161 comments

Cure Yourself of Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome

gecko_lighterIn my ongoing and painstaking research on what separates Wealthy Mustachians who feel life is full of abundance, from Consumer Suckas who can’t seem to get ahead because of life’s many expenses, I notice many patterns.  Certain behavioral habits tend to make people wealthier, and others provide a grinding pull towards the gutter. Complainypants disease, an obsession with convenience, and short-termitis are obviously bad things, while optimism, putting Muscle over Motor and training your figurative Frugality Muscle are of course good.

One of the stranger patterns that I’ve noticed ever since reaching adulthood, is the tendency of humans to zoom in on increasingly irrelevant details as their material wealth increases.  Despite their advantaged position, people seem to become unaware of the wide variety of conditions in the world and their own ability as a human to deal with them. The results are both tragic and amusing.

At first I thought this was a unique characteristic of US residents, since I saw the first examples after moving in with some roommates in Boulder, Colorado.

“You know, I never thought I’d be able to live way out here in the suburbs after living downtown for so long”, said 24-year-old Meredith, “but I guess you have to make some changes when you get older”.

I was confused, because Boulder has no suburbs – the entire town is only 7 miles long in its largest dimension and we were having this conversation 2.4 miles from the center. After living near Toronto, I thought “suburbs” were something you drove 45 minutes down a 16-lane highway to reach. Thus, I thought of Boulder as a perfect little speck of a town, with every area equivalent to every other one.

As it turned out, a discerning culture had evolved to pick apart the different areas of Boulder, arbitrarily deciding that houses on Mapleton avenue were worth millions of dollars more than ones out on 55th. Nobody noticed that they all had the same mountain views or sunny climate or fine culture.

The same effect is evident in Ottawa, Canada, where some extended family live in an old hilltop neighborhood. If you trim your trees just right and peer through, you can see a few miles across the river to some low hills on the other side. In a flat city with no other views or topography, this is apparently a feature to die for, and people are now bidding a million dollars for even the oldest houses so they can scrape them off and build $10M mansions and bask in the view.

And yet it’s about 5 miles from downtown, twice the distance of my old “suburban” Boulder place. The incomes of nearby jobs are no higher, but property taxes are. The climate is punishing for most of the year. There are no mountains. When taking a broader perspective, this area should be priced pretty affordably, but again the local human population has zoomed in on its own tiny world and started consumer bidding wars for the best of the nearby scraps.

Once you are aware of this pattern, you start see it everywhere. Fashion enthusiasts bid furiously for clothes of a certain style or brand. Car shoppers pay thousands more per year for a perceived difference in style, increase in size to carry around unnecessary items, or even for “crash safety“, a concept they likely don’t even understand beyond what they’ve picked up through auto marketing campaigns. Audio enthusiasts write pages about the vast difference between two amplifiers with identical specifications, and wine enthusiasts sniff and snoot about the more expensive wines. TV News watchers get angry and put stickers which protest socialism and high gas prices on the back of their V8-powered commuter pickup trucks, unaware that both of  the politicians competing for their country’s presidency represent only slightly different shades of the most unfettered capitalism and cheapest gasoline in the world.

Even here on my current winter trip to Hawai’i, there seems to be a “bad side” of every island, where the singing birds and perfect climate are deemed not quite as appealing, the texture of the beach sand is not quite right, or the neighbors aren’t as rich as we are (often expressed politely as “bad schools”). The result is dramatic and can be measured in the millions.

All of these people are missing the bigger picture, to their own detriment. Almost everybody is. So how do we exploit this loophole to make ourselves wealthier?

The answer, of course, is to watch out for signs of Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome in your own behavior, and punch yourself in the face any time it pops up. Ask yourself, “how does this decision I’m making look in the context of all of human conditions in the world right now, and throughout the many thousands of years of human history?” Is there really a big difference between the fancy neighborhood and the normal one now? Between home-brewed espressos or Starbucks? Or even between choosing the 2001 car and the 2013 one?

The answer you’ll come up with is that everything is a tiny detail, and even your biggest spending decisions are really between two shades of a very close bright happy green. So enjoy them, and by all means enjoy a bit of your great wealth as you make these choices, just to remind yourself that it is there. But since everything is such an arbitrary choice anyway, why not make the choices at a level you can actually afford, if you’re not already doing so? Once cured of TDES, you can pretty much write your own ticket, living on almost any percentage of your income that you choose.

With the right percentage, you can get all your time back for your own use.. and Time is one of the few things in life that is not such a tiny detail.

  • Dragline December 26, 2012, 11:34 am

    Now that’s what I call a New Year’s resolution!

    Glad to see all that devil-may-care island livin’ hasn’t dulled your electronic fountain pen.

    Reply
  • Kenneth December 26, 2012, 11:37 am

    Years ago I caught on to this game. I’d watch beautiful Mercedes, Lexuses, BMWs float by, all shiny and perfect, and costing $50,000 and up. And I then saw older vehicles, a little rust showing, buyable for under $3,000. And I would think, they both have 4 wheels, four tires, room for 4 or more passengers and get about the same gas mileage and have about the same reliability. And then, at the time, I read that Mr. Warren Buffett, multi billionaire, drove a 5 year old Lincoln Town Car. When asked about it, he said it ran perfectly, met his needs perfectly, so why should he buy a new one? It’s all a matter of perspective. And if you have a frugal perspective, up goes the percent of income that you can save.

    Reply
    • Marcia December 26, 2012, 3:22 pm

      I think about that too every time I see a fancy car drive by. And here in So Cal, I see more than anywhere I’ve ever lived.

      Reply
    • Emmers December 26, 2012, 7:22 pm

      Reminds me of this old article – http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-things-rich-people-need-to-stop-saying/ + http://gawker.com/5885705/the-top-1-must-stop-insisting-theyre-not-rich-right-this-instant – “‘Sure, it’s an objectively large sum of money,’ they say. ‘But it is far smaller after I spend it.'”

      That’s the best summary of anti-Mustachianism that I’ve ever read.

      Reply
      • mike crosby December 26, 2012, 8:03 pm

        One of my favorite stories: Warren Buffett took Bill Gates to his favorite steak restaurant in Omaha. After lunch, Mr Buffett was to take Mr Gates to the airport, but he was unable to start his new-fangled car. They had to call AAA to show how to start Warren’s car.

        Reply
      • TOM December 28, 2012, 6:43 am

        This point from the Cracked article is sort of antithetical to the main point of MMM:

        “You don’t even need to leave the dock — there’s a guy standing right there who you pay to fix your boat’s engine. You know that 1) you absolutely need guys like him and 2) he will never get rich doing what he does. He could be great at his job, he might be the Michael Jordan of mechanics, he might work 100 hours a week — it doesn’t matter.
        So “anyone can get rich” isn’t just untrue, it’s insultingly untrue”

        I suppose the definition of rich has to shift a little. But we all know an engine repairman with some initiative has a unique skillset that can propel him to financial independence.

        I agree “rich people” should be a little self-aware, but when you write a 10,000 word article about it, you’re going to go off the rails trying to make your point.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf December 28, 2012, 11:56 am

          Nor does the guy repairing engines today have to stick to repairing engines as his life’s work. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten to be as prosperous as I am if I’d stuck with farm labor, or logging, or cleaning hotel rooms, or any of the other things I did to get a toehold on the first rung of the economic ladder.

          Even that engine repairman could get rich: learn his trade, open a shop with a few people working for him, go into selling boats as well as repairing them…

          Reply
    • BadAss CPA December 27, 2012, 5:35 pm

      I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. Paid around $20k for a used BMW suv, same as my co-worker who just got a brand-new Toyota suv for roughly the same amount.

      If I were better I could have spent less than $10k on a used Toyota, but I guess we all have our weakness. Marcia’s right, it’s more prevalent here in SoCal.

      Reply
    • Tommy December 29, 2012, 3:41 am

      A friend of mine often tells me that i got a old car. Tells me that i should buy a new SUV like him (not his words, but that what it’s all about). Hell no! I’m not going to buy a new SUV. I got my 2002 Opel Vectra worth ~1000USD (Norway, cars are extremely taxed). It got a bigger trunk than his SUV, it consumes less fuel, and last but not least it’s not so damn expensive.
      Of course I don’t tell him this directly, but i have told him that it works fine for me and i can’t justify to buy a Audi Q5 for 85 000 USD!

      Reply
    • Andrew December 31, 2012, 12:14 pm

      Both cheap and fancy cars can propel you astonishing distances at speeds unfathomable for 99.99% of all humans that have ever lived. What a world.

      Reply
  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom December 26, 2012, 11:42 am

    This article is a great reminder that Better is the enemy of Best. When everyone is chasing “better”, they are missing out on enjoying what they already have. (the best)

    Reply
  • Derek @ Freeat33 December 26, 2012, 11:44 am

    My struggle is buyers remorse. I fear that if I don’t get the best option I’ll regret it later. Now I choose to focus on value. High priced options usually can’t compete in terms of value.

    Reply
  • Nah December 26, 2012, 11:46 am

    What an article…A sensible voice for the unsensible world.Greetings from Norway.

    Reply
  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies December 26, 2012, 11:49 am

    There are two unincorporated “towns” that are next to each other not too far from where we live. Legally, they are basically the same – unincorporated county land, and census data shows that statistically their populations are ridiculously similar.
    But their reputations are completely different, and I know people who pay tons of money each year to live in a HOA community in the “upscale town” while they could get the same house (and really the same neighbors) for less by living in the next “town” over without a HOA and all the added expense. It’s all marketing and brainwashing.

    Reply
  • Elizabeth December 26, 2012, 11:53 am

    Speaking of Ottawa, are you ever planning to do a Mustachian meetup in that city? Let us know if so!

    Reply
  • Tyler Karaszewski December 26, 2012, 12:02 pm

    I am reading this while waiting for my $4.25 latte from the trendiest coffee shop in town before I get back in my $40k 2012 model chevy volt. I need to make some adjustments.

    Reply
    • Boobah December 26, 2012, 10:35 pm

      Time to put an ad in the paper to sell it for a “bargain” of $35K, then go buy a 10 year old Honda/Toyota for $8K, then call the insurance agent to get your car insurance rate cut in half! If that’s too big a first step, buy a fancy coffee maker for $50 and it’ll be paid for in 2-3 weeks.

      Reply
    • Freeyourchains December 27, 2012, 1:10 pm

      I am reading this at work drinking my $.75 24 fl oz Mountain Dew, before getting in my $15k 2010 Toyota Corolla to go home 7 min away; and i still need to change my thinking.
      We should strive for our $75 used mountain/road bikes to and from work, and drink water only after 9 hours of sleep every night so we don’t need caffeine ever again to stay awake during our daylight.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache December 27, 2012, 11:31 pm

        MOUNTAIN DEW!?!?!

        FREE YOUR CHAINS, brother, free your chains. No sugared soft drinks allowed, for you or any other reader – ever. If you want some caffeine, get it in healthy coffee or tea. Even a pill is preferable to diluting it in the insulin flab-bomb attack of 60 grams of sugar!

        You’re right though – that car is way too new and expensive, and you should not be driving to work. New year’s resolutions abound. :-)

        Reply
        • Corey January 4, 2013, 8:49 am

          I always find myself wishing that your comment section includes some kind of “like” button.

          Reply
        • superbien April 8, 2013, 2:15 pm

          I think MMM should be the only commenter able to put a comment that’s a picture: either a big exploding BOMB! or a PUNCH TO THE FACE! when we need to be brought back to Mustachianism. That would make these comments even awesomer.

          Reply
  • David Gobel December 26, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Details exaggeration results in continuous dissatisfaction as we play the move halfway to the goal infinity game. One never arrives, while the moves become unmeasurably miniscule, yet command the same or even greater emotional angst. Satisfaction is the cure. It is indeed odd that the very first command to humans was “of every tree of the garden you may eat – TO satisfaction.” That was pretty good advice :-)

    Tyler, I have a Volt. No regrets here!

    Reply
  • MBo December 26, 2012, 12:25 pm

    MMM, are you familiar with White Whine? Classic snippets of 1st world “problems” that complainy pants people post to social networking sites. Here’s a recent example.

    “Driving a rental car that probably costs less than my watch while my car is in the shop” Boo Hoo :(

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/WhiteWhines

    Reply
  • Paula @ Afford Anything December 26, 2012, 1:09 pm

    From Mapleton Avenue, you can walk to the “city center” of Boulder (Pearl Street). From 55th Street, you can’t walk. In other words, one is a pedestrian-friendly location and the other location requires you to use a bicycle, bus or car. That’s a significant difference, not a small one.

    Not trying to be argumentative here, but I think that the “walkability” of a location is significant. If you can get everywhere on foot, you can save a lot of time and money in other ways (not paying for gas, not standing at the bus stop in freezing temperatures). So the “total cost” of living out in the suburbs can increase, when you take the whole picture in mind.

    Also, Mapleton Ave. is an extreme example, because the houses on that street are particularly overpriced (because they’re larger and have higher-end fixtures). There are plenty of other streets close to Boulder’s city center, like 4th and Arapahoe, or 22nd and Canyon, where you can live cheaply and still be in a pedestrian-friendly distance.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache December 26, 2012, 1:45 pm

      Walkability is subjective anyway… I’d want to be able to walk/bike to work or use reliable public transportation. Other than that, I’d prefer to live closer to friends (or make friends in my community), be able to get to a grocery store, school, and the library. The walk score seems to be based on what’s nearby in terms of stores, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. I don’t ever need to go to Pearl Street. There’s nothing there that you’d need on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.

      And, walking is pretty slow compared to biking. If you can bike places, it is much quicker. From 55th, you can easily bike anywhere in Boulder, even to Pearl Street. They should add a bikeability score…

      Reply
      • Amicable Skeptic December 26, 2012, 3:02 pm

        Agreed on not needing much more than closeness to grocery, school/work and library, though maybe we should add natural beauty areas (parks, beaches, etc.) to the list too. All the other stuff that current walk scores are based off of is largely superfluous to a mustachian mindset. Some enterprising web developer should make a new “mustache score”. You’d enter in the work/school addresses (or school grades for non-college kids who could end up going to a different school) of all family members and it would score homes based on this. Maybe when I get some free time I could take my own stab at this.

        Reply
      • Joe December 26, 2012, 3:24 pm

        Walkscore does have a “bikescore” for many cities:

        http://www.walkscore.com/bike/

        Here’s Boulder’s:

        http://www.walkscore.com/bike/CO/Boulder

        An impressive 86! My city, “bike friendly” Seattle, only gets a 64.

        Reply
        • Erica / Northwest Edible Life December 26, 2012, 4:05 pm

          Hills. Do hills play into the score? If so I’d expect Seattle proper (and San Fran) to cap out at a certain point.

          Reply
          • victoria January 9, 2013, 11:28 am

            They do count in the score. I live in Pittsburgh and my area is not considered particularly bikeable for that very reason.

            Reply
        • Fred Ross December 31, 2012, 3:26 pm

          I’m also in Seattle. I use a bike as my primary means of transit. The car sits largely unused, and we put half a tank of gas in it about once a month…which means it *really* needs a tuneup.

          Having also lived in Switzerland and spent time in Copenhagen, I regard Seattle’s supposed bike friendliness as a joke. There is exactly one separated bike lane in the city, and it swerves interestingly and suddenly ceases to be separated in fascinating places. There’s the Burke-Gilman trail north of Lake Union, but it’s only usable as a full speed bike commuting trail in the middle of winter when everyone else gets off of it. Besides that you’re on the streets, with traffic on one side, and parked cars on the other. The roads haven’t been properly resurfaced in thirty years as far as I can tell, so I have seriously considered selling my beloved road bike and buying a mountain bike for commuting.

          The hills honestly aren’t that bad, unless you’re trying to go up the north face of Queen Anne.

          It’s not a bike friendly town, and most people don’t bike. I honestly felt about as safe biking on the streets of Manhattan. Mind you, it’s also not a public transit friendly town. A couple of guys brainstorming for five minutes over a beer can produce superior public transit plans for this city to anything being done.

          Reply
          • Jeremy January 2, 2013, 8:28 pm

            I’ve had exactly the opposite experience bike commuting in Seattle. I rode the Burke Gilman trail daily, all year around. The bike lanes are great, drivers are respectful, and roads are in good repair. By chance might this be a case of TDES?

            Reply
      • Jen G December 26, 2012, 3:32 pm

        I’ve been house hunting in Seattle and many of the listings actually include a “bikability” score. It is pretty awesome!

        Reply
      • Jane Savers December 26, 2012, 5:18 pm

        As a Canadian I follow the wild goings on in our largest city Toronto. The mayor drives a big SUV and recently had some of Toronto’s bike lanes removed because they slow the flow of vehicle traffic. Imagine if you had located in an area that was bike friendly only to have the bike lanes disappear to allow for more cars?

        Reply
        • Captian and Mrs Slow December 29, 2012, 6:58 pm

          What they need to do is move the cycle paths next to the side walks like they did in Munich, bikes and cars don,t belong on the same space, distracted drivers alway win over bikers.

          Reply
          • Lisa December 29, 2012, 7:13 pm

            What they need to do is remove the mayor…oh, wait…They have!

            Reply
      • Paularado December 27, 2012, 2:34 pm

        I used to live on Mapleton for 10 years. Let’s just say a lot of my youth and money went to microbrews on Pearl St. You are right; there is nothing on Pearl St. that anyone needs. I would have been much better off on 55th! It was a cheap rental and it was fun. I rarely drove my car and I hiked the foothills all the time. It’s truly a wonderful neighborhood and I can see the appeal. The houses are magnificent victorian or craftsman mansions. They are amazing.

        Reply
        • Paula @ Afford Anything January 7, 2013, 7:38 am

          You want to live in a “mansion,” with all its expensive upkeep? Be my guest. Meanwhile, I’ll be paying $400 per month (including utilities) to live in an apartment in walking distance of Pearl Street.

          There are LOTS of frugal choices in convenient locations. There are inexpensive apartments on 4th and Arapahoe, or 7th and Marine, or 22nd and Canyon …. NOT on Mapleton Ave. Refuse to buy into the myth that you need to be on fancy-pants Mapleton Ave in order to be close to downtown.

          Refuse the myth that you need a “mansion” on 55th. You can have BOTH a cheap price AND a convenient location on Canyon Blvd, Arapahoe Ave and Marine St.

          (It’s true that you don’t HAVE to go to Pearl St. unless you work there. I worked there, and I think it’s important to be walking distance to work).

          Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 27, 2012, 11:38 pm

      Whoa, sounds like Paula has a case of TDES too!

      2.4 miles is not a significant distance – it’s less than 10 minutes on a bike, and EVERYWHERE in Boulder is close to groceries, bike paths, schools, and everything you need (unless your needs include the $100/plate restaurants of downtown)

      Reply
      • Paula @ Afford Anything January 6, 2013, 5:32 pm

        Are you really willing to ride a bike in snowy and icy conditions, which Boulder experiences from October through April? (Albeit with many clear days in between).

        I’m certainly not going to ride a bicycle through 2 feet of snow in -20 degree weather, which you yourself have stated is cold enough to make the pipes in your home burst. The additional windchill from that bike ride is severe. Getting windburn on your face, and having the skin peel off your nose, is NOT a Tiny Detail Exaggeration. I’ve experienced it myself, many times.

        I’ve also fallen off my bike when I’ve hit patches of ice, and only through sheer luck did I avoid spraining or breaking a limb from the fall.

        Walking, however, is windburn-free, even in freezing temperatures and high-wind weather conditions. Furthermore, when the roads are icy, walking on the sidewalks is also much safer than biking in the road next to cars.

        Reducing your risk of getting windburn, getting sick, getting injured, and getting hit by a car is the furthest thing from TDES that I can imagine. On the contrary, I’d call that a VERY Important Detail That Keeps You Safe.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2013, 6:16 pm

          Waaah, waaaah! Who is this tiny baby that has invaded the Mr. Money Mustache blog and is now leaving poopy diapers all over my comments section??

          Boulder has generally fucking gorgeous biking weather, even in January with an average high of 43F and warm desert sun every day. But even in sub-zero temperatures, biking is great. I don’t use a car to get myself around town, except when carrying more than the 100lbs of stuff I can fit in the bike trailer. Ever. Year-round. If I ever violated this rule, the universe would be at risk of implosion, so absolute is the nature of this rule of local bicycling, as it should be for any person with working legs and/or arms who performs errands within a 5-mile radius of home!!

          Go read more posts before commenting so you can understand what we Mustachians are about. No more bullshit complaints will be accepted (and all complaints are bullshit).

          Reply
          • Paula @ Afford Anything January 6, 2013, 6:31 pm

            Mr. Money, I have never personally insulted you. So why do you call me a “tiny baby” leaving “poopy diapers?” That type of name-calling is unproductive.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2013, 9:16 pm

              Oh, come on now Paula! This is not me, as in the guy who writes the blog, insulting you, the actual Paula. It’s Mr. Money Mustache, the icon on the left with a hand-drawn Mustache, insulting Paula@Afford Anything, the sassy wind-blown avatar who is writing your comments. There’s a huge difference, and the way I view the “Personal Finance Blogosphere” is the same way I view WWF Wrestling – lots of personalities doing battle for the good of the audience, but not actually enemies.

              Now let’s address why you got yourself into trouble in the first place. You have showed up HERE, in the Temple of Mustachianism, the place where Mr. Money Mustache lives, and started exaggerating the tiniest of details such as differences between various Boulder Colorado neighborhoods, in an article that is CALLED Cure Yourself of TDES!! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EXPECT TO HAPPEN!?!?

              The WHOLE POINT of the article, is that if you find yourself with a desire for Mapleton Avenue over 55th, you must punch yourself in the face and compare both to, say, Popoca ave in Guadalajara, or some gunfire-pocked street in Cambodia. Then you’ll see that the differences between our various rich-world choices are tiny indeed and you can handle anything the rough-and-tough G7 developed countries can throw at you.

              THEN, you proceeded to talk about “snowy and icy conditions from October through April”, which are as rare as Swearing Angels in Boulder compared to the region where I grew up. When I’ve already written about that specifically: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/11/03/how-to-ride-your-bike-all-winter-and-love-it/ … NOBODY implies that bicycling is not the ultimate form of transportation here on Mr. Money Mustache without taking some serious shit. It just doesn’t happen. When people attempt it, I’ll either delete the comment, issuing a soft guttural curse as I almost break the mouse button from clicking so hard on the “DELETE” button.. or if the comment is exceptionally tempting and I respect the sender, I’ll post a long and expletive-written rebuttal with personal insults.

              So, hopefully you now consider yourself lucky for the extra attention and appreciate the tone of the reply! And hopefully other would-be-bike-and-TDES critics will be forewarned.

              Reply
        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2013, 6:45 pm

          Hi Paula,

          You should check out this woman who bikes year round in Chicago (stylishly, no less!): http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/. There’s also a woman in Portland that bikes year round with her SIX kids! People do amazing things all the time and they soon find out that not only is it easier than they expected, but it makes them feel happier too.

          Personally, I used to bike 8 miles each way to work in Boulder and found it to be very doable and honestly quite easy. It really doesn’t get all that cold in Boulder most days. Our 6 year old bikes to school every day too.

          I think that for many newcomers biking seems too hard and gets quickly dismissed, but out of everything you could do that MMM recommends, that is the #1 most important and most life enhancing change you can make.

          P.S. don’t mind MMM’s comment – you just got him riled up as all the objections you mentioned have been addressed numerous times on the blog. :)

          Reply
          • Paula @ Afford Anything January 6, 2013, 7:15 pm

            I lived in Boulder for 9 years, on a budget of less than $20,000 per year. (When I was a student, on a budget of only $12,000 per year, plus in-state public tuition). I rode my bike year-round during that decade, including throughout the winter, because I didn’t own a car. (This allowed me to live on such a small budget). As someone who didn’t own a car for many, many years, I’m extremely familiar with the biking lifestyle.

            But as I said, I frequently got windburn on my face during the winter, and on a few occasions I’d hit patches of ice and go skidding, or I’d hit a patch of ice and fall off my bike. Living close to Pearl Street helped me minimize the amount of biking that I had to do, because I could walk instead. (I worked on Pearl Street and went to school at CU-Boulder, so I needed to be near downtown Boulder). If I had lived even 2.4 miles away, I’d be biking an extra 5 miles a day, even in icy conditions at night.

            As I saw it, there was a tradeoff: I could live in a larger home that’s further away from downtown, and bike to work, or I could live in an apartment that’s close to downtown, and walk to work. (Notice that NEITHER of those options included buying a car or SUV). I choose to minimize my biking by living in a small apartment that’s walking distance from work.

            On my $20,000/year budget, I certainly wasn’t living on Mapleton Avenue. Like I said in my initial comment, there are plenty of frugal living options near downtown Boulder. For example: There’s an apartment complex at 22nd and Canyon that’s cheaper than many of the houses that are further away from the city (near 55th). By sacrificing some square footage, I lived in an area in which I could walk rather than bike.

            What upsets me is that I get called a “baby” and accused of eating at “$100/plate restaurants” when I voice that opinion. :-(

            Reply
            • Yossarian April 28, 2014, 5:12 am

              I have ridden a bike in up to -10C for about an hour (my commute in winter is much slower – in summer the same route take me ~30 minutes) and have never had “wind burn”.

              And for below that (or above, if your skin is more sensitive), well, it doesn’t cost very much to dress properly. I biked all winter here in Canada…-30C, colder if you count the wind. Just dress for it, and get some bad ass muthafuckin’ ice all over your face: http://i.imgur.com/ejT6asa.jpg

              As for ice, studded tires help. I traveled across a frozen lake (pure ice…) and only fell once. They’re expensive though, and I think if I lived in Ottawa I’d just stick to salted roads. The frozen lake was my way to avoid the motor mania in this town when the roads are about 4 feet narrower on each side due to snow banks.

              Reply
              • Marianne May 23, 2014, 12:19 pm

                High fives all around here, winter bike commuting is My Thing. I live in the Yukon and managed it this winter while pregnant. You can do it too! I am a risk averse person, so I ride slowly, lit up like a christmas tree (with safety vest to boot) and since I was pregnant my clothing was cobbled together form my husband’s wardrobe (none of my stuff fit). No specialized gear for me. I don’t ride in fresh (drift) snow, or in high winds, and I took a few days off when the weather got Ottawa-style wonky with a freeze-thaw cycle since the terrain was changing so much I couldn’t ride with confidence. I got my bike winterized, which involved a $13 stop at a bike shop where they thinned out the hub gunk so I wouldn’t spin out in sub -35 degrees. The best way to learn to ride in winter is to just gt on your bike each day, the weather tends to change incrementally, so you adjust accordingly each day and before you know it, you’re 9 kinds of awesome.

              • Bob May 27, 2014, 6:39 am

                This is an interesting discussion to me. Where I’m from, people (drivers) are really hostile to cyclists, and there’s frequent debates (aka. shouting matches) both online and in real life about the issue.

                Usually it goes “drivers are crazy!” and “cyclists need to pay rego!”

                I don’t cycle for commute as I have easy access to public transport, but this is definitely a cyclist-hostile place! Although I think attitudes are changing, albeit slowly.

                (Admittedly, sometimes I do have hostile thoughts while the bus gets stuck behind a slow rider, but to be fair, I have the same thoughts when a car blocks the bus too!)

  • superbien December 26, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Wow. That so perfectly encapsulated the issue. Wow.

    Reply
  • Alan December 26, 2012, 1:27 pm

    Boulder at least seems to have a decent bike network, but the real advantage to central neighborhoods is that you can walk to just about anything. In far too many American cities, there are a lot of neighborhoods where it would take hours to walk to anything, and the roads are so large and fast that biking, especially with children, gets very dangerous.

    Here’s that Mapleton Avenue:
    http://www.walkscore.com/score/mapleton-ave-boulder-co-us

    And a house off of 55th, where the roads are specifically designed so you have to walk twice as far as you should to get anywhere, since their designers didn’t think anyone would do anything but drive a car:
    http://www.walkscore.com/score/gallatin-pl-boulder-co-80303

    The trouble is, in a lot of American cities, neighborhoods where you can walk everywhere have barely been built since the 1920s, when too many Americans went nuts for cars, so in the cities where most people have realized again that walking is nice, the houses that are best for walking places have gotten really expensive since they get bid up by everyone.

    Unfortunately, too many cities have outlawed the traditional solution to affordable housing on expensive land, known as “a multi-family house without tons of parking”. When’s the last time you’ve seen an apartment building without parking built after 1930? There aren’t many, since they’re illegal in most cities.

    Reply
    • Debbie M December 26, 2012, 6:53 pm

      Sometimes even when things are in walking distance, there are still cultural problems. I once lived in an apartment in a new suburb in Atlanta that was right across the freeway from a huge shopping center (several malls, actually–I called it “Shoppingopolis”). I could easily walk there and did. Several times drivers who were total strangers would ask me if I wanted a ride (even in gorgeous weather) and once a guy yelled out his window, “Get a car!” As if I were offending him by walking on the shoulder of a road (no sidewalks or bike lanes, of course).

      Fortunately, walkability is “in” now (at least in my part of the world), so new development is sometimes more walkable. I live next to what used to be an airport, and it’s turning into, well, I wouldn’t want to live there (pricy, HOAs, can’t fix your car in your own driveway), but I sure like living nearby.

      Reply
      • amber December 27, 2012, 4:21 pm

        this.
        My old apartment duplex was neighbored by a very active church next door, then the rest of the block was project housing to the right. To the left, townhouses were being rennovated and sold in the $700K-$1.5 mil range. I WAS the border between the good and the bad neighborhoods. One time I had a car stop so the driver could tell me I shouldn’t be walking on my street because it was dangerous. Never experienced any crime there.

        Reply
  • Financial Black Sheep December 26, 2012, 1:28 pm

    I think this story is a perfect example of the cliche “The Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Too many people complain about little things that the rest of us ignore. Seriously, I just upped my frugality by not only living on $50,000, but I will be paying for my education if full with only that money. I will also be taking 8-week condensed courses in order to finish quicker, so I won’t have time for complaining or making too much more money. Let’s see if all these whiners could do that HA! (Side-Note: I live in Colorado and I can’t complain about Boulder, because there are whiners, but there are also very thankful poor people in the same area. I guess you just have to look around more to see both.)

    Reply
    • Fangs December 31, 2012, 10:25 am

      $50,000? Wow. How frugal would you have to be to make it on my $25,000 gross takehome?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache December 31, 2012, 2:23 pm

        That’s sorta the point here, Fangs – just changing a few tiny details would allow the Financial Black Sheep to live on $25,000/year, or $12,000 or $7,000.

        Part of this philosophy is that if you do choose to spend more (as my family does with our giant luxury budget in the mid-$20ks), you remind yourself of how inefficient you are still being relative to what is really possible.. and thus maintain mental flexibility for future change and avoid the trap of feeling of victimized/deprived.

        Reply
  • Alexandria December 26, 2012, 1:30 pm

    SO TRUE!! I have observed this often, but hadn’t thought up a name for it.

    For one, we moved to a significantly low cost area. The difference in the region is negligible (in MY opinion), but the housing is about 60% cheaper. I am often amused by the exaggerated assumptions made about our “obviously less desirable community.” I’d personally argue the opposite – far more desireable.

    I think you get the most bang for your buck taking this to heart when it comes to housing (likely the largest expense for most of us in our lifetimes). So is the area where I notice this most prominently. I am amused with the city I live in because we bought a new construction home that is extremely practical. It doesn’t have the old neighborhood charm, but the our home is very energy efficient. The roof is supposed to last 50 years, stuff like that. We miss the old established trees, BUT we have none of the headaches that comes with large/old trees. The general attitude we get is that we are obviously superficial because we bought a brand new home. Almost everyone we know has paid a huge premium for some old neighborhood charm. They are too clueless to realize that the new/shiny/fancy is cheaper, anyway. The primary reason is that land (sparse) drives housing prices, and the newer home lots are smaller. Since we moved from a higher-cost area, the “small” land lots are what we are used to. Anyway, I always think, if our home says anything is that we are practical and didn’t want to pay a huge premium for “charm.” This is just one example. All of our home purchases have been kind of similar. We always find that A+ house that no one else is bothering to even look at. Which means we bought in two insane bubble periods without waiting lists, lotteries (on the new home) and without insane bidding wars. Our home buying experience has never been the ugly picture our peers painted. We always seem to find some discounted gem that is being overlooked by the herd.

    Reply
    • Jamesqf December 26, 2012, 9:26 pm

      “The primary reason is that land (sparse) drives housing prices, and the newer home lots are smaller.”

      Yeah, and you wind up with absurdities (to me, anyway) like 5000 sq ft McMansions shoved cheek-by-jowl on lots so small that you could stand at your window and spit in your neighbor’s.

      The question you perhaps should be asking is exactly how much it’s costing your family in mental & physical health to not be able to spend time outdoors with trees &c.

      Reply
  • totoro December 26, 2012, 2:28 pm

    The other side of this is to pay careful attention to this trend in relation to appreciating assets and capitalize on it.

    We chose to buy an older fixer-up home in an upscale area because prices have held their value better in a falling market and appreciate slightly more in a rising market. Right now we are in a balanced and slightly dropping market and our area is still registering slight appreciation. This can translate into a lot of money over time.

    In addition, we have a duplex and never have a problem renting because of location.

    With consumables/depreciating assets the opposite seems like a better tactic – live low unless it affects your quality of life.

    Reply
  • Jamesqf December 26, 2012, 3:23 pm

    Guess a lot depends on your perspective. What’s a “perfect little speck of a town” from your perspective has a population of 98,889 per the 2010 census, which from my perspective makes it a crowded urban area. Your perfect Hawai’ian climate is to me – enjoying about 6″ of new powder today – maybe nice for a vacation, but annoyingly hot & humid to live with.

    Some of those tiny details do really matter to your quality of life: maybe not individually, but they add up. Even some of the small ones can have an effect similar to the legendary Chinese Water Torture.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies December 27, 2012, 5:32 am

      I think the point is that no matter what your definition of “perfect”, there is probably a very expensive version that might exactly perfect in your mind.

      But then if you’re willing to blur the edges a little and expand your definition of perfect by allowing for epsilon error, there are probably much more affordable options.

      Reply
  • Jane Savers December 26, 2012, 3:23 pm

    I just put the final touches on my 2013 budget and all I really want is more time -not more stuff. I wasted lots of years and money trying to keep up with the Jones and now have not much time to fix all my mistakes.

    Part of my 2013 goal is to find new, more budget friendly friends that accept and can work with my budget constraints. I cannot fly to Vegas for someone’s 50th birthday party celebration but I would love to contribute a dish toward a pot luck birthday supper.

    Reply
    • Joy Host December 27, 2012, 3:17 pm

      Amen to that.

      Reply
    • Bullseye January 11, 2013, 12:28 pm

      This was the #1 factor in our transition to a better overall lifestyle. We surrounded ourselves with people who enjoy free or low cost family friendly pursuits, and mostly people who are also interested in healthy living, as opposed to some old friends who were spenders, and who our leisure time with consisted of drinking and eating crap at restaurants.

      Now our weekends are spent getting together at friends houses for dinners, going on hikes or bikes, tobogganing, going to public swims and skates, etc. We’re saving 40% of our net income, getting super fit, and enjoying life much more.

      So a great goal to strive for!

      Reply
  • JaneMD December 26, 2012, 3:33 pm

    I loved the ‘bad schools’ comment. Hilarious and so very true. Someone suggested we move because somewhere else had ‘better schools.’

    We’re in our neighborhood because we have to live within walking distance of our synagogue. We don’t drive Friday night to Saturday night and get to worship on foot. We can’t move, lol.

    Reply
  • Erica / Northwest Edible Life December 26, 2012, 4:11 pm

    Well examined, sir. I’d like to see similar posts examining both “Fancy-Shit Entitlement Syndrome” and “In My Town Middle Class Is $300K A Year And It’s Impossible To Get By On Any Less Syndrome”.

    Reply
  • MikeW December 26, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I wonder if this afflicts men more than women? I remember a male acquaintance telling me in hushed tones how his new Acura had ball bearings to cushion the radio tuning dial (this was long before digital radios), while my Honda had to make do with lesser bearings. I forget how much more his Acura cost than my Honda (same maker, of course), but it was a lot and it seemed a vanishingly small detail for such a difference in price. (He would have been quick to point out numerous other superior components in his car that would have justified the expense.) My wife and daughter would have never fallen for such nonsense.

    Reply
    • anonymouse December 26, 2012, 4:59 pm

      For men, it tends to be cars and electronics and gadgets. For women, it’s clothes and shoes and makeup. The general problem is still the same for both genders though.

      Reply
      • MikeW December 26, 2012, 6:50 pm

        I’m sure that you are right. I’m just lucky in having very smart women around me.

        Reply
    • Doug December 27, 2012, 9:11 am

      That’s not consistent with my observations. Women seem far more worried about status, conspicuous consumption, and conformity than men do. I’ve been mustachian for most of my life and, of the few who understand the merits of living this way, most are men.

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque December 27, 2012, 10:45 am

        I’d like to find a study that shows this (in either way). The only evidence I can find is that women are more frugal than men when it comes to holiday shopping … and that men are less frugal when they’re trying to impress women, while simultaneously being sexually attracted to women who are frugal.

        Reply
      • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies December 27, 2012, 11:07 am

        Figured I’d drop a feminine perspective in here. It seems to me that frugality and overspending are not gender specific habits.

        There are plenty of women out there that don’t wear makeup and choose clothing and shoes based more on comfort, practicality, and long-term investment than transient fashion trends. And no, that doesn’t mean we’re dowdy. At least I think Mr. PoP would concur with the last part. =)

        Reply
        • Lindsey December 28, 2012, 5:14 pm

          I’m with the comfort over fashion crowd. And I revel in my dowdiness because the husabnd and I were able to retire in our early 40s while our fashionista and foodie friends (of both genders) are still slaving away.

          Reply
          • Lina December 29, 2012, 3:32 am

            I prefer quality over quantity in both makeup and clothes meaning less clothes of higher quality. By buying only things that fit well and pieces that can be matched indefinitely you don’t need a large wardrobe or look dowdy. I prefer classical clothes sometimes mixed with a fashionable item.

            Reply
      • Lisa December 29, 2012, 7:24 pm

        That certainly hasn’t been my experience. You must know the wrong women. :)

        Reply
  • One Day At A Time December 26, 2012, 4:12 pm

    Wow this article could not have been timed better for me. THIS is what I need to train myself to do.
    I am so self-sick of the consumerist lifestyle I let myself lead. I have sworn to do The Compact next year and while I am looking forward to the cold shower of ‘no spending’, I am also dreading it. I’m sure I will be referring to this article again and again as I wean myself off of the need to achieve an impossible perfection.

    Reply
    • Jane Savers December 26, 2012, 7:47 pm

      I am going to try a month of no spending in January. I rely on fast food too much and it has hurt my budget and my waist line.

      Reply
  • Colin Suttie December 26, 2012, 4:26 pm

    I have to disagree with some of your post. When you have kids & enough money to consider moving somewhere with better schools (not always a subjective measure), the calculation is nothing to do with concepts like all of human conditions now & in history – it’s simply “how can I do the best for my kids’ education with the resources available to me now?” If you choose the cheaper option with worse schooling, and your kids end up struggling at school or dropping out, how could you live with your decision?

    Reply
    • Tanner December 26, 2012, 9:06 pm

      I commend you on wanting success for your kids, but in my experience “good” or ” bad” schools have very little to do with educational and/or career/life success. In my experience things like strong family support, strong role models, discipline, character, values, etc. are much stronger players of success than “purchasing” a great school.

      When evaluating resources you have to look at time vs money. In my experience time spent with your children far exceeds and outweights money you could spend on “bettering” a kids education. It’s kind of like admitting a poor person doesn’t have the same opportunity to succeed as a rich person?

      I know plenty of very well off peers that went to the so called “great” schools that ended up being addicted to drugs and/or dropping out of school. (Although dropping out of school isn’t such a horrible thing as people would have you to believe. I know tradesman that didn’t finish school that earn much more money than some peers that graduated with a masters that now work at starbucks).

      I also know many peers that grew up in “bad” school districts that are very bright and have successful careers. I do agree that people want to hire people like themselves, so if you came from a poor nieghborhood and got you degree at a for-profit university the harvard manager will probably pass you over for someone that came from the same background (been there), but does it really say anything about your intelligence?

      It takes character to look pass what school you attended to see what you are really made of. That is what I admire about MMM, its a humanity issue at heart, not a money issue…

      Reply
      • amber December 27, 2012, 4:47 pm

        Very much agree with this. In addition, when it comes time for college, if you went to a poor or disadvantaged school, and you shined there, you are much more appealing to an elite university than if you went to a fantastic school (like everyone else) and did all the sports and clubs everyone else did. Colleges treasure diversity and life experience as well as academic success. If you are raising your kids to give them all of those things, then you are doing a great thing for them (and for the rest of us who have to live with them in this world!)

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 28, 2012, 10:57 am

          I don’t blame parents for wanting to do the best they can for the kids. But I still speak out against the Ivy League Preschool Syndrome that leads to extreme choices like creating a 60-mile commute just so your kids can attend a certain school.

          I think you can do better academically for your kids by being around to teach them some things every morning before school and every night after it, rather than relying on the school to provide all the education. This means working less during their school years, which means no commute and the lowest working hours outside of school you can afford.

          Think about it: you are an amazing one-on-one tutor that already knows all the math, spelling, science, and everything else they will need up until at least the end of high school. So teach it to them, and let the school serve its function of socializing them with a wide variety of kids and learning to live with occasionally irrational rules.

          Reply
          • Megyn @Unstuffed December 28, 2012, 1:56 pm

            Are you a parent? I’m just curious because, as a parent, I actually know that there are many occasions that I am NOT the best teacher for my children. 1. There is a reason many parents don’t homeschool. 2. A lot of children learn better/listen to people other than their parents. 3. Do you remember all of your schooling from those 12 years? You could tutor calculus, US History, etc. without re-reading the book? Yeah, I didn’t think so (and this is from someone who had two highly educated teachers as parents…there were many times they sent me off to a sibling/tutor for help).

            Trust me, a good school that is a great fit for your child is worth it’s weight in gold…and a 60 mile commute.

            Reply
            • rjack December 29, 2012, 7:44 am

              MMM has a young son. I have two grown sons and I agree with MMM.

              As long as you have a at least a decent school to go to, it doesn’t really matter. There just needs to be an opportunity to learn. What happens at home takes care of the rest.

              I understand you may not be the best teacher, but you are likely to be the most motivated teacher.

              Reply
              • Lisa December 29, 2012, 7:30 pm

                I am a teacher and the mother of a son with special needs. What school he goes to is very important to me. I spend a lot of time with him, but I can’t do it all myself.

                I am lucky that he goes to a good school in the least expensive area of suburban Hamilton (which also happens to be where I teach).

                Individual circumstances will impact how necessary a “good” school is.

            • Fred Ross December 31, 2012, 3:37 pm

              I was homeschooled and received an education that the schools in my area could never have given me. And yes, my parents had to break out their old books and relearn subjects (mostly the Latin and Ancient Greek).

              I’m planning on homeschooling my (soon to arrive) offspring, though I live in a place that’s supposed to have good schools.

              Mind you, I could probably tutor US history without cracking a book right now, and I could walk into a university and teach calculus (and rather beyond) without breaking a sweat, so I may not be a useful sample.

              Reply
      • Lindsey December 28, 2012, 5:23 pm

        There was an article years ago in USA Today, highlighting the best high school scholars in the U.S. The thing that struck me, and I emailed the writer to be sure I had this right, was that every single kid came from an intact home. I don’t think the issue is how the parents get along as much as if you have two people devoted to your success, rather than having it diluted by a divorce that leads to one or both parents developing a second family, you have a better chance of succeeding. As soon as there is a second family, not only financial issues develop, but also jealousies that impact how much attention is paid to a child.

        I also think native born Americans leave too much to the teacher, in terms of motivation and learning. I am first generation, as were all of my childhood friends, and every single one of us was pushed to achieve, to learn, to take advantage of every opportunity offered by the U.S. If we did not, we were shaming our family. My parents wanted us to marry first generation, no matter what ethnicity, because they were afraid that marrying an American would make us lazy in life and in the pursuit of education. (Except, if the person was Asian, as my parents believed the stereotype that all Asians are smarter and harder workers…if my father had had his way, I would have restricted my dating to Japanese and Chinese men.)

        Reply
        • Jenny December 28, 2012, 9:55 pm

          To Lindsey….
          Interesting to hear that statistic about those kids all coming from intact homes. My child had A’s until his father filed for divorce. Now he has D’s and F’s. This was not due to either of us developing a second family however. I was a stay at home mom who devoted all my time and attention to my children. Now I am a stay at home mom who devotes all her time and attention to navigating my way through divorce, poverty, stress and fear. My child is either with me, not getting the support he needs because I am frantically trying to figure out how to come up with the rent I can’t pay, trying to figure out how much longer I can go without food so I can make sure him and his brother are getting properly fed, etc. etc. or with his dad, who can’t help him because he was never involved; never wanted to admit that our child needed help in the first place because said child was “so gifted” and refuses to accept (because it would cost him more in child support and he wouldn’t be able to afford his high rise with the ocean view) that trying to retain any sort of structure when children are shuttled between two apartments leads to failure and confusion. My child has gone from dreaming about going to a top college to deciding that “some people just bloom later than others.” I’m terrified he will never get out of that mindset.

          Reply
        • Ana December 28, 2012, 11:15 pm

          I must disagree with the idea that an ‘intact family’ is better for the child’s success when looking at my own family.
          My aunt has two children from two fathers and the second father had another child with another women at the same time (altogether he had three kids from three women, similar situation with first dad).
          My parents stayed together but there was constant arguing. Every time I have to spend time with both my parents together it is an emotional drain for me. As much as I love my father, I wish my mother would have left him so we had a more peace and joy at home. My mother was very devoted to our education, she would spent every day to check on our homework and tutor us. Me and my siblings are all being perceived as being very intelligent.
          My aunt was very involved in her children’s life, but she didn’t really care that much about academics. She stressed the importance of developing your personality and pursuing your interests. Discipline was very important to her, but less in academics.

          Both my cousins were better in academics in university, have very rewarding careers in the media and arts, are emotionally very mature and seem to enjoy life to the fullest. I truly believe it the most important to be a loving and supportive parent, no matter how your family situation looks like and to create a good atmosphere in your household so the kids like to come home.
          My father has a job in another country (we live in Europe) and only comes back home every few weeks. It is the first time in my life I look forward to spend some time at home when I will doing an internship here. From an early age on, I would have preferred my parents to live seperately. Although I have always been very ambitious, my first priority has always been to escape from my parents’ home and consumed a lot of my energy.

          I think my partner will be a wonderful dad once we will have kids, but I have learned my lesson. If for any reason we could not be able to live together peacefully, I would take the courage and suggest to live in two seperated households so my kids don’t have to dread to come home and see their parents in a bad mood.

          Reply
        • Lisa December 29, 2012, 7:31 pm

          My children are doing very well in school despite the fact that their father and I split 12 years ago.

          Reply
    • Megyn @Unstuffed December 27, 2012, 10:13 am

      I agree that when you become a parent, your views change quite drastically. We just moved from our house with stellar schools to a new place (different state) with an underperforming school. Let me tell you, there is a HUGE difference. Since his new school has a vast majority of hispanic students, the school caters to that; thus meaning, my non-Spanish speaking son is left behind because he doesn’t speak the majority language. In our old school, that wouldn’t even be a concern. As Tanner said, there are anomalies, but they are just that. The statistics on graduation rates, % that attend college, etc. are more realistic pictures. I fault no parent for wanting to give that to their children.

      As for focusing on the details of our world, are you really that surprised? It’s an evolutionary viable solution to want the best as it’s assumed it relates to our fitness (or survivability). It’s in our nature to focus on our little worlds first. Do you think other animal species don’t do the same? You think chimps consider all other chimps when trying to forage for food? Bonobos, who are in a lush, generally non-competitive environment, aren’t thinking about the surrounding species…they are just living in their nice bubble. I think it’s nice to have some global perspective, but you also have to realize that doing so is not programmed into our brains.

      Reply
      • Jamesqf December 27, 2012, 10:56 am

        “…my non-Spanish speaking son is left behind because he doesn’t speak the majority language.”

        1) Well, why doesn’t he learn to speak Spanish, then?

        2) Aren’t all the textbooks &c in English?

        Reply
        • Megyn @Unstuffed December 27, 2012, 11:09 am

          No, not all materials are in English. Also, it’s a bilingual school…where the majority of the Spanish-speaking children know some English while my English speaking son knows ZERO Spanish. I’m fine with him learning the language if it didn’t impede his ability to learn other subjects, but it does.

          Reply
          • Gerard December 28, 2012, 6:22 pm

            Most of the bilingual education research I’ve seen suggests that this isn’t likely to hold him back for long, especially once he picks up some Spanish. If anything, the cognitive and social advantages of bilingualism should soon outweigh stuff like learning the capital of Nebraska or whatever six weeks later than in the Anglo schools. You might want to change the stuff you choose to supplement, of course…

            Reply
            • Ana December 29, 2012, 12:05 am

              Totally agree. I went to a bilingual school. I don’t really remembered what I have learned but I still benefit from my improved language skills almost a decade after graduating. It made a lot more sense to me to put effort into my boring history or geography homework or to participate in class because it improved my English at the same time.

              Reply
      • Joy Host December 27, 2012, 3:30 pm

        I teach in a school like this, and while I think reversing the old norm of minorities being sidelined is NOT a bad thing, the particular school of which I’m a part takes a myriad of shortcuts that seriously affect the quality of education here. We have a minimum-F policy that gives every student a 50% just for breathing and being registered at the school; a “denial of credit” system that allows 10 unexcused absences before kids can be denied credit for a course–and which is consistently overturned by the principal; and many other ways of shortcutting our students to ensure passing grades.

        The reason? The majority of our students are immigrants from Mexico (or their parents are), and as wonderful as some of them are, the vast majority cannot read or write complete sentences. I am not exaggerating.

        I came to Vegas through Teach for America, love these students, and do what I can, but I would find it seriously difficult to put my own children in the courses here (if I had kids!). We have AP and Honors classes, but the struggle that even “good” or “dedicated” teachers face is this: how do you teach challenging, grade-level material (like I had growing up) when students can barely sound out words like “chimes” or “subtle” in twelfth grade, write at a fourth- or fifth-grade level, and come to class literally half the time?

        I’m grateful for the suburban Atlanta upbringing I had, in which I was constantly challenged in school from an early age, and entered college with 32 hours of credit (sophomore level). I also believe that some students still grow academically in the environment at our school. However, most rise only to the bar set in front of them. It breaks my heart to have “smart” students check out for two weeks because they know they can still get an A or a B due to our deficient “minimum-F” scale, and others who break their necks caring and working, only to graduate, go to any four-year university or out-of-state school, and find themselves woefully unprepared.

        They did the best, the most that was asked of them. How were they to know that their best, and what our school requires of them, was light years behind the academic standard set at other schools–even the one in the affluent suburb across town?

        There are many ways in which things should change, and no easy answer. I also LOVE the growth that comes from learning about a new culture, and there are students who only speak English here who grow from their exposure to Spanish and the Hispanic (and 98% Mexican) heritage of students here. But if you are talking about academic rigor based on where one goes to school, it DOES matter, exponentially.

        Reply
  • Linda December 26, 2012, 4:35 pm

    This is so true! And it’s much more exaggerated in 1st world or near 1st world country conditions.

    Moving from a 3rd world (South Africa) to a 1st world country (New Zealand), we were very surprised to hear of the dangerous/poor/crime-ridden/gangster-land “South Auckland” suburbs. They looked fine to us, probably equivalent to middle-class South African suburbs, and most definitely a lot safer crime-wise. Sure, not super fancy like the Auckland central posh neighborhoods, but at a fraction of the price.

    We lived in a suburb that is seen as slightly “worse-off” in West Auckland. The older generation complained about the “suspicious loiterers” in the village center… Uh, we thought it was great? Not once did I ever fear for my safety or clutch my purse closer.

    Of course, now I’m wondering just how bad the South African “dodgy suburbs” actually were, and if I was also just under the TDES influence back there as well??

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 28, 2012, 11:07 am

      Nicely said Linda! Using (or at least imagining) the perspective of other countries is what I was trying to encourage with this article.

      “Hmm.. my rich neighbors think that the school down the street is not good enough for their kids. But what would parents in rural Alabama, or heck, Guadalajara think about it? And if this is the location I can currently best afford to live in, how can I make it work?

      Check out this Greatschools.org rating of my own son’s school. 5/10. FIVE OUT OF TEN!!

      http://www.greatschools.org/colorado/longmont/1128-Central-Elementary-School/

      What would an uninformed parent assume when moving here from La Jolla, CA? “Uh-oh, bad school, better sign up for double private school tuition and drive both kids 10 miles to and from it in the van each day”

      Meanwhile, those in the know are in love with our school, and given unlimited money I could not be happier with the setup.

      Reply
  • Jenzer December 26, 2012, 5:20 pm

    In the last few years, I’ve noticed a sharp spike in anxiety amongst my peers in the white-middle-class-college-educated-mom set about what’s the best diet to feed one’s children. There’s so much angst about whether one’s kiddos are eating, say, organic/local/sustainably-grown fruit — I just want to yell, “Ladies! Be thankful your kids can GET fresh fruit!” When you consider the number of “food deserts” in the United States where fresh produce of *any* kind is scarce to nonexistent, having a choice between a conventionally-grown vs. organically-grown apple is really a luxury.

    I figure that if I’m making foods like toasted almonds and carrot sticks and cubes of natural cheese available to my kids, we’ve improved our eating habits 95% over the Standard American Diet of processed junk. Going another 5% to hit the organic/local/sustainable mark is optional, and for us not worth the premium prices we’d pay to do so.

    We live near a college town that has both an Aldi grocery store (a discount chain based in Germany) and not one but two Whole Foods Markets. I can stock up on minimally-processed foods like fresh produce, dry beans, oatmeal, green tea and eggs at both stores, but my total bill at Aldi might be half of my total bill at Whole Foods for similar items. In my mind, a fresh Whole Foods orange isn’t twice as healthful as a fresh Aldi orange.

    Reply
    • Debbie M December 26, 2012, 7:01 pm

      I feel the same way about people who are angsty about vaccinations when their kids never have to get horrible diseases. And chlorine in the water when no one gets dysentery anymore.

      Reply
    • LaFarrell December 27, 2012, 2:56 pm

      Seems a good place to second Aldi as a great grocery resource!

      Reply
  • Kathleen, Frugal Portland December 26, 2012, 5:35 pm

    Such a great point, yet, so hard to keep at the top of mind — it’s a classic and for many people, inevitable step in the Maslow hierarchy.

    Reply
  • Snow White December 26, 2012, 6:25 pm

    A number of years ago, I was told by a realtor when moving about a 1,000 miles to an unfamiliar city that “no one” lived in the area near downtown that we wanted to live in. She insisted on showing me expensive homes in pricey neighborhoods until I threw a hissy fit and told her I’d find another realtor unless she’d set up appointments to see properties that I had identified as being in the area we wanted to live in and within my budget. She even had the nerve to tell me “I could afford it” (an expensive house) since my husband was a surgeon! I would have fired her in a heartbeat but she was the “friend” of my husbands new boss so I was stuck with her. We ultimately ended up in a modest condo in the area that no one lived in (she meant that only poor people lived in) and it was one of our favorite places to live.

    Reply
  • mike in the aerie December 26, 2012, 9:12 pm

    Dear Mister Moustache.

    What you are proposing is a subtle rebellion against what is essentially human nature. I am all for that. It’s sneaky and it does not really hurt anyone to opt out. When all is said and done, Time really is the only thing that has any value. 2013 will see me join your ranks from my beautiful home here in downtown Ottawa. You’re right about the taxes here too….

    Happy New Year my frugal friend

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 28, 2012, 11:15 am

      Thanks Mike! You’re right that I am proposing a rebellion against some aspects of our nature.

      But it’s not as impossible as it sounds – human culture is powerful enough to override some pretty strong bits of normal human nature, as we’ve seen with bizarre and occasionally tragic results throughout history.

      In fact, I’d argue that our insatiability for products at the level we currently do it is more engineered by marketing than it is driven by evolution. Especially when you consider how much REAL stuff we sacrifice (sleep, free time, sex, dignity, etc.) to get the products.

      Thus, all we need to do is change the culture a bit – especially the American one. Easy!

      Reply
  • Tanner December 26, 2012, 9:22 pm

    My wife and I were just joking about this subject tonight driving home from a family holiday get together. I think they referred to it in a Saturday Night Live skit as “White Peoples Problems”… My sister is moving to a 4200 sq ft house soon. She currently lives in a 2800 sq ft house and has two kids, but it just isn’t “big enough” apparently. I guess they don’t have enough rooms they don’t utilize yet as there is only two of those in their current house. I told my other sister “I am not sure they need that much more room” she replied “well their kids are getting older (7 and 9) and need more room to themselves”. My dad, his brother and my grandparents grew up in a 1200 sq ft house until they were in college and they turned out perfectly fine and happy :) We definitely complicate things today.

    Reply
    • Boobah December 26, 2012, 10:58 pm

      Yeah heaven forbid, family members are forced to be within sight or earshot of each other when at home! My wife and I have about 1850sq.ft. to ourselves, and it feels like a lot of wasted space. Maybe with 2 kids it would be a good space, but McMansion proportions makes me wonder how little those people care for each other, if they don’t want to live with them?

      Reply
    • Tracy December 29, 2012, 2:16 pm

      It saddens me when people think they need or their kids need more space. We live in 790 sq ft home with two adults and one large dog. Many kids have grown up in this 1944 home and I am sure they turned out just fine.

      We hosted a party recently with about 20 people, boy was I worried that it would be uncomfortable with so many people but it wasn’t. Everyone adapted and had a great time.

      Reply
  • Rich M. December 26, 2012, 9:23 pm

    Best post of 2012. So don’t write another till Jan 1! ;)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 28, 2012, 11:26 am

      Wait.. is there a secret motivation to this instruction? Are you too busy to read MMM articles in the next week? Or just encouraging me to take some vacation time because you think I need it? :-)

      If you look at the recent post dates (and the number of unanswered emails in my inbox), you’ll see that I have been appropriately slack while in Hawaii. Some days, I forget that I even AM Mr. Money Mustache.

      But the number of things that need to be ranted about is starting to grow again, and thus I’m expecting a busy winter/spring season around here.

      Reply
      • SK December 28, 2012, 12:05 pm

        MMM,

        I agree with Rich. I have been reading your blog for a year now and never commented so far but I think this post is one of your best.

        I am also an Electrical Engineer , living in Sacramento area. I just turned 35 and I am originally from India. I am enjoying good income (this year I crossed $200k and I hope that continues). My saving rate is 75%+. However I would like to continue my work for foreseeable future since I enjoy it very much and also would like leave some legacy to kids. I also feel I am living like a king compared to how grew up in India. I have a nice 4 bedroom house, 2 cars (both ~10 years old though). I can turn on air conditioning when I am hot and can turn on heat when I am cold. I have tons of entertainment options. Compared that to my childhood where I had to tolerate months of 110 F. temperature, forget about air-conditioning but many times without a fan as well. Yes, I am living like a king with all the amenities and if needed, I can cut down most of my expenses further.

        Thanks for the excellent blog.

        Reply
  • Kelly Damian December 26, 2012, 9:33 pm

    This is a really great point. I notice the same thing with people proclaiming they are busy. “Oh, dear me, I am just so busy, busy I don’t know what to do”. I think it’s a way of making yourself feel important. Really great website. This is my first time here and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Reply
    • Joy Host December 27, 2012, 3:39 pm

      AGREED. A person for whom I care deeply recently neglected to join a volunteer service I participate in, whose services she received, because she’s just “too busy.”

      She lives off her ex-husband’s income apart from a part-time job that she refuses to exchange for a better-paying one because she likes not interacting with people, has one child who is a senior in high school, and …. that’s it.

      I had to bite my tongue to not list off the cancer-fighting moms, business owners and young professionals who put in 60 hour work weeks and participate in the same organization as me. Not to mention myself, who was recently working as a teacher, drama instructor, tutor and nanny in addition to the two ministries I enjoy helping.

      I love this person. But perspective matters, and I realized at that moments how deeply ours differ!

      Reply
      • Joy December 28, 2012, 3:28 pm

        Joy,

        Your friend might not have wanted to get into the real reason
        she didn’t help with the volunteer program.

        Often one says “I’m to busy.” When the truth could be to
        painful to share.

        We are not all social butterflies. Some opt out simply because the
        stress of being in a social setting is uncomfortable. It sounds
        like your friend may be of this type. (Her Job)

        Reply
        • Lisa December 29, 2012, 9:21 pm

          I agree. I am an extrovert and sometimes forget that not everyone is like me.

          Reply
          • Joy Host December 29, 2012, 11:13 pm

            I like the graciousness that your responses display, but I’m actually the introvert, and she the extrovert!

            What she actually likes about her job is being able to set her own schedule; since she works at stocking materials in convenience stores, it’s easier to do without customers in the way.

            She is far more talkative than me and delights in social situations, while I reach a point and then need time alone like oxygen. She processes while speaking aloud, while I accomplish that by writing and thinking through things. Just for some examples.

            While there are certainly those who are indeed less comfortable socially, I think it is an easy way to avoid social responsibility for many who are extroverted, but prefer to spend their time their way.

            What those who use the “too busy” excuse fail to see is their words imply those who make the time are not as occupied. I believe it’s more about choice, and that there are many ways to give back apart from social time–if I didn’t already know how much she loved and explored this community in a social setting when she was on the receiving end. :-/

            That said: it’s not my job to run her life. Just expressing a pattern I see, and since we are very close friends, I know more of the context than usual.

            Reply
            • Jenny December 29, 2012, 11:53 pm

              Joy Host,
              The more I hear your selfish talk, the more I wish my comment hadn’t gotten axed during moderation. I doubt this will make the “pc” cut either, but your friend stays away for a reason. Let it go. It sounds like you have a very busy active life. Stop obsessing over hers and give her the decency of letting her make her choices in peace as you have made yours, without all the whining – whether it be the “in your face” kind or you have favored the more “passive aggressive route” when interacting with her. Its none of your business how she choices to live her life. And if it bothers you so much, stop being her “close friend”. My guess is that if you openly harass her to her face in the manner with which you dump on her here, she doesn’t reciprocate your friendship anyway.

              Reply
      • victoria January 9, 2013, 11:48 am

        No offense intended whatsoever, but I would be really insulted if a friend felt like I had some sort of obligation to volunteer for a particular cause.

        Reply
        • Joy Host January 11, 2013, 5:47 pm

          Thanks for the kind way you said that … this comment strand has been a bit of a reality check for me, in a good way. It really isn’t my business to tell someone how to spend their time!

          Feel embarrassed for it to have played out so publicly, but appreciate the chance to realize that my viewpoint was out of whack. Which is why the comments section and this blog are so useful!

          Reply
  • ael December 27, 2012, 12:01 am

    Excellent. Nothing to add.

    Reply
  • lurker December 27, 2012, 5:17 am

    good article. sounds like clever marketing by realtors and other sales people to me to the point where the herd believes the hype. being badass means thinking for yourself about what you and your family need and value and tuning out the folks who really just want to sell you something. Happy new year everyone!

    Reply
  • Meoates1 December 27, 2012, 5:17 am

    Well said. The whole good neighborhood/ bad neighborhood is a classic example of this silliness. Our realtor also told us, ” you don ‘t want to buy this house…. “. Yet in two years living here we would have paid for the house in the amount we would have paid in rent! Instead we wrote a check for the price of this house, and absolutely love it. The neighbors are great, the street is quiet… And it is also in walking distance of a great high school… If not the highest test scores, it has the best sports/ arts, community involvement… If we had kids that’s where we would want them to go. And yet co workers think we live in a sketchy neighborhood. One girl asked my wife if she was ” afraid ” to go to our local grocery store, which is an easy walk or bike ride away. .??? Don’t understand…. We stop in routinely and the folks there and at the bank know us by name… Glad to find a forum where people think a a little more like me.

    Reply
  • stashio December 27, 2012, 9:19 am

    Love this site, and love this article. Something I haven’t seen brought up in the discussion yet is the topic of resale value. Buying a house in a neighborhood deemed “undesirable” by the locals can affect how much profit you end up with when you go to sell. Of course, if you have small kids and plan on hunkering down for a while, it may not matter, but if you plan on maybe fixing up a house to sell, then neighborhood perception comes into play. I suppose it’s similar to choosing which stocks to invest in.

    In my current town (been here >25 years), I can pull up crime stats for the various neighborhoods and find some neighborhoods, notoriously labeled as “bad”, that have pretty high crime. I think it would be hard to sell homes in those areas; I know I wouldn’t want to live there. I already live in a middle-of-the-road area, not uppity, but not the worst either. It’s allowed me to have a very low mortgage that I’ve paid down quite a bit. It’s older, but the schools are supposed to be some of the best in the city. While my neighbors are still pretty decent, we can’t park our cars on the street because someone has been smashing in car windows for the past few months. There was also a couple meth labs found up the street.

    Anyway, I just I’d throw these thoughts out there.

    Reply
    • Jamesqf December 29, 2012, 11:47 am

      Resale value isn’t going to change unless the neighborhood changes. If you bought in a “good” neighborhood that goes downhill, you lose. If your “bad” neighborhood is a target for gentrification, you win.

      Reply
  • Doug December 27, 2012, 9:26 am

    This topic is consistent with what I’ve seen also. Some people are quite obsessed with status, worrying about what everyone else thinks, and complaining about the dumbest things. I think these people have far too much money and are looking for ways to get rid of it. They are like a hydroelectric dam when there is far more water coming down the river than can be put through the turbines to generate power. The excess is gotten rid of by opening up the sluice gates to the spillway, bypassing the generators altogether.
    There’s a positive side to it all. It means there is plenty of cheap, but fully usable stuff at yard sales and second hand stores, and some which can be fished out of these rich people’s garbage for free. I call it a counter action to this nagging social problem of wealth inequity, where wealth is actually transferred from rich people to “poor” (only in external appearance) mustachians like us!

    Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 December 27, 2012, 10:21 am

    Real estate is a tricky thing. We live in downtown Portland and we love it. Our neighborhood is expensive, but other nearby neighborhoods are 2-3x more expensive. The buildings are newer, but the kids all go to the same school. I guess you’ll have to make your own choices.
    I’ll check out Hawaii real estate one day. :)

    Reply
    • Freeyourchains December 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

      Waikiki, Miliani, then North Shore for O’ahu from most expensive to least. Least being $1500/mth for 450 sqft.

      Reply
  • Freeyourchains December 27, 2012, 1:22 pm

    A volt is ok, but even more badass is:

    A solar panel car with 4 motor electric wheels. Light weight, no fuel required, no drive shaft or mechanical parts except motor wheels, and little maintenance/replacement with only the wheels and brakes and any power generation sources like the panels themselves in ten years.

    But shhhh, The Oil, Gas, and Electric companies hate ideas like this because they could go bankrupt if consumers go self-sufficient.

    Reply
    • Jamesqf December 27, 2012, 8:01 pm

      Maybe that’s why the oil, gas, and electric companies hate the idea of your solar panel car, but I suspect that they’d be happy to invest their supposedly excessive profits in the solar panel car, except for the fact that they employ competent engineers who point out why a solar panel car just isn’t practical.

      Reply
    • Doug December 28, 2012, 1:42 pm

      You have the right general idea about a cheap, badass electric car. However, to buy one like the GM Volt requires a big capital expenditure with a long payback time which isn’t very mustachian. A better alternative would be to build one yourself cheap, it can be done if you have the know how, time, and resources. Have a look at http://www.forkenswift.com and see for yourself! As for powering it entirely with solar panels, that’s a pipe dream (unless you drive under 10 Km per week) but you can use solar panels to provide some energy to charge the battery. The rest will come from the grid, and charge it up only at night when power’s cheaper if you have time of use billing.

      Reply
  • Dave December 28, 2012, 9:32 am

    Solar panel cars are fantasy, at least for now. Electric cars are fine and dandy, but don’t forget consume vast amounts of energy and materials to produce, and still give you the same basic inefficiencies of a gasoline based car. Namely, they are heavy as hell, wasting most of the electricity stored in the batteries in moving the giant hulk of metal (with your comparatively lightweight body in it) through space and time. Mr Money Mustache is absolutely right, the only personal transportation device that makes any real economical or environmental sense is a bike.

    The ultimate personal transportation device for all of us would be a hybrid bike. Human powered for short round town trips, electric motor assisted for slightly longer trips (say 10-20 miles, which is easy enough for mr money mustache under human power, but not for all of us), and for really long trips (like hundreds of miles) add a small gasoline motor to your bike. I know, environmental heresy! But if this hybrid bike actually replaces your car and gets 300 + mpg, both you and the environment are winners. No licensing, minimal maintenance costs, five minutes to put motor on or off. This is here exactly what I am talking about (no affiliation with the company):

    http://www.bikeengines.com/tomtest2.htm

    Reply
  • LeighinCT December 28, 2012, 7:43 pm

    Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Long time lurker….just back to the internets after a few days off and I just saw a commercial on HGTV that got my wheels spinning. There was a promo for a new show, something called Hawaii Life or Hawaii Living. And there was a man that looked a heck of a lot like MMM tossing a young lad in the surf.

    Is that you MMM??? And if so, many many congratulations to you! If not, then you have a Hawiian doppelganger.

    Inquiring minds want to know!
    Leigh

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 28, 2012, 9:33 pm

      Hey Leigh.. thanks for starting the official MMM celebrity watch. I don’t know if that was me or not – I have definitely done lots of wave playing here with junior ‘stash. But I haven’t noticed many TV cameras in the vicinity. Did it look like Kailua beach? Turquoise water? Pointy islands out in the ocean? Tall skinny boy almost seven years old? If so, the odds are reasonable.

      Reply
  • bayrider December 29, 2012, 12:39 am

    I thought I’d share an interesting experience I had, I attended a small Christmas dinner the other day in Santa Ana with a family worth hundreds of millions of dollars. My sister’s family has an in law connection to them and we were invited to attend since we were in LA for Christmas. The older generation were Swedish immigrant SOCAL Lima bean farmers who held onto their crop land until 1967 at which time they finally sold some and developed South Coast Plaza, which they still own and is now the highest grossing mall in the US. They are big time philanthropists and quite well known in the OC. The dinner was held at the family home they have owned since the 1930s, a lovely stately home in a classic era neighborhood that they all grew up in. The home, although upscale and spacious is certainly modest by today’s standards of the wealthy, not a thing ostentatious about it. In fact the interiors were rather dated and seemed original for the most part, but impeccably maintained. These folks could easily afford mega mansions yet were happy to remain in their lovely traditional homes. There were a few nice Lexus sedans but not a Range Rover or Benz or Rolls in sight, which is a common sight in that area.

    The family members had a very charming manner about them, they could not have been more gracious, conversing with us at length and with great interest in our situations and sharing stories of their own with us. The dinner was self serve buffet style roast beef, turkey etc, wines (from their vineyards) and champagne. I overheard the hostess telling someone that it was catered by Marie Callenders which took me by surprise, number one because it was so good and number two because that was such a frugal move for this family. They obviously have never developed a taste for squandering money or self indulgent nonsense of any kind. Not that they were cheap or tight in any way, (they gave everyone of us very nice gifts) but they were obviously aware that they in fact enjoyed a privileged and good life with every possible blessing, they seemed secure and deeply satisfied with their lives. They all had outstanding educations and had achieved success in a number of professional fields and had led interesting lives. It was very clear they had no love or need of more ‘things’.

    I was deeply impressed by this family, they demonstrated a distinctly Mustachian money sensibility albeit from much different circumstances than most of us!

    Reply
    • mike April 2, 2013, 11:11 pm

      I love stories like this.

      I had an uncle who owned one of the largest car dealerships in New England. He lived in the same house from newly married till he died.

      A most unpretentious and a wonderful man to be around.

      Reply
  • Ty Webb December 29, 2012, 7:12 am

    Great post, I’ve often thought along these lines. If you need to drive somewhere the difference between having a car and no car is %1000 bigger than the difference between a $500 beater and a new Escalade.

    Reply
  • Quinton Hamp December 29, 2012, 11:20 am

    I don’t know what I like better: the articles or the banter in the comments following!

    In my case I work in the middle of the trendy part of town. When looking for a home, I discovered that the “cheap” run down houses here were $10k higher than houses 10 minutes outside of town.

    We live in a quiet neighborhood of older houses and young families in a nearby township. It’s pretty sweet. The bonus to saving $10k? I’m still only 12 minutes from work!

    Good article. Great points.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 29, 2012, 4:47 pm

      Cool.. except hopefully you mean 12 minutes by bike. If you created a 24-minute daily roundtrip car commute to save $10k, you made a really bad bargain and might want to re-consider. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/06/the-true-cost-of-commuting/

      Reply
      • Jamesqf December 31, 2012, 9:33 pm

        I think you’re looking at it from the wrong angle: he created the commute (whether by car or bike) in order to live in “a quiet neighborhood of older houses and young families” instead of the trendy part of town, which (IMHO anyway) is worth paying quite a bit extra for. That he saved some money in the process is just lagniappe.

        Reply
        • Liz January 1, 2013, 4:05 pm

          That is the exact wrong thing to do.

          Reply
          • Jamesqf January 1, 2013, 9:23 pm

            Why is it wrong? It seems as thought he has evaluated the quality of life issues involved, and made a reasonable decision based on the subjective weights of living in congenial surroundings (large plus) with a fairly short commute (small minus), as opposed to living surrounded by trendoids (major minus!) and no commute (medium plus).

            Reply
            • clint January 2, 2013, 8:03 pm

              Plus, a 12-minute car commute is the same as a doable 30-minute bike commute, so he improved his station … as long as he rides the bike.

              Reply
  • Cline December 29, 2012, 5:12 pm

    As normal, great post. On the the “bad schools” issue, Having raised my kids in the “worst” elementary school in the area to be wonderful highly intelligent members of society, I can tell you that my wife and I had far more influence on their lives than anything else in life. Our society now wants somebody else to raise and educate their children.

    I used to work for Allstate and remember on of the Presidents of the company saying his parents spared nothing with his education, they told him he could have any education that the state taxpayers could afford. I adopted that with my kids.

    As for housing, I’m teaching them (and the oldest just bought her first house) buy a small house with the idea of living in it the rest of their lives. That’s what our grandparents did and they were better for it.

    Reply
  • jesse.anne.o December 30, 2012, 10:26 am

    I also enjoyed this one (long time lurker, first time poster). I struggle most in the clothing and convenience areas, otherwise I’m pretty responsible (although you couldn’t PAY me to bike to work from Bklyn/midtown Manhattan at this point – I did it once and that was enough).

    My question re spending money on clothes/shoes is this: how do you reconcile buying aligned with your values and the cost? Most of what I struggle with is finding brands that have a low ecological impact and fair labor standards…but they usually cost a lot more money. (Granted, a lot of my issue is over-consumption but I already know your thoughts on that and mine as well!)

    I often hear people citing only buying used items but that is often detrimental with shoes and when I think about buying used only, I feel like that doesn’t address the long term issue we have with an industry that refuses to produce responsibly and is guided by consumer dollars. I feel like buying used only, when that used is a layer of sweatshop labor and irresponsible ecological practices, still does nothing to send the message to vendors that they need to change.

    Even if you’re only buying a few “classic” pieces (which invariably end up dated anyway…just less quickly), buying half used and half new but from decent companies who pay a fair wage adds up really quickly!

    I suspect you won’t feel a responsibility for “steering” the industry with consumer dollars but just curious to hear your thoughts on the issue.

    Reply
    • Jill the Pill December 31, 2012, 9:20 am

      Hey there, Jessie-Annie-O,

      I like your formula half used/half new (new = shoes and underwear), but you need one more component: buy rarely.

      If you think about it, “steering” companies occurs when people don’t buy their products, right? You don’t buy Walmart or Gap clothing because you don’t like their practices. It shouldn’t matter to them (and they won’t ever know) whether you are not-buying their products because you’re buying union-made, second-hand, or nothing at all.

      Reply
      • jesse.anne.o January 1, 2013, 7:08 pm

        Interesting point regarding no purchase also being a “vote” – very good point and thank you for posting it!

        I struggle a lot around wanting to support smaller start up brands that I like (some of which do pre-orders to help support their current line to keep them in business) because they are doing all the right things and I want to see them succeed – but I also need to think about my overall life priorities and supporting small brands doing good is probably not at the pinnacle of ALL my values.

        Reply
  • Mr 1500 January 1, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Another nice post. I think it boils down to this: The things that make people happy and satisfied are vastly differently than what most people think make them happy. An expensive car doesn’t provide lasting happiness. It actually takes away from it because the hours you have to put in to pay for it take away from what is really important; quality time with family, achieving goals, etc.

    Reply
  • bigmaq January 2, 2013, 6:49 am

    Reminds me of the days when I bought my fathers ’72 Chrysler Newport (it was in the 80s). One of my co-workers shook her head and asked about the “embarrassment factor” (most of my cohort were borrowing to buy new cars or near new sport cars). I hadn’t thought of that. Still, I replied to her that I was saving for my future MBA education. That MBA has led to some very good career opportunities for me. In fact, after a Goodwill truck hit it, I took their cash offer and did not repair the dented driver door – saving it for my MBA fund. And, I eventually sold it to my brother in law who had some mechanical skills and needed a car for his college days. He painted “Land Yacht” in a contrasting color on the trunk hood. That car lasted 20+ years and many, many miles.

    Reply
    • bigmaq January 2, 2013, 6:55 am

      Forgot to mention…nowadays I drive better (but still purchased as used) vehicles and maintain them well. However, when I see 20 year old cars (“beaters”) on the road, some may laugh (or sneer in disgust) at those drivers, but I think most of them are just being smart and working their way up like I did. You gotta respect that.

      Reply
      • TS January 3, 2013, 7:42 am

        I generally sneer in disgust at people who drive gigantic SUVs, as they apparently place no value on their time (AKA life energy) or the environment.

        Reply
  • b+ January 2, 2013, 8:27 pm

    Isn’t it interesting that people will decide that one side of town is “better” than the other based on information they have never actually checked out? Occasionally the best place is the place that no one else wants. One man’s fruit and another man’s poison.

    I noticed the comment above about a car she had bought. When we bought our first Subaru someone told us that it was a hunk of junk. We are now on our third Sub. and we are waiting for the junk factor to kick in…maybe it never will.

    Be well and Happy New Year.

    b+

    Reply
  • Sara January 3, 2013, 9:15 am

    I live in Ottawa and I love when you reference it. Perhaps because it is such a “serious town”, it is great to have someone poke fun at it from time to time.

    Reply
  • Matt January 3, 2013, 1:33 pm

    Truly a great article. This is probably totally against MMM but i nominate you for president. Maybe you can fix the broken system America calls a government.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 3, 2013, 4:55 pm

      Pretty sure MMM is Canadian, so not sure if he’d pass the naturalized citizen qualification. Sadly.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache January 3, 2013, 10:41 pm

        You’re right.. Mrs. MM and I are naturalized US citizens now, but we weren’t born here. Takes a lot of pressure off, not having to run for president since I’m not eligible anyway ;-)

        And Matt – I figure to fix the government, you have to fix the people first, so they will stop electing 50% idiots to congress, which cancel out the work of the 50% who are there to get at least a few good things done. That means education in the principles of science and economics, and taking away their TVs.

        Reply
  • SP January 4, 2013, 12:27 am

    MMM, I just wanted to post and say that I started at your first post and just reached the end! Admittedly, I skimmed some of the articles that didn’t interest me as much. But, I quite enjoyed it. My favorite post is one you linked in this article: “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement”. I expect to save about 55% this year (including mortgage principal). My calculations show I should be able to achieve FI by 40, which is 12 years from now. Hopefully sooner with some Badassity (frugality and salary increases). I work from home full time and agree that most people’s vehicle choice and commuting distance is ridiculous, especially here in suburbia. If I may make a request: post more reader case studies! Those are great!

    Reply
  • Gerard March 27, 2013, 6:25 am

    I just read an article called “Why I don’t relate to Mr. Money Mustache” in which the guy “needed” to live in an expensive suburb, drive a big car/suv, home school (thus one income), and surf the web from his phone. His take-home message: MMM’s message couldn’t work for him. Well, yes…

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 27, 2013, 8:43 am

      Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to address that post, since the guy wrote it in response to a Twitter challenge from me. I felt that he actually WAS fairly Mustachian in general, but he was zooming in on the details of what he wasn’t willing to change as a reason for incompatibility.

      Reply
  • kirsty September 11, 2013, 6:07 pm

    i have heard people say so many times how they wished they could live in a bigger or better house to which i reply “Why? make the most of the house you’ve got and enjoy it” After all it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got you can still only sit in one room at a time!

    Reply
  • Raging Ranter May 12, 2014, 5:06 pm

    The Ottawa neighbourhood of which you speak is Rockcliffe, right? Just drove through the actual neighbourhood last night for the first time since moving to Ottawa 9 years ago (not counting drives down the Rockcliffe Parkway, which actually skirts Rockcliffe to the north). It’s nice, and certainly has charm and character that newer developments in suburbs lack, but I wouldn’t pay a premium to live there.

    Reply
  • Jeff May 17, 2014, 5:49 am

    This is very illuminating. I can now see it in my own behavior with expensive acoustic guitars – wasting time evaluating and fretting over small details in materials and bling that dont matter – it is a waste of time and money.

    thanks!

    Reply
  • Kush Sharma May 20, 2014, 7:55 am

    I think this syndrome goes hand in hand with the amount of happiness a person is experiencing. The more the happiness, the higher the fear of losing it, and hence, the more severe the degree of this syndrome. When we are in situations where we have nothing to lose, we suddenly become more risk oriented because the fear of losing happiness is not there.

    So the key would be to trying to get rid of this fear when things go for us. Prudence is fine, but over protecting happiness can actually backfire and lead to the situation that you describe in the article.

    Reply
  • A August 9, 2014, 5:24 am

    Detail exaggeration has also struck me many times as the worst source of overspending.
    My parents in law used the road safety argument to justify the purchase of an SUV to drive to their
    600.000$ cabin, whilst complaining about social differences in the world. I wonder how many
    LIVES could be saved by reallocating the extra 80.000$ to families that are about to die from starvation.
    But we spend, because we deserve it.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

Ads

$25 Unlimited Smartphone
The Lending Club Experiment
A $500 Signing Bonus... WTF?
How to Start a Blog

latest tweets