Get Rich With: the “ChaCHING!” Instinct

bellagio_fountainsAhh, Delayed Gratification. It’s one of the defining advantages of humanity itself: the ability to put off immediate pleasure, for the purpose of getting even better results in the future.

Compared to lower animals or insects, we’ve got this ability locked down. Leave a dog in a room with a piece of tasty meat and a chart showing that dogs earn a 20,000% annual return for any meat left uneaten, and the dog will still choose not to invest.  But while most of us can out-strategize our pets, we humans still vary widely in our ability to set aside resources for the future.

This difference in abilities starts to show itself very early in life. My favorite example of this is a famous old psychological study that looked at young children, offering them one cookie now or several cookies in a few minutes. When left unsupervised, some kids immediately grabbed and ate the initial bait, while others exercised their willpower and emerged from the trial with a bigger bounty in exchange for waiting. The results were noted, but the researchers then kept in touch with these children, following through on their lives as young adults.

As it turned out, the pleasure-delayers did better in school, graduated to get better jobs, and ended up in higher-paying careers as adults, with fewer debt problems.

I saw similar results with some of my subcontractors back when I ran a small house building company.  One worker in particular would take his payment every Friday, and immediately convert it to cash at one of those ripoff check-cashing places. On the following Monday, he might show up with new accessories on his car and a new pair of sunglasses that were more expensive than mine.  He would drive to the fast food restaurants every day for lunch while I ate my peanut butter sandwiches. And long before Friday, he was out of money again.

What is it that separates the instant gratification crowd, and people like Mr. Money Mustache, who hasn’t had less than $1000 of just-in-case money sitting around since sometime before age 15? Are the spenders the only ones out there having all the fun, while I sulk at home, worrying about money?

A recent article in NBC news* offered another peek into the psychological differences between the saver and the spender. In that story, a neurological researcher actually watched the brain activity of various types of people, and noticed that those with a better ability to imagine the future in detail were also better at making wise financial decisions like delaying purchases.

That sounded just about right to me, because I am a compulsive future-imaginer. I’ve already got my next several years worth of projects, trips and blog posts mentally mapped out, and sometimes they swim around in my head so much that I have to remind myself to practice the Zen habit of living in the moment and breathing calmly. Fortunately, at that point I get to look around at my present life, and marvel at how exceptionally good it is as well.

And with all this background, we can finally understand the difference between savers and spenders right as they stand in front of the cash register, about to make a purchase.

The compulsive spender thinks mostly about what is in his hand: “I want it! I want it, and I’m about to HAVE it! Yeah yeah yeah!”

The future-oriented saver thinks more about the eventual results: “This is something I have decided to buy. It will reduce my monetary wealth, but I estimate that the added life benefits over time will exceed the loss caused by the missing money. I hope so, anyway. ”

More significant is the feeling each person gets when he does NOT make a purchase:

Spender: “Hey! I wanted this thing and I don’t get to have it! Waaaaah, Waaah!!”

Saver: “I just avoided a purchase, and I am richer because of it. Cha-CHING!!”


This has great implications in often-challenging field of Not Spending All Your Money. The common wisdom is that you create a “budget”, and allocate a certain amount of your money to savings, and the rest to “guilt-free spending”. During the initial period of spending, you get to say, “Yeah! Yeah! I’m buying stuff! Hooray!”. Then when you hit the ceiling in each category, you’re back to “Waaah! Waaaah!”

Mr. Money Mustache has always suggested that budgets are only for beginners. They are built on the assumption that the “Yeah!” stage is desirable, and you will only stop when you reach the limit. Take as much instant gratification as you can each month, but cut yourself off before you do too much damage.

Instead, what if you could make the NOT spending just as rewarding as spending feels to the regular consumers? You can, of course, and it’s very easy – it’s just a matter of cultivating your own little ChaCHING instinct.

Every time you don’t spend unnecessary money, you have won a little game. It is a game of becoming stronger, wealthier, more focused on what really matters in life, and more able to do the same thing next time. You have simultaneously both increased your means, and decreased your needs.

Your safety margin and independence in life just grew a little bit, and the entire rest of your life will now be better because of it. Just from avoiding or delaying a single purchase. What a spectacular reward! ChaCHING!!

If you currently need more money, and yet feel like reducing your spending would be an unpleasant deprivation, this article is for you. You just need to work on your Cha-CHING instinct to reverse your idea of what is rewarding. Feel each little win. Compare it to the lifelong drain of a loss. Add up the little wins and watch as they multiply to become enormous.

Think in more detail about the future, and the peaceful feeling of knowing that money is something you will never have to worry about again. Or the giddy feeling of knowing you don’t have to go to work ever again, even while you might choose to do so with great enthusiasm.

The older I get, the more I realize that the future really does arrive on a regular basis. Gifts set aside by the younger me arrive in my current life, and are much appreciated. By imagining your own future more vibrantly, you too might see fit to give some gifts to your future self. You’ll be thanking yourself sooner than you expect.

 

 

* While the NBC story was interesting, the reporter seemed to miss a key financial point with this sentence:

“consumers who can really, viscerally imagine how great that new car will smell when they drive off the lot, or how excited they will be when getting the keys to a new home, have a much easier time saving money.”

Sorry, Mainstream Media, but putting aside money for a great-smelling new car is not saving.. that’s just spending in bigger chunks. Investing money into assets that generate passive income that can meet your needs (including the very occasional car purchase) for a lifetime - that is saving.

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235 Responses to “Get Rich With: the “ChaCHING!” Instinct”

  1. Debt Blag June 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    This is spot on, as usual. I’ve started playing a game called “Turning impulse buys into impulse student loan payments.” Whenever I’m considering an impulse buy, I think about how much more I’d rather be that amount less in debt and record it in an app called Piggie. At the end of the week, I tally it up and send it right off to pay down student loans. It’s a great feeling so far :)

    • Self-Employed-Swami June 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

      What a fantastic idea! Good on ya, for making it work!

    • Emily Allred June 5, 2013 at 5:53 am #

      That is an awesome strategy. It will be so gratifying when you pay off your student loans well ahead of your peers. It was for me!

    • Michelle at Making Sense of Cents June 5, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      This is pretty much exactly what I’m doing as well! It adds up :)

    • Bob Sayer June 5, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      When I have a loan, I think of how much extra money I am paying the corporate bankers in interest (usually thousands of dollars). That motivates me to pay it off as quickly as possible. Thomas Jefferson said a man does not enjoy true liberty if he owes money to someone else. It is like being owned.

      • Done by Forty June 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

        I find myself having those same thoughts, Bob. As we’re running out of debt to pay off, I’m thinking I’ll start coming up with a new approach that uses that same math to think about all the future gains a “non-spent” dollar will have over the next decade…

        • Pollyanna June 7, 2013 at 11:57 am #

          I love the term ‘non-spent’ dollar — now THAT is savings.

      • Jim June 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

        And considering the man spent his life in hock up to his eyeballs, he knew whereof he spoke…

        • jlcollinsnh June 7, 2013 at 10:13 am #

          Great point!

          He also died deeply in debt and his slaves, land, possessions and home were sold at public auction.

          Perhaps he should have listened more to his pal Ben.

    • GamingYourFinances June 6, 2013 at 10:22 am #

      This is a fantastic idea!!! It turns delayed gratification into something much more tangible by making that extra payment each week. I love those little behavioral tweaks! Good thinking.

    • raisin mountaineer June 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Oh, I am so going to try that. i don’t need an app– there’s a memo function on my (work-provided) phone. I only recently started tracking my spending, after finding this blog. I know how much I’ve spent this year, but how to measure what I haven’t spent? That is more challenging. It’s kind of like measuring the accident that didn’t happen because I am (trying to be) a safe driver– hard to measure an absence.

      Thanks for the tip!

  2. Chris June 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    I get just as big a kick out of saving and watching my assets grow as I used to out of spending. It has become my favorite hobby!

    • Free Money Minute June 5, 2013 at 5:22 am #

      I agree. I look forward each month to figuring out my net worth and seeing how well my money has worked for me rather than how much I am giving to everyone else. Every dollar that I put to work turns that “most powerful force in the universe”, compound interest into a bigger engine FOR me. If you have any debt, it is working against you.

    • Alex in Virginia June 5, 2013 at 5:27 am #

      Not too long ago, I got really in touch with how that chaching! feeling juices up my daily life. And so I wrote a blog post about it:

      http://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f27/playing-the-frugal-game-is-fun-66787.html

      Hope you enjoy!

      Alex in Virginia

    • Joe June 5, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      I love being frugal and not spending money too. It’s getting a bit bad though because now all my stuff are outdated.
      The missus’ laptop can’t stream video from ABC anymore and my dumb phone is really cramping my style. I guess I’ll have to loosen the purse string once in a while.

  3. Hamster June 4, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Mr Marshmallow-test mustache?
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQX_oy9614HQ

  4. j katz June 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    brilliant

  5. NightTrain June 4, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    The last point made about saving for a big purchase coming up soon, is spot on. I’ve always felt like I was responsible with my money. Always able to have some reserves for emergencies and always able to do the hard-saving for big things coming up (house loan minimum for FHA loan, wedding, baby-on-the-way). Those are just forms of “slightly delayed” spending. You’re still just spending, just a *little* bit later. Never actually saving for the long haul.

    But I finally opened the memo. These last 5-6 months with soul-searching, reading index-oriented investment books, this blog….. have all opened doors to a new perspective.

    This is the most punk-rock I’ve ever felt (started playing in punk bands at 14)…. this is the adult version of that.

    Thanks MMM!

    • Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com June 5, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      NightTrain,

      Awesome, I was also in the mode of deluding myself into thinking that a delayed purchase was actually saving.

      The best path to ACTUAL saving is taking the saved money, investing it in passive income as MMM suggest, then finding a cheaper alternative (or foregoing the item completely)!

    • Bob Sayer June 5, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      The “big purchase” example was driving a car off a lot. Well you can save a LOT of money if you simply buy used. I’ve seen three-year-old leather-seated priuses going for $11,000. That’s certainly better than the new price of $26,000.

      And yes I know people will tell me “You should ride a bike instead.” Sorry no. My dad was riding a bike when he got hit by a car and now he’s permanently disabled. A friend’s father almost died in the ICU since his body was badly damaged (internal bleeding and trauma). I prefer to be encased in metal.

      • plam June 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

        Bob Sayer, how many people do you know who have been injured in automobile accidents? In some places, bicycling can seem more risky, but MMM always points out that not exercising is also risky. Furthermore, people tend to discount the risk of the routine. I think driving a car is quite risky too.

        • SZQ June 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

          YEAH, no kidding driving a car is EXTREMELY risky these days – now that all these idiots are texting and/or talking behind the wheel!
          I’m sometimes terrified to be on the highway because it’s gotten so bad!

      • Mr. Money Mustache June 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

        This whole thread is off-topic, but Bob Sayer needs to understand that bikes are NOT more dangerous than cars. They are generally much, much safer than cars, when factoring in extra years of healthy life gained… Unless you are already in such incredible physical condition that you no longer benefit from extra exercise.

        And that’s before even factoring in the extra years of life that you get back by not having to work to pay for your car dependence.

        http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/07/safety-is-an-expensive-illusion/

        • Tim June 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

          The part of that article that dealt with bike safety was:
          “As it turns out, riding a bike extends your lifespan (due to health increases) by between 20 and 100 times more than it subtracts due to statistical risk of crashes.”
          Do you have sources for this? I’d be interested in reading more about it.

          • geek June 7, 2013 at 8:31 am #

            There’s plenty of literature on the benefits of exercise out there. And the statistical chances of deadly bike crashes

            • Tim June 7, 2013 at 9:05 am #

              Yes, there is plenty of literature out there. But I’d like to see the numbers used to calculate MMM’s statement.

              • Mr. Money Mustache June 7, 2013 at 10:02 am #

                Definitely, Tim! I have been collecting stats for years for a bike safety article. Just hasn’t gotten the final writeup yet because statistics are complicated and I am a lazy blogger at the moment.

                In general though, my original intuition continues to be overwhelmingly confirmed: by any possible measure, biking is a RIDICULOUSLY great idea compared to driving, and it is amazing and completely irrational that use of cars is so widespread in the US. Although all countries have cars, we are at the pinnacle of the world in the self-deception that our current usage pattern is anywhere close to reasonable.

                Here’s a random motivational story from Denmark: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/world/europe/in-denmark-pedaling-to-work-on-a-superhighway.html?pagewanted=all

              • Paul June 11, 2013 at 3:49 am #

                Tim – it’s almost impossible to make a safety comparison between cars and bikes, because they’re such different means of transport. For example, per mile travelled cyclists are much more likely to be killed (e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15975564), but per hour travelled they’re twice as safe as driving (http://cycleseven.org/dangerous-cycling-statistics). But perhaps you should measure things by number of trips. And if you add in serious injuries then the balance shifts in all categories. So any calculation about how much a percent of extra safety costs is almost guaranteed to be flawed.

                We do know that modern cars are significantly safer than older ones, though. So why not buy a bike, use it for short trips, and use the gas/wear/insurance/depreciation/etc money you save on those trips to buy a more modern car – I’d guess the benefits will greatly outweigh your 1 in 9300 extra risk from cycling. Not very moustachian, of course, but then that doesn’t appear to be your main focus (if it is then definitely cycle lots, retire 10 years earlier than you otherwise could and save all those commuting trips with their associated risk of death!)

              • Tim June 11, 2013 at 9:50 am #

                Paul,

                Thanks for the additional data! The first one in particular is what I was looking for: bike travel results in 32 times more casualties per mile traveled than car travel! The data I had was per trip, but per mile is much more useful.

                Regarding your argument about using savings to buy a safer car, the numbers clearly show that in terms of safety, far and away the biggest difference comes from driving a car rather than what kind of car you drive (see MMM’s “Safety is an Expensive Illusion” article).

        • Giovanni June 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

          In 2011 the people killed in bicycle accidents was 2% of those killed in car accidents. Our cognitive biases lead us to feel safer in 1,500 or 2,000 lbs. of steel, aluminum and plastic but the reality is much different. Have you ever seen someone riding a bike while they were shaving/applying makeup and simultaneously talking on the phone and yelling at the kids in the back seat? NO. On a bike you’re much more connected to what you’re doing and what others are doing around you.

          +1 for bike riding.

          • Tim June 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

            Giovanni,
            Raw numbers in this case aren’t meaningful. One of the links I posted stated that while 2% of all traffic accidents were bicyclists, they only accounted for 1% of all trips. And the link Paul shared found that fatalities per mile were 35 times more for bicyclists than for motor vehicles. That’s the reality.
            I’ll save my comments about bad behaviors of bicyclists for another thread- I’m trying to stick to data in this one.

            • Paul June 12, 2013 at 3:30 am #

              Tim – I’m interested in why you think statistics per mile are more important than statistics per hour. Part of my point is that it’s difficult to make a comparison because you’re talking about such different things. I can certainly see the logic behind measuring in miles, but I can also see it for measuring by hours, and by trip. That doesn’t make any of them ‘right’.

              As an example, the logic behind the ‘per mile’ calculation dictates that when you drive somewhere you should find the space closest to the building entrance and then idle until that space frees up – walking is much less safe than driving, and per mile sitting in an idling car is a risk-free environment! At the very least you should circle the parking lot and find the closest space you can. But that probably sounds pretty stupid to most people, because it is!

              • Tim June 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

                Because if I’m going from point A to point B, that will be a certain distance regardless of the mode of transport. The time, however, varies depending on which mode of transport you take. In the example of driving versus biking to work, the distance doesn’t change (usually), and that’s the only meaningful comparison.
                The going to the closest parking space argument is a strawman and doesn’t make any sense. The difference between the closest and farthest parking space in a given lot is a tiny fraction of the total distance of the trip, and can be completely ignored for questions regarding safety of modes of transport.

              • plam June 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

                Comparing per-mile for bikes vs cars is not meaningful, because you are tempted to drive much further than you would bike (especially if the parking is convenient at the destination); this is an example of something called “induced demand”.

                Making driving too easy encourages Clown Car Trips which perhaps didn’t need to happen or could have been replaced with a trip to something closer. If you’re actually pedalling the bike, then you think twice about trips before taking them. Bikes also make it much easier to stop at multiple destinations along your way, reducing the total number of miles.

                Even the example of commuting to work is a case where a bike commuter might consider relocating instead of sitting in a motorized throne for an hour. If you have an hour commute on the highway in the car, you probably are not going to do it on the bike; you’d do something else instead.

              • Tim June 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

                Statistics per mile are the ONLY meaningful comparison. Induced demand, clown car trips, and side trips are all meaningless to my original question: Does MMM have statistics to justify his statement that “riding a bike extends your lifespan (due to health increases) by between 20 and 100 times more than it subtracts due to statistical risk of crashes.”

              • Mr. Money Mustache June 12, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

                I sure do! Just finished collecting them last night. So far it looks like I was overly optimistic since US cycling is slightly more dangerous than that in Holland, etc. : the life extension here due to exercise might be only between 9 and 27 times greater than the life loss from risk.

                Still infinitely better than car-driving, however, since when driving you get ONLY the risk and none of the benefits. Cycling is still looking like the safest method of transportation by a long shot.

                Also, I agree with Plam: risk per mile is probably not as relevant as per hour. When you adopt a bike-based mentality (as I have and as I’m trying to get others to do), you simply travel less. Which is exactly as it should be for most of us. It’s hard to rack up 20,000 miles on a bike per year, and thus we will tend to live more local and less stretched-out lives. But even on a per-mile basis, bikes win.

                Article coming soon – might be the next one I finish.

              • Tim June 13, 2013 at 10:20 am #

                I’m looking forward to your article. I’m interested to see the health benefits.

                I caution you on using per hour statistics too much, though. You and Plam are arguing that bike commuters travel less, which only furthers my point that it’s the essential trips that are worth thinking about: trips to work, the grocery store, the drug store, school, etc. And even if you move to be closer to the all of those so that you CAN bike, the comparison is still driving vs cycling the same distance. Your choice doesn’t disappear because of the new distance.

        • Giovanni June 11, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

          Here’s the other thing to remember about cycling vs. car fatalities: No one gets out alive, there is a 100% chance of you dying from something. Are you going to hide in your house lying in a cocoon of bubble wrap? Guess what, you’re going to die horribly of some ghastly disease. And expensively I might add. The point of life is to live, not arrive at death in a shriveled but intact state. If you do that you’re just a node on the matrix.

  6. Annamal June 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    I always loved the idea of the marshmallow test (as a kid who once kept a marshmallow easter egg in the fridge for a week taking tiny bites out of it each day, I was pretty confident I would pass).

    However there’s been a bit of research lately that suggests it might not be quite as simple as willpower vs no willpower

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/10/16/the_marshmallow_study_revisited_kids_will_delay_gratifcation_if_they_trust.html

    It doesn’t take away from the point that delayed gratification is a wonderful instinct to have but it does suggest that if you’ve grown up in an environment where rewards and reactions were unreliable, you might have a whole extra lot of ingrained reactions to try and shake at the same time as you’re developing good habits.

    • Dr.Vibrissae June 5, 2013 at 6:01 am #

      Fascinating, thanks for the link.

      • Joshua Spodek June 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

        I found that study fascinating, studied it, and thought of ways to use it to improve my ability to use willpower effectively. Also to avoid trying to use it when it wouldn’t be effective.

        I wrote it up on my blog — http://joshuaspodek.com/willpower — in a series of posts.

    • Gerard June 5, 2013 at 6:58 am #

      That was really interesting, thanks. And it ties in with my anecdotal observations (I grew up poor, around poor people). People who have been lied to or stolen from — by parents,teachers, employers, whatever — don’t just simply (and stupidly) avoid thinking about the future; they actually don’t *trust* the future. They’ve been cheated so often that a bird in the hand is definitely worth two in the bush for them. The behaviour of banks in the recent mortgage meltdown is one more example of how poor (and, admittedly, short-sighted) people were tricked.
      But, and here’s the hard part, to succeed you really need to trust the future, even if the future’s been bad to you in the past. So how can people change their way of thinking to get there?

      • Stephen June 5, 2013 at 8:04 am #

        I can think of two ways: by education and by example. If someone understands why a past action was bad, that would help with future decisions. The teaching would have to be done by someone with absolutely no conflict of interest. Second, show them what a group of successful people does. Then they’ll know what to do and why, and they can better trust that it’s the right thing.

        Unfortunately, I don’t know how to combat the general distrust that creeps in from other areas of life. We have to work at systemic solutions, not just personal finance.

        • SavvyFinancialLatina June 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

          I grew up poor. My parents and I were immigrants to this country.
          It’s all about education and communication. You will be surprised how little education and communication there is in poor communities.

          • SZQ June 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

            I agree – it’s a cycle – if the kids see how the parents struggle with money, mismanage funds, etc. then they don’t learn how to be GOOD and frugal with money. I’ve always said that some of the poor friends I have are really terrible with money – and I don’t know how to help them understand some of their mismanagement of their hard earned or subsidized incomes. If we could get the younger people educated on how to be frugal in all areas of their life, it might help.

      • Debbie M June 5, 2013 at 9:48 am #

        Yes, thanks Annamal for the link and Gerard for your observations. Fascinating.

        As a kid, I would mostly save my allowance (and my brother would spend his), but then my parents borrowed it and never paid it back. Fortunately for me, I did not learn from this (in my mind it was a fluke, not how things work).

        I have no idea how to re-train people who have learned these sorts of lessons other than moving them into a new peer group who uses more reliable tools. Basically, changing their reality.

      • Bob Sayer June 5, 2013 at 9:55 am #

        I’m one of those who has been ripped off (multiple corporations not paying worked hours, ebay sellers selling used junk as “new”, etc).

        But I don’t fear the future. Now I trust hard facts rather than people’s voices. In other words if someone is selling me a mortgage, or insurance, or whatever, I demand they keep quiet while I take time to review the numbers. If they start getting pushy, then I walk.

      • Lee anne June 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

        Wow Gerard! Not trusting the future! I never saw it like that…great insight. That’s been me! Never committed to or completed anything out of fear nothing would work out. This year has been a year of spending money on self help programs, prosperity programs, removing blocks to abundance, blah blah blah. Incurring debt along the way. One day I heard a speaker say save 10% for myself first…a light bulb went on. I realized I felt guilty putting money aside for me. No savings, no retirement, had to get rid of money, incure debt and keep myself in a story that there wasn’t enough for me. Thankfully, I woke up.I found this blog. I save and spend consciously. My trust in the future begins with trusting me. I am trustworthy. I’m money worthy too!

        • Debbie M June 7, 2013 at 7:40 am #

          Wow, good luck, Lee anne! You are trustworthy and moneyworthy!

          I’ve had an overblown sense of what cheating is (getting tutoring seemed like cheating, going to professor’s office hours felt like cheating–anything that could give me an advantage, even if it wasn’t an unfair advantage). So I have a tiny clue where you’re coming from.

          If it helps, you can remember that the better you take care of yourself, the less often you will need help from others. So save along and help yourself guilt free!

  7. Randall Pitts June 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Hi MMM,

    I’ve been reading your blog lately and really enjoy it. I like it because of the serious contribution you provide to individuals seeking financial security and for the entertainment factor. Thank you.

    What I find frustrating while reading your blog is that it makes the assumption that everyone earns enough money to attain wealth but they just don’t save their money. Having read what it means to be a good Mustachian I found that my family and I are really good at not spending money. We are a family of 6 with 6 bikes and for two yeas we had 0 cars. The car we have now was a gift and we rarely use it. Put short we are very frugal but our problem is that there isn’t enough money coming in each month to allow for much saving. With our frugality we have difficulty even keeping a positive bank account. This is mostly due to two factors: a relatively large debt due to an unfortunate start-up company situation and loans on the house that we live in. (Downsizing wouldn’t be plausible because the house is already a bit too small for the 6 of us.)

    How do you respond this kind of situation. I know. If we assume that I am saving right then making more money becomes the major priority. We’re working on that, but I would just like to hear what you might have to say about what people should do who are in a stituation like mine.

    It would be nice to here from you.

    Randall

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

      This is a great question, and I have been working on a post on exactly this issue. But really, you already know what it will say. There is no magic in money, only math. If you are supporting a large number of people on only a moderate income, or have fixed non-negotiable costs as some people describe their church-related contributions, you’ve probably already optimized many aspects of your spending just to get by.

      You can either embark on a quest to earn more (there are whole websites devoted entirely to that, and Ramit Sethi is a good teacher in the field).

      Or you can become more minimalist in your living style. Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme has documented this very well.

      That’s it – those are the two parts of the mathematical equation.

      This particular blog tends to target the middle-class-and-above income people, because it is secretly an environmental blog too. We rich people are the ones with the consumption power to destroy our own ecosystem, but also the investment power to rebuild it if we change our priorities. The large flows of money at stake also have the power to greatly reshape society, allowing more happiness and human connection.

      So in your situation, I’d say work on happiness first, and then decide if you even need to change your money situation. If you do, then figure out how to earn more, or spend less!

      • lurker June 5, 2013 at 5:26 am #

        Environmental all the way….so when do you get that food forest growing in your backyard? and perhaps a guest post on Permaculture? Yes I know I have been hinting about Permaculture on here for awhile but it seems to me to be the only way humanity can go….cheers.

      • Dillon June 5, 2013 at 6:28 am #

        I understand the difficulty for people like Randall and truly do feel pity but I think the real solution is an “unfair” one to say (from Randall’s POV anyway) to people in the now. i.e. Don’t have a 6 person household and/or get schooling/training in a higher-paying expertise for when you first enter the labor force full-time. Addressing financial issues AFTER career and family planning has occurred seems 100% backwards.

        Our society needs to have a well-established mindset of the delayed gratification BEFORE we graduate high school. And if it isn’t ingrained in all (which it won’t be) then financial and family planning needs to be addressed at an early age in a serious manner.

        I am far from perfect myself with my own unique set of problems and don’t mean to single out Randall. That being said, the ONE thing I was sure of growing up was that I could not have children until I was able to be in a much more secure financial position. In fact, that facet of delaying having children was a major component in who I dated and eventually married.

        • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) June 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

          I had the exact same thought, but you said it in a much more PC way than I could have. I guess family planning should be included as part of financial planning.

        • reader from the rockies June 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

          Having a large family is essentially the same as any other major expense. Having 6 kids means likely MAJOR expenses from before birth all the way through high school and maybe even college.

          This takes a huge bite out of your budget. That conversation should come up before having the kids.

          • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow June 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

            This is the very issue that gives frugality a bad name, people have to be frugal cause they can’t manage their money. As they mention they borrowed a ton of money to start a business that went south so now they can’t make ends meet (I’ll refrain from typical internet sarcasm).

            @ Dillon I suspect the issue isn’t that Randall can’t earn enough money but that he sabotages his successes. First off you don’t need a fat paycheque to enjoy they world.

            A good friend, family of three, she never worked he never made more than maybe 30 grand a year yet they have done more than most middle class families earning twice as much or more.

            Secondly as mentioned many people like Randall (and us many moons ago) simply sabotage their successes. My mother/father in law, retired now in their 80s complained for years they never had the money to spend winters in Florida (cost about 5 grand) always broke. No body except some family members are more tight than them. But when you begin to scratch the surface you find that there is more than meets the eye. The reason they are so broke isn’t that they don’t earn enough but are terrible investors, like Randall they put a ton of debt into a start up that is going south. So now in their 80s they have a mortgage payment of a 1000 a month. (12 grand a year) My first question was how come you can afford this but couldn’t afford Florida?

            Rob

      • David K June 5, 2013 at 8:52 am #

        You say middle class and above, but can you define that? In terms of salary? If so, how much? Is it different in different areas? Just curious.

      • Randall June 6, 2013 at 8:01 am #

        Thanks for the answer Mr. MM.

        I didn’t think you would be able to say anything that I didn’t already know, but I enjoy the conversation.

        Just for the record, I am very happy with my life and I excel at almost everything I get my hands on. I just happened to learn all too late how important it is to “really” save money. My balance sheet looks like this: Relationship – Great, Family – Great, Health and Fitness – Great, Intellectual Stimulation – Great, Social Life – Great, Hobbies – Great, Financial Situation – Sucks*. I guess if I’m going to suck at any one aspect of my life I suck at the one the effects my quality of life the least.

        *I have to qualify this. We have a house, a car, bikes, clothes on our backs and nobody thinks we look homeless, we’re healthy and can afford to eat at home well, we play music and dance and we never really worry about losing all that. We live in one of the richest countries in the world and are not one of its richest members but compared to much of the world we live like kings. It just angers me because I learned the importance of excelling at earning and saving money too late for my taste. Had I know all this when I was a teenager I too would have been able to retire at age 30 something.

        No complaining here. I know what I have to do and why I’m doing it. And most importantly I know who is responsible for everything that happens in my life. ;-)

        • Sister X June 6, 2013 at 11:16 am #

          This has to be one of the best comments I’ve ever read, on this blog or elsewhere. Kudos to you for being able to put your situation in the grand scheme of things and for owning up to your responsibility. I know so many people who can’t do those things, so you’re already ahead of where you think you are.
          I am of the opinion, also, that it’s never too late to learn about personal finance. So what if you’re a little late to the game? Some people never even show up.

        • Shadowmoss June 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

          Randall, you might be interested in a blog at http://zenhabits.net/ as he has, I think, 6 kids and has simplified his life and his finances. Similar to here, without the swearing and flash (one of the ways he simplified, I think). The focus is more on simplifying than on finances alone, but there is a lot of good there. He started out with debt and bad habits and worked and learned his way to his current life. I find i get something to ponder out of a majority of his posts.

        • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow June 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

          As mentioned previously I suspect based on personal experience of my self and my family that the real issue isn’t that you not earning enough money but that somehow you feel (and purely guessing here) you don’t deserve success so you sabotage it.

          The alternative is as I mentioned too many stupid investments (another family member lost a ton of borrowed money investing in penny stocks)

          I highly suggest looking at what is preventing you from being successful.Again I’m only reading what I can from you comments and what I know from personal experience.

    • DaftShadow June 5, 2013 at 5:29 am #

      Hey Randall,

      I would also like to note something: every single time you make a debt payment (house or business loan), you are increasing your net worth and bringing yourself closer to retirement.

      Now, I know from experience that it sure doesn’t feel like that (!!), but I also know that it’s true! A house is an expensive, non-liquid savings account… but it’s still savings. :)

      Your situation will be tougher than many, because you have to overcome a small mountain of debt first, but once you scale that mountain (using the same principles talked about in this blog!), if you can continue living in the same fashion, you WILL get to FI.

      Figure out how to scale that Debt Mountain so you can start putting savings away for good, and you will begin to see the light at the end of that tunnel. It probably won’t be a 5-year plan, maybe not even 10… But you’re already living a 20-year plan with those kids of yours… I bet you can live a 20-year financial plan too.

      Good luck m8. The principles are all still true… you can do this.

      ~ DaftShadow

      • Chris June 5, 2013 at 8:59 am #

        I really liked this response DaftShadow, and I would also like to encourage you Randall. I know that financial independence is a big theme on this blog, but I tend to think that underlying the FI message are “being free” and “finding out what is important in life” messages. Frugality is a good thing because consumerism is life sucking, enslaving, and it prevents you from seeing what is really valuable and important all around you.
        I have a five person family which I love being around, and I am convinced that serving God, my family, and others is a vital part of what I am supposed to do in this life. I stumbled across this blog recently through the Washington Post and realized that the MMM ethos would help me do MORE of those things. We are in the process of eliminating 24k+ in yearly expenses over the next two months (embarrassing to say I could eliminate that much!), which is enabling me to take a big pay cut to work for myself, invest more in homeschooling and be more involved in service work (while still saving at least an extra 600+/month).
        I don’t know if that fits the ideal of most MMM readers since switching jobs slowed down my progress toward FI significantly, but for me early retirement isn’t the ultimate goal. I am not free to live entirely off of passive investments, but I am free from meaningless expenses that don’t add value to my life, and I am free to spend more time doing what I feel is actually meaningful. Take some time to think about what’s important. You are already free from the consumer fog, and you do have a wonderful 6 person family. If FI is important to you then listen to DaftShadow and be encouraged by your progress even if it is gradual, but whatever you do take some time to reflect.
        I think this is one of the most positive communities on the internet. I love it!

      • Bob Sayer June 5, 2013 at 10:08 am #

        >>>”A house is an expensive, non-liquid savings account… but it’s still savings. :)”

        I hear this so many times.
        It is absolutely false.
        The LAND underneath the house holds value, but the house does not. A house is a depreciating money sink, just like a car. You spend money (and time) mowing the lawn week-after-week… the roof leaks so you spend thousands fixing it…. the wallpaper starts falling-off so you spend thousands more replacing it. Your wife (or you) decides she likes blue better than plain-white, so you spend thousands on a new paint job. The pipes rust-through and you spend a thousand on a plumber + piping cost. The heat pump dies, and that costs almost $10,000 to replace.

        And on and on. One time I added-up the amount of money my parents spent on their 30-year-old home’s maintenance, property tax, school tax, and other costs of ownership. It was more than the amount they got back ($210,000) when they sold it.

        Invest in land. Not houses that will, like a car, gradually fall apart and cost you money for repairs, taxes, etc. IMHO

        • James June 5, 2013 at 11:32 am #

          But was the amount spent on repairs, maintenance, remodelling, &c more than they would have spent on renting a comparable dwelling place? I would expect not, since the landlord would have to do the repairs and recoup his costs through rent.

          You also don’t absolutely [u]have[/u] to spend thousands on paint, wallpaper, etc. They’re fairly easy & fun do-it-yourself jobs, with tool & material costs of a few hundred.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque June 5, 2013 at 11:48 am #

          Once you own the house, you don’t have to pay rent or make a mortgage payment ever again. In that sense, it is an investment. You’re investing in “not paying for accommodation”.

          Maybe we just built our house very well, but our housing costs aren’t anywhere near what you’re talking about and we’ve been there for 11 years now.
          For instance, a gallon of paint is about $40 at Home Depot. We even let our 4 year old pick his room colour last year. Don’t see how you get thousands of dollars from that.

        • CincyCat June 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

          Funny. My county treasurer sure likes to tax me on not only the land, but also the structures (“improvements”) that are on it. I guess someone, somewhere thinks that something besides the “land” has value. ;-)

          That said, I think DriftShadow is correct. If you are talking about a typical balance sheet, then Assets – Liabilities = Owner’s Equity. If you reduce your mortgage liability (the debt against the asset), and the asset itself (the house) has not also depreciated, then your equity (net worth) does increase. It’s a rule of accounting.

          This is fundamentally different than an income statement that shows what revenue the asset has produced versus expenses, which include maintenance and things like wallpaper. (Capital improvements fall under the asset/liability calculation.)

          Personally, I think you’re mixing up these apples & oranges (which is the same flaw in Robert Kiyosaki’s argument, from what I remember of reading his books).

        • Eric June 6, 2013 at 10:21 am #

          I’m confused Bob.

          Above you say you refuse to ride a bike and only drive. Here you say you spend thousands to replace wallpaper, thousands more for painting, thousands on plumbers, thousands on heat pumps, and who knows how many other thousands you spend on stuff you could be doing yourself.

          Is your intent in posting just so we can feel good using the word complainypants? If so, keep up the good work. If not, you might actually want to read some of the posts from this blog. I’d suggest this one:

          http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/13/domestic-outsourcing-practical-or-wussypants/

          • Mr. Money Mustache June 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

            Indeed! Bob Sayer has become quite a regular spokesman for Antimustachian principles around here!

            Here’s how I view a house: not only a store of value and an investment, but a lucrative tax-free business where YOU are your own employer! And here is why:

            Any time you want, and at any hour, you can create improvements to your house. Craft a new bathroom or kitchen or a beautiful gabled front porch. If you live in a nice area, this will increase the value of your home far more than the materials will cost you. The balance is tax-free income for YOU. A couple hundred thousand of my own net worth are due to exactly this effect. As for maintenance? $1000 of shingles every 30 years and $400 of paint every 15? Pretty darned minor.

            Now before you whine, “But that’s WORKING!” – realize that this working on your own house is simply maintenance on a luxurious product that you choose to own. One of my rules is that if you want to get ahead financially, you should not make a habit of buying luxury products that you depend on others to maintain. Take care of your own shit.

            Heck, think about how much “work” it takes to maintain a healthy body! You need to spend HOURS biking, walking, running, lifting weights, etc., every week. Luckily these activities cost you very little.

            The Antimustachian equivalent would be “It costs so much to maintain this body!! Liposuction once a year at $5,000, pectoral augmentation implants, statins for high cholesterol, back surgery from sitting down 12 hours a day. A BODY IS A HUGE MONEY SINK!!

            • Taryl June 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

              Haters gonna hate. Enough said.

        • Jen June 9, 2013 at 8:47 am #

          I am very happy with my home as an “investment”. It is a modest home, but it is paid off and as a single parent it gives me great comfort to know the roof over our heads is paid for. Yes, I will still owe, taxes, insurance, etc, but where I live that is not expensive. And, I just installed a free new light that a friend wasn’t using in my kitchen yesterday. I assure you, if I decide to paint a room it doesn’t cost more than $70 or so. And, of course home repairs pop up but they are modest because I am not some fancy pants who needs to have the best of everything.

          I love knowing that I have created a nice life for my family on a low income and that even if I were to lose my job, I don’t need to get a high paying one for us to make it, and I have money in the bank if needed.

      • Randall June 6, 2013 at 8:20 am #

        Thanks for the words of support. I’m on track with my financial goals. It just looks like it will take a looooong time to reach them. But who knows what the future will bring to someone who is willing and eager?

        • Gerard July 18, 2013 at 11:29 am #

          Randall, another “asset” worth considering is your experience. You’ve learned valuable money lessons too late to fully benefit from them, but you have four children you can teach, by example and by overt instruction (“Here are my mistakes and here are my succcesses”).

    • Ken Stone June 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      Loan(s) on the house. Family of 6. Decisions, over years. It really does boil down to math on different levels. Hug, love and enjoy your family. They are worth more than any amount of money. It is the worthy path you chose. What if you had a million $ in the bank but you were alone? Math and philosophy. Decrease spending, increase income, and enjoy along the (maybe long) way.

    • Randall June 6, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      Hi Derek,
      Thanks for the response, but the failed start-up hasn’t failed I just failed to start out with the right kind of people. That coupled with very greedy investors made for a very bad situation. There is no hope or desire to go there again.
      My current company can be found at http://www.penta-sense.de (complete infos) or the english version at http://www.penta-sense.com.(limited infos)
      I’m always open for ideas so keep in touch.

    • Steve Cavanaugh June 6, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Randall,
      When my wife and I lived in Vermont and had our 3 children we were in a similar situation; we were very frugal; bought food wholesale (I worked in a hospital kitchen and bought off the delivery truck), huge gardens for produce, drank only water and coffee, cloth diapers washed at home (no service), breast-fed babies (no formula), etc. And we never had enough money although I worked 2 part-time jobs in addition to my full-time and my wife had 2 part-time jobs. Eventually things got better because I completed some more education and we were able to find a better job for my wife and we worked opposite shifts so one of us was with the kids almost all the time, so no child care costs. But it was tough, and we had only half the number of kids you do.

  8. Spoonman June 4, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    Oh I still go shopping…for kick-ass, dividend-paying companies! I love watching my passive income grow with each purchase.

    I can’t get the same feeling from buying some useless doohickey.

  9. NightTrain June 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    This reminds me of a recent discussion I had with a co-worker about the new Star Trek that just came out. Bear with me here.

    He’s a long-time trekkie that had *some* issues with the new release. Mainly because there are too many massive, huge and glorious scenes that take you on an epic roller coaster. Just when one ended, the next one began. In the old Trek-world, things would develop slowly. LONG discussions with peaceful missions that resulted, sometimes, in no fighting, negotiations and an understanding of the two entities in conflict.

    Keep in mind, I still have yet to see the new movie. Without seeing it, I argued (I’m a star wars kid at heart) that maybe JJ Abrams was making Star Trek accessible to the 2013 movie-going (ie consumer) audience. That this audience now needs the epic shit exploding in their faces to constantly blow their minds, to keep them attentive and entertained. And that, in due time, as this baton is passed from director to director, Star Trek will have stayed. 35 years from now, still new and relevant Star Trek material will come out in a new form. And that maybe it will return to it’s original guts of peaceful exploration with an emphasis on science. THAT will be the lasting impression over the long haul.

    How does this relate to CW?

    The 8-10 things that he read about in MMM’s blogs that blew his mind were fine…. they sparked his attention. Now he wants his mind blown with EVERY BLOG.

    I would say to him that slow and steady is the course. Passing the baton of frugality is a long journey with many ebbs and flows. Maybe this blog gives you a special nugget every 15th post that you store in your pocket and pull out at just the right time to marvel at and chuckle.

    That, to me, is good enough to read every. single. word.

    If you lose faith, just look in your pocket at all of the nuggets and keep your complaints to yourself.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 5, 2013 at 12:09 am #

      Wow, nice story Night Train.

      And besides, mind-blowing is all in the mind of the beholder. Personally, if I look back at the last six months, I kind of like Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit, and Cure Yourself of Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome.

      But it’s true in general, the blog has been slow as I’ve been working on other things temporarily. That’s the price you pay for reading a blog by a retired person – it might not always get the same attention as one staffed by full-time corporate achievers.

      Update: the CW comment seems to have deleted itself (maybe he or she was drunk at the time and then regretted it?).

      Just so others know what we’re talking about, it was an eloquently written paragraph saying something like “Oh, woe is me. I have grown so TIRED of your BLOG! All bullshit and drivel like this for the past six months. No new tips. I will stop visiting now. But first I will leave this piece of shit on your doorstep to show my appreciation for any useful things I might have read earlier.”

      That’s paraphrasing, but I think I got the gist of it.

      • Elizabeth June 5, 2013 at 5:20 am #

        MMM, many of us would rather see quality over quantity — which is what we find here! I for one am I losing patience with “filler” posts on certain blogs that repeat the same old tips.

        • Elizabeth June 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

          Argh. Should not comment before coffee. What I meant is that we readers find quality here. Other blogs seem to be relying on fillers just to have something up everyday. I’d rather read a blog like this one that has fewer posts that make me think (and often make me laugh!) than more reiterations of “Ten ways to save on x…”

      • Andy June 6, 2013 at 6:38 am #

        MMM,
        So this is my first comment since I’ve been working my way through the history of your posts and absorbing what I can. First, let me say thank you. I think you’ve got some great ideas and everything is done in a very entertaining way that keeps me interested. I even find myself wanting to try carpentry!

        That said, I’m writing because I followed your link to the reddit “discussion” started by this CW asshat. It really pissed me of for reasons that I think you already addressed, namely that this is your blog and you can do whatever the hell you want with it. If you do start to post articles that don’t interest me, personally, I’ll move on to some other blog, but I clearly have no say (nor should I) in what you say or post here.

        What really made me want to post this is just the thought that dealing with clowns like this might make you or Mrs. MM want to quit this whole blog thing altogether. Like your wife said, you’re real people who don’t deserve to be attacked for something you write on your own blog and I think it’s sad that she has been dissuaded from making her own posts (which I liked) because of people like CW.

        So my advice/plea is to please just ignore shit like that reddit page and not get involved in these flame wars; you, this blog and all of us supporters will be better served for it. Sorry if this has turned into a rant, but please, keep up the good work.

        • Dr.Vibrissae June 6, 2013 at 10:41 am #

          i also enjoyed Mrs. MM’s few posts. Maybe she’d considered starting/posting some things for the Lady Staches in the forum? Anyways, I understand how difficult it can be to ignore the asshats, even when they are the minority, even when they are spouting nonsense or completely ridiculous accusations because they can be so damn vocal.

          When I was in practice most of my clients liked me, but darn if my day couldn’t get thrown off by that one person accusing me of hating animals and only being in it for the money/nice cars (newsflash I drove a 12yr-old station wagon that I inherited from my grandfather at the time). It’s silly, but it can get to you. Keep up the good work, and don’t feed the trolls!

      • Eric June 6, 2013 at 11:24 am #

        I wouldn’t say your blog has been slow. April has some of my favorite posts. Especially the Clown Car one; as someone who has almost completely migrated to bicycle only transportation, its funny to think about how much money I have wasted on vehicles in the paste.

      • CALL 911 June 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

        Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome is probably the best article on almost any topic I’ve ever read. (It isn’t Pulitzer worthy, but really worked for me!) I reference it at least 3 times a week. I even talked someone into keeping their 12 year old car instead of buying new by using it’s logic. That was just today! Keep calm and carry on.

    • Hanne van Essen June 5, 2013 at 12:18 am #

      For me, I really like these posts. I have been reading this blog for almost 2 years now, and I still really like every post. Of course the message is basically the same. I would not like it very much if MMM suddenly would start blogging about something totally different like horse breeding or quilting, or something.
      And also though the message may be clear, it does not mean I am a totally Zen non-spender. Still enough to learn and therefor to read and enjoy each post (and the comments).
      It is a bit like church, I suppose (I don’t go there). Of course people know the basic message: turn the other cheek, love thy neighbour etc. But that does not mean it is not useful to be told that message every sunday in a different form.

      • Anner June 7, 2013 at 11:58 am #

        Wow, Hanne van Essen, I wish I could read Dutch. Your blog looks like something I would like to read.

  10. UK Money Motivator June 4, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    There are several smart phone apps out there that try and encourage the ChaCHING habit, I would love to see one from a bank that actually automatically moved any money you had just ‘saved’ by not buying and impulse purchase out of your current account (checking) into a savings account.

    At least that might encourage more people to then move some of those savings into actual investments, instead of emptying the bank account each month!

    • kruidigmeisje June 5, 2013 at 2:52 am #

      Here in nl, a few banks come close: you can set parameters on your direct debit card, that for every purchase a set percentage is automatically booked to your savings account (at same bank). Certainly helps some of the impuls buyers.

    • smithy June 5, 2013 at 8:44 am #

      Hi UK Money Motivator,
      Not exactly what you were looking for, but First Direct (UK online bank) have a “sweep” facility which will sweep all the left over money in your current account to a savings account at the end of the month. You can set the exact date for the sweep and minimum reserve funds etc.. The more you don’t spend each month, the bigger the sweep will be, ChaCHING.

  11. Giddings Plaza FI June 5, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    Another great post! Delayed gratification definitely is a gift that keeps on giving. And you are right on that your blog (and mine) is “secretly” pro-environmental because it’s inherently about low consumption of crap. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last many months is how my life is diverging from my consumption-heavy friends. It’s depressing to watch people I’m close to spending their earning futures on kitchen remodels, cars, crazy expensive clothes…

    One good friend in particular, who I’ve know since college, is a life-long overspender. She filed for bankruptcy in her 20′s. She spends compulsively on music, eating out every day, a new car she got 2 months ago. She rolled her eyes at me when, the other day, I said that instead of going out for a $50 meal (which is very common in my friend group and income range), I said we should go for a walk (and yes, because of her consumption issues, she’s also very overweight). I told her being in the sunshine, people-watching and saying hi to neighbors, was so much more fantastic than another dumb meal out. She ended up coming on the walk, and as is common for us, we ended up talking about her money problems, with her again SHOCKED that I own a house but no car, while she owns a car (well, has a loan) but no house.

    The kicker: during the walk, we stopped at the library to get a book I had on hold. She freaked when she found out I’d been on the hold list for 6 weeks. For people who have consumption heavy lives to fill in the periods of fear or boredom, waiting 6 weeks for something you want is unimaginable.

    • Krishanu July 22, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Yeah, the library! I’m astounded by so many of my friends who “cannot wait” till they are top of the list at the library to get a book/DVD/CD, all for absolutely free, and none of these are essentials for living.

  12. jwc082 June 5, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Excellent article. I’m reminded of a book I read once called “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Ruby Payne, which said that one of the main differences between poverty and the middle class is – not surprisingly – their attitudes toward money. Poorer people tend to spend every cent they have, but for a reason that might surprise you – because to them, the future doesn’t exist. As a result, many times people in poverty can be given $1000 at the beginning of the month but then not have the $500 for their rent three weeks later, because the future is just an abstract concept that they don’t really understand. They live in the now, and consequently, there’s no benefit in saving or investing.

    Okay, I realize I’m making huge generalizations here, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless…

    I kind of like the idea that how rich or poor you are isn’t about how much money you have to your name, but about the ideas you have in your head. As a result, you can pull in $25,000 per year and be wealthy, or pull in $100k per year and be in poverty, because the difference is about your attitude toward money and spending.

    • lurker June 5, 2013 at 6:10 am #

      might also explain why the rich can’t stay rich as the third generation who has grown up with everything can’t imagine a future without anything (ants vs. grasshoppers?) blows the family fortune with overconsumption and reckless spending and investment….real question is how can we can educate all to the deadly dangers (personal and environmental) of overconsumption oh wait…just read this blog and spread the word!

    • raisin mountaineer June 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      Oh, this is so familiar. I have a good friend who grew in a culture that has historically been very impoverished with little hope for improvement. He works in the service industry and has a random income– some good days, some bad.

      We rented our little garage apartment to him, and over the next two years watched how he (mis)managed his money. We managed to keep him as a tenant, thanks to a firm $10/day late fee policy and our friend’s desire to keep partial custody of his young daughter (which required him to have a permanent address).

      He would come home sometimes with his pockets full of money, and the next day there would be steaks on the grill, expensive beer bought from the corner gas station, and new toys for his kid. The money just burned a hole in his pocket.

      A week later, when rent was due, he would have a sad story about how he’d had a few bad days and didn’t have the rent together. We would shrug, say “get it to us when you can,” and he would– along with $40 or $80 or whatever the late fee was (my husband was very firm about this).

      He was super motivated to keep his kid– but he just didn’t have the mental skills. We worked with him for two years, and he finally strung together about six months of on-time (or nearly on-time) rent– He moved on, and I wish him well and hope he’s still doing o.k.

      There is so much more to this story, but I have to say, he was an honest good guy who just didn’t have the wherewithal to delay gratification and start to build up his own situation. It’s like a piece of the puzzle was missing.

  13. mox June 5, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    There is also a third person type.

    I need an want it but I don´t want to pay the full price, how can i get it for less.
    - buy a used one
    - wait some time
    - sell something to buy it
    - buy more than i need and sell some …

    Cha-CHING!

  14. Done by Forty June 5, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    We still create a monthly budget, though every time MMM mentions there’s a better way I give it some thought. Part of my hesitation is probably just from laziness or not wanting to change. Still, I think that there is often some benefit of setting specific spending/savings goals ahead of time and trying to hit them. Every month we try to ratchet up our savings rate a bit more, or spend less on luxuries, than the previous month. We improve by degrees…

    I can definitely see how some people would benefit from a more open ended approach though: simply trying to maximize their savings (or, non-spending ChaCHING moments) all the time, and then measuring how they did in arrears. Like how some athletes prefer the free-form improvisation of basketball or hockey instead of the X’s and O’s of football…or something like that.

    Maybe we’ll put down the budget in July and see if we actually do better.

    • Paul June 5, 2013 at 2:58 am #

      I too keep a budget, but not quite the traditional “I get to spend X on going out and Y on new clothes” type. Instead I have a spreadsheet that goes out one year, and includes everything I’m likely to spend. Some is obvious (mortgage, heating etc.), but then one entry a month is “credit card”. I know that in a typical month I’ll spend X on the credit card (a number I very gradually lower every month, while keeping it realistic). Every month that includes food and transport, and then in June it includes home insurance, April is car servicing, December is Christmas presents, etc. There are two reasons I do this:

      * So I know how much cash to keep on hand for spikes in expenditure (like the new boiler I know I’ll need this winter), meaning I can save the rest for the long-term.
      * So that every month I underspend (and we always try to, and generally do) I can actually see my savings increase not just by what we normally save, but by even more!

      and one that I don’t

      * To spend money on crap I don’t need because I’ve already given myself permission with my budget.

      It sounds to me like you use your budget in a similar way. That may not be full-on Mustachian, but I think if you’re strong enough to avoid that last point then it’s pretty close!

      • Mr. Frugal Toque June 6, 2013 at 7:21 am #

        First things first
        1. When I see the phrase “having a budget”, this implies the establishment of consumption limits on a category basis.
        (i.e. Hey, we haven’t used up our restaurant budget, let’s go out to eat!)
        2. Instead, our “budget” is a historical record, by category, of where we *have* spent money in the past, to make sure we have things under control
        (i.e. Hey, our spending on groceries is up. What’s going on there?)
        .
        That having been said …
        Having a budget category called “credit card” seems a bit vague and therefore dangerous.
        When we record our spending, we put annual car things under “car”. Home insurance goes under “house”. Gifts are under “Recreation” etc. etc.
        Having vague categories, either in your budget or spreadsheet, can easily lead to unnecessary purchases. (Meh, it’s okay, the DVD rewinder goes under “credit card”.)
        If you can’t establish a category for the thing you’re buying, you shouldn’t buy it.

        • Paul June 6, 2013 at 8:08 am #

          I can absolutely see your reasoning, and as a retrospective measure what you’re suggesting makes sense (particularly with categories like ‘food’ or ‘gas’). But when it comes to predicting the future I’d find that unnecessarily restrictive. For example, I know that we spend X per month on groceries, but in any month it could be 50% higher or lower than that without worrying me (because of stocking up on bargains, or using them up). In the same month that my food bill is unusually high my spending on gas could be high (because we visited family), or low (because the weather was good so I rode every day). But if I put that variability along with a dozen other potential categories in one bucket called credit card then I know in most months it won’t exceed my prediction, and hence I can manage my budget.

          For that to work, though, I have to remember that ‘credit card’ doesn’t mean ‘spending money I need to get rid of every month’. That could be a problem, but I don’t find it to be.

          One thing I completely disagree with is “If you can’t establish a category for the thing you’re buying, you shouldn’t buy it.” My thought process for almost all purchases begins with “1. Do I *need* it? 2. Can I afford it?”. At no point is there a step for “Can I categorize it?”

          • Mr. Frugal Toque June 6, 2013 at 11:12 am #

            I get that. What I find, personally, is that if I can’t fit the thing I’m thinking of buying into one of the proper categories, then it’s not something I need.
            I *use* the categories to answer the question, and “credit card” would be a very uncomfortable excuse for me to use.
            If you don’t use your budget categories that way, then you won’t have this problem, obviously, but what do you use the categories for? Just to make sure you don’t forget to pay your bills?

            • Paul June 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

              It wasn’t clear from what I originally wrote, but I don’t use categories at all. Entries on my spreadsheet are for individual transactions, whether it’s my cable bill, mortgage payment or whatever. By doing that I can keep a very low balance in my checking account, just enough to pay all those bills, and keep the surplus in higher interest accounts. By only having one entry that could be considered a category (credit card) that contains all the monthly variability I can smooth out that variability as I mentioned above, and make better predictions.

              You’re right though, that ‘credit card’ could be an excuse, and I’m sure from time to time it does do that. But I think the occasional treat, whether monetary or not, is OK, and my natural caution means they’re infrequent and modest.

              • Mr. Frugal Toque June 7, 2013 at 4:45 am #

                Indeed. I get it now.
                This is the trouble with the word “budget”. It has far too many meanings. I always have to ask people what exactly they’re doing when they use the word.

          • Ekim July 8, 2013 at 8:25 am #

            I do something kind of similar, but with a third step: “Can it wait a month? Or at least a week?”
            Quite often, I end up forgetting I wanted it in the first place.

    • Debbie M June 5, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      I also still use a budget. For some categories, it lets me spend guilt-free, knowing I can afford to. When I find myself going over budget (such as for car repairs), then it shows me I have to re-think my priorities.

      There is such a thing as regretting not spending. And not just for health or safety or charity, but also for fun (I wish I would have just paid to go to the top of the Arche d’ Triomphe when I was there).

      But also a budget, in conjunction with my spending logs, lets me see how well I’m doing on getting better habits and it lets me see what my personal inflation rate is (this year has been the worst with property taxes, electricity prices, water prices, and health insurance all going up while interest rates continue to sink).

    • Giovanni June 11, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      Looking at budgets from a different angle.

      Let’s say I come to you with an investment idea. What do you want to know? A. What is it? B. How much does it cost? C.How do you know it will work? D. How much do I get back?

      If the answer to A is Financial Freedom and it sounds good to you how do we answer questions B, C and D? Well we do that with proforma financials, which is just a fancy term for budget! Right? Would anyone invest in someone else’s deal without thoroughly going over the financials?

      Here’s the thing to consider: You are going to invest 100% of everything you ever earn in your financial future and just like someone else asking you to invest, it is well worth ‘running the numbers’ on your ‘own deal’. I analyze investment deals for a living and you can be sure that some sellers don’t know their numbers at all compared to what they should: Advantage me.

      I believe it is worth the time, effort and discomfort to build a budget and check it regularly when you’re getting started. As your non-spending muscle gets stronger and better at curbing spendaholism then you can ease up on the budgeting but at the end of the day you’re investing 100% of everything you’ll ever have in the startup that is you.

      But don’t just take it from me, Dwight Eisenhower said it much better (after having planned and executed victory in Europe during WWII): “I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

  15. David K June 5, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    This is a really wonderful article. I’ve been reading through your stuff for months now and am always excited for new posts to come out. This one really hit the nail on the head in regards to TRUE saving and the psychology behind it. This is why I track my own personal net worth every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Each time I get to update my spreadsheet, charts, and numbers, I get that little ‘Cha-ching’ feeling from the hard work of delayed gratification that I put in. I’m kinda a sucker for that feeling so I track probably a bit more often than I really should… but I figure that it’s better to be addicted to saving than addicted to spending!

    On a side note: I’ve been wanting to write to you for a really long time now to gain your insight to my own personal finances, but I just bought my first house (I’m 23) and wanted to wait a couple months for some solid numbers before requesting your advice. I’m working on the e-mail now… and hope that you are able to take some time to read it and reply. I know you have a busy and full life, but I’d love some help in getting me to the next level of Mustachianism!

  16. My Financial Independence Journey June 5, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    As I’ve gotten more involved in investing, I’ve found that the process is a lot like spending money on anything else. On one hand I spend time researching and salivating over consumer goods like anyone else. On the other hand I also spend a lot of time and effort looking for great companies to invest in. I am a highly future oriented person (probably too a fault) so I usually go with investments over consumption. But I don’t feel anywhere near as good about saving and investing if I wasn’t actively my own portfolio.

    Like I mentioned above, I’m probably too future oriented. So while most people need to learn how not to blow through their entire paycheck, I need to learn the opposite – how to spend a bit more to enjoy myself in the present.

  17. Jasper Greens June 5, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    This reminds me of the time the spouse and I were gambling on slot machines in the casino of a dirt cheap cruise ship ($25/night per person through the Canary Islands!). I was thoroughly enjoying plugging nickels into the slot machine for about 20 minutes when I won the jackpot – $13! The spouse heard the commotion, immediately rushed over and gathered it all up and announced we were finished. I wanted to play all night!

    People are wired differently. Some gain satisfaction from waiting, sometimes forever. Others prefer gratification now. Most people are the latter and the entire US economy is set up around that so it is pretty hard to change. The only force in this web site which seems to argue against it is those people who, for whatever reason, really HATE their jobs and can’t go on normally but need to retire earlier and are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 5, 2013 at 8:17 am #

      I’d disagree with that completely – I believe almost anyone can learn to change their habits away from immediate gratification, leading to debt and 40 years of mandatory work.

      Most of the people with money problems don’t “prefer” the way they are doing things right now. They just haven’t (yet) learned to put in the time and effort to do things the more logical way (get the money before you do the spending).

      It has nothing to do with hating your job and needing to retire – living frugally works better for everyone, even people who love what they do right now.

      • Jamesqf June 5, 2013 at 11:41 am #

        It’s also a fact that not everyone here hates their job and wants to retire – Your friendly neighborhood IRPoliceman :-)

        • AA June 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

          Not true – I like my job. Ther eare *moments* that I might hate, such as when a manager screws up planning and calls in the mandatory overtime. But as long as the workweek stays normal, I’m happy :)

      • Just Call Me Al June 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

        See post below.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque June 6, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      Jasper,
      What you’ll find is that the people who can’t delay their gratification are the ones with televisions.
      If you turn off your television for a few months, you’ll find that you don’t need as much stuff as you did before. Once this recovery is complete, you’ll wonder what to do with all the money piling up in your bank account.
      I don’t think people are really hardwired one way or the other. Sure, there could be a genetic component to this, but it seems to be a pretty straightforward effect of really well orchestrated mass media advertising.
      Certainly, the people buying those ads think they are effective. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, after all.

      • Doug June 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

        I don’t agree with the idea of TV making you want more stuff. I watch TV regularly, and on some shows I see how many people in the world manage to get by with a lot less stuff. I also see places I would like to travel to, and realize that the probability of my going to such places goes up significantly if I buy less frivolous stuff and save my money.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque June 6, 2013 at 11:14 am #

          So TV doesn’t make you want to have more stuff, but it does make you want to spend money to go places?

          • Doug June 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

            Good point, I never thought of that. I do, however, manage to travel on the cheap with discount fares where possible, and have budget accomodations like hostels or camping if on a road trip.

      • SZQ June 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

        Funny you said this – I was just thinking the same thing the other day, about how when you watch TV, read through magazines, etc. they are CONSTANTLY telling you NEED this and you NEED that! Same thing when you hang out at the mall/stores. They have these signs up that are so alluring. So you start to THINK you really do NEED this and that. I have been frugal most of my life, and I think it really got so much easier once I quit watching TV, reading magazines (with all of the advertising, etc. in them!), and pretty much stopped going into retail stores (unless I had to buy a gift). When you remove yourself from the constant pressure of these advertisers/retailers, you really DO forget about most of the crap they are pushing! When it’s not pushed in your face, telling you you NEED it, you MUST have it to be cool, you don’t know what they think you need – and after awhile, you really don’t care! At least that’s how it is with me!

  18. rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) June 5, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    This post begs the question of how much can “future thinking” and frugality be learned and how much is inherited?

    On the ERE site and here, I think there are a disproportionate number of engineers, scientists, accountants, etc. In other words, lots of the readers are analytical by nature. This characteristic may correlate to “future thinking” and frugality. I know that I’m somewhat frugal by nature and MMM helps me improve my frugality.

    Other types of people (sales people come to mind) may not be “future thinking” and naturally frugal. For them, it’s much harder. I’m not saying that they can’t learn from MMM, but it will be difficult to maintain what they see as “discipline.”
    This may also explain why many of us are puzzled by their spending behavior.

    Just a thought.

    • Brandon (And Higher Still) June 5, 2013 at 5:47 am #

      For what it’s worth, from the Wikipedia article on the Meyers-Briggs INTJ (Keirsey Temperament Sorter ‘Mastermind’ role variant):

      “Masterminds are highly pragmatic, and they will put forth a great deal of time and effort to implement effective ideas. They are driven to solve complex problems and to create organized, decided, and executed solutions. Masterminds tend to make positive statements instead of negative ones, focusing on how to make the organization more efficient in the future rather than dwelling on past mistakes.

      Masterminds are also highly theoretical, and one of the more open-minded of the 16 role variants. Before Masterminds adopt a theoretical notion, they insist on researching all the available data and checking the idea against reality. Masterminds are suspicious of theories based on poor research and will discard ideas that cannot be effectively implemented.

      As leaders, Masterminds are skilled in contingency planning and entailment organizing, which are directive activities that tell the planner what activities to do and in what order to do them. Once in a position of power, Masterminds are known for their efficiency and willingness to adopt useful ideas.”

      MMM, rjack, and others, do you relate to this description? Maybe I’m projecting, but I think it fits.

      The article goes on to say that this is one of the rarest personality types, representing less than 1% of the population [citation needed].

      Anyone with a personality as-described would be uniquely temperamentally qualified to succeed in personal finance.

      • JaneMD June 5, 2013 at 8:42 am #

        I am not remotely an INTJ. I’ve taken the personality test multiple times and only am able to stay consistently an E and a J. The other two change on and off over time. I’m married to a lawyer who is not the organizer I am and he is definitely an INTJ. We’re not planning on early retirement, just paying off our student loans, but we live definitely fall into the MMM lifestyle spectrum.

        I agree with the rich imagination life of frugality. I generally spend alot of time imagining purchasing things, but I wait several months and lots of research to find the best value/best price. If I still want said item after waiting, I’ll go ahead and buy it. For example, I waited four years to buy a small flat screen TV.

      • Praxis June 5, 2013 at 8:43 am #

        Probably not the place to bring up MBTI, but I’ll respond to this thought as I actually think MBTI is a usable tool that is very poorly understood by most critics and that the underlying Jungian function model it was based on is very interesting (but has been hijacked by Myers and Briggs to turn it in to a profit-making horoscope with a poor, easily fooled tests that stereotype).

        I am a Ni-Te INTJ myself based on the function model, and INTJ’s are particularly well known as one of the most future-looking types by nature as Ni is very big picture orientation, but it seems foolish (or arrogant?) to assume anyone who looks at the future has to be of a certain Myers Briggs type. This is partially a product of nurture. I know plenty of poor INTJs. I know ENFJ’s who are huge savers and one particularly notable older ESFP businessman who with age and experience has trained himself to live smaller.

      • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies June 5, 2013 at 8:57 am #

        I’ve tested INTJ for as long as I can remember, and this sounds fairly familiar to my life, except perhaps the rarity of INTJ. INTJ’s seem to be a disproportionately large part of my life as in far more than (0.5^4), though perhaps INTJ’s also flock together?

        • GamingYourFinances June 6, 2013 at 5:39 am #

          Another INTJ here! Perhaps we do flock together?!?

          (In this case I think we’ve self selected ourselves into the same group by reading MMM)

      • Mr. Money Mustache June 5, 2013 at 9:14 am #

        Good point, Brandon – I find the Meyers Briggs personality types really interesting. I usually end up coming up as ENTP or ENTJ, but sometimes the “Extrovert” part fades away late at night and I just want a good book or a computer for company.

        On this blog, I have steered away from Jacob’s focus on personality types because I like the simplicity of bossing people around as if we were one group. While it creates more complaints on the fringes, it can be effective because it removes the options and excuses that might otherwise come up.

        “But I can’t ride my bike to work! I’m an Introvert and I therefore prefer the quiet womb-like comfort of my car!”
        “Shut up and ride your bike”
        “Yes, Mr. Money Mustache”
        “Hey, it turns out I like riding my bike! And I’m rich now!”

        • Praxis June 5, 2013 at 10:48 am #

          I find Myers Briggs types particularly fascinating, with two complaints- one is that I feel Myers and Briggs took Carl Jung’s very interesting system and simplified it to the point of causing people to misunderstand it. The second is that they pushed a very poor test to the masses that pushes treating it like a horoscope. The tests ask questions designed to see if you match up with Myers’ and Briggs’ common observation of how certain types tend to behave, in other words, stereotypes, but nothing in the definition of the types requires you live up to that. Most resources on the internet give you horoscope like descriptions and lead people to believe these stereotypes are what define the types.

          In reality, Carl Jung defined a stack and ordering of functions that was different in everyone, and represented how we process information. The acronym Myers and Briggs use is actually not representative of the functions exactly; the I/E and J/P were modifiers to the ordering and usage of the functions (Intuition, Sensing, Thinking, and Feeling) are the functions. Myers and Briggs repurposed I/E to be introvert/extrovert because of their observations, and J/P to be “judging/perceiving” for the same reason. This is why your Myers Briggs type can’t change- but your personality CAN change. MBTI isn’t personality, it’s thought process.

          An organized person doesn’t have to be a J, and a free spirit doesn’t have to be a P, etc. The acronym doesn’t define your personality. It defines your brain functions/thought process, and interestingly, actually seems to correlate with patterns on modern EEGs (a guy named Dario Nardi has a presentation on YouTube and a book on this).

          This is the problem with Myers Briggs; once you use it to box your personality, suddenly it becomes an excuse. “Oh, I don’t care what people think, I’m an INTJ.” “Oh, I don’t like to commit because I’m an ESFP.” We should all be leveraging our unique talents to improve ourselves where we are deficient.

          Oh, for what it’s worth, I’m almost sure MMM is ENTJ. Te-dominant, by the Jungian model; primary function would be applying objective reasoning to the external world, i.e. wanting to see real practical results. ENTP’s are usually a lot more nitpicky about definitions while ENTJ/INTJs are okay with broad unqualified statements if they *work*. Plus, all of my ENTJ friends like facial hair.

          • cats eye June 5, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

            For what it’s worth:

            http://www.gobankingrates.com/savings-account/myers-briggs-money-financial-personality-type/

            The administered tests, I’ve found are way off the mark. Too many people consistently test the wrong type, myself included, and the fallacy is the tests’ reliance on self-reporting of personality traits, and the multiple choices format, it always seemed too limiting (I mean, 16 types of people, seriously?) to fit the spectrum of cognitive functions.

            MMM may as well be ENTP. Don’t judge by his bossy voice that he’s ENTJ — ENTJs of my acquaintance are mild-manned well-behaved boys and girls absorbed in their own inner world to care much about anything else. MMM on the contrary likes his fun words like “wussypants” and “flying feathers”, generally sees fit to give face punches, writes in hyperbole like Douglas Adams (who seems an ENTP).

            And remember, many P’s are more judgmental than J’s. ENTJs probably couldn’t care less if the rest of the planet didn’t bike, they’d just assume the non-bikers/anti-mustachians are a waste of their time and carry on. ENTJs are very greedy when it comes to their time and how it is spent, I don’t think they’re going to start a blog to poke fun at consumerism/debt, an activity that takes up a good chunk of their time!

          • Done by Forty June 6, 2013 at 1:28 am #

            Praxis, I am not familiar with that information but I’m really glad you posted it. I hadn’t realized it, but I was viewing the descriptions of my ENTP profile kind of like a horoscope. I find myself thinking, “I’m an idea person, I can’t really be expected to worry about process” or “Of course I left that project unfinished, it’s part of my personality”…Like you noted though, personality (and my behavior) can change.

            • JaneMD June 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

              My workplace always used it as a method of making people work together and why one approach doesn’t fit everyone. They made us split into personality groups and examine a sugar packet. The ESFP’s had very different things to say about the sugar packet than that INTJs and so forth. It also let you see which of your co-workers found your extroversion out of control. :)

      • Doug June 6, 2013 at 9:29 am #

        Interesting observation you make. I am an INTP, characterized by being sensible, rational thinking types. A lot of scientists, engineers, and other similar fields are INTP’s. We excel at visualizing the future, and imagining future consequences of actions taken today. Of course I have been mustachian all my life and suspect certain personality types, like INTP and INTJ are over represented in the mustachian community.

        Being an introvert probably helps also, as you are less likely to be obsessed with impressing those fictitious people called the Joneses.

    • Melissa June 6, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      Hi rjack,

      I agree there are a lot of analytical people likely reading this blog. I think I am one of them. I have also been an extreme future thinker. I was wondering what you mean by sales people though? Do you mean people who constantly shop sales? I have a friend who always announces what she “saved” at a sale–but her closets are full and she makes regular trips to Goodwill with items she bought but never or barely used. On the other side, if you mean sales people as in sales reps, I am a sales rep. I am frugal due to my family and upbringing but I also think it’s a bit of genetics since I was so young when I started wanting to save money/have my own bank account. But in addition to that, sales reps must also be analytical–we are constantly turning in forecasts, figuring margins, balancing pricing, and trying to figure out people’s natures and needs so we can best meet their need. A good sales person will fulfill a person or company’s need at a price that both makes their company money and also saves the buyer’s company money (return on investment). We constantly analyze financials, products, and companies. Not only that, but sales people are very goal-oriented because their job requires it. If I wasn’t goal oriented by nature, I don’t think I could do my job. By the way, my friend who shops sales is also a sales rep! My neighbors across the street are both in sales, and both frugal. I was married to a spendy engineer. So, it appears there is culture and genetics, and a myriad of other influences, involved in the way we think.(I don’t feel it is any harder for a sales person to be frugal or future thinking than it is for an engineer.) I totally agree with you that it is somewhat ingrained and natural to think one way or another. Then MMM’s blog comes along and pushes you to thinking beyond what you ever dreamed you were capable of achieving!

      • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) June 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

        I meant sales reps and it is probably a stereotype. What I really meant is people that are highly motivated to buy more stuff with little regard for the future. That is clearly not you.

        Thanks for the insight!

  19. Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies June 5, 2013 at 5:06 am #

    Through school I used to use my own marshmallow test as a studying tool when I wasn’t interested in the material, setting out a marshmallow as a treat for each chapter or section of textbook reading I had to get through. It worked for me.

    On visualizing the future, a couple of years ago there was a study that illustrated this point exactly. Those who saw aged avatars of themselves when logging into a 401K type account were more likely to set aside larger portions away for retirement than those who saw a current picture of themselves.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703410604576216663758990104.html

    So to save more buy/borrow a scanner and photoshop? =)

  20. Cas Hout June 5, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    I’m in a bit of a dilemma right now. We have a paid off F150 truck (gas guzzler, I know, but, we use it to get our wood to heat our house, and for garbage runs, recycling metal runs, etc.). It’s used primarily on weekends. Anyhow, it needs $3000 in body work. (Salt on roads here in Canada ruins cars fast, and, was apparently never oil sprayed before we bought it.). I doubt we can get another truck for the price of repairs. It has only 125000 kms on it. Suggestions? Selling the truck and downsizing is not an option (we will be doing some renos ourselves soon also, and will be using it AND a trailer for hauling.)

    • Patrick June 5, 2013 at 6:04 am #

      Cas,
      It sounds like your truck is all utility, so I’d have to ask if you really cared about the quality of the body work. I used to flip seriously old and rusty cars for fun and spent a lot of time underneath Detroit metal with a bottle of rust convertor (POR-15 is what we used in the Coast Guard), a wire brush, and a bottle of beer. F-bombs are a solid companion as well when it’s cold.

      If you’re truly cheap (I mean, uh… frugal), you salvage some sheet metal, get a used rivet gun and have fun (pop, F-bomb, pop, F-bomb, repeat). Just make sure you bend it to get some rigidity in your “panel.”

      It’s not pretty, but neither am I. Well, the more I drink, the prettier I get – just like your truck.

      If this doesn’t work, though, you’re driving the most popular truck ever made. There’s lots of panels for it literally littering the planet. You’ll find something. Good luck.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque June 5, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      What can you sell the truck for?
      What can you buy a used minivan for?
      You will use the minivan to haul only your tools, although they can pull trailers, too.
      What is the cost of having everything delivered to the site of your renovations?
      I’ve discovered that adding up all of the delivery costs for everything I’ve ever needed from Home Depot and Home Hardware is an order of magnitude below the marginal cost of having a truck vs an economy car or van.

      • Cas June 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

        Curious as to why we’d be better off with a minivan… Would only be able to haul half as much and seat one more person. (It is still our back up vehicle, as we do live in the country, and eldest just got licensed.) And firewood is messy and heavy. And each sibling cuts and hauls wood together, so, borrowing a truck isn’t viable, as what’s cut has to be hauled right away (part of the deal with free wood.). We are pulling a trailer full as well as the back of the truck a few times a year.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque June 9, 2013 at 6:20 am #

          I guess if you have very truck-specific hauling requirements, a minivan might be inappropriate.
          But if you were carrying tools and what not, they get to be safely locked up inside the vehicle, as opposed to out on the somewhat less secure bed.
          And obviously, saving a tonne of money on a cheaper vehicle while paying for delivery isn’t really an option in your case.

  21. Alex in Virginia June 5, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Not too long ago, I got really in touch with how that chaching! feeling juices up my daily life. And so I wrote a blog post about it:

    http://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f27/playing-the-frugal-game-is-fun-66787.html

    Hope you enjoy!

    Alex in Virginia

  22. Brandon (And Higher Still) June 5, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    Unsatisfied with this post? Ask not what this blog can do for you, but what you can do for this community.

    The more of your writing I read, the more strongly I identify with it. I use the phrase “Future You will be pleased” constantly in my own writing and financial pep talks. It’s not meant to be a joke: every time you choose investment over consumption, your financial future is that much better off as a result — forever.

    The naysayers be damned: what you’re doing on this blog is important, and it’s having a real impact. Maybe it’s not possible for everyone to retire at 30 or own real estate, but it IS within everyone’s power to improve their financial situation by thinking rationally and considering the wisdom you’re freely offering here.

    So keep up the amazing work. I imagine this thing eventually coalescing into some sort of gigantic open wiki knowledgebase, with a consortium of writers and financial gurus and lifestyle engineers and analytical types joining forces to sift and structure the available data — everything from low-cost recipes to cost-of-living case studies to open-source software and open-access education databases to DIY automobile, bicycle, and home maintenance tips — while we record our own progress toward financial independence.

    You’ve given the community a lot to work with. Soon the time will come to expand the scope and build something even bigger.

    • nunayo June 5, 2013 at 9:21 am #

      That very thing is taking shape with the ERE wiki page. I just learned to bake bread from that page.

      • Brandon (And Higher Still) June 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

        Awesome! I really need to finish reading the last couple MMM posts so I can make more progress over at ERE —that blog is truly gigantic, and I still have a ways to go.

        A good place to start would be a gigantic index of posts and other resources organized by topic (for instance, everything ever written about purchasing or maintaining a bicycle).

        In the coming years, I’d love to see an independent nonprofit foundation created to steward such a resource.

  23. Emily Allred June 5, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    This is a good article for me. I love watching my net worth creep up, while the mortgage goes down, and saving and planning for the future, but I still fight a daily battle against myself.

    “Take as much instant gratification as you can each month, but cut yourself off before you do too much damage.” This really resonated with me, because it;s exactly what I do. I have a budget that is much more strict than anyone I know personally, but as long as I hit the budget, it’s a free-for-all otherwise.

    I struggle with finding ways to be sociable with coworkers who do not share my strategies and values (saying no constantly to invitations to eat out is damaging to budding relationships in a way I haven’t learned to compensate for yet), and I still struggle against impulsive “retail therapy” buys on top of that.

    Clearly, I need to work on the ChaCHING instinct. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

  24. Greg June 5, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    I totally relate to this. My wife just started carpooling with our neighbor to work and leaves before me. So when I go out to my car and see hers sitting in the garage I go Cha-Ching! with another day of not paying gas.

    It actually brings a smile to myself to see small wins like this.

  25. CashRebel June 5, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    I have this internal struggle with myself every time I go to a store. Most of the time I walk away without buying the item because I realized that it won’t actually make my life better. Sometimes I even do a fist pump on my way out of the store. It’s a wonderful feeling.

  26. Retired Early June 5, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    Hmmm…it’s really never an either or situation.
    As a child I would eat any treats that I was given right away. I was always a bit hungry and if saved, any treat would have been discovered and devoured by my older sibling, who was also always a bit hungry, plus a bully.
    I did save whatever bits of money that might come my way because I was always worried about THE BILLS. I often overheard talk about them….they seemed like relentless, all powerfull monsters to me. Sibling would not snatch my stash because taking money was theft not sport.

    When I started to work full time and had the luxury of a regular income I did start to spend a bit on things that I thought Real People were supposed to have. That didn’t last long as I discovered that I really preferred to create things rather than buy them and that I worked too damn hard to end up with a lot of stuff that got old fast or needed to be cleaned and cared for! I did spend on tools and art supplies to create things.
    I haven’t worked in 10 years…I live in a major east coast city, in very modest 1950′s house on what, adjusted for inflation is a very modest 1950′s income….but with all the tech advanatges of the 21st century!
    I live really, really well on my various savings and investments but I still eat my treats right away!

  27. Mr. 1500 June 5, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Every time we buy something, we get a little shot of dopamine/happiness in our brains.
    I believe that people can retrain their brain to get the same hit of dopamine by choosing to not buy something. The bonus is that we get even bigger hits of dopamine at the end of the month when we see our money pile becoming a money tower.
    Of course, then there is the the sense of well being and comfort that comes with having a massive pile that gives us our freedom. Nothing compares to that feeling.

  28. Katie June 5, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    I am not really sure if I come by saving naturally- as a child I was raised by “mustachian” parents who never had any debt and made me save half of any money I recieved as gifts in a savings account, or if it was enough a high interest cd. I learned about interest early! Gifts I recieved from parents and relatives also included things like savings bonds and stock shares( not kidding! i thought this was super lame as a kid) i did have toys- but never anything unless it was a holiday or I saved up for it.
    Now as an adult itis just not an option to buy something on credit Most of the stuff isnt worth the x amount of hours I would have to work for it.
    I am also a low income earner who had a kid at 21- now at 28 i was really glad for my childhood savings because while my stache is small, i have no debt. I thank my parents now for teaching me money management.

  29. Stephen @ SE June 5, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    Ah, the chaChing Instinct. Now I have a name for that nagging sensation. I am curious to know from other reader if this is innate or something that is learned over time. I feel like I was sort of built with this understanding but I know a lot of people who don’t have a chaChing bone in them and it is pretty painful to watch. I suppose everyone can learn something but I would assume most people develop this pretty early (as can be seen in very young kids).

  30. Brian June 5, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    I think it would be interesting if instead of having to show up to work 9-5 every day, you could show up whenever you wanted and get paid an hourly wage, paid out each day. That would require much less delayed gratification because if you didn’t spend so much one week, you could work half time the next.

    But the 9-5 arrangement requires extra foresight into the future, and it is more like a 0 or 1, with some steps in between, like being more confident on your job with plenty of cash, or being able to start your own business. Either way, it takes a good few years of working without gratification to get that foundation started. But once it is going, it’s a lot easier to see the end.

  31. Pretired Nick June 5, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    I think about the psychology of delayed gratification All. The. Time. it’s such an interesting area of study. Fascinating especially to me because I have streaks of both groups in my family so I see a vivid contrast all the time. And what MMM says is true: the end result is completely mathematical and predictable.

  32. Rockstache June 5, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Aww man…I didn’t get to see the CW comment that everyone’s talking about. Anyone care to summarize?

    • Justin G. June 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Something along the lines of “waaaah waaah, I don’t like the articles you’ve been posting recently. You are wasting my time by forcing me to read them.”

  33. jlcollinsnh June 5, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    Wonderful post and I just added a link to it as an Addendum bullet on my last.

    You also helped validate and clarify for me why I’ve never bothered with budgets. My ChaChing! instincts did the job for me.

    I do now tract expenses on a spreadsheet. With a family it is useful to see where the money that is being spent is going. And I’ve always tracked the cost of the vehicles I’ve owned because it was a big number and just because it was fun!

    • Steve June 5, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      We track expenditures, too. For our monthly cash flow spreadsheet, we include any transfers to savings, as well.

      My wife and I spend consciously, we own up to stupid purchases immediately, and we do our best to stop future mistakes. This blog’s message resonates with us!

      Personally, MMM’s blog injected two opti- drugs into my bloodstream — optimization, and optimism. I assume that I get only one shot at this life; and so, I will make the most of it.

      So far, so good.

  34. Darrow @ CanIRetireYet? June 5, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    It wasn’t until I took some personality tests a while back and learned that I was in that small percentage of “strategic” thinkers that I realized how unique and useful that quality is. Being able to imagine or visualize the future is incredibly helpful for developing positive financial habits, because you just naturally “see” the results of your actions going forward.

    A related skill, the ChaCHING instinct, is taking confidence in or perceiving value in abstract assets like paper money, or numbers in a bank account. If you can get yourself to the point where you get as much satisfaction from “buying” stocks or bonds as you would from buying a new vehicle, it gives you incredible leverage over your financial independence.

    I agree that formal budgets are for beginners. Strict budgets aren’t needed for financial success, once you get the right habits in place. If you take some steps to ensure awareness of your spending habits (I like Quicken or Mint.com) then your actions will naturally coincide with your financial goals over time. Know your objective, know your spending, and you’ll just do the right thing.

    Assets gifted from the younger me keep showing up in my life these days. And in gratitude I’m trying to keep planting seeds for the older me to enjoy down the road!

  35. Mrs. Buck June 5, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    “…those with a better ability to imagine the future in detail were also better at making wise financial decisions”

    I am encouraged by this discovery. Our 7 ½ year old son (yes the ½ year matters), recently asked me what college was like on the way to school the other morning. The discussion started with basics like taking classes in different buildings, and then quickly gained speed until we were discussing how you pay for college. My husband I went to big, public state schools. That being said, given the rising cost of tuition I worry that these schools, and others like them might not be the best value for the kids. This discussion seemed like an excellent opportunity to introduce the downside of college debt, the importance of weighing the cost of your education with the resulting job placement rate and earning potential.

    Yes, this is heavy stuff for a 7 ½ year old. But it sticks. Our son was 5 when I told him that he would eventually move out of our house to go to college. He clearly internalized this discussion because he was the first one to call me out on this concept when he realized the 19 year old boy across the street was still living at home after graduating from high school.

    I finished up the college debt discussion by explaining that the neighbor boy that still lived at home was saving money by going to community college. Our 7 ½ year old quickly chimed in and asked if he could do that. Not sure if this means that the college debt discussion went well, or of he just wants to live with us forever. Regardless, I will keep preaching the message.

  36. Debbie M June 5, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Actually, dogs do bury things to save them for later. I know of one dog who had to learn the hard way that this does not work for ice cream.

    **

    I wish I could remember who it was, but I like the way one blogger made saving into a competition. It was her against “The Man.” So instead of thinking, “ChaChing!” she got to think, “Nice try, The Man, you almost got me that time, but I win again!” In the US, it is pretty easy to see “The Man” lurking all around if you so choose.

    **

    When I first read that marshmallow study years ago, it was clear to me that I would have waited and my brother would not have.

    But in the real world, we weren’t in separate rooms. What would really happen is that my brother would feel sorry for me and give me half his marshmallow. Then, when I got my second marshmallow, I would feel sorry for him and give him one of my marshmallows. We’d both get to have some both right now and later and we’d both get more than just one marshmallow each. We were a good team.

    Sadly, we’re not a team anymore; we no longer want the same things, so we’re no longer in a position to share.

    • Jamesqf June 5, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      It’s also fairly easy to train dogs not to counter-surf, or not to eat that juicy piece of meat until their human says it’s ok.

  37. RetiredAt63 June 5, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Looking ahead is something we can train ourselves for in small ways. If you can be mindful of times when you are presently happy or unhappy about something because you did or didn’t do something earlier, you can start to train yourself to think of your future self as someone to look after.

    It may be easier if you start with something small, and something non-financial. For example, after a long and tiring day, with dirty dishes in the kitchen, the options are to do them or leave them for morning. If you think of your “morning me” having to face all those totally disgusting dishes that have sat there getting more disgusting for 12 hours, your “evening me” may be more inclined to do them. Then next morning your “morning me” can thank “evening me” for doing them last night, and then do the breakfast dishes in return, which will make “evening me” happy after work. It sounds trivial and silly, but for those who have trouble appreciating delayed results of an effort made in the present, it is a nice way to ease into a new mind-set.

  38. Beth R.S. June 5, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    One thing that nobody has mentioned yet is “rosy prospection.” It’s something little kids are generally pretty good at, thinking about a future event and happily anticipating it and getting excitedly happy just thinking about it. Author of ‘The Happiness Project,’ Gretchen Rubin uses the example of her daughter planning her ice cream birthday cake for weeks leading up to the actual birthday. The daughter wanted to stop at the cake shop multiple times to taste test flavors, and at home would spend time comparing the benefits of each cake option. At first, this annoyed Gretchen, not wanting to stop at the cake shop yet again and wanting her daughter to just “decide already.” But she relented and watched her daughter’s behavior at the cake shop, and realized her daughter was probably getting as much satisfaction out of planning the cake as she would get out of actually eating the cake on her birthday. She reveled in the anticipation of the event, which actually tends to heighten the feeling of satisfaction when that event actually occurs.

    I try to practice this with everyday things that make me happy, like a book by a favorite author coming out soon or tickets for a concert in a few months. This is the part of delayed gratification that is difficult for some to comprehend, but I think is kind of normal for mustachians. The ultimate in rosy prospection is being able to think 10-15 years down the road and get excited TODAY about something that is pretty far off in terms of time. You can do little things to remind you to practice rosy prospection… For example, I love visiting my parents and their adorable little dachshund a few times a week, so I keep a photo of them above my desk. I also have a sticky note with three numbers on it, which nobody else will understand: 2026, 875, 45. It’s the year I plan to retire from full-time work, the amount of stash I want to have, and the age I’ll be when that’s likely to happen. When work is stressful or whatever, I like to look at that sticky note and smile. :)

    • desk_jockey June 8, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      Re. “I also have a sticky note with three numbers on it, which nobody else will understand: 2026, 875, 45”:

      I find that Mustachian goals constitute great passwords for work computers. Something like $875Done@45 would keep that goal in your mind every time you log-in.

  39. Ree Klein June 5, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    AWESOME post! My mentor has always viewed frugality as a game to be played. She and her husband take great joy in postponing spending for future gratification/gain or waiting until a purchase is an amazing deal.

    It took me a long time to develop that skill and I sometimes still get jacked up by the desire for immediate gratification.

  40. Marcia June 5, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    So here’s my big question…how do you train this? Is there a way to instill this in my children, and when do you start?

    Personally, my husband and I have this ability. My 7 year old does not. Is it because he’s 7? Or can we teach and train him? I have two siblings who are spenders, the rest of us are savers. Why is that?

    It is fascinating, but really, I want my kids to be savers not spenders, and I’d like them to learn that early. It will be easier for me if they learn it now and if I don’t have to pull the tough love later.

    • Lesa June 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      When i realized I hadn’t done enough to instill the delayed-gratification skill in my 10-year-old, I instituted a 401(k)-like plan for him. It works like this:

      1. Kid gets allowance.
      2. Mom will match every dollar kid puts into his savings, effectively doubling his money.
      3. He can take a withdrawal from his savings but then can’t take another withdrawal for three months.

      We keep track of contributions to his savings on a white board on the refrigerator, clearly marking where he has contributed and what I’ve matched. A few times he has put in additional dollars beyond what I’ll match, just to see his balance grow.

      I don’t plan to keep the matching rate at 100%, but I have to say that in the 5+ months we’ve been doing it, he has only opted to spend his allowance once, and hasn’t taken a withdrawal from his savings. Now he’s excited because he has oodles of money to spend at a once-a-year event that he’s been looking forward to.

      I’m counting this one as a win. Putting a few extra of my dollars to work teaching him to delay gratification has been *totally* worth it for me.

      • Rob July 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

        I’d like to see the fine print of this contract. Here’s a possible loophole:

        Starting with a balance of $1 at age ten, he could retire at 18 with over $16 million. All he would have to do is withdraw the entire balance once every three months, then re-deposit it for an instant 100% return.

        Kidding aside, your system sounds like a great idea.

  41. Tortoise1000 June 5, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    ‘Every time you don’t spend unnecessary money, you have won a little game.’. You are right, the buzz of this is addictive. The only thing I would say is it can become rather too much of a habit over a lifetime. Don’t overdo it, and live in a cold house when you are old, and things like that. When my Dad died recently I felt rather sad about the money I found he had saved, when he didn’t need to at all. I wish he had made himself more comfortable when he was getting frail. He might even have lived longer, Being cold when you are old is different from when you are young and strong. A hoard of money is no use in late old age, not when you have more income than you could ever need. I suppose it had become such an ingrained habit he couldn’t do anything else..

    • CincyCat June 6, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      My condolences… :(

      I think that it probably made your father happy in the end to know he was leaving his children a nice nest egg instead of nothing at all (or worse, loads of debts that they would then be forced to deal with in probate court).

  42. Taryl Andersen June 5, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Best post to date for we, the beginners, trying to grow a wisker or two. I’d pass this along to my shopping mall friends, but I know they’d take great offence. I will however drop a few hints about this blog.

  43. John June 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Well done. I remember a while back when the housing mess was starting to take shape. There was a commercial I saw for Vegas that was along the lines of, “Crazy times call for an even crazier vacation. Do Vegas now. Do it without thinking.” Pretty humorous. That’s what we need right now, more people thinking about only the present and not any sort of repercussions in the future! Ridiculous.

  44. Camilla Greene June 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I’m 71 and retired from the full-time workforce at 45 with much, much less money than the typical reader of this blog probably will have to accrue. I have a couple suggestions.

    Remember that once you pass that retirement milestone, at whatever age, you’ll no doubt have many years in front of you. You won’t have the structure of the workaday world or the automatic colleagues. What will you do? How will you fill up all those hours? Why not use this time, when you’re striving financially to make that a reality, to dream and prepare for a rich future life? By rich, I mean in experiences and quality of life. If you’re planning to travel, start now to study the language of someplace you want to go; if you want to take up a musical instrument, start lessons now and decide if you have the passion to put in lots of time practicing; if you want adventure, go to the library and look at magazines that have articles by folks who are doing those kinds of trips.

    Don’t make your life now constantly about frugality unless you really enjoy that. Plan to indulge yourself in something every once in a while–something that you can pay cash for, not put on the credit card. And be a philanthropist if only by tipping generously.

    If you’re going to buy a bike, go to a reputable bike shop and tell someone knowledgeable how much you want to spend and what you plan to do with it so they can suggest a bike that meets your needs. Sign up for a bike repair class or buy a book. Get a rear rack, bungees, and panniers (luggage bags) and ride with them–you never know what you’ll find. The friends I ride with are expert trash pickers, and finding a wonderful treasure that someone else threw out is a great feeling.

    Write on, MMM! I love your blog.

    • SomeYoungGuy June 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      This was very inspiring, and insightful. Thank you for posting this. I wrote two things in my journal (that I’m considering turning into a blog, but I’m not sure I welcome the hassle): “Working at a skill and buying tools as opposed to – consuming media, watching life, buying finished products… Philanthropy, philosophy, unanswerable questions, physical challenge – life is rich, but you have to dig with your hands…” I think we still have something to learn from our parents….

    • Kristen June 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      Camilla, This is such a great point and I think a lot about it. Especially the philanthropic part. My mom recently retired at 72 and she has such a full life because she has always had a balanced life. This is really important to me. Thank you for your suggestions. Kristen

  45. GlobalStache June 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Oh, do I relate! Amazingly, e.v.e.r.y old friend of mine is consumption-heavy. Only by moving away and not having new friends yet (and thus time to reflect) did I come to realize how ruinous that life can be for most. That realization happened about a month before I found MMM and, between me and MMM, suddenly I was free. I was already married then, but happened to marry someone who it didn’t take long to convince that we needed a new path forward. Lucky me…we are FI now (although my workaholic husband can’t get enough of the desk job; okay, it’s a great job, but still!). Anyways, from my side my old friendships remain but there is a strong mental distance for me. I try NOT to see them as often, because it just irks the hell out of me being around all that baggage (literally and figuratively). By moving away, I also realized my family is just like them, too. I have to talk/see them more often…that’s life. But I always have to have a de-briefing session with my husband after each occasion because I’m so pi$$ed off with all the overboard consumption. The worst part…my parents inherited a nice chunck from my frugal grandparents. Of course, now they have THREE cars between the two of them. Did I mention a second home in a tropic location that sits empty most of the year? Super barfing! On my end, for example, we don’t have cable and I’m still breastfeeding my toddler (for lots of reasons, including the money it saves!) and my family and friends think that I am the weird one. Hilarious! Anyways, I don’t try to talk with my loved ones anymore about all this. I just live far away, live under as many MMM principles as possible and KNOW who is on the right path.

    • Mike @ UB June 8, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      It’s nice to get away and reflect. Just me and my thoughts.

      Just got back to SoCal after riding motocycle to Seattle. Best friend lives there and it’s sad to see his over consumptive lifestyle. Eats bad food daily at restaurants. Has high blood pressure. Therefore need to go to doctor for medication. Goes to gym and has personal trainer. Hurts back. Needs to take off work to see chiropractor.

      His wife tells me they’ll never retire. Not only can he not save, but he’s so stressed trying to keep up with the lifestyle. It’s painful to watch.

      But I keep my big mouth shut.

  46. Rich Uncle EL June 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Once a saver always a saver. The spenders become savers when time is running out or they finally get kicked in the down under area by their stupidity. I see people all the time like your old employee who would rather make the brands of the world richer instead of putting that dollar in the bank. I just laugh thinking about all the stuff I see on Social Media about I got this and I got that (fill in the blanks) expensive brand.

  47. Krugerrand Karl June 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I have to say this post really summed up how I’ve been trying to live lately. It’s a little tougher to get the Mrs on board, but we’ll get there.

    The only expense I have a real gosh darn hard time not spending money on is travel. I want to experience awesome travel at all stages in life…not just when I am a filthy rich old guy. Europe trip Sept. 2013…$$$ – worth it.

    Much Love,

    KK

    • BadAss CPA June 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      Agree 100% with you, travelling at 30 (my age now) is completely different than when I will be twice this old. I once heard Phil Jackson give an interview after retirement where he said something along the lines of [paraphrasing]: “I used to have a vision of retirement where I would travel the world and see interesting places, but now that I’m at the point my body doesn’t want to cooperate.”

      It really impacted me, because this guy with all the money in the world can no longer do something he wants. I am motivated to retire in my 30′s regardless, but still travel in the meantime and enjoy my youth/strength. Trying to alternate shorter and longer distance locations to balance out the cost. So Jamaica this summer and Brazil next!!

  48. Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans June 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Great post! I love to think what “Future Lisa” would think about my purchases/decisions. Her approval is worth much more than any feeling I get with an impulse purchase!

  49. Scott June 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Good stuff! I practice impulse index fund purchases.

  50. Bob L June 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    In light of the recent negativity here and on Reddit, just wanted to say that having been an MMM reader for over a year and having read every single article, I LOVE THIS SITE. And I most definitely have NOT noticed a decline in post quality. That is bullshit. Also, I laugh any time I see you accused of using your blog to hawk some product. Anyone making that claim clearly doesn’t know the first thing about the MMM philosophy and needs to put down the keyboard and read some goddamn posts! Oh and also, please continue the hyperbole and swearing – it’s an incredibly effective tool for getting a point across in writing and this site wouldn’t be the same without it.

    At any rate, I’ve long had a powerful ChaCHING! instinct, but I’ve never had the concept spelled out so clearly. Makes me wonder if this sort of thinking can be successfully applied to all types of delayed gratification, not just the financial kind…

    • jlcollinsnh June 5, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      Hi Bob…

      As long as you brought up the Reddit dust up, I really should correct something Mr. MM said over there regarding the Chautauqua we’ll both be speaking at in Ecuador this fall.

      He said: “I don’t get paid for doing that trip.”

      Not true! He does get paid.

      It’s just that he has chosen to donate all the money due him to the Project One charity. Like the rest of us evil people involved with this. :)

  51. Zinnie June 5, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Great article, MMM! There are hilarious re-creations of the Stanford marshmallow experiment online; it is quite clever the things that kids come up with to distract themselves from the candy. I laughed so hard watching them.

  52. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle June 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Too bad I can’t go back and give the younger me a kick in the behind so that she would deposit some gifts so that future me wasn’t so broke all the time.

    • CincyCat June 6, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      I feel the same way sometimes. Our younger selves were actually completely free of consumer debt & credit cards TWICE before in our relationship, yet we did not change our spending habits. We’re paying for it now in round 3. We don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on past mistakes, tho. We’ve learned the lesson (finally) & are committed to taking a better path moving forward.

  53. Just Call Me Al June 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    I’ve often wondered about this: are savers (delayed gratifiers) natural leaders? Leaders, that I don’t need to define HERE, are in my estimation, of the saver mentality. I was raised by a saver and a spender. I came out…both. I have still done well because of it even though I am now an emblematic “saver” only. The psychology of a spender is that they deserve it, need it, can have it even on credit. A saver has a big picture less simplistic than a spender and enjoys the sales, the accumulation, the restraint. I don’t want to ramble, just wondering if the smart folks here have ever come across or read anything that backs that up—that a “leader” is a saver.

    • 5inatrailer June 6, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      good thought- I think this deserves some more exploration. I would like my kids to be savers and leaders too…

  54. Steph June 5, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Have you seen the Keith Chen’s TED talk about how language can effect your ability to save? This directly relates to how we see time. Very interesting!

  55. Kristen June 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    I have just started reading this blog so I am new to this. I am not new to focusing on saving though I do have a lot to learn. One thing I am curious about is thoughts on running shoes. I know this sounds silly but running is my passion and my form of exercise. Living in southern CA, it doesn’t require a gym. People may say it is free but those people have not bought good running shoes, which run about $100 every three to four months. I have tried cheaper but have had problems. I feel guilty about it and my friends who see me as the “frugal one” are shocked by this expense. Any suggestions on a way around this expense? Or do I just consider the fact that it adds value to my life and not worry about it?

    • Mr. Frugal Toque June 6, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Do not feel guilty.
      Running has to be one of the most Mustachian things you could do, right up there with bicycle commuting.
      It contributes to your health which, since you’re American, will save you on your insurance.
      It will also contribute to your enjoyment of life, as healthy people live longer and live better.
      While you’re running, you’re not doing a whole bunch of other expensive Clown-type activities like “going for a drive” or “watching television”.
      If you have kids, you’re setting a great example.
      And if you like your knees, you’re going to want to be kind to them.
      Purchase the good shoes and don’t feel bad about it.

    • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies June 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

      Do NOT feel guilty about it. I spent more to run on a per mile basis last year than the IRS thinks it should take to run a car. But I also ran 2K miles, which feels like no small accomplishment. Here’s the data on the calcs for the data junkies: http://www.plantingourpennies.com/the-costs-of-running/

    • Lina June 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      I wouldn’t feel guilty about the running shoes. Most of us are not frugal in every area. I love doing triathlons which add up because it is not just the running shoes but also biking and swimming gear.

      Here the running shoes cost between 250-300 USD so in comparison you get cheap shoes. By exercising I believe you will gain massive health benefits that offset the shoe expenses in the long run.

      • Kristen June 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

        Thank you for your replies. It is what I thought but wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing some DIY shoe making article :). I guess I can’t complain over $100 shoes compared to $250. Yikes! I am also interested in getting into triathlons. So fun! I got the swimming and the running thing down but something tells me that a beach cruiser isn’t going to cut it in a triathlon.

        • Mr. Money Mustache June 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

          Kristen – have you ever tried running with simpler shoes, as described in the book Born to Run? I used to be all into the high-tech maximum cushion setup, but after that book I started experimenting with thinner and thinner shoes. Now I just run in bare feet whenever possible, or if necessary some flat converse-style shoes that have almost no padding. And I learned to land on the balls of my feet rather than the heels, which makes all this comfortable. For me, this allowed me to start running further without weird back-of-knee pain that used to come up after a few miles.

          But I’m not a competitive runner at all, so this is all just from my junior hobbyist’s perspective. Real runners will have more wisdom.

          • Patrick June 7, 2013 at 5:18 am #

            Oh yeah, now we’re talking! I love/hate running, and I rock the 5-fingers and occasionally go barefoot. I don’t listen to anybody’s advice on shoes, and wear the same shoes that I completed my last marathon in. They probably have about 3,000 miles on them (with holes and everything), but I just rotate through old shoes. I am injury free after all sorts of stupid knee problems on expensive shoes.

            Born to Run is a MUST READ for everybody, but especially for Mustachians. I had the immense pleasure of running with Chris McDougall years ago which sealed the deal for me – that dude is a rockstar. It’s my ALL time favorite book – and actually has a lot to say about simple living, questioning whole industries, etc. Can’t say enough about that book, and I’ve found a lot of therapy in running over many years.

            The bottom line is that expensive shoes are for suckers — just like most expensive things. Just plain ol’ ain’t worth it, and there’s plenty of evidence that modern, expensive shoes are actually injuring hordes of people and therefore turning them off a very natural and soul-enhancing activity.

            I ride my bike everyday, but occasionally just run the 7 miles there then home. There’s a monster runner out there on the Potomac River at 0600 some days just BEATING ASS down the river trail. I mean, I have trouble catching him on my bike. He’s not wearing shoes.

            Run, Sister. But, forget the fancy shoes. Go look at what the Kenyans are doing — I promise you’re not going to see Nike peddling their overpriced garbage over there.

            • Andy June 7, 2013 at 6:01 am #

              I agree with you guys. Born to Run was great and I much prefer minimalist shoes or bare feet. Also got to run with McDougall and a few of the other big names at the NYC barefoot run a couple years ago, very fun. I just wanted to add a caution though for people interested in making the switch. Don’t jump into it full steam with no preparation. You can and probably will injure yourself with the minimalist style if you don’t prepare your body.

              Start by learning about Pose running or any of the other options that encourage forefoot landings and proper technique. Implement better technique even while still using your traditional running shoes. Then, when you start giving minimalist shoes or barefoot a try, start with very short distances. Your calves and foot muscles will likely be real sore at first because they end up working much more. You can then gradually increase the distance of runs as you become adapted. As an aside, even if you stick with traditional shoes, you can probably wear them for much longer than the shoe companies advise. They just want to keep selling you new ones as frequently as possible, but it’s not really necessary (believe me, I used to sell them).

              Patrick, it sounds like you’re in the DC area. Are you going to the Naked Foot 5k in 2 weeks?

              • Patrick June 7, 2013 at 9:20 am #

                Yo Andy!
                It’s entirely possible that I ran with you in NYC those couple of years ago… were you at a local bookstore in Brooklyn? I believe it was an 8-miler that took us from the UWS through Central Park. That would be a real trip.

                You’re totally right about the switch, and the calves will come a’ screamin’. I don’t always go barefoot or 5 fingers because I tend to run much better but much slower. My endurance goes through the roof without pain, but sometimes I do like to hard strike like a MOFO and just RUN. The knee ususally suffers later, but it’s fun as hell. Last weekend, I was out in the sticks and wore a pair of dress shoes (only thing I could find, and the roads were rough) to run about 5 miles. It was hilarious, but the giant hot spot on the ball of my foot wasn’t too hilarious.

                Point is, humans are built to adapt. It’s the thing we do supremely well, yet we seem to be shying away from it in our air conditioned suckiness. Ugh.

                Yeah, I’m in the DC area now, but didn’t know a thing about the 5K you’re talking about. Sounds cool, so I’ll check it out. You going? If you’re out there, I’d love to run with you, mate.

              • Andy June 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

                Hey Patrick,
                Couldn’t reply to your post (too many indents I guess), so I’m replying to mine. I think the NYC you were at was the first year and I was there for the second year. I remember seeing clips of the bookstore meeting. We ran laps around Governor’s Island and it was fantastic.
                Definitely check out the Naked Foot 5k, it’s on the 22nd at Seneca Creek and this year they added a Paddleboarding component. I’m pretty psyched, but a little worried because I’m recovering from an ankle injury that has kept me from running lately. Hoping it’ll be better the day of.
                If you make it out, it’d be great to run (or hobble) with you. I’ll wear my red shirt from the NYC barefoot run. It’s got a big white footprint on the front. Should be easy enough to spot.

          • Kristen June 7, 2013 at 7:47 am #

            Thank you all for the book recommendation. I will check it out. I have seen a few barefoot runners. They tend to have long grey hair with long grey beards or maybe that is just one guy that I see around. It is a higher level of mustachian!? Beardian?

            • frugaltexan June 8, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

              Kristen,

              You might want to check out the website barefootrunners.org and their forum/articles. I haven’t been much of a runner for a few years now, but when I was, I was into the barefoot running and the people who founded the above website were a great help to me (only at that time, on the Runner’s World Barefoot forum.)

              If you change your form/lose the heel strike – you won’t need the fancy shoes anymore. Like the others mentioned though, take it slowly!

          • turboseize June 11, 2013 at 3:55 am #

            Personally, I don’t buy the “only high-tech shoes will keep you healthy” -hype any more.

            Here’s why:
            Last year, I changed my training routine. I had used the past two years to slowly regain my endurance lost sitting in the office. Having gained an acceptable endurance level, I wanted to improve my general fitness and decided it was time to work on my speed. So I left out most of the slow long distace running and replaced it with sprints and interval training. After a few weeks, I developed severe inflammations in the achilles tendons, nearly crippling me. I attributed that to the change in training routine. Had I overdone it?
            The doctor asked me when the pain occured. I answered about 6 weeks ago and he would not believe me, stating the problem must have developped over years. Ultrasound image showed achilles tendons inflammated and being 150% thick, but half of it being “dead” scar tissue.
            But I did not see the point, yet.

            For about 9 months, I could not run. I also did not dare to take my bike. Then, one day, I wore my running shoes for a whole day at university. At noon, I was nearly crippled by the pain in my tendons. But I had not run, only walked to university (1km) and back and some steps between classrooms.
            Suddenly, something in my head clicked. Could it be that my problem was the expensive, cushioned, stabilizing running shoes?
            One week later, I wore the running shoes again. The pain came back after some hundred meters. Another week later, I started running again – this time with my old, primitive army running shoes ( a design probably from the 60s or 70s) I used to use a decade ago as a cadet. No cushioning, no stabilizing sole, just a profiled rubber sole for grip. After some hundred meters, the pain slowly went away.
            My 140€+ high tech running shoes went to the trash can the very same evening.

            Obviously the “good” shoes were hurting me. I don’t know if it was because they allowed for poor form, or because they “stabilized” me another way than what would have been appropriate for *my* body.

            I still have problems with the achilles tendons, and I can only run relatively short workouts (ca 5km, compared to 8-12 I used to do 2 years ago), but afterwards, it feels better, not worse. I will definitely take it slowly, having a track record of “overdoing” ist after a recovery and then falling back… I will avoid that this time.

            Conclusion: Form ist more important than equipment. Learning good form will do your body much better than any equipment money can buy. Run smooth. Listen to your body.
            And don’t worry to much.

        • Clint June 9, 2013 at 7:21 am #

          Just one add if you do stick with expensive shoes: they’re not always expensive. I picked up my last pair of $100 running shoes this past fall on clearance for $30.

          • Andy June 9, 2013 at 7:32 am #

            Great point, Clint. The shoe companies introduce new models every year so they can charge 100+ dollars and convince people that they need to upgrade, but it’s just not the case. The changes year to year in technology and materials are very minor and you can get great deals by just buying the shoe model from the prior year, just like with cars when the new year’s models are coming in. Find a company and model that fits you well and feels comfortable and aim to get that shoe in the older model whenever possible.

  56. thepotatohead June 5, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    I’m still with the budget, need those numbers staring me in the face currently to make it work. The saving aspect is gratifying for me. It’s awesome to see that bank account go up by not buying things you don’t need.

  57. Mindy June 5, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    I’m a “long-time listener, first time caller.” This topic dovetails nicely with one of five principles in a new book I’m reading about money and happniess called “Happy Money – The Science of Smarter Spending” (by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton). They call this principle of delayed gratification “Pay Now, Consume Later.” (FYI, the other four princples are “Buy Experiences,” “Make It a Treat,” “Buy Time” and “Invest in Others” – which principles are basically in synch with MMM’s philosophies about money).

    As always (although never previously expressed), THANKS for continuing to help validate and reinforce my attitudes AND behaviors – which have been getting me get step-by-step to where I want to be financially!!

    And I’m enjoying this journey even more – having discovered so many like-minded people in this community you have created – one of the VERY BEST I’ve discovered on the web!

  58. 2Frugal June 6, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    I love the “younger me” idea. It’s something to ponder upon

  59. Mrs Stubble June 6, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    Anytime I feel the icy cold urge to go out and spend some of my hard earned dough I go shopping in my investment account. Somehow adding an additional $100-$1000 to my investments makes me feel like I spent the money in a shopping frenzy, without all the guilt of bringing home crap I don’t need. The fact that helping myself 2x here (not buying crap and building my investment wealth) more then makes up for not coming home with buyer’s regret.

    • Doug June 11, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      So, have you been scooping up stocks or ETF’s at dirt cheap fire sale prices these days? I have, and that’s my generous allotment of spending.

  60. Jen June 6, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    When I was a teen and wanted to lose weight, calorie-counting and -limiting was the contemporary diet fad. You were supposed to allot yourself a certain daily caloric budget, and stop eating when you reached the upper limit. I trained myself to get as much or more gratification from envisioning a slimmer me, and congratulating myself for my restraint, as I did from indulging in pleasure-based eating. It was a powerfully successful approach to weight loss. Unfortunately it was also a powerfully scary approach to quasi-anorexia…but hey, all analogies have limits.
    Anyway, I never thought about the link between visualizing the future and delaying gratification, but it makes perfect sense and fits with everything and everyone I know.

  61. Jason June 6, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    My problem is that I over analyze what I want to buy because I am bit OCD that way. I end up spending so much time, that I don’t want to buy anything.
    There is enjoyment in the research and I do become better educated on the matter-so there’s some net gain :-)

  62. 5inatrailer June 6, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Sorry if this has been posted about before in this thread…

    I love how you quantify this feeling MMM. Saving really IS a feeling and the cool part is that it can be trained. My wife and I were DILDOS ( double income, large dog owners) until we had kids (3) and took huge pay cuts (moved jobs to be closer to family)

    After 2 years of forced frugality, I can honestly say my brain thinks differently when it comes to expenses and opportunities for reduced spending- too many examples to list.

    But for us, it basically boiled down to adapt or die. We had no choice. So you basically change all your spending choices to your new situation. Before long, it becomes the normal.

    The challenge is to avoid the other way of adaptation too. Hedonistic.
    I believe that in the long run, we will be richer for our period of forced frugality as it changed our thinking in a way that will hopefully pay off dividends for the rest of our lives- more financial dividends than if I had stayed at the old crappy job, and at a much higher happiness level.

    PS Maybe a MMM post on “Net Family Happiness”??

  63. Mr. Frugal Toque June 6, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    My only issue with this post is the way in which you spelled one of the title words. Maybe it’s an American thing, but I’ve only seen it as “Cha-ching” and “Ch’ching”.
    The way you typed it up there made me think that you were going to help us get rich through observing the behaviour of Scott Baio.
    As I couldn’t remember very much non-Fonz-related lore from Happy Days, I was looking forward to an analysis of the intersection between that and Mustachianism.
    On the other hand, the idea of being able to see yourself in the future and turning out to be a good saver makes a lot of sense. If we can show this to be causal – that we can take a non-saver and turn him or her into a saver – that would be a huge deal.
    All you’d have to do is tear them away from their TV sets.
    I know that was my thing when I was little. Everything was about the future: doing well in school to get to things I really wanted to learn; doing well in University to get a good job; doing well at the job to get a raise.
    I had friends who couldn’t do this – couldn’t complete a trade school diploma even though they already had the knowledge.
    Could we convince that kind of person? The kind who wouldn’t walk a kilometre to take the exam to pass the course his parents were paying for?
    His future was so close, and took so little effort, and he still wouldn’t reach for it. Sometimes I can only shrug, since literally punching people in the face is illegal (apparently).

  64. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets June 6, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Changing your mindset to enjoy saving is key to growing any amount of wealth. But taken to an extreme can cause a weird sense of pride from not spending money on ANYTHING, and probably annoy everyone around you. I get that America has a spending problem, but if you swing the pendulum too far the other direction, then America is a stingy jerk. Walking the tightrope between extreme saving and spending is required.

    As for budgets, obviously I advocate for them at any stage in life. The idea of guilt-free spending does help serve a purpose, and allow you to enjoy spending money. If you can’t enjoy spending money AT ALL (which I don’t think you are saying), then you are a hoarder, and again, that should not be the goal of financial independence. What is your money for if not to enjoy saving, spending, and giving?

  65. Chris June 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    On the whole, I really like the idea of this article. When friends want to go to bars and I choose to have one cheap-o beer instead of 3 crafts, it’s easy to feel cheap. Next time I order a $2 tallboy, I’ll just think “ChaCHING, one step closer to never working again.”

    I have one beef with this article. In the footnote referring to the NBC article, MMM says this: “Sorry, Mainstream Media, but putting aside money for a great-smelling new car is not saving.. that’s just spending in bigger chunks. Investing money into assets that generate passive income that can meet your needs (including the very occasional car purchase) for a lifetime – that is saving.”

    I can see where he’s coming from on this: we all know that buying a new car is a waste of money when a cheaper used car can be substituted easily. However, I think the habit of saving up for something you think you want is very healthy. It’s easy to say, “Man, I want that $30,000 BMW, I think I’ll buy it tonight!” However, deliberately saving up $200/month (or whatever) for the purpose of buying something you want is totally healthy. It’s a sign that you have a handle on how much you’re spending, and that you’re willing to sacrifice some of your ‘little green minions’ (read: investments) in order to buy something you’ll enjoy every day.

    Example: I’ve been playing piano for years, playing as much as 2 hrs/day in high school. When I moved across the country for my new post-graduation job, I found myself with no piano to play. I saved $140/month for 10 months, building up what I needed to buy myself a brand-new piano while still saving a ton for retirement and maintaining an emergency fund.

    Could I have gotten a cheaper piano? Maybe, but that’s beside the point. I set a goal and saved towards it every day. Without that targeted savings account, I would have never been able to find the spare $1400 to buy a piano (at least not for a decade, at which point I would have missed 10 years of practice).

    As always, there’s a limit to the goodness of targeted saving. If you’re saving up for a new car, a new laptop, and a trip to France all at once, you’re missing the point. My point is: if you have a healthy budget where you’re moving towards retirement at a rate with which you are satisfied, then it’s reasonable to divert some of you spending to a savings account for a future purchase.

  66. C. Rodgers June 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    I’m 25, debt-free, renting for $200/month, driving a paid-off car (long commute), with about $15,000 in tax-sheltered retirement savings.

    Basically, my problem is this. I fumbled around in college for far too long trying to decide what to major in. I finally finished with a bachelor’s in computer science, and I’m now working full-time for decent money. I have my heart set on getting a graduate degree, but the best numbers I can find for projected incomes at different education levels show that by the time I’m forty I would actually have less retirement savings with a master’s or a doctorate than if I just kept working with my bachelor’s.

    What would delayed gratification recommend in this instance? On the one hand, the smart financial move is to keep plugging away, probably even pick up a side job/longer hours, then possibly pursue my interests further after retirement. And that’s fine. Entry-level work is tolerable. But there’s a large part of me that is not satisfied. That part of me wants mastery of a subject, it wants greater latitude in the types of work I can take, and it also wants to feel like I built higher on the foundation my parents gave me. (No one in my immediate or distant family has yet earned a doctorate.)

    As I mentioned, I spent too much time in school and got a late start on my savings. If I were 21, this would be a no-brainer. As it is, I stand to reach 30 with little savings if I go for more schooling.

    Any thoughts for me, Mr. MM? I’m particularly interested in your input because your background is in a field that I’m considering. I understand that computer engineers typically earn a bit more than computer science students. Do you have any comments on the respective advantages/disadvantages of those two career paths?

    Comments from others are much appreciated as well!

    • plam June 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

      C. Rodgers, I have a PhD in computer science and am a professor associated with both computer engineering and software engineering programs. Feel free to email me (address on website) if you have questions.

      A PhD is definitely not worth it financially. I think CS PhDs are great, but because they teach you how to do research, not because they improve your marketability. In other fields, they may reduce your marketability, but you come out about even in CS: there are employers who hire PhDs and can leverage the skills you learned in grad school (for example, Google). Of course, you would typically be making a grad student stipend, not an industry salary, so you probably lose out financially considering the foregone income. As you say, the PhD may lead to more interesting jobs.

      A US master’s will cost a lot more up-front and probably won’t increase your earnings potential by much. However, these degrees are typically not research degrees. They will improve your mastery of the subject: you’ll learn stuff, some of which will be useful (in unexpected ways!) I also don’t think that a master’s is financially a win, but it is a good hobby.

      Keep in mind that you can also gain skills and knowledge in the workplace if you set out to do so. Universities don’t have a monopoly on knowledge. You won’t stay entry-level if you don’t want to.

      As for computer engineers versus computer scientists: in my experience, most computer engineers get software jobs. It doesn’t actually matter much. I think that the stats are reflecting some low-end jobs that “computer scientists” get that computer engineers are less likely to get.

      By the way, reducing the long commute is probably the #1 thing you can do to improve your quality of life at the moment. Mindful spending to me includes spending more on rent if it means that you have more time not commuting.

      • Jasmine June 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

        I think plam above raises interesting points. I just want to add that there are lots of things you can do — all within reach — to improve your career prospects and move beyond an entry-level job, without a Masters.

        Join relevant professional associations and go to meet-ups, workshops and conferences. You’ll have the chance to network with people in your field and broaden your horizons. Consider taking a single course (I’m not from the US so don’t know correct higher ed terminology) from a Masters degree that directly targets a skill you feel is marketable and will help you to get to where you want to go. Start a learning group with colleagues – you could work together on a particular skill or take turns to present short seminars on topics of interest.

        All of these things can go on your CV and will show that you are resourceful, invested in your area of work and take initiative. And the time and money (much less than the cost of a US Masters program) is a worthwhile investment in your future self. Even though FI is a goal, at 25 you’re too young to resign yourself to getting an extra job on the side and waiting to pursue your interests in retirement.

        I’m no expert and am trying to go this route myself after switching to a teaching career after six years in another field. I always saw myself as someone who would do a Masters, but my current situation is not unlike yours: after crunching the numbers, it doesn’t seem like a Masters would necessarily lead to much better job/salary prospects, given my late start.

        You can only go onwards and upwards from here!
        I wish you the best of luck.

    • Joe June 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Is it possible that your employer, either current or in the future, can help out with part of the cost of furthering your education? It would seem to me that you’d be a great asset, having interest in the field and wanting to genuinely further yourself.

      Or perhaps what about a certificate in a subfield? Computer security, quality engineering, etc?

    • Optimizer June 8, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      An interesting point. You seem to be on the road to kick-ass. I’ve just started reading MMM, and one thing I can say now in the final stages of my PhD is that going to graduate school can be rewarding in lots of ways, even though it might not be immediately rewarding financially. Perhaps I can enumerate:

      a) For the Mustachians, one HUGE benefit is that in graduate school you’d be getting a stipend to TA. Otherwise I wouldn’t go. Not only is this nice as it pays for the degree, but it teaches you live on something like $15,000/ year. That is a skill that most people will NEVER have, If you can keep that going for once you have a high-paying job, you can save MASSIVELY.

      b) When you get out, you will have accrued not only knowledge, but also (hopefully) professional contacts and a different view of the world.

      c) I’ve been able to leverage my credentials towards jobs in industry that pay pretty dang well. It gives you more ability to pick and choose an employer from what I can tell.

  67. Mark June 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Very occasionally I have to use a rental car for work, very often these cars are brand new <800 on the clock. I only rent these for a week max, but I always find something profound happens. My regular drive is a 14 year old car and stepping into a brand new car I am simply blown away. I love it. But only for around 2 to 3 days. By day 3 there are normally at least a few things that start wind me up, the radio doesn’t quite tune to my favourite station, the annoying rattle that I didn’t notice at first, I can’t angle the blower quite right and so on. It dawns on me that I’ve drifted from “woohoo brand new car” to “yeah its alright” in less than a week. I can’t believe this is unique to me, and I have experienced this not just with cars but with other material things.

  68. Doug June 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Wow, I can relate to this topic. I remember in grade 5 (in 1972) some man showing up at our school and having everyone fill out a survey with questions like: what would you prefer, 50 cents today, or a dollar in a month or one candy bar today or 2 next week and so on. When we filled it out he said: turn the page to the last item, that’s what you will receive, which was 10 cents today or 15 cents in 2 weeks. I chose the 15 cents in 2 weeks (yes, he actually did come back in 2 weeks). I don’t recall the exact breakdown, but recall that more than half the class chose 10 cents today.

    Fast forward to 1987, when the company pension plan where I worked had a surplus and we had a choice to receive a payment of $110 in December or $120 in January. I recall I was the only one of a dozen or so of us who chose the second option. I was asked the question of why I made that choice and said: That’s about 9% more money for waiting only a month. Do the math and that works out to 108% of simple interest and far more for compound interest. They looked at me like I walked in from a different world, or said something quite politically incorrect. That would be understandable if I were talking to uneducated people, but they were all highly educated engineers and technologists! I guess that further proves that most people don’t really get the idea of delayed (but greater) gratification.

  69. AndyfromTucson June 7, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    I make financial (and other) decisions by thinking of myself as two different people, Present Self and Future Self, with Future Self being a loved one whose well being is important to me. When I consider spending on something, I think about how Future Self is going to feel about the purchase a few years from now. Nine times out of ten when I peer into my crystal ball I see Future Self hauling the purchase to Goodwill, or posting it on Craigslist, because the thing never got used much.

  70. MoustacheE June 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    I think I’m starting to get the cha-ching instinct myself! I got introduced to your blog about a month ago and have been pretty much reading it non stop ever since. I’ve always thought of myself as fairly frugal, but I’m nowhere near Moustachian!!
    One of my biggest weaknesses (or “treats” as I justified them to myself) is lattes. However, I recently made a rule that the only time I’m allowed to buy one is if I’m meeting a friend at a cafe, and we actually sit down, drink it out of a porcelain cup and enjoy an hour or so of pleasant conversation.
    It was HARD for a start… it was such an ingrained habit that I had. And it’s not like I even gave up lattes altogether… we have a perfectly good espresso machine at home (which actually makes a better latte than most cafes), and my work has a machine that makes a fairly ok latte (which tastes much better when I think about the $3.50 I just saved myself).
    But now, after a few weeks of “denying” myself, I’ve started to get a small warm & fuzzy feeling each time I recognize an opportunity where normally I would have bought a latte, but instead I chose not to (cha-ching!). And as an extra bonus, by taking the time to make & drink my latte at home before heading to work, I get to to sit with my kids for a bit longer at breakfast.
    So simple, yet so satisfying! Thanks MMM!

  71. Debt Blag June 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    Nice writeup! For me, it’s not just that I delay gratification, it’s that I try to find gratification in a little bit less.

    For example, if I need a $1 million house to be happy, it doesn’t matter *too* much if I buy it now or in 20 years. But if I can learn to be happy with an inexpensive, but comfortable house, then all the better.

  72. Vadim June 8, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    Hi Mr. Money Mustache.

    Have you seen the work/ argument of Sendhil Mullainathan? It is related to some of the ideas in this post.

    His work is outlined in this speech:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Aw_czU1bm0

    it is a different way of looking at the issues.

  73. Mike June 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    A little off-topic, but the marshmallow experiment has had some interesting followups recently:

    http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=4622

    “The robust effect of manipulating the environment, conclude the authors, provides strong evidence that children’s wait times reflect rational decision making about the probability of reward. The results are consistent with other research showing that children are sensitive to uncertainly in future rewards and with population studies showing children with absent fathers prefer more immediate rewards over larger but delayed ones.”

    The relevance for this post is that depending on your background, delaying gratification can be much harder. I’ve seen evidence of this recently while helping a friend whose family lived paycheck to paycheck. Even though they’re now getting a good salary, they’re disinclined to save, even though they understand the big picture.

    Old habits die hard – and seemingly are hard-wired into your brain at a young age!

  74. Alex June 12, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    What about the opposite of the compulsive spender? I’d consider myself a compulsive saver, and I doubt I’m alone here. I have several investments accounts and funds (perhaps a few too many, but almost all are in sound low cost mutual / index funds). Every week as my automatic investments are made I get that ChaChing! feeling seeing the investments go through. But despite automatic investments which take half my income the checking account continues to grow. So whenever the cash is burning too much of a hole in my pocket I get a hit from deciding which of my accounts I’m going to throw the money at. Maybe one month it’s extra principal at the mortgage, or a random fund, or into Lending Club (not to mention the repeat hits that lending club provides everytime $25 in available cash pops up). All in all it’s like the ChaChing! of savings instead of spending, plus the adrenaline rush I assume must accompany compulsive shopping. Now that I think about it, trading addiction isn’t exactly something new, but thats not what I’m trying to describe, just that this post got me thinking about how the ChaChing! instinct can go beyond the point of not spending all the way to the point of saving / investing.

  75. Dillon June 13, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    I have read that study several times and the one thing I always wonder is, is there a way to change the children? The instant gratifiers. I mean, it is nice to know that people who can delay gratification end up doing better in other areas of their life, but how can we help the ones that are give-me-now!

    I don’t have any children but lots of my friends do and I have seen children cry because they had to wait 5 minutes for something. I wonder if there is way to help them so they stop this pattern now instead of when they are in a ton of debt.

    • savingaway June 24, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      Dogs can actually be taught delayed gratification. The difficulty lies in explaining that there will be returns. Yes, you can train a dog to leave meat uneaten on the floor while you leave the room or even the house. I have seen it done, although my dogs can’t do this!

      I assume that if a dog can learn it, then you could teach it to a child. But then, I can’t say for sure.

      Also, you have to keep in mind the physical area in the brain that controls logic and reason is not fully developed in children. So, it probably depends on the age of the child as well as their individual development.

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