223 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.

  • 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!!!

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.)

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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      • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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      • 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

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  • 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!

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  • Marisa November 13, 2013, 8:38 am

    I was looking at Tiny House blogs and noticed the owners use big pickups to tow the ones on trailers. Do you think the economic advantage to having a Tiny House is displaced by having to own such a vehicle? Is there a better option for towing these houses?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 13, 2013, 9:57 am

      Well, you of course wouldn’t use the pickup truck except when you’re actually towing the house, right? And thus, you’d either rent or borrow a truck, or if you move every month you might own an old $500 diesel that you keep under a cover except when driving.

      In general, if you find yourself regularly using a hauling vehicle for purposes other than hauling, there is probably a better way.

      Reply
  • Patrick November 13, 2013, 9:49 am

    Brilliant! Spot on! And voluntary simplicity/discomfort dovetails nicely with many environmental and spiritual endeavors. Way to go!

    Reply
  • Ricky November 13, 2013, 1:36 pm

    The fact that you’re saying that you lost something that was never really guaranteed or given to you leads me to believe you’re a bit more bitter than you lead on to be.

    It’s like saying I’m selling something for $60. It’s only worth $60 if someone actually buys it. Otherwise it’s worth a lesser amount. So did your wife actually put out $12,000 worth of work or was it just a mirage all along?

    Reply
    • phred November 16, 2013, 7:24 am

      Would you be happier if Mrs. MM said she “gave up” or “forewent” $12,000 instead of saying she “lost” it. The outcome is the same, but you can probably see nuances here.
      The $12,000 seems to be in the ballpark for this house price. Just because it’s not a thing you can hold in your hand doesn’t mean the service is not worth it. You would be paying for skills and knowledge and not things to cram into your mini-whse.

      Reply
  • Jason November 13, 2013, 3:28 pm

    Mr.MM,

    I’m an actor living in NYC, and because of your inspiring blog posts, like this one, I began biking instead of taking the subway everyday to my survival job (& auditions). The bike has majorly cut down on my monthly commuting costs.
    After 3 steady months of cycling 6+ miles a day, I recently discovered another level of badassity that as yet I’d left untapped: I now walk to & fro to my day job.
    As much as I loved biking, walking has been even better for me in so many ways: it’s meditative, productive (I memorize scripts & songs), it builds up my cold weather resistance, and finally, it keeps me away from the hordes of down&fleece-stuffed commuters that clog the subway during the winter.

    Reply
  • Terry November 14, 2013, 7:43 am

    MMM, you mention welding new structural supports in your article. I would be interested in more details on your remodel as it progresses. I know you are busy, but perhaps a sub-blog dedicated to that project?

    Reply
    • phred November 16, 2013, 7:18 am

      I would be interested too.

      My shack is over a crawl space, but I don’t see any weldments.

      Reply
  • Jeannie Stith November 14, 2013, 8:53 am

    This blog kind of relates to my experience of being a mother. I have a 9 month old baby girl, and it is HARD. But I at the same time, I LOVE it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, and I’m starting to think I love it because it is so hard. It pushes me to my limits of loving, nurturing, and pushing my own boundaries almost every single day. It’s a challenge to do it well. It’s a challenge to care for her well and still care for myself well.

    Humans love challenges. We did not come here to “feather our nests” and make everything cushy and perfect. We came to experience LIFE in all of its awesomeness and difficulties!

    Another great post about the bigger picture. Thanks MMM!

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  • Art Guy November 14, 2013, 10:18 am

    Just a GREAT-FRIGGING-POST!!!!!! Inspiring & a great reminder, especially about building strength through voluntary discomfort/hardship. Have been slipping back into unconscious & conscious selection of convenience. I recently got the option/privilege of working from home (government employee even!) & recently stopped riding to work because its colder, and then had the added excuse that I had to haul 8-10 lbs of computer & paperwork back and forth. Wahhh Wahhh Wahhh!! OK, I am over it. Will be back on the bike from now on. Thanks MMM

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  • Sean November 14, 2013, 11:07 am

    This strikes right on.. I always try to do these kind of voluntary discomforts, my friends ask me why, like walking to a library instead of driving car or not heating the car 5 minutes before leaving or keeping the heat at just on the border or snow blowing. Now on I can say MMM also does.

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  • Mr. 1500 November 14, 2013, 12:45 pm

    My position is becoming one of strength and I’ve noticed it’s changing the way that I think for the better. Not having to be concerned about money is an incredibly powerful and liberating thing.

    For example, I’m working on an iPhone app now just for the fun of it. Because I don’t have to worry about it generating income, I can do exactly what I want with it. The audience is me, not the lowest common denominator. If it’s successful and makes money, super! If it fails, no big deal. My brain got some exercise figuring out the code, so maybe I’ve staved off some neurological disorder down the road.

    I can only imagine how liberating its going to be once I’m completely free.

    Reply
  • Cline3 November 16, 2013, 5:10 am

    Excellent, Excellent, Excellent. I only would change the beginning paragraph, you did not loose 12k. You gain immeasurably! I too have found how liberating it is to exercise my generosity muscle in a way that most “business people” would find foolish. Doing such an act tells the God of Materialism/Selfishness/Greed to shove it!

    You are right also that you are constantly preaching a sermon. I have quote you and referred people to your website when I was chosen to speak at my church on a Biblical Worldview on money. (I did tell them if they were stuffy church people that have a limited vocabulary to be prepared)

    Again, best article point out the true benefits of financial independence.

    Reply
  • Ol'Dogface November 16, 2013, 11:22 am

    MMM – Thanks. This article gave me the necessary kick in the pants to forgive my mom-n-law an aging debt. While the debt was not a Horrifically Substantial Portion of our net worth, it was like a bit of an ache on the balance sheet. Letting go felt good.

    I think I learned that somewhere between strength and abundance lies forgiveness.

    Reply
  • terrance November 16, 2013, 4:46 pm

    It is pretty crazy when you think about how powerful money is and its effect on everyone. We all need it to live, but we try not to obsess over it because, there are other more important things in life.

    I try to strike a balance between taking my finances seriously without getting so obsessed that it affects the majority of my decisions or actions.

    Reply
  • Amber November 16, 2013, 6:21 pm

    I would like to live off-the-grid someday (as in no alternative electricity either). I am taking baby steps. Recently I have unplugged the clothes dryer and I am making myself go outside to dry them on the line… and it is getting cold here in Minnesota! (But hey, my Grandma did it – so I can, too.)
    We also just got rid of our refrigerator.

    I am having so much fun, but I still get discouraged or lazy sometimes and, well, posts like these just make me smile – put my boots on – and keep walking. ;)

    Reply
  • Rick November 16, 2013, 7:02 pm

    Hey MMM,

    This article, and the one about “the rules” got me pretty interested in how you bought and sold houses with minimum fees. It would be awesome if you did a post on that topic.

    Reply
  • Karsten November 19, 2013, 6:31 am

    As some native americans said: “You can’t eat money”.

    Seeing money as a self purpose is seriously dangerous. Money is only a tool. It is powerful to buy you hardware as a new car, phone or real estate. But it doesn’t work on social things: you can’t buy friends or family. Even health or quality of life won’t work every time.

    Money isn’t “The Real McCoy” so give it away for a real good life…

    Reply
  • Cami November 21, 2013, 3:56 pm

    Great article (as usual), but I have a sincere question: What was your friend’s response to your wife’s generous gesture? Did they extend any gratitude or token of appreciation for your wife’s expertise, or did they somehow pay it forward? Even if it wasn’t a financial payment, I’m curious if they offered something of value (a pie, a coupon for babysitting, a gift card for a date night, etc) to let you know that they valued her time and her profession.

    Reply
  • Paul November 25, 2013, 6:28 am

    Hey MMM,

    I love this article! Of course, I love many of your articles. I’m new to the blog and I’ve been struck how you have seem to find out things about yourself and about people intuitively that has been verified by research. In this article, you talked about strength and the importance of putting yourself in voluntary discomfort. Being a teacher, I can tell you that this has actually been found to be one of the key ways to teach people to be hard-working, self-sufficient, happy people. In fact, I feel that when your uncomfortable, in the right ways of course, you are learning the most. If you’re interested in a short report, NPR had a story on this type the differences between eastern and western educational systems. Go check it out (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/12/164793058/struggle-for-smarts-how-eastern-and-western-cultures-tackle-learning).

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Reply
  • Mark Ferguson December 5, 2013, 1:56 pm

    This reminds me of the book Clients First. It is about Real Estate agents in Arizona who made a killing after they decided to do whatever was best for their clients no matter what it meant to their bottom line. The result was people loved them and went out of their way to always refer business. I loved one point that if you do a great job for people who are easy to work with no one will notice including the people your working with. If you do a great job for someone who is a pain in the a**, that person will remember you and refer you to everyone, because that pain in the a** is so used to getting lousy treatment.

    I’m not saying your wife’s friends were like that, but it is a good lesson in business to go out of the way for everyone and it will most likely come back to two fold.

    We end up giving up parts of commissions all the time to save deals and make people happy.

    Reply
  • FedUpInCityOfGlass December 9, 2013, 10:08 pm

    Hey Missus & Mister MM and your online followers- We are looking at grabbing life by the long and curlies and getting our stash on by dumping the black vortex that is our home and life here in Vancouver. While as a family we’ve been living below our means putting no more than 30% of income to our home, walking to work, eating local etc etc, the sacrifices aren’t cutting it in such an expensive town as our family of three is now growing to four in a few short weeks. Problem is, to sell and move on is going to incur some hefty RE transactions to the tune of between $15-25k in realtor fees. Given your experience, would it be worth one of us getting our realtors licence to sell down and then buy elsewhere? Seems to fit with your philosophy of taking the job into your own hands, but anyone have any experience to show that it’s worth it? We’re certainly still feeling ripped off seeing the amount (i.e. overwhelming lack) of work that went into helping us drop the half million in the first place.

    Reply
  • Phil January 8, 2014, 7:29 am

    I found it interesting that you mention strength as the root of joy in the middle of your post, but then conclude by saying that a lifestyle of strength is extremely fun. Do you view joy and fun as being the same thing? I’ve always understood joy to be an unchanging disposition despite life circumstances, while fun is something that is usually caused by a stimulus but then goes away. Have you ever met someone who is joyful despite being broke or terminally ill? Have you ever met someone who is not joyful despite having lots of strength and lots of fun? People who aren’t joyful always seem to be grasping at more fun by various means (money, power, fame, sex, drugs, alcohol, food, strength?, financial independence?) but can never seem to make it last. Of course, there are also people who have some of these things but also have joy as well.

    Thought provoking post. Thanks for writing it.

    Reply
  • LizWithLime January 26, 2014, 11:51 pm

    Dear MMM,

    As a young woman in my twenties, I have found your blog to be a great source of wisdom as I try to plan out my future. I was tired of people telling me I’d never retire & that I was simply stuck. The mainstream tips for planning a future seemed to only include advice that got me nowhere: ‘Pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card each month,’ ‘put five dollars a month in a jar under your bed and leave it there,’ & ‘the stock market is scary.’

    It simply wasn’t cutting it for me.

    It’s a slow process in these early stages, but I’ve been working on both wealth accumulation & expense reduction. I’m starting a new job next month & am cooking from home with increasing frequency. As winter in NYC this year puts us in the sub-zero camp more often than not, I constantly hear the complainypants remarks of those around me, who blame the winter for everything. I, too, had fallen victim to one chill-related excuse too many.

    This weekend, I decided to regain control of my surroundings & run several miles in 10-degree conditions to meet friends instead of taking the subway. I played football in 8 inches of snow the next day, knowing that the chill would be brutal, but that the play would be epic. The entire time I kept thinking about this article, especially the line: “But when you, as a privileged rich-world resident walk into hardship and discomfort willingly, the feeling is completely different.”

    The idea of willing discomfort was literally not part of my life’s vocabulary. As a family member, friend, athlete and scholar, I am no stranger to the idea of sacrifice. But to put myself out there when I didn’t have to, knowing it would be uncomfortable, just for my own sake? Well, now, that was pretty groundbreaking stuff. The path of least resistance, surprisingly, isn’t always the best road to follow.

    I recently read the 88 Truths post on Raptitude.com & was struck by a similar sentiment: “The most common addiction in the world is the draw of comfort. It wrecks dreams and breaks people.” Though comfort itself is not blatantly bad, in my opinion, complacency can be. So, with each passing day, I try to remember how much joy I get out of pushing my limits & consciously decide not to rest on my laurels, but instead push ahead and challenge the conventions of the world I was brought into. I just have to continually search for those experiences that make it worth it. After all, it’s all about those moments of awe, right? (I think this video captures the essence of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QyVZrV3d3o).

    Thank you for everything.

    Another lifetime reader,
    Liz

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2014, 3:52 pm

      Wow Liz, congratulations on that mix of badassity and wisdom. With all that going on in your 20s, you are in for an amazing life!

      Reply
  • Bob May 5, 2014, 6:30 am

    Although, taking this to the extreme:

    1) Working is uncomfortable

    2) You must embrace discomfort

    3) Therefor, you must work all the time

    While I agree on the importance of accepting discomfort, to me, the end goal is still to be comfortable (not working).

    Reply
  • JT May 14, 2014, 5:13 am

    OK! I’m a little late on my comment here, but this article really strikes home.

    At work, there are a couple of Brown Noses that suck up bad to the boss. From doing this, they eventually had salary increases and got car parks.

    Meanwhile, I’m not sucking up to the boss and don’t have a salary increase or a car park. BooHoo the Brown Noses go. But!! We’re also a little on the frugal side at home so my salary is actually richer and provides more than the salaries of the Brown Noses who both have the latest and greatest iphones!

    Not having a car park is a good thing too. As getting a car park would surely turn you into a car clown. Not for this little black duck! I like my bike ride in rain, wind and sun. It gives me freedom and helps me feel proud of myself. And each and every bike ride contributes to my financial freedom fund and keeps me fit! It’s like being on that hampster wheel while not being on that hampster wheel.

    Reply
  • Bill Hulet August 15, 2014, 10:36 am

    Just came across this blog post. It perfectly illustrates one of Daoism’s “three treasures”. Those are, loosely translate, compassion, frugality and humility. Frugality is not embraced because there is anything wrong with nice stuff, but because if you are frugal, you have the freedom to be compassionate. People who are over-extended lack the freedom to be able to help others. You two guys are Daoists without even using the word! ;-)

    Thanks for your wonderful blog!

    Reply
  • Sam October 2, 2014, 8:44 am

    I’ve tried to live close to MMM principles for most of my life (though I’m only in my early 20s). However, I have a question: what is the decision process for deciding to do some work yourself vs. hiring a specialist? For simple things (e.g. replacing an outlet), I’m certainly willing to do it. There are tons of guides on these sort of simple tasks on the internet. However, for more involved jobs (such as the welding you mentioned in the article), there are some costs involved. Whether it is time (for learning how to weld) or money (taking classes, buying equipment), doing all these things take away from other pursuits. For these more expensive (if you hire someone else) or involved (if you decide to do it yourself), I personally tend to spend time advancing my career (learning new programming skills) or enjoying hobbies because I find the results from these efforts either outweigh the do-it-yourself option monetarily (e.g. by getting a raise at work) or psychologically (e.g. I perform better at work if I can look forward to backcountry skiing on the weekend).

    For these more expensive or involved do-it-yourself style of jobs, what sort of criteria should one use to judge whether it is a good use of one’s time to learn the necessary skills and/or buy the necessary equipment, versus advancing some other aspect of one’s life (learning new skills to get raises at work, learning a new language, spending time with family)?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2014, 6:37 pm

      This is a great question and there is no perfect answer. I’d say as long as you are using most of your waking time doing something productive, enjoyable and good for you in some way or another, you are all set and have nothing to worry about. Over the decades, this starts to add up to a very satisfying life.

      Reply
    • Lewis October 3, 2014, 9:18 pm

      It seems to me that you have already found your answer to that question, Sam. MMM loves to work on construction, so for him, dicking around with a welder until he got the perfect piece of work could be as rewarding as back country skiing is for you. I think it is important to take his advice in a general sense and apply it to your life as you see fit. You have to know when to quit and let someone else take over – when the investment of your time into something you don’t particularly enjoy is too much to be worth the savings gained from doing it yourself. This can be troublesome if you start to lower the bar and do that for everything and find yourself hiring a dog walker and paying someone to oil your bike chain every week. Assuming you are being a badass mustachian, you are already doing enough for yourself that you are spending so little that you are investing a massive percentage of your income and are already looking forward to the day when you can back country ski for half the week while looking forward to working on your welding techniques on the weekend.

      Reply

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