Mr. Money Mustache » MMM Challenge Early Retirement through Badassity Thu, 30 Oct 2014 01:39:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MMM Challenge: Can You go Car-Free This Weekend? Wed, 29 Oct 2014 01:32:30 +0000 local haul

local haulThere’s a subtle yet powerful difference between the Standard Consumer, who manages to spend all of his income regardless of how much is coming in, and the Mustachian for whom saving is an effortless activity. For the first type of person, saving money means deprivation, struggle, and painful budgets. For the second, saving consists of living a rewarding life, then casually sweeping the few thousand dollars of leftover cash into investments at the end of each month.

The difference seems to lie in the design of the underlying lifestyle. If you get this part right, success comes almost automatically.

At a party recently, I met yet another Prototypical Modern Successful Family, a rather common occurrence in my area. The guy was a doctor. The woman was a professor. They had appropriately hip Colorado-style clothing, muscular calves, cool rectangular glasses, and rode bikes to the party along with their two cute young children. Everything looked stellar on the surface until my new friend and I got to talking after a few drinks.

“It’s a bit of a mess these days”, he said, “These kids are so precious, but they’re growing up fast and I hardly ever see them. I took a job at a practice in the city because it pays better, but it means I get up at 5AM. The kids do competitive swimming and ski racing on the weekends, so we’re never home to recharge.”

This seemed like a pretty simple set of White People Problems to me, so I decided to throw in a bit of advice disguised as self-effacement: “Oh yeah”, I said, “We solve that problem in my family by making our lives much less exciting than yours. We just hang around Longmont most of the time, and because of that we have a lot more recharge time and were able to cut back on the two-career thing f0r a while.”

“Man”, he said, “That would be nice. I’ve been in medicine for 16 years now, and to be honest I’ve had enough of it. But we could never live on just her income. Professors just don’t make that much, even tenured ones at a good university.”

And therein lies the trap that ensnares so many otherwise-fortunate people. It is called the Poisonous Pitfall of Piss-Poor Lifestyle Planning.

Fortunately there is an antidote, which is quite literally Simplicity itself. If the situation above sounds even remotely familiar to you, I am excited to deliver this bit of good news, because it is very easy to solve. You can very quickly give yourself the gift of a much better life, just by chopping out a good chunk of the unnecessary activities that currently distract you from living.

We could go on and on about the detailed benefits including greater happiness, lower stress, better health, better relationships with your significant other, family, and children. More money, lower needs, deeper wisdom and even a longer life*.

But instead, I thought it would be helpful to just start with one giant baby step. An instantaneous taste of the good life, at no cost to you and with the chance of starting a massive life transformation. Are you ready? Your assignment is as follows:

Give the damned car a break for the entirety of this coming weekend. Instead, try living two days of non-motorized life.

That’s right. This weekend, there will be no errands, shopping trips, drives to the mountains or the beach, horseback riding lessons or Harley cruises. Just you and your actual body, doing things that it is actually meant to do.

You’ll want to prepare in advance. If you live far from a grocery store, make sure the house is stocked with food. Get your library books ready, make sure the television is unplugged, tune your guitar if applicable, dust off the bicycle, walking shoes, recipe books and board games, invite some local friends over if desired, and let’s make a weekend of this.

What you’ll be doing, although it may sound somewhat novel to my new doctor friend, is living approximately like the Mustache family has always done. Although I’m not a hermit or a homebody, I often feel just a bit of anxious terror when I hear about how much activity most of my fellow wealthy Americans pack into their weekends. And I’m simultaneously filled with Pure Joy every time I wake up on a Saturday morning, walk with bare feet through my back yard and into the park beyond to watch the sun rise, and only then decide what I  might want to do that day. If he’s awake that early, my little son often comes along for the event.

On weekends, we simply chill together. It is my idea of living, and it is the foundation of our relationship together as a family. We sit on couches and read and write books and comics. The boy and I ride down to the creek and carve channels and dams in the rocks and sand. Then we’ll climb some trees, max out the swingsets at the park, and maybe do some urban planning in the sandbox. We get home tired and nicely sunned out, and he’ll disappear to his room and make songs with Ableton while the lady and I will make some dinner. At this time of year it tends to cool down and get dark outside pretty quickly, so we’ll start a fire in the woodburning stove I built into the new house. Some wine may be poured. All of that, and it’s still only Saturday night.

A key to successful chilling is the complete removal of television as one of the options. As much as you like your favorite shows or sports events, the experience deprives you of what you would have done if the TV hadn’t been there. It is in the void left behind when TV disappears that real life can start to occur.

Living a Local Life

The headline of this article sounds like just another meaningless personal finance tip. Sure, you can save fifty dollars if you cut out the 100 miles of driving that gets packed into the typical weekend. Maybe a couple hundred more on the restaurants and shopping trips you forego. All told, changes like these would increase your wealth by about $200,000 per decade.

But the transformation of attitude and lifestyle that you can learn from it is much greater. What I’m really hoping we can all learn about is living a local lifeYou can become friends with the people who live right around you. There are trees and hills and features of your environment that you miss completely if you never slow down to actually live where you live.

Once you give it a try, you will find it quickly becomes very natural to live this way, because it is really how we were meant to spend our days. If an event pops up in another city, my own family usually considers it briefly, then politely declines. Because we realize we don’t live in that city, we live in this one.

The world gets more exciting every day. There are more activities, opportunities, and bits of entertainment packed into the atmosphere than ever before. The modern culture dictates that we take every chance to pack our days with exciting things, limited only by our need to sleep. If you don’t do this, you are “missing out.” But I propose that the opposite is true: the Good Life is found in between those times when you are engaged in travel, being “entertained” and participating in too many organized activities.

So by living a life driving around afraid of missing out, you are in fact missing out on your entire life. Let’s fix that this weekend.



* In a sad coincidence, on October 27th, the day this anti-car-culture article was originally scheduled to publish, Mrs. MM’s childhood best friend died in a car crash back in Canada. Rest in peace Janet.

Further Reading: In this Article, researchers found that kids who are allowed to spend more of their time in unstructured play develop greater independence and judgement. Could this be related to why some adults are hopelessly sucked in by the consumer/debt/industrial complex and others are able to step out and make their own choices? 

I like to imagine this all as an evolutionary response – you can adapt to a regimented life or society if that’s what you are born into, but given a more freeform existence, you are better off becoming more experimental or creative. I feel that the second option is now much more productive: both for early retirees, and for dealing with a rapidly changing world. But this is pure La-Z-Boy scientist chatter – real scientists are welcome to make fun of me for throwing out such a speculation without any testing :-)


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Selling the Dream of Financial Independence – Part 2 Tue, 27 Mar 2012 11:46:03 +0000 In the first post of this series, we laid the groundwork for tempting a spendy spouse into a more frugal future. It was my attempt at combining the necessary logic and psychology that are required to slowly but surely allow someone to change their mind about the connection between spending and lifetime happiness.

In this post, we will move on to some action to go with all the talking and book-reading assignments that were part of the first article.

Step 6: Personally Demonstrate Each Change Without Forcing Participation

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you want to create change, you must first be the change you want to see in the world. You want your spouse to start riding his bike to work, so you will start riding your bike to work and demonstrating how easily it can be done. You can take on the grocery shopping and start cooking more at home. You can plan social events for your friends to help create healthier traditions. The former “Beer and wings Happy Hour” can turn into “Bike to work Friday” followed by a cookout at a location that rotates through the houses of various friends. Before expecting your Mustachian Trainee counterpart to take part in these things, you must first master them, so you can serve as a coach.

Step 7: Point out that the Benefits Begin Immediately

“OK, I’ll admit that the Money Mustache family has it pretty good, but according to the math you showed me it will still take us 17 years to reach retirement. I don’t want to suffer for 17 years, I want to live my life now!”

To understand this argument, imagine a dangerously unhealthy person who is addicted to eating ice cream on the couch. “Sure, I know I could be active and muscular 1-2 years if I stopped doing this and went outside”, the person says, “but I don’t want to deprive myself of ice cream!”.

You would see right through that argument immediately, right? The unhealthy person starts to benefit the very second he puts down the ice cream bowl. He might not feel the benefit immediately – he just feels the craving. But when he goes outside and starts walking, his body starts to rebuild its lost muscle tissue, to suck away the stored fat, and every single thing about his lot in life starts to improve. The trick is getting your spouse to understand that he or she is really making the Ice Cream Addict’s excuse.

Explain to them that it has been known for decades that buying things does not make you happy, and enjoying life while spending less money is a skill that develops just like a muscle, as opposed to a permanent state of deprivation. Point out that every dollar you ‘stash away is one step further you have moved from the edge of disaster. Every purchase you skip is going directly into a bank of leisure time that you can enjoy at any point you choose. Having greater savings and lower expenses, also known as “Fuck You Money”, directly results in lower stress in your life, and increased freedom.

That’s right: FREEDOM. What is more worth buying, than Freedom itself? Why would you buy much of  anything at all, when you haven’t even bought your own freedom yet? Freedom is something that can be bought one chunk at a time and savored. You’ll become addicted when you get your first taste. And thus, the benefits begin immediately.

Step 8: Start with Baby Steps

When I first moved to Boulder Colorado in 1999, I was invited by my new Boulder-bred coworkers to go out for a bike ride at lunch time.

“Sure”, I thought “I’ve been riding bikes for years, I’m sure I can roll with these guys”.
“Don’t worry”, they said, “We’re really mellow when we ride at lunch, everyone is just out to have a good time.

30 minutes later, we were already 10 miles outside of town, racing up a steep rocky incline under the searing hot sun. “The trail starts just up ahead!” one of them called out, as I coughed out a bleeding lung and shamefully turned my bike to begin the thousand foot descent back toward the city limits alone. “Uhh.. that’s enough for me, I’ll catch you guys back at work”.

The casual lunchtime ride of these experienced cyclists was much more extreme than even my biggest bike expedition before that point.

And so I know that Mr. Money Mustache can seem extreme to people who come across him for the first time. It’s because I’m old now, and I’ve been doing this “buying less shit” shit for a while. The natural path of any enthusiast is to get a bit more hardcore over time, so that the Enthusiast’s “normal” normal is the average person’s “Insane Cuckoo Bird”. I don’t think I’m weird to pull 100 pounds of groceries home on a bike trailer through a blizzard on a winter night, but I must also acknowledge that a non-biker is better off starting out by just riding their bike to the library on a warm Sunday in April.

That’s a lot of biking analogies, but this isn’t really about biking. I’m talking about any  lifestyle change. Choosing more appropriate housing. Changing your eating. Reducing your gadget buying. Not watching television. All of these things have a beginner stage, followed by a continuum that leads up into hardcore territory. On this blog, I talk about a moderately hardcore level of lifestyle changes – the type that allows my own family to live on $700 per person per month. You don’t have to start at exactly this level. You just have to know it’s there, waiting for you to eventually reach. And then perhaps surpass me so you can mock my wasteful lifestyle as other senior Mustachians do in the comments section.

Step 9: Budgets and Allowances are Baby Steps too.

In the realm of Frugality, the equivalent of the slow April bike ride is the budget. My long-term goal is to have you enjoy frugality for its own sake, without requiring a budget to keep yourself from overspending. I’ve never used a budget in my life, because I like to control my spending consciously instead – it can go down if there’s ever a need. But for beginners, starting with a budget or a monthly “fun stuff” allowance can be a good set of training wheels.

A beginner consumer is like an alcoholic who has a vodka dispenser in his kitchen, connected to a pipeline that runs directly to Russia. His consumption is limited only by his ability to stay conscious. If you take away his tap and replace it with a vodka dispensing machine that plunks out one 750mL bottle every 24 hours, which he desperately downs as soon as it shoots out, you HAVE improved his life somewhat. But he’s still not going to be happy about it. He needs to keep developing his self-control, until he realizes that he’s got better things to do with his life than drinking vodka at all.

Similarly, a weekly allowance to blow on massages, lattes, and plastic trinkets from Target is a good start. But it’s not a great lifelong solution. The ideal solution is having an unlimited budget, but finding that you get more pleasure out of not spending it, than you do from spending it.

When I proposed a similar concept in an old article called “How Much is That Bitch Costin’ Ya?“, I took some heat in the comments. “I get an allowance because DW can not only squeeze the eagle until it shits, she can also snap its neck and reach in and crush its heart”, is how one University professor expressed his take on the benefits of budgeting.

I can definitely see the point and the benefits of the personal fun allowance. But I can also see what life feels like beyond the allowance, and I can tell you that it is a liberating place. Mrs. Money Mustache and I have an effectively unlimited fun budget. We have virtually unlimited savings, no rules, and we don’t consciously watch each other’s spending. Yet we still end up buying very little each month. It’s because we’ve solved the wants themselves rather than just setting a limit on how much of our wants we’re allowed to indulge.

The important part is to realize that you can always go further. You are always a wimp, and there is always someone more badass than you. Within badassity lies the key to happiness, and I think everyone has a certain respect for awesomeness in its various forms. The key is to make the mental connection between frugality and being awesome. This will become easier over time as the entire world starts doing it, now that I have revealed that Frugality is the new Fanciness.

Step 10: Keep it Fresh with Challenges

The habit of living efficiently definitely feels good. But just like with any sport, you can increase your performance by making a game out of it.

When you issue a challenge to (or accept one from) another person on the financial independence track, you increase your own motivation. All through this month of March, I felt the eyes of the MMM readers upon me, searching for weakness or fraud, and this improved my behavior considerably. In the Forum of this blog, we even have a section called “Throw Down The Gauntlet” for people to trade ideas and challenges. Even for the more introverted personality types most found reading financial independence blogs, this silly competitive stuff works.

When living with another person, finding ways to induce competition is especially powerful.

Last Step: Build the Good Type of Addiction – with Tracking

Spending less money exerts a calming force on your life. But to build your motivation, sometimes you need excitement rather than calmness. For people on the path to riches, some of the excitement can come in the form of tracking your results. Memorize the logins and passwords to your key accounts for both investments and debts, so you can see real change each month. Keep a “net worth” spreadsheet, fiddle around with retirement calculators, and use any other financial software that you find enjoyable. Watch your index funds on I’m still happily using the free web-based Mint to do all of the above, frequently reviewing my monthly spending and saving as well as graphing changes in net worth.

If YOU are already a saver, and you want to convert a spouse, you must get him or her hooked on seeing her own wealth. When she saves, it grows. When she spends, the growth stops. Every three months, the dividend payments come in. When the stock market crashes, she gets excited about getting more shares at a lower price. Try to build the idea that the number of shares and the dividends are the part that matters, because you don’t want to breed a fearful anti-investor who feels like selling shares instead of buying them, when the prices go down.

Final Words:

We’ve covered ten important steps to creating a newly frugal person. We’ve combined psychology and action. But although these are the steps that have helped me persuade various people, there is no perfect recipe for everyone. The biggest tips of all are to be patient, be positive, and be persistent.

Not everyone has the same reason for wanting to embrace frugality – if you love your job, you might not be motivated by the idea of quitting. If you’re already rich, you might not even be motivated by becoming financially independent. But I strongly believe that everyone can find a better life for themselves by minimizing their material wants and needs, and instead maximizing the learning they do about themselves and about life itself. You’ve got a real shot at having a great life here – as long as you don’t let consumer culture distract you from the true goal of living well.

And for those who are not yet attached – be yourself, and don’t be afraid to show your independence. While inappropriate and misguided cheapness won’t get you laid, true badassity and a desire to not to be wasteful is sexy. Live that example, and you will be rewarded with a mate that is as sexy as you, perhaps saving you the effort of working through these ten steps the next time you hook up.

Epilogue: About a year later, my financial blogger friend The Mad Fientist published this inspiring post on the same topic:


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Maximum Mustache March – Update Sat, 24 Mar 2012 12:00:40 +0000

Hiking the Dunes

Wow, this special month of ours is really zooming past.

By the time you read this, the Money Mustache Family will be deep in the high desert of Southern Colorado, camping out at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

But I thought it would be handy to share some thoughts on the hardcore savings challenge some of us have embarked upon this month.
The best part of the challenge is simply seeing people excited about hacking their own lifestyle to bring themselves greater efficiency, and having fun in the process. Check out this recent comment from a reader:

There’s still a week left in March, but I’m doing so well! Turns out that by bringing in my lunch every day (why stop at 3-4 times a week?), the frugality seeped into other areas of my life as well – I’ve gone out for dinner just once per week, and I’ve done absolutely no extraneous shopping. The results? I’m going to be saving close to 60% of my take home pay this month! I guess saving “at least half” wasn’t an ambitious enough goal!

Next on my list: I’m going to see if I can get my phone moved over to the company plan (fingers crossed!), and then I’m going to break the news to my cats that we’re living a frugal lifestyle now and they’ll have to make do with slightly cheaper food.

Nice.. very nice. Now I not only have consumer products companies, husbands, and wives begrudging my frugality-spreading ways, but cats as well. I should probably stop publishing my picture all over the place soon.

The MMM family has embraced the challenge as well, with the following points of success:

  • The car has only been used three times this month (two for hiking trips just outside of town, one trip to the store for building materials)
  • Grocery spending is down, due to more vegetarian home cooking, some tweaks to the menu (food planning article still in the works), and reduced impulse shopping on my part for things like dark chocolate and various organic foo-foo food temptations.
  • I made a plan to accept one day of paid work, but it ballooned into about four partial days for various people, yielding at least $600 in extra income for the month.
  • We scaled down our road trip – the original plan was to get all the way out to Vegas and even the Grand Canyon, but once we plotted out the days of our young lad’s spring break, we realized we could stay plenty busy and have fun without traveling so far. And save a bundle in the process.
  • Both Mr. and Mrs. MM. did exactly zero lunches and dinners out, and made zero purchases other than groceries (excepting of course the supplies I bought for my work days, which were billed to clients). This seems to happen pretty often, actually – we already have so much stuff that shopping is only necessary in the rare months that something wears out.

The final thing I did, just to put the Maximum in MMMarch, was signing up for another one of those ridiculously-high-cash-bonus credit cards in order to get the $500 signing bonus. A couple of months ago, I did an article on a $400 business card I signed up for. I was a bit skeptical, but the transaction did go through, I collected the bonus, and I ended up keeping the card and just abandoning my previous business card.

When setting up the credit card referrals page for this blog, I found a $500 Visa card in the mix, so I applied for that one as well. In theory, I will actually get a commission for signing up for a card from my own website, plus the bonus. Now THAT is maximizing the mustache. I promise myself that I won’t spend all my free time doing stunts like that, but just this month I thought it would be fun. This is the card I used , in case you decide to try the same thing*.

When you add up all of these efforts, I estimate that I earned or saved about $1900 more than I would have if the challenge had not been thrown down. With so much already chopped out of our spending compared to the average middle classers, I find that income boosting has a bigger effect than spending cuts for our family. But for people with fixed salaries and high expenses, the opposite will be true. Either way, I’m excited to invest my $1900 to further boost the stream of lifelong investment income. (At 5%, it translates to an extra $100 per year for as long as I live!).

Regardless of the specific actions we’re all taking for MMMarch, I am hoping that the overall experience turns out to be like the one in the quote above. Setting short-term challenges and making things a game for yourself can be a powerful way to trick yourself into acquiring new habits that actually stick.

In our household, we’ve created permanent improvements in our eating habits, just from trying a few new recipes this month and finding that they were easy to make and rather yummy.  I’ve really been sticking to my workout regime and expanding on it, and while it seemed like hard work the first week, it now seems like an easy habit to follow from our vantage point here at the end of the month.

I hope you have had a great month as well. What have YOU discovered about frugal living and even extra income this month?


Editorial note: The camping trip has us out until Monday night. Unpredictable writing schedule until then. Try the Random Article Selector above whenever you want to pretend there are new articles.

*Be warned that this blog will get a ridiculously nice commission if you do get the card through my link, so if you don’t want that to happen, you can also apply directly on the Chase website.


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Challenge: Who is up for Maximum Mustache March? Wed, 29 Feb 2012 13:00:17 +0000 It has been a while since we ran an MMM challenge here at Mr. Money Mustache. The last one, where I instructed you to start getting your groceries with a bike trailer, was way back on October 20th. And even that one was a bit of a cheat for me, since I didn’t have to change anything in order to meet it (although I’m still proud to say I’ve made only one car-based grocery trip since October 20th – due to needing supplies for an impromptu party in January immediately after an 18″ snowfall in my area).

So anyway, over in the Forum, someone came up with the idea of  this March becoming “Mutilate the Mortage Month”.  We agreed to broaden the idea to include non-mortgage-holders and hardcore mortgage leveraging investors, and thus we settled on Maximum Mustache March.

So here’s the deal:

For just one month, find a way to increase your hardcore focus on monetary efficiency, boost your badassity, and supercharge your ‘stashing. Cut your spending in novel and healthy ways, and see how well you can do. Reducing total outlays by 10% is a nice goal.

My personal goal is to up my game in healthy cooking for the family in a strategic way that allows us to spend at least $100 less on groceries for the month. With an average that had crept up towards $400/month throughout 2012, I’d like to keep it well below $300 this month with a goal of $250. This means eating less meat, and more things that are lower in cost on a calories-per-dollar basis. Spicy bean and rice dishes, an Indian vegetarian curry recipe, the occasional baked potato with cheese and chives, and plenty of fresh fruit come to mind. The remaining meat dishes can have more things like grilled tilapia, which is cheap and yummy, instead of organic beef and chicken, which is expensive and yummy.

I’ll also make a point of taking on one extra full day of paid work in my construction business (which will be nice since I’ve been a bit lazy since finishing the Foreclosure Project). This will add a few hundred dollars to the family income for the month.

Other ideas for setting a new record in your own performance this March:

  • Make it a “buy nothing month”, where you eliminate all optional purchases except groceries. It’s okay to make exceptions when needs come up (prescriptions, things for kids, fixing important things) but gadgets and wardrobe upgrades are out!
  • Take the “One Tank Challenge” where you fill your car’s gas tank before the month begins, and make it last through all of March. This would be too easy for for the MMM family, so we could shoot for a “One Gallon Challenge” – driving less than 40 miles in our 40MPG car – instead. But with a family camping trip already planned, we might have to apply the challenge only to the portion of the month we are in town.
  • Get new quotes on your house and car insurance to see if you can drop the rates. See if you can beat the ones we’re getting as mentioned in the new “MMM Recommends” page.
  • Set a goal to ride your bike at least 100 miles (3 miles per day) during the month – for work commuting or errands.
  • Consider switching to a new cell phone plan or internet plan that meets your needs at a lower price. Some neat ideas came up in this forum post on that subject.

These are just a few ideas out of thousands of ways to improve your bottom line. Then you take all the profits and roll them into either paying down your highest-interest debt, or investing some other way into your Early Retirement Fund.

And there’s actually something quite tricky about this challenge: I am fooling you into thinking this is a one-time exercise, so it sounds easy. But really, trying any of these things where you push one of your boundaries, will automatically result in new frugality skills. You’ll find that a portion of the new behavior just sticks, effortlessly, and you will benefit financially from the new skill for the rest of your life.

In my own case, I’ll learn a bit more about affordable cooking, with a new recipe or two to go with it. That knowledge will help me spend less on groceries, forever. And I’ll invest 100% of the extra few hundred I earn from my day of work, resulting in a higher stream of passive income, forever.

Yahoo! What will you do with YOUR Maximum Mustache March?

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MMM Challenge: Try Getting Your Groceries with a Bike Trailer Thu, 20 Oct 2011 12:31:15 +0000 I’ve got a big money-saving tip for you that will be completely obvious for long-time readers, yet is still completely necessary for me to review because there are new readers here every day who don’t have time to go back to the old Bicycle post.. and looking around on the city streets, I can see that the message obviously hasn’t caught on yet. As usual, it is best illustrated with a story:

The Mrs. and I had a craving for a fancy salad during a recent lunch time, and we were fresh out of fresh choppable items to throw into it. In fact the grocery list was getting pretty long overall (except for core staple items – we’re set for months on those thanks to my recent Costco run). So I hooked up my bike trailer and started coasting through the city streets – 2.4 miles of them to be exact – to visit the King Sooper’s grocery store.

This particular store is on a stretch of Stripmall Hell called Hover Road. I’m sure it is the very Aorta of Longmont’s city budget because of the sales tax it generates, so we can’t do away with it, but man, is that ever an unfortunate street. 2-3 lanes in each direction plus a jumble of turning lanes and medians in the center.  A grueling thousand-lane intersection every few hundred yards. And an absolute cacophony of stupid SUVs, delivery trucks, illegal-muffler Harleys, and regular cars roaring, rushing, idling, squealing, honking and crashing constantly. The street divides an oceanic stretch of parking lots on each side. There are thousands of parking spaces that are usually empty – probably built under a bizarre old city regulation that requires each business to pave enough space to accommodate the largest possible crowd – even though it is theoretically impossible for that to happen simultaneously for all businesses.

It’s very frustrating to drive to any of these stores, because you can see your final destination long before you reach it. “Oh! There’s the grocery store right there! Oh, shit, but here’s a long traffic light. Slow down. Stop. Idle. Wait for the crossing street’s left turners. Wait for the crossing street’s main traffic. Red light for everyone. Wait for the oncoming traffic’s left turners. OK, finally green for me. GO!!! Cut into a turning lane. Wait for more traffic. Enter parking lot. Wait for moms and kids pushing shopping carts. Wait for single lady to back out of parking space at 0.0007 MPH in the shiny black Escalade. Take spot far from store. Get out, lock car, start walking.

The reason all this sounds so stupid is because IT IS. Cars are EXCELLENT inventions for crossing remote mountain ranges and deserts and rolling country fields when travelling from one city or state to the next on a roadtrip with your family or friends. But they are STUPID for driving through your own town to get groceries – because everyone else is out there doing the thing, ruining the fun of the drive for you.

Compare this to the experience of riding your BIKE to the grocery store: Hook up the trailer. Hop on the bike. Get your legs and heart pumping as you ride the low-traffic route you proudly devised for yourself. When I approach Hover Road, I move onto the sidewalk, because I don’t want to mix it up with all those cars. I hit the pedestrian crossing button, and wait for a nice peaceful walk signal for myself. If it’s a long wait, I might even read an email or two on my phone. Green light. Pump the legs and accelerate smoothly through the intersection, right across the grassy median and into the grocery store parking lot instead of doing the 75-mile detour that cars have to do to access the busy main entrance to the parking lot. Cut directly across the entire parking lot at 20MPH and screech to a halt at the bike rack (or lamp post or tree) closest to the store entrance. Lock bike and head directly into the store.

In the olden days, I still bought groceries by bike occasionally, but I was forced to use the car for the giant weekend runs, because you can only fit a few things in a backpack. Two jugs of milk and you’re already almost out of space. But with the bike trailer, as it turns out, you easily can fit a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four. I have packed spectacular quantities into even my small Nashbar trailer – one time I hauled $150 worth of items which I later weighed at 94 pounds – with very little effort.

So we’ve established that it is fun, and that Mr. Money Mustache likes to do it. But MMM can be intimidating at times, because he likes doing everything, right?. Once in a comment on this blog, he was even accused of being likely to remove his own appendix if it ever started acting up.

To bridge the gap between myself and the Still Aspiring Mustachians, I decided to conduct an experiment last week. I decided to see if I could get my wife Mrs. Money Mustache to try using the bike trailer to get the groceries, for the first time in her life, and report back to me on how it went.

Now, despite her relative badassity, Mrs. M. is actually a bit cautious when it comes to biking. It always takes a bit of nudging to get her to step up to the next level – from a bike ride in the park way back in the 1990s, to biking the 8 miles to our high-tech jobs in the 2000s, to pulling our son around in the trailer in the 2010s, and now to this final frontier – foregoing the car in order to join me in my established habit of bike-trailering the groceries. I knew it would be tricky, but I was able use my newfound status as Mr. Money Mustache to issue her an MMM CHALLENGE!!. “Are you badass enough to ride to the grocery store, then have the results reported to our Valued Money Mustache Readers!?!?!”

With the public pressure of thousands of people watching her, Mrs. M. proudly rose to the challenge, hooked up the trailer to her own bike, and pedaled off down the street. When she got back, she offered this report:

I admit that I am a fair-weather, convenience biker. If I decide it’s too cold or too far, I wimp out pretty quickly. For me, biking requires the right frame of mind and in my mind, biking to the grocery store seemed like a monumental task. After all, that’s a lot of weight to lug around town, right?

So, when MMM casually challenged me to bike to the grocery store, I was hesitant. But, then I thought of you fellow readers and decided to finally take the plunge and give it a go.

I must admit I expected it to suck, but it didn’t.

The bike ride was extremely pleasant, even though it was all by road. MMM outlined a special way to get to the store where I cut through a park and took the small back roads to end up behind the grocery store (I’m sure you can find a special route as well). I got there quickly and was amazed at how easy and relaxing the bike ride was – it was quiet and I hardly saw a car. I locked the bike right next to the front door (how convenient is that!?) and walked in with my KeepCool bag and a variety of other beautiful cloth bags made by a friend of mine.

When I came out with my big load (which I later learned weighed 52.5 lbs — only about 10 lbs heavier than my 5-year old), I parked the shopping cart right next to the bike trailer and loaded it up. This is the part I had been worried about: biking home. But, again, it was a breeze! I even stopped at the park to watch the geese on the lake. In fact, that bike ride to the grocery store brightened up my whole day. So, MMM, I can now publicly admit that I was wrong. Biking to the grocery store is easy, fun, and awesome!

So where’s the money saving aspect in all of this? It’s in the surprising amount of driving that most people do to get their groceries. I find that I need to visit the store about twice a week. That’s 104 grocery trips per year. Each one would be a 5-mile roundtrip for me, meaning 520 miles of driving. Now, there are a variety of ways to calculate the cost of driving a car, but short trips are the most expensive since they involve more engine wear and lower fuel economy. We’ll use the IRS rate of 51 cents per mile, meaning $265 of driving expenses that I avoid every year by biking to the grocery store. The real savings are of course much higher, because I get enormous health and stress reduction benefits by riding instead of driving too.

So with that 1500-word justification, I now pass on the MMM challenge to you: If you’ve never done it before, try getting your next grocery load by bike. If you don’t yet have a trailer, you can start with a small trip using a backpack. Get into the swing of things. Remember to bring your bike lock and your cloth grocery bags. I picked up a gigantic insulated bag with thick handles and a sturdy zippered top for about $7 at Costco that says “KeepCool” on the front. It keeps the frozen stuff cold while biking in the sun. I throw that into the bike trailer before heading out each time.

Once you realize how fun it is, you’ll want to upgrade to a trailer (search for “trailer” on Craigslist under baby/kid stuff), or if you want a more Hipster-style trailer and don’t mind paying a bit more for it, get one like this: Croozer Cargo Trailer

Existing Bikers: tell us how much you like riding to the store. Soon-to-be-bikers: tell us how you tried it for the first time and loved it. And ask if you need any more advice on how to make it work. Then spread your new skills to your other still-driving sucker friends.

Because of YOU, worldwide grocery store parking lots will soon be abandoned, and we can replace them with gardens and solar farms to power the grocery store itself. All from one MMM challenge.  Yeah!!!



** Footnote – I noticed that an ad for some neat-looking “Zigo” cargo carrying bike appeared magically at the bottom of this page when I previewed the finished post. I had never heard of this thing, but it looks neat. Hmm, I wonder if they need any bloggers to do reviews of such a cool product in exchange for a nice long loan to allow thorough testing ;-)

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Mrs. Money Mustache: What do newborn babies really need? Fri, 09 Sep 2011 12:23:17 +0000 Eliminating Lady Temptations: Avoid the Urge to Buy for Baby
by Mrs. Money Mustache

Congratulations!  You’re having a baby!

Ah, babies… so small, so cute, so sweet, so…. expensive? Why is there a common misconception that having a baby costs a ton?  How much does it really cost? Answer: not much.

Yet, us ladies just love to shop for babies.  We must prepare.  We are nesting.  We’re not ready for the baby to come yet!  The room decals we ordered have not arrived, the special nursing glider is not assembled, the room hasn’t been painted with fancy pink stripes… what will the baby think? Why do we spend more time thinking about buying and decorating (supposedly for the baby) rather than the actual task at hand: preparing for labor?

For you second, third, or fourth+ time moms, stop reading right now.  You don’t need anything.  No arguments — nothing.

If this is your first baby, you’re mostly going to have to get mentally prepared.  That is the hard part. The actual objects you need for said baby are pretty minimal.

So, what did we do?  I am the type of person that researches everything, so naturally, I researched the matter.  What I found is that the Internet, my friends, and those scary things known as baby shower lists, grossly exaggerated what was needed.  First of all, it’s quite possible that you might have friends who have young children themselves. They might already have enough hand-me-downs to take you through the whole first year.  I’m sure it’s easy to spend $0 on your baby.  Perhaps it’s even possible to spend negative dollars!

Challenge Idea: if you do need to make a few purchases for an upcoming baby, try getting it from friends and from various used sources. And then sell some extra stuff you have lying around your house for the same amount of money.  Voila!  Zero dollar baby.

Here’s what your newborn baby needs:

1. Diapers

Sadly, babies are not born knowing how to use the toilet. So we choose between cloth or disposable diapers.  (Side Note: Look up Elimination Communication or check out if you’re really advanced).  For us, using cloth was a no-brainer.  I spent hours researching cloth diapers and it seemed confusing at first, but it is actually extremely easy.  People complain that it is complicated, that they have to wash them, that they leak, that it’s gross… get over it!  You’re going to get shit on your hands either way.  Once you find the right kind of diapers, it’s easy …

The Mrs. Recommends: Get a variety of cloth diapers for age 0-6 months. This helps you figure out what kind you like. Don’t get sucked up in the cuteness of cloth!  You can spend a ton. Keep it simple, be successful. I purchased: 10 prefold diapers, 6 “Kissaluvs” contour diapers, about 4 covers for all these, 1 “Fuzzi Bunz” pocket diaper, 1 all in one diaper, and a couple of others. TIP: Prefolds work great as burp cloths too.

When your baby hits 6 months, sell the newborn diapers and buy the kind you like for the next stage.  The MMM family used 14 Medium Sized Fuzzi Bunz diapers from 5 months until our son was potty trained at just over the age of 2. For overnight accident protection, we used cloth until nighttime toilet training was reached… no pull-ups required!

At that point, we sold the 14 Fuzzi Bunz for half their original price.  It was a great investment overall, saving over a thousand dollars in disposables! Look for used cloth diapers, if possible, and re-sell once you’re done with them.

2. A Place to Sleep

When I was born, I slept in a little pink bathtub. Cozy and just the right size. When our son was born, he slept in a fancy co-sleeper attached to our bed. Your baby can also sleep in your bed, as ours ended up doing on most nights. The key, in my opinion, is that the baby is close to you to make nighttime feedings easier and to allow you to get as much sleep as possible. Your newborn baby does not need their own room or a crib, since they are so small. Your baby does not need fancy bedding.

The Mrs. Recommends: If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped the co-sleeper and had the baby sleep in bed with us.  But, if that’s not an option for you, I would suggest using a Pack ‘N Play with Bassinet instead of the co-sleeper. After a quick search, the Graco Pack ‘N Play Playard and Bassinet seems to fit the bill. The secret here is that the “Playard” is not for playing — it’s a place for your toddler to sleep on the go, probably up to about age 2. Handy dandy. It’s simple and takes care of your baby’s sleeping needs for quite a long time. You easily can bring it to people’s houses and on trips. Plus, you can probably find one used.

3.  Clothing

There is absolutely NO need to buy new clothing for your baby. In all likelihood, you will get tons for free from friends that have already had babies. In our case, we literally received a Subaru Wagonful of clothing for ages 0-6 months. The parents were all too happy to get rid of it. It has since made the rounds to at least 10 other kids. If, for some reason, you don’t receive any free clothing, ask for it. If that doesn’t work, get some used from a consignment shop or buy bagfuls from craigslist. The point is, it is VERY easy to get used baby items. Our baby lived in footed PJs (he was born in January). I frankly saw no need for any other type of clothing, other than warmer stuff to throw on when we went outside. I’m not talking about a fancy baby winter coat here… I’m talking about blankets and body warmth. Your baby can fit inside your coat and would prefer to be there instead of in a stroller anyway.

The Mrs. Recommends: get all clothing used or from friends. There is no reason to buy a single stitch of new clothing for your baby.

4. A Carseat

If you drive, then it is required that you have a carseat. Most hospitals will check to make sure you have one before they discharge you. Many people will tell you that you need to get a new carseat, and I will not dispute this, as I understand their reasoning. However, we got a free carseat from a reliable  friend who told us it had never been in an accident. We used it sparingly for one year and passed it on to another friend. If you’re lucky enough to have your baby at home, or you can walk home from the hospital, you probably won’t need a carseat at all. We planned to walk home from the hospital, but an unplanned c-section foiled these glorious plans. Have I mentioned that I hate hospitals?

The Mrs. Recommends: get a reliable used carseat from a friend or if you can’t find one, buy a basic newborn carseat. Try not to drive around with your baby in the car very much. That’s the safest thing you can do for your baby.

5. Breastmilk or Formula

Breastmilk is free – hooray!! If things had turned out like I wanted, I would have breastfed my baby for 2 years. But, alas, due to our circumstances, we had to supplement with formula, so we bought formula and bottles. But, we only bought these things after our baby was born, as we originally didn’t expect to need them.

The Mrs. Recommends: Breastfeed your child, but be prepared for some potential struggles. Have resources set up BEFORE you have your baby. A reliable and friendly lactation consultant or contact information for La Leche is a great idea. If there are any problems early on, get help right away.

6. YOU!

Your baby needs you more than anything. If you can swing having at least 1 parent stay at home during the first 6 months of your child’s life (preferably longer), you not only save on daycare costs, but you give your child the greatest gift of all.

The Mrs. Recommends: have one (or both!) parents stay at home and save money on all the childcare expenses. Your baby gets YOU and you save money!  Win-win.

As a final summary, here’s what the MMM family used for our little one from 0-6 months.

  • mini co-sleeper (bought new) — this later made the rounds to 10+ kids — baby spent a lot of time in bed with us, so this was not really needed.
    • Cost: $130
  • little baby clothes, socks, blankets, assorted small toys (received free second hand from awesome friends) — these also made the rounds — again, we received a lot of clothing and only used a very small amount.
    • Cost: FREE
  • car seat (received free from friend) — given to a friend — we did drive occasionally, so this was needed.
    • Cost: FREE
  • maya wrap for carrying little one (bought used on craigslist) — sold on craigslist for $30 — we used this until our son was about 2 for walks, hikes, and around the house.
    • Cost: $40, Sold for $30, Net Cost: $10
  • about 20 cloth diapers, mostly new — sold for almost same price purchased.
    • Cost: $150, Sold for $150, Net Cost: $0
  • boppy pillow (received as gift) — re-gifted — we used this for breastfeeding as well as for lying down and sitting up
    • Cost: GIFT
  • bouncy chair (received free from friend) — given to a friend — our baby liked it a lot
    • Cost: FREE
  • baby bathtub (received as gift), although you use a small sink or simply bathe with your baby instead
    • Cost: GIFT

Total Cost: $320 – $180 sold = $140.

To be fair, we did end up renting a pump from the hospital and buying formula and a few bottles, but as I mentioned earlier, these were unexpected costs. We also had to pay for the actual birth of the baby, as insurance did not cover all costs. However, since we all have a unique situation and I’m hopeful that your birth and breastfeeding experience is better than mine, it is easier not to factor all of this in. In total, the cost was still minimal compared to what the average family spends. Anything else can be purchased (preferably used) on an as needed basis.

Bonus Challenge: Try and use less than we did.  It should be pretty easy.

Next time, we’ll chat about what babies don’t need. Months from now (as my articles are currently fairly sporadic), we might cover cloth diapers in more detail, the ridiculous tradition known as a “baby shower”, as well as what the 6 mo to 1 year old crew needs (again, not much).

Happy baby-making!

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Wish You Were Here Fri, 08 Jul 2011 15:38:53 +0000 Oh, hello there.

I just noticed it’s July 8th, which means we’re already about two weeks into the annual MMM family vacation. It has certainly been reflected in the wimpy blog posting schedule, even while readership seems to be on a growth spurt due to the influence of Frugal Dad. There have been times in the last week, out swimming in a remote lake far from any internet access, that I forgot I was even Mr. Money Mustache!

This vacation has been making it easy to forget, since I’ve been living a very non-Mustachian life for the duration. Leaving the cushion of my simple life at home and the harmonious vibes of you, the Triple M readers, I’ve been confronted by the Real World, which unsurprisingly has continued on its regular self-destructive path even as we have been quietly grooming our ‘Stashes in secret.

I managed to stay in character for the first day. After burning up a season’s worth of gas driving the construction minivan a quarter of the way across the continent, I reached Des Moines, Iowa at around midnight. Inspired by this blog and not organized enough to find a reasonable hotel there for less than $100 on short notice, I decided to kick it Trucker Style and camp out at a rest stop for the night. I had never tried this before, but it was a huge success. I wish I had discovered this trick years ago! I cleared out a bed-sized area in the back, rolled out a camp pad and cozy pillow and blanket, and slept like a king with none of the hassle of check-in, check-out, and with the knowledge that nobody was washing an enormous load of sheets and towels and disposing of plastic bags and cups on my behalf just so I could sleep for seven hours. To add to the luxury, the rest stops in Iowa have free wi-fi internet access and good quality bathrooms.

Early the next afternoon, I reached Chicago, where I visited a friend who lives in the center of the city. He took me out for a day at the lakeshore where we rode the clackety Chicago commuter trains, ate several deep-fried meaty snacks at the Taste of Chicago festival, exceeded our weekly beer quotas, biked through a five mile human traffic jam of bikinis and rollerblades, parked at the harbor and battled the wind and waves for a while in a speedy powerboat, then eventually drove back to his house in a very expensive car. That night we consumed several more kinds of meat and desserts thanks to the Mexican Barbecue party hosted by his lovely wife, then slept a gluttonous sleep while the air conditioning ran continuously.

Since then there has been plenty more visiting, with everyone including me doing wasteful amounts of empty-car driving, eating and drinking. Many family members have been continually purchasing items from stores – kids’ water toys, shoes, hats, desserts, outdoor chairs, whatever comes to mind. In short it has been a completely normal mingling of middle-income North American families.

I found it interesting to note that even with gas in Canada being about $4.70/gallon US, the consideration level given to driving is no higher – suggesting that our own prices would have to rise above that level before any major changes happen.

Despite the observations above, this trip has been the best one of my life so far. The happy combination of old adult siblings getting together and celebrating their graying beards and lengthening life histories over spicy homemade food and forest-shaking laughter, young children meeting each other for the first time and becoming friends, and lots of hard work and exercise, is unbeatable. Oh, and of course the fact that early retirement is the thing that allows us to go on these long trips in the first place.

But I have noticed a significant pattern: the best part of family visits is not the part that involves buying things.  If we could change our habits to include carpooling to the lake, using the toys we already have instead of buying an endless stream of new ones, biking more and powerboating less,  and eating more natural and local food, we’d still have just as good a time.  Probably even better, since there would be more challenge and creativity packed into family visits.

So there’s another MMM challenge for me, and maybe for you too: try to motivate your family this summer, to become just a tiny bit more Mustachian, for their own benefit. Bring a stack of your real plates to the picnic instead of plastic and styrofoam and throw them in your dishwasher when you get home. Make one kickass pesto dish in place of some of the meat. Bust out the canoe instead of the motorboat. Trick your elderly parents into going for a short bike ride with you. Pick a closer destination for your group camping trip if you can find one. See if you can max out the fun without maxing out your consumption of dollar bill employees and chunks of the Earth. I will do the same, and report back on the progress.

Happy Summer!


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MMM Challenge: Get yourself a lower Mortgage Rate Tue, 24 May 2011 14:17:22 +0000 It has been a while since we did an MMM challenge, so I’ve got an extra good one for you today, one which can save many homeowners out there $105,000 over a 15-year period. The challenge is: Getting yourself a better rate on your mortgage.

Looking at the ING Direct* website recently, I noticed that home loans were going for an astonishingly low rate of 2.99%. The last time I paid attention to mortgages, it was to refinance my own house a couple years ago, and at the time even the 5% rate seemed amazing to me. The lesson to me was that in this weird financial aftermath of the Great Recession, there are some sweet deals to be had for those paying attention. Any reader who has not recently refinanced to a lower rate should definitely do some shopping around.

But today I noticed there is an even more advanced strategy that has opened up. Check out the current APR spread on interest rates, which I just looked up on

5/1 ARM loan: 2.972%
15-year fixed: 3.604%
30-year fixed: 4.410%

These rates include all fees as part of the APR number, so when comparing to your own interest rate, it should be equivalent to getting the rate above and paying no fees. Lender fees are silly and are often way too high from less reputable lenders. ING Direct seems to have some of the lowest loan fees overall. But again, the rates above supposedly are the effective rate over the life of the loan after including the fees.

Before I became mortgage-free this year, my strategy was always to go for the 5/1 ARM mortgage. That way you get the lowest rate for 5 years, and you can really go crazy paying off principal of the house because your interest cost is so low. If the rates start to creep up at the end of the period, you can always lock in for a longer period at that time.

Some people, out of fear of the unknown, like to go for a longer lock period. Thus in the United States, the 30-year loan is very popular. The issue with 30 year loans, however, is that they are stupid. They are deliberately designed so that you start off juuuust barely paying any principal at all, $263 per month on a $200,000 loan, so that you really just scrape along in debt for a good part of your lifetime. It is so close to the tipping point that if you cut the payment just $200, it would be a 100-year loan. A few dollars lower, and it would be an infinite-year (interest-only) loan. Going a few dollars higher, on the other hand, gets you out of debt drastically sooner.

Now, certain Advanced Mustachians will point out, “But I prefer an interest-only loan, because I can choose when to make principal payments on my own schedule. Of course I won’t really take 30 years to pay it off, but since the interest rate is low I want to stay leveraged to make bigger investments in stocks instead”.

OK, fine, for those people the 30-year is fine in some cases. But still not in today’s market. Because look how much lower the rate is on the 15 and 5 year mortgages!

Let’s say you have a mortgage right now: $200,000 at 4.5 % on a 30-year schedule. Your monthly payment is $1013/month, of which 750 is interest and 263 principal.

If you are too conservative to switch to a 5/1 loan, then I still recommend that you go out tomorrow and refinance your loan into a 15-year fixed loan instead. You don’t have to worry about interest rates going up after 15 years, because YOUR HOUSE WILL BE PAID OFF THEN!!

But can you afford the payments?

Surprisingly, because of the lower interest rate and the stupid almost-infinity nature of the 30 year mortgage, you can easily afford them! Check it out:

The monthly payment on a the same $200,000 mortgage with a 15-year schedule at the much lower 3.604% APR is only $1439! Only 426 bucks a month more, and all of a sudden your payments are doing this for you: $839 principal, $600 interest.

You’re paying $426 more per month, but your interest costs have actually dropped by $150 per month and your principal payment has more than tripled. Congratulations – you’re actually paying off your house, sukka!

Over the lives of the two loans, the 30-year holder will pay $165,000 in interest, but YOU will only pay $60,000 in interest.

I think almost everyone can find a way to scrape together $400 per month when such a wealth-building opportunity is at stake.. right? The frugality tips alone that have been shared by Mr. Money Mustache in the past month have already freed up more than that amount of money. Cut your cable TV, drop to a less expensive car, ride a bike for local errands, drink less beer, stop buying coffee outside the house. You’re already more than there.

If you still don’t agree, feel free to stop by my new retail location next to Mister Money on Main Street in Longmont for a complimentary PUNCH IN THE FACE!!! Because it might help instill some wisdom that is already quite obvious to me : $105,000 in additional wealth** over 15 years is worth working for!


**Some Fancy Math on the issue:
Using a simple mortgage calculator and fast forwarding to the end of year 15, the two examples above would have you in these positions:

30 year mortgage holder:
-paid $1013/month for 15 years
-has $182,000 in payments remaining to go.

15 year mortgage holder:
– paid $1013/month for 15 years PLUS an extra $426 per month
– $0 of extra payments to go
– this $426/month has saved them $182,000 of future payments.

Note: I had to change this footnote after an astute reader pointed out it was confusing.  Because these payments are stretched out over a long time, the actual equivalent return you’re getting on your $426 payments takes a bit of work to figure out. In the comments, you’ll see that I came up with a figure of 6.78%.  Still quite amazing for a guaranteed investment return, so Do it!!

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MMM Challenge: Cut your Cash-Leaking Umbilical Cord Fri, 06 May 2011 15:23:16 +0000

The prize for this week’s challenge is about Nine Thousand Dollars, plus getting the equivalent of about 36 weeks of extra vacation time each year. That would bring you up fairly close to my own level of  leisure.

The challenge, of course, is to immediately and completely cancel your cable television service forever.

Now I will admit that TV programming has really advanced in modern years, with a spectacular array of new channels. At one moment, you could be watching a young Brazilian girl blow a Vuvuzela at the World Cup game, and with just the press of a thumb you could be transported into the deepest reaches of a smoke-filled senior center watching a bingo game. You can study the most incredibly well produced commercials for an average of 16.5 minutes out of every hour, which will keep you informed of the must-have products of the day, protecting you from accidentally thinking your current products were sufficient.

Contemporary television must be great, because everyone has it. If you’ve ever gone for a night time walk around your town, as I like to do often, you’ll notice that almost EVERY SINGLE HOUSE has flashing blue light streaming out through its windows. If you peek through into their living rooms, as I also like to do, you’ll notice that about 28% of the televisions are currently displaying advertisements, as predicted by the fraction of 16.5 over 60 minutes in the previous paragraph. The average American (and Canadian) watches about 4 hours of the stuff each day, adding to 28 hours a week or thirty-six 40-hour workweeks per year.

“No”, you may be saying, “Actually I skip all the commercials with my Tivo, and I have HBO and watch all the advanced dramas and stuff”.  Good for you! You have made your time-wasting more efficient at a cost of just a few extra dollars per month. If time wasting were our goal, and this were the Mr. Mundane Mustache blog, you would have already won the challenge.

But now let’s talk about why you DON’T want to have cable TV, or any television service anymore.

First of all, let’s be honest: you can’t afford it! If you are spending 50 bucks a month on TV service, and throwing in the electricity to run a typical modern TV (about $2/month), you’re burning $9204 every ten years. And that is assuming  that you are 100% immune to television advertising – some of the world’s smartest people are willing to bet about $40 billion per year (the annual television advertising budget in the US) that you are wrong on that.

Unless you are already retired, you probably have something better to do with $9204 and an extra 28 hours per week of free time than TV, right? Hmm.. how would that look? Is it possible to have a fun life without TV service?

Well, let’s ask Mr. Money Mustache, for starters. I haven’t had any sort of TV service for about the last 12 years. (That’s right.. we’re raising a 5-year-old child who has probably seen less than a dozen TV commercials in his life so far. Surely a good thing for a kid’s mental development and ability to focus on things).

What does a non-TV watcher do with the extra free time? I guess you could do a lot of things. I use the extra time to cook good food and take care of the house, and go out for night time walks to watch other people watching TV. I also get to play with my son a lot more than a normal dad. The extra time adds up to a lot of reading to your kids – at age 5, we’ve already burned through about 50 big novels (Harry Potters and Hobbits and such), and of course a few hundred kid picture books before that. With only five years of experience I’m still learning about how to be a good parent, but surely this kind of time together kicks the ass of family nights watching Dora the Explorer?

And the news, oh the nightly news. When you switch to getting your news entirely in written form, you are spared, for life, from the Pointless Bad News like Chilean Miners and families destroyed by car crashes. We didn’t even know there was a “Royal Wedding” until after it had happened. You just read the real stuff. Health, Science, Business, News, Politics.. it’s all there, with 100% less slow-talking fake-expressioned makeup-wearing tanning salon faces.

But don’t worry, without TV you’ll still get  your share of moving pictures. Almost everything is available on a streaming basis over the Internet anyway, YouTube has the funniest things on Earth for free, Netflix has all the commercial movies and great documentaries for $9 per month if you need it, and your friends all have DVD collections from which you can borrow any time you like!

My persuasive list could go on and on, but I think at this point, the arguments presented have been so profound that there are only two possibilities for readers:

1) You already do NOT have TV and you just read through with a big toothy smile on your face, clapping your hands and shouting out, “Yeah Mr. Money Mustache! You tell ‘em! Tell it like it is! Hallelujah! Enn-Ohh to tha Tee-Vee Babeh!!!!!

2) You DO currently have TV, but you started reading this and your heart started to pound and you realized the colossal enormity of your mistake to this point, the wasted life, the frying brains of your beloved children, and you ran out to the living room and unplugged the thing immediately. Now when you finish reading this article, you’re going to look up the customer service phone number to your cable company and get that umbilical cord cut OFF!

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Please share your stories of your new life without Cable TV. What do you do at night? Where will you ‘stash the extra money each month? Prosperity and happiness for all. Whew, not bad for just a weekly challenge.

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Closing Ceremonies for “Save $100 This Week” Challenge Fri, 06 May 2011 02:51:03 +0000 Many people clicked “like” on the simplistic yet powerful challenge called Save $100 this Week.

Did YOU do the challenge? I did, and now I’ve got more than $100 extra compared to what I would otherwise have.

You DO know you have to actually do this stuff if you want to become wealthy, don’t you? As much as I love you reading every day, you won’t get much richer with only that level of commitment.

To finish up reporting the MMM family results, we had $91 saved in the first five days, then:
Tuesday: Bike Miles: 6, Car Miles: 0, Spending: $0. Challenge savings: $10 for skipped car trips.
Wednesday: Bike Miles 4, Car Miles: 40 (ouch! wife drove to another town for a lady party, I drove my construction van around town to do a bit of actual paid work). Spending: $38 on groceries.
Week Total: Bike Miles: 45, Car Miles: 40, Spending: $187,
Challenge Savings: $101

Not Bad! If I were to keep this challenge going permanently, I’d end up about $76,800 richer after ten years. I probably will keep some of the changes I learned this week , because as with every challenge, you actually learn unexpected things as you go through it.

Now what do we do with the $100 we saved?  If you have any debt, make a point of paying an extra $100 towards your highest interest balance, and do it quickly, before you get around to spending the hundred on something else!

For me, being recently mortgage-free, I can ‘stash it back into the handy Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX) where it will grow and pay dividends for the rest of my life. By the time I die at age 104, these 100 little employees will have contributed about $10,000 of income to me, even after adjusting for inflation, in the form of growth and dividends.

Sweet? Yeah, sweeter than just burning through another $100 tank of gas!

The NEXT challenge, coming tomorrow morning, will take it up a level. Actually about eighty nine levels, if you consider the levels to be measured in linear steps, because the prize for this challenge is nine thousand dollars!

Tune in tomorrow baby.


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MMM Save $100 This Week Challenge: Update Tue, 03 May 2011 16:38:33 +0000 Good Morning Mustachian Trainees.

I posted the $100 Challenge last Wednesday Night, which made Thursday the first day. The post got an unusually large number of reads last week, and again today due to a valued reader who posted it to her facebook page – thanks a lot!

But have you actually been challenging yourself? Or did you just read it and have a chuckle and then head out in the Mercedes ML500 for pints and steaks at the brew pub?

I must admit I was feeling a bit casual myself when I wrote it. I was secretly thinking, “Listen up, we already the Triple M’z, Yo /  We runnin’ so lean, nobody could shave a dolla’ from the routine”.

But once I published the challenge, a little change came over me. And it happened to Mrs. Money Mustache too, since she is a very close participant in this blog. Even though none of you are actually watching us to check for cheating, we really felt motivated to see what we could do. I stuck a piece of scrap paper onto the breakfast bar and started writing down the results – including all our spending and transportation – each day. Here’s where we’re at so far:

Bike Miles: 7, Car Miles: 0, Spending: $54 on groceries
Challenge Savings:  I made a point of looking over my grocery bill to check for mistakes. It turns out when you buy a lot of organic produce as I do, mistakes are very common (1 in 4 receipts perhaps). Today I found that my $5.00/5 lb bag of organic Gala apples was billed at $12.00. I asked the service guy and he very apologetically handed over the full $12.00 as a compensation. Free apples – sweet! Deliberately decided to skip buying beer and wine this week to save some money and also give my fitness training a boost. We normally have about 3 drinks each per week at $1.50 each: Credit: $12.00 for apples and for $9.00 for beer and wine = $21.00.

Bike Miles: 7, Car Miles: 0, Spending: $0 – no unusual challenge savings today, the wife and I just worked at home while the lad was in preschool.

Saturday: Bike Miles: 11, Car Miles: 0, Spending: $0.
Challenge Savings: Wife normally would have driven to CrossFit class due to unusually chilly weather, but she toughed up for the challenge, saving 1 car trip. Also, I was trimming the grass with my old inherited corded weed eater. The piece of crap finally gave out and shot broken plastic parts all over the lawn. I smashed it up in rage and threw it into the metal recycling bin, and ALMOST hopped on the bike to head to Home Depot to pick out a new cordless one. Then a bubble appeared over my head and Barney from the Simpsons started calling “Chaaaaalllenge Weeeek!”. So I went to the shed and grabbed the long manual shears instead. I had never tried using these for lawn and weed edging before, but surprise, they are shockingly fast, silent, and I also got a bit of added workout for free! I don’t think I’ll even buy a weed-eater again. So I’ll award myself $60 for the day.

Sunday: Bike Miles: 2, Car Miles: 0, Spending: $0. Raining part of the day. Played in and around the house. No unusual Savings, but you can’t complain about a day where you spent zero dollars!

Monday: Bike Miles: 8, Car Miles: 0, Spending: $95 ($25 insurance copayfor the boy’s 5-year checkup and immunizations, $70 for wife’s first experimental visit to chiropractor). Wife took son to the doctor’s office in the bike trailer instead of the car, for which we get $10 according to the scoring system.

Perhaps a little more detail than you wanted. But it’s interesting to me to note that we haven’t even started the car in almost a week, and we have spent only $54+$95 even on a week with very unusual medical bills. But of course, other random expenses come up in other weeks like school supplies or clothing.

So so far, with an honest accounting of savings directly because of MMM challenge week, I’m up $91.00 in five days! This is pretty significant since as a family that lives on about $40k, our average spending is normally $547 on the typical five-day period. We’ve cut it by a further one sixth just because of this savings game!

Imagine how much cutting could be done for a family that is currently living on $50, 70, or 100+ thousand per year!

Any stories of your own savings to share?

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MMM Challenge: Save 100 Dollars This Week Thu, 28 Apr 2011 04:36:59 +0000 Perhaps you have been reading along so far, enjoying our little growing community, but you’re still not sure where to get started. There’s plenty of personal finance advice out there, but you’re too busy to search through all the disorganized piles of non-amusing advice. You want to do it the Mr. Money Mustache Way!

Well, It’s time to start putting the pencil to the dollar bill now – earning yourself more freedom in only one week.

Right now, imagine your normal weekly routine – whatever you were planning to do if I hadn’t published this life-changing article.

Now let’s see if you can shave $100 off of it. I’m sure you can think of specific things, but here’s a sample diet.

Idea: See if you can go out to lunch and dinner ZERO times in the whole week! Bring your lunch to work.
Credit: $20 or so per meal, compared to the number of times you went out last week.

Idea: See if you can combine ALL your driving into the trips you already do for work. Don’t worry, you can still go out on the weekend, but you will be taking your bike!
Credit: $10 per day that you eliminate non-work driving.

Idea: Don’t make ANY trips to stores, other than grocery stores, this week. You’ll still be allowed to buy any missing items next week, but this exercise of delaying the purchases might be quite enriching.
Credit: $20 per store you would have normally visited, but postponed.

Tell us all how you are doing on the challenge! It’s okay to break the rules if necessary, but you have to try your best.

At the end of the week, there will be some excellent things to do with the $100 or more you just saved. Remember that every time you figure out how to save money at one moment in time, it gives you some employees that you will keep working for you for the rest of your life. Congratulations!!

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