195 comments

Get Rich With: The Position of Strength

Mrs. MM destroys a portion of our new house in a recent work session.

Mrs. MM destroys a portion of our new house in a recent work session.

A few weeks ago, the MMM family lost about $12,000.

While this might sound like quite a bummer, the event wasn’t upsetting in the least. In fact, the days between that fateful event and today have been some of the most joyful and free days of our lives so far.

As you know, Mrs. Money Mustache keeps an old real estate license handy in her toolbelt. While she maintains the appropriate retired woman’s approach to the field, turning down business except in the case of helping the occasional friend who is buying or selling a house in our immediate neighborhood, she still finds herself helping out with a deal or two every year.

For the last few months, she has been touring houses with some friends who are currently renting a place nearby. They were shopping on the nicer side of our local neighborhood, which implies a 3-4 bedroom house in good condition at a price of around $400,000.

They shopped and shopped. Some places were perfect, but sold too quickly at a price just out of reach. Others were shabby and overpriced. There were various squawking battles from the colorful real estate agents and sellers involved in the process. Going through the all-too-familiar complications inspired my own article on how to buy a house.

At the end of it all, our friends decided to simply buy the nearly-new house they had been renting right in the same neighborhood for the past year. Their landlord had bought it just before the housing crash, and was happy to unload it now that our prices have recovered.

But the landlord proposed it as a private deal: cash would flow from buyer to seller, with no real estate agents on either side. With Realtors normally tacking a 6% commission onto every deal, this simpler arrangement would create a huge win/win situation for our friends and the homeowner.

The only problem was that Mrs. MM would no longer be eligible to receive her 2.8% paycheck, which is how a buyer’s agent normally earns a living. With a purchase price around $400k, this implies a loss of almost $12,000 in income. This fact was not lost on our friends.

“How should we handle this?”, they asked. “We don’t want you to get shafted after doing all this work – should we raise the selling price so you can get your commission? Should we renegotiate the deal harder so the landlord will pay you out of her cut?”

“Bah… don’t worry about it!”, said my wife. “We’re just happy that you found a place you like, and that you are getting such a great deal on it. Enjoy your new freedom from the grind of shopping and moving, and congratulations!”

That night she told me of her decision, and we both toasted some heartily filled wine glasses and had a laugh over the whole situation. We were glad our friends had finally found a house.  We both knew that they would benefit from the lower purchase price much more than we would benefit from an extra twelve grand of before-tax income. There would surely be other deals and other windfalls in the future. And more importantly, we value the friendship and were very thankful that the sticky issue of money did not have to get in the middle of it. Friendships, businesses, and even families have been broken apart over much smaller sums.

I share this story because it is a particularly sweet illustration of the Position of Strength. It is an example of why financial independence, freedom from an addiction to ever-increasing luxury, and when you really think about it, all forms of strength are such incredibly useful things to build into your own life.

Looking back at my list of all the articles, I am starting to realize that this isn’t a personal finance blog or even a lifestyle design blog. It’s a neverending sermon on the joy of strength.  Strength, also known affectionately as Badassity, is at the root of most of the joy in a human life. And weakness, which also manifests itself as Complainypants and Wussypants diseases, is what makes you unhappy. The solution to leading a great life is therefore so simple, it is almost insane that our entire society is geared to run directly against it.

So let us browse through a few of life’s most powerful sources of strength to soak up its amazing connection just about everything:

  • Money is the most acknowledged source of strength in modern society, for it gives you the power to get other people to serve you, and to do so with a smile.
  • An Abundance of Money is even more powerful, because you no longer find yourself feeling the need to act like a weenie in the pursuit of more of it. With this Abundance power, you can properly align your earning and your spending with your values, rather than just seeking out the cheapest option or trying to squeeze more money out of your customers, employees, or fellow citizens.
  • The Desire for Ever-Increasing Material Luxury is therefore a serious weakness. In the playground of life, there is a giant teeter totter. Mr. Abundance sits at one end of it, with his casually ripped physique, faded skateboarding shirt and scruffy facial hair. Mr. Luxury sits directly opposite him, clean-shaven in a 3-piece suit with those shiny pointy-toed business shoes and a rounded little beer belly tucked in behind a tight belt. You can never satisfy Luxury – there is always another level of fanciness to attain, and thus he can never have quite enough money.
  • Giving is a form of strength. When you say, “I have more than I need, and thus my desire to take should fade away as my desire to help out grows”.
  • Taking is therefore a form of weakness. On the playground, Luxury maintains just a little more desire to take,  which competes with his desire to give. Meanwhile, Mr. Abundance is always working on needing less. The “taking” weakness continues to shrink, allowing him to invest more in his “giving” strength.
  • Health is a form of strength. With health comes a clearer mind, more energy, a greater range of options and comfort zones, and a longer time alive to enjoy the offerings and mysteries of this planet. Life can dish you a blow, and you can get up and get back to work.
  • Physical Strength is the part of health that is mostly ignored in the United States, yet it is the most useful and efficient component. Sure, aerobics and bicycling can keep the worst effects of early decay at bay, but lifting heavy old-fashioned barbells and dumbells is a much faster and more thorough way to keep all of your systems in working order and create a foundation for the rest of your life’s strength.
  • Skills are a form of strength. Each thing you learn to do improves your quality of life in astonishing ways, because it makes you stronger. If you are good at your job, you have the ability to earn lots money. But if this is your only skill, you need to outsource your food preparation, transportation, relationships, entertainment, and the repair and maintenance of everything you own including your own body. If your money supply fails or your hired specialists don’t do their jobs perfectly, your life falters. By insourcing all the basics required for happiness, you build a self-reinforcing resilient mesh of power that makes you happier, wealthier, and more interesting as well.

By now you are probably pretty excited about the Position of Strength, and you are ready to step into it. But there one point that underpins everything above, and it is the one our marketing engine works so hard to hide from you.

  • Voluntary Discomfort is the secret cornerstone of strength. We build our whole lives around increasing comfort and avoiding discomfort, and yet by doing so we are drinking a can of Weakness Tonic with every morning’s breakfast.

Discomfort is generally regarded as a bad thing. If you’re a mother of five in a developing country and you run out of food, or your children are injured or killed by disease or war, saying it absolutely sucks would be a great understatement. This is involuntary discomfort at its worst, and the resulting unhappiness makes perfect sense.

But when you, as a privileged rich-world resident walk into hardship and discomfort willingly, the feeling is completely different.

My favorite part of every weekday is cycling with my son to school. The morning temperature at this time of year is right around the freezing mark, and I make a point of wearing just a bit less warm clothing than I need for complete comfort.

“Don’t you need a bigger coat?”, my wife asks. “It’s freezing out there!”

But the feeling of cold wind on my skin is exactly what I need to feel alive in the morning. Pushing the frontier of comfort is a simple way of building strength, preparation for the coming winter, and by extension, happiness.

After all, my son and I could just as easily drive the car that 0.77 mile distance to the school, thereby avoiding all discomfort completely. Heck, I could start driving for all my errands around town just like a Car Clown. I could avoid the burning sensation of trying to lift the barbells in my garage and be more comfortable too. Sitting in my office typing this blog article is much more comfortable than lying in the crawlspace under my new house welding up the new structural supports, and it pays much better too. Perhaps I should also outsource the hard physical activity to a specialist. A 2014 Mercedes would be more comfortable than my 2005 Scion, a $2000 bike would out-cozy my $300 one, and in the summer my house would be more comfortable at 75 degrees than the 86 level where I currently consider turning on the air conditioning. It would be more comfortable to have a housekeeper and a chef, a private driver and a gardener, and these days we could even afford to add these comforts to our lives without the discomfort of having to work.

And yet we continue to not purchase any of them, and to do quite a bit of unnecessary work. Why? Have we developed some sort of insanity?

The answer is exactly the opposite: If you go back and look through those points which define the Position of Strength, you see that every bit of the conventional and comfortable path undermines that position.

Our entire culture teaches us to seek out all possible comforts, and to be unhappy when we don’t have them. And thus, it dooms us to a life of permanent involuntary discomfort, and therefore permanent weakness.

Living a life of weakness is not fun

Living a lifestyle of strength is extremely fun.

The only insanity is the fact that almost nobody chooses this option.

  • Elliott November 11, 2013, 12:06 pm

    We’re working on getting to that place of strength now. Thanks for the reminders and encouragement!

    Reply
    • Free Money Minute November 12, 2013, 12:39 pm

      Best withes on your journey. What a great place to be. I wouldn’t say I am completely there yet, but I am getting close. As part of my journey, I practice voluntary discomfort where I can afford to do so. This keep me driven and focused on the goal.

      Reply
      • melquist November 14, 2013, 10:51 am

        Thank you to you and your wife for your website. I am learning EVERY DAY as I work my way through your archives. My husband and I are in our late 50’s and have been retired for more than 10 years. We are fortunate to have a pension which also has a small COLA. Despite the number of changes we have made, there is still so much more we can do and need to do. We are learning through your wisdom and also from the links that you provide your readers. What you are doing is powerful, life changing, eye opening, spot on, and genius!

        Reply
    • Sam January 23, 2014, 2:31 pm

      Virtue, not money, is the greatest source of strength.

      Reply
  • Chris November 11, 2013, 12:16 pm

    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. This type of material makes me realize that I need to fix my damn bike. Who cares if it broke down less than half-way to my work (9 miles each way – I ended up walking it the 5 extra). Once I get it fixed, I’ll have learned something and will hopefully have a few more important tools in my back back next time I take the trip!

    Reply
    • jethro watkins November 12, 2013, 9:40 am

      I started biking to work back in February in Madison, WI – dead of winter. On my 109th day biking to work (10 miles each way) I had the worse day on my bike yet. I got a flat in the pouring rain when it was 38 degrees outside. I was already cold and wet, and then I got a flat. I put on my spare tube, inflated it with C02, and set it down to continue…only my spare tube had a hole! So i filled it again with my last C02 and it didn’t hold air. I had a patch kit, but no air to fill the tube to find the hole…So i walked 2 miles and eventually called a cab – $25 bucks! Worse day on my bike ever.

      But I got to work, patched up the tube, and rode home. Threw on a fresh tube once I got home and haven’t missed a beat – now on day 112. 18 degrees outside with single digit windchill. Love it. Almost time to put on the studded tires.

      Moral of the story – fix your bike!

      Reply
      • kiwano November 12, 2013, 10:58 am

        Maybe your day would’ve sucked less if you hadn’t been using a wussypants CO2 inflator, and relied instead on your own damned muscles to put air into your tires (and don’t complain that you need to pump skinny tires up to 150psi, you can get hand-pump-sized deals that magically transform into almost floor pumps, and pay for them with the money you’re not spending on CO2 anymore; I used one of them while biking across Canada so that putting 115psi into a tire after a flat would still leave me sufficiently non-exhausted to keep riding).

        Also, it’s good form to patch an old tube as soon as it comes off the bike (like before putting the new one on) so that the patch glue has more time to cure before you might need it–which given that pinch flats and bad spare tubes are both things, could be soon enough that the extra couple of minutes make a big difference.

        Reply
        • jethro watkins November 12, 2013, 12:29 pm

          That day didn’t suck. It was awesome! Great learning event, was very uncomfortable and cold, got to be late to work… It was the worse day I’ve had biking, but that doesn’t mean it sucked. It made me appreciate the warm office once i got to work and the warm taxi ride and my gortex shells, and the fact that C02 doesn’t always get you out of jam. Also the fact that out of 109 days, that was the worse it could really get (besides getting run over).

          I’m a product manager for bike accessories (design, manufacture, and distribute, etc), including pumps, so I appreciate your insight. I totally agree I was setting myself up for a potential issue by just carrying C02 (and I had 2 cartidges). Call it product testing. My back up spare was a brand new tube that had two holes right by the stem – can’t plan for that. I threw on a frame pump when i got home. And the spare tube i’m now carrying is the one I patched from the rain incident. I found that pressing on the patch, then instantly installing and inflating it, helps press the patch in place while it cures.

          Reply
        • Mike August 4, 2014, 9:44 am

          I like to always have 2 replacement tubes (still only carrying one as a replacement though). This way it’s ok if you don’t patch a flat immediately the same day if you ride every day. Then you can just carry the second replacement the next day, and patch the first tube sometime in the next week. Another good rule of thumb is you can reuse a tube with 3 different patch jobs on it, and after that it is time to replace it with a new one. Also, +1 for hand pumps!

          Reply
  • Brent Irvine November 11, 2013, 12:20 pm

    I thought of it before, and now that I am in my retirement phase, I think this article has pushed me in the direction to get my realtor’s licence. Something interesting to try if for no more than help some friends.

    Reply
  • writing2reality November 11, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Phenomenal! Simply make the choices that those around you won’t make and discover how much further on the happiness scale you find yourself.

    As an example, the growing epidemic in this country of obesity is starkly in contrast to how we were built and designed to thrive. Those folks who steadfastly refuse to be active and take care of their health are those that become crippled with massive health bills. The best health insurance is being active.

    Reply
    • turboseize November 11, 2013, 2:39 pm

      Definitely so!

      My grandfather used to bike 200km a week – even at age 80. (Despite being shot several times during the war, including hand and lungs and his left eye replaced by a grenade fragment stuck in his skull). His health deteriorated and he died quickly (age 85) after he decided he now was too old to cycle amidst city traffic in a 3.3 million inhabitant metropolis.

      My parent’s neighbour ist 85 and still chops his own firewood. And cuts down the trees himself…
      The other neighbour is 80, also cuts down trees and operates the fuel pump of his other neighbour’s gas station, should a motorist be stranded in this little 6-house village at night.

      And in our rowing club, we used to have a gang of four older gentlemen called the “mummy four” – they would slowly climb out of their cars, crouch to the boat house, and only God knows how they managed to get the boat onto the water. But once they were in the boat, they would skillfully balance the racing boat and set out for 2 hours endurance workout… And they would not be slow.
      One of these guys – an engineering professor – still held guest lectures at age 89, and welded a storage shelf for the boats at that age. On his 85th birthday, instead of accepting presents, he bought the club an Empacher racing skiff (which I happened to find myself in some years later), but demanded to take part in a workout with the youth. So they set for a short cruise in the eight – except it wasn’t short, as they made 18km that day.
      Average age of that crew was 84 years, when the first one suddenly died. The others followed within one year.
      No long sickness, just enjoying life till the very end.

      Just the best way to do it. And I’m pretty sure that it was their active life that has allowed them to pull this off (and still allows, concerning our neighbours are still doin fine). As couch potatoes, they surely wouldn’t have made it so far.

      Reply
      • writing2reality November 11, 2013, 5:44 pm

        Great story about the neighbors and friends. I know a few older folks myself who insist on working out and have enjoyed long, healthy lives. Many of them are more active than the average 30 year old. Pretty amazing how the body holds up when taken care of properly!

        Reply
      • Sully November 11, 2013, 6:21 pm

        Live long and die, it’s one of Mark Sisson’s favorite expressions meaning go hard till you can no longer do it. So many elderly are barely living kept alive by pills, operations and nursing staff…ugh

        Reply
        • Aaron November 12, 2013, 10:33 am

          I think you mean “Live long, drop dead”. Meaning you should live a long, productive life and ending it quickly without a long wasting away process. The only thing that should take you out is something that would suddenly kill anyone (including someone in their 20’s).

          Reply
          • Lina November 12, 2013, 11:13 am

            Look at Ironman triathlon. You have 9 males in the age group 75-79. The winner of the age group ranking has made 3 races during 2013 seems to be signed up for a forth. There is also one female in that age group. She improved her time from last year with 2 minutes at Ironman Hawaii. She is signed up for a second race this years. There you can talk about tuff ladies and gentlemen.

            For those that are not familiar with Ironman triathlon it is interesting to know that a race consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. All within certain time constraints. I have seen really fit people break down totally at an ironman race and as I know what it takes to do one I am so impressed the athletes in those age groups.

            Reply
      • Scott Rousseu November 11, 2013, 9:02 pm

        Fantastic story of how staying active throughout life leads to not only longevity, but QUALITY. This is in stark contrast to the way that almost the whole country works in the UAE, where we currently live. A demographic report has just come out stating that males in the UAE are actually living 2 years LESS than when they did the study a few years ago. It is the only wealthy country to report a decrease in longevity. Why? Because everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is outsourced. Maids and nanny’s take care of the kids, cooks make the food, drivers chauffeur the kids to school. Many houselholds have 4-5 “staff” on the payroll. All this “help” leaves the population to go about their business of eating fast food and consuming huge amounts of sugar and watching TV. The result, not surprisingly, is a shockingly high rate of diabetes and obesity, and thus earlier death.

        If you have a hard time motivating yourself to live the life that the MMM family do, just come on over here and look around at the results if you don’t. I hope they can turn it around, but it will be a long journey.

        Reply
        • turboseize November 12, 2013, 8:13 am

          Perhaps that’s overcompensation. We had something similar (albeit on a much smaller scale) in Germany during the “Wirtschaftswunder”-years (1950s-1960s): Obesity and cardiovasculary problems rose drastically in the growing middle class.
          Understandably, having survived the war (the older generation even two wars), everybody was enjoying the growing standard of living “now that they could afford it”.
          A good example might be my grandfather: when he came back to Germany from a soviet POW camp, crippled and nearly starved, he returned to a country in ruins. But then times went better, and as the economy grew, so did his belly… until his doctor (and father-in-law) one day told him he probably would not live to his 45th birthday, should he not change his habits. (Which he did, as can be clearly seen from the previous post above.)

          I guess (although this is just that: a guess, as I have never been to the UAE and know not much) that wealth for them came too quickly. If your family has lived in poverty for centuries and then “suddenly” you can buy everything, chances are high that you will. Just because you can.

          The good thing is that people can and will change habits, if the pressure to do so is high enough. Eventually, they will get it.

          Reply
        • MDF Mississauga November 13, 2013, 9:25 am

          Having lived in UAE for more than 20 years, I agree with Scott on how unfrugal the lifestyle is of people living in the UAE. This lavish lifestyle of the locals has also been cultivated by majority of expatriates who have been living there for many years. Many of my friends who emigrated to Canada with me a few years back, want to return to the UAE as they miss this lifestyle. I keep telling them you may enjoy it now but you will be cutting your life much shorter.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache November 13, 2013, 9:55 am

            I find it really interesting to hear these reports of the glitzy parts of the Middle East. My son and I often fly around Dubai in Google Earth and marvel at the incredible construction.

            This is one of the very few parts of the world that manages to outdo the United States on consumption and luxury. So I like to study my own feelings towards the Dubai lifestyle, since that is probably how the rest of the world feels when they look at mine.

            Reply
            • Christine November 13, 2013, 10:03 am

              Oh I want to visit Dubai to get a glimpse of how lavish it actually is! Is this bad? LOL The lavish lifestyle doesn’t bother me, its more something to see with your eyes. Or maybe even live it for a few days to have that experience. However the novelty will wear off soon. But I am fascinated by it all :)

              Reply
              • Yin Yang November 13, 2013, 11:42 am

                http://www.escapefromdubai.com/thestory.html

                Dubai is not a place Mustachians should aspire to visit, admire, emulate, or support. It is a shallow, phony, corrupt dictatorship, financed by questionable means, operating under the guise of a free and open society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The glitzy outer shell is merely a cover for a rotten stinking core.

              • Christine November 13, 2013, 1:56 pm

                I stand corrected by Yin Yang. It is very bad.

          • Blaze November 13, 2013, 3:36 pm

            I think there’s a sense of shock, disbelief and perhaps even a touch of self ritiousness when we look a the lifestyles of others in comparison to our own. Everyone likes to believe they’ve got it all figured out, but deep down most of us acknowledge we still have areas that could stand some improvement. Observing a wildly over the top lifestyle sort of gives you permission to cut yourself some slack and think, perhaps, your’re not doing so badly after all. Maybe the appeal of those lifestyles is that we Mustachians can pat ourselves on the back a little and be glad we’ve seen the light.

            Reply
      • Snow White November 12, 2013, 5:21 pm

        I went to see a new patient once as a visiting nurse and found she was 99 yeas old and lived alone. I had physician orders to see her because she had a significant cut on her lower leg and needed wound care. I asked how she cut it and she told me “chopping wood”! She was quite cranky with me until it healed well enough so she could go back to chopping her wood! What an inspiration she was.

        Reply
        • Sharron Sims November 14, 2013, 10:47 am

          I am an emergency nurse and this past summer took care of an 88 year old lady with a burn on her posterior thigh. She got this by sitting on her burning hot roof while making a repair. I was absolutely amazed by her. Of course I’ve also taken care of patients who are completely debilitated at age 70, and spend the last 10 years of their lives in a nursing home. These are the ones who inspire me to stay active and take care of my health.

          Reply
  • momo November 11, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Another fantastic article Mr. M! Thank you for sharing Mrs. M’s story and helping show how relationships coming from Positions of Strength are enriching! Your words offer tremendous encouragement. Cheers to everyone developing more Badassity!

    Reply
  • Rebecca Stapler November 11, 2013, 12:29 pm

    So true! Since joining up with the MMM community, I have developed DIY skills in sewing, car repair, and home improvement that do make me feel stronger — because I know I don’t need to rely on someone else to do it.

    Reply
    • Miss Growing Green November 11, 2013, 1:50 pm

      Agreed! There is something very fulfilling and strengthening about being self-sufficient. I often list my hobbies as “do-it-yourself everything” because I really do gain great happiness out of learning to do things for myself.

      Reply
      • Aaron November 12, 2013, 10:42 am

        My wife was just talking with a friend of hers who recently moved to a larger house. She is now living with her boyfriend and his daughter (not hers) so more room made sense. She makes very good money, but she also spends a lot of money.

        After moving in she has started to point out all of these “problems” with the house that need to be fixed. Carpeting needs replacing with hardwood floors, rooms need to be painted, and there is a push that all of this needs to be done now, not later.

        She also started having some issues with her washing machine. We had a similar problem where I went and spent about 20 minutes trouble shooting it, ordered a $5 part online, and fixed it in about 5 minutes after the part arrived. Her friend bought a new washing machine (and dryer, since they obviously have to be a set). When my wife told her she could have probably fixed it for less than $10 like I did she said, “Eh, Aaron is good at that type of thing, but I’m not.”

        She is much better at making money than I am, but I’d say I’m better at not spending it.

        Reply
      • MoneyAhoy November 12, 2013, 1:15 pm

        I also agree – while you’ll often lose money to do stuff yourself if your time is valuable, there is something about knowing how to do something that really makes you feel in control. It gives you strength to know how to do/fix something for yourself!

        Reply
  • elkbark November 11, 2013, 12:32 pm

    A wonderful perspective on something that should be very clear, but isn’t to many (myself included until recently)…

    Also, I thought it was funny that you indicated that one could potentially outsource “relationships” if they are lacking the requisite skill :)

    Reply
  • Christine November 11, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Still growing my position of strength.. though I’d love to be skilled at a lot more things! Spent the weekend building my own software for the first time. Getting our old house rented out. Only using one car. I need to build better physical strength though. A reminder that these things are important too :)

    Reply
    • turboseize November 12, 2013, 12:57 am

      May I propose kettlebells? One-time investment, no follow-up costs, and as they build both muscles, coordination and end stamina, the strenght you gain will be functional. I also find I work out more regularly than in a Gym… after a strenous work day, I tended not to do anything but eat something and go to bed. Getting to the gym, changing clothes, working out, changing again, getting back home, all together thats easily 2 hours… no, not today. Tomorrow… and tomorrow never comes.
      With a kettlebell quietly sitting in the corner of the room and staring at me it is much more likely that grab it and do at least *something*.

      And while the 15 minutes a day you will surely find won’t be enough to transform you into an olympic athlete, they will definitely make a great difference to not working out.

      Reply
      • HealthyWealthyExpat November 12, 2013, 4:35 am

        I highly recommend kettlebells! In fact, aster reading about just one exercise – the kettlebell swing – in The 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferris, I bought one and started doing the swing for 3 times a week. I am a pretty skinny guy – high metabolism – and that one exercise was amazing for building my overall strength, as it exercises so many muscles. It is also a good cardio workout. It was a fantastic first step to getting into some weight training, which I had never really done. Now, a year or so later, I can swing for longer, lift much heavier weights, and I feel fantastic. It’s a great low-budget way to start working out those muscles.

        Reply
        • turboseize November 12, 2013, 7:50 am

          Sorry, answer showed up on wrong post. Can be deleated.

          Reply
  • kaasupanam November 11, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Liked the article. Financial independence here has resulted in reducing stress, tension etc. Less greed makes the world a green place.

    Reply
    • Ed November 11, 2013, 3:06 pm

      I agree. My wife & I recently changed the term FI to financial freedom to better illustrate the ability to be free of money’s normal hold on us in our lives.

      Reply
  • Mike November 11, 2013, 12:47 pm

    Another well-written piece that the Stoics would be satisfied with. Your philosophy of life is very compatible with military service, though you routinely convince me that I’ve gone soft in my 40’s.

    Reply
  • Carlsky November 11, 2013, 12:48 pm

    This was a great post to think about. I have found over the past 6 months that I have been studying my finances, that it has brought me a lot of strength.

    Reply
  • JoshFrets November 11, 2013, 12:55 pm

    The Unified Theory of Badassity! Love it!

    (Although I’m worried about Mrs. MM’s safety goggle-less eyeballs in that photo.)

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache November 11, 2013, 2:19 pm

      Ha! I knew this would come up. This was a picture from the first celebratory wall destruction after we bought the house. I wore safety goggles and better shoes at all other times. :)

      Reply
      • JoshFrets November 11, 2013, 2:55 pm

        Oh good.
        Once while chainsawing in the backyard, I returned from a break with my safety goggles still on top of my head. I had the saw going, and I was about to cut into the log again when I realized my eyes were unprotected. I stopped and put the goggles back on.

        Then, as I cut into the log, a pencil-sized twig shot up and hit my googles like a dart. I think about that day often, and I’m really grateful that I still have depth perception!

        Reply
  • J.R. November 11, 2013, 12:56 pm

    I have enjoyed your recent posts about the home you purchased, and the work you plan to do on it. I’m curious, these friends you helped, what made them decide to buy the nearly new home instead of an older home and fix it up (increasing the value – and getting much more than they put into it). I know this goes away from the point of the article, but I’m just curious. Having a friend like you around, someone who knows so much about carpentry and home fixes, I would think it would be a no brainer to buy a fixer-upper. Don’t they read your blog! Haha, I’m kidding.

    Also, this article was a great reminder regarding the power of strength, not being afraid to feel discomfort at times, that’s what we all should do to “feel alive”. Keep up the good stuff!

    Reply
  • Insourcelife November 11, 2013, 12:56 pm

    One of the hallmarks of our wealthy society is the ever-accelerating pace of trying to outsource all the work that we used to do in our personal lives to someone else. People insource less, preferring to pay to get stuff done, leading to having to work more, causing them to have less time to do things themselves, making it easier to just outsource more, round and round we go. Soon all you know how to do is your one job and all of a sudden you are dependent on others for everything else. If you loose your job, you are in a bad spot. Great situation for the employers, not so much for the employees. Why a lot of people are comfortable with that is beyond me, especially now that a DIY on every single topic is a click away.

    Reply
  • Nords (The-Military-Guide.com) November 11, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Good for Mrs. MM.

    Instead of “losing” it, perhaps it’s more “giving” it, like Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” book…

    Reply
    • LennStar November 11, 2013, 1:32 pm

      That is exactly what I thought. Mrs.MM was giving to her friends. Good Karma. What comes around goes around. And how did MMM put it in a prior post? *try to remember*
      It is an investment in friendship.

      Reply
      • Melissa November 11, 2013, 5:51 pm

        This is so true! Last time I gave a homeless guy $10, I got an unexpected check in the mail within a couple of days for…you guessed it, $10. Since then, I’ve noticed the good comes back fairly quickly. Amazing, when you start to pay attention.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache November 11, 2013, 8:06 pm

          Whoa there.. monetary coincidences like that check are not to be confused with the actual good effects of giving (unless the homeless man himself somehow triggered the reimbursal). The superstition promoted by books like “The Secret” talks about magic and the universe, when really all we are affecting is chemical patterns in human brains (including our own).

          The end result is still fairly magical, since humans are splendidly emotional and irrational creatures. But if you keep the basis in what actually happens rather than magic, it will give you an edge on more effective giving.

          Reply
          • Melissa November 13, 2013, 6:43 pm

            Yes I didn’t mean to sound woo woo and haven’t read the Secret. By good I meant anything good not necessarily money. but I probably am getting away from the point in the first place! Anyway, I loved the article. It’s nice to be in a place to give knowledge, time, or money. It is a powerful and fulfilling strength.

            Reply
    • Mrs PoP November 11, 2013, 6:16 pm

      Oddly this is the 2nd time this week that Adam Grant has come up and brought me to share this profile on him. It’s great and he really is all about how the secret to getting ahead is giving to others.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/is-giving-the-secret-to-getting-ahead.html

      Reply
  • The Warrior November 11, 2013, 1:29 pm

    I have found that freedom is the true strength of money.

    Being uncomfortable has only put me in better positions of success and opportunity.

    As noted, I could do and have more, but those sacrifices lead to an inner strength that will be applied when I so choose or is really needed.

    I applaud your wife (and you) for 1) putting yourself in a position where not getting the commission wouldn’t hurt and 2) you have the ability to do something for someone else without expecting anything. It can be tough to do, but the more often we all accept discomfort, the more often we will see the dividends down the road.

    Reply
  • LennStar November 11, 2013, 1:30 pm

    “have a housekeeper and a chef, a private driver and a gardener, and these days we could even afford to add these comforts to our lives”

    Hm… you have the money to do all this, but you dont? What are you doing with the money? (This is meant generally, philosophically, but I use MMM situation.)

    If Money is your Strength, then not using it (accumulating more then you ever need is not using it) is like not using your muscles for anything.

    You are wasting strength that could help a lot of people. Getting feed. Getting medicine. Getting the Solar Power and not burning dirty, smoky petrol. Having light for the children to learn.

    I wont say that it is murder to not help if you could help, but I would feel uncomfortable knowing that I have more money then I will ever need for me and NOT doing anything with it to help others.

    Reply
    • Kenny November 11, 2013, 5:53 pm

      Give the below article a read it should answer your question. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/29/weekend-edition-the-life-you-can-save/

      In my opinion, the service that is being provided on this blog, free of charge, is of more benefit then MMM standing on a curb handing out wads of cash. In the three short months that I have been reading it I have lost about 8 pounds, in-sourced most of my family of four meals, and have seen my net worth rise at a record setting pace. I have been tracking my net worth for about five years now and the increase over the last three months has only been beaten by two three month periods. One of these periods was supplemented by a significant tax return and the other was selling a paid off vehicle. So in my situation MMM would have had to hand me about $5K every three months for life to equal the value that I have received from reading this blog and that only covers the benefit from the monetary gain.

      Reply
  • Phoebe November 11, 2013, 1:36 pm

    I’m currently trying to sort out how much luxury and discomfort I need to be truly happy. To be honest I think I went a little to far in the discomfort direction as of late, and now I’m trying to balance it out more. But I agree that discomfort makes life fun! It reminds me of the blog post you published awhile back where a wealthy reader said that being able to purchase luxury and never work to optimize, took the fun out of life. I think about that all the time!

    Reply
  • rod November 11, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Wow. That’s the sassy mmm I got to appreciate in the beginning. Thanks, just reminded me how cosy I have it, and need to suck it up. Thanks, and keep writing! You inspire a lot of folks, and charge nothing. Very stoic, you’ll make the 12 g up easy enough. Principles are strength also. Thanks mmm family!

    Reply
  • L.R. November 11, 2013, 1:46 pm

    Thank you for the continuing pep talks. Last December when I bought my car a three year loan didn’t seem like a big deal, especially since the payments were “only” about a day’s work each month.

    But the payments were weighing on me, as was the fact that everything in my life effectively cost me an additional 7% (the interest rate on the outstanding car loan). Those concerns were ever-present in the background when I discovered this blog.

    I switched gears and began treating the loan as an emergency, paying $200 each week. On Friday I drained my “emergency” savings and paid the car off completely. I hope to never owe anyone money again.

    What MMM says is true: little by little my frugality muscles have developed. I used to consider restaurants a source of food; no longer. The car I just paid off is possibly going on the market soon, to be replaced by a more fuel-efficient model. Every purchase I make I relate to how many hours I work to pay for whatever I’m buying — though I haven’t reached the point where I automatically calculate the 10 year cost, relating each object of my desire to how much time of my life it costs me is a pretty effective reality check.

    So once again, thank you for the continuing pep talks. They work!

    Cheers.

    Reply
  • Miss Growing Green November 11, 2013, 1:48 pm

    I like your assessment of giving as a form of strength.

    Once you embrace the discomforts of life as things that make you *feel alive*, you realize that minimalism and living with less, while sometimes “uncomfortable”, are all the more pleasurable than living in complete, buffered safety bubbles.

    And once you gain enjoyment from having less, you are left with an abundance of wealth that you don’t “need” for yourself. The enjoyment you get from giving to others with less far surpasses what you would get by utilizing your money for selfish, personal gains.

    Reply
  • Jeff November 11, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Excellent post! I’m wondering if you have read “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Taleb? Your conclusions are remarkably similar.

    Reply
    • lurker November 11, 2013, 4:08 pm

      all I can think of is SPARTA!!!!

      you need to rent 300 if you have not!

      a movie all about Badassity writ large and mythic.

      just wait until little MMM has gone to bed.

      Spartans fight luxury and overspending.

      Reply
  • Randall Pitts November 11, 2013, 1:52 pm

    This is a very good post. Thanks! I particularly like the reduction of everything positive to the concept of strength. Although you could have stayed consistent with the original concept behind this blog: independence. I’m not being a complainy pants! I just love the concept of independence in life. Independence is strength. Staying healthy and strong maintains your independence as you become old. Giving shows independence and taking dependence. Life-long learning of skills keeps you independent and luxury-lust is a crippling dependency. All these things you so poignantly suggest as important in life can dramatically increase a person’s overall independence and happiness. I’m looking forward to your next brainstorm.

    Reply
    • Lewis November 13, 2013, 11:11 am

      Of course, there is quite a difference between a dependence-based taking and a gracious accepting.

      Reply
  • JayP November 11, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Very true. I just spent 3 days camping. It was very cold at night, and without many luxuries. Funny thing, when I returned home I had a better appreciation for things we take for granted everyday – a warm bed, running water, and cooking utensils! Voluntary discomfort at its finest.

    Reply
  • Troy November 11, 2013, 2:17 pm

    I find it somewhat ironic that the position of strength you illustrate as a cornerstone reason for not needing $12K in commissions is only available because at one time not long ago the money did matter a whole lot.

    First it mattered. Now it doesn’t…except that big old nest egg, or stash as they say, matters quite a bit. So income from the stash matters, but income or moneyvfrom other pursuits doesn’t. Money doesn’t matter because you already have alot of it.

    And regarding the whole discomfort thing, I don’t buy your angle. You don’t choose discomfort. You choose what you like, or what you are comfortable with. You like riding a bike. You like saving money more than comfort on home air control. You choose voluntary comfort just like those you deride, just in a different form. I like running a chainsaw, cutting wood, raking leaves and yardwork and working out. It is not discomfort for me because I enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean I am somehow more noble because it is uncomfortable activities to others.

    There is no nobility in making hard choices when you don’t have to, because you still have power of choice. The real nobility is when you have no choice and continue on anyway. When there is no car, only a bike, or feet. When you hate the cold, and it doesn’t make you feel alive, only numbs you. When it reminds you you are broke and poor and have no other way.

    Your false pretense of manufactured discomfort is a slap in the face to those who actually endure it.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 11, 2013, 2:52 pm

      Troy, you have chosen a very complainy way to express a few valid points. I’ll answer those a bit here in case any more polite people were wondering the same things:

      You are right – the “strength” that comes from not needing the $12k right now is only monetary strength. A much purer form would be the kind that comes from not insisting on payment even if you do have a use for it. I was probably not that strong in my earlier years, but life is a work in progress and acknowledging that you suck is part of it. And the point here is, even if you are not incredibly generous, financial independence makes it easier to adopt the habit.

      Regarding discomfort: I choose physical and mental discomfort (and suggest others do the same) not because I’m already comfortable with it. I do it because I know it will improve my life over time. For example, last year I went to a conference. I signed up to be one of the speakers, which ended up putting me on a huge stage in front of about 400 people while video cameras ran in the back. Immediately after signing up and for the two months of preparation, I was hugely uncomfortable, just as I had expected. But I did the talk, had a great time, and looking back it was one of the best decisions of my lifetime. Over time, you get comfortable with the idea of discomfort. Then it is time to stretch yourself further.

      Yes, there IS plenty of nobility in making hard choices when you have the power of choice. That is the entire reason for the existence of this blog. We rich people of this world have most of the choice and all of the money. But only by choosing to spend our money and effort with the goal of improving the fate of the world, can we make real progress in doing so. This requires some voluntary discomfort. Choosing to pamper our own pansy asses is the less noble choice.

      This post is not a slap in the face of people less fortunate, but rather me promoting the idea that we ALL reduce the amount of shitting we do upon them.

      Reply
      • Tim November 11, 2013, 5:23 pm

        Troy brought up a point that was running through my mind as I read the article, and again while reading MMM’s response. Specifically, on choosing discomfort. In every case where you’re choosing discomfort, aren’t you really choosing short-term discomfort in favor of long-term comfort? With material things, this is quite easy to see: saving money now allows you more time to do what you really value. And with your conference, you chose the short-term discomfort in order to have long term satisfaction – in this case, it didn’t even take that long, as immediately afterwards you thought it was a great decision.

        Discomfort, then, is good because it pushes you to expand what is comfortable. But it’s not a good unto itself.

        Reply
        • Jack nickle November 11, 2013, 11:50 pm

          Tim, discomfort also helps us appreciate the comforts in our lives.

          Reply
        • Susan November 12, 2013, 1:36 pm

          This reminds me of a quote whose origin I have forgotten. It went something like, “If you always choose to do what is hard, your life will be easy. If you always choose to do what is easy, your life will be hard.”

          Reply
          • phred November 12, 2013, 5:47 pm

            Sounds like something from David Kekich:
            4. Real regrets only come from not doing your best. All else is out of your control. You’re
            measured by results only. Trade excuses and “trying” for results, and expect half-hearted results
            from half-hearted efforts. Do more than is expected of you. Life’s easy when you live it the hard
            way… and hard if you try to live it the easy way.

            Reply
      • Jamesqf November 11, 2013, 9:07 pm

        I think I have to sort of agree with Troy on the discomfort thing. At least from my perspective (possibly skewed, I admit), a good bit of what the mainstream regards as comfort or luxury is actually downright unpleasant to me, and vice versa. If I were to strictly follow MMM’s principle of seeking discomfort, I would for example be driving an (uncomfortable to me) automatic-transmission, overstuffed seating, handles-like-a-waterbed SUV, instead of biking or driving my semi-sports car hybrid.

        It’s not the nobility of making a hard choice, it’s that for me the easy choice is not the one the mainstream makes.

        Reply
        • Randall Pitts November 11, 2013, 10:56 pm

          Mr. M.M.’s “discomfort” is really the prerequisite for personal development and should not be mistaken for suffering. There is a German quote that sums it up well, “Der Mensch wächst am Wiederstand.” That means: “People grow/develop when confronted with resistance.” Resistance is anything that pushes the boundaries we currently have. If you want to get big and strong you have to confront your muscles with the resistance of heavy weights. If you want to get smarter you have to confront your mind with the resistance of new ideas and concepts. As habitual creatures if we want to change ourselves for the better in any way we need to change our habits which is difficult because of our “resistance” to change which causes “discomfort”. If we choose the kind of discomfort that Mr. M.M. suggests we will grow and develop becoming better able to create a more satisfying life for ourselves and we will be more productive members of society.

          Reply
          • Justin November 14, 2013, 12:38 am

            I think this comment by Randall pretty resolves the issue here – resistance, not suffering. Resistance is a stretching of our (self-imposed or socially-imposed) boundaries, our comfort zones; and it expands possibilities.

            Reply
          • Elaine November 26, 2013, 2:58 pm

            I agree, I think many people are reading “discomfort” but thinking “suffering”, and they are not the same thing. Discomfort is a trade off where you exchange a difficult period of time for a greater gain; suffering is something you must endure without option. I actually think suffering can have a similar effect to choosing discomfort depending on your personal perspective, but I think it is more difficult to get something positive out of it- it requires more effort to gain appreciation while suffering. I actually feel so strongly about it because I have felt very lucky to have had suffering in my life lately. Since age 12 I have had a rare deformity that is extremely painful, dealing with constant varying pain is something not chosen, but it can still make you stronger if you so choose. I was bitter for a long time, it makes you very different than other people to have real pain, and most people don’t understand. That is isolating, especially for a young person. But then I realized, hey- I understand something about life that most people don’t, that can be a wonderful thing! I have no fear of old age or death, and I have a profound appreciation for things- for life, for air, for a quiet moment alone. Suffering can be the greatest gift, and I can understand why MMM wants to experience a microcosm of that through voluntary discomfort. I don’t think it’s insulting to people with suffering, I think it can be compassion building.

            Reply
      • elkbark November 12, 2013, 9:56 am

        MMM, Is the resulting video from your speech available for general viewing, on Youtube for instance?

        Reply
      • troy November 12, 2013, 11:39 am

        Not complainy. Just my opinion.

        Alot of the activities that you do that promote frugality and self sufficiency, such as DIY, biking, muscle over motor, etc come naturally to you. That is one of my points. There isn’t THAT much sacrifice in some of these activities for you, because you would do it anyway.

        For others, it is a big sacrifice, that is who I am defending. When you say “Suck it up, Wussy, it’s good for you” to someone who doesn’t enjoy it, that’s offensive. If you really care about those less fortunate, don’t talk down to them, man.

        (As an FYI, I personally am not less fortunate. I am probably more fortunate than most of those who read this blog)

        You can’t pat yourself on the back for what comes naturally and enjoyable to you all the while claiming discomfort and deride others who don’t naturally have the same tendencies.

        These are all fine activities, and most certainly lead to less spending and some times enlightenment. But they are not the only way. You can drive an SUV every day and own your life. You can set the throttle on your HVAC at a comfy temp and still dominate nearly everything you touch. You can have a house keeper, or a nice car, or whatever else you choose and still have balance.

        You can hire people to do things that you are completely capable of doing, and watch them take control of their lives with the money you pay them.

        That dumb person driving the Benz, or BMW, or evil SUV may be an idiot with big car payments and a terrible life. Or, they may be the debt free owner of a small business with 100 employees and a $500K monthly payroll. Money that goes to support 100 separate families to buy food and gas, utilities and books for their kids. Is that SUV driver still a clown?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache November 12, 2013, 12:50 pm

          Yes, still a clown, but only for environmental / urban livability and personal fitness reasons :-)

          Reply
        • jack nickle November 12, 2013, 1:46 pm

          Slowly, over time, you can build your own self sufficiency muscles and not be bothered by lifes little discomforts.

          It only looks natural and easy because MMM has been building his self sufficiency muscles for a long while. In the same way that some people bench 100kg without much effort.

          Yes, benching 100kg might be easy and relaxing for me now….. but there was a huge amount of discomfort when I first started lifting. I *hated* lifting. It made me feel weak and puny.

          MMM is encouraging people to work on becoming stronger.

          Reply
    • cwebb November 11, 2013, 9:00 pm

      I see it as more of an esoteric exercise of denying luxury so that we don’t become enslaved to it. Sure we pick and choose when we deny and when we splurge. I clean my own gutters, but I don’t change my own oil because…well… I suck.
      I agree that it is Strength because it is proving to ourselves that we are stronger than our addiction to luxury and a reminder of what we are capable of. Everytime I clean my gutters or rake my leaves, I never think “Man, I need to pay someone to do this bull-shit.” Instead I think, “Man, I need to start doing more of this handy type shit.” And I usually think, “I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to help with this shit, because that would be some fun shit.”
      I’m meandering a bit, but I think that covers it.

      Reply
    • Mike November 12, 2013, 5:39 am

      Actually, I think you are wrong here Troy. The power of choosing discomfort is in the fact that he has a choice to do otherwise. I mean, after all, without him being able to choose, there wouldn’t be much discussion at all, would there be? It would just be an exercise in endurance (which itself is trainable as well).

      Choosing discomfort over comfort serves three purposes: 1) To train you to enjoy the comforts that you do have; 2) To convince you that you should never care too much about comfort in the first place, because it is ephemeral and largely outside of your control; and 3) To reassure you that you will live just fine in the even that you lose your comforts.

      Reply
    • kiwano November 12, 2013, 2:23 pm

      “Making hard choices when you don’t have to, because you still have the power of choice” is pretty damned close to a textbook definition of nobility.

      The nobility is that social class situated just below royalty, you know, dukes and barons and earls and their ilk. Any references to being noble are references to being like these folks who have a mightily strong power of choice. Not only that, they’re saddled by the principle of “noblesse oblige”, that the nobles are obliged to sacrifice some of their wealth and ease for common benefit, whether through charity, or patronage of the arts, or public service. It’s not a legal requirement, but a social expectation that separates the nobility from the mere titled rich.

      Keeping on when you don’t have a choice does indeed have a virtue all its own, but I think you’re getting your virtues muddled. Riding a bike to work when you could drive a car because you don’t want to flaunt and waste your wealth is noble; riding a bike to work because you need to spend your wages on feeding your kids instead of feeding your car is not noble, it’s heroic.

      Reply
    • jestjack November 12, 2013, 3:28 pm

      Well put….

      Reply
  • JayP November 11, 2013, 2:20 pm

    I would slightly disagree with one part of the article, however. I wouldn’t consider a deal falling through the same as “losing money”. Deals fall through all the time in real estate. This assumes that you had the money, and somehow lost it. If offered a job paying more money and I decline the job – I would not say that I lost money on the deal.

    If you consider this type of deal “losing money” then you would be tempted to never leave a high paying, stressful job – look at all the money you would be losing. Its all how you frame it, but a deal gone south would not be the same as a $12K debit to my checking account. It would be more of an opportunity not realized. The same with stocks. If you consider down days as losing money, you might drive yourself nuts. You don’t lose(or gain) unless you sell. Just a thought!

    Reply
    • Kenoryn November 12, 2013, 10:00 am

      It’s interesting that we consider these to be different. They really aren’t – the end result is the same whether you got paid that money, then lost it, or never got paid.

      Just read about this recently in ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. He talks about how foregone gains are easier to bear than losses, and how we have a preference for what we already have – the Endowment Effect. He referenced a study that I can’t remember the details of, but was something like this: some people in a group of people were given mugs, and the people in the group were asked how much they would pay for the mugs, or for those who had them, how much they would sell them for. The gist was that the mugs were worth much more (almost twice as much) to the people who already had them than to people who didn’t have them.

      Reply
      • Aaron November 12, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Mathematically it is no different, psychologically it is (as you stated).

        Started reading “The National Bank of Dad”. They talk about how if you are going to reward your child for being good (think of paying your child to behave while at the grocery store, telling them you are “hiring” them as your personal shopper) that it is vital that you give them the money ahead of time. Don’t promise it to them, GIVE it to them. If it’s a promise then it’s something that could be taken away. If they have it in their possession then it is REAL and it belongs to them. You can tell them that you will take it away if they don’t behave, but that threat won’t work unless they feel that the money is actually theirs.

        Reply
      • JayP November 13, 2013, 8:22 am

        Good point. I still think there is a fundamental difference between actually having something, and the possibility of having something. The loss of the two are not equal.

        If I have the possibility of starting a business which could make $100K and it falls through, I did not lose $100K. Given that line of thinking, perhaps I could have owned the business for 20 years. Carrying the theory further, I have just lost $2M. I don’t think many would see it that way.

        I guess its not really the point of the article, but it stuck in my craw for some reason.

        Reply
        • Aaron November 13, 2013, 1:51 pm

          We aren’t talking about having the possibility to start a business that could earn $100K in a year, but never actually doing it, or the work involved. Imagine this:

          Starting business, working for client for 1 year with an understanding that when the work was done you would earn approximately $100K. After that year is up you:

          1. Don’t get paid, for whatever reason.
          2. Get paid in cash, leave the money on a bus.
          3. Get paid, invest the money in a stock, stock becomes worthless the next day.

          In which cases did you actually “lose money”? Where you physically lost it by leaving it on the bus? Where you “lost” it in the stock market (you know where it went, but it’s still gone)? Where you did everything to earn it but just didn’t get it?

          It feels less like it was yours if you never got it in the first place. That’s the psychology behind it, and I don’t blame you for feeling that it is different. Mathematically though adding $0 to your net worth is the same as adding $100K and then subtracting $100K (for whatever reason). Of course this could have other consequences, such as having to pay income taxes on money you left on the bus, but don’t get (at least you can report the stock market loss on your tax forms). Not sure if you can report “lost” cash in a police report or something and have that forgiven on taxes.

          Reply
  • Tara November 11, 2013, 3:00 pm

    Another great article – I love getting these pep-talks in my inbox. As winter descends on eastern Canada, I enjoy going outside in the wind and the rain and the snow, feeling invigorated by my hour of daily walking to and from the office, having sold my car. My partner and I installed storm windows on our double-paned windows to reduce heat loss and still have not turned the heat on yet. We combine our skills to cover as many of our needs as we can so we rarely have to pay a professional to do things for us. It feels good to be a little bit uncomfortable, just like exercising a muscle. :-)

    Reply
  • Zorah November 11, 2013, 3:00 pm

    OK, NOW it’s starting to sound like a religion. (This is intended as a playful jab, not a complaint.)

    Reply
    • CALL 911 November 12, 2013, 10:10 am

      Really? Only now? I’ve been describing Mustashianism in religious terms for a year. It’s similar in having a defining set of principles designed to improve society.

      Reply
  • Maria November 11, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Great post! I’ve been thinking along these lines too recently. The weather is getting pretty icky now that it’s November in northern Michigan and it’s a struggle to get myself to get outside to exercise in this type weather. I just recently set a goal to work out ten times in inclement weather before the start of ski season. Saturday’s run: 33 degrees and raining, and quite nice once I committed to going.

    This post is good motivation to see where else I can find some additional discomfort. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 11, 2013, 6:00 pm

      How about getting all your groceries by bike throughout the winter? That’s an automatic workout and guaranteed to be at least once a week, or you’ll run out of food :-)

      Reply
      • Maria November 11, 2013, 7:19 pm

        I aspire to that level of Badassity! Intermediate step: continuing to bike or walk the mile to my neighbor’s house in the dark and with snow (and wolves-we have those in our neighborhood too, although I think they seem scarier than they actually are) so that we can carpool the rest of the way.

        Reply
  • Stephen November 11, 2013, 3:14 pm

    I found it funny reading through the paragraph on all the “luxuries” that you could have. I look at people have things like that and I sometimes feel sorry for them. They miss the joy in all the little things. Even something as crazy a cooking some new mix of food for dinner.

    I guess it comes back to the question you ask parents; if you could take away all pain from your children would you? The answer is no, because if they never know pain, how can they ever know happiness?

    Also on the bikes, from someone who rides a lot, there are large diminishing returns as the price goes up, but as price goes up, headaches go up too. Being honest, I’d not notice the difference between my 1k and 6k bike on a normal ride (racing I’d know in the first corner) For the type of riding you do, your bike in the pictures look perfect. It sturdy and reliable, everything a beater should be.

    Reply
    • Ann Stanley November 12, 2013, 12:39 am

      It’s been rainy here so outside my school at the end of the day are parents who’ve rolled in in 4wds to save their kids a walk in the rain, thereby depriving their kids of the joy of getting soaked then settling into dry clothes in a warm house. Silly, wasteful, soft.

      Reply
  • Joe November 11, 2013, 3:19 pm

    Looks like the beginning of a manifesto.

    One critique: Saying that giving is a _form_ of strength and taking is a _form_ of weakness could muddy your definitions of strength and weakness. It might be clearer to say that taking is a demonstration of weakness, and giving a demonstration or celebration of strength.

    Edit: On second read, given the bullet on voluntary discomfort below it, I can see how you might be saying that giving makes you stronger and taking weaker. So I don’t know if my critique applies.

    Reply
    • kristina November 11, 2013, 4:20 pm

      at first I squirmed at the “taking as weakness” bit, too. Then I wondered if I could reframe it a little: taking is weakness. But receiving might–at least in some circumstances–be a form of strength. Receiving requires control and grace; taking does not.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 11, 2013, 5:49 pm

        I love this line of critique and reasoning.

        Receiving can be a good thing – accepting the rewards that are offered to you by another person, who is acting from their own position of strength. After all, if nobody was willing to receive, nobody could give.

        Taking is more of what you do by force, or what the old-world companies like Comcast, AT&T, pawnshops and credit card companies do with their fine print and tricky policies and fees.

        I’d go as far as saying that creating demand for totally useless or obviously hazardous stuff (SUVs, Coca-Cola) through marketing is a form of taking as well.

        It’s a business model that can generate lots of profit, but through a win-lose arrangement that ends up weakening everyone involved over the long run.

        Reply
        • Ross November 12, 2013, 6:19 pm

          I’m a veteran and an avid reader of your blog but your statements above discourage capitalism and as we all know choice in the marketplace creates competition, jobs and most importantly incomes so people can pay rent to landlords, buy houses from realtors, pay taxes to the government so you have a military to protect your freedoms. I might also ad that without risk, there is no reward and people don’t plan on investing their hard earned capital in companies without a return. That being said I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of index funds people are buying that contain ATT stock, Coca-Cola stock and other “takers” as you put it. The world’s not perfect but it could be a lot worse.

          Reply
  • Micro November 11, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Biking out in the cold also gives you the added bonus of strengthening your body against the cold in future rides. Your body has an incredible abilty to adapt to handle temperatures at a different range. 40 degrees in the fall feels a lot colder than 40 degrees in the spring. The only difference is you’ve had a whole winter of colder temperatures that forced your body to get stronger. When spring hits, your body will accept 40 degrees as warm because it’s been through much worse. You might as well take advantage of this great ability rather than waste a ton of money to craft an ideal temperature for your body year round (lots of heat in the winter and cranked AC in the summer).

    Reply
    • turboseize November 12, 2013, 1:59 am

      I think there are limits to this. You can easily adapt to cold: just move! At, least, when you are fit and at least somehow muscular that’s all it takes. Bike rides at 5°C with short biking trousers? No problem. you just have to keep going. Once you stop, you get cold. Chopping wood at -26°C wearing a T-shirt? Works. Just don’t stop.
      And if moving is not enough, shielding the body from the wind and putting on warmer clothing will do the trick. You can always put on more clothing.
      But what do you do in the heat? There’s only so much clothing you can take off. *Naked* is not considered appropriate business attire, at least where I live.
      And I find heat to make me dumb, weak, tired and aggressive. All at the same time. And there is nothing you can do against it. Except slowing down and working less. Or not doing anything at all, but if it’s hot enough, even that does not help. Not kidding, at more than 30°C, I’m totally useless, and at 35°C I’ll get serious health problems (even black outs). And I’m fit, healthy, my heart and cardiovascular system is in perfect working order, blood pressure is excellent – so I guess I’m just operating outside of my design specifications. Humans just are not made for heat.

      But I definitely agree with the adaptability to cold. That’s easy, just give the body some time, choose the right clothing, that’s it.

      By the way, can someone explain to me why public transport, be it trains, subways or buses are heated so ridiculously? After all, it’s cold outside, so everybody wears warm clothing, right? Have you ever seen somebody riding the subway in winter wearing his sleeping gown? Rather not. Winter coats are much more common. So you are outside, adapted perfectly, enter the train, the sweat starts puring immediately, and when you get off, your clothing is soaking wet and you get ill.
      So what’s the point with heating a train or bus to 30° when everybody inside wears winter coats? When otside temperatures are below freezing and you’re wearing warm clothing, even 5 or 10°C would feel warm.

      Sorry for the rant, but right now I’m really annoyed. Just blowing some steam. (And I already know the answer: Just get that bike in working order and don’t use public transport. After all, Berlin ist not that big. Yeah, I suck.)

      Reply
      • AnnAnn November 12, 2013, 1:28 pm

        I live in central Florida and we get hot and very hot weather. I am 66 and I play pickleball (a tennis type game) in the 90s with very high humidity, no breeze, and the sun burning down with no shade. It isn’t all that difficult. I play year round so it heats up and then cools down and you adapt to it. You need to stay hydrated and you need to listen to your body and rest for a few minutes when needed.

        What I cannot do is go from freezing AC to hot summer weather and expect to perform well. I keep my home at 82 in the summer and frequently need to put on a sweater (DH doesn’t ever feel 82 is cold).

        You really can learn to adapt to heat just like to cold.

        Reply
      • Sofie November 16, 2013, 8:35 am

        Humans are from Africa, it makes no sense for us to be unable to adapt to heat. MMM posted something earlier about working in the heat and getting used to it – it might be that slowing down is exactly what prevents adaption. I’ll give it a try next summer, being much like you myself.

        Reply
  • Justin November 11, 2013, 3:31 pm

    It’s great to be in a position of strength regarding money. That’s what being financially independent is all about. Being able to do the right thing without having money stresses get in the way.

    Another huge benefit – you don’t stress and worry over not getting that $12,000. It’s not a big deal to you and wouldn’t change your life in the least. However to the friends that Mrs. MM helped, it might mean a good deal. It’s not exactly charity, but the good will generated from this selfless act will come back to you at some point.

    Reply
  • rjack November 11, 2013, 3:50 pm

    My personal badassity this week involved selling my car. We are now a one car family (2009 Honda Fit)! :)

    I was uncomfortable with all of it – the idea of selling the car, putting it on Craigslist, showing it, and closing the transaction. However, I definitely feel stronger from the experience and the fact that it now forces me to bicycle more.

    Reply
    • Pura Vida Nick November 11, 2013, 5:20 pm

      Nice job! I bet that feels really good (uncomfortable, but the good kind!) My wife and I had been talking of becoming a one car family, and we were talking so much the other day I said, “What’s left to talk about? We have to make the decision. It’s not going to get any easier to make the decision. ” So we already have a buyer lined up and everything. Now I don’t have an excuse to drive to work!

      Reply
    • Ms. Must-Stash November 11, 2013, 9:03 pm

      Welcome to the One Car Club! A lot of our friends think we’re a bit crazy, but we love it. Yes, there’s additional negotiation / extra work on logistics at times, but we love the savings, the fact that it encourages us to walk around town even more than we already would anyway, and the lack of worry (the town houses in our community only have one reserved parking space per home, so the over-crowded parking is a big issue for most families in the neighborhood – but oh wait, we don’t waste one second of our lives worrying about it!).

      Current goals: biking more (we’ve already made a little progress there, but still much more to go), and ultimately replacing our car (11 year old Accord) with a nice used car that has greater fuel efficiency.

      Reply
  • Don Bronkema November 11, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Per aspera ad astra is evermore the flight-plan of samsara…

    Reply
  • Rachel November 11, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Oh man. I was almost going to skip my after-work run because it’s dark and rainy out, but now OF COURSE I can’t :) Thanks MMM!

    Reply
  • Keith November 11, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Hi MMM, I am a new reader and I thought I was doing really well already. I was maxing my TSP and Roth IRA and stashing some extra cash for about a 20% savings rate. Heck I was even moving to a lower cost of living place while maintaining the same income! Meanwhile I have a super nice 1 year old Nissan Titan … that pretty much sits in the driveway all the time. I used to ride my bicycle to work until I trashed my shoulder (finally had surgery a few weeks ago). My wife’s car is a paid off Civic coupe with good gas mileage, but the 2 x 100lb dogs don’t really fit too well in there which is why I liked having the truck around.

    So the wife and I discussed it – I got Google Voice and am switching to AirVoice as well for my iPhone. We are ditching both vehicles and getting one that works for what we actually use/need. Probably a Fit, Versa or Prius. They get the mileage and can carry the dogs too. We are probably going to live within walking/biking distance to my new job as well and she is going to be going to be cutting down to part time in a few months after the move and her commute will be cut in half. I currently project that our total savings rate will hit 50% and we set a 2 year goal to have a down payment to buy a home as a rental property.

    Personally I like your don’t hold back style of writing. I think it is much better than trying to pander to everyone at the same time.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 11, 2013, 5:59 pm

      Thanks Keith and very nice work!

      I hope your story is an inspiration to others who currently use a pickup truck to carry something as tiny as hundred-pound dogs. I could tow those on my new bike trailer! A Nissan Titan is what you use when you need to haul a collection of excavating machines on a 30-foot trailer, not a household pet!!

      Reply
      • rjack November 11, 2013, 6:09 pm

        MMM – Maybe you described this elsewhere, but what kind of new bike trailer did you get?

        Reply
      • Keith November 12, 2013, 5:26 am

        Well, I do have two older motorcycles also (own free and clear, 40mpg on one and 70mpg on the other) so the truck was good to tow them when I move. I’m in the military so I move every couple of years. But I can just rent a Penske to haul them at moving time. I do all the maintenance on them and I enjoy them too much, both riding and working on them, to sell so they get to stay.

        Reply
    • JT November 11, 2013, 9:45 pm

      Nice! I have been telling my friends and family that I’m thinking of selling my Pilot to get a smaller, more fuel efficient hatchback. They all want to know how that will work with my dog, who I take everywhere with me. I keep telling them that she fits fine in any car I could possibly buy, and that buying a smaller car puts several grand in my pockets, as well as cutting my yearly fuel bill by a third and my car insurance by half.

      Reply
  • Ross November 11, 2013, 4:23 pm

    This is how I feel every time I walk to work in the bitter cold or freezing rain or sweltering heat. Sure I could find an easier way to do it, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing true nature and growing comfortable with a little discomfort.

    Reply
    • Pura Vida Nick November 11, 2013, 5:18 pm

      Ross, I feel the same way. Today was our first bit of snow with 20 degree weather, and I still rode my bike. I just got done telling my wife that I feel so alive in this weather. The air is crisp and I notice the little things when I’m biking to work.

      Reply
  • Ron November 11, 2013, 6:22 pm

    I can really relate to the idea of “choosing discomfort”, as a somewhat counter-intuitive way of leading a better life. I would phrase this concept as “it’s important to the human spirit to challenge ourselves and to overcome those challenges.”

    Mr. MM, I know you’ve physically challenged yourself to be stronger, like by setting aggressive goals for lifting weights, but have you ever pursued more aerobic endurance feats, like bicycle racing or running? Given your willingness to challenge yourself, your love of the outdoors, analytical nature, and free time, I think you’d be a natural at trail running. It may sound crazy if you haven’t heard of it, but with training and knowledge, it’s possible to run up and down mountains all day, in these 50K, 50-mile, 100K and 100 mile foot races. Some of America’s best ultra-runners, like Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka, live in Colorado. Dean Karnazes has a similar anti-materialism philosophy as you and he wrote the very readable and inspiring book, Ultramarathon Man. It’d be fun to read a future blog post by you, of what lessons you learned in a 50 mile trail race. :-)

    Reply
  • Dan November 11, 2013, 6:27 pm

    When I read the post my first thought related to “voluntary discomfort” was sticking with a job that causes stress (and a little fulfillment), but great compensation. Is that feeling of discomfort actually growth that will yield a fulfilling career in the long-term? The challenge is determining if the desire to quit the job, and improve your comfort, is weakness or real.

    Reply
  • John Everett November 11, 2013, 6:37 pm

    Fabulous post, MMM. Just fabulous.

    The hardest part in a consumption based society is coming to the realization that not having enough, not being sure about the future, very often hones us into tough survivors. The pain of disadvantage very often transforms itself into a pride of accomplishment.

    We’ve all had an experience like that in our lives. It’s a shame we seldom pursue that kind of hardship once we become “successful”.

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque November 11, 2013, 7:04 pm

    Curiously, I was having a very similar discussion with a fellow competitor at a karate tournament this weekend.
    He was lamenting the amount of stress he endured leading up to the tournament, preparing his katas (floor patterns), worrying about making mistakes and such.
    But this is just performance pressure.
    I replied that I felt it, too, even more so as people expected me to win certain events.
    Was the anticipation of having to perform in front of such a large group stressful? Of course it was.
    But that’s *good* for me, and good for him, too. You have to do something to push your boundaries out. Otherwise, inevitably, they’ll come in, and you’ll find yourself at age 60 living in your basement watching cartoons (once MS Hearts gets too stressful).
    So Huzzah for voluntary discomfort!

    Reply
  • Ann I. Ball November 11, 2013, 8:20 pm

    “…we value the friendship and were very thankful that the sticky issue of money did not have to get in the middle of it. ”

    Yep. I’m working on getting out of the family businesses for that reason. I’m going away to come back in a position of independence from the family purse (though I sweat for every cent. Nothing’s given to me. Also, nothing’s appreciated. At least with strangers you don’t expect them to care about your well being.).

    There are some who work family businesses well; I just want the relatives to be the relatives and not the boss nor the employee.

    Reply
  • George_PA November 11, 2013, 9:44 pm

    I am looking to gain some more strength by reducing any possible holiday stress this upcoming Christmas.

    I have started tossing around the idea of stopping the traditional expensive product gift exchange and just spending more time together as a family. Basically, no expensive store bought products.

    Some relatives think it is a great idea (thus I already have some victories for this season) but some others are not so sure or on the fence. Also, the mother-in-law is so ingrained into the system of buying expensive plastic manufactured pieces of crap to exchange with each other, this one may be a lost cause.

    Thus, I would add that anyone who attends a black friday sale to the weakness category.

    For my own mom even if I were to give her a service or homemade gift I am not sure what to give her. She lives about 3-4 hours away, I have home repair skills but I have a full time job (in the stash building phase) and 1 year old son to take of. So there is not much time to devote to that at a remote location away from my home. The only thing I can think of right now is maybe help her clean up her house for a day.

    Reply
    • Snow White November 12, 2013, 5:36 pm

      The housekeeping help sounds nice but if she doesn’t truly NEED anything you could consider making a charitable donation in her name to an organization like Heifer International http://www.heifer.org

      I helped my grand daughters select animals to give to families through Heifer International and they loved it. You’d think they hand raised the goats themselves!

      Reply
    • Schmidty November 12, 2013, 7:40 pm

      Bring her out for a visit with her son and grandson. She’ll love it more than any thing that you give her.

      Reply
    • LTF November 13, 2013, 1:32 pm

      About 14 years ago we finally agreed as a family to stop the holiday gift exchanges and donate money to food banks instead. We never regretted it.

      Reply
  • Jayhawker November 11, 2013, 10:23 pm

    A wonderful read as always! You couldn’t have timed it better for me. I’ve always been an incredibly sucky public speaker, to the point that it’s developed into a pretty intense fear of mine. Cold sweaty hands, heart racing, shaky voice, cat-got-my-tongue bad and all. Well, tomorrow I’m promising myself to start developing those skills by going to my first time at the local Toastmasters group. Here’s to hoping that I can finally get out of my wussiness zone and gain some golden nuggets of Strength over the next several months.

    After all, action cures fear, right? ;)

    Reply
  • JT November 11, 2013, 10:34 pm

    This aligns neatly with a conversation I had last week, about yard mowing. One of my parents’ friends was asking me about my new house, and about my grass cutting capabilities. When he discovered I was mowing my 0.13 acre yard with a human propelled craigslisted push mower, he was aghast.

    Surely, I planned to immediately upgrade to, at the very least, a self-propelled mower. “You don’t even have to push it!” he exhorted.

    I explained that I wanted to push it. “Why would I spend four hundred bucks on a self-propelled mower when my 50 dollar craigslist mower does exactly what I want. I need the exercise, and I need the money — this is better on all counts!”

    He couldn’t have been any more perplexed if I’d been standing on the ceiling during this exchange.

    Reply
  • JA November 12, 2013, 1:30 am

    it is so inspiring to think of giving as a form of strength, saying “I have enough” and how consuming is actually a form of weakness, reliance on material goods for our well-being and sense of happiness.

    Thanks for yet another great post!

    Reply
  • Patricia Tiernan November 12, 2013, 5:55 am

    While I agree with the beauty of efficiency and simplicity, with the benefits of self sufficiency and education and the pride of accomplishment I think, also, there is a place for mindful luxury. The key to luxury though is knowing and appreciating your bounty and owning it not being owned by it. My example: in the winter I adore hot showers. Mine are too long and too hot, I love it. I could live without it, I could shower less often, lower the temperature, shorten them but I get so much pleasure from it that I choose not to. If the day came when I could no longer luxuriate this way I would survive and adjust and maybe even learn to love a brisk shower. I’m not sure that I understand sacrifice and suffering just for its own sake

    Reply
    • Gerard November 12, 2013, 7:11 am

      The trick there, I guess, would be finding ways to maintain the “mindful” part of the mindful luxury. Hedonic adaptation would suggest that otherwise, after a while the pleasure of the hot shower will decrease.
      As Newfoundland hurtles toward another six-month winter, I’m finding great pleasure in mindfully soaking up sunlight and warmth by sitting by my upstairs window… something I never seemed to make time for (or appreciate) in my previous six winters in this house.

      Reply
    • George_PA November 12, 2013, 8:43 pm

      That is an interesting point you bring up about hot showers.

      I love taking one on a cold winter day when your body is cold. The hot water feels so good at first but then the effect wears off even though the water is still hot; after about 5-10 minutes the hot water is hardly enjoyable because the whole bathroom is now heated up and warm as well; also your whole body is warmed up completely

      You could take the stoic approach (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/02/what-is-stoicism-and-how-can-it-turn-your-life-to-solid-gold/) similar to this article about strength)

      and after about 5 minutes, pretend that your hot water has stopped working in your shower and hot water is no longer available; turn the hot water off switch it to cold; try to endure the cold water for a minute or two or longer if you want, sure it is tough and uncomfortable,

      then after this suddenly turn the hot water back on, what joy! the wonderful hot water has come back! it will feel so good again like when you first stepped in the shower, and it will so much better than the cold water you just endured;

      I do this once and a while in the shower to gain appreciation. It seems that to appreciate the hot showers more, you have to take away the hot water just to remind yourself how fortunate you are to have it there in the first place

      Reply
      • Patricia Tiernan November 13, 2013, 7:39 pm

        For me, the joy of the hot shower, in the winter, never ends…..I have to push myself out. Maybe because we keep our house fairly cool, don’t know.

        I’m not sure I understand suffering just to feel joy. I think you can enjoy without attachment without suffering.

        Reply
  • Trombonedadio November 12, 2013, 7:02 am

    Great Read Mr. MM! Your observations about how being FI leads to a position of strength are right on the money!

    What does rub my spidey sense is now your wife’s friends are no doubt still feeling incredibly indebted to Mrs. MM! Yeah, yeah, I know she told them no prob – was a pleasure, don’t need/want the money, blah,blah,blah…… and I have no doubt she is 110% sincere!

    The real problem is that until they can do something for Mrs. MM ( and not somebody else – you know, “pay it forward”), they will be tortured by feelings of indebtedness – sort of like worrying about those pesky mortgage payments. Somewhere I read a buddhist story about how, when we give something to somebody, it immediately creates an imbalance until that person can pay us back in some way. We are actually putting them in a position of WEAKNESS! WOW……

    I have noticed this myself in my teaching career. For the longest time, I used to do like one of my former trombone teachers which was to decline payment for music lessons when ex-students or colleagues asked if I would give them some coaching. I was happy to give them my time and expected no remuneration – I was just happy to help them out. REALLY! like 110%!

    More recently, however, I have noticed that people are waaaay more comfortable to “pay” in some way for their lesson. It maintains the balance between us as individuals because I am not placing them in a position of weakness by refusing payment.

    As I said, I think your observations about being in a place of power are cool, but there is the place of weakness on the other side of this equation!

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • Alfredo from Mexico November 12, 2013, 8:00 am

    As a lawyer, when some neighbors see me painting my house or gardening on weekends they use to say “you are a lawyer, your time is expensive, so hire someone else to do that”… and I just think that I am painting not instead of working legal issues, but instead of watching TV…

    Reply
  • Erica November 12, 2013, 8:07 am

    People always think I am crazy because I love doing things the manual or old fashioned way. We also spend the entire year doing outdoor activities and even garden in the dark. Whenever, I do these things, I feel stronger. I know that I could survive disaster better than the average person. I also feel a connection to generations before that did things by hand and enjoyed the outdoors. They survived illness, disease and poverty that we no longer have to experience and were just as happy as us.

    Reply
  • Jkenny November 12, 2013, 10:25 am

    Yes! Yes! Yes! What a great article – I agree with every word!! So nice that you have the time and the talent to put into words what I try ever so slowly to clairify for myself. +1 to helping friends/community nsa (no strings attached), +1 to being a DYIer, +1 to personal and mental calisthenics and strength, +1 to a balanced lifestyle, +1 to getting out of your comfort zone. I’d add +1 to having some sort of spirituality, +1 to embracing time for quiet. Good stuff, thank you!!!

    Reply
  • Dan November 12, 2013, 10:36 am

    I actually lived a life of uncomfortableness for many years in my childhood, no health insurance, not being able to readily see a doctor because of this, no food at home, parents refused to get food stamps or buy food or clothing for me although they did provide shelter, granted for all my high school years I slept on a mattress without anything under it like a traditional bed.

    Of course, most wouldn’t believe that I lived this way in America or that we are currently worth over 800k, in our late 30’s, as I still work, and I regularly vote Republican only. My point is, this forced necessity means everything else in my life has been a breeze, hard work in air conditioned offices, studying books in a college library on the weekend was easy compared to my childhood. Forgoing most material goods or new things isn’t even something I think about, it’s what I have always done though this blog does challenge me to step up my game a bit to become more optimal and more efficient.

    What’s my point, I’d much rather be in a position of strength than one that was out of necessity, though the necessity does seem to make your whole life easier.

    Reply
  • Ralf November 12, 2013, 11:20 am

    What /ARE/ you talking about with “Voluntary Discomfort”..

    There is no such thing. Voluntary discomfort is the mirror you hold up in front of you in this time and age to show you what it means to live. The false mirror in the TV is not to be believed and any “Voluntary Discomfort” we feel is created by the (magic and evil) false mirror.

    The coming weekend I’ll sleep outdoors at 300 meters above the sea with just a sleeping bag and a tarp together with a friend. We will alternate between keeping watch, waiting for migrating bucks, and sleeping during night. It will be cold as the snow have arrived at 63deg North at that altitude and we will be tired from the steep 60deg climb up there, even with minimum gear. But the joy of staying outdoors, hunting (I own the land so the hunt is “free”) and perhaps filling the freezer with healthy lean meat are great motivators. Doing this with a friend is even better! There will be no discomfort, just a great experience!

    There is no discomfort in what you describe. Just envy based on what so many others believe is important. Friends and experiences are what matter when our time is up.

    Reply
  • Joe November 12, 2013, 11:24 am

    Heh heh, this blog is a cult. It’s too bad Mrs. MMM didn’t get the commission, but it’s good that it’s not a big deal.
    I’d probably mourn $12k more, but it wouldn’t hurt us that badly.
    Of course, you didn’t have it to begin with. Shelling out $12k would be a lot more painful than not getting $12k.

    Reply
    • Aaron November 15, 2013, 1:53 pm

      Yep, had she gotten paid that $12k, then immediately given the money (after tax considerations) to the friends and the ones selling the house it would be much harder.

      Psychologically it would be harder. Financially it would be identical.

      Reply
  • Jacki Maynard November 12, 2013, 11:29 am

    Your “voluntary discomfort” makes me think of Arbeitskur, or “work cure.” Tolstoy has a beautiful writing on this in Anna Karenina. We need real work in our lives, physical work done for ourselves, for our families. It always makes me feel alive. Thanks for this.

    Reply
  • Anne November 12, 2013, 11:44 am

    Thanks MMM. It’s damp and drizzly outside here today and my 2 year old is being, well, extremely 2. It’s my birthday and I was thinking of being lazy and opting for the Subaru rather than the cargo bike for our grocery trip this morning. This post has given me the little push to get us all geared up and get out there. I’m sure when I get home, I’ll be glad I did it.

    Reply
  • Done by Forty November 12, 2013, 11:44 am

    Life changing stuff here, MMM. Maybe the best post on the site to date.

    Reply
  • Green Money Stream November 12, 2013, 11:49 am

    You articulate the position of strength extremely well, to no surprise to your loyal followers. I tend to view the decision to live a frugal, self-reliant lifestyle as a reason to challenge myself in multiple areas of my life. It’s the advantage of being able to learn the skills you need rather than taking the easy way out of forking over cash to get a task accomplished. As opposed to spending money eating out, I have become a badass chef in my own kitchen much to the enjoyment of my family and friends. Honing new skills has added to my position of strength and only fuels the desire to continue on this path.

    Reply
  • Matthew Pence November 12, 2013, 11:53 am

    Seems like an awful lot of words to instill the often preached and little practiced concept that truly earning what you have is a reward in and of itself.

    This is an idea that I’ve lived my whole life around, refusing to let anyone help me if I could find a way to do it by myself. I can remember having to learn about mechanic work because my first vehicle was in fact given to me – in pieces. “Put it together and you can have it” says my Dad. I was laughed at by the more privileged kids who were driving nice, shiny vehicles without any obligation.

    When those kids started breaking down with no money or skills to fix their vehicles and my ’91 F-150 was still going strong, how privileged did they feel then? (Yes, the despised F150. The price was right, and I learned a ton from that truck that continues to serve me well today. That barely justifies the cost of ownership of a “free” vehicle.)

    Reply
  • AnnW November 12, 2013, 12:34 pm

    With Strength comes the absence of fear. If you know you can be self sufficient, or can handle most problems, you don’t have to worry about much. I know I can survive supreme personal loss, can take care of someone at the end of their life, and can figure a way out of most financial problems. Therefore, I’m good.
    Your friends should have cut Mrs MM a check for $1000 for her time and effort. That would have been much less than a commission, but not so much that she should refuse it. At the least, they should have given her an iPad or a Kindle. That would have been the right thing to do.

    Reply
  • Caroline November 12, 2013, 1:01 pm

    Ha! Now the mustache makes perfect sense. Your true role model is Nietzsche. You love it all! The Will to Power, the physical exertion, the contact with the elements, the abundant yet perfectly groomed facial hair.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 12, 2013, 8:09 pm

      Nice! I am embarrassed to admit I hadn’t heard of the man before, but glad you taught me about him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche

      Reply
      • Caroline November 12, 2013, 8:53 pm

        Glad that you checked him out! He’s the man who rerouted Western philosophy from “complainypants” (which he called ‘slave mentality’) to MrMoneyMustache (he didn’t really care about money, so let’s just say ‘MrMustache’, or in his terms, the affirmation of life and desire). I think you would enjoy his writings tremendously. A good place to start may be the Genealogy of Morals, which sounds a bit pompous but is actually accessible (and for free thanks to the internets!). He was a wonderful writer and a great, brave thinker.

        Reply
      • RubeRad November 14, 2013, 12:04 pm

        Another thing about Nietzche is, he wrote “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (Thus Spake Zarathustra), which inspired Richard Strauss to write perhaps the most badass music ever.

        I’m pretty sure that’s the sound of what happens inside a person’s brain when they first grok Mustachianism.

        Reply
  • Amber November 12, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Hi MMM,

    I’m new to your blog and I’m really enjoying it. It is a great reminder that we are capable of more. I lived in Fort Collins for about 6 years and loved the biking community there, but I was a fair-weather biker. I now live in NE and want to bike through winter but have never done it before. You mentioned in a previous post that you would write about tips for riding through winter. Have you written that article? I would love to get your perspective on it. Thanks!

    Reply
  • wendi1 November 12, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Well, it was a show of strength to be able to turn down 12K. But Mrs. MM did not refuse to accept it from her friends. The landlord is the person who would have had to pay her, and is the recipient of her largesse.

    Her friends were simply too wimpy to insist on her getting her due.

    Did the landlord deserve this money? More than, say, the Red Cross?

    Is he humbled and awed by Ms. MM’s generosity, or does he simply think he cheated someone who was already too rich?

    Reply
  • Nina November 12, 2013, 3:04 pm

    While I agree with the physical strength being an important element to the concept of strength, I think that our cognitive/intellectual strength is as or more important as piece of the puzzle. I think of Stephen Hawking and the polarity of his physical and intellectual capacities and admire his drive to continue to create. Kettleballs and barbells can build physical strength, but it’s less clear what do we do to maintain and build our brainpower. That’s no reason to leave it out of the equation. I’d be interested in hearing what people are doing on this front (including protecting our bike commuting navigation systems by wearing helmets!). What are all the Mustachians going to do when they hit 80, 90, 100 (or much much sooner if their cards are dealt differently), and their bodies and brains, despite all the care they’ve taken with them fail?

    Reply
    • phred November 12, 2013, 5:56 pm

      1. contribute to stem cell research. that way, they can build a new you
      2.eat five healthy servings of fruits or vegetables every day. vary the fruits & veg — not just the same old same old all the time
      3.learn something that is hard for you — could be time series in statistics or how to hand plane a board flat
      4. once you’ve learned it, go out and use it (this seems to be the important part)
      5. be physically fit — that way the blood will flow adequately and you’ll have fewer degenerative problems
      6. be in charge of something that helps others — the servant-leader thing. Endorphins are nice
      While bike helmets seem like a good idea, a lot of bike injuries/deaths take place in the chest area

      Reply
  • jestjack November 12, 2013, 3:31 pm

    well put…..

    Reply
  • Señor CookieDuster November 12, 2013, 4:35 pm

    Good Karma for Team MMM! Weak and desperate reeks of bad cologne….strength is crisp and clean.

    Reply
  • Kareninez November 12, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Dear MMM, I love reading your blog. If you haven’t yet read The Joyless Economy by Tibor Scitovsky (1976), I think you would find the discussion of the downsides of seeking comfort quite interesting.

    Reply
  • Dakota November 12, 2013, 7:27 pm

    MMM, you nailed it! Great post. I test myself constantly like small things and it carries over into the bigger things in life.

    It is amazing how doing small things like walking around in the dark in our house letting my eyes adjust, or avoid buying anything new for a week or a month, will carry over into big business or life decisions. We just launched into a four month road trip, renting out our home, after testing trips in a camper van on weekends seeing what it would be like. Plus testing working remotely over the last couple years.

    Here’s to voluntary discomfort and digging down to the root of what makes us feel connected, happy and fulfilled!

    Reply
  • Charles November 12, 2013, 8:08 pm

    Well put in regards to a position of strength. Ironic when you have enough your stress goes down and happiness goes up.
    Money can either empower or enslave your life.

    Reply
  • Craig November 12, 2013, 8:54 pm

    You do offer great insights in maintaining a position of strength within the confines of a monetary system. What are your thoughts on a life minimizing dependency on the monetary system? For example, Helen and Scott Nearing “Living the Good Life”?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 13, 2013, 10:02 am

      As luck would have it, I’m reading that book right now. Helen and Scott were some serious badasses.

      Unlike some, I have no fear of the monetary system and its survival, so I wouldn’t retreat from it out of fear. But I still try to do lots of community sharing and informal bartering to get a few of the benefits of The Good Life.

      Reply
      • Henry November 14, 2013, 10:55 am

        Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee everywhere at home. There are no larger fields than these, no worthier games than may here be played. Grow wild according to thy nature, like these sedges and brakes, which will never become English hay. Let the thunder rumble; what if it threaten ruin to farmers crops? That is not its errand to thee. Take shelter under the cloud, while they flee to cards and sheds. Let not to get a living be thy trade, but they sport. Enjoy the land, but own it not. Through want of enterprise and faith men are where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives like serfs.
        —Walden, “Baker Farm” section

        Reply
  • meagain November 12, 2013, 9:27 pm

    It’s come to be quite a pleasure, seeing that “new post” from MMM in my inbox. These regular reminders on the badassity of voluntary discomfort reaffirm my beliefs and help them remain strong when everyone else around is seeking comfort even at the cost of debt.

    Reply
  • Laurent Moulet November 13, 2013, 6:05 am

    Hi Mr MM.
    On a side note, you should try Rock climbing ! I think it could be the kind of sports you’d love. Plus, it can serve the same need as weight lifting but it is way more fun and fulfilling.
    Cheers,
    Laurent

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 13, 2013, 9:59 am

      I have done a bit of rock climbing. It is free around here due to the plentiful supply of mountains and cliffs – I have the rope and harness and everything. Would love to do it more often.

      Reply
  • Wahid November 13, 2013, 7:00 am

    I haven’t commented before but I like the direction your blog is going. By law of diminishing returns you can only talk so much about the more concrete aspects of personal finance, energy costs, etc etc.
    And can I just say that the talk of the skateboarding guy with the ripped phsyique and scruffy facial hair got me all riled up.

    Reply
  • Rebecca November 13, 2013, 7:54 am

    Wow. This might be my favorite article you’ve ever written. And that’s saying something :) This nails my feeling right now – I just quit my job at a former-Dow component technology company after 20 years (including intern time). This company was originally of Lawful-Good alignment but many years ago made the switch to Lawful-Evil so I am just sorry I waited this long to bail. But in order to make this happen I had to get a face-punch to realize I needed to get out of the expensive Dream House, go back to Perfectly Nice house and save up enough money for a safety net when we downsized to one income. Right now I am spending a week designing and supervising a full landscape makeover for a friend of mine – for free – because I want to. This is by far the biggest “favor” I have ever done for anyone and although it is definitely a bit of work it will be worth it to see her yard go from overgrown and ugly to functional and beautiful. I’ve already got my second gig lined up – to spend the week before Thanksgiving at my sister’s house to help get all the shopping, errands and even some honey-do list items done. The cousins will get to hang out, and I can help my sister avoid having to juggle stressful holiday preparations on top of her stressful job. I love that I get to choose what to do with my time in alignment with my values. MMM – you’ve helped me get here so thank you!

    Reply

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