118 comments

An Enjoyable Experiment: Wasting $1000

pieHere I am, back on the keyboard again after a week in the Pacific Northwest. I was there to meet a small group of friends for our annual festival of snowboarding, feasting, and recreational alcohol and drug use known as the Safety Pirates trip.  As usual, it was plenty of fun and the highlight of the trip might have been getting the chance to meet about 100 Seattle-area MMM and Northwest Edible readers at a pub shortly after landing.

Although the snowboarding trip is an annual tradition, this year I decided to try something different: spending as much money as I could, as freely as possible. While this may sound like a bizarre goal to most people, for me it would be a challenging experiment. My default nature is to optimize every monetary transaction so that I come out of it with the best fun-to-cash ratio I can manage. I’ve done this for most of my life, so it’s not a sacrifice or struggle, just a pleasant and automatic habit.

To set the stage for maximum spending, I had to prepare my mind in advance. I collected about $700 in cash, through a combination of selling some things on Craigslist and withdrawing some recent construction earnings from a very fun local project. As illogical as it may seem, I find it easier to spend cash frivolously than to use a credit card, because there is no monthly statement and annual total to remind me of what I bought. These seven $100 bills became the raw material for the big-spending experiment*.

On the day of the trip, the frivolity began in earnest. Instead of taking the $12.00 bus to the airport (which takes 2 hours and requires a transfer) or arranging a lift, I drove the car. I parked it at a shuttle-parking lot that costs $50.00 per week.

Upon landing in Seattle, I proceeded to the Elliott Bay Brewing Company, where Erica and I had decided to host the meetup. Earlier in the planning, she had suggested a meeting room in a public library, but I suggested the pub since beer is an excellent companion when a large group of people is meeting for the first time. But to make the event more flashy and expensive, I offered to put the first 10 MMM cyclists who showed up, on my bar tab. Plus I covered beer and dinner for myself and the three other Safety Pirates, despite the fact that we already had snacks in the rental car. Including tax and tip, $140 was extravagantly spent here. Then I went to the bar and bought two growlers of fancy beer to go for another $24.

After dinner, we hit the local Safeway. The original plan was to stock up for the trip at Costco, but poor planning meant that we were shopping after the discount store was closed. “No Problem!”, I said, “We’ll just spend more for the convenience of getting groceries at the ripoff Safeway!”. That grocery run cost us $208 for food that would have been only $100 at Costco.

In the past, I have let the other Pirates buy their own liquor supplies while I get a separate ‘stash, since I can only handle about three drinks per night while they enjoy several times more. This time, I just happily joined the pool, not even bothering to calculate the results. Yeehaw!

Later that night, we wheeled up to Bellingham and then East to our rental house near Mount Baker. We had made a point of renting a very sweet luxury house built in 2006 with vaulted ceilings, fireplace, hot-tub, and all the amenities. No arguments here.

Great days of snowboarding were had, and the $49.00 lift tickets were a relative bargain. After each day, we hit the small pubs in Glacier, WA for additional drinks and food, duplicating what we had at the luxury rental house nearby. On the third day, the weather turned to a rainy fog blizzard, but I did not worry for one second that I only survived three runs before retreating to the lodge, soaking wet from top to bottom.

We found more things to buy on the way back – fish and chips in Bellingham, a few more beers with an MMM reader in North Seattle, an amazing meal (including $15.00 trays of oysters) at Chinook’s restaurant right on Salmon Bay, more treats at Nok Nok bar downtown, and pricey parking at the luxurious Airport Hilton Doubletree hotel that night.

The next day, the Pirates caught early flights, so Mr. Money Mustache was left with a day to pass before a 7:25PM departure. And there were still a couple of those hundreds left in my wallet. So I took the light rail downtown and met the ladies who write Northwest Edible and Dogs or Dollars for a tour of Seattle’s Pike Place Market and a huge brunch at the ritzy Etta’s restaurant. The server described an entree with salmon cakes, eggs, and various herbed-glazed-smoked chef adjective stuff on the side. It sounded delicious and expensive, so of course I ordered it, while also offering to pay for everyone else. We all ordered coffees instead of water and had a grand time, talking and drinking coffee for over an hour.

At last, it was time to put the crown jewel upon my week of excessive spending. The waiter brought the dessert menu. Now, Mr. Money Mustache never orders dessert – it reduces your health while simultaneously adding unnecessary cost to your tab. Restaurant Dessert menus are Hedonic Adaptation distilled to its essence. So of course, this time I took the advice of my new friends and ordered the dessert . I picked the fabulously expensive Coconut Pie at $12.00 per slice** (after tax and tip) because it was apparently “to die for”. Failing to persuade my table mates to share the bounty, I ate the whole thing myself.

Eventually the brunch date ended and I found my way back to the airport light rail, with a full tummy and mostly-empty wallet. I thought about the week of stimulation as I nodded off in the plane, marveling at the thought that “most high-income people live this way every week, not just for one week out of a lifetime”.

I returned home at midnight, fell asleep and woke up the next morning to a smother of cheek kisses from my little boy. We spent the entire day together, playing, building, biking, digging in the sand at the park, playing video games, reading books, and eventually tucking him into bed. We had missed each other more than either of us had expected. I fell asleep that night with big exciting plans for resuming my paused life in Colorado.

So what did I learn from my experiment? As a seasoned non-spender, did a deliberate bump-up in spending on experiences make me any happier? The answer seems to be a qualified “No”.

I’ll always remember that week, because it was so different from what I normally do. I enjoyed the chance to be generous to other people, and especially enjoyed the chance to spend quality time with new friends in general. But the extra spending I did on myself was a pretty hollow thrill. I got to say “yum-yum!” a few times, then gained a few pounds of fat due to eating and drinking so much more than usual. Woohoo. And that first week of big spending would have been the best one – I was king for a day, and all subsequent weeks of big spending would dull down and become normal.

So was my $1000 experiment a waste? Is spending money on experiences like this a waste in general? The word has strong negative connotations, and I don’t mean to suggest that the precious time I spent with old and new friends could ever be considered a waste. But I still used the word in the article title, and I did so for a reason.

At the end of the day, the best you can do with your time is to maximize your overall happiness. Happiness comes from having “enough” of what you need  – food, shelter, personal relationships, learning, free time, growth, fun. But you don’t get more happiness when you push any of these parameters beyond “enough”. That pushing effort is best invested in broadening to additional parameters rather than extending individual ones to extremes.

As a 38-year-old who has had time in retirement to tweak these factors for at least seven years, I’m already almost ridiculously happy by default. I already have more than enough of most things: travel, luxury, food and beer among them. So it makes sense that spending more money on exactly those things would not increase happiness. And thus, in my situation the extra spending was a “waste” in the sense that it did not make me even happier.

Spending more time with good friends, on the other hand, is something I don’t do enough. So taking time out to meet new people is far from being a waste.

The bottom line, as it always is in Mr. Money Mustache articles, is getting enough of everything good in life, while keeping enough of your money to allow some degree of financial independence – because of the high place of “freedom to do as you please” in the hierarchy of things that make you happy. Since I no longer need to accumulate money, I can ignore the money part. But as it turns out, it doesn’t take much money to maximize happiness anyway.

The lesson? Don’t buy the coconut cream pie until after you are retired.

 

* Combining the $700 cash with the $200 plane ticket and some other fees paid in advance yields the $1000 headline for this article. Total spending was a bit higher including accomodations, but I tried to estimate the amount that was spent beyond the bare efficient minimum for a one-week social trip if I had stayed with friends and eaten home-cooked meals.

** This fact amazed even Mrs. Money Mustache. Her response was “What!? I hope that was the only thing you ordered for brunch!”

 

  • Kudy March 4, 2013, 11:55 am

    Painful to read, but interesting. Did your buddies and new friends know why your behavior was changed?

    Reply
  • Simple Economist March 4, 2013, 11:58 am

    I’ve had a similar experience before. Often when we travel we set specific budgets aside for things like dinning out, transportation and groceries and have ‘left overs’. It is actually difficult for me to let loose sometimes and find enjoyment paying for things in a non optimized fashion ($8 Peanuts at the Football game). However, with some coaching from my wife, I have learned that sometimes I can enjoy an event or money without keeping track of exactly how inefficient the spending is.
    I think spending time with great friends doing anything is something I’m trying to prioritize this year.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 4, 2013, 12:25 pm

      EIGHT DOLLARS FOR PEANUTS!?!? Shit, it would have taken me some serious mental fortitude to fork that over – sports events ripoffs are one of my biggest enemies. Congratulations on your strength :-)

      Reply
      • Simple Economist March 5, 2013, 7:23 am

        True, it was painful. Kinda like the cake, the peanuts were not even that good.

        Sporting events tend to be pretty rough on the concessions and alcohol. I think the worst is the $6 bottle of water. That has to be the most painful. I can’t bring myself to buy one on principle (no matter how parched) but I am often with ones that do not share my mustachian ways and indulge. It’s almost hard for me to watch them drink it.

        Reply
        • Jimbo March 5, 2013, 8:02 am

          You know, most ballparks will let you get food and non alcoholic beverages inside. Hockey rinks as well. Unsure for NFL stadia.

          A trusty old water bottle and some mixed nuts are pretty easy to pack in advance.

          Just saying.

          Reply
          • Sara March 5, 2013, 5:59 pm

            A while back I bought several of the water bottles that come with filters built in to them. This way I can always just refill my own bottle without having to worry about water that tastes terrible. And I don;t have to carry around lots of water.

            Reply
      • Joe March 5, 2013, 9:44 am

        Hahaha, that’s why I never buy any food at events/shows. It’s a huge ripoff. I’d rather eat a bit before going or go out for a bite afterward. $8 will pay for a nice burger! That’s like 1000x better than peanuts…

        Reply
        • mike crosby March 5, 2013, 2:48 pm

          My wife and I were given free passes to watch the tennis senior tour at Honda Center, Anaheim.

          While walking around, there were two different stations that offered passes for free food if we’d fill out their forms. We ended up paying nothing for the pretzels, popcorn and the drinks. We saw that one of the stations changed staff so we went there again.

          I wanted to do MMM’s idea of finding parking away from the venue (usually can find parking within a mile), but wife said I was being too cheap. So that was a wasted $15.

          PS. Just make sure you give them a phone number that’s not yours.

          Reply
  • Tim Huntley March 4, 2013, 11:58 am

    Amen! Throwing money around really isn’t all that great.

    Just after the sale of my software company in 2000, an investor gave me a “special” bottle of wine, a 1995 Screaming Eagle. Now I love good wine, and I can generally tell a $10 bottle from a $100 bottle. This one was $1000 at the time and now about 3x that amount.

    Fast forward to 2011 – My wife and I decided to have it for our anniversary. Some part of me wanted to sell it, but since it was a special gift we decided to drank it – I would have been equally happy with any bottle as I deeply value this friendship.

    Reply
  • MoreKnown March 4, 2013, 11:59 am

    Interesting twist on your usual articles here, MMM. Have you heard of the Awesome Foundation? They pick something every month and fund it with $1,000 of their own money (I think they all chip in $100 each month to cover it).

    They’ve funded all sorts of stuff. If this is a new direction for you, it might be interesting to read your thoughts on them.

    Great post!

    Reply
  • Erica / Northwest Edible Life March 4, 2013, 12:08 pm

    This post made me smile. Thanks for the bacon and the time to share perspectives. That was a huge amount of fun.

    Mrs. MM – If you want the Famous Pie experience without the pricetag, I have the recipe for that Coconut Cream Pie. Let me know and I can send it to you. I think you could probably sub all coconut flour for the wheat flour. :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 4, 2013, 12:28 pm

      Haha.. I should add that while the pie was good, it wasn’t amazing. It was way too sweet for my tastes. Pure coconut and pure cream are already plenty sweet just as Nature makes them, so there’s no need for a chef to ruin things by adding sugar.

      But making the recipe at home could allow us to customize things to our own preference and make it both more delicious and healthier to eat – thus notching another win for the Way of the Mustachians.

      Reply
      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life March 4, 2013, 12:36 pm

        I wondered why you left so much uneaten. ;)

        Reply
        • Dogs or Dollars March 4, 2013, 12:43 pm

          I had no idea that pie was $12! While it was delicious looking pie, even my Mustachian-lite can not justify $12 pie.

          In the name of experimentation however… and perhaps if it were bacon.

          Reply
          • Aaron March 4, 2013, 2:16 pm

            Well, that was not a $12 pie.

            That was a $12 SLICE of pie. So if it was the standard 8 slices per pie then that was approximately a $96 pie.

            Reply
            • Mike DG March 4, 2013, 4:44 pm

              Those pies run about $42 whole at Dahlia Bakery which includes a deposit for the pie plate. I love them but I love not being fat and not being light $42 more so I don’t get them outside of special occasions.

              I would also appreciate the recipe if you’ll post/share it Erica.

              Reply
    • Dee March 4, 2013, 4:23 pm

      Please do share that. A friend, whose birthday is next month, said last night that his favorite pie is coconut cream.

      Reply
    • Jeremy March 5, 2013, 8:14 pm

      My wife has made Tom Douglas’ coconut cream pie for people as gifts, but her version is substantially better. Way too much sugar in the original!

      Reply
  • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies March 4, 2013, 12:19 pm

    “As illogical as it may seem, I find it easier to spend cash frivolously than to use a credit card”…

    I don’t find this illogical at all, and it definitely seems to be the norm in our house, contrary to behavioral economics research. Cash becomes too easy to “disappear” and the spender (both Mr. PoP and I are guilty) will have little recollection as to where it was spent, so we keep as little as possible on hand. It simplifies things dramatically.

    Reply
  • Chris March 4, 2013, 12:28 pm

    At first, this article made me furrow an eyebrow and then on second thought, it reminded me of my eating habits. I typically eat a healthy diet throughout the week, and then come friday night, I drink beer (Sierra Nevada Pale of course) and destroy a bag of chips. The wife and I usually go out to one nice meal per weekend together and have a decadent meal with a good beer as well. Funny thing is, come monday, I always look forward to eating healthy for another week.

    Seems to be a good balance for me.

    I find that splurging every now and again reminds/refreshes my resolve to live frugally.

    Reply
  • Mrs. Money Mustache March 4, 2013, 12:32 pm

    What happened to the following MMM rule?

    For any non-grocery purchase above 10 bucks, check with your spouse first.

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

    I don’t recall getting a phone call about that Coconut Cream Pie…

    This whole post makes me think that someone else temporarily invaded your body. I wish I could have been there to see it.

    Reply
    • Finance Geek March 4, 2013, 12:52 pm

      My first thought was that this was an April Fool’s post, but we are a month out for that. Or that your website was hacked!

      In all seriousness, it can be eye-opening to radically change your behaviour in a conscious way for a short time to really reinforce the values you have for living your life or be a catalyst for change if you find something different than you expected.

      Reply
      • Aaron March 4, 2013, 2:21 pm

        Funny thing is, if this were a typical week of living, it would mean that MMM could live off of $52k per year (if single). Which would actually still allow for quite a bit of saving (by non-Mustachian standards) if he earned $60k or more a year.

        Reply
    • Joy March 4, 2013, 2:04 pm

      LOL!

      Seriously. :)

      I am wondering if you Mrs. MM, have an annual get-a-way?

      Reply
    • Gus March 4, 2013, 11:32 pm

      That was my first thought as well. You need to hold his feet to the fire on this.

      I can’t wait until he comes out to Portland, visits the strip clubs and has to call at the end of every three and half minutes to get approval for the next lap dance.

      Reply
    • frugalman March 5, 2013, 7:21 am

      ROFLMAO! I think Mrs. MM is a little upset, although she wouldn’t say so. Anyways, MMM can do whatever he wants, he’s earned it. I still have $88,000 left in mortgage debt on a second home. So I wouldn’t dream at this point of tossing away $1,000. But I allow myself the occasional once a week or so cheap dinner out. None of us can live like monks or nuns. I think the spirit of the article is, getting maximum happiness and satisfaction from your dollars spent. $49 a day is a bargain for snowboarding. $12 slice of pie is not.

      Reply
    • Tamlynn March 5, 2013, 12:45 pm

      I can’t wait to hear about your thousand dollar weekend Mrs. MM!

      Reply
    • Meech March 5, 2013, 1:33 pm

      He didn’t even tell us whether the pie was any good! ;)

      Reply
    • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle March 5, 2013, 6:31 pm

      I just hope he got receipts for some of those purchases that he can deduct as business expenses (the beer for the Moustachians at the bar?).

      Just because he blew some money doesn’t mean he has to waste a tax deduction.

      Reply
    • L'Enginieuresse March 7, 2013, 11:53 am

      First, thank you for writing “could have” instead of the more commonplace and extremely annoying and terribly incorrect “could of”.

      Second, I fully expect a Mrs. Money Mustache version, An Enjoyable Experiment: Wasting $1000, Part 2: Doin’ It in Style.

      Reply
    • lurker March 7, 2013, 2:23 pm

      he is so busted….whoever he was.

      Reply
  • Lacy @EarnVerse March 4, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Love this one MMM! I dig your normal style and spending philosophy, but it was nice to see how 1) it the additional spending did not increase happiness and 2) how the real benefit of the spending was in treating others/building friendships. It goes to show what priorities are once you embrace a low-spend lifestyle.

    Reply
  • Ms. W March 4, 2013, 12:54 pm

    I’m working towards a more mustachian way of life, and this article definitely struck a cord. Especially the idea of not being any happier once you’ve passed the point of “enough”. Something I’ll try to keep in mind moving forward, especially when it comes to vacation and restaurant spending. I’ve had a habit in the past of going overboard, and in all honesty, I usually don’t feel any benefit from doing so. The last few months I’ve been cutting my spending drastically, and on a day to day level, I don’t notice any difference. I’m no less happy, and my life is actually much less cluttered. So thank you!

    Reply
  • Stephanie March 4, 2013, 12:57 pm

    It’s funny to me that you included your ‘splurge’ in parking in budget shuttle lot at the airport. That’s a real frugal downer parking so far away (SO inconvenient) among most people I know. Keep being awesome. Good post – sounds like a fun trip.

    Reply
    • dicey March 4, 2013, 1:06 pm

      I had the same thought :-). I have friends who park at the terminal all.the.time.

      Reply
      • Purple March 5, 2013, 11:46 pm

        One night parking at Melbourne airport was $92 in the main carpark last time I looked. A few nights of that would be a quick way to blow cash without increasing happiness.

        Reply
  • My Financial Independence Journey March 4, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I think that taking the bus to the airport would have annoyed me far more than the car and associated parking fees. Just too much wasted time.

    Getting a lift would have been my preference, but that requires having friends who are available and willing to drive to the airport. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

    As for the food. It’s hard to say if your money was well spent or not. There’s plenty of mediocre restaurants with really over priced food. I don’t mind paying a lot for food so long as it’s really high end, or for a special occasion.

    Also, didn’t they make a movie about spending ridiculous amounts of money in a short time? Brewster’s Millions if I recall correctly.

    Reply
    • JC March 4, 2013, 3:01 pm

      Brewster’s Millions is a great movie. He has to spend $30 mill in a month and have nothing left at the end of any value. If he does that he gets inherits $60 mill, if he doesn’t he loses whatever he had left of the $30 mill. Recently watched it on tv, I wish I could have that problem.

      Reply
      • Kimberly V March 5, 2013, 9:23 pm

        I haven’t watched that in a LONG time, though I have fantasized in the past about how I would deal with his “problem”! Gonna have to see if I can find somewhere to stream Brewster’s Millions and watch it again sometime soon. :-)

        Reply
    • anonymouse March 4, 2013, 3:22 pm

      Driving to the airport would take something like an hour, and while taking the bus would take two hours, those are two hours in a relatively comfortable seat that can be spent writing blog posts. It’s rather harder to do anything when you’re driving, other than listening to music or audiobooks. In fact, I’m writing this comment from a bus right now. So whether time saved by driving is worth the time wasted on driving really depends on what you do with that time.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache March 5, 2013, 9:50 pm

        That’s true – the airport bus is a nice coach-style one rather than your standard noisy one that stops every minute.

        The main reason I consider that driving to be a ridiculous splurge is because I took a WHOLE CAR just to carry ONE PERSON. I normally would never do that, because of my Rule of Cars: they are only for carrying huge loads of stuff, or multiple people.

        Reply
  • Debt Derp March 4, 2013, 1:27 pm

    Looks like I missed out on a whole new MMM at the Seattle meet-up. Wish I could have been there.

    It’s also easy to spend a fortune when touring through the Market. There are so many awesome local artists and artisans that make some pretty awesome stuff. If I was dropping $700 on a week I could easily spend most of it there just on the food.

    Glad you enjoyed the trip up to the PNW.

    Reply
  • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 4, 2013, 1:31 pm

    What is most incredible is that there are people who do that EVERY weekend without blinking an eye. POOF, on the credit card it goes. I would be interested to know, MMM, if little “experiments” like this every once in awhile are actually fun reminders of what you already know to be true? Just curious…

    Either way, the addition of friends and time with them compounds the happiness factor more than anything else…I totally agree!

    Reply
  • SomeYoungGuy March 4, 2013, 1:40 pm

    Interesting read, I sometimes wonder if it isnt harder to spend than it is to earn. And what if we leave our children with huge ‘staches?

    Reply
  • Johnny Moneyseed March 4, 2013, 1:45 pm

    It’s all about the fulfillment curve. You go too far past what you know to be “fulfilling” and it just becomes overkill and eventually the norm. You keep buying stuff to make you happy, but every purchase fades quicker and quicker. Good experiment MMM. You obviously know what fulfillment is!

    Reply
  • DA March 4, 2013, 1:55 pm

    I agree, spending wicked amounts of money doesn’t really make a trip that much better.

    I get money from my employer to spend on education and years past the wife and I would go to Vegas for a week and spend ridiculous amounts of $$$ on high end restaurants.

    At the end of the trip I would rather have eaten some wings and beer at any local pub for a fraction of the cost.

    Less is more.

    DA

    Reply
  • Pauline March 4, 2013, 1:58 pm

    When my friends and I meet for a yearly reunion, I don’t go overboard but go where they want and share expenses. Sure it is more expensive than what I would do if I were in charge of the weekend but we have fun and avoid any money related drama.

    Reply
  • Jose March 4, 2013, 2:14 pm

    I think I got as much amusement from the comments as from the post. No doubt $1000 is a significant amount to spend, and your probably right in that you didn’t buy yourself any more happiness than you already have. BUT, you did buy yourself a memory, at the very least a memory of splurging $1000!

    Reply
  • Tara March 4, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Definitely an April Fool’s type post – a fun read, and not surprising at all that it didn’t exponentially increase your fun. I have drastically reduced my spending over the past few years and my happiness level has not declined at all.

    Reply
    • frugalman March 5, 2013, 7:51 am

      Good point, Tara. My happiness has increased while spending less and saving more. I have the end of work in sight at 2 to 3 years, with the help of social security as part of my income. Freedom from HAVING to set my alarm and commute to work 5 days a week will add a whole level to my happiness. But as MMM has pointed out, there is an extinction curve, to any “new” happiness. The shiny new iphone becomes just a phone and an expense, same with a new car. I think happiness depends on having enough so you are not struggling with food and housing etc. Beyond that, it’s what you make of your life, and you can decide to be just about as happy as you make up your mind to be.

      Reply
  • Mr 1500 March 4, 2013, 2:38 pm

    Regarding happiness, I like to look at things through the eyes of my children. For example, we recently took an expensive vacation. What made them happiest? Not all of the expensive activities, but swimming in the pool at the hotel. We could have stayed at a Super 8 (with a pool of course) and they would have been just as happy and I would have saved a lot of money.

    Reply
    • Holly@ClubThrifty March 4, 2013, 2:52 pm

      That is exactly how my kids are! We take them to the beach but they would rather swim in the pool. Sometimes I feel like we should just stay a week at a Holiday Inn =)

      Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty March 4, 2013, 2:51 pm

    This article made me uncomfortable because I hate spending money!!!

    Reply
    • Melissa March 4, 2013, 3:47 pm

      It made me uncomfortable too! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one! I kept thinking he had completely lost his mind. Are we so ingrained? I guess so! I’m laughing right now….

      Reply
      • Holly@ClubThrifty March 4, 2013, 4:07 pm

        Thankfully it was just an experiment! =) Unfortunately, it sounded like the spending patterns of about half the people I know :/

        Reply
  • Charles March 4, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Hi MMM,
    after following your Blog for a while now it seems to me that you are a wannabe big spender. I think your Dream is it to live like the last few days all the time. I appreciate, that you try to teach people how to live frugal but for your own good think about what it is you really want and need out of life.
    Living frugal doesn’t seem the answer for you.

    Just a thought!

    Charles

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 4, 2013, 8:48 pm

      WHAT!?! You mean everything I’ve written in the 300 blog posts of the last two years has been fraudulent!?!? FUCKITY SHIT!!!!!!

      I’m glad there are insightful people like you out there who can conduct such a deep Internet Psychoanalysis in order to unlock these feelings that I could never get in touch with myself.

      I’m taking your word for it and I have set up appointments to purchase an Acura NSX and a Cadillac Escalade tomorrow morning. I’ll also have Mrs. Money Mustache start shopping for a bigger house for us, since we’ll need more garage spaces.

      Reply
      • Pavel Rozalski March 4, 2013, 9:20 pm

        Looking forward to an article titled “The benefits of leasing a Hummer”.

        Reply
      • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 5, 2013, 6:06 am

        Hey, MMM, it’s never too late to have an epiphany. I mean…what have you been doing all this time?!?!? I’ll send you some great credit card offers…

        Reply
      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life March 5, 2013, 10:35 pm

        Even in hyperbole, you give yourself two years of research and savings time to buy a fancypants car. :) I think the NSX is slated to go into production in 2015. I’m assuming, since you are such a big spender, that you couldn’t possibly be talking about buying a first gen used NSX. But the Escalade is available right now, which I’m sure is a huge relief.

        Reply
  • Mike March 4, 2013, 3:07 pm

    You would’ve made a great soldier.

    Reply
  • pwr March 4, 2013, 3:16 pm

    Like reading about a reformed alcoholic go on a drinking binge.
    Nobody wants to see that!
    I fail to see the point of this experiment. My humble opinion – next time $1000 is buring a hole in your pocket try donating it to the food bank (or any worthy cause of your choice)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 4, 2013, 8:42 pm

      I do the donations to worthy causes too, and have been doing so for over 10 years. This $1000 experiment wasn’t for me – it was for you. My hope is that others will feel less pressure to spend constantly to “treat” themselves if I can convince them that it doesn’t actually make you happier.

      I was the perfect experimental subject for this, because I have never tried spending so crazily on restaurants and other luxuries, even though I can technically afford it these days. After a lifetime of deprivation, surely I’d get a huge thrill from it, right? As it turns out, wrong.

      Reply
      • writing2reality March 14, 2013, 9:10 pm

        “I was the perfect experimental subject for this, because I have never tried spending so crazily on restaurants and other luxuries, even though I can technically afford it these days. After a lifetime of deprivation, surely I’d get a huge thrill from it, right? As it turns out, wrong.”

        I think what you’ve said here is paramount. What most people don’t understand is that the purchasing and excess while novel, aren’t fulfilling or long-lasting. The idea of those big bar tabs and pie slices are fun in the moment, but the joy diminishes quickly after actually purchasing them. Awesome experiment and I’m glad you published it so bluntly.

        Reply
  • Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget March 4, 2013, 3:58 pm

    So I’m interested to know if your feelings on generosity changed. I, like you prior to your experiment, am always extremely leery on “pooling” money with friends because I know I’ll end up getting shafted. But is it worth losing the few extra bucks to be a team player with friends? And what about covering meals for friends? Do you see yourself doing it more?

    Reply
  • Ross March 4, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Whenever I want to splurge on something, I always use cash too so it doesn’t show up in Mint, Haha. Probably not a great habit, but I guess you get to do what you want when you’re retired. Great experiment!

    Reply
  • Melinda Gonzalez March 4, 2013, 4:27 pm

    Hehe, I’m like you, I am naturally always looking to balance fun with being frugal. I try to save as much as I can, wherever I can, while still having fun and balance and life.

    I also do the “splurge thing” every once in a while. Rarely, maybe once a year, I will just get the urge to let loose and spend. I don’t really go crazy, but I don’t worry about being frugal either. And, it feels so good to do it!

    The thing is, if I splurged everyday it would take the fun out of it. When you only do it occasionally, you are like a kid in a cookie shop – or a grown man in a restaurant with pie. It’s just so rare you have to enjoy it.

    Reply
  • jlcollinsnh March 4, 2013, 5:07 pm

    after reading all your posts encouraging folks to expand their boundaries and ride a bike, it’s good to see you expanding your own boundaries.

    Eating pie. ;)

    Reply
  • Laura @ Frugal Newlyweds March 4, 2013, 5:30 pm

    It’s nice to see someone else who spends more with cash than credit. Seriously when I use my credit card I know that that transaction will haunt me forever on mint. Cash though is a mystery and is “untrackable” so I always pay with credit that way I can do a nice math teacher analysis on it later, and get paid to have it tracked! Of course I always pay off my cards each month, I can’t imagine keeping a balance.

    This is the first I’ve heard of someone else who spends less on credit than with cash, so it was just nice to know that I’m not alone!

    Reply
  • totoro March 4, 2013, 5:39 pm

    Good article. The pie pushed it over the edge for me though. Why’d you have to order the pie!!!

    Reply
  • m- March 4, 2013, 5:42 pm

    MMM thanks for coming out and meeting us at Elliot Bay! It was a great time!

    Reply
  • Net Worth Snowball March 4, 2013, 7:35 pm

    I’m very disappointed I was on vacation during the MMM/NW Edible Life meet-up. Hopefully you can do another in the Seattle area sometime! I’m glad the Safety Pirates enjoyed the Baker boarding though.

    Reply
  • Ms. Must-stash March 4, 2013, 8:06 pm

    Thank goodness this was a once a year/lifetime experiment in passing as “normal” – reading this post made me involuntarily scrunch up my face just like I do when my friends (with very little in savings) do extravagant things like order delivery, get manicures/pedicures, regularly patronize extremely expensive restaurants (because they are “foodies”)…

    But then I reminded myself that you’re retired – and doing this as a festive experiment! Face is now slowly unscrunching. :-)

    Reply
  • Tina @ My Shiny Pennies March 4, 2013, 8:32 pm

    I do not regret any of the trips I’ve taken, but I do have regrets over trips I decided not to take in order to save money. As I get older, I increasingly feel that experiences usually trump money. Your savings can be replenished, but the people you want to spend time with will not always be there.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 4, 2013, 8:36 pm

      True.. but remember the life you lose from working extra in order to pay for trips. I have no regrets over the modest level of travel spending that I did between 18 and 30, because now I have the REST OF MY LIFE to travel without having to squeeze it into a ridiculous 3-week-annual-vacation allocation.

      So my advice remains: have fun and travel, but do it with the 25-50% of your income you can afford to spend. Save the rest for freedom.

      Reply
      • Tina @ My Shiny Pennies March 5, 2013, 8:05 am

        Thanks, Mr. Money Mustache, for your advice. I should note that I have never taken on debt in order to travel, nor do I plan on ever going down that path. In an ideal world, I will reach financial independence, be in good health, and can travel without time contraints. I find myself growing more risk averse though as I mature, ahem, get older. I do not advocate traveling the world at the expense of one’s retirement savings. I try to find the right balance for my current station in life because I fear some of the travel opportunities and life experiences will not always be available.

        Reply
      • Cas Hout March 6, 2013, 3:52 pm

        We are traveling soon on a “big” trip with our 2 daughters. Ridiculously expensive flights, but saving some money by staying with relatives while we are away. We are not extreme savers; this trip will be fully paid for before we go, and we are debt free, but it will put a huge dent into our savings. My parents always wanted to make this trip. They are retired now, and while they have the time, due to pre-existing medical conditions, they can’t get the medical insurance needed for the trip. We don’t want to end up like them, and if it means sacrificing a few more years to work and/or finding more ways of cutting back to replenish our savings, we’re okay with that. We hope to be as frugal as possible, using grocery stores vs restaurants for food, and just walking and enjoying the scenery vs organized tours and admissions to attractions.

        Reply
      • riley March 14, 2013, 8:37 pm

        I just had one of the best vacations ever last December. Took my kids and I to Big Sky, MT for skiing. We “won” a trip thru the schools’ auction to raise money for the PTA. Stayed at a donated condo, and invited 5 other friends to join us from around the US. It was a splurge, but so worth it for the memories. I have no regrets. Sometimes if you can afford it, you’ve just go to do it!

        Reply
  • Fuzz March 4, 2013, 9:21 pm

    How was the pow? Are you a backcountry guy? Or does the risk-reward ratio keep you mostly out of avalanche country? I’m trying to imagine what kind of badass snowboarding you do.

    I moved out to Jackson Hole and won a season’s pass at a raffle, so I haven’t had to make any hard Mustachian choices about whether and how to ski cheaply. But just like the crack dealer gives you a taste to get you hooked, my free pass will end up being very expensive: I’ll be budgeting for a very non-Mustachian pass as long as I’m out here.

    My thought is that with a lot of knowledge (usually expensively acquired) you can figure out a way to get good gear cheaply. But getting cheap lift tickets seems a lot tougher. If you’ve got that figured out, I’d love to hear it.

    Reply
  • Tracy March 4, 2013, 11:33 pm

    MMM, I enjoyed this blog post and seeing you at the Seattle meet up. What I take from your experience is that being on vacation doesn’t give us the ok to spend as much as we want.

    I am very interested in how and how much you would have spent on this vacation trip if you kept your expenses in check. Other than taking the bus to the airport how else would you cut your expenses? Did you and the group eat all the Safeway food?

    Reply
  • biliruben March 4, 2013, 11:42 pm

    Dang. If I knew you were looking to burn some cash, I would have put my boy’s chocolate shake your tab.

    Thanks for the beer, at any rate!

    Reply
  • Patrick March 5, 2013, 8:09 am

    “…annual festival of snowboarding, feasting, and recreational alcohol and drug use known as the Safety Pirates trip…”

    So, were the drugs itemized and expensed for taxes? That would be the ultimate.

    The thing I got out of this is that frugality is relative. If you occasionally need some bacchanalia, then build your means to support it.

    It’s massively important to plan your work/work your plan, but occasionally I judge spending in terms of “which will I remember 5 years from now?” However, this is worked into the plan.

    Thanks, MMM – w/out going into specifics, you saved me another $113/month just for making a painful phone call that lasted 35 minutes. That’s some serious ROI. When you make it to Virginia, your first 3 fancy beers are on me.

    Reply
  • Mary Jo March 5, 2013, 11:10 am

    Very fun to read from another “born frugal” individual. The guilt of spending money like that would have almost killed me.

    I do however, spend some time with people that live this way all the time. They are the most miserable people I know and it is proof daily that money alone does not make you happy.

    A good research project for you :)

    Reply
  • Russell Kith March 5, 2013, 11:29 am

    “Happiness comes from having “enough” of what you need – food, shelter, personal relationships, learning, free time, growth, fun. But you don’t get more happiness when you push any of these parameters beyond “enough”.”

    I couldn’t agree more, MMM. This line sums up what everyone works for and attempts to achieve. We all get by with hard work, and we all enjoy ourselves from time to time.

    Nice hearing that spending more/splurging really isn’t what it’s all about. Great read.

    Reply
  • Jarett March 5, 2013, 11:36 am

    I thought it sounded kinda weird when you offered to pay for drinks for 10 people.

    Reply
    • Meech March 5, 2013, 1:36 pm

      Agree!!

      Reply
    • Dr.Vibrissae March 17, 2013, 3:12 pm

      That was my first thought too whenI read the meetup post. In a fancy brewery? And he’s buying the drinks? Hey big Spender!

      Reply
  • Dragline March 5, 2013, 11:43 am

    “I’ll always remember that week, because it was so different from what I normally do. I enjoyed the chance to be generous to other people, and especially enjoyed the chance to spend quality time with new friends in general. But the extra spending I did on myself was a pretty hollow thrill. I got to say “yum-yum!” a few times, then gained a few pounds of fat due to eating and drinking so much more than usual. Woohoo.”

    That pretty much sums up the way I generally feel. It’s fun to spend money on other people, but mostly only if they are not expecting it. I always end up with buyer’s remorse if I just spend on myself for no particular reason. And yeah, it usually ends up being bad for my health anyway.

    Reply
  • Nick @ ayoungpro.com March 5, 2013, 1:57 pm

    This was a very interesting premise for a blog post. Your conclusion is also very interesting. I think if I were to undertake an experiment like this I would have a different result. I am not someone that has always been frugal, so sometimes I miss the more expensive things that I have given up in my life. :)

    Reply
  • On the journey March 5, 2013, 3:36 pm

    Next time cash is burning a hole in your pocket, grab Mrs MM and Junior MM and hop a flight to Australia! We’d love to see you.
    With our exorbitant cost of living and our ‘two car family’ culture your wisdom is much needed here.

    Reply
  • Will Cate March 5, 2013, 8:28 pm

    Great post.

    When I was a much younger man, I used to think spending money like that would make me happier. Fortunately I grew out of it. Nowadays, I get great pleasure by making $30 last for a whole week!

    Reply
    • Mr 1500 March 7, 2013, 4:41 pm

      It is amazing how your brain and the lens you view life with changes after you’ve awakened. I used to see people with nice cars (I’m a car nut) and think how cool it would be to drive it. Now, when I see a fancy car, I feel sad for the person because they just sentenced themselves to a couple more years of financial prison.

      Reply
      • writing2reality March 14, 2013, 9:04 pm

        Mr. 1500, I couldn’t agree more! I used to crave a nicer vehicle, and having once working the car business, that craving was magnified. Once you realize the overall financial drag the cost of an expensive vehicle is when all you need is to get from point A to point B, it is indeed quite sad.

        Reply
      • stayathomedad May 18, 2013, 4:02 pm

        I’ve owned a fancier vehicle (Porsche) and while I did find it very exciting the first few months, it quickly wore off. I didn’t want to track it and spend lots of money going around in an endless loop (as in, pointless), and couldn’t safely go much over 100mph because of highway congestion and ticket potential, which something like a Honda Accord can do just fine even. Then to actual usage, it was nice to take a vacation in once, but the rest of the year it mostly sat in the garage costing money through outrageous insurance and deprecation. Then even driving it wasn’t that exciting any more. Take it out once every couple weeks, accelerate quickly, then go back in the garage. I didn’t want to take it out for groceries because of ding-fear so, in the end, it actually became much bigger annoyance and inconvenience weighing on my mind than pleasure.

        Reply
  • PawPrint March 5, 2013, 8:55 pm

    We went to Etta’s once a number of years ago during the restaurant week in March when average people can afford to dine there on their fixed price menu. Got the famous coconut cream pie, appetizer and entree for $15 plus tip. It was fun once–but I wouldn’t do it again.

    Reply
  • Jakub March 5, 2013, 9:00 pm

    It shows how cheap the US is. Do it in Australia and you end up with $3000 for the same stuff :)

    Reply
    • Purple March 6, 2013, 12:07 am

      Oh yes. Everything here is so expensive.

      Reply
      • Kristin March 6, 2013, 7:41 am

        Why is AU so expensive? I visited Sydney a few years ago and fell head over heels for the place, and sometimes fantasize about moving there, but I keep hearing how expensive it is.

        Reply
      • Cas Hout March 6, 2013, 3:58 pm

        Hush! We are hoping we can be frugal while visiting, but there are some nights we need a hotel. $300/night is outrageous!!! Sydney seems crazy $$$! On the other hand, minimum wage of $19/hour in Queensland? Nice!

        Reply
  • Matt March 6, 2013, 11:11 am

    Sounds like was a fun trip and it sounds like it would have been a fun trip regardless of your little spending experiment. It just goes to show that you don’t need to go overboard on spending in order to have fun.

    Reply
  • Paula @ Afford Anything March 7, 2013, 5:24 pm

    $12 for a slice of pie?!?!?!

    The best things in life are having the TIME and FREEDOM to meet up with your friends, go skiing/snowboarding, and have a long leisurely dinner with some beer or wine.

    The rest of it — the $12 pie slices — is just “fluff” that doesn’t increase happiness and tempts people to spend more.

    Reply
  • Rich Berger March 7, 2013, 6:00 pm

    What recreational drugs?

    Reply
  • Wes March 7, 2013, 6:15 pm

    What I really want to know is why your website down for a week?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 7, 2013, 7:57 pm

      Huh? My website not down for a week.. stats show from 30-40k pageviews every day and the comments seem to be still coming in, so I assume the site has been functional.

      If you’re wondering why I haven’t been writing many new posts this week, it is because the weather has been nice here in Colorado, making it difficult to stay inside and use computers.

      Reply
      • Wes March 7, 2013, 8:42 pm

        That’s odd. Do you have any user comments between 2/25 and 3/4? My wife and I were trying on and off from multiple locations.
        DNS would resolve but the page would not load.

        Reply
  • Monevator March 8, 2013, 5:04 am

    I like this experiment. At first I thought you could have done it a day and saved yourself the karma (and some of the reader backlash, although in the main people have been pretty understanding here) but then I thought a day isn’t enough — a day feels pretty good, I bet, like a first date with an eventual high maintenance bore or your first bout with a class A drug. Downhill all the way!

    Just please never do a year in the name of science. ;)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 8, 2013, 9:48 am

      Mr. Money Mustache does not make (or not make) life decisions out of fear of reader backlash. It would ruin the fun of this whole endeavour.

      Reply
  • Mario March 8, 2013, 1:47 pm

    Nice but isn’t the point of freewheeling spending getting to *not* think about it?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 9, 2013, 12:51 pm

      I think that’s the point of it for people who have bad spending habits. But my point here is that there is really NO point to freewheeling spending: whether you are frugal or a spender, either way it is just a habit. The extra spending does not buy happiness for either group.

      So why not reprogram your habits so you are in the habit of not spending, rather than spending? Then you can focus on other things, with the side benefit of becoming rich.

      Reply
  • Jen March 9, 2013, 7:08 am

    She’ll probably never admit it, but I am willing to bet your wife was upset that you chose to do this without her. I am super frugal, and I would have been hurt! Does she get to conduct a similar experiment with the gals if she so pleases?

    Reply
  • Julian Hearn March 11, 2013, 8:01 am

    This is so naughty but nice at the same time. Hope you had fun. This sounds like something I need to do every now and then, I’m really careful with money and some people say too careful.

    Reply
  • Beth March 18, 2013, 5:44 am

    I’ve learned that I’m willing to pay crazy restaurant prices etc occasionally for the mental energy savings I get. I’m a single mother of two school-age children and we enjoy a terrific, relaxed, frugal lifestyle. We planned a trip, paid for the hotel with reward points from my credit card, and spent $40 on gas to get there in our super-gas-efficient car. We packed food for our breakfast, lunches, and snacks.

    As I researched restaurants in the area, looking for coupons, bargains, etc, I got frustrated with the ‘kids eat free’ deals that require a paying adult for each child, and also mostly required the adult to buy a beverage too which I never do and would cost as much as a kids’ meal anyway…

    So, I took some cash and said to the kids, “we’re going to eat dinner wherever we want each night.” And we did. We didn’t plan, research, or pay any attentions to the deals. When we thought we’d be hungry soon, we found the closest restaurant that appealed to all of us, ordered whatever we wanted to eat without looking at the price, tipped well, and had a fabulous time.

    THAT felt like freedom. I have no interest in living that way at home, I love our local grocer and simple meals. But having a vacation from thinking was lovely too.

    Reply
  • Rebecca January 12, 2014, 7:10 pm

    Thanks for linking to this post in your post today (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/01/12/exposed-the-mmm-familys-2013-spending/). I converted to the MMM lifestyle in May 2013, so I missed this ;) But after months of cutting out extraneous spending, I can see how true this is. Your coconut pie / restaurant desert example is exactly how I explain to people that giving up take-out pizza is not actually difficult, because it costs us more money to eat less healthy than we want to and honestly it’s not even that good.

    Reply
  • T January 13, 2014, 11:14 am

    MMM, have you ever heard of the movie Brewster’s Millions? It’s widely panned, but your 1K challenge is reminiscent of it. :)

    Reply
  • SK Joy September 19, 2014, 12:37 pm

    MMM, all I could think of when you thought about some people living like that every week (instead of one week in a lifetime), was then when you went home and had an incredible day with your son and family – most people only get to live like THAT 2 days per week, rather than 7. I think that is the true win and testament to what you are trying to say on this blog.

    Reply
  • Ray November 22, 2014, 7:16 pm

    MMM, your experiment is worthy, and you site is merits your claims of badassity. However, Costco sucks. I was shocked to see that you mentioned going there for supplies on the vaca. Around here, the only stuff which is really cheaper for us is diapers and baby formula. Other groceries are either similar or higher in price than the local GC, only excepting the generic brand they carry.
    Rock on,
    Ray

    Reply

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