193 comments

Is This Blog More Powerful than Doubling your Salary?

“Spend Less!”

“No, Earn More!”

The battle goes on, with scathing mockery volleyed between the opposing camps.

Mainstream personal finance pundits like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman advocate lower spending for those in debt. Yet they have an apparently unlimited upper ceiling on how much increased spending can still lead to happiness, as evidenced by the high-spending lifestyles they are living today.

Here in the sensible middle, Mr. Money Mustache recommends both paths: earn as much as you can, but never sacrifice your soul to do it. At a certain level of income (which I feel is around $100,000 per person per year), the time to financial independence becomes so short that it becomes increasingly futile to earn more – that’s just how the math works out.

But all the earnings in the world are useless if you never know the meaning of the word “enough”. So get that concept in place right away – before wasting your time with increased income. Otherwise very little of that increased flow of cash will find its way into your ‘stash.

To illustrate this point with sparkling clarity, I am happy to share a neat little story and graph based on data provided by an MMM reader. He says this:

Comments: Your blog > Doubling my salary
Dear MMM,

I’m sure you receive many “thank you” emails a day for teaching your Mustachian values, but I bet you don’t receive “thank you” proof too often. I wanted to show you a graph, but I didn’t know how to attach it, so the following data will have to do (you should graph it if you get a chance).

The data below is my monthly net worth (according to Mint). When you graph it, you can see two distinct slopes. In both cases, my net worth is increasing, but my rate of wealth accumulation more than doubles at one point (Jan 2012). It goes from $600/mo to $1600/mo. What astounds me is that in March 2011, I doubled my salary and you can’t really tell. But in the months after I started reading MMM, my net worth starts increasing like crazy.

I believe that this is proof that reading your blog is more powerful than doubling my salary! Isn’t that nuts??? It certainly took a bunch more research/changes, but your blog is was the impetus. This rate change should take me from retiring in 30-40 years, to retiring in 10-20!

 

Following his advice, I graphed his data, added annotations, and this was the result.

The Effects of Mustachianism on Net Worth (click for larger)

I was naturally both pleased and intrigued by the result, and so I wrote back and asked our friend for more details on exactly how he accomplished these feats: both doubling his salary, and increasing his savings rate. The answer (note that I added a few links to relevant MMM articles based on his list):

So here’s how I was able to double my salary. Right after graduating college with a bachelors in mechanical engineering, I started graduate school. Tuition was waived, and I got a research assistantship making about $25,000. That seemed to be plenty to live on, but the research was boring.

In March of 2011 I quit grad school because I got a job at a giant company working in their corporate sustainability department. It’s a dream job because they actually pay me to calculate/analyze their carbon footprint! It’s great!

Anyway, my salary increased to about $50,000. it’s hard to admit, but I went through some major lifestyle inflation. I moved to a big city, which is 30 miles from where I work. I started spending money like it was my job to fill the new apartment with furniture, drive to work every day/upkeep the car, shop at Whole Foods, buy lunch at work every day.

I took some expensive trips across the country and I started spending more money on christmas gifts and charities. This all seemed like a great idea because as long as I had a fairly positive savings rate, I figured that that what I was supposed to do. I never took on debt/car payments/ credit card balance, and I tracked my finances reasonable closely.

So in December 2011, while searching for this article Men With Mustaches Make More Money, your blog popped up. Although I never found a post related to that news article, I knew I’d struck gold. I read every post you’d ever written in about a month. After that I read many personal finance books/blogs as well as investing books. It all started to become so obvious to me. Here’s a list of the changes I made in a relatively short period of time:


Started taking public transportation to work
Started biking anywhere within a few miles
Stopped buying extra stuff (tech gadgets, extra clothing, impulse Target buys)
Food:
switched to a super cheap Bosnian grocery with great produce
made lunch every day
cooked more meals
cut monthly grocery budget in half
Bought dry goods in bulk
fell in love with oatmeal
opened online savings account
opened Vanguard IRA (simple index funds)
got a 1% cash back card
opened a Vanguard taxable investment account (simple index funds)
Ditched Cable
Started doing home energy audits for friends/family ($100 each)
got a 4% raise because I “exceeded expectations” at work
increased my gas mileage from 24 to 27 mpg by slowing down
use gasbuddy.com to find cheaper gas
bought all LED light bulbs (got them super cheap through my work)

I can’t point to any one thing that accounts for the slope change. I just started making changes and they kind of built on each other. Now I get really excited when I get interest from my online savings account or reinvested-dividends from my index funds. I know my net worth is small now, but the slope is certainly heading in a better direction.

Use whatever info you’d like, and let me know if you’d like to know anything else. Also, if you ever have any energy efficiency/corporate sustainability questions, I’d be happy to help you out.

I’d like to thank this reader for sharing the happy story (he wrote it a little over two months ago). I can type to you all day about the counterintuitively large effect of making a bunch of small conscious improvements in your spending.. and indeed, some days I do just that. But until you see it applied to a real life like this, where the graph of your wealth takes a sudden bend and your mandatory work career is suddenly chopped in half, it can be hard to convince people of just how useful it is to understand your spending, instead of just endlessly chasing more income.

  • Matt November 14, 2012, 6:09 am

    the consumption snowball

    Reply
  • justin@thefrugalpath November 14, 2012, 6:13 am

    The pundents have just as much lifestyle inflation as the people they try to help.
    This was a great story. I wish Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman would be willing to show their finances and net worth growth. It would be interesting to see if they really follow the advice that they give.

    Reply
    • Jenny November 14, 2012, 6:29 am

      Agreed! Real life examples like the reader above are much more valuable than generalizations without numbers!

      Reply
    • MoreKnown November 14, 2012, 6:42 am

      Transparency makes a big statement. These kinds of numbers are what makes the MMM blog worthwhile. The chart for knowing when you can retire was one of my favorites and used the same kind of transparent tone.

      Reply
      • Mr. Everyday Dollar November 14, 2012, 7:45 am

        I cannot stress enough how valuable knowing how much you’re spending and earning is to making the necessary changes to: reduce debt, spend less, save more, reach ER / FI, or make whatever your personal finance goals are, a reality.

        For me, the epiphany moment was when I read Your Money Or Your Life back in 2011. And since I had been tracking my income and expenses since 2006, I was able to go back and graph all that data in chart form.

        Additionally, having that data at your disposal makes it trivial to calculate how much you spend in a year or really make in a year. Try tracking this, it may shock you! It pains me to write that after YMOYL and making some lifestyle changes, I have been able to reduce my spending by $10,000/year! That. Is. Crazy. Awesome. Because it moves my early retirement date closer.

        And now, using tools like FIRECalc, I can confidently say that retiring early and being financially independent around age 42 is becoming a reality. I just blogged about this at http://mreverydaydollar.com/retirement-income-planning/ if you want to check it out.

        Good stuff!

        Reply
        • Kenoryn November 14, 2012, 7:14 pm

          I don’t know about other banks/American banks, but Bank of Montreal has a tool that tracks your spending (if you’re using a BMO debit/credit card), categorizes based on vendor type and makes you all kinds of fun graphs, pie charts etc. You can play with the timeframe, see your spending broken down by category or your accounts graphed over time, recategorize things when you don’t agree with the category it assigned, set rules for how it should treat certain vendors, make budgets and set goals. Very handy. It also has an interesting feature where it compares your spending to the average spending for different categories.

          I’m guessing other banks have something like this as well?

          Reply
    • brkr12002 November 14, 2012, 6:56 am

      Suzie’s was available at one time. Very little in stocks, mostly treasuries and cds.

      Those guys are snake oil salesmen. Get rich off the desperate and tell them to invest in whatever has recently done well.

      Reply
    • Mr. Pop@Plantingourpennies.com November 14, 2012, 9:24 am

      Mrs. Pop and I track our finances publically on our blog-its all out there for anybody to see.

      As MMM said in his last post, this public aspect of tracking and goal making makes it MUCH more likely that we’ll stick to our goals. I tell my friends to track their progress on https://www.networthiq.com/ as well, but do not personally use it.

      Also love the idea of many small changes adding up to something large-similar to Kaizen.

      -Mr. Pop

      Reply
      • Jane Savers December 10, 2012, 6:43 pm

        I have created a blog and put it all out there for the world to see but I have altered my name slightly because I am not very brave.
        I am letting nearest and dearest know about my blog but I wish to keep it a secret from my elderly parents – because they would worry too much and from my busybody coworkers.

        Reply
    • Diedra B November 14, 2012, 10:52 am

      well, I can’t speak for Dave Ramsey but Suze Orman seems to be somewhat frugal. Did you notice she appears to have only 2 pairs of earrings?

      Reply
      • Trina November 15, 2012, 5:15 am

        Hahaha — she’s even commented on that on her show, on the “Can I Afford It” segment, when people ask for astronimically expensive earrings. :-)

        Reply
      • just me November 20, 2012, 1:51 pm

        The point is that NOBODY “needs” or even has a use for the house in the “lifestyle” link in MMM’s article above; not even Dave Ramsey, and not even if he can afford it. A house like that uses resources (not just financial); at a minimum, he needs to heat the house minimally to keep the pipes from freezing, which uses probably as much energy as entire third world country villages use in a year. The kind of extravagant excess is an affront to MMM sensibilities and values.

        I do remember reading somewhere that Suze Orman’s main home in Florida is a small 2 bedroom, and that when family visits at the holidays she gets out the inflatable air mattresses so everyone has a place to sleep, and so everyone can stay together and enjoy each other’s company rather than splitting off to hotels. Sounds sensible and a bit MMM’s to me.

        The point of FI is not to spend lavish and ridiculously, but to rather to be free to spend for reasonable needs. I will grant that reasonable needs may be dramatically differently defined depending upon your lifestyle situation. But I think it’s almost impossible to make an argument that anyone’s reasonable needs result in the kind of house pictured in the link. That tips the scale way into excess, selfish use of resources, division from your community, etc.

        Reply
    • TommyTivo November 14, 2012, 11:56 am

      @Justin “It would be interesting to see if they really follow the advice that they give.”
      I was able to find this article again dated in 2007 on Suze Orman. Her liquid net worth was $25 Million USD, with additional $9M worth in houses. With only $1M in the stock market, the remainder of her money was invested in AAA-rated zero-coupon municipal bonds that were INSURED!
      So yeah, she is one of the many “financial gurus” that make the majority of their wealth through selling informational products to the average consumers, yet not actually using the investment advice she gives to people to grow their wealth.
      On the contrary, the MMM-family gives and shares true-real life examples with MMM-nation on the specific how-tos with lots of warm-fuzzies!
      Anywhoo, here’s the link, enjoy. http://articles.marketwatch.com/2007-03-08/finance/30801108_1_municipal-bonds-financial-planners-stock-market/2

      Reply
    • lurker November 14, 2012, 4:36 pm

      they are rich because they charge for the advice they give….

      Reply
    • Nurse Frugal November 15, 2012, 11:19 am

      I don’t know. I think Dave Ramsey has been there, done that. He was bankrupt and knew he had to live off of less to climb back to the top. Sure he may live a nice lifestyle know, but who cares. He is a multi-millionaire and I bet that his expenses are still a fraction of what he makes.

      I definitely think that the MMM way of life is an awesome way to wealth and early retirement. THe bottom line is that spending less=fast way to accumulate wealth=frugal lifestyle. This blog puts a new spin on the fun, frugal way of life ;)

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 15, 2012, 1:05 pm

        Who cares? I do! The reason I write this blog is to show people that excessive spending does not make you any happier than middle-class spending or below. Therefore, anyone who spends millions (or even hundreds of k) per year, is probably addicted to unnecessary spending – compensating for a lack of something else.

        It doesn’t matter how much you spend as a percentage of what you make.. it matters how LITTLE you can spend and still be happy. It’s a contest. The big spenders are losing the contest badly.

        The reason is of course natural resources – the more you consume, the more you’re shafting every other being on the planet. So while none of us are sin-free, voluntarily choosing to spend on top-0.001% excesses certainly deserves some politely targeted frowns and raised eyebrows from the rest of humanity.

        Reply
        • Vi August 30, 2013, 9:19 am

          This is where your blog caught me. The social/environmental importance of less consumption. Our family is dual income 2 physician making too much. We have always been relatively frugal compared to our cohorts but i realized last year we spent 180k on life! Your blog is helping us realize financial independence and practice medicine the right way. In 15 years I am hoping to chuck the HMO job and do all volunteer work. Your financial blog helped remind me why I chose pediatrics. It’s not about the money, it’s about freedom to do the work we want and change the world. You are awesome!

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2013, 1:20 pm

            Congratulations Vi! .. except that with 2 physicians, you could do it in 5 years rather than 15!

            Reply
    • James November 17, 2012, 1:54 pm

      I listen to Dave Ramsey fairly consistently, and he is constantly telling the audience of new real estate he buys, for cash, including his 4-5 story office building in Nashville that he saved up for years to buy with cash. I believe he does live the life he espouses, however, obviously I’ve never seen his financial statements.

      Reply
  • P-Money November 14, 2012, 6:36 am

    Wow, interesting case study! I can say for a fact that my net worth increased at a faster rate when I started reading this blog. It would be really interesting to get some sort of survey together and poll other readers to see the average affect of your blog. Might even be a nice tagline :-)

    Reply
    • mike crosby November 14, 2012, 1:27 pm

      Good idea P Money. I don’t track my spending (wife is not aboard on this, but still somewhat frugal), but MMM along with ERE has certainly been responsible on changing my outlook on life.

      This might seem off the wall, but I came across this blog that I’ve enjoyed. I don’t believe the author posts though anymore: http://guide2homelessness.blogspot.com/2004/10/hygiene-on-road.html

      Reply
  • Big Cajun Man November 14, 2012, 6:37 am

    If you can earn more, DO IT! As long as it is legal and it is something you want to do, always try to earn as much as you can. Cutting costs is important as well, however, as my wife pointed out, sometimes you can go too far (I cut out coffee for a while, became a complete SOB due to caffeine withdrawal, and was told “… go have a coffee, or I will KILL you…”.

    Max out your earning, and figure out where you can cut expenses as well (but be happy too, eh?).

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 9:34 am

      Definitely be happy! Plus, cutting out coffee for one person would save you, what, 5 bucks a month? (assuming you are capable of buying it in 2.5lb bags and making it at home). I’m hoping that when she said “go have a coffee”, she meant, “go to the kitchen and make some coffee”.

      Then again, if you are actually addicted to caffeine, that’s worth fixing in the long run too.. the subject of a another post in the works.

      Reply
      • Daniel November 14, 2012, 1:48 pm

        Please don’t write that article, It’s my last vice :)

        Reply
        • Tamara November 15, 2012, 6:36 pm

          This reminds me of a conversation I recently overheard: Question: “Would you like some wine?” Response: “No, thank you. I don’t drink alcohol. I also don’t smoke, nor do I drink caffeine.” Original questioner: “You mean to tell me that when you wake up in the morning, that’s as good as you are going to feel the entire day????”

          Reply
          • lurker November 17, 2012, 7:46 am

            LOL!!!

            Reply
          • Debbie M November 21, 2012, 3:04 pm

            Answer: No, when I wake up, I’m hungry and I really have to pee.

            Reply
      • 205guy November 14, 2012, 3:38 pm

        It’s possible to cut out coffee, I’m down to once a week. I used to drink coffee at work because they had an espresso machine and I was just being social–not thinking I was addicted. Then I’d go camping on weekends (without coffee, because you know, I wasn’t addicted and didn’t need to bother with it) and get these horrible headaches by Sunday night. Sleeping helped so I didn’t suspect it was that first coffee on Monday that fixed the withdrawl symptom.

        Like MMM’s alcohol program, I find it easier to limit it than to cut it out entirely. Once a week on Friday, usually after lunch. Helps me get through the afternoon and then it’s the weekend (and no more headaches). Now I look forward to my weekly coffee and really enjoy it. Good coffee is expensive, but now it lasts a long time (actually just about as long as it’s still good).

        Now I just need to work on the alcohol and news reading (oh, I see MMM addresses that below)…

        Reply
        • Daniel November 14, 2012, 6:12 pm

          Great feedback, obviously Coffee can be very addictive and an expensive habit. I also really don’t like the idea of being dependent on anything. I do find it interesting that I have no problem avoiding alcohol/street drugs but can’t seem to resist the call of the starbucks. had been recently considering purchasing a cheap espresso maker to avoid starbucks runs but I think I may take your advice and cut down on drinking it for a while before making that decision.

          Reply
          • Gyosho November 15, 2012, 8:24 am

            After nourishing a coffee addiction for many years, I found that coffee actually tastes better if you don’t have it every day! Now I alternate coffee and tea days, and am enjoying the more subtle flavor of many teas that I ignored for the rousing jolt of daily coffee.

            I think of my alternating tea/coffee days as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde days.

            Reply
          • Dave in NOR CAL November 15, 2012, 5:06 pm

            We recently got a Bialetti 6800 Moka Express 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker from Amazon plus an Aerolatte Milk Frother. The 6 cup size actually makes 2 generous servings so it’s perfect for a couple, for a single person get the 3 cup. It’s as cheap as you can get for espresso maker, you can take it camping etc. They say every household in Italy has one of these!

            Works great, we’re now enjoying lowest cost and quite delicious Cappuccino’s at home!

            Reply
            • lurker November 17, 2012, 3:10 pm

              yum!!!

              Reply
      • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies November 14, 2012, 5:59 pm

        If there’s going to be a vice in this house – homemade espresso is on the relatively cheap side of vices… But it is more than $5/month!

        Reply
        • Captain and Mrs Slow November 15, 2012, 4:09 am

          that’s my problem, compounding it is I like cappuccinos and the milk is a killer on the calories!

          I”m stuck about switching away from Nespresso, it’s expensive but hassle free, using a European style espresso maker is cheaper but it’s a hassle and is very messy and not to say too strong as well.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache November 15, 2012, 7:17 am

            Uh.. yes, you should drop the “Nespresso” machine. If it’s too much work for you to put some coffee in a little metal cup and scrape it out at the end, you don’t deserve a cup of coffee!

            Also on a more serious note – as long as you’re lactose-tolerant, milk is GOOD for you – so cherish those calories, since they are a cheap source of protein and nutrients. They will replace other calories that you would have eaten. You can look elsewhere in youre diet for things that are making you eat too much (bread maybe?).

            Reply
            • Elenor April 24, 2013, 9:13 pm

              Or, switch to a TSP of heavy cream and a TBL (or more) of unsweetened almond milk. No lactose, and it’s perfectly like milk!

              Reply
      • Lucas Smith November 15, 2012, 12:05 pm

        Please do this article!!! Everyone else I know who is over 18 is addicted to caffeine and won’t admit it. They make detrimental life choices (staying up too late, not eating well or exercising, etc. . ), and then try to compensate for their lack of energy by imbibing caffeine in varying quantities. I very rarely have anything caffinated and instead know to man up and make some life changes if I ever start dealing with “morning” tiredness, or that “two thirty feeling” that you “need” a five hour energy drink for. The energy drinks are the really expensive things from what I can see as I don’t see anyone home brewing them. Maybe that would be a great market opportunity ;-)

        Reply
        • Sara November 15, 2012, 12:38 pm

          I recently was in graduate school. I am 50 and most of the students were in their early to mid 20s. I could not help but notice that they would all jack themselves up on large coffee/energy drinks right before class (night classes as most of us were also working), but then by the end of the 3.5 hour class they would be crashing.. badly.

          I definitely had more energy than these young people, and I think the high dose caffeine and their extremely poor diet (sugar is their other major stimulant) are the culprit. That kind of ramping up and crashing down must just trash your adrenal system.

          Reply
          • RobDiesel November 27, 2012, 9:13 pm

            Just a little correction. Sugar isn’t a stimulant. The “sugar high” is a myth.

            Reply
        • GeorgiaS November 15, 2012, 1:05 pm

          I remember hearing a story that nothing but water is allowed on the floor of the Stock Exchange, so somebody invented caffeinated water. Then someone got the brilliant idea of brewing coffee using the caffeinated water. Yikes!

          OK: I was able to find an article: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/cruz/07.03.97/caf-water-9727.html

          Reply
    • Erica November 15, 2012, 12:07 am

      My husband used to also be this way, and it was a terrible habit. After getting through the withdrawal though, he feels so much better. He drinks a very tiny amount of caffeine through tea, bought in bulk, that helped him get through it.

      I do agree with the sentiment though. Everyone has their “thing”. I personally like to spend a little extra when I can to support local businesses over big box stores. Because I save other places, stretch the budget and reuse when possible I get to do my “thing”.

      Reply
    • brkr12002 November 16, 2012, 10:09 am

      Check out the coffee club at World Market if you have one near you. Their Wednesday double bonus is awesome and gets you to a free bag quick. Plus most of their branded coffee is great tasting.

      Coffee is something I can’t cut back on (making at home at least)

      Reply
  • Acorn November 14, 2012, 6:43 am

    Did you see how much debt Jill Kelley (of the scandal du jour) and her spouse are in? Eeek. They obviously didn’t know to stop at “enough”.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 9:38 am

      I am thankful to report that I have never heard of that person. Maybe she didn’t make it to the covers of the tabloids in my particular grocery store – the only place I get to keep up on the current celebrity problems :-)

      Reply
      • mike crosby November 14, 2012, 1:33 pm

        Hard to keep up with all the names, but I think she’ll become a household name, at least to those who follow national politics. She’s the other woman in the Petraeus/ Paula Broadwell saga.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2232271/David-Petraeus-whistle-blower-Jill-Kelley-husband-broke-owe-millions-target-foreclosures.html

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 2:54 pm

          Ok, good to know, I suppose. (I also didn’t know there was a “Petraeus/Paula Broadwell Saga”). This low-information diet* I’ve been on is really starting to show results!

          *(The diet consisted of taking “news.google.com” out of my web browser shortcuts section so I wouldn’t be tempted to read the news instead of doing real work when the computer is on).

          Reply
          • CincyCat December 6, 2012, 12:40 pm

            I haven’t watched (or read) any mainstream news media in almost 2 years, and I don’t think I’ve missed much. (By the way, my opinion of candidates & issues in the recent election changed DRAMATICALLY based on total avoidance of media outlets, and doing research solely through my secretary of state’s website, and the individual candidates’ sites. Avoiding media bias actually changed my vote in many cases.)

            Anyway, I digress… Celebrity gossip is my guilty pleasure, and thankfully, most of that is freely available online (rather than having to buy a People magazine subscription).

            Reply
  • Paul Silver November 14, 2012, 6:50 am

    It’s great to hear about someone who’s got a pretty normal life and has made such a dramatic improvement to their future finances. Good luck Mr Corporate Sustainability worker!

    Reply
  • baughman November 14, 2012, 6:57 am

    The most powerful aspect of frugal living: You don’t pay taxes on savings. Doubling your salary only benefits you your old salary * (1-marginal tax rate). Reducing your expenses benefits you $1 for each $1 saved.

    As tax rates rise, which they must due to a government incapable of ceasing to overpromise, the frugality argument becomes even more powerful.

    http://thebaughfamilypublic.blogspot.com/2012/05/case-against-frugality.html

    Reply
    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life November 14, 2012, 8:01 am

      So…a penny saved is 1.28 pennies earned? :)

      Reply
      • Baughman November 14, 2012, 10:24 am

        $1 saved is equivalent, from a net worth standpoint, to an increase in wages of $1/(1-marginal tax rate earned). In an extreme case where federal + state income taxes sum to 50%, as is the currently the case for high earners in CA, $1 in savings is as effective in increasing net worth as 1/(1-.5) = $2 earned. Once you consider the sales tax, the argument is strengthened further.

        To get to the $1.28 that you propose, this implies a marginal tax rate of 21.875%. To see this, solve for X in $1.28(1-X) = $1.

        http://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/calculators/taxcaster/ is probably as good of a place as any to turn to better understand your federal marginal tax rate. Unfortunately, you don’t get to see the state effect with this tool.

        Admittedly, $1 saved is also $1*(1-sales tax) fewer goods consumed. But I would argue, and I think that MMM would argue, that there is a mass of low-hanging fruit (expenditures) that most Americans can cut out of their budget without experiencing a reduction in standard of living. Simply through the act of consuming more efficiently.

        Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque November 14, 2012, 11:52 am

          I run into the same situation whenever people discuss “Tax Freedom Day”. This is the idea of pretending that you pay ALL* of your taxes for the year first, then figure out what day you get your first dollar for yourself.
          Studies keep showing that this, for average Canadians, is sometime in July.
          For me, it’s in April.
          If you don’t buy stuff, max out your nontaxable saving methods and plough the rest into your mortgage, you really don’t pay much in taxes.
          .
          * – including sales, property and income taxes on top of driver’s license fees etc.

          Reply
        • Erica / Northwest Edible Life November 14, 2012, 12:59 pm

          Thanks. I did actually read your post on the link-thru, and so was being kinda a smartass in my original comment, but I appreciate the cliff’s notes version. :) One of the nice things about living in WA is no state income taxes. State funding comes from a sales tax that adds up to, depending on where you are in the state, about 7-10%. So in our situation, “tax avoidance” through frugality is even more direct and simple. Don’t buy stuff, don’t pay sales tax on it. It’s actually a really rough way for a state to fund it’s needs because essentials like groceries are exempt from sales tax, and private sales for used items, like on craigslist fly under the radar, but from a frugalist’s perspective it’s great.

          Reply
          • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies November 14, 2012, 6:02 pm

            Florida is the same way, we pay RE taxes and sales tax – so our state taxes are all based on consumption. Since we’re relatively low consumers for our income level, we pay a significantly lower share of state taxes than we would if we lived in another state.

            Reply
            • Erica / Northwest Edible Life November 15, 2012, 1:58 pm

              It would be interesting to see state by state info on taxation broken down into, for lack of better terms, “avoidable” (consumption) vs “unavoidable” (income). Property taxes are something in between, I’d say, but those would be important to include somehow too. This lists per capita tax but it’s hard to know what to make of it because state taxation methods vary so much. Florida is quite low, Washington is towards the middle, but you have to wonder what the heck is going on with Alaska?!

              Reply
              • The Head Hunter November 17, 2012, 9:23 am

                The table shows total state tax revenue \ population. AK has a low population and derives a large majority of its tax revenue from Energy companies. I’m sure the tax burden on individuals is low.

              • Three Wolf Moon February 22, 2014, 6:20 pm

                This site:

                http://www.retirementliving.com/taxes-by-state

                is my favorite for comparing tax burdens. Alaska has the lowest overall personal tax burden, with no state income, sales, or inheritance/estate taxes, one of the lowest gasoline taxes, and residents actually get a royalty payment from the state due to the large amount of tax income they receive from the oil companies (likely a large part of the 82% “other” taxes the state received in 2012.

        • Lucas Smith November 15, 2012, 12:14 pm

          It is even better than that becuase you don’t pay taxes on your savings, and if you save it in a 401k or IRA you get to deduct it from your earnings as well (of course there are limits to the 401k/IRA deductions). So saving $1 is actually equivalant to $1/((1- marginal tax rate)^2), so more like $1.60-1.70 for me or up to $4 for the poor high earning CA residents ;-)

          Reply
    • Captain and Mrs Slow November 15, 2012, 4:18 am

      @ baughman That is very very true!!! Depending on where you live in the world 2 incomes of 50 grand each will result in higher take home pay than 1 income of a 100 grand.

      Although I’m not working at the moment when I was I made much less than her (20% of her gross income) yet our take homes weren’t that different.

      It varied between 30% and 80% depending on how much work I had. I was also freelance so I could deduct expenses that she couldn’t.

      Reply
  • rjack November 14, 2012, 7:06 am

    Dave Ramsey’s house is a friggin palace! Compare Dave Ramsey’s house to Warren Buffet’s house:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/homes-of-billionaires–warren-buffett.html

    Buffet’s house is not tiny – 6,570 square feet with an estimated value of around $600K, but Buffet’s has a net worth of $46 billion. He could afford many palaces if he wanted to. A $600K house for somebody with $46 billion is pretty modest.

    Ramsey has a net worth of $55 million and house worth around $4.9 million.

    I think I would rather use Buffet for advice instead of Ramsey. Of course, MMM provides the best advice of all. :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 9:41 am

      Haha.. I think Buffett is much wiser, although you can stick with MMM in the diet and exercise department :-)

      I still have some serious downsizing and up-wealthing to do if I want my house to be less than 10% of net worth, even to meet the Ramsey standard. Definitely someday though.

      Reply
      • Chris November 16, 2012, 2:12 pm

        But both downsizing and upwealthing are available. DH and I spend less on rent in our current house than we did in taxes and insurance in the house we owned outright plus we have $150,000 to invest elsewhere.

        I have been a big Dave Ramsey fan. DH started listening to him on the radio in the mid 1990′s when his show was not widely distributed (DH traveled to Nashville weekly for several months.) In 2004 DH and I read Total Money Makeover (checked out of the library). It got us on the same page and we decided to get out of debt once and for all (debt free since 5-2007).

        Anyway the fact that his house was large and in an exclusive area didn’t bother me, but the fact that he will talk on the show about buying used cars and packing a lunch to work and then have such an ungreen, blantantly wasteful house seems hypocritical. And makes me wonder what he is lacking in his life that such a would appeal to him?

        Anyway scratch Dave off the list of people I would like to sit and have a beer with.

        Reply
        • Joy November 17, 2012, 1:35 pm

          Oh, have some patients with Dave. After all he brought
          you out of financial bondage. I think Dave has the capacity
          for change. He just needs to read MMM. :)

          I started reading Suze in the early 90′s. She helped me get
          from a 6% savings, to a 15% savings.
          My husband has never been on board with credit card abuse.
          Fortunately. But, we did have a mortgage and, 2 car payments.

          Then we found Dave. He motivated us to pay everything off.
          Too, his idea of 6 months of income in savings as an emergency
          fund was a true life saver. My husband was laid off in 2009. Since
          the funds were there, all debts paid off, we were not stressed.
          I thank Dave for this!

          Now, MMM has come into my life. Major changes have taken
          place again. :) See, I am a teachable person. Too bad
          earlier teachers didn’t have the mindset of MMM.

          I am thankful to Suze, and Dave. They were the bridge
          I crossed to get to MMM.

          Reply
          • toranga_leela November 20, 2012, 12:04 pm

            I’m a big fan of Dave myself, as well as Suze and now MMM…I think each has fantastic advice, and there is a place for all three of them. Personally I don’t have a problem with someone having a big house or various trappings of wealth as long as they are debt free, have plenty of net worth, and have come by it all honestly.

            Reply
    • CincyCat December 6, 2012, 12:52 pm

      What makes Buffett’s house even more MMM-ian is that he only paid $31,500 for it some time in the 1950′s. He is the poster child for avoiding lifestyle-creep.

      Reply
  • Dragline November 14, 2012, 7:11 am

    Nice article!

    Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty November 14, 2012, 7:20 am

    This is great!

    I totally agree with a balanced approach as well. We try to earn as much as possible but not at the cost of making ourselves crazy or sacrificing valuable time with our young children. But really, as this graph illustrates, cutting your spending is like giving yourself a huge ass raise. There are so many reasons to be frugal. This is just one of them.

    Reply
  • BC November 14, 2012, 7:27 am

    Five months ago, before I started learning about PF at the library and on blogs like this my DH and I were putting away 13% of our combined gross. Now we’re putting away 29%, and in another year it will be 41%. We’ll add another 1% in Jan if I get my annual cost of living pay raise. If we include our company matching and pension programs that adds another 8%. It’s dizzying. And there is plenty more fat to trim as has been haunting me since the “Reader Case Study: How about a difficult life?” from last week painfully pointed out. Speaking of pain: we haven’t felt any except at the realization that we were just dumb thoughtless cry baby spenders. AND we’re at 56% of the $100K per person mark you note. So yes, as my Italian grandmother used to say “If you want to be rich, you’ve got to put a nail on a dollar!”

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 9:44 am

      “Speaking of pain: we haven’t felt any except at the realization that we were just dumb thoughtless cry baby spenders. ”

      WOW, that is a sweet sentence, BC, and it takes some cojones to throw it right at yourself!

      I’m going to have to nominate this one for the Most Mustachian Comment of the Day Award.

      Reply
      • BC November 14, 2012, 2:10 pm

        Well it’s true. Even with several great role models (like grandma bc telling me to nail that shit down) we were caught up in the culture of spending and feeling sorry for ourselves for not having enough. But it wasn’t just the blogs and books that turned us: it was a perfect storm.

        First DH got his dream professorship the only hold back was the pay (or was it us?); second was a chance encounter with 2 SAH dads at the playground-one headed for bankruptcy the other living the good $-worryfree life and LITERALLY repeating the words “Dave Ramsey” over and over again; third was an unrelated personal art project that I did for 6 months taking pictures daily of the crap around my house. Turns out it’s not all crap, it’s the stuff of a privileged American middle class family that includes things like a stove, sink, beds, stocked fridge, bath tub, lamps, fans, bikes, autos, clothes, shoes…this is suffering? But no pats on the back yet: our lifestyle and household budget are still sick with waste, and opportunities.

        Reply
  • The Taminator November 14, 2012, 7:30 am

    I totally laughed out loud at “fell in love with oatmeal” since I’m sitting here eating oatmeal as I read this post!

    Reply
    • RAechelle November 14, 2012, 10:00 am

      Ha ha ha – ditto! I HATE/abhor/dread/avoid oatmeal – BUT…we’ve been eating it a couple times a week. Can’t beat it! Still figure that’s a pretty small price to pay to get out of the debt we’ve gotten ourselves into.

      Reply
      • Schmidt November 14, 2012, 1:55 pm

        The trick is to learn to love oatmeal. Add some cinnamon or nutmeg and savour the flavour.

        Reply
        • Captain and Mrs Slow November 15, 2012, 4:24 am

          Reply
          • Hanah November 15, 2012, 10:57 am

            If you don’t like oatmeal (so goopy!), consider home-made muesli or granola. You have to be careful where you buy the ingredients besides oats, because dried fruits, nuts etc. can be horrendously overpriced. But if you shop around it’s remarkably inexpensive and good for you. TJ’s is pretty good on those kinds of ingredients, or try bulk bins in your local supermarket or health food store (the latter can be surprisingly cheap on bulk items).

            Reply
            • Elenor April 24, 2013, 9:22 pm

              Oatmeal is especially bad for glucose control — leading to or exacerbating diabetes!! As delicious as it is (and it surely is!), the almost guaranteed damage to your pancreas is probably WAY more expensive than any savings on breakfast food!! (See Dr. Wm Davis’s WheatBelly blog and search for oatmeal!)

              Reply
      • Liz November 15, 2012, 6:02 pm

        There are other cheap hot cereals. I hate hot oatmeal, but I will eat it raw. I grew up in an epically frugal home and we would eat raw oats with raisins and milk every morning. I had to go to therapy to be able to spend, I kid you not. Later because we have a decent net worth due to my moustacian past I got more into the spending. It really is not as fun as being a tightwad and I am returning to my old ways.

        Beans are much more full of fiber and perfectly good breakfast food. No one has to eat oatmeal to save money, hot oatmeal is vile. As for bulk ingredients, there are food buying clubs. On the West coast ordering from Azure Standard will save you a fortune.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache November 15, 2012, 7:23 pm

          I’m right there with you, Liz – both in eating raw oats with fruit and milk every day, and with not getting a kick out of more spending :-)

          Reply
      • Liz November 15, 2012, 10:38 pm

        There are other cheap hot cereals. I hate hot oatmeal, but I will eat it raw. I grew up in an epically frugal home and we would eat raw oats with raisins and milk every morning. I had to go to therapy to be able to spend, I kid you not. Later because we have a decent net worth due to my moustacian past I got more into the spending. It really is not as fun as being a tightwad and I am returning to my old ways.

        Reply
    • 205guy November 14, 2012, 4:02 pm

      The trick is to buy oat groats (the raw oat grain) in bulk (might as well go organic) and make it fresh every morning. For that you need a roller, which looks a bit like a hand-cranked pasta maker. Yes, it’s another purchase and another kitchen gadget, but if you use it everyday, it’s worth it. Then it takes only about 10 minutes of boiling to cook, during which time you prepare the fresh fruit part of your breakfast. Then, just when it gets to the right consistency, add raisins, nuts (pecan, almond, hazelnut, cashews, etc), seeds (sunflower, chia, etc.), milk, ground flax, cinnamon or other spices, honey, maple syrup, sucanat, or brown sugar–mix it up and make a different combination every day.

      This is much tastier, heartier and healthier than rolled oats from some industrial conglomerate (that stuff tastes mushy to me now). I was never against oatmeal to begin with, but when made like this, I really enjoy it. I still don’t eat it every day, we have eggs and toast on weekends, and sometimes just cold cereal when we need to get out the door quickly.

      There is also a brand of quick cooking steel-cut oats called Coach’s Oats that we found at Costco. It cooks in about 5 minutes, and it has that same hearty and flavorful taste, without needing to roll it yourself.

      Reply
      • Raechelle November 15, 2012, 8:28 am

        We make homemade, organic rolled oats several times a week and have tried every add in you can imagine. (more expensive at 80cents/#, for organic but still a pretty darn cheap meal for 7! 2-3 cups uncooked is all it takes!) I take about 20 minutes to make it and we get very creative. I still hate it. Blech! BUT ,for the savings – we’ll keep it up.

        Reply
        • Liz November 15, 2012, 6:32 pm

          It is the texture that kills me. I have an oat roller and make granola and meusli which I will eat. Try cracked wheat or cream of wheat instead. Still cheap and no slime.

          Reply
      • Sara November 15, 2012, 11:11 am

        For years I have been buying 25 lb bags of organic thick rolled oatmeal at an extremely good price from a local co-op and then my local health food store which only charges me a very small mark-up from what they pay. Recently ate some of the supermarket old fashioned oats and I can see why people complain about it. Compared to what I usually eat, it was kind of nasty. Oatmeal and brown rice are my go-to carbs, but only if I get the good stuff (which is less per pound than the Quaker crap anyway).

        Reply
    • lentilman November 16, 2012, 7:41 am

      Lol- I was eating a bowl of oatmeal while reading it too!

      Reply
      • toranga_leela November 16, 2012, 12:26 pm

        I love all the oatmeal comments here! It’s too bad that these days gruel isn’t more readily available, that would really be the cheap way to go :)

        Reply
  • Done by Forty November 14, 2012, 7:39 am

    I wonder if the order of the two events drives the results we’re seeing.

    For example, had the reader found MMM first, got his savings rate to say, 50%, he’s be saving about $12,500. On a $25k salary, that is a fantastic feat. But then let’s say he doubled his salary. Assuming that his lifestyle would now only creep up modestly (or not at all), doubling his salary would have a larger impact on his net worth progress.

    All that goes to say that the dichotomy of earn more/spend less is somewhat false. As MMM notes, do both. I’d add: spending less is easier than earning more, but earning more (if the extra income is handled well) can have a greater impact.

    Reply
    • Dom in Canada November 14, 2012, 8:08 am

      I have a similar story to the case study here. I was fresh out of college w/ a shiny engineering degree and a relatively high paying job. Once I got my debts paid, and was socking away a “generous to me” amount (20% of my take home), I painted the town red. Bought new clothes every month and went on expensive vacations. Even paid a couple bar tabs since I was making more than my friends.

      Then two years later, I simply punched myself in the face, realized that I shouldn’t be paying $1000/mo in rent to live 5 minutes from work, and that I have all the luxury items I need.

      So my lifestyle has downgraded now. But I don’t regret cutting loose for the first couple years out of college, and I didn’t acquire any high ticket items like an overpriced condo or a new car.

      Reply
      • SavvyFinancialLatina November 14, 2012, 9:14 am

        Maybe I shouldn’t be paying $900 in rent for an apartment five minutes from work???

        Reply
        • Dom in Canada November 14, 2012, 10:00 am

          Not sure what rent is like where you live, but even if I were to live a 15 min drive away from work, rent would still be at least $700/mo for a basement suite.

          So I’m going to be living with friends, splitting cable/utility 3-ways and paying closer to $600/mo all-in including a bus pass.

          Right now though, I moved away for a temporary work on assignment and double my salary from good to ridiculous.

          Not sure if your lifestyle allows you to do either of these though.

          Reply
      • Jamesqf November 14, 2012, 8:29 pm

        “…I shouldn’t be paying $1000/mo in rent to live 5 minutes from work…”

        Err… Why not? Assuming $1000/month is reasonable apartment rental in your market, of course, then consider the value of the time you don’t spend commuting. Sure, if you can change that $1K and 5 minutes to $500 and a 10 minute bike ride, go for it, but if it’s $500 and an hour by car or public transit, it’d be a different story.

        Reply
        • Dom in Canada November 15, 2012, 4:16 am

          Sorry I should have been more specific.

          My downtown apartment was $900/mo in rent plus $90/mo in parking (this is considered a bargain). The grocery situation was overpriced unless I wanted to drive 10 mins out of the downtown core. The apartment had floor-to-ceiling windows so my heating and electrical bill was well over $100/mo.

          Once I get back, I will be sharing a house with two of my friends, live in the area I would drive to go get cheap groceries, free parking and a 15m bike ride or 20m walk/train ride for $500/mo in rent and $70/mo for a monthly transit pass. Furthermore, one of my roommates is a student, so we will get student rates for cable/newspaper subscriptions.

          The other alternative is to live with mom and dad for a bit longer, pay $0 rent, get my laundry done, meals prepared and chauffeured to work every morning. This is something that MMM has never touched on. Is moving in with parents/family uber mustachian (assuming your parents want you around, and you get along), or is it taking advantage?

          North American culture suggests that we should “go our own way” and move out, buy a house and start our own families after college. Asian culture, on the other hand, suggests that you stay home until you are married, and even then, multiple generations living under the same roof is very common.

          Seeing as this blog draws a lot of its power from punching social norms in the face, I’d be interested in hearing some comments from MMM readers or MMM himself.

          Reply
          • Raechelle November 15, 2012, 8:32 am

            Soooo wish my parents would go for this! We’d love it! They have a huge house with many un-used rooms. We have a tiny house with a huge mortgage. We’d LOVE to be able to live with the folks (and instead – I’d gladly do the cleaning and cooking for rent. We already do it for seven, what’s two more?) If your parents would go for it, get to it! Save that money, and get your freedom that much faster!!!

            Reply
          • Dillon November 15, 2012, 10:40 am

            Yes, if you are an adult and you live with your parents and rent is $0, you get driven around, and free meals then you are definitely taking advantage. Not that it means it is bad, it’s just the observation. That might work considering all factors in some situations, but I’m guessing taking advantage of the amenities at your parent’s home implies it’s a bit of a disadvantage financially to your parents (since their consumption function just increased) unless you pull enough of your own weight in some way (do their laundry, prepare meals, chip in on gas money or the mortgage, etc.).

            Reply
            • Done by Forty November 15, 2012, 11:03 am

              I wouldn’t let others decide whether you’re taking advantage or not. That’s for you and your folks to decide.

              Reply
            • Dom in Canada November 15, 2012, 11:20 am

              My parents are near retirement and only work for fun at this point.

              They have multiple rental properties and a large enough nest egg to retire comfortably. They buy luxury items (only now, not 30 years ago when they were grinding) and take lavish vacations and offer to help me (and my other siblings) with day-to-day expenses that I (and they) am capable of paying myself.

              I assure you the extra $50/mo my mom would spend on groceries will not mean she can only go to the spa once every two months instead of every one month. In fact, living at home would probably save her money in her Tupperware budget since she brings me meals every time she visits. I would be carpooling with my dad to work.

              And it was their suggestion that I live with them, not mine. Anyways, a split decision was what I was expecting and secretly hoping for.

              Reply
              • Lorin November 15, 2012, 11:37 am

                We’ve recently been considering moving in with my in-law’s. Partly to keep a better eye on them as they age, partly as it would slash our expenses in half and allow our kids to go to a much, much better school for free (well, for the cost of taxes we are already paying). The downside, other than the potential loss of privacy, is that it would more than double my DH’s commute. Is that on balance still worth it? Would love to get MMM’s thoughts on our situation.

              • Jamesqf November 16, 2012, 10:49 am

                Dom, the “freeloading” is not about your parents and whether they can afford it, it’s about you and whether you want to be self-supporting. So if you do move in with the parents, I’d suggest insisting that you kick in some reasonable amount for food & utilities. If the parents want to give that money to charity, or stick it in an investment account that you’ll inherit sometime down the road, that’s their choice.

  • Poor to Rich a Day at a Time November 14, 2012, 7:42 am

    Loved this article and what a profound testimony of how small changes can add up to big differences in ones life.

    Reply
  • Dan November 14, 2012, 7:45 am

    Great to see this post in general, as that’s one of the main things that appeals to me about this blog: that MMM discusses both frugality and increasing income. I always find it strange that so many of the commenters come down on one side or the other so firmly.

    I also really enjoyed the reader story. This guy sounds like he really has his shit together. I love that he wasn’t afraid to quit grad school. Fortune favors the bold.

    Reply
  • Honest Bob November 14, 2012, 10:06 am

    Awesome graph!

    Reply
  • Heath November 14, 2012, 10:11 am

    Most excellent! I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and will have another close look at all of those techniques (and their respective articles) that he implemented.

    Reply
  • barb November 14, 2012, 10:15 am

    Great lightbulb moment.

    Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 November 14, 2012, 10:18 am

    Great job! It’s awesome that the reader started so young. Most people take a while before they recognize the problem with the consumption lifestyle.
    Both Spending less and earning more are equally important in my book. However, I think learning to spend less need to come first. People who start with being frugal has a much easier time saving money especially once they get raises and earn more.

    Reply
  • Raechelle November 14, 2012, 10:36 am

    I don’t have the data at this point, but I am so glad another reader has contributed this story! We’ve made some pretty cool life changes too as a result of this blog, and want to let the MMM family know what a blessing they have been.
    After reading about the fuel economy cars – we were driving a dodge ram 50 miles roundtrip to work each day, and a Chevy trailblazer everywhere else. We were stuck with the distance to work, but decided to do something about the vehicle/gas mileage situation. I went on ebay and bid/won a geo metro in California (we’re in WA.) Took a late night (cheapest possible) flight to CA with my husband and two babies, leaving the kids with grandparents on Easter, and drove the “new-to-us” Geo metro back home overnight. It was a wild roadtrip, all inspired by this blog. Still trying to sell the truck – seems no one else wants a gas guzzler either!
    The article on hedonistic adaptation really opened our eyes. We were focused on earning more, but just want to spend more. We’ll never get there unless we change. This one has been rough for us. We talked about this article with family, friends and our children as if we just discovered a new religion. While we knew all this, it was framed so perfectly for us. We aren’t big spenders, but we do desire a few things. But, those desires just keep growing, don’t they? We’re trying to reign them in. We have done the math (daily, even hourly) and realize that we can not only be out of debt (100K) but even retired in about 11-13 years. This has truly changed our lives, and I read again and again in order to get tougher, as we tend to get wimpy when I’m not hearing it.
    I walk my kids to school each day – the schools are so close that while MMM would be horrified that we would ever drive – getting 7 people fed with a hot breakfast, making 7 lunches, 7 people (2 babies ) dressed – we were quite ok with driving just to get the kids to school. “Besides, it’s so close, it’s virtually NO GAS MONEY.” Uh, did the math on that finally. While it may be small – we save $30/mo in gas just by walking. As you pointed out debt is an emergency, an absolute crisis. I need to get off my arseanyway (back pain from sitting too much – being a lazy butt) and have NO EXCUSE not to! So we walk, and we acclimate to the weather and we save, and we are getting stronger, day by day.

    Example – last week, I saw a woman driving her massive SUV out of the parking lot of the crappy/trashy apartment complex we walk through to get to school, and saw the look of concern on her face for us. She had manicured nails and was holding her mocha in one hand while driving. It was pouring down rain and we were wearing our trashy clothes since they get wet. She looked like she felt sorry for us poor waifs. Her hair was perfect. Mine, not so much. I laughed as I realized how very much our perspective has changed. I felt sorry for her in her warm, insulated world. She’s still sucked into this false consumerism culture. I am sure she paid a lot for a gym membership, as well, while we were getting our work out, our vitamin D, and loving the world around us. What an exhilerating morning it was! How funny that she felt sorry for us, yet I realized that we were actually in a better position than she was by far!
    We have given up half our income (I quite a 70k job to stay home) yet our cash going out the door has fallen so dramatically – I do wish I could quantify the data. (It’s possible, but I need to get kids taken care of.) I will in the next year or so, as we get further down the road. Can’t thank you and your family enough, MMM.

    The article on adapting to heat – we had a great big family argument over the heat in the car. Now, I don’t use the heat at home – and what used to be very cold to us, is pretty comfortable. We’ve adapted! Not without some…discussion, of course. But every penny is now accounted for. Money used to slip through our fingers like water and we found the same concept to be true – we had over twice the income, but were miserably in debt. With one decent income and one over-the-top-extreme saver, we’re doing much, much better. Thank you a million times over! :-) (Though I may never love oatmeal.)

    Reply
    • Marcia November 14, 2012, 12:19 pm

      Great job! Very inspiring story. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. I find it particularly hard with children to make some changes. Very very hard. You have to be consistent and constant. Kids are stubborn and are geared to wear you down.

      Reply
    • Danielle November 14, 2012, 8:43 pm

      Inspiring! Yaay for your enthusiasm! I love your realization about the good you receive from your own powerful choices while the woman driving by was scoping you out. :)

      I love walking in the rain, by the way, not sure what happened there with most people avoiding it nowadays. No city or town smells so awesome as when it’s raining.

      Reply
    • Ross November 15, 2012, 12:24 am

      “Family argument over heat in the car”. I hope this argument was about your heating at home, and not in the car. Just because its essentially free to turn the heat on I just the car. I probably I just confused the topic for the location… but I thought id comment just in case you were conserving heat in the car.

      Reply
      • Raechelle November 15, 2012, 8:42 am

        Sorry for the confusion – Yes, we argued over heat in the car. We also argue over heat in the house. (Nicely, nothing horrid or serious.) The reason that it’s important to NOTuse the heat in the car isn’t cost – you are correct. Rather, it’s about acclimation. Our argument in the car was just after reading MMM’s article about heat and acclimation instead of wasting energy on air conditioning. So one of us wanted the air conditioning on full blast. We were also using fans in every room in the house and so forth. So the ornery mama said no more fans, and no more air conditioning. (It was a gradual transition, not overnight.) My husband was not thrilled with this idea – stuffy car with grumpy babies. He is truly wonderful though and we made it work. We are now down to NO fans in the house, and the heat will only come on if it hits 60degrees. Kids are dressed appropriately and we are very clear that our comfort is due to acclimation. We had a playdate at our house yesterday and turned up the heat for the comfort of our guests. My kids were sweating.

        Reply
    • Tim January 18, 2013, 5:34 pm

      I see a lot of people massively underestimate the value of having somebody home to take care of things. You lost 70K of income, but gained so much more. Might be interesting to quantitatively calculate what “virtual salary” you’re earning, if you had to hire out for all the housework.

      Reply
  • No Name Guy November 14, 2012, 10:38 am

    There’s a saying amongst long distance back packers. Grams add up to ounces. Ounces add up to pounds.

    There’s also the “Focus on the big 3″ (e.g. shelter, sleeping bag and pack) to minimize over all pack weight, since these items are where the largest magnitude of weight savings can be found.

    In a similar vein, in personal finance: A whole lot of little expenses add up to “real” money.

    Also, cutting your biggest monthly expenses by small to modest percentages result in the largest total dollar savings. Cutting housing expenses by 10%, for example, is a $100 / month savings (going from the $1000 / mo apartment to the 900). How much “crappier” is a 900 / mo apartment versus 1k / month? In most places, not that much.

    The REAL payoff in reducing expenses (compared to increasing income) comes in how much smaller your stash has to be to reach FI. That $100 / month reduction in expenses reduces the required stash by $40,000 (@ 3% SWR, or 30k at 4%). How long does it take to save / acquire 40k? Quite a while – many months to several years, depending on your savings rate. If I earn a pay raise of 10k / year (after tax) and put it ALL toward savings / investments it’ll take 4 years to achieve the same effect as cutting $100 / month from my expenses. To me this shows the relative power of cutting expenses versus increased earnings. (Of course, the astute MMM reader will strive to do BOTH at the same time).

    Reply
    • Matt November 14, 2012, 11:37 am

      I second what No Name Guy says: reducing expenses not only speeds up the journey to FI, it lowers the bar as well.

      For *annual* recurring expenses: multiply them by 25, 33, or 50 depending on what safe withdrawal rate you chose (4%, 3%, and 2% respectively). The resulting product is how much more you need in your stache to support that expense in retirement.

      Likewise, for *monthly* recurring expenses: multiply them by 300, 400, or 600 (4%, 3% and 2% SWR respectively).

      For example, a $75/month cable bill. Assuming a 3% SWR, you need to increase your stache by $30k (75×400). That’s a psychological trick I use to judge recurring expenses. $75/month may not seem like much, but I consider the “FI cost”, i.e. $30k—now that’s real money!

      How about a $500/month car lease? At 3% SWR, you need to bank another $200k! That’s probably several extra YEARS of savings, just to pay for a car.

      Reply
      • Snow White November 14, 2012, 7:05 pm

        Wow…thank you Matt for the formulas! Those figures alone can change my life and I intend to use them to evaluate all on-going expenditures.

        Reply
  • Alex | Perfecting Dad November 14, 2012, 11:04 am

    Beautiful graph. Proof positive and a great testament to your life-changing content.

    Reply
  • Patrick November 14, 2012, 11:13 am

    Did anyone else notice that between Dec ’11 and Mar ’12 (the three months following the ‘begin blog reading’ date) he increased his networth by ~$10,000? Making $52,000 annually would earn ~$3,540/mo post tax which means for three months he had to have spent less than $210/mo.

    Unless there was a gigantic tax refund, I dont see how that is possible even with the greatest level of mustachianism…

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 3:57 pm

      Never fear, Patrick – these net worth histories are always full of one-time events that make the data lumpy. For example, he might have collected a tax return, or a work bonus, or sold some stuff on Craigslist. Even the timing of when you pay your credit card off each month (or switching to a new card) can affect your net worth graph over a short period, since it can shift $1-2k around by a few weeks. My $400 Costco runs make one month’s grocery bill look high, but then the next month ends up being just $100 for produce and whatnot.

      I often get complaints on the “Brief history of the ‘Stash” article for the same reason: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/15/a-brief-history-of-the-stash-how-we-saved-from-zero-to-retirement-in-ten-years/

      People on other forums pipe up and say, “AHA!! This would be impossible because he would have had to earn or save XYZ! Mr. Money Mustache must be a fraud!”. But they forget key details, like 401(k) contributions or capital gains on a primary residence being non-taxable, and all sorts of other things. The truth is much less dramatic: Mr. Money Mustache just spent less than he earned for a while.

      The key in this graph is that the reader said his savings rate went from $600/month to $1600/month on average. Both highly achievable on a $50k salary.

      Reply
      • Captain and Mrs Slow November 15, 2012, 5:39 am

        I had wondered that myself. But in going through No More Harvard Debt (even though he doesn’t blog anymore it is worth reading) you see that he sold things got bonuses any number of things. As a matter of fact he paid off a 100 grand or so of school debt over a 10 month period even thought he only earned a 100 grand a year.

        Reply
  • Edward November 14, 2012, 11:20 am

    Great story! I was already pretty frugal, well-financially read, and careful with my money before finding MMM, but I’d like to mention that my net worth has increased 15% since reading this blog. …And that’s only since July! My Mint.com chart looks very much like the one above. 15% in 4 months?! That’s an annual return of 45% on my money! How is that even possible? I even bought an airline ticket to England during this period. Usually an airfare would at least show a small dent in my net worth.

    No high interest account or investment can compare with MMM’s rate of return.

    13 years of saving/investments and suddenly it’s jumped a whole year’s worth of saving in a few months. Geeze. I wish I knew moustachianism a decade ago.

    (BTW Big Cajun Man, I quit buying coffee at work. Salvaged an electric kettle and now make it at my desk. Electricity (free), instant coffee bottle ($2.50), instant creamer ($2.00). Total savings = $25-30/month.)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 5:24 pm

      Aww, thanks Edward. I didn’t expect this article to become a big love-fest for the MMM blog, but shit, I’ll take it! :-)

      Reply
  • Matt November 14, 2012, 11:46 am

    Another thing I like about this reader’s story is that he (she?) has a “dream job”. I think a not-insignificant number of people—myself included—are drawn to FIRE/MMM because they dislike their jobs, and are looking for a way out ASAP. I freely admit, if I loved my job, it would be that much harder for me to continually reduce spending and save/invest money.

    So it is that much more inspiring to me to see someone love their job AND still deliberately choose to live well below his means. One morning he’ll wake up and be FI. And if he still loves his job, he doesn’t have to quit. But if the job ever starts to suck, it won’t cause him any stress. Or maybe he wants to go to part time… whatever, his life now has an extra degree of freedom. The thought of how sweet that must feel encourages me to constantly try to reduce my spending.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 3:34 pm

      This simple living stuff definitely grows on you, though. For example, I currently love my “job” and have extra income, but simultaneously feel a desire to keep improving on my consumption, strip away what is not important, live simply, spend less, invest more, and all that stuff. It just feels better to live that way, since you can free up more time for activities you really love.

      Reply
  • Freeyourchains November 14, 2012, 11:52 am

    I went through a similar process tree from first reading finance blogs and retiring extremely early books at age 22 after getting an engineering job. Now I am age 25, debt free from student loans, challenged what i really needed in life and what brings me the most happiness, have a lot more free time from efficiency and keeping things simple and clean, have diversified investments with passive incomes, and learned to focus on making more active/passive incomes from creations, innovations, writings, programs that i put online and in app form from when i wrote then in highschool, etc.

    No one teaches you how to free your chains from work, money, material possesions, unless your parents showed you the way.

    Reply
  • Gen Y Finance Journey November 14, 2012, 12:03 pm

    This is a fantastic article. Your blog was one of the first I started reading as well, and it definitely made a big impact on me.

    I also agree that while making more money is nice, I’m not willing to sacrifice my time or sanity in order to make the most money possible. I have no desire to work 80 hour weeks, I would be miserable if I did that.

    Reply
  • Kathleen, Frugal Portland November 14, 2012, 12:03 pm

    That’s awesome — good work for the guy who doubled his salary, then realized he needed to stop inflating his lifestyle, too! It’s nice to know you’re making a difference, isn’t it?

    Reply
  • Marcia November 14, 2012, 12:07 pm

    These stories give me the warm fuzzies.

    Reply
  • Ornella @ Moneylicious November 14, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Excellent point! If you can’t manage the “small” amount of money you have now, what makes you think you will when it has increased? It takes a shift in mindset to balance between spending and saving. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on yourself or splurging it. But there is something wrong if you do it beyond what you earn and forfeit a financial plan.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque November 15, 2012, 11:08 am

      “There’s nothing wrong with spending money on yourself or splurging it”
      That depends on how you “splurge”, doesn’t it?
      If you splurge on impulsive purchases that give you a tiny endorphin burst of happiness and then become Future Landfill Debris, then there really is something wrong when the money spent could have gone to shoring up your finances.
      The message we need to propagate is “Spending money isn’t necessarily linked to improving happiness.”
      If you have a machine that can process money and turn it into happiness, then you’re set. If you think the machine in question is a cash register, then we have some talking to do.

      Reply
  • jd November 14, 2012, 12:46 pm

    After one’s expenses are under control, another option is to reduce one’s working hours. Almost 2 years ago, I basically cut my work hours (and employment income) in half. Thanks to the lower taxes on my remaining income and the power of compound interest on my stache, the effect on the growth of my net worth was imperceptible.

    Reply
    • No Name Guy November 14, 2012, 1:19 pm

      For those that just can’t wait to get to FI, this is a very viable option. I’ve cut back to a 70% of full time schedule at work. Every Friday is off as are alternating Thursday’s. With 4 day weekends every other week (and 3 day weekends the other week), it’s easy to do stuff – projects on the house, hiking trips, volunteer, etc….things that require, or are more enjoyable, with a bit of time.

      At the same time, having greatly cut back the expenses, I’ve maxed out the 401k, do a full Roth, and am saving quite a bit in a taxable investment account, all while doing Capex on the paid for house (so that I don’t have to do it post FI – things like a replacement roof, replace end of life deck with synthetic, etc – even doing the labor yourself, material still costs a fair amount.)

      Reply
      • GeorgiaS November 14, 2012, 3:13 pm

        How did you negotiate with your employer to keep your 401(k) when you went part time? And did you have/were you able to keep health insurance when you went part time?

        Reply
        • No Name Guy November 15, 2012, 11:49 am

          I work at a major aerospace company – there are a fair number of PTers so if they pulled the 401k, they’d lose a lot of the PT talent.

          On the health care / pre-paid health plan – again, being a major aerospace company, it’s usually 100% paid by the company, but if you drop below a threshold (and I have at 70% of full time) the employee has to chip in a certain percentage. Working closer to a FT schedule, I could get it 100% paid for, however the alternating 4 day weekends are WAY too sweet.

          Reply
          • Lucas Smith November 15, 2012, 12:34 pm

            To Funny! We probably work for the same major areospace company, and that is what I would love to do in a couple years. Not quite there yet, but then again I am only 29 ;-) I think it is actually an 80% work schedule for full benefits for me, but still working 4 days a week is pretty nice. I actually calculated my effective hourly salary would go up close to 15% due to benefits staying the same. :-)

            Reply
  • mike crosby November 14, 2012, 1:05 pm

    What a powerful post. His chart with his testimony is intriguing.

    Imagine, here’s a guy who thinks 30-40 years before retirement and now it might be as low as 10-20. That’s a sea-change. That he now has the power in his hands and not fate.

    Like to see him in a few years when he’s making $100K plus. This young man is way ahead in controlling his life. What discipline/smarts he has. Congratulations.

    BTW, if I may comment about the oatmeal comments:
    1. Most Americans don’t eat enough fiber.
    2. There is no fiber in all animal products and little if any in processed foods.
    3. Lack of fiber is the cause of many of our chronic diseases.

    Oatmeal, being plant based is loaded with fiber. To make my oatmeal tasty, I add strawberries and blueberries (frozen from Costco), raisins and bananas (from the $.99 store), and granola from Walmart.

    Reply
    • Elenor April 24, 2013, 9:41 pm

      Oh dear — SO not true! (conventional UN-”wisdom”!)
      From: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/fiber/a-cautionary-tale-of-mucus-fore-and-aft/
      ==================
      … Our intrepid researcher’s name is Dr. Paul L. McNeil; he is a cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia. I’ll let him tell how it all works.

      When you eat high-fiber foods, they bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering. What we are saying is this banging and tearing increases the level of lubricating mucus. It’s a good thing.

      Indeed?

      He goes on:

      It’s a bit of a paradox, but what we are saying is an injury at the cell level can promote health of the GI tract as a whole.

      Really?

      He goes on to explain that even though epithelial cells usually live less than a week, they are regularly bombarded, in most of us at least three times a day, as food passes by.

      These cells are a biological boundary that separates the inside world, if you will, from this nasty outside world. On the cellular scale, roughage, such as grains and fibers that can’t be completely digested, are a mechanical challenge for these cells.

      But in what he and colleague Dr. Katsuya Miyake view as an adaptive response, most of these cells rapidly repair damage and, in the process, excrete even more mucus, which provides a bit of cell protection as it eases food down the GI tract.

      As reported in ScienceDaily

      In research published in 2003 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. McNeil showed proof of his then decade-old hypothesis that cells with internal membranes use those membranes to repair potentially lethal outer-membrane injuries. A recent paper published in Nature in collaboration with Dr. Kevin Campbell’s laboratory at the University of Iowa showed how human disease, including certain forms of muscular dystrophy, can result from a failure of this mechanism.

      An outer membrane tear is like an open door through which calcium just outside the cell rushes in. Too much calcium is lethal but that first taste signals the vulnerable cell it better do something quick. With epithelial cells, several of the internal mucus-filled compartments fuse together within about three seconds, forming a patch to fix the tear. In the process the compartments expel their contents so, almost like a bonus, extra mucus becomes available to lubricate the GI tract.

      And a final telling paragraph.

      The scientists aren’t certain how many times cells can take a hit, but they suspect turnover is so high because of the constant injury. Potentially caustic substances, such as alcohol and aspirin, can produce so much damage that natural recovery mechanisms can’t keep up. But they doubt a roughage overdose is possible.

      (You can click here to read this study in its entirety in PLoS Biology)

      So, we have a situation where a product causes damage to the cells lining a tube, causing them to produce a lot of mucus in an attempt to protect themselves. In the process many of these cells die and are replaced by new cells. And this is perceived as a good thing.

      My question is: is it really a good thing?

      Reply
  • hands2work November 14, 2012, 1:23 pm

    This blog has also changed my life, my net worth and how I look at money and I was frugal before! I now have a positive net worth (divorce and later loss of house and unemployment had destroyed my savings) for the first time in several years. I have paid off 3 debts and have 2 more to go. I have stopped eating out and cut back in almost every other area. I just told my 18 year old son that the only thing I would change about my life was that I wish I knew at 18 what I have just learned in the past six months about money.

    The concept that set me free? Dollars as Employees.

    Reply
    • Kenneth November 15, 2012, 8:59 am

      Yes, the dollars are either working against you (as debt) or for you (as savings and investments). That is a powerful concept..

      Reply
  • COMatt November 14, 2012, 1:26 pm

    I am glad to hear there is another fella out there who quit graduate school and found the ways of MMM. I was on a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering track 2 and a quarter years ago with a 4 figure net worth and a frugal lifestyle.

    But, I left that with my master’s degree and now I still live the same frugal life and am on track to hit the 6 figure stash mark at the end of the year. About half of that came after discovering MMM a year ago.

    I just plotted my net worth curve and it looks a lot like the one in the article.

    Thanks MMM, here’s to hoping your writing truly can change the world like you say.

    Reply
  • Tyler November 14, 2012, 1:33 pm

    Great to see hard numbers from other readers! I’ve plowed through your articles in about a week and love it MMM! Got a bunch of co-workers reading also and three people have started biking to work.

    What are your thoughts on the upcoming fiscal “cliff” situation? Opportunity to buy??

    Reply
  • Ian November 14, 2012, 1:59 pm

    I can completely identify with this post. I was already getting some debt paid down but since I have started reading MMM things have really started to take off. Its just a whole different way of doing things.

    Reply
  • Mike November 14, 2012, 2:02 pm

    Best article to date? I now nominate this for first article for any new mustachian to read. As they say, “proof is in the pudding”

    Reply
  • Gyosho November 14, 2012, 2:30 pm

    This article inspired me to make a spreadsheet of my salary growth vs. net worth growth. I only had data going back to 2005, at which time I was already a frugalrista, earning $88,000 a year, and having a net worth of $217,858.

    My 2012 salary is $105,000, but my net worth has almost tripled to $601,000! Even after taking a 23% dive in 2008, the average growth of my net worth from 2005 to 2012 was 17% a year. The average growth of my salary during that time has been less than 3% a year.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 5:16 pm

      Wow.. I don’t suppose you’re single, by any chance?

      I have a feeling quite a few single Mustachian Gentlemen grew misty-eyed after reading your stats. (Assuming that “frugalista” implies a female reader :-))

      Reply
  • kiwimm November 14, 2012, 3:18 pm

    Reminds me of a quote I heard once from Clive Woodward, former manager of the England Rugby Team. It is the philiosophy the team followed to go from a good international team to the World Cup winners in 2003.

    “To become great, don’t increase 1 thing by 100%, instead increase 100 things by 1%”

    Reply
    • lurker November 14, 2012, 4:56 pm

      awesome concept. I like it….thanks

      Reply
    • AnnW November 14, 2012, 7:03 pm

      Can you make this into a poster, so I can put it on Pinterest? Just kidding. This just illustrates the idea of living life as a responsible grown-up and trying to do your best. Be modest and work hard. Then you never have to worry about debt and things falling apart. Ann

      Reply
  • GeorgiaS November 14, 2012, 3:21 pm

    Oh, a question for the letter writer re: energy efficiency: What are some reasons that would explain why the CFLs I bought burn out in less than a year? This is a single box of bulbs, so I guess it’s possible it’s just a bad batch?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 4:23 pm

      Yeah, I’ve heard the odd report like that too, since I’m a bossy CFL advocate. It could definitely be the batch, or the brand of light bulbs. The next most likely culprit is the power – if you live in an area with marginal voltage or noisy power (fluctuating voltage or frequency), it can tend to destroy the electronics in CFL bulbs. Fixing the power might not be a cost-effective option, so try another brand of CFLs first and then you could eventually try LED bulbs instead, starting with the most highly-used fixtures in the house. Prices are dropping on LEDs, but they are still high at $10-$20/bulb for good ones.

      There is definitely not a systemic problem with CFL reliability – they have been tested in a wide range of conditions to last a long time, and my own bulbs usually last 5-10 years. Replacing a bulb is extremely rare in my house, even with about 50 bulbs installed right now, when you count ‘em up.

      Reply
      • addieforshort November 14, 2012, 4:29 pm

        MMM, what do you make of this investigative report on CFLs from New Zealand? http://www.thebriefingroom.com/archives/2008/08/mercury_in_cfls.html

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache November 14, 2012, 4:50 pm

          It’s a bunch of nonsense, in my opinion! Here’s a more credible source that says the opposite: http://www.treehugger.com/culture/ask-treehugger-is-mercury-from-a-broken-cfl-dangerous.html

          OSHA suggests that mercury concentration should be below 0.05mg/m3 for eight-hour periods for workers subjected to the element every day. That is 50,000 nanograms. The new zealand link you provided is quoting some arbitrary 300 nanogram standard from Maine, a full 166 times smaller! The NZ article sounds like an ideologically biased scare piece rather than a scientific consideration of the risk.

          As I’ve said before, if you care about your mercury intake, fight against coal power plants. Part of that means consuming less power, and the other is enacting carbon trading or taxes and supporting alternative forms of power. And if you care about your longevity and health, you should ignore mercury intake and go out for a vigorous walk right now instead, since that will play a much bigger role in both than worrying about which type of light bulb is more dangerous.

          And on top of ALL THIS, you can now buy CFLs with little or no mercury, plus there’s the LED option. I still use both types in my house, after doing the math on each.

          Reply
      • Geek November 14, 2012, 7:34 pm

        Any brand recommend for good CFL par 30s? We have builder lights and aren’t ready to go LED with everything yet… there seem to be some good choices available.

        Reply
      • Captain and Mrs Slow November 15, 2012, 6:25 am

        I actually got rid of all my CFLs for that very reason, kept burning out, but since stumbling across this blog (specifically the hydro one) I’m having a rethink, once we’re back (traveling for 4 months work sadly rather than pleasure) I plan to rethink the whole electricity and water thing to see what I can do to reduce our costs.

        Since reading that article I’ve started asking my frugal friends about electricity and other than using (horrible) CFLs they make no special effort to conserve electricity. I don’t think they even have a clue how many kilowatts they use. Very strange indeed.

        Reply
  • AussieJulie November 14, 2012, 6:42 pm

    BE – you should be doing some blogging of your own. Very inspirational article and comments. Darling Hubby and I have always been frugal and reading MMM was a way to be in a community with the same thinking. I still gather information on this site to research. But sorry now way can I do porridge/oats. Just brings back way to many memories of boarding school.
    yuk!

    Reply
  • Matt_G November 14, 2012, 8:06 pm

    because of this blog, I……
    - Canceled Cable
    - Purchased a bike and ride it frequently
    - Sold my fleet and bought a Prius
    - Use Coupons & Sale Flyers
    - Reduced my power consumption by 10-20%

    Reply
    • Geek November 14, 2012, 9:21 pm

      Good game!
      Because of this blog…
      -I Bring my lunch
      -We Haven’t turned on the whole-house heating yet (though we’re spot heating)
      -We save GeekHusband’s entire after tax salary now that he’s working for a corporation again
      -We were able to resist the temptation to keep 2 cars when transitioning cars

      Reply
    • Snow White November 15, 2012, 4:31 am

      Because of this blog I:
      1. Stop coloring my hair
      2. Stopped getting manicures and pedicures every three weeks.
      3. Reduced eating lunch out to once a week (kept one day in order to be social with colleagues)
      4. Had a head slapping epiphany that I really, truly have ENOUGH clothes, shoes, jewelry and such to last for years without shopping.
      5. Reduced the amount of make-up I wear to the bare minimum (for me) and resisted the latest Clinique “goodie-bag” offer which was a big weakness for me.
      6. Finally…I negotiated with my boss to reduce my workweek to 4 days a week starting next year (.80 salary) and this is something she previously had firmly rejected as impossible.
      7. I have been at FI for years now and these changes just strengthen my base.

      Reply
      • Joy November 15, 2012, 8:22 am

        Since reading MMM we:

        1- Increased our savings rate by 18% now saving 43%.

        2- Moved retirement accounts to Vanguard (Big time improvement)

        3- Opened an investment account for savings with Vanguard. Keep our
        short term savings account less than $3,000.00.

        4- Sold a Ford Bronco(gas hog) and, share one car.

        5- Stopped showering the grand-kids with gifts.

        6- Bought bikes and, ride for exercise, not for shopping as the
        closest store is over 11 miles away.

        Things we were going to do that we did not do, since reading
        MMM:

        1- Buy a brand new 3/4 ton pick up truck.

        2- Buy new books every couple of weeks.

        3- Shop for entertainment.

        4- Buy fancy new foods just for fun.

        5- Spend close to $1,000.00 a month on food. (for two)

        Thanks MMM & Mrs. MMM keep up the good work!

        Now Christmas is coming…..this is going to be tough. While we
        have made all these improvements, my husband isn’t so excited
        about all the changes. On the one hand he is happy and, proud
        that I have made these changes. On the other he liked life the
        way it was and, doesn’t want to let go. I try to encourage him to
        read MMM but, he rarely does.

        We give over 14% of our income to charity. I
        consider this investing in the future too. If you
        add the 14% to the 43% we save 57% of our income.

        Reply
        • Andria November 15, 2012, 11:50 am

          Hi, I am thinking about doing some moves to Vanguard to. Would you be willing to talk about what you did? I am curious and I would really APPRECIATE IT. : )

          my email is purples_29@yahoo.com Thanks, Andria

          Reply
        • PJ November 16, 2012, 10:43 am

          Joy, you’re at an admirable level of savings and charitable giving too. You’ve incorporated changes like the bike riding that will improve your health. You’re teaching your grandkids a different way of living. So many incredible changes!

          So if your husband, who has his own mind and his own desires, finds that this is as far as he can comfortably stretch himself, don’t worry too much about that. As time goes on and he starts to see the fruits of the changes, it’s possible that he’ll change his perspective. But in the meantime, be assured that you are far more badass than a large percentage of the general population!

          Reply
      • Lindsey November 15, 2012, 10:10 pm

        We have a weekly employee social group by bringing lunch and eating it together every Friday. Saves us all money. At Christmas, we chip in a month’s worth of Friday lunch costs that we would have spent and decide what charity to give it to.

        Reply
      • Edward November 16, 2012, 10:38 am

        Because of this blog:

        - I stopped buying DVDs and started using the library.
        - Think about looking for any appliance I might need at a thrift shop *first* before even considering new.
        - Boosed savings/investments from standard 15-20% advice to 42% (and rising!).
        - Started making instant coffee at work instead of going out for coffee.
        - Monitor my electric bill closely and even unplug things.
        - Haven’t bought any new clothes except for a waterproof jacket.
        - Walk almost everywhere (not much room for a bike in my apartment, but I live in a small city, so everything is pretty much walkable.)
        - Renegotiated my Internet to save $15/month.
        - Stopped going out to the pub for beer on Thursday evenings. (Thursdays weren’t that exciting anyway.)

        Those simple things (+ the mindset) brought my spending down an average $1117/month over the same 6-month period last year! I couldn’t believe the Mint numbers. Cash in the bank, baby!

        It’s so stupid that people quibble with their investments to make an extra 1% return when they could change their lifestyles just a little bit and earn 20% or more!

        Reply
    • Monika_B November 15, 2012, 9:04 am

      Because of this blog I:
      -Am in the process of buying a duplex, 3 miles from work
      -Stopped being too scared to properly manage my investments (I minored in finance–WTF was up with this?)
      -Have rightsized my family’s car/property insurance for a $400 annual savings
      -Have regularly cut my hair
      -Decreased my electricity bill to a low of $41!, averaging $53 vs. $110
      -Check out books from the library while not buying any books over the past year
      -Spent at least 2 hours weekly learning practical skills
      -Biked to work every other week (up from not owning a bike)
      -Have stopped complaining about slightly bad shit that happens
      -Have decreased adult present spending at Christmas to $30 total

      Reply
      • Gerard November 15, 2012, 1:44 pm

        BOTB I:
        *fixed my eavestroughs and exterior wall myself, instead of procrastinating about paying someone to do it
        *bought decent hair trimmers and started cutting my own hair
        *bought a good bike that will last and that I use a lot, instead of another $99 Canadian Tire special that will break after a year
        *started walking many trips under 4 miles
        *started using a weight room that I have free access to
        *calculated when I can afford to retire, if I decide I no longer like my excellent job

        Reply
    • EngGirl November 16, 2012, 12:46 pm

      Because of this blog I…

      1) Changed a whole bunch of little stuff I could list here, but I think I will just skip to number 2…

      2) Shifted my perspective of what makes a person rich. This blog changed my fundamental belief system. It made me realize how awesome life is, and that you can never be richer than you are when you spend time with the people you love. To me, net worth implies so much more than little bits of paper with numbers written on them.

      Reply
  • SMART Living 365 November 14, 2012, 10:50 pm

    Another great blog post and such wonderful example of a real live person making changes. Good for your reader for waking up and realizing the hole he was starting to dig before it got too deep. I also thought it was great that he realized how much he enjoyed the new focus of his life–learning how to do the same things for less money AND appreciate them more is very uplifting. I write about the path that my husband and I took and wrote a blog post that I titled, “Need A Raise? Cut Your Overhead” for anyone who is interested you can read it here: http://smartliving365.com/give-yourself-a-raise-today-by-cutting-your-overhead/ Thanks again for your inspiring website!

    Reply
  • James @ Free in Ten Years November 15, 2012, 1:44 am

    I suspect you have changed many more people’s lives than you realize. I have completely changed my finances after I started reading MMM. I have almost never bought lunch at work since I started reading, I keep a strict budget and have done heaps more DIY projects around the house.

    My net worth has gone from being in the negative to being positive and on track for an early retirement in about 8 years. MMM rules.

    Reply
  • catalana November 15, 2012, 2:34 am

    I loved this article, and grew curious about what it would show for my time since graduation. There is a similar change after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad two years ago, and subsequently finding ERE then this site.

    However….

    An equal improver of wealth was the impact of being part of the housing boom. For 5 years my house was gaining as much each year as I was earning after tax. I wish I could post up the graph.

    Reply
  • Rich Berger November 15, 2012, 8:23 am

    Sorry MMM, but Dave Ramsey has helped more people in one day than you will ever. He can live in a big house – he earned it.

    Reply
    • Joy November 15, 2012, 8:56 am

      Rich, what is all that about?

      Reply
  • SomeYoungGuy November 15, 2012, 10:06 am

    Thanks for posting this. Looks interesting. I am speaking from one data point, but I doubled my salary ( 175k to 350k, by going expat) and I put the extra 175k in the bank. I am at 1.5mm and shooting for 2mm to retire ( I’m afraid of inflation). Cutting back on spending will be really important in the future, but doubling my salary now, when taxes were low, reall helped! Thanks MMM for keeping people thinking about this stuff!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 15, 2012, 1:12 pm

      Sounds like you’re doing fine SYG.. but hopefully you are enjoying your job and your fear of inflation doesn’t keep you up at night, because you’re already way more than financially set!

      There’s a well-documented disease that rich people get where they start by having enough, but they keep working just to pad things out. But then they have so much wealth that they get worried about protecting it from all possible risks. So they buy gold, and houses and government bonds in all sovereign nations, and all sorts of oddball hedges around the world.. and then they have even more to worry about. Eventually, they die a worried death and none of the fearful predictions came true.

      You just need a few bucks and an internal confidence that “no matter what happens, I can deal with it”. Money doesn’t buy that confidence, but you can train yourself to acquire it in other ways – starting by refusing to worry about things outside your control.

      Reply
  • Andria November 15, 2012, 11:52 am

    Great, article. I am contributing 40% of my paycheck now to 401k to max it out, maxing out both Roth IRA accounts too and saving $500.00 a month. The American Dream is very possible once you are educated about finances and how good things can really be once you stop spending!!!! Thanks MMM

    Reply
  • Mandy @MoneyMasterMom November 15, 2012, 12:42 pm

    Derek and I are currently lowering our expenditures so we can reach financial independence from our jobs sooner. Once Derek is free from his job. His job pays well financially, but not so much psychologically, or emotionally (my thoughts not his)
    If we cut our expenses back we will need less passive income in place to support our family while Derek finds a more inspiring pursuit. And if he decides to pursue something that does not involve compensation, that will be OK because the passive income will be there.

    Reply
  • Brooke November 15, 2012, 2:18 pm

    I have been tracking my finances on a spreadsheet for the last four years and once my debt was paid off I discovered a trend I had not expected. My expenses started to go down in a slope! Now you would think this was due to me not having to pay off debt anymore but that would have been an immediate drop off. I think what is actually happening is that as my capital increases I have more control in emergency situations and the feeling of abundance plays a psychological role that curbs the feelings of needing to make a purchase of any kind. It is a very interesting phenomenon!

    Reply
  • Andrew November 15, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I live with possibly the most Mustachian person I’ve met (I share a house with 2 roommates). He works for a major tech company in CA, and amazingly doesn’t have a car (in a place where driving is almost “unavoidable”). Instead he bikes to work every day (or when he doesn’t, takes the company provided shuttle). He gets fed at work so spends nil on food. On weekends he has to eat still, so eats simply. Because he shares a house with the rest of us, his housing expenses are minimal. For entertainment he rides around the community (or wider area for longer weekend rides). I’ve not seen anyone with such a low cost of living before …

    You’d think I’d pick up a lesson or two from him …

    Reply
    • lurker November 17, 2012, 9:05 am

      and he seems happy right??? that is important…time for my bike ride, which somehow always seems to cheer me up!

      Reply
  • David November 15, 2012, 6:17 pm

    “There are two ways to increase your wealth. Increase your means or decrease your wants. The best is to do both at the same time.” Benjamin Franklin. I think this Founding Father sums things up pretty well. A good personal financial advisor should probably stress both aspects of wealth building. You do that pretty well here, others not so much. Im all for people who have done well living well, but maybe that house was a bit much, lol.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 15, 2012, 7:23 pm

      Yeah.. isn’t that interesting that the founders and presidents of this country, hundreds of years ago, understood shit that a president wouldn’t dare speak about today? Wanting less as a source of life satisfaction? I want to hear you say it, Obama, no matter how much it upsets the consumer-industrial complex!

      Reply
      • Clint November 16, 2012, 11:04 am

        How would you ever hear him? You never look at the news!

        Reply
  • Abigail Joy November 16, 2012, 11:53 pm

    As a result of MMM and the friends who led me to his blog, I …
    1. Realized that my debt was an emergency & was keeping me from my true love of travel and desire to work overseas
    2. Moved 20-30 miles closed to work/volunteer stuff, to a “bad” area of town and negotiated rent to $400 for a 400-sq foot place from the $850 I was paying for a 1,000 sq foot place on the outskirts of town (Vegas).
    3. Took on several PT jobs like tutoring, babysitting, and the drama dept at my school, where I teach English.
    4. Haven’t used heat or air for two months
    5. Paid off my car, IRS debt and three “stupid debt” credit cards
    6. Stopped eating crap and paying for manicures, waxing etc.

    I’ve paid off $11,000 of my $32,000 sum and plan to join the Peace Corps with my debt free self next year, if they’ll take me. Thanks, MMM!

    Abigail

    Reply
    • lurker November 17, 2012, 9:02 am

      totally awesome!

      Reply
  • mark gregory November 17, 2012, 7:52 am

    Hi,

    Sorry, I love the post but what blew me away is the fact that the contributor to this article achieves 27 mpg. I love this blog and others, (ERE), but feel compelled to say that the Mustcahian community must do better…. I changed my car to go from 40mpg to 51mpg. Saving 98 gallons and approx £450 p.a.
    Articles recently published suggest the US may soon be the biggest oil producer in the world – good on you, but how strong could the position be if you were to consume 10% less gasoline. I say swap out your gas guzzler and do yourself and the environment a favour..Love the blog.

    Reply
    • TomTX November 17, 2012, 8:24 am

      Mark, don’t forget that we use the puny colonial gallon here, and have very few diesel choices (diesel is more energy dense than gasoline) in economy-minded cars.

      That 27mpg would be 34mpg using your Imperial gallons. Still can be improved, but not quite as bad as it first appears.

      The US has finally started a major shift to higher efficiency vehicles – it will take time to get the fleet converted over, but we are well on the way.

      Reply
      • Jamesqf November 17, 2012, 10:24 am

        When exactly did the US start shifting to high-efficiency vehicles? Unless you count the Volt (a few tens of thousands so far) and the Tesla, the US doesn’t build any high efficency vehicles. Nor, with the except of the Nissan Leaf, do foreign automakers import them. The sad fact is that a dozen years later, there’s still almost nothing that comes close to my 2000 Honda Insight (71.4 mpg average over the 8 years I’ve owned it).

        Reply
        • YAR November 20, 2012, 8:13 am

          Actually, Ford produces 4 models that get over 40 mpg (Fiesta, Focus, C-Max, and Fusion)

          Reply
    • RobDiesel November 27, 2012, 9:38 pm

      What did you spend on “changing your car”? My old car gets 23.7mpg (US), but if I spend $4000 on another car that got better mileage, I would still have to drive it 150K miles to break even on what I save in gas. Of course, it would be less if gas prices go up, but given that my car costs have been incredibly small over the last few years, spending a little more on gas on this cheap car (13 cents/mile total) is still a huge savings.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 28, 2012, 1:28 am

        Wait a minute Rob.. upgrading even to 40MPG would save you over $9600 over that many miles! But your example is an extreme one of course – an extremely low-MPG car and you picked a huge number of miles for the comparison. For many people, paying much more for a more efficient car doesn’t work out. But luckily, in the used market most people can usually get a more efficient car for no more than you can sell whatever you currently drive (because most people currently drive expensive trucks).

        Reply
  • Doug November 17, 2012, 8:51 am

    If you can increase your salary without too much effort and you know you’ll like the higher paying job, then by all means go for it. Otherwise keep in mind that not everyone can increase their salary, and those who can often pay for it in other ways. The payment can include more stress from higher responsibilities, working longer hours and having less of a life, and if you make a lot more you’ll be in a higher tax bracket so the real life increase in pay is less. So if you can’t or don’t desire to increase your salary much or at all that leaves only one option, namely being mustachian!

    Reply
  • bulldog249924 November 17, 2012, 8:55 am

    MMM,

    I had a revelation in January that I was spiraling out of control with my financial life. I own a small row house and I am a school teacher, was doing well on the surface, but I was 16 grand in credit card debt on top of my mortgage. I thought it was important to go out a lot, drink and pay for other’s meals/drinks, gamble at the local casino where I live in PA, etc. I woke up one day, and came to the realization that my life was a financial mess, and for other personal reasons, I just wasn’t happy and didn’t like myself. This was the bottom for me.

    In the next few months, I made wholesale changes in my life. I didn’t have a beer for 6 months in order to free up money to pay down my debt. By doing that, I discovered that I didn’t NEED alcohol or going out to have a good time. I cut up my casino “rewards” card, and haven’t been back. I have no desire to ever step foot in one of those money traps. I refinanced my 16% credit card debt into a personal loan from a credit union at 8.5%. I then went on to refinance my home (from a 6% 30 year to a 3.125% 15 year), lower my insurance costs on my home (1163 dollar “high risk” policy to a 639 dollar a year policy) and car (a Mustachian 2007 Hyundai accent), and also put my 2200 dollar tax return towards paying off more debt. I also restarted my 403b, contributing a small 25 dollar per paycheck amount in order to at least save something in case my pension goes kaput.

    I then in late August stumbled upon your blog. That’s why this article hit home with me. I examined even further the financial waste in my budget. I had 2200 in savings, and decided to put a chunk of that towards paying off more debt because, as you write, it is a big time emergency. I have paid off 9100 dollars of my 16 grand in debt this year, 3500 though in the 90 days since I began reading your blog. I have read more books (from the library instead of Amazon) on personal finance, such as YMOYL. By the end of this year, I will have paid off 10000 dollars of my debt, and I will be debt free definitely by June, and my hope is earlier! I will then use the money I was spending on debt to increase my emergency saving account, increase my 403b contribution, and also look into other investment vehicles, such as Roth IRAs and investment in businesses or properties.

    The most important thing is my happiness and peace of mind I have achieved too. Since reading your blog, those things are at all time highs. I view life much differently, and being closer to achieving FI has accelerated that. My hope is to “retire” from teaching by the time I am 46. I’ll take a huge penalty on my pension, but I will be able to explore other career and business opportunities and will no longer be a prisoner to the 30 year grind of staying in one job just to pay off excessive crap.

    I am not completely mustachian yet. While I do eat at home more, make my coffee at home, and as a whole am wiser about where I spend my money, I also haven’t given up cable..yet, don’t ride my bike to work (even though I could being 3 miles from my job), and I ride my car to places where I could definitely walk. I’m finding it’s a process… Following that process though has given me greater benefits than I could ever imagine! I would put myself at about 40-50% mustachian, with lots of room for growth. Seeing how I have taken on no new debt, and I have essentially lived on 60% of my salary, combined with the feeling of happiness I have, I will continue to work hard to get to that 100% mark! You have changed lives with your blog, mine being one of them. Thanks for what you do!

    Reply
    • Ross November 17, 2012, 2:38 pm

      I like the idea that you are 40%-50% mustachian. Initially, I thought I’d make a few changes and stay just 10%-20% mustachian. As the results began to build on themselves, I realized that levels of 70%, 80%, or 90% mustachianism were within my grasp. For me, the most important thing was just to get started.

      Reply
      • bulldog249924 November 18, 2012, 4:47 am

        Ross,

        I put myself at that number because I did a lot of what MMM preaches preblog. The brown bagging and coffee at home started back in January, and I ate out every other week (usually just breakfast) instead of 3-4 days a week. That’s also when I decided to reign my debt in, because it IS an emergency.

        I love to golf, and I know that isn’t a mustachian hobby, but I went 20 times in the summer, only on two of those occasions did I pay more than 20 bucks for a round. I discovered some really good deals at nice courses. And of course brought my own beer on course (I resumed drinking limitedly in June). I am also finding more free hobbies, and going to the library to get my reading fix instead of ordering 3 books at a shot off of Amazon.

        I buy less crap, severely limited the visits to Target, which drained my $$ and I center my food shopping at the local grocery store around their weekly sales. My bill dropped by $40 bucks each month since I read MMM. More days of windows open and fans, and less AC in the house. I was hell bent four months ago on buying a new car, and MMM convinced me to hold on to the Hyundai Accent and run it into the ground (just turned 90000 miles yesterday on a 2007 car). My next car will be used, probably not a 10 year old used as MMM suggests, but something low mileage that gets 30+ miles to the gallon (and a hatchback!). I also only use my clothes dryer for towels. This has cut the amount of use roughly in half in the last 3 months, and there has been a 4-6 dollar reduction compared to last year in my electric bill.

        Cable I find to be still something I want. However, I took MMM’s advice and no longer watch the MSNBCFOXCNNNews networks. I watch my local news, and as a junior college basketball coach, I enjoy the local sports coverage of the games as it is useful for recruiting and getting film on players. So I am not willing to go the extra yard and give that up, at least not yet. I also still have a landline, which I know I need to eliminate. As you can see, some things die hard! That’s why I came up with my 40-50% number. As time goes on, I agree, doing all these changes has a snowball effect, and I find myself wanting to do more mustachian things. I’m evolving!

        The best part of all this is, I find my quality of life has improved. Less really is more! I am also spreading the ways of MMM to my friends. I playfully make fun of my coworkers about being prisoners to technology with their iphone 5 purchases, and I have a couple of my friends making their own coffee and showed them your blog. So we have a couple of 1-2% mustachians out there…the seeds are planted!

        Reply
  • Mustachian in the Making November 17, 2012, 3:50 pm

    MMM –
    I can’t thank you enough for your entertaining writing and valuable advice. While I have always been fairly frugal I find that reading your blog makes me more focused towards financial independence. The reader comments and stories of their path to early (or earlier) retirement is evidence of the impact you are having on people. Just think of all the people who are not writing their own stories!

    While I agree that Dave Ramsey’s house is way over the top. I don’t think his advice should be discounted. I am an accountant and audit a number of employee benefit plans. For the most part contribution rates are scary low no matter what the income level. Dave’s advice of a 15% Roth contribution would help so many people achieve “normal retirement”. Hopefully they will stumble upon your blog or upcoming book after that and see what is really possible.

    Thanks for your hard work!

    Reply
  • Massive November 19, 2012, 4:09 pm

    I have found exactly the same thing.

    Interestingly, I don’t feel that my lifestyle has changed at all, just that any spending I do is done conciously, even when I am spending money on frivolous things.

    Reply
  • Jane Savers December 9, 2012, 2:44 pm

    I am trying to become a financial badass but I seem to get my ass kicked more often than not. Surprise expenses (not the good kind of surprises either) or hours cut at work eat in to my budget.

    I am working on my 2013 budget and I have been reading your older posts. If you were in my shoes – in debt almost one full year of after tax salary – would you save anything or throw as much as possible at the debt?

    At home in Canada waiting for the freezing rain to start and wishing I was in Hawaii…

    Reply

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