vacations. At my job I’m being provided with 6 weeks vacation, this is due in part to the fact that the city the job is in is small, cold, and isolated. I’m having the extreme desire to take a a couple 2-3 week vacations per year to exotic destinations.

    Anyone have any advice on how to get over these two mental hurdles and still be happy with my situation?

    Reply
    • lilacorchid September 18, 2012, 9:22 am

      Peter, you could try to find a roommate who works the opposite hours you do. That way you don’t have to see them often.

      Where are you living? If it’s Whitehorse or the equivalent, yeah, I’d be getting out of there too just to get some sun. I’d probably try to take a whole month at the darkest, coldest part of the year and rent an apartment or condo in whatever warm place I was going to save on hotel and restaurant costs.

      In the end though, if you are serious about changing your mindset, I would question why you think you deserve both of those things. You definitely want it (those are nice things to want), I can’t say you need it (someone with SAD living in a northern community could make that case, though there are light boxes) and I can’t say you “DESERVE!” it.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Georgia September 18, 2012, 10:57 am

        Just a warning regarding roommates with the opposite schedule: Speaking from experience, this can wreak havoc with your sleep if your roommate is making noise while you’re trying to get some shuteye.

        Reply
        • lilacorchid September 18, 2012, 12:01 pm

          True. I was thinking more of a they sleep while you’re at work, you sleep while they are at work.

          Reply
    • Carolina on My Mind September 18, 2012, 10:35 am

      Peter, regarding housing: if your highest priority is living alone, then I’d suggest that you get yourself the smallest possible apartment. I felt the same way when I graduated, and I think wanting your own space is reasonable. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I need a lot less space than I once thought I did. I rented a one-bedroom apartment in my 20s when I could easily have lived in a studio. My apartment was small, but I could have gone even smaller (and cheaper). If I had to do it over, I would start out in the smallest place I could find and then upgrade if I really couldn’t make that work. So I recommend that approach. It’s actually a lot of fun figuring out how to configure your stuff in a small space. And as it’s turned out, twenty years later, I have never needed more space than I had in that first little apartment of mine. Anyway, good luck figuring everything out!

      Reply
    • kaeldra September 18, 2012, 10:42 am

      I live in Seattle and the winter here does get to me too. What you need is light, not necessarily ‘exotic’. Could you try going somewhere cheaper than an exotic locale but still warm and sunny, like LA and Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Phoenix, etc? Alternatively, look into travel hacking a la “Art of Non-Conformity”. Or… you could move somewhere with weather more to your liking so you don’t need to take 6 weeks of exotic vacations each year!

      Reply
      • tbird3077 April 3, 2014, 5:18 pm

        I live in Sacramento and our winters are typically mild. The summers are dry heat usually experiencing temperatures of 95 for 2-3 months. Extremes are 105+ I suffer from SAD so I need all the sunshine I can get! It’s also relatively affordable to live here, close to an international airport, and smack dab between two beautiful places, Tahoe and SF. My home is a 1700sq ft in the around 280k’s range. Hope that helps!

        P.S. Santa Barbara/O.C./L.A. is not cheap, sunny yes, but not cheap.

        Reply
    • Peter September 18, 2012, 12:01 pm

      Thanks guys. It is indeed the equivalent of Whitehorse. I think if I CAN find a studio apartment, that’s the way I’m gonna go. But the city doesn’t really have many. 1 or 2 per apartment building it seems.

      I guess I’m just wondering if the hedonistic adaptation thing REALLY works at the lowest level… like living with room mates vs not. I’ve lived with room mates all through school and it can be great at times but generally it’s a significant annoyance. I lived for a semester once in my own apartment furnished by my co-op employer, and it was heaven living on my own.
      Neither the annoyances of room mates nor the enjoyment of my own place subsided, even after months, as this hedonistic adaption idea would suggest.

      Reply
      • M September 18, 2012, 1:37 pm

        There’s nothing wrong with honouring this need. Perhaps you just need individual peace and quiet. And since you find living alone satisfying, maybe you’ll more easily adjust to challenges of the winter season. And I get you about Canadian winters; they’re looonnnnggg. Even in the relative tropics of central Ontario, February is a drag. And now no hockey…

        Reply
      • Leigh September 18, 2012, 4:57 pm

        I too found that living on my own was heaven. I ended up spending less money on many materialistic things because I was happier in my home. Prioritize it. Just because you’re living alone doesn’t mean you can’t still save 50% of your income.

        One of my friends thought I was ridiculous to spend $X,X00 on rent, but he spent $Y00 on rent and $Z00 at the bars, which added up to $X,X00. I preferred to spend $X,X00 on rent plus $20/month at the bars.

        Reply
      • lilacorchid September 19, 2012, 6:29 am

        If living on your own produces a huge amount of happiness, I’d say go for it, but like others said, try to find the smallest or cheapest place that works. Some people won’t give up their steak on Friday, others have to compromise with a spouse and own part of a car. Good luck with your apartment hunt!

        Reply
      • Esther October 12, 2012, 4:19 pm

        I think it’s just a matter of prioritizing. I used to share a house with a bunch of other people, I had a good time and we made long-lasting friendships, and I also saved a lot of money. But now I could NEVER go back to sharing (I think). I can come in at 3 o’clock in the morning and not have to worry about waking up the whole household. I can watch TV all night and no one gives a ****. No one steals my food, and I don’t have to wash the dishes immediately after eating. I also took trips to exotic places. I did that because I didn’t buy anything else. I didn’t buy clothes, I didn’t eat out, I didn’t go out drinking or dancing, I never went to the movies. I just saved up and went travelling. Best thing I ever did. Whenever people ask me for advice, I always tell them: Go travelling. Go travelling now! Before the kids arrive.

        Reply
    • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 1:28 pm

      There are ways about going on vacation that would not break the bank. See if you have relatives somewhere warm, maybe a friend. If you are single, it is much easier.

      Even if you are not, there are ways. My recent plan is that I am combining business with pleasure. Company likes it because I am working, so they pay for most of the expenses (hotels, Internet, gas or my airplane ticket) and I like it because I bring my wife and son with me. I work for a couple of hours in a morning, then lunch with my family, work while my son is napping and by 4-5 I am free to go and have fun (thank God for Sheraton Club Lounge :)

      Next year I am planning to go to Florida for a whole month – yes, it will cost me $1000-1500 to rent a small condo for a month, but because I am working from there, my vacation pay is being saved (about 8K per year) which I am going to get at the end of the year, and company is paying for some travel expenses because I am combining the trip with the visit to a ITEXPO show in Miami…

      So called win-win-win situation… :)

      Reply
    • Rob September 18, 2012, 3:03 pm

      Peter you can do it the same way my wife and I did it we gave ourselves a travel budget and planned and saved accordingly. We did this while still paying off some 70,000 euros in debt.

      Now I’ve turned my attention to saving and investing, while I won’t make retirement by 39 it will take us a bit over 10 years.

      Anyways enjoy your vacation time but save and travel for cash.

      Reply
    • Weedy Acres January 6, 2014, 7:26 am

      Peter:
      I have taken many vacations to “exotic” places around the world (40+ countries and counting), and they can be traveled quite cheaply, as in $20 a day. India is only half that. Just load a few changes of clothing and some toiletries in a backpack, get a Lonely Planet guidebook, and stay in cheap hotels and ride buses to get around. It’s a fabulous way to see the world.

      Reply
  • Jens Odegaard September 18, 2012, 9:06 am

    The worst part is that often the newest tech thing isn’t even that much different than the previous model. We just feel the need to buy it because it’s the latest and greatest. I loved what Jimmy Kimmel did in this iPhone 5 prank http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdIWKytq_q4. When I want something new, right now!, I’m going to start practicing bedpan self-ridicule and imagining myself being duped on a late night show. That should train the mind.

    Reply
  • pkeller3 September 18, 2012, 9:17 am

    awesome morning read. thank you!

    on a side note, slightly disappointed by the lack of catheter and bedpan anecdotes so far :)

    Reply
    • GayleRN September 18, 2012, 2:14 pm

      There are plenty of these people around and I could tell you some stories I suppose but they are uniformly either sad stories or could serve as horrible examples depending on the cause. They are the polar opposites of a badass mustachian, asswise. Mostly they are self inflicted with a very small per cent with true medical causes. In other words it originates with how you think because actions originate with thinking.

      However, standard practice these days is to just use diapers. Catheters cost too much. And yes, there are people that are that damn lazy.

      Reply
      • JaneMD September 21, 2012, 10:20 am

        Also, catheters are UTI risks so many hospitals are motivated to keep them out. A UTI on a young healthy person is an annoyance. A UTI in an elderly patient with their multiple comorbidities (other illnesses – diabetes, arthritis, broken hip) can be a death sentence.

        Reply
  • Gina W. September 18, 2012, 9:37 am

    Oh my gosh MMM! I’m still chuckling from this post. At first I wasn’t too sure about the article, but now I’m completely sold and can’t wait to try out my catheterized bedpan goggles! Can’t wait to use the phrase when my husband asks yet again when he can get the iphone 5. hehehehehe!

    Reply
  • Clint September 18, 2012, 9:39 am

    Can I have a bedpan and catheter with my diffulty? :)

    Actually I’m thinking bedpan and catheter with one of these 42-inch LCD TV’s I’ve been craving for years. Though that craving has subsided–much to my daughters chagrin–ever since I cut off cable (thanks to this site) and am down to over-the-air channels and Hulu.

    Come to think of it, I’ll take a bedpan with my Hulu, too!

    Reply
  • Chris September 18, 2012, 9:46 am

    When we plan for our retirement, freedom and happiness, the question should not be, “How much do I need,” but, “How little do I need.”

    This brings a whole new perspective.

    Reply
    • Mr. Risky Startup September 18, 2012, 11:14 am

      That is exactly where I started. One day I was reading my investment company brochure where they were asking – how MUCH do you need and I asked myself, how LITTLE do I need. Rest is history :)

      Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 September 18, 2012, 9:46 am

    You sound like a Buddist monk. That’s their philosophy and you are getting there. :)
    I don’t have an apple product either. I think they are really awesome, but I don’t need them. I’d rather invest that money. The future earning will be worth much more than an iPad in just a few years.

    Reply
  • mike crosby September 18, 2012, 9:55 am

    The article is fantastic but you folks commenting sure put a smile on my face. Geez, I love reading each of these comments with your thoughts and experiences.

    You do wonder where truly all this convenience ends. Sports bars. I used to think when they first started arriving, “Oh my, I’m not very athletic or in the mood to play any sports, I shouldn’t go in there”. Sports bar gives one the idea of being active, when in reality all it is is sitting on one’s ass watching TV waiting for the server to bring more food and alcohol.

    You watch. Before long there will be some design where one won’t have to get up from one’s table to go pee. Or perhaps we may see the catheter supplying alcohol to the patrons.

    Reply
  • Tyler Karaszewski September 18, 2012, 10:05 am

    I was thinking of buying some fence posts. I want to put in a bunch of raised beds for a garden in our backyard, but we have deer here so any garden needs to be fenced if you don’t want the deer to eat everything.

    What do you think? Are fenceposts just a catheter? Should I grow some trees myself (bonus problem: the deer would eat the saplings), then cut them down and use them for fenceposts?

    I actually have sort of a serious question about how this community views spending on home improvements, since it’s where a lot of my spending actually takes place. Should it count as a form of savings, or investment? I’m pretty sure the ROI on 320 sq. ft. of raised garden bed space is positive, but I’m not sure what it will actually be.

    Reply
    • Edward September 18, 2012, 10:29 am

      I don’t think people should see their home as an investment at all. That would mean that you believe the value is constantly going to go up (as investments are supposed to do) or you plan to rent it to make money. As we’ve seen since 2008, homes don’t always go up and sometimes they crash down to worth next to nothing. It’s instead, somewhere you choose to live. I would tend to see a fence as “protecting my garden from the crazy deer.” …Something along the lines of buying a shower curtain, you know?

      Reply
      • Tyler Karaszewski September 18, 2012, 10:39 am

        Your viewpoint makes no sense. Nobody expects that the value of *any* investment constantly goes up. Look at stock markets. Sometimes they go down. They are still investments. People pick investments that they *hope* will generally rise in value over time. There is absolutely no guarantee implied.

        You don’t think the ROI on a shower curtain (as opposed to having to replace your water-damaged bathroom floor) is worth considering, and therefore it is a bedpan/catheter purchase (or maybe a real badass just showers in the backyard with the hose)? If I can lower my grocery bill by some percentage by building a garden, how is that not an investment? Isn’t it the same thing as getting CFL lightbulbs?

        Reply
        • James September 18, 2012, 11:53 am

          I think what Edward is trying to say is that your house is not an income generating asset. You can put money into it, but it’s not going to give any back unless you rent it or sell it in the appropriate market.

          To put it another way, spending $200,000 on the house you live in will not get you any closer to retirement, but spending the same amount on a diversified portfolio sure will.

          Reply
          • John September 22, 2012, 9:28 pm

            There’s an important exception to this. If you make improvements that directly reduce your costs for heating, electricity, etc., it can have a significant ROI. I think MMM actually has an article about this somewhere in the archives.

            Reply
        • Chaz September 18, 2012, 1:36 pm

          There is no “guarantee” but if you’re putting time, money, effort into something and hoping it’ll return something, that’s an investment.

          I wouldn’t count home equity in one’s “networth”. And your home doesn’t cash flow for you – unless it’s a multifamily. It cash flows for the bank.

          Reply
        • Jamesqf September 19, 2012, 12:24 pm

          I think of the house as an investment, not in the sense of “in X years I can sell it for lots more than I paid”, but as “When the mortgage is paid off I can live here, and just pay about $150/month in taxes & insurance.”

          Reply
        • Tim September 22, 2012, 8:06 am

          I think of the house I am living in as a commodity, and a rational price for houses like mine is based on the demand by the people living in my community. This means the price of my property is based on changes in the population. An investment property, to me, gives me a monthly return in the form of a rental payment. A speculation in the housing market is not the same as a commodity or an investment property. Those people buying a house to live in and are expecting a return / loss not in line with population changes are speculators.

          Another factor to consider are the efficiency gains made in the materials and labor used to produce houses. Over the last several hundred years, commodity prices and labor costs should go down. A newly built house of comparable specs to one built in the past should cost less, not more.

          Reply
          • Christian September 23, 2012, 9:36 am

            A house is an investment. My first house almost doubled in value allowing me to upgrade to a bigger house as my family grew. The larger house will hold its value and I will be mortgage free in a few years. This will allow me to save while not having to pay rent and if money becomes an issue or once my kids have moved out I can downsize and pocket the rest.

            A house is an investment in other ways as well. If it’s close to work it saves time commuting. If it is close to a train/bus station it gives you the option to take alternative transportation. There are also safety and security benefits depending on where you live.

            We can all save money by pitching a tent in the middle of some unclaimed land but who really wants to do that?

            Reply
    • Gerard September 18, 2012, 12:39 pm

      wrt deer fencing, I think this is a situation where you need to separate out “What do I want to accomplish?” from “What do I need to purchase?” (Charles Long is really good on this topic.) In your case, you just need something that holds up a fence well enough to deter the deer. Could you scavenge posts or 2X4s from construction or demolition waste? Do you know anyone with a woodlot who thins out saplings? Are there other fencing options? Could you just cover each raised bed instead of fencing off the whole garden? Or maybe you could do what my grandfather used to do — let the deer have a good nibble all summer till they’re nice and comfortable, then shoot one and eat it all winter!

      Reply
      • Jamesqf September 18, 2012, 1:37 pm

        There’s also the dog(s) option…

        Reply
    • Rob September 19, 2012, 12:53 pm

      I don’t see anything wrong with spending money like that. You don’t have to avoid spending money… just be sensible. Do as MMM does and consider the 10 year cost of that fence. If you do the job yourself, it shouldn’t be too high.

      It’s not an investment because it won’t bring in an income although if it meant you could grow some fruit trees it would facilitate an income. An investment has to bring in an income, but you can buy things to make life pleasant as well. What matters is what benefits that spending actually brings and how important those benefits really are..

      Reply
  • Osprey September 18, 2012, 10:09 am

    Mr MM you sound just like the Buddhist monks from my youth, except that the face-punching and swearing makes you a lot more relate-able :)

    Reply
  • Edward September 18, 2012, 10:14 am

    And *this* is exactly why I came to MMM! I’m still a mustachian pedawan, but here it’s a whole new level. When I started hunkering down getting serious and saving, I found the lacksadaisical approach I was reading in many places annoying.

    Somebody can *always* (if they sit down and think really hard about it) come up with a devil’s advocate logic as to why spending frivously on a specific item makes sense. “But… What if you have 6 kids, two dogs, your mom’s sick, so you can’t live close to work because you have to nurse her hourly and haul firewood to her place, it’s uphill and muddy both ways, and there are zombies roaming around trying to bite people where I live? Then can I have a big, new SUV? It only makes sense! Please give me your approval?”

    Reply
  • totoro September 18, 2012, 10:19 am

    Good article. I wonder how much personality plays into all this though. Have you ever done the Colours test? http://www.truecolorscareer.com/quiz.asp It is a simple version of the Myers-Briggs. Basically, there are four colours ranked in order as to prevalence in a persons character:

    1. Green (minority- mostly male) – thinkers and inventors and innovators – most folks, including me, who have this at top would have no problem with delayed gratification or passing over consumer goods. they tend to like reading and research and long-term planning.

    2. Blue (minority – mostly women) – feelers – emotional content in life is paramount. These folks are not big spenders naturally but focus more on relationship than retirement plans. FI appeals less to these folks until they see the benefit of staying home with kids or having more time for family.

    3. Orange (larger cohort – mixed gender) – fun folks – these folks have a hard time with delayed gratification because they tend to live in the moment and enjoy spontaneous events and “good” times. Concerts, parties, and having the best come as natural wants. These folks spend easily and saving comes hard for them. They like action and entertainment.

    4. Gold (the largest majority – mixed gender) – order, tradition and rules appeal to these folks. They like to accomplish things on a list and check them off. They might adopt FI if it is part of a plan but they also enjoy nice consumer goods and dislike going outside of the standard comfort zone. Working is seen as standard and not working outside of the regular retirement ages might not be a goal.

    I guess what I have been thinking about is how flexible are we? Colours and personality types don’t appear to shift radically over time. Can an orange spender be converted to focus on FI? Being green (INTJ), I’m not entirely sure, but my experience with folks tends to support the notion that the answer is no.

    If this is the case, perhaps FI can spread into mainstream and influence gold, blue and certainly green – but I expect there will always be a large group of folks that will dislike it because future benefits are not real or all that interesting to them. What this also means though is that who you choose as a partner is extremely important if you find FI very rewarding.

    Reply
  • Sweta September 18, 2012, 10:27 am

    MMM, how’s this for badassity I’m posting this comment while listening to your intervew on CBC.ca radio which I learned about from Mrs MM twitter feed.

    Reply
    • Jessica September 18, 2012, 10:35 am

      Me too! I turned on the radio after returning home from work and your presence was just being announced. Perfect timing.

      Reply
  • slowitdown September 18, 2012, 10:33 am

    What I love most about MMM is how he combines being a badass with basic buddhist philosophy on releasing attachment/desire to achieve true happiness. Maybe a little fat buddha with a mustache should be your new picture:)

    Reply
    • Dancedancekj September 18, 2012, 1:47 pm

      I second this idea

      Reply
  • Tara September 18, 2012, 10:52 am

    This is such an awesome post, and right where I need to be focusing now. I have made a lot of progress over the past two years in shedding my previous rabid consumer attitudes, but I still find myself occasionally feeling very frustrated and tempted to splurge on useless purchases. Just this past Saturday I nearly bought two bottles of perfume at Costco but managed to punch myself in the face before I got to the cash register. I am hoping that as time goes by my willpower will get stronger and the desires will recede. I am working really hard to get to FI in the next year and need to keep my eyes on the prize. Thank you so much for your great articles!

    Reply
  • TLV September 18, 2012, 10:52 am

    I can think of one case where the built-in catheter/bedpan approach would be favorable: If you’re an astronaut picking out a suit for your next space-walk, go for the one with the built-in waste disposal.

    Reply
  • galaxie September 18, 2012, 10:58 am

    Mr. MM (or perhaps this is a question for Mrs. MM?), I don’t have trouble avoiding the temptation to buy things that are convenient. I do have trouble not wanting things that are pretty, delicious, or novel. Basically the things that are part consumable, part art.

    I’m thinking of stylish clothes, dinner out that I couldn’t have made at home, or unnecessary decorations and things that make my house look nice. I’ve got some DIY skills that make these tendencies not so bad, but it would be nice to have a “catheter” equivalent that would help me not want to buy clothes or whatever. Ideas?

    Reply
    • Amulaire September 18, 2012, 2:17 pm

      I had a colleague that had a rule that she could only buy a new piece of clothing if she was ready to retire a piece. So her wardrobe is full, but if she bought a dress, she needed to sell or give away one that she owned, same with shoes, etc. I want to do the same, and could (easily) but I’m still in denial of the fact that I’m a size bigger in the pants than I was last year, so I can’t seem to let go of my old clothes. Other than that, I’m pretty good with not spending a fortune on cheap clothes, I spend a fortune on clothes that will last me till…well till I don’t fit in it, a trend I’m hoping to stop, so it usually lasts me an eternity!

      Reply
  • jf September 18, 2012, 11:08 am

    Bedpan, catheter? Yes please! I find the Matrix solution very appealing. Just plug me in and make sure I am entertained.

    Reply
  • lecodecivil September 18, 2012, 11:12 am

    Self-humiliation is a fantastic form of self-control! I needed this.

    Reply
  • Josh Porter aka the Porterhouse September 18, 2012, 11:45 am

    I’m loving the tough love money articles. I was one of those clowns who spent too much on most things, but I buy less things more and more all the time because I just don’t need them or even want them. My gf asked me if I wanted a Kobo reader for my birthday and I can honestly say that I don’t because it can’t read pdf, the good ones are overpriced, and I’m totally badass with bigger fish to fry. I’m an oil painter who is slowly devising a plan to cost recover my supplies to fund my hobby. I bought a lemon tree the other day and plan on collecting data on how much money we spent on it vs the fruit it will bear until death :). I’m slowly becoming more of a MMM.

    Reply
  • Matt September 18, 2012, 12:18 pm

    A simple tactic I’ve found for avoiding unnecessary consumer purchases: the “want to buy” list.

    I started it this year. My rule is, anything I want, I write down on a list, and force myself to wait at least 30 days before I buy it. What I’ve found is that I actually *forget* about many of the things I put on the list. And if I forget about it, obviously I didn’t want it that badly.

    Most of the things I don’t really forget, but fall into the category of, “Yeah, I’d like to have that, but I’ve gone this long without it, so I’ll wait until it can be had for 95% off”. In other words, not forgotten, but effectively so.

    Of course, there is a small minority of things that I continue to want for 30+ days. Sometimes I buy, sometimes I don’t. And that I allow myself some consumerism I think misses the point of this post. But it’s a stop-gap between unplanned spending and true MMM “I’m happier by not buying or even wanting things”.

    But, given that this simple trick has worked well for me, I think it will be easy to make it a 60-day waiting rule next year. And then a six-month rule. And then a one-year rule. By then, I’m quite sure all want-to-buy items will fall into the “forgotten” (or at least “happy to wait forever”) category.

    Reply
    • Kandice September 18, 2012, 3:19 pm

      I use pinterest for this purpose. I have a “Stuff I’d Like” Board. I pin the things that I think I want and go back every so often and edit the board, deleting the things I realize I didn’t really want. I signed my husband up for Pinterest, too (he’s so excited, not) so he can access my Board in the event our family asks him what I’d like for Christmas/Birthday/etc. Anything that isn’t a need goes on there. It ranges from reusable cleaning rags, products on Etsy, clothes, cosmetics for which I personally can’t justify the expense, etc.

      Reply
    • AnnW September 20, 2012, 12:22 am

      I used to turn down pages in a catalog of things that I wanted. I would forget to order them, but I felt like I was being organized by planning my wardrobe. Now I just put things I kind of want into the shopping cart and leave them there. Makes me feel better. Another trick I have is, when I see a book that seems useful to read, I immediately put it on my wish list on Amazon. Then I know I have saved it and can order it from the library, or wait until the paperback comes out, or delete it based on reviews. My goal is to get all my clothes into two suitcases, but I am exercising like crazy and eating right so eventually I will be a few sizes smaller. Then, if someone asks me to go around the world, I will be ready.

      Reply
  • Lina September 18, 2012, 12:46 pm

    I prefer a middle road. If I am going to drink wine I want a nice wine. As I dont drink wine that often it is not big expense. I spend a lot on sports related stuff or training because exercising makes me feel good and is fun. Triathlon is a costly sport but I still limit the amount of stuff to necessary good quality stuff. Books that is my other passion, I mostly borrow from the library that has bought 90 % of my suggestions. I sold my car because I didn’t really need it and it cost to much. I can take a rental or fly as it is cheaper. I bought a bike instead. I prefer to take a lunchbox with me to work and I mostly cook my meals. I like to travel and live and eat well when I am doing it but I don’t buy souvenirs. And if I can combine training and traveling, that is even better. Cheap smartphone, not an Iphone. I love Apples computers though. I have had my Ibook over 6 years and I will soon replace it with a Macbook air. I prefer quality above quantity especially in clothes. I am seen as pretty anti-stuff by my family and my relatives but they are getting used to it.

    I can pretty easily save 30 % of my aftertax salary and could go up to 50 % but that would sacrifice my quality of live and I am not willing to do that. I have during the last years choosen to spend where it matters and save where it doesn’t matter.

    Reply
    • AnnW September 20, 2012, 12:27 am

      Triathlon expenses can be viewed as health insurance. You are taking care of yourself to live a healthier and longer life. Xterra US Nationals are in Ogden Utah this weekend. Make friends with your local wine seller. There are lots of really good wines that are $25 a bottle or less.

      Reply
  • Larry September 18, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Awesome article.

    My wife and I have practiced this concept for quite some time and it has worked out well for us. We’ve been able to save a substantial amount of our income for years now and own a home with no mortgage, just by avoiding superfluous spending on junk that we do not need.

    It’s so funny when I talk to others about some of the things that I do not buy. They seem shocked that I live without so many of the things that they take for granted and gladly pay up for each and every month.

    Things / services that I don’t need:

    Cable TV (have netflix)
    Comprehensive car insurance (have paid for car)
    Lots of New clothes (shop at thrift stores for about 75% of clothes)
    Sodas when we eat out (drink water)
    Iphone (have cheap plan with older phone and minutes only, I can use the internet at home)
    Haircuts for me (have clippers, wife has been cutting my hair for 15 years)
    Student Loans (worked and paid as we went to school)

    It’s amazing how much you can save for your future when you don’t buy into all the crap the world is trying to convince you that you need. No one I know seems to get that. I think they all lack even a small amount of self control in their spending.

    Larry

    Reply
    • Kenneth September 18, 2012, 1:51 pm

      One thing is that all the “wants” are shoved in your face (albeit I’m a willing victim). If you’re watching TV, non election season, it seems like a good lot of the ad spots are for cell phones or carriers. Or shiny new cars. Or expensive vacations.

      Perhaps we should all spend less time watching tv, reading magazines with beautiful ads, reading email about the latest and greatest iphone or android, etc.

      Reply
    • Red September 18, 2012, 9:53 pm

      I don’t quite follow this: Comprehensive car insurance (have paid for car)

      What does having paid for a car have to do with not paying comprehensive insurance? If I understand correctly comprehensive covers you against theft, vandalism etc. Wouldn’t you want to be covered against theft?

      Reply
      • Jamesqf September 18, 2012, 10:29 pm

        Comprehensive covers you against risks like that, plus damage if you’re at fault. The point is that (as with any insurance) the amount charged must be enough to a) pay for expected damages; b) cover the insurance company’s operating costs; and c) leave something left over for their profits.

        Now if you have purchased a car on a loan, you’re pretty much required to pay all this. If, like many Mustachians, you drive an inexpensive used car that you can easily afford to replace if stolen or wrecked, you are saving money in the long run because you aren’t paying the insurance company’s costs or profits.

        This is a pretty good general rule for Mustachians: don’t insure anything that you can afford to replace, or can do without.

        Reply
  • plam September 18, 2012, 12:57 pm

    So how far does that go? It looks like my washing machine is totalled (replacement cost < parts cost). Sure, I could go to the laundromat, by foot, to do my laundry, but that's way less convenient. I suppose that there's also waiting-for-laundry time which might make a new-to-me laundry machine an acceptable purchase.

    MMM also repeatedly disses iPads. I think they're pretty bad for around-the-house use, but we just got an Google tablet as a replacement for a heavy laptop while travelling. Carting around more weight than needed is inconvenient, for sure, especially when taking public transit. What is the most badass way of reading pdfs while not at home?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 18, 2012, 2:28 pm

      Good questions plam.. Washing machines are great investments, because they are cheap (less than $300 for even a luxury model on Craigslist), don’t use much energy/water at all if you use an efficient one, and they save lots of time.

      Dryers, on the other hand, burn a LOT of energy, and don’t save much time – you need to hang up your clothes in the closet anyway, so just hang ‘em up ever so slightly damp (after your high efficiency washer’s crazy fast spin cycle).

      Electric dryers are not a huge deal in the big financial picture, unless you’re a compulsive laundry-doer, like those people who wear jeans and use towels once and then re-wash every time, resulting in daily laundry loads.

      The numbers behind electricity use can be found here, so you can decide for yourself: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/10/ill-show-you-my-electricity-bill-if-you-show-me-yours/

      Reply
    • 205guy September 18, 2012, 7:41 pm

      Washing machines are (or at least used to be) very simple and reliable machines. They can usually be fixed by swapping out the broken part with one from a similar machine, from the dump for example. I have personally gone to the appliance recycling yard in my town, found the parts I needed (they didn’t even charge me for the little thing) and fixed my machine for the cost of time and gas (though I did combine errands).

      Or look online in your community for one of those fix-it type people who tinker and can fix anything to do it for you. In my town, we had a guy making a living picking up old machines and using them as parts to fix other machines. He also rebuilt them and sold them with a 90-day warranty for $100-150. We need more people like that in this world.

      Reply
      • plam September 18, 2012, 11:10 pm

        I have, in fact, located a similar machine available on kijiji (=craigslist). But the repair person was saying that actually replacing the part would take two people a number of hours, which doesn’t seem to be a win. Probably the fact that it’s a stackable front-loader doesn’t help. Might still buy the similar machine. (“Inner tub assembly with spider and shaft”.)

        Reply
  • Jamesqf September 18, 2012, 1:51 pm

    I think there’s much to be said for picking what one wants, as opposed to trying to train oneself not to want things at all. It’s maybe just a difference in emphasis. Take MMM’s Land Rover example. I’d look at the LR vs hatchback problem, and think “But I really LIKE small zippy cars, and all those years of yoga practice mean the smaller car is actually more comfortable.”, and so the monetary savings becomes secondary because what I really WANT is the small car. (OK, so my small hatchback might have a larger engine than strictly necessary…)

    Then I look at driving to work vs biking (in my pre-telecommuting days) and think “Well, I really want to have nice buns and six-pack abs, and I’m not going to get them by sitting in a car.” and the drive versus bike decision becomes a whole lot simpler, because I want the nice bod more than I want the ease of driving.

    Reply
  • Marcia September 18, 2012, 2:28 pm

    This was good. I find that I learn by practice. What I like about the “practical” aspect of “how to cut my electrical usage in half” type of information, is that it can lead you down the path to just getting it in your head.

    For me, personally, cooking at home and carrying my lunch started with the practical “how-to’s”. But doing it over and over again (and doing the same with cutting cable, decreasing spending in other areas, etc.), has slowly changed my brain to the more difficult “not wanting it” phase.

    It’s a muscle I need to continue to exercise though, because it’s easy to slip back into old habits. Like the “bigger pants” example above. I did just buy bigger pants because I didn’t want to wear my maternity pants and I don’t know how long it will take me to lose the baby weight. Probably should have just continued with the maternity pants.

    Reply
    • Vancouver Mama September 18, 2012, 4:26 pm

      I hear you. I’ve gone through so many different sizes of pants since getting pregnant and having a daughter. I thought I’d never fit into my prepregnancy clothes again. Now, with my daughter just 11 months old, I’m at least two sizes smaller than I was prepregnancy. I’d recommend getting as few pairs of pants as possible (2-4 pairs) second hand. Who knows how long it may take for your body to reach an equalibrium.

      Reply
  • Uncephalized September 18, 2012, 3:27 pm

    You could always be like me and game the system by deciding that the iPad is not worth the money and not buying one, then having a friend buy you one as a wedding gift… yay free!

    We’ve also found that it takes surprisingly good photos (much better than my smartphone), which was a bonus. We are planning an extended (1 year+) nomad voyage in a small travel trailer, hopefully by next year, and the iPad is going to be paired with an ultrabook as half of our total internet-enabled-computing-device solution for the duration. Given its portability, multi-functionality and excellent battery life coupled with reasonable durability, we expect to get some serious use out of it on the road. So it will definitely be worth the $0.00 we spent on it. :-)

    Reply
  • travelbug September 18, 2012, 3:55 pm

    Hi MMM
    I read and post in the forum section but this is my first comments post.

    I think this is my favourite ever post on your blog. Maybe I am just totally ready to hear this, I am in the zone ready to topple into retirement and my head has been doing strange things to my emotions.

    I still desire stuff, but then can walk away because, as you stated, I value my freedom more than the stuff I desire.

    It’s an awesome feeling of euphoria to know that I can choose to buy one or two or twenty but actually have the freedom to buy none.

    But then those evil words of consumerism start to chant and I feel a bit sick about the whole thing.

    I keep asking myself what I actually desire, what is driving me to still want stuff?

    And I think the scary thing is, now I am at the point of being able to choose, I can’t. I really do not know what it is I want and I am scared of the unknown.

    Crazy, hey?

    So your post has given me an insight into what I am feeling and the excitement about what is on the other side.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Matt G September 18, 2012, 3:57 pm

    “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez

    Reply
    • Matt September 19, 2012, 7:33 pm

      The cynic in me really wants to point out: “… he was survived by no close relatives”

      So, did he really choose “Life”? After reading the book I had really mixed feelings. No wife, no kids. No mention of a romantic relationship in anything I’ve ready about him. Seems kind of sad in a way.

      http://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/27/us/joe-dominguez-58-championed-a-simple-and-frugal-life-style.html

      Reply
      • Anon September 19, 2012, 8:51 pm

        Your genes’ purpose in life is to reproduce themselves. Your purpose in life is whatever you want it to be. Don’t confuse the two. You are more than a host for a pile of ribosomes.

        If you want kids, have kids. If you don’t want kids, don’t have kids. Accomplish whatever goals you set for yourself.

        Personally, I plan to change the world, and I mean in the “made the history books” sense. I don’t feel any particular need to have kids along the way.

        I wouldn’t say no to a romantic relationship with someone who felt the same way, though. :)

        Reply
        • AA July 10, 2013, 6:19 am

          Yeah, I feel the same way that society says “stuff, stuff, stuff” it also says “kids, kids, kids!” – problem is that ol’ problem:

          http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/06/how-much-is-that-bitch-costin-ya/

          It isn’t the kids that is the problem – its the marriage that should go along with it. I haven’t met anyone that is slightly compatible with my religious and financial beliefs. I’m happier on my own than living with the stress of an incompatible partner.

          I agree in the “change the world” view. I know my name won’t be in the history books, but the product I’ve worked on for the last 9 years will be (not an exaggeration, it shows up on Wikipedia at least lol)

          I’m definitely going the FI route for the freedom to survive an economic downturn, not for any desire to ever quit…

          Reply
      • AnnW September 20, 2012, 12:38 am

        He had a partner named Robin. He also had lots of friends. He enjoyed himself giving speeches and introducing people to his way of life. He probably realized that things didn’t make him happy.

        Reply
      • Linda December 4, 2012, 4:00 pm

        He absolutely left a life of legacy, helping many people find happiness by not accumulating “stuff” and getting out of the rat race. Reading the book based on his lectures now, and it’s really eye-opening stuff.

        My husband and I are child-free and choose to stay that way probably for our lives. People with kids can’t understand why we are “wasting our lives” in that way, we see it as leading a very full and uncomplicated life.

        +1 for the “gene’s purpose in life” answer!

        Reply
  • Mr. Everyday Dollar September 18, 2012, 4:57 pm

    I find that by not having gadget envy – ironically I just wrote about that on my blog http://mreverydaydollar.com/cheapest-iphone-plan/ – leads to less stress, more time for important things and so much savings that it could literally get you to financial independence years earlier. How awesome is that?

    Reply
  • Alex September 18, 2012, 5:22 pm

    “In certain cases, you will still buy things you can’t afford. Groceries are a good example. A bike is another one, because like all good investments it earns you money rather than costing you.”

    In regards to the bike as an investment, I bought a hybrid a couple years ago, and for the most part it serves all its purposes quite well. Great for commuting, running up to the store, enjoying a ride around town, and even long group rides. However, as I continue to get into biking, the need for more speed is luring me in and I’ve started looking to buy a fancy road bike. I know the MMM family are big proponents of bikes; however is it too much to have a different bike for different functions?

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

      I think the Multi-Bike lifestyle is a reasonable compromise for convenience and fun. On the other hand, I could definitely live happily with one (my city bike), and given a shortage of cash or garage space, that would be the one I keep.

      However, adding the speedy road bike and the jumpy full-suspension mountain bike gets me out biking recreationally with friends more often, so they “pay” for themselves by displacing other leisure activities and allowing me to stay in better shape. Total cost of ALL my bikes is well under $2000 even if you were to buy them new.

      Since there are many new readers here today due to a radio interview, here is a link to the various not-overly-frugal things the MMM family owns, that still manage to fit within a lifestyle that costs less than average: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/01/raising-a-family-on-under-2000-per-year/

      Reply
    • jet September 18, 2012, 9:31 pm

      I have multiple bikes because, well, I have different uses for them. I have a folding bike, a touring bike, a commuter, a shiny road bike and an xtracycle. I have just ordered a carry freedom trailer, primarily to tow kayaks but also to transport my dogs.

      Biking on my shiny road bike has taken over time which I might have spent in group fitness classes or at the gym, but it’s also made me a more efficient transport cyclist.

      Reply
  • Dividend Mantra September 18, 2012, 5:32 pm

    Great post MMM!

    I recently went through this transition myself. I took a break from blogging and frugal living/investing over the summer and it turned out to be an experiment, unbeknown to me. I started to wonder if I really was doing things the right way.

    While I’ve been living fairly frugally and doing well on my journey to FI/ER over the last couple years I always struggled with the frugality vs. quality of life issues. While I refrained from purchasing “stuff”, I always yearned a bit for some things. I always decided that the frugality was for the betterment of my future self, and that I would be glad I lived below my means years down the road. So while I stuck to the plan, secretly I would have loved to have a nice, comfortable life with everything I was seeing around me.

    After re-entering “normal” society and living like everyone else does I realized that I’m not the abnormal one at all. Everyone else is. I have come to the realization that I no longer want stuff anymore. The desire is gone now. I realized that if I don’t own my own time yet, I don’t want to own a bunch of crap.

    I always laughed when you wrote about how if you won the lottery (like mega lottery) you would give most of it away as you have nothing to spend it on. I always thought if I was mega-rich I would no longer care about spending/budgeting or anything else. I wouldn’t be a total douche, but I would certainly have some nice stuff. Now, I get what you’re saying. Money now means nothing to me in terms of material objects…the only thing worth accumulating it for is truly time and experiences only.

    The desire is gone, and it feels great to live frugally not only out of principle, but out of a deep sense of purpose inside my body and mind.

    Best wishes!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 18, 2012, 6:11 pm

      Right on, Dividend Mantra – nice to hear that you’ve scored yourself some Freedom from Desire too… this shit really is addictive – in a good way – isn’t it?

      I’m also glad to see you’re back to rockin’ the keyboard on your own blog. Welcome back!

      Reply
  • Mirwen September 18, 2012, 6:01 pm

    My mother recently asked me how I save so much money. I told her, “I never pay for convenience.” I think that’s the first step.

    Reply
  • Brooke September 18, 2012, 6:22 pm

    This made me laugh – so good! I think its so true that a part of the marketing gimmicks we fall for all too easily are matters of convenience and instant gratification. We have reached a point where we don’t even question why we buy. This struck me very deeply when I started exploring options of dying my hair naturally. I came to discover that hair dyes as they exist on the market today were very much a 21st century phenomenon aimed at women who work to be fast and easy to use. That doesn’t necessarily mean its healthier or better! I just tried my first natural henna hair treatment. It did take several hours of my time but the results were comparable to chemical dyes and I found it to be a relaxing, beneficial and unpainful experience. I say if women got it right thousands of years ago why mess with a good thing? Time to pull the wool from over our eyes and be more conscious of what we are doing with our money! :D

    Reply
  • andria September 18, 2012, 7:24 pm

    Wow, I really needed this article. I was considering a kitchen remodel and doing it on our own. It would still be costly. I have been living MMM style since January. It is crazy how that little nag of wanting to spend money came back out of no where. I am going to start writing this shit down!!! I do not want to slip up. I am so much happier since I have made the changes!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Heather September 19, 2012, 9:09 am

      Kitchens – yes here is an area where even sensible people seem to get a strange urge to spend money for almost nothing.

      I’ve been looking on kijiji, to treat myself by replacing my very very old stove, which works, but is pretty rusty on the chrome, and occasionally gives me slight tingly shocks. The one I was thinking of replacing it with was going for $85. Nice, white, clean,and conveniently nearby. I prefer the old spiral elements to the flat ones that get baked on gunk if your pot boils over. I prefer manual dials to turn things on an off and adjust temperatures (doesn’t everybody??).

      A stove is a metal box with heating elements. Nothing could be simpler. So, what is the reason for those $2000 stoves at Sears?

      The only explanation I can think of is fashion: People think of a kitchen as a showpiece room in their house. High end appliances are not functional purchases, they Ferraris for the house-proud. I guess, if you accept that explanation, and it’s worth it to you to pay $2000 for that piece of kitchen jewelry, you may now go out and buy one. But don’t try to convince me it’s $2000 more useful than a retro stove you can get for almost free.

      Reply
      • Lindsey September 19, 2012, 6:08 pm

        I regret to say you are entirely correct. I know this because before I decided to stop being an idiot, I spent over $3,000 on a stove. Really. And after that I started craving an Aga, which is in the $30,000 (yup, $30,000) once you have it dragged to Alaska. I still have to fight that demon on occasion, and have to spend a lot of time reminding myself that the point is to get things hot not to have an affair with an appliance. Books and the Aga are my constant battle…

        Reply
  • andria September 18, 2012, 7:46 pm

    Okay I am also confused by saving 50% of the take home pay. So, if I currently contribute 30% to 401k pre-tax then should I be investing 20% of that take home pay?

    Reply
    • Stephen September 19, 2012, 6:29 am

      In a nutshell, the 30% amount plus the other saved amount should sum to 50% of your non-tax pay. For example, with $100 gross and $10 taxes, you would want to save $45 total. The $30 pre-tax plus $15 saved out of your $60 of take-home would do the trick, and that would be $15/$60, or 25%. The percentage would vary a little bit for different tax amounts.

      You can make it as complicated as you want, scaling the pre-tax savings by expected retirement taxes or adjusting the expenses amount to what you expect to spend post-retirement, but it’s not really necessary. The purpose is to retire sooner, and you do that by raising your savings rate as much as you can.

      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/

      Reply
      • Andria September 20, 2012, 10:08 am

        Thank you, this was very helpful. I have modified what I contribute to my savings and 401K now. : ) Thanks again. I

        Reply
  • 205guy September 18, 2012, 8:13 pm

    Bwahahaha! I got an ad next to your article that says: “BuyerZone: compare Hot Tub and Spa price quotes and save!” Wonder if the catheter and bed pan are included, otherwise–ewwww.

    An electric hot tub is one of those luxury things that everyone thinks they want to buy and no-one uses (except your teenagers having parties at your house when you’re gone). They’re a big hunk of plastic full of chemicals that cost so much to heat and run. I’d make an exception if people actually used them, but most often not. A true mustachian would build his or her own from recycled parts and heat it with solar or scrap wood, and then use the water on the garden.

    Reply
    • Jamesqf September 18, 2012, 10:36 pm

      Yeah, I got one trying to sell the idea of taking out a loan to buy a jet ski. I suspect their targeted advertising software may still have a few bugs…

      Reply
  • Gail_M September 18, 2012, 8:14 pm

    I enjoy your blog, but I haven’t been able to follow the lines you draw between what is “convenient” and what is “okay” to buy. My fiance and I spend several hundred dollars extra per month in rent, plus hundreds more in monthly commuter train tickets, in order for me to have a little garden. It costs about $600 per month more than our city apartment. It makes me incredibly happy even though the long commute sucks time away from gardening. So… it’s a complete money sink, but I’m investing in my life happiness right now. What is the point of saving first and having the happy part later? Where are you drawing up your own rules for “okay, purchase!” and what are you suggesting others do to draw their own lines?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 19, 2012, 10:16 am

      Hey Gail,
      What a great (but tricky) question!

      “Being happy now vs. later” is a trick question to push on yourself, because you CAN be happy regardless of your material situation. It just takes sufficient understanding. And the difficulty varies depending on what desire you’re trying to get over. If someone is applying that logic to financing a Mercedes instead of a Toyota, they are ready for a punching. For a garden or other re-connection to your evolutionary roots, it may be different.

      Regardless of all this touchy-feely stuff, what I would personally do is work on the tactical side at the same time. Are there really no apartment buildings with gardens close to work? Community gardens? Houses for rent that you can share with an owner or other roommates? What about other cities that would suit your lifestyle better?

      When I was preparing to move to the US, I had the desire to own a single family house within biking distance of work. Immediately. It took some searching (I interviewed in many different states ranging from one ocean to the other), but in the end I found a place where the ratio of housing cost to salary (and the urban layout) made this possible. I could have just taken the job in Santa Rosa, CA, and commuted 30 mins to the office, but by searching hard enough, I found the right thing.

      So in your situation, my own approach would be to keep the garden for now, but devote at least two hours per week to continued trawling on Craigslist, emailing, networking, and phoning, to create that opportunity to combine the short commute AND the garden. Opportunities DO exist (if I knew enough people I surely could live for free in a 5000 SF brownstone in Manhattan in exchange for just maintaining a rich person’s house!). But it takes work to find them.

      But this work is often less than the time spent over a single year of commuting to work.

      Reply
      • Jamesqf September 19, 2012, 10:31 pm

        Just a note: for some of us, gardening isn’t just about growing annuals, or a vegetable garden. It’s a long-term commitment. I have many things that have taken a decade or more to bloom or bear fruit; still others that may take another 10 or 20 years (the walnuts, for instance). And I’m enjoying grapes & pears that the previous owner planted in the ’70s.

        Reply
    • sanjinthecity September 19, 2012, 1:40 pm

      The city you work in would benefit if you took your love for gardening and shared it with the community. In my city there is a movement afoot to start community/urban gardens. It is a way for people to come together, children to learn, places to be beautified, spaces to be reclaimed, food to be made more accessible,etc. If there is isn’t in your city, could you start something like this? With the time (and just a fraction of the big bucks) you save from not commuting, you could not only revel in your passion, but challenge yourself and give something incredibly positive to others. Guaranteed you will gain even more than you give (e.g. you will be happier for it!).

      I guess what I am trying to say is that there are always amazing and creative ways to meet our needs and further our interests while still keeping our consumption (and thus footprint) low. As someone said earlier in these comments, it is all about community.

      Yes, I could have a small collection of books…but why not use the great library in the city?

      Yes, I could have a small mountain of toys for my kid….but why not go into the drop in centres and enjoy the multitude of toys they have (and avoid the cleanup and enjoy the community and fellowship of my fellow parents…)?

      …etc. etc. In the industrialized world, we have become too individualistic and lost much of the richness of life in the process.

      Reply
  • jet September 18, 2012, 9:23 pm

    in some ways I do this, ipads never really appealed to me…. but I did blow money on roof racks and kayak holders for my car because I got impatient and didn’t wait for the right second hand deal to come along… I have a way to go to change the way I think about spending cash.

    Reply
  • Kelly September 18, 2012, 10:26 pm

    Good stuff here. I’m newish to the site (since FinCon actually) and love your philosophy.

    A big part of my mindset is the mental game. It’s not always easy to change that mindset, and when I am successful there are times I still slip up. While the idea of the bedpan doesn’t resonate with me, the concept does.

    One thing that I heavily consider is the cost versus earning potential for things as well. For instance an iPhone or iPad isn’t necessary for everyone for sure, but in some cases it can increase one’s earning potential like app development, being able to travel and continue to work, etc.

    Of course it helps that I won mine. ;) Likewise we sell our old phones to cover the cost of new ones, have a business discount on the plan, and I write off a portion of my usage for business. When I did the math it was only slightly more for me than a simpler phone, and it’s allowed me to work from anywhere I choose which has increased my earnings.

    Reply
  • Fuzz September 18, 2012, 10:36 pm

    This post is awesome! I love it. And in a fit of serendipity, it’s the same spirit as this music video from Macklemore that I just saw for the first time right after reading the post. When I saw the bike ride in the music video, I knew I had to post it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=mBVbfE6l2UA&feature=endscreen

    Reply
  • Hanne van Essen September 19, 2012, 1:22 am

    There are two books which I have been wanting to recommend for some time, because I think they fit in with Mustachianism very well.

    The first is Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by R. Baumeister. You need willpower not to give in to material desires. Problem with willpower is, it can run out. Every time you make a choice, you use up some of your precious willpower. When you don’t have any left, you are a slave to your cravings. This is one reason why dieting is so difficult. When you get hungry willpower automatically runs low. So there is only so much time you can deny yourself food with willpower alone.
    The solution to this is forming new habits, which allow you to preserve your willpower. One of these habits could be: if you don’t want to buy things, then don’t go to the store. (The number of choices stores offer are also actually meant to drain your willpower.) Or in the case of dieting change your eating pattern slowly to a more healthy one, while avoiding hunger.
    Anyway, great book to help form Mustachian ways.

    The other one is Mindset, the new psychology of succes by Carol Dweck. Reading what MMM said about ‘So who is up for some difficulty?’ reminded me of this book. This is also a very important book for parents. The basic idea is that there are two mindsets. A fixed mindset is when you believe you are something, and what you are is important, f.e. you are smart, or you are not good at math. Problem with this mindset is that you are not really motivated to try math anymore, after all you are no good at it?! Same for being smart, since you already know that you are smart, why risk testing that assumption? The other mindset focuses on growth. Not what you are is important, but how you are developing. You might not be good at math right now, but that is not really important, because if you put in a lot of effort, you will improve in math and you look forward to that.
    Studies show that people with a growth mindset welcome difficulty, see it as a challenge, rather than as a nuisance.
    As a parent I have been trying to get my kids more growth-oriented. This means trying not to praise a result or a state they reached, f.e. a good grade, but rather praising their development, and focusing on effort. Not easy, I promise you, the fixed mindset is hard to beat. I am very used to telling them they are great all the time. But the idea is such a powerful one, I will keep trying, and hope to get my message across to them.

    Reply
    • slowitdown September 20, 2012, 9:41 am

      I am reading that book right now and it is fantastic. I realized that I grew up with a very fixed midset and when my kids were really small I was still stuck in it. After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers I came to the realization that no one is born great at math or at music or anything. It’s all about becoming and working at something. So I have totally changed how I communicate this to my kids as well. I agree that the ability to change your mindset to a growth mindset will also help you in adopting new ways of looking at frugality as well.

      Reply
  • NYC! September 19, 2012, 8:05 am

    This made me think of your post about wanting the remote control for your computer/projector set-up.

    Reply
  • Bullseye September 19, 2012, 8:13 am

    In modern conventional life, accepting anything inconvenient, uncomfortable, or difficult, is seen as a failure on the path to happiness. We should be able to buy what we want, heat/cool our house to whatever level we want, eat out when we want, etc, or else, what are we working so hard for?

    Even though we are quite frugal, this societal mindset still pervades our lifestyle. I don’t mind biking nine miles to work or to get groceries, doing without cable, skipping tech toys, etc, but I do still feel ‘poor’ if I’m so cold in the house that I need a sweater and blanket. That old carpet is looking dowdy, we’d really love to get hardwood to replace it. Our wallpaper backsplash is 10 years old, we desire a nice tile one to replace it. And so on. We save 40% of our considerable incomes, but I know we could do better.

    iPhones, fancy cars, boats, etc are the easy stuff. How do I stop desiring the OTHER, harder stuff? Should I even try not to? Do we start ditching these expenses, even though we feel they would negatively impact our standard of living? Or do you just adjust your standard of living down as you desire less? Is the end goal a lifestyle where only the basic necessities of life are met, but you are happy and satisfied regardless?

    Tough questions, and obviously the answers are different for everyone, depending on their distance down the path towards spiritual enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it.

    Reply
    • AnnW September 20, 2012, 12:51 am

      A lot of the things that you want around the house are things you can do yourself. Go to Home Depot and learn how to tile your backsplash. My husband and I refinished a 600 sq ft. living room floor years ago on our hands and knees with paint brushes because we didn’t know any other way. It was beautiful. Start reading the DIY blogs, or check out Pinterest. Lots of inexpensive ideas there. You can also barter for things that you want.

      Reply
  • Heath September 19, 2012, 8:30 am

    I read through this article for the third time in the past 2 days. At first it seemed to be a simple re-hash of the ideas presented earlier in the blog. But this time, I read it slowly and thoroughly, and absorbed each idea.
    “Freedom, unlike convenience, can really bring happiness.”
    This is important. I have been learning this for many years, but I’d never really put it into a single, succinct idea.

    GOOD JOB!

    In order to start taking control of my own desires, I dug through my mind this morning. I thought of all of the various desires that have been rolling around in my head for a while, and listed them. Surprisingly enough, I’ve managed to hold off on lots of these elements for months already (yay!). But other’s I’ve only avoided because it’s still impossible for me to buy them (less impressive). I’ll list them here because it might help others (and alternately embarrass me if I ‘fail’ and actually buy them).

    Don’t buy a new smartphone – use the very functional one that you already have
    Don’t buy a new PC – use the fucking awesome one you already have
    Don’t buy an SSD – your HDD is good enough for everything you need
    Don’t buy a Wii-U – you have a Wii & PS3 which you don’t even play often…feel ashamed
    Don’t buy a juicer – use the blender, or eat the fruit/vegetable whole
    Don’t buy a house in Phoenix – save, explore future living areas that are less hot
    Don’t buy a clothes dryer – use the 0% humidity and heat of Phoenix
    Don’t buy more books – library + requests + patience, READ WHAT YOU ALREADY OWN

    …not until you’re saving AT LEAST 50% of your take-home pay…
    Don’t travel to Australia
    Don’t buy more games (electronic or otherwise)
    Don’t buy more climbing/hiking gear

    …there’s probably more, but those are the big ones that float to the surface!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 19, 2012, 9:24 am

      Very nice list, Heath! I can relate to some of those items myself.

      I found my old “things to do” journal notebook thingy in the closet the other day. There was an entry dated from September of last year that included “shop for new laptop”.

      This made me happy, because I realized that I’ve now delayed the unnecessary purchase of a new laptop computer for over a year! And far from decreasing my productivity, this delay has forced improvements to my lifestyle. I set up a sweet new office by a window with a view of our nice gardens, and moved my old desktop computer to that desk. I can focus better here, and then when I leave “work”, I am not glued to the Internet. With a fancy laptop, I’d be up surfing useless stuff in bed all night. Now, I read actual books for almost an hour a night because I don’t have an easy way to get the Internet into that room.

      Much better for the brain, and for the blog too since reading the words of Real Authors helps me gradually learn more and hopefully write more useful stuff here!

      Reply
  • Mr RiskyStartup.com September 19, 2012, 8:49 am

    Another point (or stage) is that once you convince yourself that you need something, you can still make your choice less painful.

    I recently started my own business on a side, and I was astonished to find at Office Depot that pens used at my current job cost $5 each, when you can get box of BIC pens for $1 for 20 pens. So, same result, but one pen is $0.05 and other one is $5.00 – a 10,000% difference!!!! I was astonished.

    That translates well to cars, vacations, housing, computers… Most cars have 4 seats, a steering wheel, engine… and they achieve the same result – get you from point A to point B. So, spending $45K to buy a gas guzzler instead of $5K to buy a 55MPG diesel or compact car is instane.

    Reply
  • L'Enginieuresse September 19, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I am cheap. Really cheap. I don’t have cable because I don’t want to pay for it, and the HD antenna has enough channels. I’ve enjoyed not paying insurance for a second vehicle, although with both of us working, it would be very handy.

    My small vices are lottery tickets – my high risk investments :) – and Second Cup (works out to twice a month). Oh and good quality make-up (once a year if that). Those I won’t give up, because I’m so cheap as it is, that giving those up just makes life shit.

    Considering that we have a two and five year old, we work full-time on different shifts, and are paying mortgages for two properties, we’re doing ok financially. (Never credit card debt, ever). Just working full-time while trying to run a household and raising a young family is stressful, so our small rewards help. We were both raised in frugal households, don’t eat meat everyday. (Zgance and kupus anyone?) Time is a luxury, so I’ve bought more lunches than I care to, or pre-made stuff like frozen pizzas, although those are a tasty and cheaper alternative to take-out. And certain brand name foodstuffs are just better than generic – but buying Heinz ketchup vs. store brand isn’t going to break my bank.

    You don’t need to go to the bottom of the barrel for everything. Just be smart about your choices, do the analysis to determine what you really value. Where can you give yourself a little luxury, that is much more affordable than the bigger luxury, so that you don’t feel like you need the big lux item any more?

    You’ll spend the money on the Internet connection, but not upgrading your laptop/iPad when the current one is serving its purpose. You may work overtime, but take the time as an extra day off instead of the extra money, just to be with your children. You may spend extra on that bottle of wine, if it makes your stay-at-home dinner more special, so that you don’t lament not going out for dinner.

    Reply
  • Rachel Hoff September 19, 2012, 4:44 pm

    A friend linked me to this post and I find it really interesting because it resonates so well with me. Maybe because I know that I grew up poor but was never made aware of it when I was a kid that I’ve never really wanted more than I had. And my goal in life has never been to have stuff. Honestly, all my husband and I want to be are farmers that have a comfortable income (working on saving up to get the land while we work those well paying office jobs). Just a few examples of what we do around our place.
    – My husband, stepson and I live in a 750sf house that we bought because we specifically didn’t want a large house (they take too much work and money to upkeep). We did get a decent sized backyard though so we could grow and raise our own food because that’s what we truly enjoy doing and it saves us money.
    – Even though we can afford smartphones we still stick with our old flip phones that barely hold charges and are on a pay as you go accounts because we don’t use them enough to justify getting a plan.
    – We never buy anything new that we can a) make ourselves or b )buy used or get for free.
    – We use a clothesline to save money on energy.
    – We got rid of cable since we don’t watch enough TV to justify it.
    – We only replace things when the old item breaks beyond fixing.

    Reply
  • Anonymous September 20, 2012, 12:04 am

    You argue so strongly for not thinking solely in terms of money, yet you often measure the value of things in terms of money alone. Personally, I prefer to measure things in terms of my time. So, while I save ~85% of my income, I’ll happily pay for conveniences that save my time, but *only* if they actually provide a net win in time saved versus time spent working to pay for them. When I evaluate a purchase, I consider how much time it saves or costs me, and I translate the price as “number of working hours/days to pay for it”; I’d love to save time now, but I’d also love to stop working entirely and get that drastic increase in my free time. I should probably take into account the compounding power of money in that calculation, but even without that this heuristic does an impressively good job of distinguishing good purchases from poor ones, especially those that cost both money *and* time and provide little in return.

    Reply
  • MartinC September 20, 2012, 12:42 am

    Here is the compromise I have made for buying certain unnecessary but “desirable” stuff. I play the credit card game and use the proceeds to get myself whatever hot gadget I may desire guilt free. I’m on track to make over 2000$ from America’s fine credit card companies( via sign up bonuses), and I did exactly the same last year. If the fine folks at Amex or Chase would like to hand me $600 of free cash for doing literally nothing, then I have zero qualms about picking up a $600 ipad. Life must have some allowable pleasures, and as far I’m concerned this is free money and can be used for frivolity. Meanwhile, I continue to bank 70% of my salary, live in my paid off house, drive my paid off car and plan my early retirement, 6 years left and counting. If I didn’t practice frugality, I wouldn’t have the high credit score which allows me these minor indulgences. Ironic, ain’t it?

    Reply
  • ben September 20, 2012, 4:39 am

    good article well done

    you touch on stoicism – this is a crucial point as it proves we’ve all been wrestling with the same issues for millenia but it is easy to forget and think we are coming up with something novel. I personally am a fan of epicureanism.

    My point is that philosophy is very much a niche subject but I’m not sure why. Its study is absolutely crucial to Platos fundamental question ‘how to lead a good life?’

    Why we are not all studying it from primary school onwards I do not know. It is at least as important as a grounding in language, mathematics, science etc.

    To move philosophy into mainstream education from an early age would be an interesting experiment with potentially revolutionary results.

    It might help prevent the oft seen comments on this blog along the lines of ‘hey I stumbled across your blog and what you say has really opened my eyes!’ – people wouldn’t be so shocked and amazed if they’d been exposed to all these alternatives from the age of four…

    Reply
  • slowitdown September 20, 2012, 10:08 am

    I wish there was a “like” button for comments

    Reply

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