Weekend Edition: What would the Native Americans Do?

One of my secret tricks to figure out what activities are really worthwhile in life, is to look back to the Original and Ultimate Mustachians of this continent – the Native Americans.

These were a people who lived together in a very rich culture which was based entirely on their natural environment. The animals and plants and the weather became gods and spirits to them, and their religion served as a guide to practical living in a way that kept everyone healthy, including the surrounding ecosystem.

They felt respect for the animals they killed and used every available part for food, clothing, housing, and tools. This common understanding of their Earth gave the people something healthy to focus on, and allowed them to prosper for thousands of years while leaving a very light footprint.

While I rarely wear a loincloth myself these days, I still think there is much to be learned from the original way of life. These people were BAD ASS, for starters. Imagine being physically fit and with extreme physical skills you put into use every day. Like running for eight hours while tracking prey, shooting an arrow from a bow you made yourself  to fatally hit a moving bear in the EYE and bring it down before it escapes or eats you. Or inventing ways to get you and your tribe through a Rocky Mountain winter using only things you harvested from the land with your own hands.

And then there was the music and dancing. This was an actual part of the community – men, women, and kids ALL singing and making some truly funky beats around the fire, way more often than we get to do it these days, unless you’re lucky enough to be in a band.

Badassity has its own rewards – becoming truly great at something difficult brings a deep happiness that Cable TV can never match. When you cultivate a real physical or mental skill, it becomes one of the burning coals in your soul, or a glowing golden strand in your Mustache, one of the things that defines who you are and gives you confidence that you can accomplish other difficult things. Instead of running from challenge, or spending money to avoid it, you actually enjoy and embrace challenge more and more. This becomes a virtuous circle and you gain even more confidence. Thus, it can be said that Badassity is Happiness itself. And Happiness is the real point of Mr. Money Mustache himself.

The Natives knew how to have a rich and healthy life while buying Nothing for thousands of years. So while you and I are pretty much stuck buying things these days, we can still embrace our inner Badass Native Spirit when making decisions, and start to become a bit more Naked and Muscular about everything we do.

Yes you CAN ride a bike to work, even when it’s winter, because that makes you more Native and thus more happy. You CAN find a new job that’s closer to home, or a new home that’s closer to work. Because that’s effort that makes you stronger and happier – both the effort itself and the rewards that it brings. You can also clean your own house, mow your own lawn with a non-gasoline mower, and lift olympic barbells with your own hands and using knowledge you learned by reading a book with your own eyes. You can trade and barter with other real humans in your community by buying and selling things used, instead of just driving to a store every time you need something. All of this is simply an expression of becoming a more Native-like and Badass person, and to become rich and retire early, you MUST become BADASS.

It takes effort, but the good news is this effort itself is a gift that makes you become happier and sleep more soundly And the Canyon-Filling Money Mustache it brings, as awesome as it is, is only a side benefit.

As you kick more ass over time, tell us all of your accomplishments in the comments!

  • Ealasaid Haas September 8, 2011, 4:07 pm

    My understanding is that the trope of the Native Americans living in harmony with the land is part of the Noble Savage stereotype and only partly true. It’s worth doing some research into that. Their impact on the environment was much less than ours because there were fewer of them around and they didn’t have our tech, but they weren’t totally green, either. Natives in many parts of the world have driven species to extinction and slash-and-burned massive amounts of forest.

    Plus, of course, there was such enormous variation in tribes’ cultures and beliefs that writing pretty much anything about “Native Americans” other than very wide generalizations is a fool’s errand. :)

    • MMM September 8, 2011, 4:27 pm

      Well, that’s all true if you want to get all fancy and academic about it, but my point remains the same – we can all take the inspiration of Badassity from Mr. Money Mustache’s Native American Stereotype, and use it to our advantage. This blog is not actually a detailed Native History Studies forum. It’s more of a forum for me to write silly and inspirational shit every day, that gets us all riled up to save our money.

      • Jaketucson January 9, 2012, 12:25 am

        I love the silly and inspirational shit on this blog! I’ve been riled up for three days now as I read all this! I know from all my reading here that MMM is also a voracious reader and interested in Earth issues, so if you’re interested in whether or not Native Americans lived in harmony with the land, check out “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. It’s been a few years since I read it but the basic premise (if I remember correctly) is that climate change happens (doesn’t matter if it’s naturally ocurring or man-influenced), so we should probably live in a way that is sustainable because as climate changes we’ll screw ourselves if we don’t. That’s my two-second book report.

        • Emmers August 7, 2012, 5:04 pm

          YES, definitely read Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel.

          Facts >>> bullshit stereotypes, any day. (I’m sure Diamond’s facts aren’t perfect, but still.)

          • gwen July 15, 2015, 2:38 pm

            I’m native and trying to be badass. Lots of natives are not badass anymore for a lot of legacy reasons, eg, residential school etc. But its something to aspire too. Money is interesting, as in it was not part of the bad ass culture so takes some getting used too,. great blog.

    • Gromm November 15, 2016, 1:30 pm

      On top of all this, it’s also not fair to say that they bought nothing either. Even the most remote Inuit tribes traded with other tribes, just because some things were abundant in one area and not so much in others. And that’s not even getting into the advanced cultures of the Incas and Aztecs, who had currency if I’m not mistaken.

      The problem that we have today is vastly different from what they had to deal with. We all have many more tempting offers of luxury at every turn, and equal amounts of money flying our way. All we have to do is avoid spending the mad stacks of cash that we make.

  • Heidi January 23, 2012, 3:54 am

    Another book suggestion: 1491 by Charles Mann. Amazing book about life in the Americas prior to 1492. I was struck by your comment about riding your bike in winter b/c that makes you more native. My 2 kiddos (adopted) are Navajo. In the winter they always remind me that they are invulnerable to cold b/c their birth mom rolled them in snow when they were babies. I am not sure why my daughter is always turning up the thermostat…

    • sheep August 7, 2012, 6:27 pm

      Oh my gosh I can not agree with Heidi enough about recommending 1491. It’s terrific. It’s mostly about the many different cultures and technologies of the pre-columbian people, exploring a lot of new research about them, and it also touches on the environmental impact some of them had.

    • Tina May 26, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Hi Heidi,
      Very much enjoying all the reading. I am Native American Indian (Navajo). Your adopted kids probably like snow. As do I. Raised on the reservation but now living off. Still very much connected to my Culture & Traditions and go home as much as possible to attend ceremonies and reconnect with my relatives. Rolling in the snow was so the individual would prepare their body to endure the extreme cold of winter. As well as to not get sick. This would be done with the 1st snow fall every year, if the individual choose to participate. Other tribes would take a newborn to the creek. My Grandmother who passed at 99 years this year had a wealth of knowledge. For heating she only used a wood stove, no A/C, no TV, and by choice lived in her home by herself up until her passing. She lived simple, only the necessity. Materialistic items are nothing compared to what she taught/gave me. My real hero in life. A beautiful person you are for welcoming adopted children into your heart. Reminds me of my Grandmother’s love. Thank you. Much blessings and love to you and your family.

    • Richard July 5, 2017, 8:45 am

      So I loved this blog post, even if it is stereotypical re: Native peoples. How close to the land can we live? How little can we buy with currency?

      But I like the book recommendations, too. Off to the library I go (NOT Amazon, as per my habit before this blog) to check out 1491!

  • October MacBain January 23, 2012, 7:21 am

    I, too, am new to this blog. Started reading last week and I’m loving it. We’re not in the financial situation Mr. MM and Mrs. MM were when they started – our combined take-home is about $55,000 per year – but we are minimalizing, cutting spending where we can, paying down our debt (everything but the mortgage will be paid off by April 2013), and working toward moving to the southwest where we can settle in and set ourselves up for retirement. Whether that retirement will come early remains to be seen, but we’re going for it!

    A hearty thanks to MMM for bringing this fantastically entertaining financial blog to us. I really want to become a Senior Mustachian.

    • Anon. May 17, 2013, 4:23 pm

      Its just past April- hope you made it and Congratulations!!!

  • Jackson February 8, 2012, 12:23 pm

    “Well, that’s all true if you want to get all fancy and academic about it, but my point remains the same – we can all take the inspiration of Badassity from Mr. Money Mustache’s Native American Stereotype, and use it to our advantage. This blog is not actually a detailed Native History Studies forum. It’s more of a forum for me to write silly and inspirational shit every day, that gets us all riled up to save our money.”

    Haha. The above quote cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh. You’re a funny guy, MMM.

  • Nik February 9, 2012, 7:19 am

    another good read, thanks for re-posting MRS. MM :)

  • lurker February 9, 2012, 8:26 am

    don’t forget the fighting between tribes. the singing and harmony was within tribe only. most tribal names translate to “the people” and all outsiders were seen as suspect at best. of course the tribe of Moustachians is clearly superior to all others in all regards so bring them on….Geronimo!

  • Dave February 11, 2012, 9:45 am

    Us European transplants definitely have a way of idolizing and romanticizing Native Americans, though I appreciate the thrust of Mrs. Money Mustache’s post. Don’t forget that we too are descendant from “Native” populations, that is, the ancient cultures in Europe who lived in very similar communities to the Native Americans. I think we can learn valuable Mustachian lessons from those cultures as well. Mr. Money Mustache loves the BBC and so do I, if you want a great primer course on ice, stone, bronze and iron age Britain check out this 2011 series, which a kind soul (youtube user PIETRASZE) across the pond has uploaded to youtube:


    I would suggest watching it now, or downloading the whole series. Eventually the BBC has these things taken down. It’s divided into A History of Ancient Britain and A History of Celtic Britain. If you love history like I do its some of the most riveting stuff you will ever see, and shows North American descendants of these cultures what their own “Native” ancestors were up to across the pond, tens upon tens of thousands of years ago.

  • Belcat February 14, 2012, 11:06 am

    Completely off-topic, but Native Americans tended to have more reasonable views of gays as well, calling them “two-spirited”. Contrast that with all the nonsense going on now…

  • B Casanova December 10, 2012, 6:07 pm

    I love the native idea. I am committing to a lifelong mile challenge. I have been running at least a mile a day since March 31st 2012. I have run in sun and snow, boots and flipflops, while sick and even the day after being poisoned by undercooked beans (who knew). At the very least I am running an extra 365+ miles a year. My decreased overall medical/health expenses more than cover my shoe and fitness budget, so am am saving money and improving quality of life. Who said mustachian philosophy can’t buy happiness?

    • GeauxBig November 25, 2013, 5:38 pm

      What an awesome idea. A mile a day. Who doesn’t have an extra 5-10 minutes right?

      • PO March 29, 2016, 6:21 pm

        15-20 if you’re old and slow – lol!

  • teen persuasion May 31, 2013, 8:57 am

    MMM, your comment about not getting to make music much these days struck a chord with me. If your schools are anything like our local school district, just wait until your little guy is old enough to begin music instruction. My kids are just music fanatics: orchestra, band, chorus, musicals, church contemporary group, the list goes on and on.

    The more instruments they learn, the more they want to try, the more their sibs want to try also. So far, we’ve had: violin, viola, string bass, electric bass, electric guitar, piano/keyboard, trumpet, tuba, trombone, cello, and voice (one alto, one soprano). Kid number 5 is just selecting his first instrument for next school year. There is always a musical discussion going on when the kids are around, and they can’t seem to resist singing or humming at all times.

    Over the years, we’ve employed many frugal avenues to allowing the kids to pursue their musical inclinations. We’ve rented small string instruments while the kids were growing and thus rapidly changing size of instruments. Some of the kids have bought used full size instruments off e-bay and Craiglist after researching good makers. The larger instruments were lent by the school district at no charge (bass, tuba, trombone).

  • John July 31, 2013, 7:29 am

    I just started reading Mr. MMM a few days ago and working my way through all previous posts. It is taking me a while because I like reading the comments as well. Teen persuasion your post made me think about what I was thinking as I am reading and learning to become a jr mustachian. Finding hobbies that do not cost a lot of money is what I am after now. I love music, specifically playing guitar. You have some great advice on getting kids into music on the cheap. One of my goals is to get to a point where I can pass on what I have learned on guitar and about music to people especially children, for free. There are many sites online that teach guitar and some are even free. Of course you have to be careful that what you are getting taught is legitimate. So I am going to start the processes of going through the various online music lesson sites and find the ones that are good and cheap if not free and hopefully pass this information on to would be guitarist out there. I also want to eventually learn to repair and build instruments and buy used quality ones to fix up and pass on to others for as cheap as possible. This is just one of my many motivations to start growing my money mustache. Thank you all for the inspiration!

  • Sofie October 20, 2013, 4:46 am

    Another book: Iroquoian Women by Barbara Mann, about their society. Maybe most mustachian was how status worked – they didn’t have conspicious spending, they had conspicious giving away. Thus the most powerful people were often those who appeared to have the least, and all the people were fed & well cared for.

  • Little Acorns March 9, 2014, 4:04 pm

    Hi MMM,
    Thanks! Great blog all around and this post was one of the best! This is definitely what I’m going for: some Native BADASSNESS. Started walking everytime I can rather than taking the car, taking stairs rather than the lift, decided to try cycling to work soon even though there are some logistical problems… Also getting into virtually free exercise such as running and free phone apps for workouts at home.
    Let’s not forget that all native cultures were badass, and we ALL come from these badass guys, whether a short or a longer time ago! Hope to become an accomplished Mustachian soon.

  • Monika Decker June 14, 2014, 8:04 pm

    I’m a mustachian in training!
    Last week I stupidly damaged the fence between my yard and a neighbor’s. An entire section needed to be replaced. At first I thought the “responsible/adult” (aka socially acceptable) thing to do was call a fencing company. But being a badass, I bought some wood and built it myself! Learned how to use a skilsaw and hammer correctly in the process! It’s the most beautiful fence I’ve ever seen:)
    Badassity=life skills (and not caring what people think/expect of you)

  • Katana Leigh June 23, 2014, 1:19 am

    I am Cree Native American and think this is a pretty nice post, although my family on the reserve to this day is still going out and picking wild blueberries and storing gallons and gallons of them in the freezer, making our own bannock (it’s basically a scone- recipe on my website), and fishing or hunting. There is a joke that my mom tells about two neighbours who each get a broken window from an enthusiastic baseball playing kid on their street. The one family spends a few hundred dollars on a new window, and then is irritated that the other family has diy’d an eyesore solution of plastic tarp. The first family goes over and asks when they plan on fixing their window, and the response is, “but it is fixed.” — functionality!

  • Amy November 6, 2014, 10:01 pm

    Like many others, I just found the site and am reading through the posts from beginning to end. First of all, I realize now that you and my husband may be brothers from other mothers. So much of what you say have been the things he has patiently (in his mind) telling me over the last 12 years. And I have grown immensely- and while I am only 3 day into reading the posts (and all the comments– you get great comments!!)– we are clearly living many of the tenants of a ‘stach life.

    But that is not why I am writing– I am here to let you know that when our kids were babies, and we were new parents, our mantra, when we didn’t know what to do (ie all the time) was to ask ourselves….. what would a human living on the savannah 10,000 years ago do? It weeded so much of the baby bullshit right out the window. This post brought me right back to those days…… can’t wait to read more!

  • atxviking January 28, 2015, 9:06 pm

    Was very intrigued by the book recommendation 1491. Per the usual ran to Amazon looking to make a purchase. Talk about a mindset change in only a few weeks. Instead of making the purchase decided to check local public library online catalog. Lo and behold it is available at a local branch! Even more AMAZEBALLS was learning the public library supports EPUB downloads as well as direct borrowing through Amazon via Kindle Fire!!! So now am sitting here with a glass of Bourbon reading this sweet book for free. Saved over $10 workers and likely hundreds throughout the year with this little discovery.

    Related to the booze budget. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey FTW. Great American made product and cost effective. Check it out, you’ll drop Scotch like the expensive habit it can be!

  • Mark L November 24, 2015, 8:26 am

    Great post. My badass moment for the week was getting rid of my smartphone plan and trimming back to a phone that I can text and call people. I have a small amount of data that rolls over each month for emergency use only. I just reused my old phone so no new phone purchase was made. 63 dollar a month plan down to 15 dollar a month. The cheapest I could find in Canada (Land of the ripoff cell phone). I would love to get rid of a phone all together but I require it for my career and communication (I have no home phone)

  • Winslow July 19, 2016, 6:13 am

    We live in Hawaii, so I often find myself thinking how epic it would have been to experience the pre-European island culture. There are also times when I’m diving or hiking the mountain ridges when I try to transport myself to the native existence. I will always have great admiration for those who harness nature ethically and live close to the land. I spent a summer after college thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. So far, this was the closest experience I’ve had to breaking down life to its most elemental components and being immersed in nature. I also had lots of other friends on the trail – it was a tribal experience hangin with a misfit band of rif raf. Thanks for encouraging us to connect to the native forces.

  • ejimen10 December 31, 2021, 3:55 pm

    What is up yall. Saludos from El Paso TX. I sleep in a tent now on some property I financed for 6,000 dollars. Every month when payment is due I find that it doesn’t irk me because I know that money will eventually turn into a deed with my name on it. Compared to the 700 dollars in rent I was tossing out of my hands each month this 250 dollar payment is quite the enjoyable release of money. I also find that sleeping in a tent actually reduces the “homley” duties down to almost none. Al I worry about it that it’s up and dry and clean if I want to have a lady over. I Build a fire and sit and watch the stars and go to bed. When I wake, I walk 1.5 miles to my bike and then ride another 1.5 miles to work. At the end of the day I go to the gym where I am a member and shower. The most beautiful feeling about this whole experience besides it’s novelty is when I walk passed the huge electric poles and get “out”. Feels light and lovey out there. And remember, we may sleep in our homes but we live everywhere. Much love and positivity and thank you for sharing so much knowledge and expecting nothing in return. True beauty.


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