You see, Mrs. Money Mustache* is an indispensable part of our shared empire of frugality. Believe it or not, she was generally just as excited as I was about making an extra payment on the mortgage. Or buying and selling stuff on Craigslist whenever possible instead of resorting to retail. And she’ll tend to cough just as loudly as I will when she hears about someone borrowing money to buy a new car, or notices everyone driving places that could easily be biked.
“Where can I find such a dream mate for myself,” you may ask?
You may already have one – read on!
When we were just a young couple, we carried along the financial habits from our earlier lives. I was pretty much the way I am now, but young Miss M. was more of a normal person. When we eventually decided to move in together in Colorado and she landed a good job, she celebrated the new lifestyle by acquiring a taste for stylish outdoor active clothing. And a latte and snack each workday at the coffee shop near work. And the odd book from Amazon.com when interesting titles came along. Even I got into the spirit of things, celebrating a job upgrade of my own with a gleaming new motorcycle in 2001. We kept or finances mostly separated – each of us felt we were doing well, but we didn’t really have any joint goals.
The problem was, those packages from Athleta and Amazon kept coming, even when she already had every season covered with sharp gear options. So did the books. The lattes and snacks weren’t going anywhere since you need one each day. And my $10,000 motorcycle soon depreciated to $5000 even though it only had a few thousand miles on it.
So one day we had the Talk. It was a talk about our future, how we both seemed so busy with work, yet we hoped to have children in a few years. I was already into the idea of living off of investments someday, so I threw out the idea of retiring early.. as in BEFORE starting a family.
Was it possible? Some simple math showed that it definitely was (see the later post called “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” for some of the numbers).
Then we dug out the last year worth of credit card statements. This woman has a thing for spreadsheets, so every category of expenses was totaled in various ways. What we learned is something that probably applies to most people: we were spending way more than expected on seemingly very small things. Like $700 per year on fancy coffee, and over a grand on clothing despite the fact that our closets were already full when we started. Books were several hundred per year too.
It’s hard to give up things that are fun, and reading is definitely one of them. But the key was that we noticed ways to get the same enjoyment with drastically less spending. We could get the same books from the LIBRARY. We probably didn’t actually need more clothing, especially if we would be quitting the jobs soon. We still liked restaurants, but maybe they could be a special occasion rather than a daily habit.
Now here’s the golden nugget of this post: At that moment, a switch flipped in my future wife’s mind and she was suddenly very excited about becoming a Mrs. Money Mustache herself.
“Who wouldn’t give up a few books and clothes and lattes if it meant getting to work less while you have kids!?,” she asked.
The second neat cash catalyst was showing her how to set up her own investment accounts on Vanguard.com. I had already been stashing money away in my account there for a year or two, but once she had her own and was able to start transferring in paychecks, everything took off. I started getting nightly reports of the deposits and stock performance, and we’d compare our “net worth” summaries on the website.
Ever since the magic switch, our agreement on family finances has been golden. There are no arguments over money if you both share the same philosophy and goals. And now as parents of a young child, things are much less stressful when there are no worries over budget or lack of available time to spend with him.
It’s also nice to have such a complicated common interest. We can talk for hours about future plans, how to be able to afford them by being even more frugal or shuffling money this way or that, and about how incredibly bright things are looking in general. It would probably sound pretty mundane and self-congratulatory to an outsider, but it beats arguing about who didn’t do the dishes.
So if you want to move quickly with your own wealth plans, you’ll need buy-in from your own little Mister or Missus.
If you’re single, you also have lots going for you too – low expenses, free time to put in overtime for extra earnings if you enjoy your job, and the potential to go to Hardcore Black Belt frugality modes that married people could only dream of, like keeping the furnace off until December or having back-to-back Buy-Nothing months.
But unless you remain single forever, you too might want to prepare for The Talk eventually, and think about how any potential mates would respond if you do whip out the big Money Mustache on them at some point in the relationship.
*(it is a sign of ultimate respect that she earns this title).