Getting Started #4 – If you Try Sometimes, you Just Might Find, you Get What You Need

By the Realist

Mr. Money Mustache has been a bit more reasonable lately, posting some numbers to back up his assertions. But I thought I should join in at this point to address something that has probably been in your mind: how much can I really give up, without going crazy?

After all, we all COULD live under a bridge and eat out of dumpsters, but no amount of money savings would make this worthwhile.

The miraculous answer to the question of how much you have to give up is: not much at all.

The reason is that you will be using your creativity to enjoy the lifestyle of your choice, at about 75% less than the standard cost. You can  think of it as gaming the system. And it can be really fun once you get into it.

Let’s start by explaining why the system is so easy to game if you live in a so-called rich country like the US, Canada, Australia, or much of Europe.

Our country is home to a great surplus of wealth. It is very unevenly distributed, but there is plenty of it. We also have mind-bogglingly advanced technology and international trade which makes it so that certain goods are unbelievably cheap to buy.

You can buy enough basic food (rice, beans, oats) to power you for a day for about $1.00. You can buy enough oil to carry you and 3000 pounds of steel a distance of 40 miles, for $3.50.

But there are also goods that are incredibly overpriced. You can pay $900 for a decorative leather satchel that serves no purpose. A day’s worth of food could also cost $900 at the right (wrong) restaurants.

The whole game of our system is for the rich company owners to pay for advertisements to convince everyone else to buy their products at as high a price as possible. Ads and peer pressure make it very tempting to have the more expensive products.

Rich people and other big spenders buy these products briskly, driving up the high-priced products while simultaneously advancing industrial technology and competition which actually drives down the price of medium-range products.

But if you can peek through the ads and identify the actual needs that you want to meet, you can pick much more suitable products for yourself and save a bundle. To put a number to it, your goal should be to spend only about 25% of what the average person of your income spends in each product category.

By letting yourself spend 25%, instead of 0% like the guy living under the bridge, you can still be part of the good life, enjoying normal modern society without anyone even knowing what you are up to unless you choose to share it with them.

So to go through a few examples:

  • Goal: getting around the country on four wheels: The average person spends $25k for a Honda CRV or Ford Explorer, you can spend $7k for a few-years-old Honda Fit or similar small (great!) hatchback.
  • Goal: not being naked all the time: Average person spends $600/year on clothes from the mall, you can have a slightly smaller rotation of nice clothes (considerably nicer than Mr. Money Mustache’s clothes, for example) from Target or Old Navy for $150/year
  • Goal: getting out for healthy bike rides: your friends may buy $2400 carbon fiber road bikes. You can still find a great bike with some old-fashioned aluminum on the frame and carbon forks for $600 on Craigslist and ride just as fast as they do.

You can figure out a trick like this for just about every category of living expenses. I challenge you to tell me one (leave comments below if you like) that can’t be improved over the standard person’s expenditures.

There are some that are easier than others of course, so I like to cut those even more than 75% to free up some money to spend on things more dear to me. For example, I spend 0% of the average on cable TV and 10% of the average American dining out budget, but more than 100% of the average on housing since I like to live in a nice place. As long as my other savings can more than make up for the house I can still meet the 75% off goal.

So you’re giving up some spending.. but you’re not giving up your needs.. or your happiness, if you do it right.

  • Tracy May 25, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Is there a source for figuring out what the average person in different income ranges spends? Or just guesstimate based on peers?

    • trev May 29, 2014, 10:44 pm

      stats canada is GREAT if you live in Canada. Americans must have a similar public statistics bureau. Try the census.

      • Mike July 11, 2014, 9:19 pm

        Bureau of Labor Statistics – Consumer Expenditure Survey is just what you’re looking for.

  • fwinter June 3, 2011, 2:28 pm

    So with you on the bikes thing. Used to buy the expensive Italian bikes but sold up when family commitments took over.

    Now I’m back in the game getting fit with a bike that cost a quarter of what I paid before. Lower spec Shimano i.e. Tiagra is now not far off Ultegra and we are really talking small aesthetic differences and a few grams.

    Thanks to Taiwan cheap bikes are all you need.

  • David Baillieul July 4, 2011, 11:31 am

    I purchased a new Giant OCR3 carbon fiber at end of the season ( Aug ) 4 years ago for $1000. Rode the bike regularly and maintained it well. Sold the bike this spring ( prime season ) for $1000. Pretty proud of that one :)

  • Bener July 10, 2011, 6:45 pm

    Loving the blog, I will be a regular follower. Thanks for opening my eyes to the massiveness of some expenses!!

    Also, +237 bonus points for the Stones quote…

  • Jack October 17, 2011, 6:53 pm

    Living in a city like Vancouver, I’m wondering how it is possible to lower the housing cost. With an average income, buying any kind of housing is difficult. Is renting the only option?

    • MMM October 17, 2011, 7:57 pm

      I’ll defer to any expert Mustachian Vancouverites, but as a general rule I’d say, “Yeah!”. In Vancouver and other super-pricey cities, rents are way lower than the capital cost of tying up the corresponding amount of cash in a house. So the landlords are actually making a very low return on their investment – many of them bought the places at far lower prices and are content to get even the lower rent, creating a nice irrationally low price you can take advantage of. Some areas have rent control rules that contribute to this effect.

      The best strategy, monetarily speaking, is to rent an affordable (and walkable) place while taking advantage of the high salaries in a big city for accelerated saving. Then move away when you’re done with the income. If you are in a big city with a lower income, you might consider if there’s even a reason to be in that big city – if you could get the same salary in a smaller place with affordable housing. Of course, personal preferences vary between big and small cities, but I’d say people should only live in a place like Vancouver if they love it more than anywhere else and/or they are getting paid enough to justify living there.

    • Todd Carnes February 5, 2014, 2:24 pm

      I have owned two houses in the past and I refuse to ever do so again.

      I would rather rent than own a house anyway. Why tie yourself down with a 30 year mortgage and a house that is basically just a big money-sink anyway?

      It’s not worth it.

      Rent a house and let someone else deal with mortgages, and repairs, and home owner’s insurance and…. etc. etc. etc.

      Besides, what if you buy a house then find out you don’t like the neighborhood as much as you thought you would? Now, you’re stuck with trying to sell a house before you can get the heck out.

      On the other hand, if you rent and find out you don’t like it there, just pack up and move.

      • Tony May 6, 2014, 7:16 pm

        Depends on the rate of the mortgage. The average rate of inflation for the past 20 years is 2-3%. So a mortgage at 3% is practically free money. Lock in at a good rate and use that freed up cash for other investments.

        • Todd Carnes May 8, 2014, 7:55 am

          First of all, there is no such thing as “free” money. Why worry about “locking in” a so-called good rate so that I can invest, when I can use that same money to make those same investments you’re talking about sans the debt.

          Second, in your example you are still loosing money because you didn’t account for all the expenses involved such as taxes, insurance and upkeep/repairs.

          People that think their house is an investment are lying to themselves.

          Finally, if you have a mortgage, you don’t “own” your house anyway. The bank owns it. The only thing you “own” is a ridiculously huge debt.

          • Mara May 25, 2014, 8:03 am

            If you can stay there long enough and it is in a popular neighborhood, a house can be a good investment. We bought one for $49,ooo and sold it for $325,000 after 26 years.

            • D312 July 1, 2014, 9:28 pm

              49k, compounded over 26 years at 7% with no other additions, adds up to $302k. At 8%, it produces $392k after 26 years. At 10 and 12%, $660k and $1.1m respectfully. I’ll take my chances with a low cost index fund first. Although if someone in Mara’s situation buys low and pays off early, the opportunity cost of not paying rent for a substantial # of years could be very beneficial. Just trying to point out how far that 49k could go with minimal effort.

            • M Smyth August 1, 2014, 4:27 pm

              49k, sunk all at once into an investment would be great– supposing you had the 49k to invest all at once. But you’d still be paying rent. The sum of those rents over 26 years for a typical 3 bedroom house might be in the range of 150k-250k for the exact same house.
              On the other hand, someone who buys that 49k house with nothing down would make payments of about 300/ month, and leverages someone else’s 49k as an investment to net 275k, without having to fork over 49k all at once.
              The clear winner is using someone else’s money to make money.

          • Chad June 25, 2015, 3:06 am

            The fault in your reasoning is primarily in assuming that you’re not paying the same amount in a mortgage as rent.
            You have to realize the person renting you the property has to make cash somewhere. That somewhere is you. Depending on the local market, you’re either paying extra on top of mortgage, utilities, tax, insurance, repairs/maintenance, or you’re paying for all that, and they’re playing the long game of profiting as the mortgage is paid off.

            Whether it’s 3% a year mortgage, or rent being ratcheted up 3% a year to keep pace with inflation.

            And the more you pay your mortgage, the more of the house you own. It is yours. Yours to do what you want with (barring regulations). The only places you get any edge is in investing the same money for a better return (by a few percent), and on real estate agent fees. Of course, if you’re in a lot of places, you’re also paying an extra 6-7% above everything your rental actually is costing the people you’re renting from, meaning that you’re not really going to get ahead by investing the money elsewhere either.

            The rent instead of buy mentality is just wrong. The only people who should be renting instead of buying are people that aren’t confident they’re going to be staying anywhere long enough for ownership to be worth it.

            • Hester Jackson-Scott December 30, 2015, 4:40 pm

              Am I the only one also factoring in security when wanting to buy a house? I don’t know about you guys over there, but here in New Zealand if a landlord wants to sell the house etc they can often kick you out with 6w notice.
              In short term renting situations that’s manageable, but I don’t like the idea of pouring my heart and soul into making a house into a home, only to then find myself kicked out and having to start over again, possibly with kids and/or pets thrown into the mix

            • E April 2, 2016, 3:17 pm

              Agreed whole-heartedly! When I was a graduate student, I rented basement apartments, rooms in larger houses, etc. Twice I was booted out on very short notice when the owner suddenly decided to sell. Renting can be great financially, but you have to balance that with the frantic search for a new place to live on short notice sometimes. That often involves time off from work, temporarily storing things someplace while you crash on someone’s couch, etc. If you rent in an apartment building instead of a private house you may have more stability, but then the rents increase every year. I ended up buying a house because even with maintenance costs, I ended up spending less money every month!

            • ElbowWilham April 14, 2016, 3:10 pm

              We had 2 places sell and 2 places go into foreclosure.

              I decided I need to get my family a secure place to live. I have a wife and 2 growing boys and moving them once a year is not fun. Plus I work out of my house, so moving my office around is not fun.

      • Mike March 6, 2016, 2:06 pm

        I’m in the buy a house camp. But with a caveat. The U.S., or at least the higher growth areas are subject to drastic price swings of around 100%, so look at the wave and buy in the trough. Of course no one will tell you where is the bottom of the market, especially real estate agents, brokers, or bankers. No one really really knows. Just be aware that the long term chart on perhaps the zillow site is a great indicator of possible lows. And that in higher demand areas the price per square foot is usually a little less than like $100/sq/ft in the trough. So if you buy that fancy home going for $200 sq/ft you can take a bath of up to 50%. You can reasonably expect to flip a house in 5 years if and only if you truly buy in the very bottom of the trough. Otherwise consider that more people end up under water than break even.

        That being said , we bought in 97 2224 sq/ft for $224k, with a mortgage (“death pledge” is the root of that word) payment of $1575. That won’t rent a nice apartment near where I work. Now we are worth somewhere north of $500k. We have watched the market go through two 100% price swings.

        After 19 years with some extra principle payments we owe less than $50k. Between that and a small 401k contribution we are set to retire soon. We did buy a few new cars and o:-Pour commute is a little long, but we could have been more frugal and gone out earlier.

        • Early Check Out July 20, 2016, 11:15 am

          I think housing can be like any investment, so it can’t be one size fits all. Plus for some its a burden and for others there is something concrete, stable and usable about it that is appealing (I’m trying to capture what it is for me but the words allude me).

          I would like to say we were brilliant, when really just damn lucky, but real estate has been extremely good to us. We bought into a crazy housing market that’s been going up for 15 years. We just cashed out several million to retire early, and kept three rentals in three totally different markets that provide cash flow well beyond expenses.

      • Wookey January 30, 2017, 12:15 pm

        It’s an interesting problem, and hard to optimise except in retrospect. I’ve not come across many people who have been home-owners and have since sworn-off. I guess it depends a lot on where/when you lived how good an idea it is to put your money into your house.

        Buying early (in our twenties, after the early nineties price crash in the UK, more by luck than judgement) treated us very well indeed. With 2 (fairly low) wages, and a general mustachian outlook we paid the mortgage off in about 3.5 years, and thus have been living rent and mortgage-free for 20 years. Also because of the locality in thriving town (and because we paid extra for a house in town, so we could bike everywhere) both our houses (we moved in the middle) have appreciated ridiculously. This is not good for the macro-economy as it’s all fake money, and very bad for younger people, but we hit a good time/place which combined with mustachianism has made us very well off. If we’d rented in the same place for 25 years we’d be much worse off, and most seriously would not have been able to make changes to our house to make it efficient and cheap to run.

        • Brian January 15, 2018, 6:40 pm

          I’m in the “own” camp, but I agree that depends on personal circumstance. I have rented where (1) the landlord’s daughter wanted to move back to the city so we got kicked out, (2) a burst pipe caused flooding damage that the landlord dragged their heels in repairing (in the meantime charging full rent for a house that was only half-occupyable).

          Owning a house means:
          – security from being kicked out / house sold from underneath
          – no hassle with pets
          – no inspections by agents (who are mostly idiots)
          – doing maintenance when and how it is needed, not when the landlord finds it convenient or in whatever cheap-out method they can get away with
          – putting up pictures!
          – painting whatever walls and colours I desire
          – maintaining the gardens for myself and not the landlord’s capital improvement
          – etc etc

          At the moment, rents are high and interest rates are low. For most places I would pay less in rent than repaying a mortgage, but it isn’t by much, and each repayment I make increases my stake in the property rather than disappearing into the landlord’s retirement scheme.

          Local conditions might differ though. Here, anything more than a 12 months lease is almost unheard of. If as a renter you could lock in longer leases than that might make it more attractive, rather than going through the annual lottery of whether your lease will be renewed or not (and how much the rent will be jacked up by, and the subsequent fight when the increase is unreasonable).

  • CG January 23, 2012, 9:16 am

    That would mean a family of three(US median household size) can live on $12.5K a year(based on 25% of $50K US median household income). That’s about $4K per person. I know our family of 5 would do just fine on $20K a year, not counting any health insurance premiums. My 1 year emergency fund is $17.5K so I’ve figured out our very lean but not totally deprived budget before. We’d still be able to keep and use our paid for car, pay our mortgage, take care of average health issues, eat well as usual and get presents on our birthdays.
    The 25% idea reminds me of when I was a kid. My dad would sometime surprise us by bringing home a variety full sized candy bars on his way home from work. That was a big treat. We’d all agonize over which one to pick. My siblings would wolf theirs down lickity-split but I would eat only 1/4 to 1/3 of mine and wrap up the rest of the bar for later. I’d make my bar last for days. I feel lucky that I have that hard-wired into my personality. It requires such a huge change of thinking to go from a whole bar mentality to a 25%-er.

    • Grizzlybearmom October 5, 2018, 10:51 am

      Which explains why you are here. My brother, sister and niece all NEEDED the latest Harry Potter book at $25. I purchased a used one at Goodwill for $1 and later donated it. I’m the same with everything else.

  • sadpanda March 15, 2012, 9:58 pm

    Ok. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2009-2010 9the most recent year I could find at the moment) the average Australian household spent $1,236/week on goods and services. 18% of this was allocated towards housing costs, so about $222.

    25% of that is about $55.

    A quick search on the biggest nation-wide real estate site reveals that across the whole of Australia, for $55/week I can rent…a lock-up parking space. Even the single bedroom in a crackhouse deals are more expensive than that.

    Hmm. Belt needs to be tightened elsewhere, I guess.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 15, 2012, 11:28 pm

      Exactly! If housing is only $222, what are your fellow Australians spending the other $1000 per week on? Probably some pretty expensive stuff.

      My own housing cost is probably at least up to the US national average. But other categories are a full 100% lower to make up for it.

    • Mustache Jr April 14, 2017, 5:15 pm

      I know I’m ~5 years late, but instead of taking 25% of housing costs, take 25% out of household cost. $1,236*0.25=$309. Suddenly, thats a lot more doable, isnt it? Even in Australia, $309/week household cost is a very good mustache money. Because even though the average Australian household seems to spend relatively low on housing costs, they’re blowing almost a $1000 on whatever else. How could other expenses be more than 3 times the housing costs? They’re probably leasing expensive cars, buying new iphones, indulging in expensive night-outs. You can definitely tighten the belt here, cant you

      • Chris February 10, 2020, 4:55 pm

        Update for Australians. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics…

        In 2017-2018: “Average weekly housing costs increased to $484 for owners with a mortgage (up $15 per week from $469 in 2015–16) and remained relatively stable for the other major tenure types ($53 for owners without a mortgage, $366 for renters)”.

        Oddly, this amounts to 16% of gross weekly income for owners with a mortgage and 20% for renters.

  • Tundra March 21, 2012, 1:54 pm

    Hi – I just came across your site this week and have been learning a lot! Thank you. No cable TV, cook at home, love the trails, bike sometimes in the summer, but still struggling to save.

    I have a 16 year old subaru with 83000 miles – need a AWD here for winter. Trying to figure out if I should keep putting money into it for repair and maintenance (REC title-ignorance on my part, new to the country, etc.) or buy a used new car like the suzuki.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 21, 2012, 6:53 pm

      Wow, that’s pretty low mileage for a car of that age! The reliability shouldn’t be much of a problem, assuming your annual driving continues to be low. But Subarus are very fuel-thirsty.

      Then again, if you live up a steep mountain road and actually need AWD for the forward traction, you probably already have the most cost-effective car.

      (Note that AWD does not increase safety in level terrain winter driving, since it helps you accelerate faster, but not brake any faster. For maximum safety AND fuel efficiency, just throw burly snow tires on a front-drive car for the winters: just ask any of my fellow Canadians. There are few places with more extreme winter driving than Ottawa, ON, where I lived before moving to Colorado where there is no winter.).

      • Blaze October 15, 2013, 1:18 pm

        Gee MMM, you must be missing the freezing rain, slush, 3ft of snow, rinse and repeat cycle. And sometimes that’s all before lunch time!
        Just replaced my ancient vehicle with a new to me model. Part of budgetting the purchase is assuming $800-$1000 for new snowtires and a second set of rims so that the spring/fall tire swap is an easy DIY job done in the laneway. The old rims aren’t compatible with the new car so if we can’t sell them to someone, they’ll go for $crap metal.
        In Quebec it’s now law that you must have proper snow tires on from Dec 15 to Mar 15. I wish they’d do that in Ontario. I can’t believe anyone actually believes that “all season” tires actually refers to all of Ottawa’s seasons. And then they’re surprised when they end up in a ditch. My luck they’ll slide into the back of me when I’m able to stop and they can’t.

      • FMaz February 14, 2017, 1:50 am

        Canadian here, currently in Nunavut.
        It is true: good winter tires are the sagest upgrade one can do. (4-seasons or All-Seasons tires are crap. I’m talking about real winter tires.)

        I would say that living in the US, AWD for winter reason isn’t necessary.

        I also lived in British-Colombia, in the mountain. For icy hills, AWD is a must, but come with a major down fall: the traction control won’t really let you feel how shitty & icy the road is underneat you. I’ve learn that while I was driving up a mountain trail when my car started to slide backward… AWD and studded snow tires were now useless on a 5 degree hill of sheer ice under a thin layer of fresh snow. Lucky for me a the frozen dirt edge of the side or the road provided enough traction on the driver side rear wheel to stop the car. If it wasn’t for that 2 inches of dirt, I was rolling my car multiple timesdown a 100ft+ hill/cliff. I learn not to trust the technology too much.

        (When I got out of the car and around it, I fell and slided down 15ft … Getting the vehicle out of that nasty position was a very delicate and slow process!)

        Any how, here (now) in Nunavut, lots of people drive 2WD.they will struggle sometime with steep hills, and ditch themself from time to time (no highway here, so everything is at low speed), but usually the cause of there problem is either their driving skillsof bad tires (4 seasons or worn off).

        At hi speed AWD is pretty much useless as 95% of the power goes to the front wheel.

        Traction control does work tho. It won’t stop you faster, but it should allow a greater control to steer you car while breaking on slippery terrain. … but most people will over compensate and ditch themself. I did it once or twice, we all do it.

        But between you and I, if the conditions are THAT bad:
        A) stay home or,
        B) slow down

        And you might be the greatest driver with mad drifting skills, but the other idiots going 60mph in the incoming lane, or passing you, are most likely over confident about their skill and become a danger to you, the careful driver.

        Remember: AWD is like a mouse trap; it make you feel good about the cheese instead or warning you, and as soon as you push your luck too much: BANG! You’re done.

  • KittyWrestler June 18, 2012, 4:47 pm

    Too bad the early posts didn’t attract much comments like the later ones are.. Sometimes it is interesting to see what ppl have to say per their personal experiences.

    Health care actually is going to go up if I ever quit my job. My company spends $15000 a year on my family paying up all kinds of premium so there is little out of pocket money for us including medical/dental/vision.

    but I did see your other post about how little the medical will cost if you are on your own and assuming you don’t have pre existing conditon. I think that “Get rich slowly” guy had a heck an aweful time getting himself a plan since he had pre-existing..

    I did a quote myself a long time ago when I was out of job. healthy, no baggage, single no kids.. still cost me $185 a month. Now it would be anywhere around $400 for my family. And everytime I take my family to go see doc just for routine dental cleaning or physiclas, it would cost a lot more..

    right now? it cost me $40 a month on medical premium, $18 on dental and $4 on vision for a family of four.

  • Ryan June 24, 2012, 9:00 am

    I’m with Tracy. I’d like to do comparisons, but what’s your source for average expenditures in different categories?

    • VeroGall June 28, 2012, 5:27 am

      Hi Ryan. MMM will probably answer better than I will, but thought I’d speak up because I had the same question a few years back.

      There are a number of places to get the data, but the information varies dramatically depending on where you live. So don’t depend on national averages unless you live in a small country like the Nethelands.

      In America what you pay for stuff depends on which state, which city, even what part of town. My brother living in the-middle-of-nowhere Texas can buy a 3-bed, 1-bath starter home with a 1/4 acre for 10% of what family would pay for the same house witht less land in FIVE different locations. (We had a very interesting family discussion about this.) Data research or marketing companies, insurance companies even real estate companies gather this kind of data.

    • Gerard November 11, 2012, 6:37 am

      For Canada, try

      Statistics Canada numbers are pretty reliable, usually.

    • Virginia February 24, 2015, 3:04 pm

      You may want to look at http://www.numbeo.com/common/. They break down the cost by cities using data entered by people living in that city. Not sure if 100% accurate, but should give you a good idea of the costs.

  • Sarah June 27, 2012, 7:03 am

    Love the bike, and you can go even cheaper in my area. We got a $600 bike for $75 because every quarter the local university auctions off surplus, including bikes that were abandoned on campus the previous semester.

    • Todd Carnes February 5, 2014, 2:34 pm

      Why are people spending $600 or more for a bicycle? Are you people high? I spent $100 for mine and still thought it was too high.

      • Jen April 29, 2015, 9:23 am

        Because if you ride a lot or use it to commute, the extra money spent on a lighter frame and better components might be worth it? And some folks have other priorities?

  • Annie October 17, 2013, 6:43 pm

    I buy nearly all my clothing from second hand shops, Salvation Army shops, for example. The exception would be my underwear which clearly has no place in my wardrobe having been on someone else’s butt.

    I have bought some AMAZING designer clothes for just a few bucks, and often just run of the mill stuff you can jazz up with some fancy buttons. Top tip from me: scan the racks for quality fabric. And shop on Tuesdays – this is when all the “new” used stuff comes in.

  • Kirsty October 20, 2013, 7:52 pm

    I think my mum must have been the first mustachian. In her twenties she took a sales job which she hated but it enabled her to pay off her mortgage by her thirties.She has been pretty much retired ever since. Now in her seventies she lives extremely well on a small state pension. She sold her too big house in the suburbs and moved to a smaller house in a more affluent part of town with more amenities. There are two supermarkets in walking distance both of which have mark downs every night. My mum walks to both supermarkets every night and stocks up on anything which has been marked down (bread, vegetables, fruit, fish, meat) .This becomes her diet for the following day and any surplus is turned into soups or stews which she then freezes. Her weekly shopping bill is about £5 a week. She changed her double bed for a single bed so that all her sheets fit into a single wash, any small things are hand washed and left to drip dry over the bath. She loves meeting people and so does lots of volunteer work in the community including helping out at the local sports centre where she has a daily shower free of charge. Her spare bedroom is used to store junk which other people have thrown out and this is either recycled or sold. She goes to bed early and gets up early to cut down on electricity for lights and on the odd occasion when she is just sat around the house on a cold day she ‘ll snuggle down on the sofa with a blanket and hot water bottle before turning on the heating. All this means that she can take 5 or 6 fancy holidays a year and yes people are envious of her lifestyle and can’t understand how she does it! She is truly an inspiration!

    • Sandy August 1, 2015, 10:59 pm

      Your mom is an inspiration to me. This is exactly how I would like to live in order to be able to afford those holidays. It’s all a matter of priority.

  • Der Couponschneider March 7, 2014, 2:00 pm

    I’m also wondering about my fellow countrymen: the Germans. Why? A lot of them waste their money and if they are saving money then they don’t invest it in stocks. They make ridiculous saving contracts where they have to hand over a fix amount of money to an insurer (e.g. Allianz) every month. They do it for many years. Even the 13 % who reach the regular expiration of the conract have a small yield of 2 % per year, before inflation and taxes. The people who don’t reach the regular expiration have a negative yield.

    • Oh Yonghao March 18, 2014, 5:23 pm

      I noticed that when I lived in Taiwan, so many people get scammed into it, and if they can no longer afford it they can lose everything. It’s a huge industry there of people trying to sell you on insurance for everything AND you get money back at the end, but the first bunch of payments is just paying off the commission the salesman made, the rate ends up being so low it’s insane. I’ve questioned some people on it and they get mad and claim that they would just end up spending it so this is better than nothing. We’ll see what they say when nothing is what they get.

  • SNengr June 10, 2014, 12:39 pm

    We… just… can’t… do… it… Saving 75% is just sooo hard! We are stuck at 65% savings per year, but I feel we have a great savings/life balance. I guess my wife and I will have to work till we are 40 years old. If we had started saving more money directly out of college we would be retired already. Great Blog with great advice.

    Did you save 75% of income before or after taxes?

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 11, 2014, 7:03 am

      65% sounds pretty great to me! And remember, as your income rises or you get windfalls, your savings rate goes up effortlessly because you maintain the same spending and bank the surplus.

      There is no rush in all of this, other than the rush to fix your situation if you are starting out in debt and spending everything you make or more, like most people.

      Also, all savings figures in this blog are generally after tax, since tax rates vary so much.

      • SNengr June 13, 2014, 1:21 pm

        Our savings rate has gone up from 50% to 65% in the past 5 years mostly from income increasing faster than lifestyle creep.
        The hardest part for me is deciding “when” to get out of the rat race. One more year of working will set our children for college. Two more years will give us more financial cushion. I would rather work 2 extra years as an engineer than 10 years as a Walmart greeter when I am 80 and broke.

        • SNengr June 16, 2014, 1:53 pm

          Percentage savings calculated after taxes changes things quite a bit. Check out these numbers!

          Paychecks + $162,335
          Expenses – $85,252
          ESOP Bonus +$55,000
          401k contributions +$35,000
          (162-85+55+35)/162 *100 = 103% SAVINGS RATE

          Since our pre-tax contributions was more than or total expenses, our savings rate is over 100% The house is now paid off so our expenses should drop $15k this year.

          I feel a little better about our frugality. Last week my wife told me I was crazy when I told her we should cut back more on our expenses.

          • Lil November 7, 2015, 5:59 pm

            Your math is wrong. You’re counting your 401k contributions as post-tax negative expense, which it is not. By definition, it’s impossible to have >100% savings rate.

            • Rob March 5, 2017, 10:37 am

              You’d need a very generous 401k match by your company to get over 100% , but it is possible.

    • Raakesh March 12, 2015, 11:31 pm

      65% saving rate would put you in a better situation than 95% of the population. And that’s a great deal to be basing yourself on.

  • Mara June 11, 2014, 10:23 am

    Hi MMM,

    I am interested in Moustachianism, but we live in the country and have livestock… horses. They aren’t even salable now, with the poor economy and hay at record prices. We would not abandon them.

    I know we have a lot to learn from you. Are there other country folk in the group, too?

    • SNengr June 19, 2014, 8:32 am

      I was a farm kid growing up. I owned a horses, pony and had a small herd of 12 cows between the age of 9 and 18. I consider Livestock to be an asset that makes you money. Horses are a luxury item. Figure out the real monthly cost of owning the horses, feed, vet bills, stabling. Then divide that by the average amount of hours your spend riding them each month, (consider the winter months, the horses are still eating). At 14 years old, I figured out the horse was eating most of the profits from my cow herd. I traded my horse for a dirt bike and got much more enjoyment for the investment.

      Although I didn’t know it at the time, I grew up a Mustachian!

      • Mara July 19, 2014, 4:24 pm

        Hi SNengr,

        You make a good distinction between livestock and saddle horses. I love my horses, too, and they are more like pets than animals raised to sell for food.

        I have two trade skills, one of which is state-licensed riding instructor. When I couldn’t find work at my other trade, teaching students to ride on my horses helped support me for years. When I retire (from the other trade), one of the horses will continue to be a source of entertainment and exercise.

        Although I didn’t grow up a Mustachian, I am currently learning about the benefits of that path. I would like to retire within the next few years, and hope to find a good home soon for one of the three horses, in order to reduce overhead and make the numbers work. However, it’s a tough economy to sell or give away even a good horse.

        Meanwhile, why not stay positive and do the best I can? There are really no other riders (horse, in addition to bicycle :-) or animal lovers in this group? I thought it would be nice to share ideas for economizing.

        (In case you are wondering, my husband and I have been making great progress at reducing overall expenses and adopting more earth-friendly habits; our thanks go to MMM.)

        • missj August 15, 2014, 12:19 am

          I am somewhat rural/farm girl. We have 3 acres with chickens and a mini orchard.

          I did not grow up in any type of mustachian household but all my grandparents are hardcore great depression surviving, dumpster diving farm kids.

          My location is both an asset and an expense. On the one hand we raise our own eggs, chicken meat, fruit and vegetables. We have a well and septic, so no water or sewer bill.

          But I commute much too far to consider biking to work (or biking ANYWHERE for that matter). Since I love cycling, in the nice months I drive half way to work and park at a bike trail …but that is really more about exercise and enjoyment than cost savings.

          What I save in fuel I’m sure I spend on bikes or bike accessories….2 years ago I got a nice-ish women’s racing bike with carbon forks for only $800 off craigslist. I probably save roughly $2 in gas each time I bike half way to work so I would need to repeat the trip 1,600 times or basically 3 days a week 6 months a year for 20 years to pay off the cost of the bike. I’m not that ambitious.

          • Mara August 16, 2014, 5:21 am

            Hi missj! I don’t feel so lonely now. We’ve tried chickens and guinea fowl, but the foxes got them one at a time. The eggs were wonderful.

            A nice bike is still much cheaper than a horse, so you’re ahead there. A long commute is a tough one.

            So far we have cut our annual expenses by about $10,000 by attacking each expense, one at a time. The one we are working on now is lowering the cell phone bill by switching from AT&T to Consumer Cellular, which should save us about $600 per year. The new SIM cards just came in the mail. Ditching cable TV also saved several hundred per year.

            We cut down on farm help and are doing more chores ourselves. That is saving us about $5000 and so far hasn’t been too difficult. We cut down on stall bedding a little to see if the horses could tolerate it. Two are fine with it and one needed to go back up to the old amount. Using less shavings is good because it saves work and how much we pay to dump the used shavings. We haul it away to a farmer who recycles it and sells compost. There is also a family that comes sometimes and picks up manure from our paddocks to use in their vegetable garden.

            We live in a small house and have a few acres. We refinanced and got the monthly home loan payments down to $1000 for interest and principle. That’s not bad for shelter for my husband and me and all the animals. Now that we’ve cut other expenses, I hope we can raise our monthy home loan payment.

            My commute is 10 minutes and I drive a pickup. I used to freelance from home, but the business is too big now. There would be no place to put everything. Or the employee.

            I don’t know about me riding a bicycle for commuting. The aerobic exercise would be helpful. Maybe I could find one on Craigslist and get used to bike riding again. Some of the roads on my route could be rough going. I have carpal tunnel syndrome and couldn’t put a lot of weight on my hands. How long would it take to ride 5.4 miles? What type of bike and tires would be appropriate?

            • mcgee November 11, 2014, 5:21 am

              Could you ride one of your horses to work?

            • Mara November 11, 2014, 8:23 am

              That would be fun, but not practical. Actually, maybe one of the homeowners near the office building would have a patch of grass and appreciate the fertilizer :-)

              My husband and I have started carpooling most days. That’s better for the budget and the environment. Our overall expense cutting project is now up to $33,400 per year. We started cutting expenses in April, so that’s a good sum for 6 months.

            • Hippo November 24, 2014, 9:05 pm

              You’re not alone! Although I ended up selling my horse (she was costing me at least $400/month and I didn’t have the time to enjoy actually having a horse), I’m still involved in animal rescue and at any point in time, have my one dog and three cats, in addition to whatever fosters I may be caring for.

              They’re a lot easier to budget for than horses, though :)

            • Mara December 7, 2014, 9:52 am

              Thanks, Hippo! I’m sorry about your horse. Your work sounds interesting and caring. Even cat expenses catch me by surprise sometimes.

            • Sue February 16, 2015, 10:22 am

              I am a fairly new reader to MMMs blog and eagerly soaking up every bit of advice. Wonderful site. I am about 5 years post divorce and have really adjusted my spending habits to make it on a lower salary ($30k)

              I am single, no kids, and have two horses. I keep the cost for BOTH of them under $300/month. They are family, and I am committed to keeping them.
              How do I manage this?
              –no bedding in stalls, except for very inclement weather (so they have a place to lie down). Otherwise, they lie down in their small pastures.
              –very carefully rationed feed. Too many people seem to over feed their horses. Mine are kept at a good, healthy weight.
              –My horses do my “lawncare” for me-saves immensely on fuel costs from running a lawn mower/tractor. They do a better job than any lawn maintenance service out there! :)
              –I save exponentially by not buying supplements or fancy feeds. A well-balance natural diet is more than adequate and much lower cost. (I don’t feed grain, either)
              –My only “extras” are the yearly vet visit for vaccinations and the worming schedule.
              My horses are very healthy, shiny coats and their companionship adds significantly to my quality of life.

              Yes, some might say that even $300/month is too much. However, I have made huge budget cuts elsewhere, am diligently funding my Roth account, and this is my only concession.

              Looking forward to hearing more from other horse people out there! :)

            • Chuck March 4, 2016, 3:31 pm

              Sue….not as new as me. I found this place via a sailing YouTube vlog earlier this week. I am rewriting my budget. I recently got back from working overseas. I purchased a 1996 Chevy Blazer for less than I budgeted. Though I quickly had to replace the fuel pump which took the excess. That purchase was a huge change for my previous mental state. This is the oldest vehicle I have owned in too many years (it is embarrassing to say I have never before had a vehicle over 4 years old—What a waste). I rent a room for $500/month. This covers room and board. No cable TV, in fact no TV. My only splurge is internet on my Smart Phone.

              I too love animals and rural living. It is so peaceful out by this lake.

            • Steve C. September 10, 2017, 3:41 pm

              The good: I highly recommend riding a recumbent if you want to cycle! As long as you have rather smooth roads, ‘bents perform well. They’re typically ridden by those who have health issues riding uprights. I’ve ridden a ‘bent for a couple of years to commute and found that a 30 km trip at a long-term effort is doable takes about 1.7 hours along hilly roads, although city driving with stops and traffic is much slower than highway driving. This includes grabbing your stuff, unlocking, locking, and walking into the office. Your trip of 5.4 miles is in the perfect distance for a cycling commute and shouldn’t take much more than half an hour.

              The ugly: Then again, I didn’t develop wrist issues until I started riding a ‘bent which has friction shifters. Shorter commutes and perhaps a different type of shifter could help with this. The issue of placing weight on the wrist is completely negated so I still think it’s a reasonable way to get around carpal tunnel. There are many discussions online which may help.

              The other main issue: Since ‘bents are less in demand, they are more expensive, with entry-level versions costing about $1500. However, someone may be looking to get rid of one within driving distance for much less.

              In any case, I wish you luck in finding a solution! Maybe in these three years you already have.

  • A.M. Frato July 11, 2014, 9:05 am

    This post reminds me a lot of what I have been doing lately to get my finances straight. More recently I have cut my cell phone spending by 40%. I was paying $130.00 /month for a plan with verizon wireless . I had an iPhone 5 but the damn thing kept breaking and I was always getting charged fees for not being able to pay in full. One day I noticed they had a pre paid plan for the iPhone 4 so I walked in the the nearest store, waited for nearly an Hour which really pisses me off ( no customer service ) and usually i won’t wait but on this day I was on a mission and the savings far out weighed the wait. When I told the sales rep I want to down grade they were shocked and used all kinds of tactics to keep my on a “contract” but i was persistent and 1 hour later my phone was paid for and I am now only paying $70.00 per month. Still high but ill take it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 14, 2014, 5:57 am

      $70 per month for a phone!? You need to keep shopping A.M. – Republic Wireless is $25/month for unlimited everything and no contract, so any competitor will have to start there and then drop the price further: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/05/13/moto-x-vs-moto-g/

      • Jacob July 14, 2014, 6:01 am

        And if your usage rates are low, Ting is a great option, too. My brother and I are on a plan together and usually pay about $20/mo w/o paying an ounce of attention to what kind of data/minutes/texts we’re using. I’m using a refurb Nexus from 2011 that works great and was dirt cheap.

  • Melissa November 15, 2014, 9:17 pm

    My mother is the QUEEN of this tactic. She is always bragging about how she found some “deal” on some cheap-o version of whatever. And it shows. She’s got a 4 bedroom house (2 kids currently living in it with her) filled with way too much stuff, and half of it is half broken. I’m not a fan of ill-fitting clothing, flexible-framed bicycles, or unwieldy backpacking packs that make life more of a chore and less of joy. If you can’t afford to buy the version that’s not going to break in 2 months, then don’t buy one at all. Do without. Have a few nice things, and treat them well.

    • Sonia November 28, 2014, 10:25 am

      With all due respect, I think you’re setting up a straw man argument. Buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need because it’s a “bargain” is falling squarely into the consumerist trap (look at all the suckers, er, I mean, consumers in a feeding frenzy over Black Friday sales), and the opposite of what I think MMM espouses.

  • Reinard November 18, 2014, 1:03 am

    I’m just getting started on reading your blog and enjoying it so far.

    One questions you asked was to challenge you on what I can’t live at 25% of average spending. For me that’s healthcare. Not just insurance, but doctor visits, medications etc. (I have a back injury from a car accident that will unfortunately require lifelong medication).

    Still I’d be interested in what you can recommend for getting these expenses under control. I’d be happy to get them to anywhere near 50%.

    • Ken Wetherell December 28, 2014, 5:57 pm

      Sorry to hear about your back injury, Reinard. Best wishes for your recovery.

      My employer’s health benefits now include a bulk medication buying option whereby employees may purchase multiple months’ supply in advance at a steep discount. I don’t know the precise details, but it’s something like three months worth for the price of two. Perhaps you could find a similar program.

  • Javier Cortez February 26, 2015, 8:56 am

    I found your blog from some advertisement on a random website I happened to be browsing and I’m relieved I did. I’ve got some jacked up spending priorities BUT I have been slowly getting better. I can relate very well to your bike example in this blog post. I would regularly bike with my boss who rode a 2012 Specialized Pitch Pro. Its a pretty nice bike by any standards and especially compared to my 1999 Kona DH. He always ragged on my old bike I built from the frame up for around $600. The funny part about the story is that I consistently made it to the top of the trail before him, often waiting about 10-15 minutes enjoying the weather, and made it back down to the bottom 2 – 3 times as fast. I would always tell him, “the day you pass me up on your bike, I will get a new one.” Well he ended up getting a brand new Cannondale Scalpel and he sold me his bike for the cost of me building wood shelves in his basement. He only had the specialized for a year. I can’t think of a better example than this. Im going to continue reading this blog until I have 500K that I forget is even mine…..

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 26, 2015, 4:38 pm

      .. and your boss will be still working when you retire young, mournfully training your replacement while you go out for a bike ride.

      My own mountain bike is a “GT I-drive 3.0” from 2003. I consider it very fancy and brand-new.

      Great story Javier!

  • Jessica March 7, 2015, 9:12 pm

    In regards to saving money on clothing, I think consignment clothing stores are preferable to Target and other big box stores, since mass production of new clothing is bad for the environment and life-endangering for the cheap labor hired to make it. Plus, clothes from Target may be cheaper, but they won’t last as long as better quality used clothing that was made to last. If you’re worried about not looking trendy, you should search for more timeless styles that won’t have you running back to the store again in a few months. The goal should be to own fewer, more versatile clothing items that are comfortable and well-made.

  • CanadaSue August 9, 2015, 11:36 am

    Forget Target to save money on clothes. Thrift stores are where to shop-Salvation Army, Value Village,etc. I can own high-quality clothing at a fraction of the cost of new, and it will be unique. Not some off-the-rack item that half the neighbourhood owns. The one-off thrift stores as opposed to the chains are even cheaper. Places like Value Village have caught on to the second-hand trend and are raising their prices accordingly. $6.00 for a good pair of dress pants! Unheard of!

  • Chris September 13, 2015, 10:44 am


    I’m a newly subscribe late 20-something with $100k in the bank (4o1k, Roth IRA, savings) and only $13000 of debt (car loan). Lately, I’ve been thinking about ridding my car and it’s monthly payments for a smaller, cheaper, and more economically feasible car so that I can be completely debt free and begin my mustachian endeavors. Any advice on where to go from here?

    • Talltexan November 10, 2015, 10:20 am

      there’s a nice post on this on the website.

  • Billy November 10, 2015, 8:39 pm

    Just started reading your blog and I’m really excited for all the information you’re sharing, so thanks!

    It’s funny how serendipitous life can be. Long story short, I’m making the transition from being bike only (after 15 months) to getting a car (it’s for practical reasons… biking home with groceries up a giant hill sucks, biking in the cold sucks, biking in the imminent El Nino sucks, etc.). I don’t have much saved because I’ve been aggressively paying off my student loan debt for the last 5 years (6 more months to go!). My mom has offered to pay for a new vehicle, and I could pay her back with zero% interest. Payments back to my wonderful mama can be made at whatever value I want (so, let’s say ~200/mo).

    I’m looking into a new Mazda 3 ($23k), which is the #1 affordable compact car, with great gas mileage (30+mpg), great safety ratings, great resale value, etc. I actually almost bought a 2004 Acura with 100k miles, 20 mpg, for $7k but opted out because of the MPG.

    So, my question is: Does it make sense to get this new Mazda? So yeah, I dont have $24k saved in the bank, but, I’m not losing extra money in a traditional car loan.

    Winter is coming and I need to make a decision.

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 12, 2015, 5:16 pm

      Hey Billy – I like your thought process, but how about a 2008 Mazda3 with a manual transmission for about 6 grand and still over 35MPG? You’ll come out tens of thousands of dollars ahead over the next decade and still see almost perfect reliability.

  • Sylvester Black December 28, 2015, 12:00 am

    Wow this is all really neat. I just started reading this blog and guess I have 400 more posts to read to catch up. My wife and I put three children through college and are now recovering our costs and according to these posts suffering for a lack of frugality. Still change is possible. For the last qtr of 2015 I saved 25% of income on one job and 50% of income on a part time job. Interesting I did not miss any of the money. I still found though that something was missing even though I have access to a lot of financial planners. These posts make me rethink a lot of priorities. I look froward to more reading. :)

    • ilovescotch April 6, 2017, 5:38 pm

      I’m with you Sylvester. I heard about MMM on the Tim Ferriss show about a month ago, and I’ve just started cruising through all this stuff. Man oh man is this website an eye opener. Putting together a financial plan now to crush my and my wife’s student loan debt as I type.

  • Shaun December 30, 2015, 9:46 am

    My wife and I have started up our budget and just starting to knock down not-needed expenses such as cable TV and selling unused items on craigslist. Our plan is to save about 3500-4000 per month. I also own some apartments, but am not currently taking money out of there as that will be used to buy more. Am hoping to have enough saved to move onto sailboat with family and explore the world in about 5 years and live off of passive income.

    I currently have Life insurance, some term and some whole for my wife and I, but am wondering now if this was a smart idea. I am earning 7% on the whole policies, so do you count this towards savings?

    Great ideas and information!

  • RasmusJ March 20, 2016, 1:06 am

    Hi MMM,

    I just started reading your site here a few days ago. I actually came here because I got a link to a post you wrote about a lawsuit against you. Visiting the site I got curious, and started reading. Now I got 15 tabs open of stuff I want to read up on, and I got several bookmarks to posts on this site, that I want to return to.
    So I haven’t read all your posts, not even close, but I will get there, and I do like what I am reading :)

    Anyway, the reason I decided to write a reply here, is that this idea of cutting 75% of the cost of stuff, I find that very interesting, but for me I think it would be hard to do, and at the same time live by some other principles in my life.
    I think the most clear example for me is food. Organic food is rather popular here in Denmark, where I am living, and me and my girlfriend both like to buy organic groceries when possible – especially our vegatables, dairy products and meat.
    Now I am pretty sure that we could save a lot of money by going away from the organic products, and instead start buying the cheapest stuff on the selves. However that is really not a solution, both for health and moral reasons, so I guess we will have to try and cut down in other places instead, if we can :)

    Well, I guess my question is just, can you tell me if you managed both to live by principles, and keep you spendings low, or if you let one take priority over the other?

    Best regards,

  • Frugality Newbie March 27, 2016, 4:35 am

    Great post and generally agree with you, Mr Money Mustache. With the cheap clothing items (and a lot of other cheap things), probably worth noting that they might not have been ethically made. Yes they are made in countries where labour is cheaper but a $2 T-shirt still won’t generate any profit to the manufacturer…unless they use slave labour, that is.

    • Allison September 21, 2016, 11:37 am

      Have to agree with you on this one. These items don’t last! So the number of $5 t-shirts you buy adds up year after year instead of buying a good quality product. I think a better option is buying second-hand and also buying during sales. Quality is king!

    • Allison September 21, 2016, 11:41 am

      One way I’d like to challenge myself to saving money is buying both grocery items and clothing on sale. There is nothing worse then, for example, going into a clothing store and seeing how cheap things are and just realizing you got ripped off! I’m a Canadian living in Amsterdam. Here we have a store called Albert Heijn that have really good weekly deals. I want to challenge myself to only shopping for non-staples (those I can buy at cheaper stores) during the week to save money. The one thing I don’t compromise though on is good quality meat. In this case. I eat either vegetarian, or save in other categories to make up for my spending!

  • Sandy July 20, 2016, 6:26 am

    Love this blog! We only have mortgage debt and have twice taken jobs (or quit) the to live on less than half of prior wages. Feel Bad Ass about that… Loved your podcast with Strong Towns!

    Also a faith angle and social justice but that may be too preachy for MMM..

    How do I only spend 75% of average health costs when hubby and I (53 years old) both have medical issues. Answered a but of my own question by reducing stress and loosing 20 lbs to reduce high blood pressure pills. But we both have their issues. Hubby in particular benefits from my employers high end health coverage which we also add $200 / month plus $40 co-pays for many doctors. I would probably quit working if had same health coverage.

    Where can I estimate cost of full health coverage? Not just catastrophic coverage like you.

  • Johanna August 17, 2016, 6:27 pm

    To save $$ I cut my hair short (was costing me over 80$ for a cut and a color as a woman) and learned how to cut my hair and my husbands :) I made the mistake of getting my nails done, which was an even monthly trade if not more. No more professional nails, I can do that myself!

  • Andrew September 13, 2016, 8:31 pm


    Is there a good website in the US to help you find all the best way to save money, i.e, the cheapest mortgage, the cheapest phone contract, broadband, gas, electricity, etc?

    I’m moving to the US soon so need some good basics to start me off. Unfortunately I’ll probably have to start driving more (perhaps even a second car) and biking less as I’ll be moving to Houston and I understand it’s a car centric city,

    • Gentz September 13, 2016, 9:25 pm

      I’ve yet to hear of a city in Canada/US where you couldn’t bike from anywhere to anywhere. Before you drive from somewhere to somewhere, open up google maps and look for a biking route.

      As long as you’re moving within the city (especially in the downtown area) there is always a path for your bike.

  • Audrey December 29, 2016, 9:21 am

    I’ve been reading the first few posts on MMM and am getting really excited about cracking open some kind of magic that I haven’t thought of before – this post raises the question for me —

    What if you are *already* taking the low road? Our combined vehicles are $5k (paid in full when purchased) + yearly expenses. Our dining out is 1x/wk, if that. We don’t ride fancy or not fancy bikes, we like to hike. We shop at thrift shops. It’s going to take a fine-toothed comb for me to figure out where all our wasted money is going… it might be that our problem is an income problem and not an expenditure one?

    The one improvement I can think of is that the cell phone bill for two cell phones is $120/mo. Contract is up in December ’17 and when that happens we will be getting rid of the smartphones. Other than that – I’m stumped!

  • Shanice March 9, 2017, 11:06 am

    Question. I am 25 years old, and am just learning about money. Last summer I purchased a brand new car, and now I feel sick just reading this article, and realizing I am using 30% of my income on car payments alone. I took it to CarMax, and priced the value of turning it in, and I would still owe 8k in the hole. I have a car that broke down on me that I still own. It would cost $2,637 to fix. Do you think it is worth paying $8k to turn in my new car?

  • MWL March 16, 2017, 12:27 pm

    My dad helped me purchase a 1990 Toyota Corolla in 2004. It was the newest car I had ever owned. We paid $3,200. In 2008 I was hit by a drunk driver and car was totaled. Insurance paid $3600 for it. My dad and his buddy replaced a few parts and gave it to the buddy’s nephew. The nephew drove it for a few more years before it finally gave out all together.

  • Kelly Lavery May 3, 2017, 11:03 pm

    Used clothes are also an excellent idea. I live in Portland, which is pretty well known for having great Goodwills. I used to buy my clothes there until I started going to garage sales. You can get nice clothes for .25 to a couple dollars.

  • Emily May 9, 2017, 9:49 pm

    Not sure if anyone will actually see this but here’s an example of an expense I cannot reduce. I go to see a therapist about every week. Sometimes I can go longer but every week is best to keep me in a healthy mindset. With health insurance, this costs me $20 per visit. If you can see a way around this expense, please enlighten me. Because I don’t think it’s possible.

    • Deb August 11, 2017, 7:53 am

      First, if you need the guidance of a trained therapist, do Not stop going. Your mental health is Important! Now, since I don’t know your situation I do have some generic possible solutions. If you mostly need to go to talk and be heard and supported, you might be able to supplement or even replace these sessions with a supportive and highly trusted friend. If you do not have someone you’re comfortable sharing with, there are also a lot of online and in person support groups for people dealing with all kinds of issues. Your therapist might even be able to help you find some of these resources. In theory it could even help you more to talk to people whof truly understand. Just ideas/suggestions. Again, please do not do anything to compromise your mental health. If this is what works for you, keep doing it. As MMM says, you can cut spending from other expenses to make up for areas that can’t be cut.

  • Eric September 20, 2017, 6:11 am

    I agree with almost all of the money saving tips above except for shopping at Target. While I am, not perfect and sometimes also shop at Target, I believe there are much better options. Buying from places like Target tends to support abusive work environments in other countries, not to mention a healthy amount of chemicals and waste. Personally, and this may not work for everyone, I go to thrift stores for most of my clothes. Thrift stores, especially those in wealthier towns, tend to have very high quality goods for a few dollars a piece. But, when I want something high quality and activity specific I go with Patagonia. I know, I know they’re called Patagucci for a reason, but Patagonia has an incredibly ethical mindset behind producing their products. Fair pay, organic and recycled materials, all backed by a lifetime guarantee. So technically a rain jacket from Patagonia is the only rain jacket you’ll ever need to buy. Unfortunately in today’s economy it isn’t cheap to produce things in an ethical way, which is partly why Patagonia is expensive. Now if you can thrift store some Patagonia goods, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 1:07 pm

      Good point Eric – Thrift stores are awesome, useful adventurous places to shop and it helps to be reminded that they exist. I will stop by next time I need another pair of pants!

  • Dustin January 25, 2018, 10:54 am

    Man! My wife and I save 50% of our income, and I thought we were freaks of nature! It’s awesome to see this! My family already thinks I’m crazy.

  • Vel February 22, 2018, 9:35 am

    Another question on my preowned Prius 2010 car loan bought on 2015, has outstanding of 4k. I bought the car on cash, then refinanced (<2%) and used that money on different channel for investment with higher interest rates.
    Michigan, one of few 'No fault' state's have ridiculous cost on insurance. Now I have taken full insurance instead of going state minimum.
    The whole insurance game looks scam to me as I am paying 2000+ on geico insurance for a car worth 10k.

    So I plan to payout 4k and get car on my name, go with lower insurance. But risk is getting hit with a uninsured. Do you think the cost to risk is worth?
    Or the other plan is to refinance it again, get the extra money and invest it, the interest would pay for the extra cost involved but there is lot of work for me.
    Whay would be a frugal point of view?

  • Kate May 18, 2020, 9:55 pm

    This is really motivating! I’m getting ready to move back to the U.S. after a few years abroad (with a much lower cost of living) and it’s been hard to decide the smartest way to do that. I think I’m going to move to an inexpensive city (Kansas City) and buy a house (no mortgage) in an up-and-coming neighborhood. My ex-husband and I did something similar in DC 10 years ago, and within a few years, we’d made a lot of money as the neighborhood became more desirable. Of course, we had a mortgage and all of the costs associated, which I’ll avoid this time. Thanks to this post, I’ve decided that I’ll furnish my home exclusively with used items. It will be fun, plus mid-century items are trendy now anyway! Also, I know with all the other consumers in the city, I’ll be able to get their used items in great condition for half the price. (Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way as I was leaving the country and sold almost new items for next to nothing. :( I’m looking forward to the creative challenge!

  • Eric Williams March 24, 2021, 1:32 pm

    Food is always a big one, I have a drastic idea that I implemented. I just make “take-out” meals at home. Like I love Grilled Chicken and Mushrooms w/ Broccoli which would sell at Applebees for like 25 bucks with tax. Instead I’ll just make it once a week and cut my costs.

  • Zoe November 7, 2022, 10:38 am

    Here’s my challenge to you. I’m in the UK, how on earth do I live on a pension that is 75% less than average? I am a couple of decades off retirement and currently have a pension pot of less than 10% of average annual income so am looking at a miserable old age! Prices for property are phenomenally more expensive than USA eg. 12x average annual salary. (based on mean salary £32k but median is £26k and mode is minimum wage which millions are on) A 3 bed house costs £300 to 400k. Petrol & Diesel is more expensive here, not far off £2 a litre so 40miles journey more like £10. Food and dining out also more expensive here. Help!


Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets