How to Go from Middle-Class to Kickass

73-year-old Jacinto Bonilla demonstrates what happens when you defy preconceived notions of your society

Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

Sure, I’m interested in becoming rich and maybe even having the option of early retirement. But nobody ever got rich by clipping coupons or skipping lattes. Shouldn’t I concentrate on boosting my income?

sincerely,
A member of the Middle Class

 

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to go out to lunch with a dozen of my old coworkers from the high-tech company. It was quite a reunion, as I hadn’t seen many of these gentlemen since September 2005 when I retired from my engineering job. Everybody seemed just like I remembered them. A few distinctive silver strands had sprouted from many of the heads and beards. Many of them had moved on to jobs in other local companies. But the most notable thing to me was that they all still had jobs.

Since the Mr. Money Mustache identity has become quite a fun little part of my life, I let some of them in on this secret of what I’ve been doing with my free time. But invariably, when you talk about early retirement with a person who gets by on a high middle-class income, they become baffled by how small things like riding a bike or understanding electricity consumption can make such a big difference. To a standard office worker, early retirement is what happens if you win a lottery, get a huge inheritance, or have ground-floor stock options in a company that makes it big.

I was baffled in the opposite way. I imagined what would have happened if I had stayed at that company for all these years. I would have earned an average of perhaps $110,000 per year in salary, as well as cashing in about $200,000 in stock option profits (I gave up quite a few in-the-money options upon departure, with strike prices set during the tech crash of the early 2000s).  The company’s generous benefits plan would have further saved me some out-of-pocket expenses, like the cash we paid to the hospital when our son was born.

All in all, I would have earned at least $1 million since then. And assuming Mrs. Money Mustache had kept working, she would have earned close to that amount as well. $2 million before tax, which would have gone straight to the bottom line and compounded since income from investments was already covering our expenses as of late 2005. In short, as we added that income to our existing savings, we would be ridiculously wealthy by this point.

But yet many of these coworkers, most of whom are older than me and were already working before my career, continued throughout my career, and are still doing it seven years and counting after my career, still somehow need to work, according to their own accounting. Some people in this situation are even living from paycheck to paycheck.

Quite accidentally, this group of coworkers has formed a nice control group for the study of Mustachianism. They have a wide variety of incomes, but all live in the same area, so the base cost of living and the tax rates are held constant. But one participant in the study tweaked only one variable while leaving the rest unchanged: the spending rate.

Somehow, Mr. Money Mustache maintained an outwardly-normal appearance among this peer group, showing up at work in acceptable clothing, achieving similar job performance, earning an average amount, and participating in all the usual social activities, yet adjusted his spending downwards enough to make a drastic difference in his financial outcome. How could it be?

The answer is as simple as the following table. Observe the monthly spending of a Typical Fancy Professional Worker versus a Future Early Retiree. To be fair, let’s adjust the spending estimates to assume we are comparing two double-income families with two school-age kids.

CategoryMiddle ClassKickassNotes
Mortgage Interest13331000MiddleClass: $400k house, Kickass: $300k
Property Taxes200150
Car Payments700100MiddleClass: 2 new cars and bikes every 5 years. Kickass: 1 used car every 10 years
Gas, Insurance, Stealership fees, Maintenance, registration, on the auto fleet800100Kickass lives close to work and bikes
Home Maintenance, Renovations (appliances, roof replacements, pest exterminators, house insurance, painting, carpets, floors, plumbers, tree trimming, etc, etc). Plus water and trash service.
1000450Insourcing instead of Outsourcing
Miscellaneous "shopping" (stuff you buy at the mall, coffee shops, trinkets on vacation, $4.00 gourmet juices at the airport, voluntary ownership of multiple large animals, plus anything else not covered in this table!)600100
Groceries1000400Killing your $1000 Grocery Bill
Beer and Wine20050Bota Boxes, drinking only a reasonable amount, and even home brewing
Restaurants and takeout/deliveries60050Cooking great food at home.
Work Lunches20040Kickass goes out every Friday, otherwise uses the Secret Food 'Stash
Gym Memberships1000Barbells at Home, Rocky Balboa-style urban workouts
Housekeeper4000
Lawn Service1000Don't be a giant wuss! Put Muscle over Motor.
Ivy League Child Activities800100Avoid
Ivy-league preschool syndrome.
Toys and junk for kids (and other peoples' kids)10010More creative and less consumerist gift giving
Clothes and Shoes20050If you can't live on $600/year of clothes, I have a fist you need to meet
Outdoor and Sports Gear10020Craigslist, plus realizing you do not need the same bike as Lance Armstrong
Haircuts, nails and waxing805A $1.00 pair of nail clippers and a $40
Universal Men's Grooming Device (aka hair trimmer).
Golf Membership500
Apple Products10010Unless you earn a living as an iOS/Mac developer, you may own one Apple device per person.. period. Upgrade every five years.
Music and Movies5010Netflix and Pandora. No, you may not buy DVD series of TV episodes!

Electricity10030I'll show you mine if you show me yours
Heating/Cooling10050Understand then Destroy your bill
Cell phones15050"See the post about cheap unlimited smartphone plans
Cable TV1000Cut your cash-leaking umbilical cord
Landline Telephone250News flash: it's not 1989 any more. Use your cell and Google Chat for free calls from computer.
Internet5050
Books and Magazines600 The Library will make you rich.
Vacations500200Kickass still likes to travel, but avoids Tourist Traps
Prescription Medications and doctor visits for stress and overweight conditions1000Allowance for healthier body due to more exercise, less restaurant food, and no stress about money or career
Monthly Total$9898$3025
Annual Total$118776$36,300
Annual Income (after tax)$140,000$140,000
Annual Savings$21,224$103,700
Savings Percentage15.16%74.07%
Years to Retirement437.5

Wow! Just by switching from the typical high-income family’s spending, to the slightly-less-ridiculous-yet-still-luxurious level of spending that come as part of adopting a more Mustachian lifestyle, this typical family was able to reduce its annual spending by over $82,000 per year. Far from being stuck in a deprived lifestyle, the family on the right still gets to live in a $300,000 house, own a car and some bikes, eat great food, stay in shape, read great books and watch great movies, and in general lead a solidly kickass life.

And as you can see in the table, each of the areas of optimization aren’t just wand-waving or imaginary – they are documented in more detail in the underlined links in the right column. It is essential for the typical high income reader to understand that I am not making this shit up.  The “Middle Class” column represents realistic numbers gleaned from my own middle-to-high-income friends, peers and former coworkers. And the “Kickass” column is a mashup of the typical spending of my own family and those of other people trained in the art of more efficient living.

And all of this comes with a time-tested guarantee that you will gain, rather than lose, happiness as you implement the changes.

So now I can turn the question around: what do YOU think is more effective: optimizing your spending, or simply working overtime or asking your boss for a $10,000-before-tax raise?

And is the effort of learning how to do it, worth the reward of slicing 35.5 years from your mandatory working career as shown in the table?

I think we’re going to see a lot more ass-kicking in the months and years to come.

 

Welcome New Readers! Take a look around. Feeling Hardcore? Start at the first article and read your way through using the links at the bottom of each article. Casual Sampler? Browse the complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Hope to see you around here more often. ~ Love, Mr. Money Mustache

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348 Responses to “How to Go from Middle-Class to Kickass”

  1. Eschewing Debt October 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    The book “The Millionaire Next Door” really opened my eyes to what a true millionaire looks like. And I was happy that the traits needed to become a millionaire (coupon clipping, living modestly, etc,) were all things that I was in control of AND things I was already doing. The power really is in us making individual choices, not on the whims of our bosses, performance reviews, or yearly salary increases. That is very empowering!

    • Le Code Civil October 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

      I recently finished this book as well, it was a great and easy read with very specific data. The real key I got from it was the “yearly salary increases” bit — millionaires are people who don’t succumb to lifestyle inflation! In college I lived like a broke college student and was perfectly happy – why should I stop living like a broke college student once I’m on salary and working?

    • Nurse Frugal October 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      I’ve read that book too!!! It’s so interesting! Our society portrays millionaires to drive Escalades and have lavish $200 dinners while dining out and spend another $200 on a fancy haircut. In actuality, millionaires are Mustachians at heart and are, in fact, the ELITE Mustachians of America, putting us all to shame with their frugal way of life (except for you Mr. MMM.) This article provoked an interesting conversation between my husband and I. I’m excited because we are definitely on our way to having a kickass mustachian monthly budget. Since we are hoping to have our house paid off next year, we are currently working like crazy. I want to figure out a way to retire early sometime after that, and I don’t want to keep working like crazy for the next “best” thing (like purchasing a house to rent out as a vacation rental.) The problem with us is that we currently don’t have any junior mustachians and hope to have some within the next 2-3 years. How can you budget for a new junior mustachian and early retirement at the same time? Children seem to cost so much, especially when they are brand new.

    • Curt October 10, 2012 at 12:52 am #

      I read the book twenty five years ago and stuck to the principles as best as my wife and I could.
      Recently, while vacationing in Hawaii, I saw a young couple at the beach enjoying their young son. The father was reading the book and i told him keep reading…and apply. It has been an incredible roadmap.
      I bought used copies and handed them out to my son’s high school friends when they graduated.

      • kelly November 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

        Giving out that book was very thoughtful of you. I wish someone gave me that book when I just graduated college. Though I never spent beyond my means. I spent nearly all of my income on vacations (4x a year), eating out (everyday), and shopping.

        I don’t regret the vacations and eating out but I sorely regret the shopping. I could have saved at least 30K+. Punching myself in the face over the shopping excess.

        While, I am not completely on board with the Mustachian lifestyle, it has shown me many ways in how manage my lifestyle better.

  2. sonofczar October 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Savings always gets the short end of the stick when compared to making more. Your comparison shows that you can save your way to prosperity fairly easily.

  3. Mike Long October 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Jesus. That’s insane. Just insane.

    For the first time ever, I have something I can show my wife, and there’s no way she’ll be able to say “I’m not living like a pauper in order to save more money!”.

    Thanks, MMM.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      Oh good! Thanks Mike – that was exactly the point of this post – to pull the whole argument together into one place for people who don’t have time to read all 250+ posts on this blog :-)

      • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies October 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

        It’s nice to see that it doesn’t have to be INSANE. This actually isn’t that far off our current spending – so perhaps we could stand to shave a bit off, but it’s nice to know that we’re not terribly off base.

        The only thing that really surprises me – where on earth does a $300K mortgage + homeowner’s insurance + RE taxes cost just $1150/month? Our ~$110K mortgage + insurance + RE taxes costs around $1160/month and we’re on a 3.25% 15 year mortgage. 3x the house for the same net price every month? I know our RE taxes and insurance are on the high end, but that’s the only number I’m not quite buying without evidence to back it up.

        Sorry for the doubt, MMM, but without the link, I want proof! =)

        • Clint October 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

          I think that’s just for the interest and taxes. The principal payment would be … Savings?

        • jpo October 9, 2012 at 7:35 am #

          If you put 20% down and have a 30 year mortgage on the $300k house it’s pretty close at current rates.

        • Chris October 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

          re: Mrs Pop

          The $1,000 is just interest – reverse engineering the figures shows 4% interest rate for both scenarios. Principal payments would be part of the savings.

          Insurance is down in the home maintenance category ($500).

          Up here in a mid size Ontario city, I’m well under 4% on my mortgage (2.25% variable right now), house insurance is about $30 a month, but the property taxes are brutal – approx $400 a month (about $1,200 four times a year) on a value of $400-450k.

          There was comments on an older post getting into the property tax debate, where it was concluded CO was one of the best deals and the North East of the US was one of the worst.

          • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies October 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

            I guess I don’t think of our principal payments on our mortgage as “savings”, which was part of the mental block, when I saw MMM’s numbers…

            That said, I’m shocked at your homeowner’s insurance – $30/month? Is that a typo? That’s insane.

            Taxes on a $300K house around here would be easily what you pay that you consider “brutal”. But on the positive side, we don’t have any state income tax, so I guess it balances out.

            • Cas June 10, 2013 at 4:45 am #

              I wish our homeowner’s insurance was $30/month. We were $25 when we bought our house, now at $120+! And, 4 houses in the last 2 years have burned down within a km or so of ours, so I’m not ready to increase our deductibles…

      • Grant October 9, 2012 at 7:41 am #

        yes.

        This is the post I can share with friends/relatives whom I would like to introduce to you. (also helps me in my willpower strengthening exercises!)

  4. becca October 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    This is where the term “middle class” uses utility. Families making 36k/year are in a very different boat than families in $140k/year.
    Also, it makes me twitch to budget nothing for medical stuff. Glad you’ve been healthy, but that’s just nuts to me.

    • Dan October 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

      MMM is talking only about stress and obesity-related medical conditions, per the note.

      I’m in the same boat: no meds, no doctor’s visits, etc: just a high-deductible health insurance (with a deductible that shrinks when you don’t use it). As a chiropractor once told me, health insurance is not a “health plan.” A health plan is taking care of yourself so that you don’t use your insurance.

      • Jamesqf October 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

        Also note that it’s MEDICAL insurance, not health insurance. True health insurance is cheap, and involves things like getting plenty of exercise, eating sensibly, and so on, thus reducing the chance that you’re going to need to use that expensive medical insurance.

        • KR October 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

          I wince when people imply healthy habits = great health. I’m a vegetarian and raced bikes for years, ride at least 100 miles a week. My resting heart rate is 45 beats per minute, which the all nurses remarked on when they wheeled me into the operating room the year I had cancer … the plan that worked for me was to have very inexpensive health insurance, and then switch to something better if I ever needed it. Luckily I lived in a state where that was possible.

          • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

            KR – I feel for your situation, but remember a blog like this is written to address what is statistically most probable among the audience, while not dwelling on rare cases such as your own. And the stats tell us that something like 70% of US healthcare dollars are spent on treating preventable lifestyle diseases. I think that expecting to save $100 per month on health costs from being healthy and active, compared to being sedentary and possibly in the obese category is a very conservative estimate.

            Regardless of whether it addresses every possible medical condition, just focus on the $100 for now.

            • becca October 9, 2012 at 11:50 am #

              Citation on the 70% please?
              What I can find easily is a claim (by the AMA and other reasonable sources) that 75% of health care costs are for “preventable chronic diseases”. This is not the same type of figure.
              Note that they include “cardiovascular disease” and “cancer” under the “preventable chronic diseases” umbrella. “Cardiovascular disease” includes strokes in smokers, and heart attacks in marathon runners. “Cancer” includes lung cancer in smokers, and pancreatic cancer in people who live the epitome of healthy lifestyles, and are dead in a year.

              Healthy lifestyles are correlated with lower disease burden. That does not mean they protect you 100%. Strictly speaking, a healthy lifestyle is not necessary to avoid these disease. More importantly, it’s not sufficient. Even though, individually, we can reduce our risk of these sorts of diseases by making healthy choices, it does not follow that, collectively, we can eliminate all incidences of these diseases if we only stopped watching TV. It’s simply not true.

              I’ll buy the argument that the average person might be able to save themselves $100/month in healthcare over their lifetime by a healthy lifestyle (although I note there are people who actually study this who probably have a more exact estimate). I just don’t buy the argument that you should ever budget “0″ for this. That’s plain irresponsible.

              • Matt October 10, 2012 at 9:59 am #

                It comes down to the stats though doesn’t it? You’re very unlucky as a marathon runner if you have a heart attack. It happens, but not very often, whereas if you continue to smoke, you WILL shorten your lifespan guaranteed.
                Besides, the figure was applied to obesity and stress which are avoidable if you’re retired…

            • CanuckExpat October 9, 2012 at 11:56 am #

              I think your sentiment might be right, but in fact the largest amount of healthcare dollars are spent treating people who are in their last years of life. In this case, it doesn’t generally matter that much whether you are healthy or not. Assuming that you die, you will likely get end of life care at some point, just maybe when you are older compared to an unhealthy person. That is when the most expensive healthcare is delivered. You can ask whether it is efficient to spend the most money extending the life of the old and sick by a short amount of time, but that is an other debate.
              A recent article pointed out that “cigarette smokers with diabetes need to save the least because their life expectancy is the shortest” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/06/your-money/planning-for-retirement-dont-forget-health-care-costs.html?pagewanted=all).
              Of course, all this is for an older population, and this article was intended I think for young/middle age population, so it is only slightly relevant, but something worth pointing out nonetheless.

            • Tigermoose October 11, 2012 at 5:10 am #

              Risk assessment depends on two factors: probability AND impact. An event that has an enormous impact even though it is unlikely should still be a candidate for risk mitigation — in this case, insurance.

            • Ali Baba October 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

              One question about getting health costs down to zero through healthy living – what about contraception? I have to pay $7 per 3-weekly prescription for the contraceptive pill, and condoms are even more expensive, although not as expensive as not using anything and adding new babies to the family every year. I’m a long way from menopause, so what is the Mustachian way to get this bill to zero? I hope you’re not going to suggest abstinence!

              EDIT – oops, that will teach me to read all the posts before replying! I’m not sure I’d trust NFP enough to rely on it (cohabiting but not yet married and not 100% agreed on having kids anyway) but getting a Mirena sounds an interestingg option, I’ll look into that!

          • Jamesqf October 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

            As MMM says, it’s statistical. There aren’t any guarantees in life, but there are a lot of things you can do to tilt the odds in your favor. If many of us worked at tilting our own individual health odds, that’d significantly lower the cost of MEDICAL insurance for everyone.

      • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

        Wait, what? Your deductible shrinks when you don’t use it, Dan?

        That’s a new one on me. Tell me more …

        • Dan October 9, 2012 at 6:47 am #

          Yeah, I have a high-deductible plan through United Healthcare/Golden Rule. The deductible shrinks by either 20 or 25% every year that I don’t hit the deductible limit, then resets to the original deductible any year in which I do. I’ve had it for a number of years now and only hit the deductible once (a year in which my wife had to go to the ER).

          It’s perfect for younger, healthier people like my wife and I. The downside is that in my experience, the premiums on individual plans go up way faster than in group plans. Neither my wife nor I are eligible for group plans (self-employed) so I take what I can get.

      • SusieQ October 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

        EXACTLY! If people would get up off their butts from in front of the TV and computers, they would feel so much better! We have a high deductible on our health insurance, too – but we also belong to a new Wellness Center here in town (part of the hospital) – which is well worth the money spent ~ we are confident it will save us money in the long run, but MORE importantly help keep us both healthy! You can have the best healthcare in the world but if YOU don’t take an interest in keeping your body healthy and “running smoothly” – what good is it going to do you? You may just be spending retirement in/out of doctors offices and hospitals, popping pills, rather than hiking and biking and swimming and traveling!

      • Geek October 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

        How do you people keep from getting pregnant? (or getting someone else on ‘no meds’ pregnant??)

        • peachfuzzmustacian October 9, 2012 at 6:57 am #

          Natural Family Planning! It is the most mustacian of “birth control”. My wife and I have been together for 6 yrs. we have one child and one on the way both of with were planned to the exact month using natural family planning. For the cost of a thermometer and paper and with a little science and know how you get “birth control” for your entire child bearing life and none of the possible side effects of this so called “medicine”. I know I sound a little bit like a quack, but do some research it is pretty impressive. It takes getting on a little bit of a routine in the morning but I think it is worth it. It also helps that my wife is a biology and chemistry graduate and loves doing this type of analysis.

          • Grant October 9, 2012 at 8:15 am #

            For those interested, google “the billings method”.

            I find it weird that it was pioneered as a contraceptive method suitable for Catholics… but anywho. We used this for about 5 years until we decided to try for kids. Now we’re done with that, I’ve had the snip!

            • Geek October 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

              I’m aware of it but nowhere near diligent enough(not to mention that the time when you’re supposed to be planning for not doing things is the most appealing time for doing things).
              I suppose we all have our luxuries.

          • Monkeydude October 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

            It’s really cool that this works for you! Few people are actually responsible enough to pull this off though.

          • Sue November 10, 2012 at 11:36 am #

            I’ve heard of the rythym method. As a doctor friend said: “what do we call women who rely on it? Mothers!”

        • Erika October 9, 2012 at 10:53 am #

          We also have good experience with family planning this way…it has been very successful for us, both with having kids when we wanted to and not having them when we didn’t. But there is always a risk, you have to be prepared for that possibility. Having a child is a lot more expensive than birth control!

        • Marcia October 9, 2012 at 11:44 am #

          I never had any luck with that. With the first one, when I tried to get pregnant, I couldn’t for a very long time. Took my temp every day (a year and a half).

          Tried for a second one, couldn’t do it either. Finally decided we were done with one and…well, we all know how that came out. Gorgeous 3 month old boy we have…

          Hubby is getting the snip. We’re too old for round 3. (42 and 44)

        • Christine October 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

          IUD! I’ve got the Mirena. It cost a few hundred up front, but I’m protected from babies for FIVE YEARS. While NFP would be cheaper, it’s also more risky, and I don’t want to have to schedule my sex life.

          I’ve also got the additional bonus of my periods basically being gone. The infrequent pantyliner is WAY cheaper than the mounds of pads and tampons I’ve used in the past (a few months before the IUD I transitioned to the Diva Cup anyway so it’s a bit of a moot point for me, but still!)

      • slowitdown October 9, 2012 at 8:15 am #

        I live in Canada where health insurance is “free” yet I still never want to have to use it. I totally agree with your Chiropractor, a healthy lifestyle is your best (and most frugal) health plan!!!!!!!!

        • JaneMD October 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

          I think may people are stuck on the part where MMM did not include medical insurance as part of his numbers. He just subtracted $100 of monthly ‘health’ expenses he associated with stress and obesity. Both sets of hypothetical children would be theoretically paying the same for yearly well checks and vaccinations. People are going to come down with illness/conditions not related to stress and obesity – allergies, pregnancy, asthma which will need to be paid for.

          As a physician who works in Labor and Delivery, I see a lot of failed Natural Family Planning. The easiest to view pub med article was here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141492 – the ‘typical use’ failure rate was in the 13-19% range. NFP works great for some people and fails others badly so its up to the individual user. If the financial situation is so dire, condoms are free at many many many places . . .

          • CanuckExpat October 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

            That 13-19% typical use failure rate is better then I expected. I mean don’t condoms and the pill have similar typical use failure rates? Condoms break or aren’t put on properly, people forget to take the pill, etc.

            • JaneMD October 12, 2012 at 6:30 am #

              This is a comparison of two very different groups of people. The condom failure rate is has a strong association with a ‘typical user.’ People making spontaneous relationship decisions – younger, less affluent, less educated than the NFP. I am not saying people that educated married people don’t use condoms, but condoms don’t require 1-2 months of planning.

              The statistical probability of pregnancy in each fertile window is 20%, so if a condom decreases your statistical risk by a minimum 80%, the chance of pregnancy in that window is down to 4%. Most rates are calculated over 1 year of use and many doctors recommend a second method of birth control in addition to condoms. It is way better than nothing.

              As for the pill, if taken every day, its yearly failure rate is 1-3%. After the first month of completed meds, pills can occasionally be missed (and doubled). It takes planning and commitment, which are also characteristics necessary for successful NFP. NFP requires a huge amount of self control also because the most fertile window you have to avoid is, sensibly, the time where the sex drive peaks.

              Some religions make NFP impossible – Orthodox Jews as a main example. (Of course, condoms are forbidden too)

              • Grant October 12, 2012 at 7:13 am #

                Well said :)

                It is interesting that when one considers that actual window of conception, the failure rates of pretty much all contraceptions are higher than advertised.

                Also, most failures are due to user error – and that is definitely true of NFP!

          • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

            Jane and others – I didn’t include health insurance costs in this comparison because I assumed both families have full coverage through their fancy $140,000-take-home jobs. And there’s no copay for annual physical checkups these days, even with my own $10,000 deductible medical insurance!

            It is true, however that some people have unique costs that they’d have to budget for separately from this article (just as they would subtract the from areas where I have budgeted too much). Getting too much into individual details in an article like this about two hypothetical families will not get us anywhere.

    • TheHeadHunter October 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Hello, Families making $36k should not be living in $300K houses either. So don’t look at the last number and then try to crowbar it into the front.

    • CincyCat November 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Looks to me that even stubbing $1,000 a month for “medical unknown” still allows this hypothetical family to live quite comfortably with less than $40K a year coming in (which is, I think, MMM’s point…). Anything over and above that is gravy.

      That said, I chuckled a little when I saw the house price. In my neck of the woods, a $300K house is a McMansion. Our 4 bedroom, full basement house is roughly $90K book value, and our mortgage is less than $650/month. Taxes & insurance come to another $125/month.

  5. Dan October 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    One thing I will say about the kick-ass chart is, I do spend a hell of a lot more than that on food: eating well is expensive.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

      Sure, it’s expensive – that’s why I allowed $400/month for it! I guess it depends on what you define as “eating well”, though.

      I don’t eat any processed junk food, and we eat loads of fresh vegetables, nuts, fruit, coconut and olive oil, cheese, and other stuff. Any meat is grass-fed organic stuff and fish is the good stuff. It is eating well to the extreme, and the results have been great.

      We just do the math on where we are getting our calories. Filling the belly entirely with shrimp and lobster from whole foods for every meal yields a different result than getting your organic food from Costco and eating a slightly more vegetarian diet.

      • Dan October 9, 2012 at 7:01 am #

        Yeah, we eat Primal and our grocery bill skyrocketed from all the grass-fed beef, vegetarian feed chicken and organic eggs, etc. Plus, I simply eat a greater volume of food now that I eat fewer carbs. We CSA our veggies and eggs which definitely doesn’t save us any money, but does support local farms. I guess you can count that as philanthropy.

        Frankly, I somewhat disagree with including groceries in budgeting for this very reason: the best way to save money on your food is to eat badly. Eating well is more expensive than eating trash food. It’s just a given because none of it is CAFO or subsidized. There’s nothing wrong with buying in bulk or getting what’s on sale, but I wouldn’t agree with someone sacrificing food choices over budgetary concerns. There are ALWAYS other ways to cut your spending instead unless you’re flat broke.

        • victoria October 9, 2012 at 7:32 am #

          Agreed — I was able to do $75/week for a family of three until my husband started eating low-carb. We’ve really had to up our budget — we’re at around $150/week now. That said, we found a great local farm where we can get nicer meat than Whole Foods (and de facto organic) for about 30% less, and we do eat our fair share of offal, bone marrow, etc., which keeps costs down.

          Now I cook a more-or-less low-carb meal about three times a week and on the other days I make something more economical for my daughter and me while my husband either eats leftovers or eats a cut of meat he’s cooked in the sous vide.

          • Grant October 9, 2012 at 7:46 am #

            How many non-meat meals do you eat per week?

            • Matt October 10, 2012 at 10:10 am #

              Hmm. Eating well has many different definitions. I’m trying to cut down on meat a lot as I’ve been advised by my doctor, so a paleo type diet is probably out for me. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with carbs though, and if you’re out on your bike enough, putting weight on shouldn’t be a problem.
              For the moment, at work, I’m eating porridge for breakfast, cous cous for dinner type of thing and it is ridiculously cheap.
              A 2kg bag of porridge for under £2 and a fortnight’s worth of cous cous is £1. I throw somthing different in the cous cous everyday, (a bit of veg and cheese). All in, I’m trying to feed myself at work on less than £10 a month.
              This also has a mustachian side effect of when I do eat out I enjoy it so much more than I used to, when I ate out all the time

            • victoria October 15, 2012 at 7:27 am #

              My husband rarely eats any — sometimes I’ll make an egg dish or a stir fry for dinner that’ll meet all of our needs. He does bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast plus tea with lots of heavy cream, and usually a big hunk of meat and some vegetables for dinner.

              I rarely eat meat at breakfast or lunchtime unless I’m having leftovers; sometimes on the weekend my husband will make bacon for the family and I’ll have some of that. Usually the dinners I make just for me and my daughter are either vegetarian or have meat as a secondary part of the meal.

              It’s tricky trying to balance everyone’s needs economically! I do not do well on a low-carb diet (I’ve stuck with it for about a month at a time, but I never seem to get over the “carb flu”), but he’s lost lots of weight and feels energetic.

        • Ryan October 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

          Paleo diet is probably the most expensive diet there is, even more so than Jenny Craig with all their name brand frozen lunches and dinners they want you to buy. I understand the appeal of it, but there are a lot of diets that are healthy. Choosing an expensive one will of course make it hard to eat cheaply, but that doesn’t mean it’s expensive to eat healthy.

  6. Dom October 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I don’t see why you can’t optimize your spending AND earn more money.

    I am a twenty-something just getting started with little savings, few assets and no debt. I moved across the country to a rural location for a job that essentially doubles my salary and pays for my living expenses and allows me to travel for fun multiple times per year.

    I still scrutinize where my money goes, but working a lot of overtime (paid hourly) and asked for a transfer to a job that pays very well greatly outweighs my spending optimization. I don’t think I should get punched in the face for this.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      Relax Dom, I ain’t punching you in the face. Congratulations on your new job!

      You are probably already running your spending ship pretty well. Your behavior must then be contrasted with the typical person who doubles his salary, who uses it to increase his Audi rate rather than increasing his savings rate at all.

  7. Holly@ClubThrifty October 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    This is so true. We have friends and family members who make more than twice our income yet manage to live paycheck to paycheck. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where their money is going…new cars, gadgets, motorcycles, clothes, unplanned purchases, purchases as a result of bad planning, etc.

    It really isn’t that hard. If people would only stop consuming so much and save their money instead, they would have a lot more of it.

    • SusieQ October 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      Holly, you are my kinda girl! Exactly what I tell friends who ask us how we could afford to retire young! I want to tell them “It’s not rocket science, my friend!! For example, we don’t have to have the 52″ screen TV with premium cable, new cars in the driveway (that they can’t afford!), out to eat dinner 3X a week, going to the movie theater a few times a month, smart phones, designer clothing/bags/shoes, vacations they can’t afford but take anyways and put on a credit card, etc. etc. etc.

      I

      • Holly@ClubThrifty October 9, 2012 at 8:06 am #

        You are exactly right. I just don’t think that people see the cumulative effects of their actions. $50 here, $100 here, $25 here….it doesn’t bother them because they don’t take the time to add it all up and see what their lifestyle is really costing them.

        That is what makes me crazy about most of the people I know. They are always obsessing about trying to get a promotion or raise…..but what difference does it make if they just “up” their spending anyways!!!

  8. Done by Forty October 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    You can’t argue with the side by side comparison. What strikes me isn’t that someone can live so well on $36k a year: that seems self-apparent, at least to me. The part that always gets me is how shockingly easy it is to spend a large income. Here we have an example of $200k pre-tax income nearly all being spent on day to day living, without much to show for it when it’s all said and done.

    It’s kind of a remarkable thing: no matter how much you have or how much you make, it’s not like society will ever run out of service providers and widgets. You can’t earn your way out.

  9. Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    There are only a handful of people in the world whose money can outrun thoughtless spending, and none of them are in the middle class. The little stuff does make a difference. We just cut internet from $80 to $50 per month through the giant effort (::eyeroll::) of calling and asking for a better rate. That story is actually today’s post on my site. Pretty simple stuff. By my math I made $1440 per hour in “savings wage” from one 15 minute phone call. It’s not hard core handlebar stuff, but it’s so doable, even for those with under-trained frugality muscles. I am really looking forward to your cell phone post. That’s next on our “kill it” agenda.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Thanks Erica! … Just got the new cell phone plans working TODAY on the old iPhones, and made the inaugural calls and text messages, which miraculously worked perfectly on the first try.

      It was hugely educational, so that will be the next article.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

        Perfect. Thanks for guinea pigging your iPhone service. I’m excited to get the step-by-step. My goal: have status-conscious asshole phone and functionality without status-conscious asshole price. ;)

        • mike crosby October 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

          Too funny Erica. And sensible;)

          OK MMM, does Erica get an honorary mustache?

        • Mike Long October 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

          I’m doing that one right now with an unlocked Galaxy Nexus phone purchased directly through Google (1/2 the price of a new, unlocked iPhone), then getting a T-Mobile SIM card and using their $30/month plan which includes unlimted texting, 5GB per month of 4G data, and 100 voice minutes. The minutes are supplemented by using either Tapatalk/Google Voice or T-Mobile’s own Bobsled app on Wi-Fi, which allows for unlimted calling at home without using any plan minutes.

          Cutting edge tech with the cheapest monthly rate possible, and no contracts. I keep making noises about selling that phone and buying an iPod Touch as a Wi-Fi only VOIP phone ($0 per month), but with a very ill father, I haven’t been able to talk myself into making the break yet (it would cause a few small windows of unavailability when I’m not around Wi-Fi.)

      • SusieQ October 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

        I’m sure I have the most “pathetic” cell phone service of most……….15 free minutes a month for $9.99. No texting, etc. Normally I don’t even use half of those minutes! I wanted a cell phone for emergency only purposes. I absolutely HATE HATE HATE this cell phone/smart phone addiction people have. It’s as if they feel their self worth is related to having these devices on and in their hands at all times. I find it enormously annoying.

        • victoria October 9, 2012 at 7:47 am #

          I’ve got you beat! $20 every three months from Virgin Mobile — I don’t see it featured on their website right now, but I’m pretty sure you can still get that hookup. I think it’s $0.25/minute for talking and $0.15 per text, but I don’t normally use it up unless I’m traveling and having to arrange logistics. The $20 every 90 days is just what you have to pay to keep your account active.

          • Amy October 9, 2012 at 11:47 am #

            Victoria,
            This is the plan my husband and I both have!

        • Diana October 9, 2012 at 8:51 am #

          Have you looked at PagePlus? They have a $12/mo plan that gives you 250 minutes/text messages/mo. I currently use their pre-paid service, buying $80 PIN’s for about $75 through callingmart, and that gets me 2,000 minutes/texts, and I have a year to use them. I even got a smartphone, the Palm pixi Plus, for about $40 through Newegg. I disabled all data plans, but if I needed to access something, I can do it for free over wi-fi. I got the smartphone more b/c I like having the calendar feature, notepad, etc. I refuse to put my e-mail or FB apps on the phone, people are way too connected to their phones!

        • Marcia October 9, 2012 at 11:47 am #

          I pay $25 every 3 months. 10 cents a minute, 20 cents a text. I don’t text much because I just have a number pad. (It’s a $20 phone.) I don’t come close to using it all, so I think I have over a $100 on there now.

          • Tony O. October 11, 2012 at 12:28 am #

            For unlimited calling, data, and text check out Republic Wireless (http://republicwireless.com/) in the U.S.. I got it for my Dad and pay $20/mo. and you also get a good smartphone. It leverages your wireless network most of the time, but the beauty is when you’re not in a wireless network the phone taps into into the cellular network at no additional charge to you. As long as your don’t overuse the cellular network (keep it below 40% cellular usage) and you’re good.

        • elaine amj October 20, 2013 at 6:23 am #

          I’m curious – with your low usage, wouldn’t it make much more sense to use a prepaid system and just pay as you go? I have a Tmobile prepaid SIM I use when I travel to the US (which I do frequently). 10 cents a minute for calls, 5 cents a minute for texts. Because I put in $100 in the first year, I am considered “gold” and only have to add an extra $10 a year to keep my number.

          If you are using under 10 minutes a month, a plan like that would only cost you less than $1 a month (instead of $10 a month).

          I’m pretty sure there are even cheaper prepaid plans. I chose Tmobile because they offer daily data plans for just $1.99 a day. (My data plans are my anti-Mustachian indulgence but well worth it as I love having easy access to data when I am travelling).

  10. Cecile October 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Hi MrMM !
    Here is how I see it: optimization of your lifestyle has to come first, otherwise you will just increase your spending when your income increases.
    Once you have an efficient lifestyle, you can work on increasing the income so that you may reach FI earlier. I say that because the numbers you show are great, but might be less great for a <$40k income without being homeowner.

    Whenever I read one of your post about inefficient lifestyle I think about my boss: a perfect illustration of it.

    • BonzoGal October 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      “…optimization of your lifestyle has to come first, otherwise you will just increase your spending when your income increases.”

      Amen! That right there is the big flaw of the “just earn more” crowd- they usually also just SPEND more!

  11. Lance @ Money Life and More October 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Don’t most middle class have credit card debt as well? Or did you figure debt service into the categories?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Good point Lance! I assumed at least a basic level of financial savviness, and thus I didn’t saddle the Middle Class family with credit card debt (they already had a $400k mortgage and two cars bought on credit!!)

      But it is true – if you add interest costs on extra consumer debt into the left hand column, the “Kickass” family pulls ahead even faster.

    • Anonymous October 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

      The debt itself just means you start at negative savings. The interest on the debt decreases your savings rate, but if you can manage to save anywhere near 70% of your income, you’ll demolish any sensible amount of debt much faster than it can build. And if you truly made enough mistakes or had enough horrific things happen to you to end up with more debt *interest* than 70% of your income…well, there’s a reason we have bankruptcy laws.

  12. Julia K. October 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Becca is right. Based on 2010 data, a household income of $140k/year puts you in the 87th percentile of all filers (single and married). That’s the top 13 percent, or comfortably in the highest quintile. I would call that wealthy. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact.

    The middle quintile has median household incomes between $33k and $59k. If we count the middle three quintiles as lower middle class, middle class, and upper middle class respectively, speaking to all three “middle classes” means addressing those making between $16.5k and $98k.

    The OP is wondering if increasing income could often be less effort per dollar than cutting spending. Specifically, you imply that he’s wondering if this situation happens more often when starting at a middle-class income.

    For someone making $140k per year, it can be easily argued that even if the effort to increase income or cut spending is the same, there are other lifestyle reasons (simplicity, etc.) to favor spending cuts.

    But for someone near the bottom of the second quintile, making, say, $20k per year, one wonders if perhaps they really would be better advised to increase income.

    That’s why I feel this post is mis-titled: it doesn’t answer that question.

    • Rob October 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      You could do a comparison of MMM with ultra-kickass spending. He spends that much, because he earns that much so that’s what the relevant point is. With the incentive to do so, I certainly think you could chop half of that with a smaller house, no eating out etc. You could even realise that any Apple products or cell phones are really just luxuries not necessities of happiness.

      As someone on £18k living alone spending £5k on rent and £2k on other expenses I certainly don’t see why you can’t build up money at a low income point.

      I think the golden rule is to not fall into the trap of letting expenses inflate to match incomes and rather spend what makes sense whilst leaving you some money to pay yourself with. I don’t see why you can’t both do that and try to boost your income no matter what your income till you can afford to retire.

      Any money you save adds a small amount of income. Say you save $1k that is an income boost of say $50. Do it 20 times and you get $1k so a $20k income goes up to $21k and so on…

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

        I agree with both of you:

        Under $100k income: work on Income and Spending

        Over $100k income: work on Spending and Income

        Either way, you can do it.

        This blog just happens to be targeting the higher quintiles, because it represents my own experience, and because that is where the bulk of our society’s unnecessary consumption is happening.

        (Remember the secret mission of this blog is to save the human race from destroying itself through overconsumption. Getting rich is just the start of it).

  13. Matt G October 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I’d also like to add that the mortgage interest will shrink and then disappear at some point, making 7.5 years even more obtainable.

    • TomTX October 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

      Absolutely. Getting rid of that mortgage is huge. That’s why I refinanced into a 10-year mortgage at a flat 3%. Much better than 25-years-to-go at 5%!

  14. Doug October 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    Wow, what a great article! It never ceases to amaze me how few people understand the concept that a penny saved is a penny earned (actually more than a penny earned because of taxes, but that’s another subject). Unless you are really low income, it’s easier to save for retirement by cutting out expenses on junk that puts no added value in your life than most people think.

  15. PawPrint October 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    I can see I’ve got some more cutting to do to achieve badassity. I looked for the water/sewer/garbage bill–is that included in one of the categories or are you just not including it in this scenario?

    • Anonymous October 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      No, the list missed that category.

      A few obvious things you can do to improve that category:

      * Have a well, at least for outdoor water use if not for drinkable water use. Huge savings every time you water the lawn. Or, get rid of the high-maintenance lawn.

      * Low-flow showers and dual-flush toilets. They don’t suck as much as they used to.

      * Stop having as much trash; the less you consume, the less trash you produce. You can then downsize to the smallest trash bin available, and stop having extra bags.

      • Erika October 9, 2012 at 11:00 am #

        There’s also a great, easy-to-install kit to convert regular toilets into dual-flush. Cost about $20, and has REALLY made a difference in our water bills! Highly recommended.

  16. Heidi October 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    That chart is so beautiful. And I even found a category to improve upon immediately. We’re working on boosting our income to join the middle class–in part by moving to Seattle. My brother and his wife have those high incomes and were incredulous when I told them our base budget would be $34,000. They couldn’t even imagine how we could pay for everything. But, then we figure we’ll find years worth of free things while they are simply more willing to part with money each day.

    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      If you aren’t from the general area already, as a Seattle-native, I can tell you our thrift stores are awesome. Practically new designer jeans – $6 Kids crocs, tags still on – $2. People from other areas of the country have told me that not every place have nice thrift stores and a donation culture. People in Seattle definitely donate instead of throwing away. There’s also a very active freecycle community here. I got a free pushmower on Freecycle just by asking and had back up offers. This is also a good climate for long-season and year-round gardening if you are into that kind of thing. There are lots of places to spend bunches of money too, of course, and land/real estate is relatively expensive but I think professional salaries tend to be pretty competitive too. I think you’ll do great! Welcome!

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

        No kidding.
        We just went to the local Value Village this week.
        I’ve never paying more than $8 for jeans again. Period.

        • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

          Let me guess – Ballard? The Ballard Value Village is insane for jeans. I’ve never seen anything like it.

          • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

            Really? Good to know!

          • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

            Ballard would be quite the trek from our place :-).
            Though I’ve always want to try Moroccan, and Kasbah is right nearby.

          • lhamo October 9, 2012 at 4:34 am #

            I beg to differ — my brother lives near the Ballard VV so I go there often. I find the selection to be very picked over, at least for women’s clothes in my sizes (10-14 petite, depending on brand), as well as for kids clothes. Redmond VV, on the other hand is a GOLDMINE for the moderately chubby short gal, and for kids stuff.

            We’re only back in the US a couple times a year, so maybe if you can go in regularly it is different, but that has been my experience. Ballard VV = crapshoot. Redmond VV= jackpot.

            • nunayo October 9, 2012 at 7:44 am #

              A key to sussing out thrift stores, find out where the people your size and style donate. I am also about a 12 petite, so I look for thrift stores that serve my demographic. My partner is a tall slender man, and he typically finds his clothes in different thrift stores.

            • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 10:08 am #

              I will check out the Redmond VV when I next have business over on the Eastside. I believe that it’s great though – probably full of Microsoft employee cast-offs. ;)

            • Geek October 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

              Maybe that’s where the other nerd women drop their stuff. :) Recommend noted.

        • Seattlite October 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

          We even have local rappers waxing rhapsodic about our thrift shops – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK8mJJJvaes :)

        • L'Enginieuresse October 9, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

          Once or twice I checked the kids clothing prices at Value Village, and wasn’t all that impressed. You can get similar priced items new at Old Navy – they frequently have sales on kids clothes. My daughter’s school uniform pants were $10, uniform dress $14, and they had a 30% sale at the time.

          I picked up a three-piece baby outfit (pant, short-sleeved onesie and long-sleeved onesie) for $12.99 at Costco, and the sleeper pyjamas are $7.97. Those pyjamas are the best.

          But I admit to not combing through VV’s offerings thoroughly – as with Winner’s, I do not have that kind of shopping patience.

          And has any parent not received offers of out-grown kids clothes from other parents? Too the point where I’ve turned down offers of free used clothes.

          Truthfully, we do prefer new clothes for our kids, and at the same time the free used kids clothes have come in so handy.

          Where we don’t skimp are the winter coats. We’ve been happy with Gap and Zara for style and warmth, and they get at least two years out of them. And their shoes in their early years, good kids shoes with proper orthopedic support and construction.

          That was a bit of a detailed missive.

          Since I’m on the topic, best diaper prices in T.O are from SuperStore when they have a good sale.

      • Heidi October 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

        Yes, my sister was there for a few years and it was often cheaper for her to send a package of kids clothes than for me to gas around to a garage sale (rural area). Love your blog. We might try a gardening project like yours in the future but we’re keeping it simple with apartment living first. It would be great if we could put my husband’s 8 years of organic farming experience to use lowering our food bills.

      • SusieQ October 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

        I agree with you, Erica – thrifting is a sure way to save BOAT LOADS of money! If you have kids you are a nut to not shop thrift! You may be spending a bit more on Tide Detergent, but it can all go home and into hot water wash and it’s fine! I find some of the most amazing things at thrift – for just a few bucks! Hard to go into the mall and pay retail, isn’t it??!!

      • kalius October 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

        As a fellow seattlelite Mustachian in training with kids. What thrift shops you recommend? Specially on the north side. We have been to a few but they aren’t that cheap. Last year we asked family to bring us winter coats from their thrift shops because locally used kids coats were still expensive
        Thanks.

        • Rev October 9, 2012 at 10:51 am #

          I’m a Seattle guy too, and I always have pretty good luck that the shoreline goodwill. The only other thrift store close to me is the Lake City Value Village, and I can never find anything. I’m not looking for kids stuff, so I’m not sure about the prices, but I noticed a fair amount in the Shoreline Goodwill yesterday.

          • Kim October 11, 2012 at 8:59 am #

            I’m not sure about Seattle, but here in Ottawa Kijiji is the way to go for kids clothes. You can often get a lot of clothes in a particular size for less than $1/item. Much cheaper than the consignment or thrift stores around here.

  17. swimming_naked October 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    This post is perfect. Really brings it all together.

    I wish my property taxes were that low.

  18. Matt October 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    MMM, have you ever considered writing a book?

    This post is kind of like a high-level summary of your blog so far. But I can see it as an outline for for a book or maybe even a series of books.

    You based this on a small sample of basically your old peers. Nothing against that—but I want more! :) I’d just like to see this “average spending phenomenon” studied in as formal a manner as possible, and across a much broader swath of the population. Furthermore, I’d like to see what kinds of opinions and attitudes people have towards spending on these categories. IOW, why do they spend what they do?

    With the kind of detail I have in mind, each category itself could practically be a book. Definitely the big categories, like home ownership.

    This recent interest of mine is spurred from a debate I was having with a close friend today, as to whether or not a “wealth divide” exists. I framed it as, to what extent are social groups determined by wealth and class? I suspect that researching how much people spend—and *why* they spend what they do—might provide some insight into class structure and social organization.

  19. Ron October 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Your writing resonates with me when you illustrate critical personal finance concepts like saving more than spending through stories. But when you get super specific like in this chart, there’s always stuff to quibble with, like other readers who questioned the 140k starting point and the health cost number. Like I’ve alluded to before, what about the typical family of four with teens who have drivers’ licenses (and have to drive to a college eight miles away for after high school swim practice) and who fortunately have friends over who regularly raid the fridge? We get by on two inexpensive cars, a scooter, and bikes. We spend way less than our neighbors on transpo, but way more than you. Your blogging success—which is deserving—is probably in part because you’re so specific, direct, and provocative, but I feel compelled to weigh in when you overgeneralize from your own experience. Ultimately, spending decisions are intensely personal. I don’t need Armstrong’s bike, but I want a nice carbon frame with Dura-Ace components because it increases the enjoyment I get out of one of my favorite activities. I’m guessing your response would be—just don’t complain about having to work longer to purchase the expensive road bike. Deal. Not everyone wants to stop working. Many, like me, just want to work less. Thanks for provoking.

    • Grant October 9, 2012 at 8:00 am #

      1) your kids can also ride 8 miles, or catch public transport
      2) no, you don’t “need” carbon and Dura-Ace, unless you podium frequently, are sponsored, and get it cheap (full disclosure: I’m a mountain biker, so will have a go at you regardless ;) but I also generally run higher end components, but its certainly not a need, its a want that I am trying to wean myself off)

      For me at the moment, the real key is identifying needs and wants, and occasionally punching myself in the face.

      • Ron October 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

        It’s a unique situation. No school bus and they have to be in the water twenty-thirty minutes after the end of school. Sadly, a city bus would take an hour. Everyone carpools which helps. I dabble on the dirt, but our race will have to include pavement. :)

        • Grant October 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

          Cyclocross bikes at dawn!

          And to make it frugal, singlespeeds only!

    • Tamara October 9, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Ron – the bottom line of all this is really not about stopping work, particularly if it feeds your spirit. The bottom line is no longer “needing” to work. The goal here is Financial Independence, and I would challenge you or anyone else to say that, no, they are really not interested in reaching Financial Independence as soon as possible. Choosing to continue working is one thing, having to work is quite another.

  20. Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Hey if you have this in an excel spreadsheet somewhere, would you consider uploading a downloadable version of this chart so your readers could print it out, modify it and add a column where they can put their own info in…like: “middle class | kickass | where I am now”? If you already have something built in a spreadsheet format, I think that would be really helpful (and would save readers who would otherwise cut and paste from the html table bunches of time). Thanks for considering. No worries if you don’t have time of course. :)

    • Matt October 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      I’ll take that request a step further, and say, it ought to be used as the basis for a formal study.

      In general, I can only *loosely* compare my own spending to that of MMM. The situation is somewhat improved by people posting their spending in the forums, but it’s still not quite an apples-to-apples comparison. The biggest problem is that everyone defines their spending categories a little differently. E.g., do you include “alcohol” in groceries (we do), as a separate category (like MMM), or lumped in with entertainment?

      It would be nice to have a “unified spending category” template, with precise definitions. You have to lump some things together, else you end up with an over-long list of categories. But too much grouping may result in distorted spend amounts in any given category.

      Anyway, assuming the problem of establishing these universal expense accounts is fulfilled, I would *love* to see a year (or more) of data for thousands of people, plus all the standard statistical measures (mean, median, standard deviation, max, min). And then do the same for that bulk data compartmentalized by various demographics (region, income, race, occupation, age, etc).

    • VictorT October 9, 2012 at 12:43 am #

      I’m working on this spreadsheet. Its going to have two sheets.

      First sheet is the accounting sheet where you enter and track your expenses and income every month.

      The second sheet shows graphs of your Mustachism, scores your spending, and allows you to see month-to-month or average monthly spending.

      Anybody knows where to upload this gem?

    • Aaron October 9, 2012 at 1:13 am #

      Copy, paste, slight editting. Spreadsheet done.

    • Dillon October 9, 2012 at 7:58 am #

      Just highlight the table, paste special into Excel as unicode text.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 10:34 am #

        (::cough cough::) Mac OS Numbers (::cough cough::)
        I’ll be over here in the corner holding my Mac over my face to avoid the flying facepunches.
        There is a work-around that involves Apple Script or somesuch, but at that point we’re getting into a point where the rewards no longer justify my effort figuring it all out and I just go back to a cell-by-cell copy-and-paste.

        • Nathaniel October 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

          Numbers opens .xls and .xlsx files.

          • Gus October 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

            I really like how your avatar is for the “economist” faction in Sid meier’s alpha centauri!!!

            Sorry… back to the discussion.

      • Jamesqf October 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

        “…paste special into Excel…”

        Just a minor niggle, nothing compared to the Mac users, but if you are still using Micro$oft stuff instead of Linux, there’s another savings opportunity.

        • Debbie M October 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

          Or Google Docs.

          • Jamesqf October 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

            Except that going by my experience of Google Docs presentation software, you will either a) not be able to input stuff; b) have it disappear after you’ve spent time inputting it; or c) wind up with the calculations done wrong. And if you do get it to work, it’ll be on only one version of one browser (Firefox 5.13 IIRC, about 3 minor revs back from the current for me), which you happen to have on a machine you don’t normally use…

          • TomTX October 13, 2012 at 6:49 am #

            I really don’t like having someone else control my documents. I despise the whole “cloud” thing. OpenOffice is free, works well on both Linux and Windows. It has equivalents to Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and can save files as readable in the Microsoft versions. Formatting may be a little different – about like you see between different editions of Word.

            I haven’t bought a copy of Windows since Win2K Professional. Used it for over 8 years, through 3 system upgrades. Worked great even on dual-core processors – though toward the end I occasionally had to lie to software and convince it I was running XP (Couple of minutes of internet searching took care of that!)

            If you want to try Linux, I highly recommend the Mint distribution. Ubuntu used to be my recommendation, but they went stupid a couple of years ago (Clouds! Optimize only for tablets! et cetera.) Mint picked up where they left off, and frankly is more user-friendly. As a bonus, the current edition (Mint 13) is a “long-term stable” release which will be updated/patched for a minimum of 5 years.

            Note- I’m not the software geek in the family. MrsTX takes care of that :)

        • lentilman October 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

          Or Open Office.

  21. Adroamme October 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    I’m really looking forward to your post on cell phones and plans that work for you with your iphone out of contract. You had AT&T, yes?

  22. Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple October 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    Hey man, don’t diss the landline. It works when the electricity is out. Oh, and we live in a cell phone dead zone. Whenever someone wants to call me, I always tell them to call on the home phone. If I’m at home, the cell doesn’t work!

    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Our decision was to only have a landline.
      This becomes more and more absurd with every passing year, yet we cling to it.
      When I’m not at home, I’m at work. When I’m shopping and I wonder which thingamajig Mrs. Toque wanted, I either take a guess or ask the customer service people if I can use their line. (This never actually happens.)
      We didn’t need a cell phone to get along 30 years ago; we don’t need one now.
      Our total phone bill for the month, including all long distance, is about $30.

      • Clint October 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

        I use magic jack. It really does work and it really is only $20 a year. I’d push for Google voice, but if we change our phone number one more time, I don’t think my wife would let me live to see retirement.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

        Now, see, this is where I have to tip my hat to someone more badass than myself.

        I keep my phone in my pocket even when traveling from one room of the house to another, let alone when leaving the house and doing errands. Mrs. MM and I use the phones to find each other when we wander off, arrange things with friends, and for a hundred other uses, from mobile photography and videoconferencing to booking hotels once we figure out how far we’ll make it during a day’s drive. Occasionally I venture out on a bike ride without the phone just for the thrill of it, and I feel like I’m a Native American sprinting barefoot across the plains, completely untethered from society and subject to the whims of the world. What a rush!

        But yeah, unless cash were to become a concern, we were planning to remain a two-smartphone family. People with any shortage of money, however, should learn from the Toque!

        However, since Mr. Toque already pays for internet access, he might want to look into Vonage or a similar VOIP provider so he can get the service for $5-$10 instead of $30/month. And I know that Google Voice does not work in Canada, but does the browser-based Google Talk run there? That’s free nationwide calling.

        • nunayo October 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

          I make all long distance calls free using a combo of google voice and talkatone apps. I can use talkatone to call for free over any Internet connection, using my IPad (which was a gift, I know an IPad would not be an acceptable purchase for someone in my fiscal position).

        • Executioner October 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

          I work from home a lot, and I prefer the call clarity of a landline over a cellphone when on conference calls. We bought an Ooma set (VOIP hardware solution) back in 2009 for about $150 and three years later it’s still going strong. Our monthly cost is below $5 at this point and dropping with each passing month.

        • Jamesqf October 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

          “Occasionally I venture out on a bike ride without the phone just for the thrill of it, and I feel like I’m a Native American sprinting barefoot across the plains…”

          Now I’m just the opposite. Got a cell instead of a landline ’cause the phone company jacked the price of the land line to $30+. Most of the time I just leave it on the desk where the main phone was. I’ve also discovered that the idea of taking it on hikes & horse rides “in case of emergencies” is one of those ideas better in theory than practice, because at least 90% of the places I go don’t have coverage.

        • Teeter02 October 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

          MMM and Mustachians,

          If you want truly free VOIP that ties Google Voice/Talk to your home phone system, check out the Obihai products. It’s a VOIP box like the Ooma that costs $50 (one time) and does Google VOIP to home phone for $0 per month. I’ve been using it for months and it’s much more reliable than my old MagicJack. And if you hook your main Internet and the Obihai device to a decent UPS you don’t even have to worry about anything but the absolute worst- case long power outages…

        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 9, 2012 at 5:38 am #

          We actually attempted something like this – by bundling our phone service with our internet service for something like $15/month.
          Sadly, the 3g+ connection in our area was unreliable. There were far too many occasions in that trial month when we’d pick up the phone and not get a dial tone.
          If the options weren`t limited by the sketchy internet connection, we`d go VOIP and Skype and all that.
          For long distance, mind you, we`re spending $2 to $3 a month at this point, so it`s hard to imagine spending any time examining that in greater detail.

      • Amy October 9, 2012 at 11:53 am #

        We have a landline that costs $10/month – it’s tied into our home security system.

        And, yes, we need a home security system. We live in downtown Baltimore, which means we don’t have a car, and walk/take a free shuttle to our workplaces every day.

        • CanuckExpat October 11, 2012 at 10:34 am #

          To play devil’s advocate (ie jerk): Are you sure you NEED a home security, or that you want one and that it gives you peace of mind? How long have you needed it, and how many times has it been used (stopped a break-in) during that time?
          The point of this post though was mainly to say that it is nice to run into someone else on the site from Baltimore City. I might even be able to guess which free shuttle you are talking about. Cheers.

          • Amy October 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

            We’ve had one break-in in the middle of the day. The alarm scared him off.

            Either that or the fact that he saw our ancient tube TV and decided we were too poor to burglarize.

            I should add that we’re not paying for our home security – it comes with our apartment, so we’re paying the minimal cost to keep the land line.

            Anyway, nice to see a fellow Baltimoron here, too, and yes, I take the JHU shuttle although the Circulator is a pretty good option, too.

            We’re on track to retire and move back to Wisconsin in 36 months.

            I can’t wait.

            • CanuckExpat October 16, 2012 at 10:59 am #

              Sorry to here about the break-in, but glad the perp was scared off. We have had no such problems. Congratulations on being within 3 years of retirement! I won’t take this conversation too far off track, but if you find me in the forum or elsewhere drop a note to say hi, it’d be fun to hear your story.

      • Ruth October 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

        We also only have a landline! Sometimes I feel like the only person left on earth (besides my SO) without a cell phone. I think cell phones still have bad sound, and I like living life without a psychological tether. In emergencies there are always others around with a cell phone. I’ve never had a problem. A few times I’ve been inconvenienced, but that’s a small price to pay to me. I’m not saying anyone else shouldn’t have a cell phone, but the notion that it’s a necessity is totally untrue. I’m an executive and people live without being in contact with me every moment, just like we used to!

    • Jamesqf October 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

      But in your case, why have a cell phone and a land line?

      • Marcia October 9, 2012 at 11:55 am #

        So far down here I can’t tell if you mean me?

        The only reason I personally have a cell phone is for emergencies and for when I’m out. If my car breaks down, if I’m out with the kids and need to get my husband. If I’m meeting up with friends, etc. I’ve got the cheapest phone/plan I can have.

        My spouse has a cell phone (recently upgraded to smart phone) for $25 a month because he travels for work. He upgraded to smart phone + data for the ability to look stuff up on the go (restaurants, maps, etc.) I personally think his company should pay for that, but I guess these days it’s “expected” that companies will … um … “steal” your own personal phone time/ internet time/ personal time.

        We may eventually get rid of the landline. I cling to it because I’m a dinosaur. My hubby installed a cell phone booster in the living room and it does seem to be helping. I get 1-2 bars instead of zero (before this, if I left my phone on, it would die because it would constantly try to find a signal). With internet options, it may be even better. We’ve had the same phone number for 11 years now. I think that’s part of the reason I cling to it.

        Plus we had bad fires 3 years in a row, which resulted in many days without power and rolling blackouts. We at least had consistent phone service then. We have, in the closet, an old green phone that doesn’t require electricity.

        • Jamesqf October 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

          Marcia: “So far down here I can’t tell if you mean me?”

          I think so – I can’t really tell either. Wish the comments worked like the forum, with quoting & user inserted automatically.

          [QUOTE]We have, in the closet, an old green phone that doesn’t require electricity.[/QUOTE]

          Got you beat. I still have a rotary dial phone on the kitchen wall. Was there when I bought this place, a dozen years ago, and still worked as long as I had the land line. (Even when the “modern” phone was out due to power failures.)

    • Cujo August 20, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Same here. Also, we have kids old enough to leave home alone but not old enough to have a cell phone; they need access to a reliable phone.

      Sadly, when Verizon brought in fiber they “improved” our old copper line so it no longer works when the power is out (beyond an 8-hour battery backup). I held that transition off as long as I could.

  23. Deano October 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m wondering if MMM has ever read “The Wealthy Barber”.

    That guy was the original Mustachian, I highly recommend reading “The Wealthy Barber Returns”. It contains all of the original material, but with updates for the 21st. century. If you somehow can’t get it in the US of A, I’d be glad to mail it!

    • Doug October 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

      Another original Mustachian is Derek Foster, who retired at age 34. For more information about him or books he wrote have a look at http://www.stopworking.ca

    • Cara October 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

      The Wealthy Barber was my introduction to personal finance back in the early 90s! That book put me on the road to Mustachianism, and I’m so glad I had the chance to read it when I did.

  24. Jamie October 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    This really does spell out the needs vs wants part of many of our spending habits. We all need a little punch to the face once in awhile!

  25. AV October 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    To clarify for some of the commenters — this appears to be a family making $140K AFTER tax. I guess each person is pulling in a salary of about $85-90K?

    Appreciate this post. Have been avidly reading the blog over the past week. We’re a high double income couple anticipating a large income drop in the next year, so it’s great timing. Will probably take some time to get husband on board, but for the moment have been focused on myself, and small wins like packing lunch every day. I grew up in a very Mustachian family so this like going back to the briar patch.

  26. Tim October 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    If Apple devices get their own line item, shouldn’t a computer? It’s the basis for saving money in at least one category listed, after all.

  27. jlcollinsnh October 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    great post, as always, and as others have said I’m really looking forward to the next one on cell phones.

    that said, what about Mr. Bonilla???

  28. Joy October 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Way to go Jacinto!!! Now that gives us all something to work
    towards. :) Well, perhaps a few are already there?

    Great post MMM.

  29. Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I’d say there’s nothing wrong with trying to boost your income — use whatever leverage you’ve got, sure — but I’ve found there’s one salient difference between income and spending: control.

    Income, in almost all situations, mostly depends on the decisions of other people. You can perhaps influence it, but you can’t control it.

    Expenses, by contrast, depend almost entirely upon you. There are few aspects of spending (as MMM has so thoroughly demonstrated) that you cannot control.

    Focusing on expenses is more empowering, in my experience, as well as more lucrative.

  30. jon October 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Not to piss in your cheerios, just wondering how many average Americans can earn $140k a year after an almost 50% tax rate w/a non stressful lifestyle? My job is about as low stress as it gets, though I still have to show up, but it’s a low paying, $40k gov’t job after taxes, albeit w/a european vacation and sick leave and funded retirement schedule. I can’t imagine someone making $100k more than me and being able to disappear for most of the working day, let alone not being harassed when I’m not on the clock, as I don’t have a company cell phone or am required to be logged in to my email or be at my desk all day. Maybe someone who makes $350k a year can do that, but then you’re far above the mean. Someone in your position has managed to become a rentier at a young age while someone in my position has managed to get paid to not really work at a late age, but neither one of us are average, are we?

    • Le Code Civil October 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

      You bring up a much different point than what most people have been mentioning re: $140,000 income. You’re right that it’s unlikely anyone will have one of those jobs without the stress, but if you’re open to a brief period of stress it can be worth it. I’m about to dig into a similar (but not quite as profitable) situation, and I know it’s going to be a 70+ hours-a-week deal. My attitude is that I’ll work my ass off for the next 5-7 years and then move on to other things that might be less profitable, but will be better for my sanity. It’s just a form of delayed gratification with early financial independence as the payoff.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Hey Jon, glad you are enjoying your job!

      Note that this is a US-based blog, and a 4-person household would not even be paying a 37.5% MARGINAL tax rate at this level of income, let alone a 50% ABSOLUTE tax rate.

      I’d also argue that the $140k take-home pay does not necessarily come with a lot of stress. A single engineering manager, two low-level engineers, a successful small family business or even a couple of established carpenters, accountants, Ontario elementary school teachers, or plumbers could rake in that kind of dough, without selling out to crappy bosses or corporate stress. The good jobs often treat their employees better, rather than worse (certain professions like law excluded, from what I hear)…

      For the most part, stress is what you apply to YOURSELF in response to a generally luxurious rich-world office career. For every stressful job, there is a cool cat that could come along and do that same job while smiling and getting a good night’s sleep. I’m excited about the upcoming article on stress itself!

      • nunayo October 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

        Thanks for acknowledging that high stress and impossibly hard work do not always go hand in hand. In my experience, the lowest paid workers often get dumped on the most on the job. There is a documentary on Netflix called “Stress” that details a study showing that the higher up the economic ladder a person is, the physiological symptoms of stress they display. Could be a chicken or the egg question, as the cool cats often move ahead faster.

      • Marcia October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

        I’m going to have to look up that show on Netflix. And I look forward to the article on stress.

        I tend to be under a lot of stress from time to time. I am very efficient and get a lot done – more than most. Unfortunately, that means when the crap hits the fan, people turn to me to fix it.

        This past year, that meant spending the last 4 months of my pregnancy under a great deal of stress due to illness and injury and travel of my coworkers and boss (and picking up their slack).

        Still, I at least got it all done in 40 hours. And I’m not working full time anymore.

      • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

        Ontario elementary school teachers make $70K/year? Seriously? That’s about 50% more than the median across the U.S.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

          That’s an average salary, based on the fact that the vast majority of elementary teachers have a four year degree and a year of teacher’s college.
          I remember that the top of the grid (11 years+ of experience) for high school teachers in Ottawa was $95k, but that was several years ago and was based on Ottawa being a slightly more expensive place to live.
          Yes, we treat our teachers pretty well here … most of the time.

    • victoria October 9, 2012 at 7:52 am #

      My partner and I earn about $120K pretax. This year our income taxes came out to 11% of our income, after all our deductions.

      Neither of us has a tremendously high-stress lifestyle. I work 30 hours a week at a very low-stress job and I don’t take work home. He works closer to 45-50 and does take his work home sometimes, but he has some flexibility to work from home and he only rarely needs to work unusual hours or travel.

  31. Ano October 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    “If you can’t live on $600/year of clothes, I have a fist you need to meet”

    This line is the epitome of why I follow this blog. Thanks for the chuckle, MMM. :)

  32. Jen October 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    The budget breakdown was very pertinent to my family, as our income is around the same level. Our expenses, however, are by several thousand higher than kickass :( Primarily due to the fact that we live in a very expensive city and pay mortgage on a $500K mid-range apartment (moving somewhere else is not an easy option, as we won’t get jobs paying at this level in our professional area). Another thing is that we have two pre-schoolers, so childcare expenses take their toll.

    Based on the table, I see several areas for improvement. First would be our electricity bill, which is high due to air conditioning. That is mostly my doing, as I come from a Northern climate country, and now we live in the tropics. Another two – cable subscription and buying TV series on blu-ray – are something my hubby needs to work on.

    Retirement calculators show around 18 years to retirement at this rate, but I believe we will be able to do it much sooner once the kids go to school. Also, when we decide to retire, we can move to a cheaper area, get rid of our mortgage and cash in the value locked in our ridiculously high home equity.

  33. KR October 8, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I have a friend who retired in his early 40′s, my tax man. He told me a few times that my salary puts me in the top percent where I live. I don’t own much, didn’t feel rich, and could never figure out what he meant. He and his wife have a reputation as being “cheap,” and I always wondered how they retired early and was envious, but I never put two and two together. And then I started reading this blog. I’m mad my friend never sat me down and punched me in the face. I’d already made the move to a less expensive apartment in a cheaper ‘hood, but MMM really helped me understand how I was frittering my money away elsewhere. It’s sad, because I was never into status objects, and if I’d been educated this way sooner, I’d have happily cut my expenses to the bone. Anyway, at this point I’m too old to retire young, but I’m on track to retire sooner than I had hoped. This blog has really turned my life around. Thanks.

    • Anonymous October 8, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

      If he’d explained it at that point, would you have felt motivated, or patronized?

      I suspect most mustachians get tired of explaining the same relatively simple concept (spend less, retire young) to mostly unreceptive and frequently angered audiences, and unfortunately that means that people who might actually have benefited from the advice don’t get to hear it either.

  34. Ben October 8, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Another fine specimen sir. Seriously, these posts are always inspiring and they help keep me motivated on my own journey up Mustache Mountain. And just look at these comments…you are changing people’s lives! That has to be a great feeling. Another benefit of overcoming the need to devote 95% of your time and energy earning and spending money is that you have time to actually help people. RE-spect!

  35. pat October 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Hey MMM, I’ve been trying to make myself a similar list of stuff using the archive, but never really got around to reading all your articles. This actually serves as a fantastic summary, thanks so much!

  36. CL October 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    The way that you’ve pulled everything together in this article makes me think that this might be a good first chapter of the MMM book somewhere in the future. I pulled together a Mustachian primer myself to teach my sister about Mustachianism, but this article is even more handy plus it pulls together a lot more than the three articles I slapped together to get her started. Thanks for the lesson on being kickass, MMM!

  37. Stephen October 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    The other thing about saving a dollar vs earning a dollar is that an earned dollar is taxed, whereas you get to keep the whole 100 cents on the dollar you save.

    • Posted On October 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      “The other thing about saving a dollar vs earning a dollar is that an earned dollar is taxed, whereas you get to keep the whole 100 cents on the dollar you save.”
      .
      .
      .

      And, in good times, the saved dollar earns you interest.

  38. MiniMMM October 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    I just cut at least $10/month off my electricity bill by going from a 500 Watt 50″ Plasma (pre-MMM purchase), to 60 Watt 40″ LED TV. I just find it amazing that the TV uses the same power as a traditional incandescent bulb (kill-a-watt certified).

    I sold my 50″ Plasma for $500 and bought the 40″ LED for $618. Anyone with a plasma should definitely make the switch to LED. I got the Samsung UN40EH6000, which is now $598 on Amazon. Within one year the TV swap will have paid itself off.

    (I don’t see 50″ to 40″ as a downgrade for my small space, I believe the 50″ LED model would use approximately 80-90 Watts)

  39. Frugal Scot October 9, 2012 at 1:55 am #

    MiniMMM,

    Your re-evaluation of your TV is commendable. However, there is an even easier way to reduce your TV running costs – watch less. As a bonus the payback period is instant and you get more time in your day for other things. Isn’t FI and early retirement about making time your own?

    I don’t know how much electricity costs in the US, but if it is really as cheap as the $0.10/kWh that MMM’s electric car article suggests, a $10 saving implies the TV is on 3 or 4 hours per day. That is almost half a working day frittered away every day.

    • Jamesqf October 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      “I don’t know how much electricity costs in the US…”

      It varies a lot, depending on where in the US you live. Here in northern Nevada I pay about $0.11/KWh, but I’ve seen mention of around $0.06-0.08 in the Pacific Northwest (lots of hydro & wind) to $0.35 or so in Hawai’i.

    • MiniMMM October 10, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Frugal Scot,

      I agree that not watching TV would be a better way, but it’s something I enjoy. I enjoy having the nightly news on while I cook dinner, not attentively paying attention to it, just kind of in the background. So that’s 1/2 hr a day.

      I also live with a roommate, so although it averages out to 4 hours a day, I’d say at least 1-2 hours a day my roommate is watching something without me.

      I’m a consultant, and somedays my work-day never really ends, so it’s nice to have the TV on in the background when logging into the computer to deal with an urgent issue at 9PM. Keeps me a little more relaxed, and sane.

      In addition, I recently cut the cable bill, so the 60 Watts includes powering the TV antenna. I think I remember measuring my last cable box at about 40 Watts when on.

  40. Frugal Scot October 9, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Actually, I just estimated the number of kWh in my last post. The energy saving over the old TV was 440W, making $10 equate to >200 hours of on-time per month at $0.10/kWh. There are only an average of ~730 hours/month!

    • fwttg October 9, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Frugal Scot, O/T but are you THE Frugal Scot of The Frugal Scot Chronicles fame?

      If so, let me thank you for that series. It captured the craziness of this town well!

      • Frugal Scot October 10, 2012 at 1:28 am #

        I’ve never heard of him, but clearly he invented a time machine and stole my name. I’ll have to investigate.

  41. Mrs EconoWiser October 9, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Whoohoo! Mr Money Mustache did it again! What a great post! I can’t help but thinking: this is about my husband and myself. My husband is a software architect and makes a crazy amount of money indeed. I am in education and doing fine but with the side business I am doing very well in total and match my husband’s income. What an enormous motivator to kick some ass!

    I compared your overview with mine. Where we differ from middle class already:
    No car payments (1 car and it’s paid for)
    Hardly any home maintenance (newly built house)
    No work lunches
    No gym membership
    No kids (hope that will change, though)
    No golf
    No Apple
    No landline
    No medications (we live in Holland, the country which takes good care of its residents and most medications are paid for, just like Canada (Is what Michael Moore told me in Sicko?)? Why did you move to America?)

    We do have a high mortgage interest, but we’re going to slash that by throwing lots of our savings into our mortgage and thus lowering the amount we pay every month.

    I am ashamed to admit we have a house keeper. I am thinking of giving up that luxury, but I am not quite there yet. Our house keeper is a very nice 71 year old (!!!) lady who really needs the extra income in order to make ends meet. We love her very much and she’s very frugal. She even taught me to be frugal! It’s just that her husband and herself never invested in a pension so they only have a very small retirement income given to them by our government. It would break her heart and mine to give up her services. Now that her husband’s ill she told us she was very worried about her little job with us because she sometimes can’t come to work and she’s afraid we’ll finds someone else to do the work. She needs the money and she spends it wisely. She only wears second-hand clothes for example. In fact, I have already decided that once SHE decides to quit, I won’t hire another house keeper and do all the work myself. What do you think?

    Love,
    Bianca (aka Mrs Econowiser)

    • Ana October 9, 2012 at 5:47 am #

      The money you would save on firing the housekeeper definitely wouldn’t make you happy because you know how much this job means to her. On the other hand, the money you spend saves your time and makes you feel good about helping other people in need, I would say, in this case it’s worth every penny. Maybe you find a good friend or neighbor who also needs a housekeeper and you can split the time between the both of you?

      • Mrs EconoWiser October 9, 2012 at 11:50 am #

        Dear Ana,
        Thank you for your kind words and great advice. I will think about it!

        • Ana October 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

          Greetings from Wageningen ;-) MMM, your fanbase is spreading around the world!

    • Julia K. October 9, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      Agreed! It sounds like you are making and saving lots of money. Does the list of what you’d like to do with that money include helping others? If so, consider whatever part of your housekeeping costs “aren’t worth it” to be a gift to help out your friend in need. It’s even better than ordinary charitable donations, because a) it’s personal and b) she gets to take pride in her work. What a great opportunity! It sounds like you have a good plan.

      • Mrs EconoWiser October 9, 2012 at 11:51 am #

        Dear Julia,
        It definitely includes helping others. I hadn’t looked at it from your point of view, thank you so much!

    • MsSindy October 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

      We have a similar situation where we pay a guy who works for us around the house for the last 7 years. We pay him well ($15/hr cash + lunch, snacks and whatever extra grows in the garden). He’s a hard worker and I know he’s just trying to make ends meet and feed his family. I like to help people who want to work, and not just looking for a hand-out. It’s funny, but I cut my other expenses like eating out & spendy clothes, but wouldn’t dream of not providing him with an opportunity to work, even though it would improve my finances. I think as long as we’re making a conscious trade-off, and not mindless spending of our money, it’s all good.

    • TomTX October 13, 2012 at 6:59 am #

      Lovely Bianca – she makes you happy, you make a stupendous income, you feel good about having her, and she helps you with frugality elsewhere. Keep her :)

  42. jet October 9, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Apple products: upgrade every 5 years, or replace when they break!

    I have never had an ipod last that long. My phones hardly ever make it much past 2 years old, though i don’t like iphones.

    I expect my Macbook to last 5 years though.

    • Tamara October 9, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      I’ve had my iPod for five years now, and it’s still trudging along. Once it dies I don’t see replacing it as I rarely use it these days, preferring to enjoy my morning runs in silence.

      I shared this advice with my book club last night over dinner at my house, and my friend, an absolute Apple fanatic, almost spit out his lasagna. He’s already panting over the next upcoming i-Whatever release (I have no clue and don’t care to know). This would be the same friend that pays for a storage locker to hold his overflow of stuff, buys all of our book club selections online vs just getting them for free at the library, and never met a movie he didn’t like paying $12 to see. He also, coincidentally, hates his job but can’t afford to leave it.

    • michel October 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      My Macbook is 5 years old and still works great. I read somewhere that with Apple computer, when you pass the 2 first years, the product is good to go forever. Hope this is still true for the latest edition. I know some people still using their first generation iphone on the same battery without any problem.
      fingers crossed ;)

      • madage October 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

        My iMac is almost 7 years old and still going strong. It’s the first model with the Intel processor. Definitely feels a little pokey at times, but I don’t ask it to do too much and I’ve never had a problem with it. Just like my 11 year old Corolla, I’m going to keep running it until it won’t run any more.

  43. Dom October 9, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    I find one of the key things behind this is knowing where your at. If you have no way of measuring what you’ve spent your money on, how can you possibly know what’s going on. I think a lot of people struggle with this, especialyl where they don’t have access to programs like MINT (such as us in the UK).

    Having proper systems in place has really helped me to increase my savings rate, because now I know how stupid I was being before!

    • Tamara October 9, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      I concur. We track our spending on a Google doc, including Note inserts detailing exactly what each spend was for. Getting it set up did take a few hours, which I actually enjoyed as I have a pretty good-sized fondness for building spreadsheets, but maintaining it takes no more than 10 minutes a day.

      Going back and reviewing the notes on where exactly, as an example, our September Entertainment spend went, is very empowering. When I look back at my earliest notations I see a lot of not-up-to-par purchasing decisions. When I look at what we’re electing to spend our money on today, I’m much more pleased with the choices.

    • Stephen G December 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      For those outside the US (or inside, for that matter), you might check out YNAB at ynab.com. It’s more expense-planning than expense-tracking software, which is where its strength lies, and handles many different currencies. It’s also a bit pricey, but was worth every penny to us.

      I’m not affiliated, just a happy customer / user.

      (I know this thread is ancient, but there may still be some folks coming by to read it. I’m a case in point.)

  44. Kate October 9, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    Thank you, MMM. You have changed my life. Literally! I have changed my house, my car, cable, etc after reading your blog. The details that you share about your finances and others finances have allowed me to take inventory of my life. Without the details, I could kid myself that I was on the right track. Keep sharing the details even if people pick them apart. Showing that someone who takes home $140k in the US should consider living in a 300k home is important. Those of us raised in the US, probably have been so over exposed to consumerism that we have gotten lost in the land of luxury. I did. I would love more details on how you say “no” to things. Do you just always hang out with like minded people? What about when your son has three birthday parties in a month? Wants to Take up horseback riding? I would like to know How do I get my kids (say elementary school aged) to appreciate our budget?

    • Gipsy Queen October 10, 2012 at 5:58 am #

      Don’t know about MMM, but when I wanted to take horseback riding lessons – I worked for them in the place that provided them. Which ment that:
      a) I got to learn not just how to ride a horse, but also how to take care of them.
      b) I’ve learned to handle all kinds of horses.
      c) I felt like part of the crew, and really appreciated the hard work that’s into raising horses.

      Your children can do something similar…

  45. Nathaniel Mallet October 9, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    Probably the best MMM article I’ve read so far (and I’ve read them all!), because it gives a very clear blue print to finanicial bad-assity. There are no more excuses now, none!

    I’m exactly in the demographic you describe above: middle-age, middle-class, high tech employee. I started down the mustachian path before finding this blog, but your writings have helped me go from no debt and a 15% savings rate to a 35% savings rate.

    With this article, I can see where else I need to spend time to completely mustachify my spending and, and raise my savings to 50% or more.

  46. swimming_naked October 9, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    Any chance you could expand on this to include everything… where is (home owners insurance, garbage collection, water, landscaping, etc)? Maybe these items are rolled into other ones. I think you have everyone on your blog running off to compare their expenses to yours… but it’s hard to fit everything in.

    Either way, it’s really helpful.

  47. BC October 9, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Here is an article related to this topic: http://colabradio.mit.edu/how-to-actually-excel-in-the-middle-class/.

  48. Baughman October 9, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    MMM, great post. The popularity of this post is proof that there is a market for specifics. I think you should continue to elaborate on this idea. I like how you added the “status quo” column. I like integration with previously written articles. Good job on the Google Chat promotion, but it’s much better when combined with the OBi100 device (http://www.amazon.com/OBi100-Telephone-Adapter-Service-Bridge/dp/B004LO098O). You have a following, but it’s great to get the specifics so that people can act on them, rather than simply thinking “golly, I ought to be more frugal and less of a mindless consumer….where do I start?”

  49. frugalman October 9, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Inspired by MMM’s post, I created a Google Doc spreadsheet, hit the link below

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ajym06WyPAdmdEFyN0s2WDBtNWJZZmRvR2ViSDR1V3c

    To personalize this for your own use, after you open the document, click File then Make a Copy and you will have your own spreadsheet that you can customize

    • louise October 9, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      frugalman, this is neat. thanks a bunch.

      • Kenneth October 9, 2012 at 9:46 am #

        You’re welcome! I should also mention that you can click File then Download As and select the format of your choice, such as an excel spreadsheet

    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      You, Sir, are a hero. Thank you. You just saved me carpal tunnel of the copy-and-paste fingers.

    • Clint October 10, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks, frugalman

      Any thoughts on how to integrate existing retirmenet savings into this table? I’m sure that would bring down my years to retirement, but don’t know how to do it.

      • Kevin October 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

        I am also interested in know how to do this.

        Thanks frugalman for starting the doc!

        • Matt G October 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

          Take your yearly expenses, multiply by 25, subtract your current savings, that is how much more money you need to save up. divide that by the amount you are saving each year. Presto… It’ll be a little less time since your money will be earning while you are saving.

    • The Taminator October 31, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      An awesome spreadsheet. Thanks Frugalman. I just plugged in an estimate of my numbers (I know, I know, I should actually know them lol) and it says I only have 16.5 years until I can retire. I’ve got tons of room to play with the numbers to get that down. My goal is to retire in 10 years, at 50.

  50. Jesse October 9, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    MMM, you forgot the monthly expense of a dog (or other pet) that the anti-Mustachian family has. But alas, I can tell you’re not a dog person — otherwise you wouldn’t lament the idea as ‘another expense’ as you did in another blog post.

    Bota Boxes makes me lol. Honestly, do wine right or don’t do it at all. I’m not talking about $100 bottles (or even the $40 ones), but really there are some GREAT $10-$20 bottles if you truly understand what your tastes are. Maybe I’ll send you an email.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      WHAT!?? You DARE to disrespect a type of wine just because of the packaging it comes in?

      $10 to $20 Wine??!? PER BOTTLE!!!??

      You are off of your rocker if you regularly drink a substance so expensive while still subject to mandatory work.

      As I have said before, “appreciating” “good” wine is not a skill that non-millionaires really need to seek out for themselves. It’s like learning to “appreciate” the finer stitching patterns on Aston Martin leather seats.

      There are plenty of non-ridiculously-expensive things to be appreciated in life – learn all the species of trees in your neighborhood, learn about art or music, or learn to make high-end wine yourself – as a business.

      But taking up a consumption-oriented hobby like just drinking expensive wine is pretty much the epitome of everything I make fun of, for people trying to get ahead.

      Note that I’m not saying that wine tasting is not pleasant – because it is. But as a Mustachian, you can do better than seeking out expensive pleasure.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 10:56 am #

        The part of Jesse’s head telling him his wine tastes better has very little to do with his actual sense of taste. Blind tastings are consistent in demonstrating that even expert wine tasters are unable to differentiate between cheap and expensive wine. Pour the exact same wine out of a box and a fancy French bottle with a famous chateau on it and people will evaluate the two very differently. Learning to knowingly enjoy cheaper wine is mostly about training your brain to take pleasure in different things, like saving money. :)
        http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-decision-tree/201207/cheap-and-expensive-wine-taste-the-same-in-blind-taste-tests

        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 9, 2012 at 11:43 am #

          It astounded me the first time I read about that.
          How is it possible that all of these expensive wines had never been subjected to a double blind test before? It seemed so obvious to me that I had assumed that all wine-tasting was done without seeing the bottle the stuff came out of.
          Of course, the same goes for speaker cables.
          There’s another hobby/delusion that can be even more expensive than wine.

          • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

            I read an article once about a guy who had a bumper crop of…tent caterpillars. He made “wine” out of them and then invited the local wine experts from the paper to try his exciting new local vintage. They did not know they were drinking fermented bug juice. They declared the “local white wine” quite decent and compared it to some mid range dry German varietal, as I recall. BUG JUICE, people.

            I have not been able to take “serious wine tasting” very seriously since reading about the bug juice wine. That said, I do think there is good wine and bag wine and middling wine. I just don’t think there is any consistency between good or bad and price point.

            If I can track down that article I’ll post it. Maybe over on the forums in the Hall of Shame category. :)

      • Jesse October 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

        Something tells me you’re making presumptions about things you’ve never experienced (an 8-year dark red, for example). I’m not a wine snob, but I can tell the difference between a boxed wine meant for consumption now, a bad bottled wine, and wine I’ll probably like in a few years. I disrespect the boxed wine because my stomach roils from the acidity of the box-aged dark reds compared to the reds that are aged in bottles (think 6-7 years of aging). The ‘regularity’ of consumption is a bottle about once every 2-4 weeks — so what I spend in personal preference I make up for in sparse consumption. How is that not Mustachian? Side note — I live in Virginia within a 30-minute bike ride of several local vineyards.

        Making wine as a business is a recipe for a failed business unless I quit what I actually enjoy doing (writing software) for a job (oh no! a bad word!) and focus on making wine. It ALSO assumes I’d enjoy making wine instead of writing software. Nice fail on making that connection, MMM. I also have absolutely zero interest in learning about the trees in my neighborhood for a hobby. Maybe I should also qualify this by saying I don’t give a flying flip about keeping up with the Jones’, nor do I care how “well” I’m doing compared to anyone else — my happiness isn’t defined by comparing myself to others.

        Perhaps you should stop making knee-jerk public reactions. The beauty of Mustachianism is that the core ideas are not about being CHEAP; rather they’re about how to get the most from the money one earns/spends based upon what he/she actually experiences versus what the media tells them they should be experiencing. It’s easy to overlook your style of presentation for that simple fact alone.

        Or maybe I’ve misunderstood and misinterpreted what Mustachianism actually is?

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

          OK Jesse.. I suppose you can keep drinking your expensive wine after that careful defense. As long as you properly mock yourself for the excessive luxury, as I do with my expensive house and many bikes.

          The real point I was trying to make is: people who have financial problems, or a desire to get ahead more quickly than they currently are, should not try to justify fine wine as one of the necessities of life. And I describe this rule with capital letters, because the amount most indebted middle-class people spend on wine, while simultaneously whining about their finances, is FUCKING RIDICULOUS!!

          Even boxed wine is a luxury.. and if a person cannot acknowledge that, it’s time to go back to water.

      • TomTX October 13, 2012 at 7:11 am #

        I just bought some great bottles of wine for $3.14 each. Normally $5 – on sale for $3.50, then an additional 10% off for buying four. :D

    • Stephen October 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      A connoisseur is someone who has lost the ability to enjoy normal things. I enjoy the Bota Box Shiraz and Old Vine Zin. Great basic wines for daily drinking. They last forever, too.

      ERE Jacob has a dog named Frank. You can see his picture here: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2011/08/17/an-introduction-to-arbitrage-using-craigslist-to-make-a-living/

    • Jamesqf October 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      “…here are some GREAT $10-$20 bottles if you truly understand what your tastes are.”

      Oh, but I DO understand what my tastes are, and I know that I CAN’T TELL THE EFFING DIFFERENCE between wine from a box, and the $10-$20/bottle stuff. Or the $100-$200/bottle stuff, FTM.

      MMM does include dog expenses (I think) under Miscellaneous – “voluntary ownership of multiple large animals”. The easy way to cut expenses here is to adopt rather than buy purebreds (or “designer breeds” like labradoodles, which are just mutts with a price tag). I’ve never had a critter that I had to pay money to get. Most were of the “can you keep him just for a week or two, otherwise he’ll have to go to the (sniff, snif) pound” variety.

      • Gipsy Queen October 10, 2012 at 6:21 am #

        Emm…not quite.
        Both cats I had were street-bred (I adopted the first, the second adopted us), and still cost quite a sum: They need to be fed, newted, vaccinated yearly, and somehow both of them have managed, at least once in their life, to get in trobles that costed hundreds of dollars in medical expences.
        That being said: I wouldn’t give them up. They are family, each with his own character and relationships. Also, I do believe that some things in life should not be dictated by money (like kids and pets) – you’ll make ends meet in other ways.
        Call it my guilty pleasures. I think they worth every cent.

        • Jamesqf October 10, 2012 at 11:56 am #

          Sure. In the last couple of years I’ve spent enough on the “free to good home” horse’s vet bills to buy a decent used car. (And don’t begrudge it, either.) What I meant, though, was that you’ll have the same (or higher) chance of vet bills with the expensive purebred or “designer” critter that you paid through the nose for, so by adopting you save the purchase price.

          • Gus October 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

            Actually, designer breeds are even more succeptible to many congenital illnesses and diseases due to the selection process for the desirable characteristics. Often, these illnesses are chronic and develop has the animal gets older.

            Nothing beats a bastard in pure toughness!

    • Amanda October 10, 2012 at 6:08 am #

      I’m going to ignore the wine comment, there has been plenty of discussion there.

      About the cost of a pet: I’m a big animal lover and its hard for me to imagine not having pets. BUT, I also volunteer with my local humane society, which does not have a shelter – all the cats and dogs are in foster homes. If you really want an animal, but not the cost this is an excellent option. For my fosters, I don’t pay for any food, litter, or vetting. I buy toys occasionally, but we get those donated as well. A lot of organizations are in desparate need for foster homes too. Check with rescues in your area!

  51. saoili October 9, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    I don’t want to sound like a complainy-pants, but when you talk about how people can save more than my pre-tax salary (including bonuses, free lunch, and fuel allowance), I feel less like you’re addressing me than usual. And my husband’s refrain of ‘that site is aimed at people who make a huge amount of money’ sounds more believable than usual.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Sorry, Saoili! If I get to go to lunch with YOU someday, the article that follows will surely reflect your own situation more accurately ;-)

      Remember that the Kickass family is actually a big spender.. you don’t HAVE to live in a $300,000 house with $6,000/year of maintenance and renovations, or spend $3000 a year on clothes and vacations as I have the ‘frugal’ family doing here.

      So for guidance of what to do with less income, adjust the spending downwards!

  52. riggerjack October 9, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Wow, I’m really going to be the first one to question. $2400/month on home maintenance and renovation?
    Nearly 29k a year, or 23% of total spending seems crazy. That’s a new kitchen yearly, with money left over for an exterior paint job every few years.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m spending this kind of money in this category, but I’m doubling the size of my house. And I know my goals are atypical.
    I’m not trying to nitpick, but I know renters are scared off by home maintenance costs as they are, this figure should have them running for the hills!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      You’re right, that is a little expensive, what was I thinking?

      And the same goes for the home maintenance section in the “kickass” column (I spend WAY less than $6,000/year on my main house and rental house combined!).. so at least the ratio of spending is not thrown off greatly.

      In response to your comment and a couple of other ones, I broke up those categories a bit, made some of them catch-alls, and gave the “MiddleClass” family a discount of $600/month ($7200/year) on their expenses. Now they only waste $82,000 more than the Kickass family per year.

      It may be a pointless exercise, though: I’m sure they’ll find a way to spend it. Adding just one motorboat would bring them back up.

      thanks for catching that..

      • Posted On October 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

        A rule of thumb that I have heard is: plan to spend about 1% of the value of your home on repairs each year. Not saying one will do that every year, and some say if the money is not spent on repairs, do a small upgrade at the end of the year. Start saving for the next year to be prepared for repairs again.

  53. TB at BlueCollarWorkman October 9, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    THis is awesome and right on, man, right on. It’s amazing all the little decisions we make, and if we just change our thinking a little, we could save boat loads!! Way to really lay out the numbers, dude. Hopefully your old coworkers will check out this post of yours to see how they can become more badass.

  54. Mike October 9, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    MMM, I went from driving a 2003 turbo Subaru to a 2000 Honda Insight. The gas savings in a month alone is ridiculous. I wouldn’t say the car is fun to drive ;) but it’s not a terrible way to get around either.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Nice one, Mike!

      I agree, although you’ll rarely hear me admit it: I like driving sports cars too. That’s one reason my Scion xA is a nice compromise – it uses a bit more gas than a Prius and has slightly less space in the hatch. But it costs less, more than making up the difference. And while not a sports car, it is still thoroughly fun. Lightweight, short, and with a really slick manual transmission, high-revving engine, stiff and nicely bolstered sport seats, and extremely chuckable dynamics. The Prius by comparison is 700 pounds heavier with a sedate CVT automatic transmission and an interior straight out of your grandma’s beige 1998 Camry (although this improved a bit in 2010).

      All of this is silly, though: I keep the Scion because it costs less than a Prius, even while it is more fun. But if it cost more, I’d be a fool: spending more on a car just in a quest for fun is a silly addiction for a non-millionaire, just like expensive wine. Finding ways to get your fun that earn, rather than cost, money, is where it’s all about when you’re working on getting rich.

  55. Foghorn October 9, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    MMM – would love to see a post about your 50/month car insurance / gas / maintenance! I can understand mustachian savings in gas & maintenance….but the insurance number is what has me puzzled. even with state minimum coverage (in VA) on 2 used vehicles (one 4 years old and 1 15 years old), i’m above 50/month in insurance alone.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      It is pretty crazy indeed – my insurance with Geico these days is somewhere in the $20s, and the car gets driven mostly for vacations, which are budgeted separately in “travel”.

  56. Art October 9, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    One problem, MMM… The “Middle Class” will NEVER retire if you are using the same approach for them as for the “Kickass” family. Looks like for the “Kickass” family you are using something like the 4% safe withdrawal rate to arrive at the 7.5 “Years to Retirement” which is where they can cover their Yearly Spending of around 36K with the return on their capital (accumulated savings). If your “Middle Class” family wants to continue spending 126K per year, then 51 years of saving 14K per year is not gonna cover that!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

      Art:
      >>51 years of saving 14K per year is not gonna cover that!

      Yes it is, according to my old article on the topic: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/

      a 10% savings rate gets you to retirement in 51 years
      a 15% savings rate gets you there in 43 years (note that I changed the savings rate upward after some reader feedback earlier today).

      Remember, time to retirement depends only on your savings rate. Earning $1 million/year and spending $900k (saving $100k) is exactly the same as earning $50,000/year and spending $45,000 (saving $5k). Assuming you hold the spending constant through your lifetime.

      • Art October 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

        OK, then I don’t get it…

        Without doing any compounding, saving 14,000 * 51 years = $714,000. That is not enough to generate 126K per year in spending money that the Middle Class family “needs”. Now, saving 103,700 for 7.5 years will get you $777,750 in capital which at 4% per year will generate $31,110 which would more or less cover the Kickass family’s expenses.

        Somehow, I feel that the answer is in compounding… Are you using 5% in both examples?

        • Travis October 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

          Yes, that is what you are missing. Compound the saving 14k each year @ 5% over 51 years and you end up with $3.25 million. The 4% withdrawal rate works out for the same spending amount…

  57. Cory October 9, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Love the kickass list. The only thing I can’t match it the property taxes, cell phones (we have 2 kids that insist on one) and hydro. Our taxes are $6900 per year on our 2600 sf house on a 1.65 acre lot and even if we moved closer to town with no property they would only drop by by about $1000 dollars maybe. Hubby wont go without football on the TV which requires cable and as much as we try the electricity bill averages $100 per month. The one thing we don’t have to pay for is water since we have our own well.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      Wow, it is traditional for parents to pay for their kids’ cell phones in your country? That must be a very luxurious place!

      I enjoyed the model of my own teenage years from age 15 onwards: parents give you a place to live and free food, kid pays for the rest. Clothes, education, driving or bikes, school activities – the works. It is a happy and invigorating feeling, being a kid of semi-independent means.

      Given a $6900/year property tax bill, I’d probably move to well-designed 1200SF house with less land. Or move West! :-) But every step counts.

      • Cory October 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

        Oh wow. Move to a 1200sf house. Seriously? I would be voted off the island pretty quickly with that suggestion. I think we would also have to give up ensuite bath, triple car garage etc. with a small house like that. The property taxes around these parts are high. We live on a large property without any neighbours which we have grown accustomed to so to speak. I guess it’s all a matter of choice where you want your money to go. When the kids get jobs I will ask them to pay for their own cell phones.

        • da55id October 10, 2012 at 8:46 am #

          consider renting out a room to add $500-700 a month to offset the prop taxes and provide you with additional tax deduction for depreciation

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 10, 2012 at 9:55 am #

          The interesting thing is, I live in a 2600 SF house right now, and we’re scheming to move to something smaller, like perhaps 1200, just for the hell of it.

          This taste has developed over time, as in my 20s I figured the ideal size for a house was in the low 4000s :-)

          Now I see it the way I see cars: any space you are carrying around that doesn’t get used, is an unsightly chunk of fat that needs to be trimmed. My house has hundreds of square feet of hallways and staircases alone – all we do is walk through them!

          But I also think that most existing 1200SF houses would be crappy places to live, because they are built by cookie-cutter 1960s subdivision planners instead of people with any artistic/architectural talent. Low ceilings, tiny windows that don’t face the sun, chopped up floorplan, and artificial plasticky materials and carpet everywhere.

          So my plan is to take a run-down 1200SF house with a nice solar exposure, strip its interior to the bone, and rebuild it in liveable style. Huge South-facing windows, reclaimed wood and stone everywhere, a giant living room and kitchen, two medium bedrooms, two fancy but reasonably-sized bathrooms. Skylights and open beams everywhere.

          Even this would feel like Luxury city to me. My property tax bill would be cut in half, forever, and I’d get about $150,000 more out of the current house’s capital to invest.. also forever! Plus we’d be tying up less resources for our small family.

          • da55id October 10, 2012 at 11:36 am #

            …or that…

          • Jamesqf October 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

            I think what matters here is not the size of the house (I’m fairly happy with my 1250 sq ft, though I would like to add a sunroom & maybe a sauna), but the amount of land it’s on. I wouldn’t like it nearly as much, though, if it were on a typical small (sub)urban lot, just as I’ve never seen the point of a 5000 sq ft McMansion on a 10,000 sq ft lot.

          • Sir Osis of DeLiver October 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

            If you’re thinking about renovating a smaller house to maximize living space, I suggest reading “The Not-So-Big House” by Sara Susanka. It’s probably been a decade since I read it, so my memory is fuzzy, but I remember being impressed at about the way it described designing a house to use space effectively and to make it seem larger than it really is by strategically choosing how spaces are laid out and connected and the like. Very Mustachian!

            • victoria October 15, 2012 at 8:50 am #

              Seconding the book recommendation. You’d probably really enjoy it, MMM.

          • Cas Hout March 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

            We live in a 1200 square foot house with only one shower/bath and two teenage girls. We have lots of room, as we have another 800 or so square feet of living space in our basement. It is certainly manageable, and serves to remind us that space is limited so shopping must be purposeful. We also have plenty of windows and natural light. We also have a front porch. Our ceilings are the standard 8 feet, but, heat rises, and why pay to heat my ceilings? Our property taxes are still $200/month though. Plus we pay for garbage pick up at $1.75/bag (one bag every 2 weeks). We do have 2 acres of land though, and we do not live in an area that requires us to squint at the address to determine if it’s our house or the neighbour’s. ;)

  58. bogart October 9, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    I agree, an interesting comparison. Items missing from this list that appear in mine and that I include in the “can’t do without” category include health insurance premiums, dental insurance premium, dental bills (yes, in our family the math has worked out to make both the insurance worthwhile, and we have costs on top of those), actual mortgage (principal) payment — it may be savings but I’ve still got to pay it, water, life insurance, and homeowner’s insurance.

    Also, I was totally down with the $50/month on clothes (heck, it seemed generous) until I realized this was for a family of 4 including 2 growing kids (who, perhaps, also have changing sports interests and/or other activities that may require particular clothes — band?). Unless this hypothetical family lives in an area with good thrift stores *and* has the dedication/time to shop them, I’m dubious.

    Finally, a question: we too lack a landline and thus far are happy doing so, but I wonder about continuing with this as our son gets older (he’s a bit younger than the youngest Mustache). How do you plan to handle this? I can’t see leaving our kid home alone (once he’s old enough for that to be appropriate) without a phone of some sort that he can operate available to him.

    • Chris October 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      I thought the same thing about clothes. Maybe if you have a baby and a three year old. Good luck with finding thrifted stuff for ten year old boys (that still have knees anyway) especially if you live in a place that is not super affluent to start with.

      We just got winter gear (two new pairs of gloves, two new pairs of boots, one pair of snowpants). DS2 is wearing his brother’s old coat and snow pants and DS1 coat and hat from last year still worked, but his snowpants and boots were way too small. Anyway I could have bought cheaper stuff, but my experience has been that they don’t last as well (not through one kid let alone two) and we spend way too much time working, playing and walking to the school bus outside for cheap junk.

      MMM is not feeding pre-teens or teens on that grocery budget either ;)

      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

        The thrift stores here in Ottawa have clothing for children that has never been worn. How can we tell? Because the original $55 price tags are still on the clothes.
        Crazy, huh?

        • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

          Oh. The Value Village in Ballard, WA really is a bit far for you to travel. Plus all that wait at the border. Sorry about that…when you said “local” I thought you meant local within Seattle. ;)

    • Dancedancekj October 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      If you or a family member is getting a lot of cavities, check the frequency of carbohydrate intake (that’s the number one cause I see – this includes liquids like pop, chocolate milk, sugared coffee and tea and juices, as well as like chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, or fruit). Make sure to brush twice a day WELL (meaning it is squeaky clean, no furry feeling teeth) and floss properly. This can go a long way towards preventing high dental bills, and is very feasible (takes less than 5 minutes per day)
      Not everyone gets lucky with medical bills due to being dealt a hard hand regarding congenital defects, systemic diseases, and congenital disorders, but for the most part people have a fighting chance with their teeth (with rare congenital issues being the exception). Even then, once you get the mouth stable (no large cavities, orthodontics if needed) it should be relatively low cost for the maintenance of dental health (~$100 a year at my office for a regular checkup with x-rays, cleaning and exam)

      • da55id October 10, 2012 at 8:54 am #

        take your kids to a pediatric dentist and have their teeth sealed. We did this with both of our kids and they are now in their mid 20s with zero cavities. win win

      • bogart October 10, 2012 at 10:31 am #

        Thanks Dancedancekj and da55id. Our dental issues have been with the adults in the family (both me and DH) and reflect problems that occurred years ago — some large cavities in my case (now leading to weak teeth, or what’s left of them, and a need for root canals + crowns), and I’m not sure what the actual origin of his was (likely also a cavity), but it led to a root canal followed by an apicocectomy followed by an extraction and (impending) an implant. So, sure, but the damage is long since done, and it’s dealing with the aftermath. I do apparently have assorted issues that make me (have made me) more prone to cavities — “rough” surface on the teeth, moist mouth, sleep with my mouth open — but mostly, my issues reflect decisions made in my tween/teenage years.

        I’m astounded at the thought of $100/year, though sure, we’d manage fine within the insurance if there weren’t bigger issues (maybe someday, but it’s clear that at least through next year when the implant is done, we’re already maxed out and have spent our full med flex account balance just for tooth stuff along). Around here a slngle cleaning/exam (no xrays) runs about $120 (most of which the insurance covers). Ah well.

        But, yes, I plan to do (or at least to look into, but my sense is that will lead to doing) the sealants for our son.

        • da55id October 10, 2012 at 11:40 am #

          yes, I’m facing implants as well. Bummer, but on the other hand, at least I can get this highly advanced technology instead of the fate that befell my father – dentures for life! Some things really are worth what you pay for them.

          One of the little known benefits of mustachianism is reduced stress which results in reduced teeth grinding which results in better/longer lived teeth.

          • bogart October 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

            Absolutely, I’m not complaining about *getting* the implants. Paying for them (well, it, at this stage) is a nuisance, but make no mistake: I’m grateful we can.

        • Dancedancekj October 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

          Wow, that’s quite a bit of work!!! Sorry to hear the history of your husband’s tooth especially. Hopefully after this stretch, you will be able to keep your dental bill down with regular maintenance!

      • Sir Osis of DeLiver October 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

        I’ve never had problems with cavities but in my teens I cost my parents a fortune in orthodonture. And it wasn’t just cosmetic: Had I not had professional work done, I wouldn’t be able to chew properly. My orthodontist said he’d only ever seen one person with worse-aligned teeth than me — and he retired a couple of years later. I hope my daughter fares better but I’m prepared to shell out a small fortune just in case.

  59. Andy October 9, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    This post is making me reconsider buying the Nike + GPS Sportswatch :( I found it for $50 less on Craigslist AND it will improve my health. I am an avid saver and don’t go crazy with gizmos, but I want it! I know I can run with a regular watch and divide the distance by the time, but the watch is sooo cool.

  60. Chris October 9, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    MMM might not agree with this approach, because it is less focused on the consumerist side of things and the joy of living a simpler life. But for those who are absolutely choking over the idea of cutting their expenses so much or finding where to squeeze the next dollar, then you could attack it from the other side: Put aside a set (high) percentage of your savings as the FIRST deduction from your pay (after mandatory deductions like taxes). Then you can breathe a little easier about spending the rest, even if it’s not the smallest/most efficient budget you could ever have.

    Whatever you earn, if you just commit first to put aside 30, 40, 50% or more of your pay, you will never see it, therefore you will never miss it, and it will grow quickly as MMM has aptly demonstrated. You will be forced to live within a budget of the remaining amount (assuming you don’t do something stupid like use credit to buy more). You can also always be looking for more ways to cut costs. I like MMM’s approach better, but maybe this will work for those who are having trouble figuring out how to do it. Just save the money first, then you will be forced to adapt a lifestyle within that remaining budget.

    • BadassCPA October 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      I agree with the thinking that you won’t miss it if you never see it. I started my new job at the end of last year and didn’t qualify for the 401k until July, so I had only half a year to max out my contributions. Between this and my wife taking time off of work for our new baby, I was prepared for our savings account to take a hit. Maybe it’s because we’ve been going out less but we haven’t noticed the difference at all! It will actually feel like a raise in January when the contribution is spread over 24 paychecks instead of 12.

      • Mr. Sharma October 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

        Ha, I’m in the same boat. I received a substantial raise a few months ago and decided to contribute it all and more to my 401k. My net paycheck actually decreased after my raise lol.

        Looking forward to that automatic raise come January 1st where the 401k contributions are spread out over the entire year instead of half the year.

      • Double Down October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am #

        That is awesome, good for you for putting a year’s worth of contributions into just 6 months! Definitely more than most can say they’d do. Since you haven’t noticed the (double) amount you’re already putting away in 12 paychecks, do you think you’ll take that extra amount and save it somewhere else in addition to your 401k? That is, continue to save the same amount you are now rather than spend what would feel like a raise?

        • BadassCPA October 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

          Since we have not felt the burden of double contributions, we are considering maxing out my wife’s 401k as well. Mine is a Roth 401k, so we know we can pull the contributions out at any time if needed.

          With a regular 401k we can’t pull out until 59 which does not make sense if we’re planning to retire at least 20 years before then!

          So we’ll definitely try to save it, just not sure if it will go into the 401k. She puts a little right now, but nowhere near the max.

          • Ryan October 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

            Look into 72t withdrawals. There’s a limit to how much you can take out each year, but you can start at 35. I plan to retire by 40 but am still maxing out my 401k and don’t expect it to hinder my income stream.

            • BadassCPA October 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

              Thanks for the tidbit, that’s all I need to get googling!

          • Mr. Sharma October 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

            Another option of taking money out of the traditional 401k is to convert it to a Roth IRA and wait 5 years before being able to withdraw your conversion basis tax/penalty free. I’m sure you would have other sources of funds to get you by until the 5 year period is up. Also, when you do convert, you would be paying taxes at the time of conversion. If that so happens to be when you have already retired, your income tax bracket will probably be a lot lower than it is now.

            I’m a big fan of traditional 401k’s (although I use both) because I have the option to convert and pay taxes in the year I want. That may be a year when I take off work, lose a job or retire; it’s at my discretion. Also, you never know if marginal tax rates go down…

        • Mr. Sharma October 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

          I sure will. Savings is savings.

          The decision to contribute X amount into a 401k is just an allocation of the savings. Once January comes, I will be able to contribute even more to my savings beyond my 401k.

    • Pete914 October 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      I believe MMM has actually commented on this approach- called something like a “false scarcity” model. It is a step below an official budget because it doesn’t focus on every expenditure, but the point is that you artificially reduce your income by saving it before you ever see it. It is effective for people who don’t like budgets, but I see it kind of as a transitional phase between no control and an official budget. I use this method myself for what it’s worth, but I’m trying to move to a budget.

    • Sir Osis of DeLiver October 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Great suggestion. Also, when you get a bonus or raise, adjust your savings so that your “take-home” doesn’t increase. Just keep funneling the dollars into savings.

  61. Barry October 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    This is a fantastic article! That is all.

  62. James October 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    It might be better for your net worth to upgrade certain electronic devices with each new iteration. Depends on depreciation rates.

    For example, if you buy a new MacBook Pro for $2,000 and it depreciates $200 over the course of a year then you can sell it for $1,800 at a loss of 10%. If you repeat this process then it’s a $200 a year habit. If, however, you wait five years and sell it at 30-40% of its original worth then you are worse off financially and have had a worse computing experience for four of those five years.

    I don’t know what the actual numbers are like, but I’m saying that your advice depends on what the used market is like for the gadgets (or whatever else) you’re interested in. It might also be better if you buy last year’s model every year. Just a thought.

  63. Matt Alden October 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    It’s a great article.

    I agree with all of the items except for the groceries. Americans have been spending a smaller and smaller percentage of their disposable income on food every decade for the last 8+ decades, and it seems to be externalizing the cost to the environment and healthcare, probably many times over.

    There are some ways to save money, like having meatless days, going to farmer markets, eating out less, etc. But that’s one area where I think people shouldn’t cut corners on too much unless they absolutely have to.

    All the other stuff: spot on, in my view.

  64. Peter Drinnan October 9, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Makes me think of that Christopher Walken movie called “$5 a day”. Seriously though, I think this is as important for the environment as it is for retirement.

  65. Ornella @ Moneylicious October 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    You had a goal in mind. Reducing expenditures in various areas was a way for you to keep in line with your goal. Not everyone has a “Future Early Retiree” goal. Most of the decisions you made were made with reflection upon that goal (and probably others, too)

    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      Totally agree! You should definitely prioritize your daily life decisions based on your long-term goals. For example, I have a “never see my kids and then die broke and alone” goal I’m working hard towards, so I ignore everything I read here.

    • Jimbo October 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

      Do you, by any chance, go to cnn.com and comment that not everybody wants to be kept informed of live news events?

      Just curious.

  66. George October 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    In your chart, the first row is Mortgage Interest, MiddleClass is $1333 and Kickass $1000.

    Well as mustachian’s in training for the last year, me and my wife have projected with our savings that we will be able to payoff our 3 Bedroom, 1800 sq ft house (with a 1/3 acre lawn) in full soon such that there will no more mortgage in the picture. Thus, this eliminate the $1000 mortgage interest from the calculations all together.

    At our currently savings rates, our house will be fully paid off around Feb 2014, me and my wife will be the ripe old age of 32 and 33. Of course the MMM blog provided many tips and advice in order to enable us to save money from my paychecks to make any of this happen.

    Thus, it appears that many “KickAss” would actually have “0″ in this category for your chart.’

    Anyways your chart is great, and it only follows 1 year of spending! Once the “kickass” start investing their savings to achieve compounding over a few years then one really sees the numbers explode in size.

    It is true what MMM says, a Millionaire is made Ten Bucks at a time: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/01/a-millionaire-is-made-ten-bucks-at-a-time/ Grab those tens anywhere you can find them in your budget or expenses!!!

  67. Joe @ Retire By 40 October 10, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    Great illustration! We are not at your level, but we are spending a lot less than the usual middle class. Saving 70% of your income is just a dream to the middle class.

  68. Gerard October 10, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    A recurring theme in the comments is that many of us have blind spots, things that we choose not to see as unnecessary because, uh, we want them, I guess. I personally don’t understand dropping money on a pet or expensive wine or swim teams or child cell phones or a three-car garage or lots of books, but I bet I spend on something that seems foolish to other people. My second home, probably.
    The joy of all this is that you can get badass about three-quarters of these things and still come out ridiculously far ahead.
    (Speaking of blind spots, I notice that the only thing that MMM’s kickass family doesn’t cut costs on is internet access…) :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 10, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      You’re right Gerard.. a family could surely innovate away some of their internet access costs as well. I dropped my own in half by sharing a (business) plan with a friend. At the minimum, everyone should be aware of all the providers in their area, choosing the most suitable one.

      My internet access blind spot probably comes from the fact that it’s my livelihood. The ‘net provides most of my music/video entertainment, learning, communication, administrative support for running the bills, AND some income. And I have no office to get free access – I’m at home for much of every day.

      So to cut that service and bike to the library every time I need to log on would be pennywise, pound-foolish. And I kind of assume many Mustachians are in a similar place, maybe because of my own bias/blind spot.

      If any Thoreau-types out there feel they are better off without internet access at home because it allows them to free their mind for other peaceful pursuits, I salute them!

      • Gerard October 10, 2012 at 10:41 am #

        I did without home internet for about a year and a half (2004-6), and it definitely improved my sense of calm and unpluggedness. But it was inconvenient, and obviously not a great idea for somebody who has a popular blog (when I said “MMM’s kickass family”, I was thinking about the imaginary one in the example, not your actual family!). Also, I guess decent internet is needed to replace some of the other luxuries that are being cut from the list. In the same way, a non-kickass family probably “saves” a lot on bikes by having too many cars.

        • Debbie M October 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

          Yes, of course personal finance is personal.

          Kickass is spending less than me by living in a state with lower property taxes, biking more, having cheaper vacations, taking care of energy leaks and sucks, self-insuring everything, and apparently never visiting a doctor or dentist. But I am spending less than Kickass by living in a smaller, cheaper-to-maintain house, having a cheaper cell phone (less than $100 per year), not drinking, using regular scissors to cut my hair, and having no kids, and I’m not even kickass (spending about $18,000 of my $31,000 take-home pay for a savings rate of about 40% and thus a work life of over 25 years).

          So, there are many routes to badassity.

  69. Sara October 10, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Just went through your numbers. You pretty much described my life, except that I rent rather than own. I might own in the next couple of years, though. We’ll see. Now I just need to get my income up. Won’t be retiring when I am 50 though, because that is next week!. However, I spent my late 30s and 40s being “retired” raising my kids. Nice life, but a divorce put a crimp in the savings. I have remained on track with spending, though, avoided debt, and could sustain my present lifestyle at a part-time rate and then retire at 62. Possibly earlier. Happy with my divorce, especially when I look around at all of the unhappy married women who are stuck because of high debt loads. Kind of looking forward to a new job and career, though. Living with early retirement with no partner and in a community where most everyone is commuting and working makes for a lonely time some days. Am considering moving to a more urban community for more single people, but I need to wait just a bit until my kids are little older. “Where” you retire is pretty critical, though, in order to find some compatriots…

  70. Liz October 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    Here is my budget as a single lady with a professional job:

    $3200 in take-home income
    $700 in rent
    $500 in student loan minimum payments
    $150 in food
    $50 in clothing for said professional job
    $103 public transportation ticket monthly
    $25 travel to see family every 2 months
    $240 train to get to work
    $50 car insurance
    $25 car repair fund
    $25 dentist savings (might need to replace crown soon)
    $40 lunches (when I forget mine)
    $25 haircuts (hey I’m a girl!)
    $25 materials for professional licensing exam

    Total: $1958

    That leaves $1242 a month for savings, which is $14904 per year. That is a 39% savings rate. I can’t seem to get anywhere near a 75% savings rate and I feel like I’ve cut pretty bare bones here.

    Additional lady expenses that I enjoy:
    $10 pedicure every 2 months
    $30 extra – better haircut
    $40 laser hair removal for face
    $10 razors for all body trimming (wears it out fast)
    $35 birth control pill
    $20 shoe replacement fund
    $15 for lady gyno problems
    $25 for lady gyno copays

    • Geek October 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      The big thing that stands out is your transportation –
      75/mo for a car
      240 for a train pass
      103 for other transit pass
      25 for family travel

      If you can replace just one of the main modes of transportation with a bicycle you’ll save.

      Some here might also recommend redirecting most of your “savings” towards student loans, after contributing up to your employer match in your 401k, which will free up that 500/mo more quickly.

      • Liz October 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

        Thanks Geek. I have contemplated getting rid of the car but it makes trips to see family/family events cheap and easy. A round trip train ticket to see them would cost $40.00 for one trip so I feel like the convenience here evens it out ($600 per year in car insurance is pretty cheap). Gas mileage is pretty good. I would have to do some detailed calculations to see if I would come out ahead without a car. My family lives approximately 50 miles away so biking would not be possible. I would say that I could stop visiting but my parent is a widower and I feel like that might be cruel.

        For the other parts, I live about 30 miles from work and moving even 15 miles closer would double my rent, and as you get closer it gets even higher. As you can imagine, I live in the 2nd most expensive city in the world (I think). My rent would easily be $1300 a month to share a 3 bedroom to be within 5-10 miles of work plus higher expenses for laundry (I have laundry in my place right now) and food (items like orange juice cost $5-7 in the city while only $1-3 here). The other solution would be to move to an outer borough where my commute would be 50 minutes each way by train but only cost $103 per month for that transit pass. My rent there would be $950 to share a 2 bedroom. That is probably the cheapest but least palatable option since you get neither the convenience of being close nor the pretty scenic landscape I have now.

        It’s really quite the conundrum!!

        I agree with the idea of using my savings towards my loans to free up cash flow.

        • geek October 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

          Also…. Have you codsidered dollar shave club? $4/mo for their cheapest option I believe. Hubby and I share, he gets 1 cartridge to my 3.

          As far as housing, transportation, and convenience…. You’re in a debt emergency so make your decisions wisely. If you don’t want critical advice, I advise against posting here :)

          • Liz October 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

            But I don’t see what choice I have? I can give up the car (saving $75 per month) plus say $20 in gas, but pay $40 to visit family plus bus fare ($20 per month) to get around at night (not safe to walk/bike as female). This equals $60. I save $35 per month by giving up the car. Is that worth it? I guess $35 is $35 but it doesn’t make a huge difference in my payoff and savings.

            What other options besides moving and paying more in rent do I have? I am at the bare minimum of rent here. Most people pay $500-2000 more than me per month in rent in my area. I have a lucky situation. The only choice I have is to make more money.

            Here are the scenarios:
            Outer borough: Rent $950 to share 2 bedroom, $50 in utilities, $103 metro pass. 50 minutes commute. $1103 total
            Where I live now: Rent $700, train ticket $240, metro pass $103. $40 in utilities 1 hour and 10 minute commute dtd. $1083 total
            Moving within 10 miles of work: Rent $1400, train ticket $0, metro pass $103. $50 in utilities and higher grocery and laundry etc. prices. $1553 total

            Which would you pick?

            • Trader Rob October 11, 2012 at 1:42 am #

              I would suggest reading the book “Radical Frugality: Living in America on $8,000 a Year”. He talks and deals with this very situation. More importantly he’s more realistic about what one can and can’t do. Best part is if your Amazon prime it’s currently free, otherwise 3 dollars, I give it a 5 star rating.

              In spite of it’s title it’s actually a book written with the middle class in mind and I found I liked that a lot.

            • Kate October 11, 2012 at 4:49 am #

              @Liz. Good for you on making changes. One of the things that I have taken away from MMM is that I am making choices every day about my money that I thought were written in stone. As someone mentioned above we all have blind spots and I had TONS of them. Keep moving on your journey. I think soon you will see that you do have a blind spot about your job. This will end your thoughts on “what choice do I have?” At the end of the day, working in or near an expensive city is not working for YOU. No pun intended. With the debt that you have you are spendiing too much on transportation. You could move in with a parent for a short time while you relocate closer to family.Come up with some plan to have no transportation costs and repay your loan instead. But like some MMM, we work longer than necessary to afford certain things. 39% savings rate is great. It just isn’t kickass. In my own life I had a blind spot for my town. I didn’t want to move and make my kids switch schools. I was reacting to the short term headache of making my kids sad. But then I realized how sad are my kids going to be later in life if they can’t go to a good college or have tons of loans later in life? So we moved last month. I am saving $1000 a month in housing and I got rid of my car. My savings rate is only 40% as a SAHM. I am learning to cut costs every day.

            • lhamo October 11, 2012 at 5:45 am #

              I think you can get a better rate on a shared apartment in a good neighborhood in Queens. I used to live in Jackson Heights, which is awesome — quick subway ride to midtown, amazing ethnic grocery stores (=cheap) and restaurants (nice in a pinch, also cheap compared to other eat-out options, though you shouldn’t indulge too often). Just browsed Craigslist and going rate for a room in a share seems to be around $700-800 on average. Some cheaper if you are willing to be really frugal and live in a basement, or something similar. Woodside and Elmhurst might be even cheaper — JH was gentrifying already when we lived there almost a decade ago. Whether it is a good option kind of depends on where your office is. We used to work in the West Village and the commute took about an hour door to door (10 minute walk to the 7, 40 minutes or so on the train, including wait and change time, and 10 minute walk to the office from W 4th station). CAn be faster if you don’t have to take the 7.

              • Georgia October 15, 2012 at 11:01 am #

                I’ll put in a recommendation for Sunset Park. It’s got two express trains, is a safe neighborhood, has a Costco, and relatively inexpensive ethnic grocery stores. It’s not unheard of to find two bedroom apartments there for $1500/month.

            • Freeyourchains October 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

              Don’t forget the Driver’s Liscense fee every 4 years. It’ll cost you $0.50/month!

              Let alone your State emission taxes and Registration taxes just to legally allow you to drive on any USA road.

              Plus Turnpike tolls which are sky rocketing.

            • Freeyourchains October 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

              It’s nice having individual privacy, but sharing an apartment with a Roomate/SO can cut your rent and utilities in half.

              It just takes time and constant effort and creative thought to gradually get to a 75% savings rate.

              Example is paying off your student debts, then you save an extra $6k per year.

              Getting a roomate until you get married, saving an extra $350/ month.

              Getting a husband whom should help pay for Birth Control, because he helps in the creation process or prevention.

              Etc. You are on the Right Path already by being Mustachian!

              Eventually you’ll even weigh the true costs of going to work, and your true wage versus Time and expenses for work.

              • Liz October 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

                I share a studio! Yes you read that right. I’m bare bones on housing. I share a studio and it costs $700 a month and it’s not in a good building. I live in the NY area.

            • Blair October 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

              @Liz, I think you are doing awesome. You are saving huge, have a budget, and shared it. Personally, visiting family is not an area I want to cut spending either.. My grandmother lives 45 miles away, and I am glad that I spend gas and money to visit. I recognize this as a luxury, and it works for me now. The differences that I see in budget come from location, single vs family and income. I am midwest, single, and a fraction of MMM income.

    • Hanah October 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      I hear you – my lifestyle and overall expenses are similar. A couple of suggestions: generic birth control pill or birth control at cost from Planned Parenthood? Or IUD (cheapest overall in spite of high upfront cost)? PP might be less expensive for your gyno needs as well. Store brand razors (I had to try a few different kinds but eventually found a good one)? Electrolysis instead of laser (cheaper and actually permanent)?

      • Liz October 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

        PP might work. I get migraines so can’t do generic (stroke risk). I am totally being a complainypants aren’t I?? :) At least I’m aware of it!

        I just thought of something positive. At least half my student loan minimum is going towards interest so I can factor that into my savings rate right?

        • Liz October 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

          oh crap i forgot utilities of $150 per month

        • Kara October 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

          Switching to a generic birth control pill shouldn’t add to your stroke risk. Yes, migrane sufferers have a somewhat higher rate of strokes, as do birth control pill users, as do people with both conditions. (These are still really low rates.) But generic pills, which have the same active ingredients as name brand pills, shouldn’t put you at any more risk. Obviously, you should consult with your doctor first, but switching to generic could easily save you $20+ a month.

          • Liz October 12, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

            My copay is $25 and for anything other than normal BC pills it’s $35, $50 and $75. I get “complicated” migraines which means that I get visual problems which mimic strokes. Not allowed to take any normal BC. Believe me, I’ve tried.

    • mom of Ethan December 24, 2012 at 1:06 am #

      Liz, I only get a hair cut 2x per year. It’s long and layered, you can actually cut your own layers with youtube tutorials. Also, I use groupons for high-end salons or go to high-end salon schools.

      The birth-control pill can be eliminated, use condoms which the guy pays for! It is much healthier for your body in the long run.

      If you have a room-mate than it will slash half your rent!

      Best of luck,
      mom of Ethan

  71. BR Guy October 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Pretty interesting to see how things are different compared to a emerging country, i live in Brazil. First, you guys are really luck to have good education from goverment. We dont have it and we pay a lot for good education or our kids. Also we pay way much more for utilities. Cars here cost at least 2x. We pay more for health care as well, even though if you are in company, probably you pay much less. I have been learning a lot with your concepts and ideas. I am probably 4years from financial independence. I save 80pc of my future spending, although much less compared to my income today. I plan to relocate to a less expensive place where I can cut my expenses roughly in half. And I only got these ideas after reading your blog. Thanks for that!

  72. Andrea October 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    i thoroughly enjoyed this post as i have many friends that are in the same boat as the middle class MMM described in detail and have no idea how their consumption choices, ie wants, are adding years of employment to their life.

    my own household income is only a fraction of MMM’s and his friends but we are in very different industries. i’m a 31 year old office worker, i’ve worked full time since i was 21, and i dread the idea of having to work until i’m 59.5.

    what i’ve really taken home from all this reading, including the petty back and forth and nitpicking of comments, is

    1) have i really separated my wants from my needs? no
    2) do i really make the most frugal decisions possible or am i still mixing up wants with needs? not yet
    3) am i fully aware of as many options as possible, desireable or not? heck no

    this has been very educational and really invigorates the inner semi-retirementee in me.

    in short, stop complaining please.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

      Thanks Andrea. I enjoy your mocking of the petty back and forth too!

      I mean, come on. If you don’t like what I put in one of the boxes, use your imagination to change that number to your own liking.

      The bottom line is, many $140k families REALLY DO spend all their cash and save even less than $15k per year, and it IS INDEED EASY to get by on a spending level the size of the right-hand column. Many people with two kids live on far less.

      So the issue is: are you gonna do it, or are you too busy complaining that it can’t be done?

      • Jamesqf October 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

        “The bottom line is, many $140k families REALLY DO spend all their cash…”

        And that “spend it all” mentality extends across all income levels, and means that a lot of people are spending just for the sake of spending, ending with closets full of never-worn clothes, garages full of unused toys, and the RV & boat in the yard that (in the case of my neighbors, anyway) haven’t moved in at least 3 years.

        I may not be the most “mustachian” here (in part because I don’t actually want to retire), but still, I only spend money on things I really enjoy (or which save me money in the long run), and so tend to save anywhere from 20% to 50% of a fairly variable income.

        • Freeyourchains October 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

          All choices are welcome!

          To me: freetime/retirement by age 35 is worth saving 75% of your income for and a nice goal!

          I only have one life and i don’t want to drive a lamborghini in Ibiza for 2 weeks to then fly back to work( though if i loved my work and could make it mobile and boss less, then why not make the extra income till the point i don’t need more money to be happy anymore?)

          I want to live in Ibiza and bike/surf the island for 3-12 months in extreme early retirement while meeting tons of new people and friends whom don’t need to spend money to have fun!

    • CanuckExpat October 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

      I really enjoyed Andrea’s comment. Is it too late to nominate her for most Mustachian comment ?

  73. Liz October 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    Are you guys including any college savings in here? Just curious how much you think is good to set aside per child.

    • BadassCPA October 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

      I use a Coverdell account which limits you to $2,000 a year. I figure $36k by the time my daughter is 18 should be enough to give her a good head start. That way she has some money to work with, and can get a job for other expenses. Seems like a good way to teach fiscal responsibility while still helping her out a bit. I know I definitely do NOT want to fully pay her way so she doesn’t understand the value of money.

    • Freeyourchains October 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      I say let you save for half, and let them pay for half in deffered loans to teach them financial responsibility. Even better if you invest in a triplex or rental home for them and others, and let your child/children manage it and collect rents, then sell it after 4 years. (this will help pay off their half).

      • BadassCPA October 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

        I agree in theory, but it’s hard to know ahead of time exactly how much “half” is. So there will be a pot there for her ($2k/yr x 18 yrs = $36k), and she can decide what to do with it. Maybe go to a public school and have no loans, or go private and pay the difference herself.

        I do really like the idea of buying a rental home during college. It’s not difficult to manage when you’re one of the tenants, seems like a great idea. But I might not even sell it, just pay her to keep managing it since she will already be familiar with it at that point.

    • Another planner October 14, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      About college savings – we did not save specifically for college, just saved & invested overall, and draw on those. We have an agreement with our child – we pay tuition & fees (in-state university, this is part of the deal), health insurance & health costs, and as long as he is at home, he’s basic living expenses are covered. He is responsible for all the rest – books, mobile, computer, transport, food & entertainment outside the house, plus clothing etc. So far this has worked well. If he moves out of home, which he will eventually, he also needs to cover his rent etc. He works during the summers, along with some on-campus work, gifts etc.

      Could we afford higher tuition & fees and his other expenses, yes, but we chose not to. He’s got to learn financial responsibility and based on our experience so far, he has already become smarter about mobile use, entertainment, transport and meals outside, not to mention buying used books and clothes. .

  74. Joy Host October 12, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    I love, love love reading this six months after having discovered MMM and my kickass inner mustache. I’m still a baby, but my car’s paid off, I have no cable, downsized, moved thirty minutes closer to work, and cut out a myriad of extras to get rid of my DEBT so I can become truly Mustachian.

    What at first tormented me next galvanized me to action, pricked enough to stick with it through the growing pains, and now even comforts and brings me joy.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      WOW!! — I think this qualifies for the MOST MUSTACHIAN COMMENT AWARD for this post!! It is hard to beat a story like that, even with 292 comments and counting on this article.

  75. Freeyourchains October 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Go a little further and you become Extreme, ERE that is! (Early Retirement Extreme)

    I figured if 6 Billion other’s make and live off of less then $20,000/ year, then so can we! (as excess savings pile up and get invested for passive income.)

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