Exposed! The MMM Family’s Actual Spending

Mr. Money Mustache is a bit of a Natural Frugalist. For me, buying anything beyond groceries  is like giving birth, where there is great thought, planning, and nine months of physical stretching and pain involved before the actual wallet emerges slowly from the pocket.

Because of this, I find that I spend very little when left to my own devices, and the resulting trail of credit card statements is quite boring, not really worth adding up or reviewing. The real fun is in trying to get the net worth statement and the investment accounts to look better over time.

But now I’m a family man. There is MUCH more money being spent these days, with things like family vacations, doctors and dentists, preschool, charitable donations, special kinds of food for fussy eaters, and who knows what else. THIS type of spending IS worth adding up to see where a new parent’s money is going.

Luckily, Mrs. Money Mustache a bit of a Spreadsheet Ninja. We don’t use a budget for our monthly spending, but when I set her free on the credit card statements, she rapidly parsed a year’s thousand little transactions into a fantastic categorized list to see how much we actually spent last year. Since we put pretty much 100% of our spending on a nice high-cash-back credit card, it makes things quite easy to track.

Ahh, the year 2010. Our most expensive year to date, due to feeling rather relaxed with money. But it’s OK – we had already fully reached our early retirement goals, yet we continued to do some fun part-time work. If we were still fighting to grow the ‘Stash, these numbers would be a bit lower. But regardless, let us now Check-checkitout…

Mortgage Interest $3,625 (in 2010 we still had a mortgage and the $1135 payment reflected a what was originally a balance of $212,500 with a 30-year amortization schedule. Since the mortgage was mostly paid off by 2010, most of this was principal, however, so the interest portion was only $3625.)
Childcare/Preschool/Elementary: $6,665 (this drops to $2,500 next year for full-day kindergarten – hooray!)
Travel: $4,151 (hey, we have a lot of free time and spent almost 3 months visiting family or Sunny Southern destinations last year. But this year also included a trip on a Cruise ship. Educational for one trip, but far too cheesy and commercial so we will not be repeating.)
Groceries: $3,855 (including while traveling since we buy most travel food at grocery stores. Mostly organic when possible, but meat-related stuff is not a big part of the diet)
Property Taxes: $2,292
Miscellaneous: $2,420 (including a digital camera, local art and swimming classes for the kid, clothing, shoes, household products, bike parts, an iPhone,  etc.)
Home renovations/repairs/landscaping: $1,819
Utilities: $1,260 (Gas, Water, Electric, Trash+Recycling)
Health & Fitness: $1,080 (the Mrs. is part of a very non-Mustachian fitness gym called Crossfit @ $135/mo. A reward for retirement, I suppose.. sigh. I am still content with my plain old barbell set.)
Gas: $777 (inc. driving trips to Canada and the Gulf of Mexico)
Home and Car Insurance: $707 (home has 5k deductible, car is liability-only)
Restaurants & Bars: $524 (much of these during vacations)
Charitable Donations: $374
Medical/Dental: $366 (2 copays, 1 urgent care visit, 1 pediatric dental visit)
Wine & Beer: $269
Auto Services: $32 (5 quarts oil, a filter, and windshield wipers)
Cell phone: $120 or $10 per month (the Mrs. negotiated a company-paid cell phone so MMM tags along for an extra $10 on a family plan ;-))
Mother’s Day Garden Plants: $77
Coffee Shop: $41
Magazine Subscription (OwlKids): $30
Driver’s License Renewal: $22
Movies: $18 (the Mrs. went to 2 movies with the ladies)
Used books: $8
Internet Service: $0 – again paid for by a part-time employer. Otherwise this figure would be about $400 per year.

Total of Everything: $30,500
Total excluding Mortgage: $26,885

Estimate for next year (no mortgage, child in elementary school, no cruises): $21,695.

We could probably get down to $20,000 with a little extra efficiency. This seems to be happening already this year, as I have become even more anti-consumer since starting to write the MMM blog. Mrs M and I both feel we spent with abandon in 2010
I know some of you are beating us on a cost-per-person basis. And yet another group of the people currently spending $100,000 per year on a family don’t believe numbers like these are possible. If you’d like,  share your triumphs and hardships in the comments!

Update: After writing this article, many people asked about health insurance. Right now, Mrs. M. has negotiated some “free” coverage as part of her pay from a part-time employer. Without that coverage, we would get a high-deductible plan for about $240 – $320 per month for the family, as described in a later health insurance article. This is indeed a significant cost at about 15% of our future annual spending – luckily the cashflow from retirement assets is already high enough to cover this expense if we did quit the part-time work eventually.

  • Frugal Vegan Mom May 27, 2011, 2:30 pm

    That’s really interesting, I do the same – charge everything and itemize it on a monthly basis.

    What card do you use that has the good cash back rewards? We also have rewards, couldn’t say what %, but have gotten some nice checks/target gift cards. It’s a Chase Visa.

    And your wine/beer category makes me feel like a lush, we don’t drink high end stuff, but still have trouble keeping that to under $100/mo., I guess we have people over a lot too though.

  • Roger May 27, 2011, 2:34 pm

    I guess you don’t have to pay for health insurance premiums?

  • Amy May 27, 2011, 2:53 pm

    Just found your blog and it is really fun to read. I am also hoping to retire early, though it is still many years away. (15 -20 years by my calculations, boo) After the mortgage and daycare we are spending 23K a year.

  • mike crosby May 27, 2011, 3:36 pm

    I’ve never budgeted myself, but it’s cool to see your numbers.

    Boy, that’s quite a drop from this year to the next–almost 50%. It’s been through reading blogs like your’s and ERE’s that I’ve come to realize it just doesn’t take much money to live, and still have a great life.

  • Adam May 27, 2011, 5:00 pm

    Mr. M. Mustache,

    I enjoy your blog and the detailed spending you published above. My question is: are ‘retired’ or just a stay at home dad with a good handle on spending / saving? Also, why are you spending so much money on schooling for your kid if you and the Mrs are around the house all the time?


    • MMM May 27, 2011, 7:03 pm

      Hi Adam,

      Damn, that is the second time this month that someone has challenged my status as a retired man!

      I would say we are definitely retired in my own definition, in that the passive income from our savings/investments is higher than the spending detailed in this article.

      But when you quit your job this young, I find that you have an overwhelming amount of energy and you can’t help but make at least SOME money. We both like to do part-time work in our fields of interest to keep our minds active and to socialize with other adults. Lest you scorn us for being Continued Slaves for The Man, we only do it on our own terms – all work must be done from home, work days never begin before 9:30AM, and we get unlimited vacation time with nobody allowed to tell us when we have to work. We end up using 100% of our part-time income for either extra savings or helping out family members and occasional charities in need, since technically the retirement ‘Stash funds the lifestyle.

      The work and socialization is also an explanation for the preschool: With no school, our son (who is an only child) would just be at home with his parents 24 hours a day. This is great for babies aged 0-2, since they don’t need as much interaction with other kids. But after that, I feel kids need to be out in the rough and tumble world with other kids, to learn that not everyone is a patient adult and sometimes you have to follow the rules of other people, and sometimes people take your toys away and hit you over the head with wooden blocks. Real-world learning.

      Also, when the son goes to preschool, Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache get to go on bike rides and hikes together.

      Preschool is a big expense that we would definitely be dropped if the money supply ever became thin, but as I always say, this blog is not about living on the cheap, it’s about living the Good Life on the cheap.

      So, I’m as retired as I can possibly be. I am not capable of doing zero work and golfing all day. If this is the definition of retirement, I guess I never get to retire ;-(

      • Adam May 27, 2011, 7:25 pm

        Thanks for the reply!

        I don’t have kids yet, but your reasoning for sending your child to school makes a lot of sense.

        I like the idea of working on your own terms; as most of us HAVE to work to continue saving and pay the bills, until our staches fill in.

      • Prachipres June 10, 2011, 7:46 pm

        Why not try homeschooling? I know many families of single children who get plenty of socializing with other homeschooled families?

      • Prachipres June 10, 2011, 7:53 pm

        I never know what is enough in this “Stash” you call. We have close to 900k but our expenses are so high still with seven of us living here(have 5 kids ages 23 down to 6). We can’t seem to keep our expenses under $5500/month(live in Canada) and this is no mortgage either. After reading your expenses column, I am almost embarrassed to post mine.

        • MMM June 11, 2011, 12:29 am

          Yeah, if you want to post your expenses, it could make for a fun comparison. Or send it to me in a private message through the contact button if you want.

          $5500 per month does sound awfully expensive, even with your family having 2.3 times as many people as mine. It all depends on your goals, however. If you and the gang are really interested in becoming more financially independent and using your sizeable ‘Stash to allow you to drop down to an early semi-retirement, there is surely a way to slice at least a thousand or two from the monthly costs. But I also understand that not everyone has this goal.

          • Pachipres June 11, 2011, 8:33 pm

            Thanks MMM. You are so incredibly quick to respond. I have been devouring your blog and the responses for the last two days. I feel very motivated to work toward even a 4 day work week for dh. You have reinspired me!!

    • Steve May 31, 2011, 11:39 am

      @Adam: I think you could ask most any retired person….”Are you ‘retired’ or just a….?” My mother is retired, and she is active in church, politics, helping with grandkids, and she even works a little every now and then. You may find cases that are black and white, but I think you will find that there is a lot of shades of gray as far as retirement is concerned.

      Children are the same way. I know women that are in the Leleche thingamajig(ladies I ain’t disparaging it-I’m in awe of it), and home school, and even find time to baby sit other children. Then there are people who don’t have children and don’t want them. In the middle there are plenty of others…like me, and I love my daughter dearly, but I need time for myself. A couple hundred dollars a month is small change as far as your sanity is concerned.

      I kid…but in a way I don’t. It takes a village to raise a child. And in our case, it may take two. LOL.

  • herbert salisbury May 27, 2011, 5:02 pm

    Dear MMM,
    It does amaze me that my single-person lifestyle spends about as much money as your entire family does. I’m really leaning way back on the spending this month, our $200 challenge is still going strong. My mustache is hardly covering my upper lip, let alone flapping free off the sides of my face.
    One thing I did a few weeks ago was build a detailed spreadsheet of my finances, projecting all my various types of investments and factoring in tax laws and all that other finicky crap. I made it so employment income could become 0 at any point, and then correctly show what would happen to your savings over the years, and all that good stuff. I can send it to you, but it’s all canadian tax laws, and makes some assumptions like you do max RRSP and TFSA contributions every year.
    Anyway, once it was all working, by tweaking a few entries at the top I could instantly see the difference in putting in several months of late nights to earn more money making an iphone app or whatever, vs just spending less money, and how that affects the bottom line over time. I’m the type of person that understands the theory, but really needs to play with the numbers to embrace it at a deeper level. I bet other mustachians would benefit from such an application. I KNOW that bringing my lunch to work will allow me to be free sooner. But how much sooner? Let’s see what the spreadsheet says… HOLY SHIT!
    h s
    PS, what’s your current distance record for popping a wheelie on your bicycle?

    • MMM May 27, 2011, 7:16 pm


      Only about 100 feet, although I’ve been meaning to practice that shit up so I can do it for an unlimited period of time. There is no excuse for a 36-year-old retired man not to be able to do an Unlimited Wheelie.

      Also, if you want to share a Fancy Spreadsheet, and eventually a Personal Finance IPhone App with us all, I’m sure many of Mr. Money Mustache’s readers would enjoy checking it out. We’re not all Americans here.

      • me June 22, 2011, 2:14 pm

        Please don’t stop swearing. “I’ve been meaning to practice that shit up” is eternally more funny than “I’ve been meaning to practice that up.”

        • George Tennessee Wiseman September 4, 2011, 11:44 am

          Oh, HELL yeah. Just found MMM yesterday (via Lifehacker, I think it was) and I’m currently in the process of reading everything here, as I’m really enjoying it, but just wanted to heartily concur with “me’s” comment “Please don’t stop swearing.” Cussing (as they call it in Tennessee) separates the mustaches from the folks without one. No sexism intended, ladies.

    • Jackie August 12, 2012, 9:53 am

      Is this spreadsheet on here somewhere? I’m new and just starting to look around!


    • Karen December 1, 2014, 8:40 pm

      Herbert I would LOVE to see your spreadsheet, is it something you would share?

  • Rainbow Rivers May 27, 2011, 5:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. It is always facinating to me how people of different income brackets spend and earn income and lets us get a good glimpse of others lifestyles. I felt knots in my stomach seeing your expenses as somehone on a low income spends much differently than that of a middle class, yet as you so eloquently pointed out someone at an affluent level of $100,000 a year would say you could not do it on that middle class example.

    I am so enjoying your blog and shows some glaringly different options, yours offers sound and great advice for those on middle class where I blog to show those with families on low incomes that it is still possible to save, invest, increase income and make sound financial choices to improve their future and still retire early.

    Most my husbands family is from the affluent levels of money and constantly tell us we can not be possibly “living” and actually look down on us, funny thing is my husband is my best friend and after 12 years are still madly in love, we are blessed, we are full of happiness and joy and we have happy children with very close relationships to us. My husbands family, while having tons of money and all the latest things consumerism can buy, are deeply lacking in love , joy and happiness. So who is “living”?

    • MMM May 27, 2011, 7:10 pm

      Hi Ms. Rivers!

      Excellent, it is very nice to hear someone saying we are spending a ton of money, because I agree! It is definitely very possible for a family to live on much less than the $40,000 (including mortgage) that the Money Mustache family spent last year.

      My argument is just that it is UNNECESSARY for any family to spend even more than us on a per-person basis. We already have a very luxurious life. The byproduct of this mentality would be that America’s middle and upper-middle classes would stop complaining about imaginary financial problems, very quickly become rich, and the Earth would be saved from consumer-driven destruction.

      Your own blog is also a wonderful thing – helping lower income people lead a better life through financial discipline. This is a worthwhile cause in itself. The only reason I don’t address those issues in my own blog is that lower-income people are not the ones destroying the world :-)

      • Rainbow Rivers May 28, 2011, 8:13 am

        So agreed, I use to have a friend that earned $60,000 a year and every year had to borrow an additional $20,000 from their parents ( they are still in that cycle today in their 40’s) and complained on a daily basis of as you put “imaginary” financial woes. It use to blow my mind how careless they were and high consumerism ran their life. There certainly was no reason for the mess that was created.

        However I think any person regardless of income, can do their share of destruction on our planet from high consumerism. Perhaps in varying degrees of consumerism but poor financial choices and lack of priorities still cause high consumerism among any income bracket :)
        How one makes financial decisions and chooses how to spend money knows not the level of your income

      • CSR February 18, 2013, 5:14 pm

        You can live on FAR less than 40k a year.

        Especially when you don’t even make that much…

        My wife and I currently make about $24,000 a year, combined. We both take anything over 200 per week, and throw it in savings, building up until we decide where to invest.

        I am also a musician, and make my music pay for my equipment, strings, sticks, etc, etc.

        My wife is currently selling all of her used clothes and throwing the earnings into savings.

        It is absolutely amazing how little you truly have to spend, if you just spend smart.

  • Dan May 27, 2011, 10:10 pm

    Where is your health insurance cost?

  • Acorn May 28, 2011, 5:51 am

    $40,000 including mortgage is really impressive. Location surely has a big impact in terms of housing prices and property among other things.
    We do a year-end compilation of our spending each year and it’s always so disappointing.
    Not including education or housing/utilities, which seem to be big variables from family to family, we spent $40,000 in 2010 for a family of 4.

  • Naomi May 28, 2011, 9:47 am

    So, how do you invest your money to cover all of these expenses? Is your asset base growing (after your distributions) such that your income can increase with CPI every year?

  • Acorn May 28, 2011, 10:05 am

    I meant to write, “housing prices and property taxes”…. sorry!

  • C May 28, 2011, 11:22 am

    Damn, as a single household I spent 44,589 in 2010. If I exclude mortgage/property tax plus a car payment (the car is almost paid off) I spent 19,173. I feel that is a reasonable amount and much less than most of my peers like “the Johnsons”. I would say that I am frugal and a minimalist however I do like to buy nice things that are high quality that I can get years of life out of. And I definitely spend more money on restaurants/bars and wine/beer then your family, those dollar amounts are impressive! The bigger picture though is that I am able to save and invest 2,500/mo outside of my 401k. I am 32 and projecting financial independence around 42. I like that idea of age 42 because I will have been in the workforce on the wage slave-ship for 20 years at that point. At 42 my investments should be producing, without touching the principal, 91,138/yr at a conservative 5% or bump that up to 127,594/yr at 7% that I’ve seen you use before. Question: the 7%, how did you arrive at that and by using what investment products?

  • Diane May 28, 2011, 3:44 pm

    Perhaps the third request for health insurance information will be the charm:)

  • MMM May 28, 2011, 10:09 pm

    It is nice to see so much chitchat on this issue!

    Regarding health insurance: the wife has negotiated a basic level of family health insurance as part of her pay for the very-part-time contracting work. But if this stops being “free” in the future, I would just set up the most basic catastrophic-only plan I could find and pay the premiums myself.

    On the other hand, I believe that staying as healthy as possible is a good form of health insurance that costs nothing!

    I’m not a big believer in insurance, except to cover things I truly couldn’t afford the consequences of not being insured for. Overall you will tend to come out in the long run by carrying less insurance.

    Regarding Naomi’s questions about what investments I like to provide cashflow and keep up with inflation: In the long run, I just plan to use stocks and live mostly off the dividends with a tiny amount of annual selling of capital gains.

    But for right now, some of the portfolio is in the form of a mostly-mortgage-free rental house whose cashflow already more than pays for all of next year’s spending. Plus some index funds and 401ks tucked away for the future. And we also still are addicted to occasional leisurely work as mentioned elsewhere, so the savings at this point are still growing. More articles on the details in the future.

    • Dave May 29, 2011, 11:49 am

      Re health insurance: I’m a senior citizen (i.e., old fart) in Canada who is a big believer in the government-provided (so-called “single payer”) health care we have. In spite of the negative stuff about it in U.S. media, the facts are:
      . We don’t pay health insurance premiums
      . We pay for it via higher taxes, but not that much higher
      . People see it as social right, like public education
      . It’s good for social cohesion (less rich vs. poor tension)
      . Our national per-capita spending on health care is less than half U.S.
      spending (government saves hugely via bulk buying and vastly streamlined (i.e., lower-cost) insurance admininistration compared to private providers
      . We don’t have to submit bills or fight insurance companies
      . We get to choose our own doctors
      . We live longer than Americans on average and our infant mortality rate is lower

      This system provided excellent support for our family with four children.

      • MMM May 29, 2011, 12:35 pm

        Awesome Point!

        As a now-dual Canadian and American citizen I wish my fellow Americans would wise the !@# up and institute single-payer health insurance right here, right now. The Canadian system is just mind-bogglingly better than the US one, and Canadians are rightfully in love with it. You would be amazed at the amount of completely wrong information that they brought into the debate here to scare people into voting against it.

        Nobody in their right mind would select the US healthcare system over the Canadian one, after knowing the details of each.

        The real key, as you point out, is the cost per capita and cost for all the various procedures here. We just pay WAY too much for everything.

        I’d still be in favour of private health insurance if we could have a real competitive system. Imagine if hospitals and doctors were like new Wal-mart stores. The building is enormous, the store is comfortable and the decor is actually quite good, the products have evolved to be high-quality yet shockingly cheap. The whole thing gets stamped out around the world in cities big and small in lightning fast time. Say what you like about Wal-mart, but from the customer’s point of view it is capitalism at its best. If health care was like Wal-mart, insurance for a family of four would be $50 per month, and even the most massive procedures could be completed perfectly on an outpatient basis during your lunch break. Many of them by advanced friendly robots.

        But for now, we might as well copy the best of what the world has to offer: Canada and England.

        • Anita June 2, 2011, 2:44 pm

          I also wish US had healthcare system like Canada or England. I came from Hungary which has a similar healthcare system and I can’t for the life of me understand the American attitude of why so many people are against it!

        • sdp April 15, 2012, 7:48 am

          As a comparison to the US healthcare system: Assume our firefighing system was set up the same way. WE would have to pay an overpriced premium everymonth to the firefighter company as insurance against our house burning completely up. those people in a lower income bracket wouldn’t be able to afford as ‘good’ a policy so when their house catches fire they would have to cough up a bigger deductible, standing at the curb with flames licking the sky trying to count up the cash for the fire chief, meanwhile the contagious fire starts to spread and ultimately destroys the neighborhood, but that doesn’t matter to the folks who own the firefighter company, a publicly traded one, who don’t live anywhere near that neighborhood. Hey! atleast they get their quarterly dividend from thos premiums and deductibles! I think you should be able to get rich off of other people deciding to drink CocaCola or or stupid stuff like smoking Cigarettes, their choice, but you should not set up a system to get rich off of someone else’s house burning down…… or getting sick.
          Humana Health- the company I pay for my high deductible plan- payed out $123,000,000.00 (that 123million….) in dividends in 2011 alone, and I think Humana has some of the best offerings for private health insurance in the US, what are the others like?
          Can you imagine if our fire departments were managed the same way? “I’m sorry ma’am I can’t put out your blazing inferno, your premium was late last month and the policy has lapsed, I wish you the best though………”

          • Bakari April 15, 2012, 6:22 pm

            Actually, prior to the civil war, fightfighters WERE employed by insurance agencies, and houses DID sometimes burn down as a result

  • Jo May 30, 2011, 2:39 pm

    Hi MMM
    I am a big fan of ERE, and recently found MMM. You both are promoting a brilliant and simple way of being happy, and I am very grateful for the inspiration you have provided to get my own financial house in order. It would be useful to get a better idea of how you managed to build up enough wealth to become FI by 30 – especially given the level of spending that you have given above.

    Without more information I would be guessing at the following:
    Using the usual 4% rule, your $40k annual spend requires investments of around $1m. If you and Mrs MMM worked for 10yrs over a period of poor stock market returns, you would need to have saved around $100k per year on average between you, starting from graduate jobs in your industry. As you have just paid off your mortgage, you would need money for that too.

    So how did you do it?

    Apologies for directness – I would wholly understand if you decided not to share this info. Although my allegiance might switch back to Jacob :~)

    • MMM May 30, 2011, 2:58 pm

      Welcome Jo!

      I definitely need to do a series of articles on where my own cashflow comes from, how quickly the initial cash was saved up, and why I think you can use more than 4% of your ‘stash each year. But here are a few answers just really quickly:

      – from age 20 to age 30, I was fortunate to be a computer engineer, and to marry a lady who was also in a similar field. We both started at new graduate salaries about $45,000 US per year ($90k combined), but that number quickly went up to a combined salary that almost hit $200k just before retirement. Even after tax, that end figure results in savings of way more than $100k per year.

      I also made some money by renovating a house, and through compounding on some investments – including an employee stock purchase plan in Cisco Systems. Even though the stock market took some dives during my saving career, I took advantage of the fearful times to really load up on stocks after crashes, so my own returns were better than the market as a whole. This is the one time I feel you can beat the market easily – by buying extra right after gigantic crashes.

      As for the 40k spending figure – remember this covered mortgage payments too, so you don’t have to pay off your house AND maintain a 40k cash flow. Now that my mortgage is paid off and the boy is done in expensive preschool, we only need 25k or so to live.

      So even if people aren’t lucky enough to be overpaid software engineers as we were, there is still hope for retirement sometime in the 30s.

      • Amy June 11, 2011, 11:49 am

        Hi MMM, you should def give some background on how you accumulated your assets over 10 years and the average rate of investment return or now with passive income – this would give a better (holistic picture) of how others can do the same math exercise

      • sdp April 15, 2012, 8:30 am

        Just for comparison, and as an example my wife and I don’t need anywhere near a milliion in the bank to ‘retire’ . My wife and I have about 189,000 in the bank, about a third of it in taxable accounts, the rest in 401k and roth accounts. With our contributions every year, the balance should go up about 10-12% every year and we are already ‘retired’ as MMM defines it. My wife and I are both blessed with crappy jobs that we love that pay us by the hour so we are not confined by contracts or salary conpensation assumtions on how much we work. Last year I made 16,500 bucks and my wife made 15,400 bucks for our hourly jobs which came out to less than 750 hours each which averages out to 15hours a week in a traditional 50week work year, and I usually bust my ass when I work and put in 12-15 hour days three or four days in a row, shows you how much I work for a retired guy with less than a quarter mil in the bank. We don’t have kids yet so our expenses will go up a tiny bit when that happens, but in 2011 our total expenses were 36,827 including our mortgage payments, principle and interest, plus I double the principle payment each month… It also includes private health insurance costs as the hourly jobs suck in that department, but it does match our 401k contributions up to 3%. Our first tiny, modest home we busted ass and payed off in 9 years, now we rent that one out which nets us, 12,800 a year. I probably spend a total of 10 hours a year dealing with it, I pay a property manager to deal with it, so if money did get tight and I wanted another job again, I could eliminate that cost. But so as you can see we after prepaying the mortgage, we have about 8000 surplus thats added to the 189,000 every year. Since we make so little we qualify for the ‘Savers Credit’ on our taes and pay almost ZERO every year. By the way I’m 37 and my wife is 35, two car family livin it large in the so called ‘expensive’ Mountain West, retired before 40. On wednesday we are driving to her parents house, picking them up and touring up the coast of California until may 5th buying gas, staying in vacation rentals for the old farts and eating out every other day…Livin it UP! It can be done! don’t get stuck on the million dollar number and don’t get stuck on the idea that transitioning into ‘retirement’ is a once only transition. I scale back my hours every year to balance my income needs, so my transition out of my job can take as long as I want to, but I will still be doing it when I am 70, as long as the gods, goddesses, rodents and earthworms allow. Cuz its fun when I only get to do it one week a month.


        • Christine April 15, 2012, 10:54 am

          Thanks Steve for your breakdown. Gives me an idea of how to balance things when you are nearer to this mark than 1 million dollars.

  • Jo May 31, 2011, 3:52 pm

    Thanks MMM for the speedy response. I guess the key to this ER thing is always going to be about controlling spending – at the moment I live in central London (with my Canadian wife + child + one more on the way) so cutting costs can be difficult. Like you, we want a certain minimum standard of living! I would be interested to hear your take on the 4% rule. I see it as probably excessively conservative if one has the ability to supplement income after retirement as required. Best, Jo

  • Kevin M June 1, 2011, 2:32 pm

    Enjoyed the look behind the curtain. We’re pretty close to your family in overall spending (just distributed a little differently), but no where near retirement. I wish blogs like this and ERE would have been around 10 years ago!

    We’re sort of treading water until the wife goes back to work in a few years (kids are 1 and 4), then our goal is to pay off the house ASAP and perhaps pursue other income-generating opportunities.

  • Liz June 2, 2011, 10:53 am

    wow, those numbers are pretty low. I live in Long Island, NY, so my averages may be higher than normal. my avg monthly car expenses are off the wall, though- $250 for gas (paid by employer), $75 for full coverage insurance, plus I just had major maintenance at 90k miles, which was $825.

    When I was strictly following th YMOYL plan, my FI monthly expenses were hovering around $800 to $1235. I need to get back there fast.

  • Tim June 5, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I am surprised at your Groceries category. I spend more than that as a single person, though I am paying more attention to it now, and I have cut out restaurant and unnecessary calories, still including beer and wine. I’d also like to get my car and home insurance, and cell phone service to your level.

  • Bakari Kafele June 5, 2011, 9:50 pm

    Spending is roughly 10-15k per year.

    Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I have been going about it all backwards. I realized early on that if I didn’t spend a lot, I wouldn’t have to work so much, and free time is more valuable than ‘stuff’.
    But it wasn’t until a couple years ago I finally paid off all debt (cross country move, college, divorce) and opened an IRA. Even more recently I was introduced to Jacob of ERE (we had a mutual fan) and began more seriously saving – as of today I have about 10k invested, saved over about the past one and a half years (4 in an IRA, 6 in Vanguard – thanks MMM, for the tip!)

    I was very surprised to see the iPhone!! What does the service run? If there is no service, what do you use it for?

    Crossfit is great. I went for a few months before bootcamp, and it made bootcamp easy. Too easy. I actually lost strength and endurance at military bootcamp. I gave it up when my local gym raised its rates to match the rest of the Xfit franchise (from $55 a month up to about 135)
    But the great thing is, once you have gone a few months and really learned all the techniques properly, since it never uses fancy equipment, you can just log in to the website, see what the workout of the day is, I do it at home. Its hard to motivate ones self sometimes, but if you have two fitness minded people at home, it gets a lot easier.
    On that note, I need to do about 50 more reps of various core exercises before bed.

  • Prachipres June 10, 2011, 7:36 pm

    I am really enjoying your blog. Do you know of any cash back credit cards in Canada?

    • Constance August 23, 2011, 11:41 am

      BMO mastercard offers that option (1%)

  • Prachipres June 10, 2011, 7:41 pm

    Would you have any idea what your expenses would be if you were living here in Canada, since you did say living in Canada is more expensive?

    • MMM June 10, 2011, 10:45 pm

      Hi Pachipres, nice to have you here reading!

      I guess it depends on which area of Canada you are comparing. I used to live in Southern Ontario and then Ottawa, which are both pretty expensive areas to have a luxurious car-owning adult lifestyle.

      The food, car, and gas categories would be about 50% higher.

      Property taxes would be 2k higher too, since they are about double in Ontario as a percentage of house price than they are here.

      Oh, and home heating, since the winter is much longer and colder with less sunshine.

      Then again, health insurance is free in Canada, which would save a family like yours $10k or more per year – either in the form of saving the direct payments or a potentially higher salary from an employer since they don’t have to pay for it on your behalf.

      But overall, if I were back in Canada, I wouldn’t necessarily spend much more. I would probably just adjust my lifestyle down to the point where I was spending the same amount. As I always say here on this blog, we lead a big, fancy, luxurious life here in the MMM household. There is lots of room for cutting expenses. I just picked this intermediate balance because retiring at 30 still seemed pretty early to me (vs. retiring at 25 and having to lead a much more spartan life).

      • Pachipres June 11, 2011, 10:56 am

        Hi MMM, wos that was a fast response. I just may send you my figures privately. I love your blog. I used to be a big fan of The Tightwad Gazette and then read YMOYL. Istarted being really frugal in 2000 and in 2005 my dh lost his 22 year old corporate management job and we have not had that income since. So I was very grateful I tracked expenses.

        Did you see my other two questions:

        1. What is Jacob of ere?
        2. Where can I get a cash back credit card in Canada?

        Thanks so much for all your blogs and responses.

        • Kevin M June 11, 2011, 11:59 am

          Jacob is the author of earlyretirementextreme.com and the book by the same name. MMM had a guest post over there a few weeks back which is how I (and many others I suspect) found this blog.

      • Christine Wilson September 19, 2011, 11:01 am

        Where do you live MMM? I live in Ontario in the suburbs outside of Toronto. I agree that it is more expensive here. Your groceries are much lower than ours and I doubt I could bring down much lower without sacrificing fresh food. We buy no-name brands but we could eat less meat. However we are doing better and better with this as well. Turning some meals into vegetarian instead of meat. I spend about as much as you but my money isn’t going as far because of higher transportation, food and property taxes. I wonder if it is sometimes better to move to an area with lower living costs. This post has been very educational so thanks!

        • MMM September 19, 2011, 10:51 pm

          It is WAY better to move to somewhere with lower costs! I live in Colorado, where there is an odd combination of high salaries and low living costs. Toronto (I actually grew up in a small town near there) is a bit of a hellish place to me. The idea of commuting in traffic, ever, just blows my mind! Even when living in Ottawa, I always picked houses within biking distance of work. I’d rather sleep under my desk in an office building than commute a distance that required a car. Or even better, work from home!

  • jDeppen June 14, 2011, 11:10 pm

    What is your gift buying situation, I’m ready to move to a “no gift” policy but I know the rest of the family isn’t down with it. I’d like to tell them not to get me anything (I already have what I need) but I don’t want to come across as an ass.

    What about your son, do you have any rules about the amount of stuff he gets from family? Do you let family do their thing and then you just get him one or two things? Because my daughter gets all this stuff from family, I feel like it’s hard to teach her that wasting money on all this unnecessary junk isn’t right.

    We currently have a “gift fund” of $40/mo (includes gifts for my daughter).

    • MMM June 15, 2011, 9:23 am

      Hi Again JD!,

      Excellent question.. we have great fun as parents trying to invent a sensible gift policy. I talked it about it a bit in the Mother’s Day article, but here’s a bit more:
      There is a definite No Gift policy for the Mrs. and myself – like you, we already have everything we want, so giving us anything else is just a storage burden. It is a little hard to get some older family members to understand this, but as with all forms of teaching, it is worthwhile to try to share the concept that buying things made from a finite planet is worth thinking carefully about.

      As for the boy – we definitely try to prevent big disposable non-fun plastic-and-batteries toys from being sent his way. Luckily, he is interested in more building-and-science-oriented toys anyway, which tend to keep providing fun for more than a year, and then are still worth passing on to someone else when he grows too advanced for them. So we put the suggested items onto something like an Amazon wish list and suggest that any compulsively generous grandparents buy from there. Because they are so generous, it pretty much replaces 90% of the buying we would have done ourselves.

      We also got him interested in sort of a “cap and trade” toy system where he gets to pick things to give away to other children to make room for the new things he gets.

      For birthdays with other kids, it is definitely no gifts all the way – this takes a big burden off of the visiting parents and the idea has caught on through our entire circle of friends. The cash and Crude Oil Plastic savings as a group are amazing!

      When we want to give gifts to other people, we try to re-gift nice things that we are done with when possible, or make cards or homemade gift certificates (a night of babysitting or a day of free work from my carpentry business, etc.). I do still buy new things for people who really need them, however – like one time a new refrigerator for a family member stuck with an old failing energy hog, or a new bike for someone who couldn’t afford a bike, etc.

      The final thing that I have found that works really well is to teach our son that both money and the Earth’s resources are finite things. So everything you do with them must be a thoughtful trade-off. It’s a really positive message, and kids latch right onto loving their Earth if their parents display the same ethic. Now the little guy is on the lookout for increasing fun while reducing waste as well.. very cute.

      • jDeppen June 15, 2011, 7:11 pm

        Thanks MMM, many great points there to consider. Keep up the good work.

      • EarningAndLearning April 10, 2017, 1:41 pm

        My 5- and 8-year-old nephews go to a private school, so technically the parents can “afford” to buy birthday gifts for each others’ kids, but there is this wonderful trend of “Toonie Parties” (for non-Canadian readers, a toonie is a $2 coin). Basically the kids gift the birthday boy or girl a toonie, and the recipient can then spend it on a gift he or she wants, or sometimes the child donates it to a charity of their choosing. Isn’t that wonderful? Let’s spread the word to parents & teachers everywhere to start something similar in their schools and social groups!

  • Paul T June 17, 2011, 2:58 pm

    A major recommendation… MINT.COM
    You tell it your bank accounts and it automatically categorizes your spending. If it makes a mistake or you buy something it doesn’t know you can tell it to always allocate BOUNCY AC to Education : After Care. As time goes by you can compare your spending month to month, year to year, total spending for the year. You can set up alerts and it will email you if you overspend. It is an amazing site.

    I only just found your blog and have read it through from the start to today with all comments. It is very good. I wish I had got here 3 weeks ago to contribute to this post whilst it was active.

    Keep up the good work!

    • MMM June 18, 2011, 11:07 pm

      Thanks Paul.. I have been meaning to try mint.com – I just feel a bit nervous having all those passwords in one place, since every big site gets hacked eventually. But I will use the power of statistics to get over this fear someday. Meanwhile, it would just be a fun toy rather than a tool for me, since my spending is all very conscious these days.. Nothing is done on impulse, it’s only groceries, or major decisions that are planned out and researched.

    • Manoj August 1, 2015, 10:40 pm

      Agree..Mint.com is a fantastic online free application to track and categorize income, expenses, investments, budgets and monitor goals – sourced from the user’s bank accounts, investment accounts and any other financially relevant accounts – and calculates the networth. It downloads transactions automatically and aggregates them in one place. It provides many good reports and can also track the value of properties owned, cars, etc. It also provides visibility into the latest combined credit score.
      Definitely a tool I’d recommend for this community..

  • Sarah June 22, 2011, 1:04 pm

    Love your blog! Two questions about your annual spending summary. I don’t see any clothing/shoe category or a non-food category (like cleaners, paper towels, soap, toothpaste, etc.) So, are you a nudist family who never bathes or do you have some sort of stockpile in your basement?

    • MMM June 22, 2011, 2:03 pm

      Thanks Sarah!

      Although I wish I did get to spend more time naked, that is not reflected by any missing parts of the budget :-) All of those things are in the “Miscellaneous” category – it even mentioned clothes and shoes specifically so you may have just skimmed over it.

      Those things are small enough expenses these days that they don’t even get their own dedicated category. I mean, I can get a good T-shirt for $6 from Target that lasts in the clothes rotation for several years. Shoes are maybe the biggest at $60-$80 for a good Timberland set that wears out with heavy hiking in 2-3 years. And cleaning products – a $1 package of sponges and a $2 container of Method spray stuff, combined with our 10-year-old vacuum cleaner and plenty of tap water, is enough to keep our 2600 square foot house clean for an entire year. I always wonder at why so much space in stores is dedicated to cleaning products – other people must be using waaaay more of them than I do.

      • jDeppen June 22, 2011, 3:04 pm

        My wife just got 2 t-shirts from Old Navy for $3 each (Father’s day gift)

        • Mrs. Money Mustache June 22, 2011, 3:27 pm

          Good to know!

          The problem with Old Navy is that it is nowhere near us, so driving a car would be required. At least at Target, we can bike over there easily, which is probably why most of our clothing is purchased there or from the local used clothing store.

      • Charlotte August 19, 2011, 5:21 pm

        I understand that you are frugal in your spending and do things you enjoy. I have two questions: Since you own a rental house as well, do you consider your own house an investment? Have you considered having a lower impact on the environment and maybe lower maintenance costs by moving into a smaller house?

      • gestalt162 January 19, 2012, 12:39 pm

        About 2 years ago we bought two big bottles of on-sale, coupon’d all-purpose cleaning solution for less than $5. On the back of the bottle in small, inconspicuous print, they tell you that you can dilute the solution at a ratio of something like 15-to-1 and still have it be effective. We diluted it in a spray bottle at that ratio, maybe even went a little generous on the solution, and use it for all our kitchen and general-purpose cleaning. We just opened our second bottle of solution a month ago, after getting nearly two years of use out of the first, with rigorous kitchen cleaning.

      • KO February 24, 2012, 12:04 pm

        Vinegar is all I use for cleaning the house (mixed with water). It makes my hardwood floors and mirrors shine! There are no harsh chemicals, it disinfects, and you can add tea-tree oil or dishsoap to the bucket to make it smell nice. It is a huge money saver and I feel like it’s about as “green” as I can get without buying high-priced green products. Like you, I am baffled by the endless supply of cleaning products on the store shelves….or under people’s sinks.

        I love your blog! I was introduced to it in December and have been slowly working my way through old posts. I am amazed at how many ppl out there think the same way that I do. I come from a family of materialistic complainypants (love this term!) and often feel alone on an island with my husband who shares my views. This site is almost like a support group. Keep up the great work!!!

  • Jerry July 2, 2011, 1:41 am

    I’m a new reader, but I find myself agreeing with a lot of the content on your blog. Thanks for taking the time to write these!

    My question is whether it’s possible to beat the high cost of living in certain parts of the country. My girlfriend and I currently live in California, and even with aggressive saving, the mortgage I have ($2,400 s/mo with good rates over 30 yrs) and the general higher cost of living makes it seem impossible to do what you’re accomplishing. Relocating would mean moving further away from family and friends, something neither of us are keen to do. Short of making more income, is there just no better way?

    • Bakari July 2, 2011, 8:33 am

      I live across the Bay from San Fransisco, supposedly 2nd only to the Manhattan area for the cost of housing.

      I’ve been thinking about buying a house because prices have dropped so much recently. But, even with all the foreclosures, even in the bad parts of Oakland, I’ve checked the numbers, and I would never come out ahead by buying the cheapest house in this area (around 100k), compared to the rent I pay now ($495). (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJc8973GURk )

      So, my current plan is to stay where I am now (I own a large RV trailer and pay for the space) and save up for the next 5 years, then move about 100 miles out of the city (so I’m still reasonably close to friends and family, but there are less strict zoning requirements) and buy some land and a “park model” trailer – they have 400 square feet of space (not counting the loft or covered porch) and are built like a house (2×4 walls, etc) but are technically considered vehicles instead of houses, so you don’t have to pay any property tax on them.
      When/if I have a kid, they can live in the loft until they are teens, and then I can buy them a smaller trailer and park it next to the first one so they can have more privacy.

      • Jerry July 14, 2011, 12:32 pm

        @Bakari that is such an awesome video! I was shocked at the sub-$5 electricity bill.

        I love the idea of getting a class C motorhome, but had always considered it as a after retirement, travel the country, type of goal. It’s great that you have so much freedom without any compromises (in my opinion). One potential downside if you do have kids is whether there’ll be a good school district or other kids for your kid to play with. The plus is that you have the option to move somewhere else if that becomes an issue though.

        I grew up in the East Bay as well, so I’m really familiar with the prices and areas you’re talking about.

        • Bakari July 14, 2011, 5:13 pm

          Bad news: apparently the electric meter was running low. They replaced it, and bills jumped. Since then I have installed 45watts of solar power. Last bill was $28 – I installed panel part way through the billing cycle, so the next bill should be lower.

          Jacob from ERE is in an RV too, and has a few blogs about it

          I will definitely “home school” my kids, (as in, supplement formal education) regardless of where they go, so I’m not concerned about the quality of education, but socialization is pretty important, so attending school is a must as well. So long as there are any schools at all, I think it will work out.

          • kris January 15, 2012, 1:26 am

            Hey its a small world lol. I came across that video you linked a couple years ago and it is what got me interest in early retirement. First by showing me how cheaply you could live and second by reading through the comments and finding a link to jacobs ere. And now I found this one from jacob about a month ago.

            • Bakari January 15, 2012, 8:36 am

              Glad to help.
              The company that filmed it came back to do a follow up a couple months ago. Its supposed to become part of a documentary about how we choose to spend our time. I had a lot to say on the subject, esp. after being exposed to ERE and MMM – and I dropped those names more than a few times, so hopefully when it comes out, I can help bring yet more into the flock

            • kris January 15, 2012, 11:06 am

              Sound cool, I’ll have to keep my eye out for it.

  • John July 18, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Just a comment on spending $135 a month on crossfit for Mrs. MMM. While it is a steep cost you can think of it in savings in health care and her happiness if she truly does enjoy it. I love that she is doing it as I am a crossfit instructor and follower and have reaped so many benefits in my life from it, including monetarily. One cost might rise but it can reduce so many others. Just found your blog and definitely loving it. Going to have to take a good hard look at my current spending and get on the right track.

  • Oskar July 22, 2011, 1:27 pm

    I’m late into all these conversations but skill want to ask a question, me and my family do quite OK income wise and as such we only have to use about 45% of our take home salary for the day to day nessesities and also some nice to havs these 45% actually does not present a minimum living standard but rather a quite comfortable life.

    We save the other 55% for diffrent purposes, about
    1/4 goes to short/mid terrm goals (1-5 years) (such as travel),
    2/4 goes to long term savings (i.e. retirement/financial independence) and the last
    1/4 goes into a fund in order to handle high cost items such as replacing the car when it does not work, major renovations to the house or replacement of home appliances etc.

    First I like to say that I am very impresed with your budget and see it as a challenge, not to do exacly as you but to reach your level:-) The second question has to do with the fund that I set aside for maintanance and replacement needs (last point above) in my head I count that as cost as it is likely to be used but not right now. Do you include this in your costs as you describe them in the article??

    • MMM July 24, 2011, 10:51 am

      Hi Oskar! Nice to have you here reading, I have enjoyed your comments so far. You are never too late to add to a comment stream as there are new people joining the blog each day, sometimes from the very first article.

      It sounds like you are on a great track with your savings. Regarding your last budget item – savings for longer-term replacements: I do not have a special fund or budget for that one, nor any for travel, etc. I just have one big fund, THE ‘STASH, and all money except what we spend, goes there. Of course, the ‘Stash is invested in various places like a few index funds, 401k/IRA, a debt free main house, and a rental house.. but it is all just a general-purpose fund which sees inflows and outflows as needed.

      You were probably wondering specifically how I budget for new appliances and cars. The answer is, I don’t. It all just shows up in the year-end review like the one in this article, usually under “Miscellaneous”. In 2010 there were a few things on there, like a digital camera and an iphone. Cars and appliances are cheap enough (if you buy good-quality used ones) that they just come out of savings as needed: for example, in 2009 I replaced all my kitchen appliances with efficient stainless steel set for a net of $1500 after selling the old ones. These should last at least 10 years. And I’ll probably use up a $6000 car every ten years. $150 and $600 per year respectively – much smaller than my food budget.

      • Oskar July 26, 2011, 10:40 am

        Cars are more expensive were we live, but maybe i still have to revisit the assumptions that I make that replacing the car will cost an average of $500 per month over the cars lifespan. I guess we can just put the money away and if there is anything left over after the purchase of a new car we can just put it in the ‘long-term stash’.

        For some reason I do like budgets that put away money for separate goals, I think it is because it gives meaning to the budget and also lets you spend more money on the things you really enjoy. The only problem that I have with it at times is that they get self fulfilling in the sence that if you saved $10 000 for vacation you end up spending all that money even if it could have been done cheaper. I am fighting my self on this.

        • JMK May 27, 2014, 1:15 pm

          This is precisely why we don’t budget for clothing, entertainment etc. Once you have allocated $X per week or month to these sorts of items, you start to feel like you are pre-authorized to spend it regardless of actual need or want. We used to include all sorts of perfectly reasonable items in our budget (clothing, haircuts, etc), but then I wound up pushing the allocated line item to the next week or month over and over again. Now instead we just spend when we absolutely need to and it comes out of the unallocated excess for the week. Normally ~45% of our take home is “excess”. If we have to buy running shoes, get a hair cut or repair the dishwasher one week, we simply have a little less excess that week to transfer to our retirement accounts or for the extra mortgage payment. We spend so little and so infrequently on entertainment, clothing etc that it really became ridiculous to include it in the spending plan so we dropped it.

  • Margie August 23, 2011, 4:10 am

    I found your blog last week and have since read every single entry! I’d love to know how you manage to keep your grocery bill so low. I would love to see a typical week of menu planning and grocery receipts. Our family of 4 eats mostly organic, very little meat, and cooks nearly everything from scratch, but our GOAL is to only spend $600/month, which I don’t often meet.

    • MMM August 23, 2011, 8:59 am

      What a timely question you have added to this older article, Margie. Today’s article (August 23rd) is on exactly that topic. I don’t have any actual menus to share, because we are still somewhat random eaters and not organized enough to plan more than a few hours in advance. We are working on it and hope to be at the “one week” level of planning sometime this year.

  • Pachipress September 16, 2011, 6:42 pm

    I budget in per year car replacement and car maintenance.

    Also, I budget in house maintenance as well because one day your home will cost you to replace old windows or new shingles etc.

    Have you thought of putting these two items in your budget expenses?

    • MMM September 19, 2011, 5:05 pm

      Hi Pachipress,

      Your are right, different people will need to budget for these things in different ways. In my own example, I already had home renovations in there at a very high amount ($1819) because I re-built my master bathroom that year. In most years, this amount will be lower, but some years will be higher if I do the roof, or change out more carpet for wood flooring, etc. Since I do all my own work, my own costs are only 1/4 of what most people have to pay, so all budgets are different.

      As for cars, that could fit into “Miscellaneous”, because my car cost is so low. Since I only drive 5-7k miles or so per year, I can make a $6,000 car last for about 15 years (100k miles or so), with basically only an annual oil change and one set of tire swaps. I also do my own car maintenance, which would reduce any repair bills. But the real key is DON’T DESIGN A COMMUTE INTO YOUR LIVES – LIVE CLOSE TO WORK!! That’s my favorite advice overall, since I think driving every day is an unfortunate habit most people pick up. I only drive for vacations, hikes, and the very occasional Colorado Snowstorm.

      • SU March 6, 2014, 12:19 pm

        I read this post earlier today and this answers the question that came to me later – I was thinking about a depreciation value for the contents of your home. It sounds as if you have it covered in ‘miscellaneous’, but in terms of budgeting for the future – and for those with a smaller gap between their wealth and their expenses, I’d be interested to know what people set aside for replacing things like electronics, bedding, kitchen equipment etc.

  • eabbey October 7, 2011, 8:27 am

    Nice post–cool that you share the details. The fact that your health insurance depends on your wife’s employment is worth noting. This is an additional ‘expense’ for people who are truly retired / not working for the man. And it costs real money. This also relates to the issue of kids. You are thrilled to be spending less on schooling now. That’s great but don’t delude yourself that having kids gets cheaper as they get older. I quit working for a company (I am a freelancer) back when I was 31 or so, with two young kids and my wife does not work. Health insurance–even a high deductible plan–is not cheap. Then, you also have to pay for things like braces out of pocket. Health insurance has gone up around 10% per year every year for the last decade. Also, everyone has the choice here, but things like team sports cost money, music lessons cost money, etc.

    I am taking nothing away from your accomplishments or choices but I am simply noting that very few of the people who are into the extreme frugal thing ever really deal with the cost of kids, especially when they are older.

    I love the blog and it speaks to the way that I have been living for long time. I do think that it will be of interest to deal with some of the additional costs that don’t show up in your current budget such as those above.

    One additional one, noted by others, is inflation. It is naive to ignore the impacts of inflation in your planning.

    • MMM October 7, 2011, 9:47 am

      Thanks eabbey. I just updated this article to point forwards to a more recent one where I share my thoughts on health insurance costs.

      Inflation is a separate topic. I certainly do not ignore the impacts of inflation – but these figures are simply in “today’s dollars”. As long as I ensure that my retirement cashflow rises with inflation, I can simply scale this spending as prices increase and continue my worry-free life!

      • eabbey October 7, 2011, 12:14 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I read your health insurance piece. The problem is that you haven’t actually gotten the care for those prices and checked it out. I have been paying out-of-pocket private health insurance for my family with a high deductible plan for ten years. I know what I’m talking about. The kind of quotes you got are a joke, a teaser. With no pre-existing conditions, the absolute minimum that you can realistically insure a family of four on is $500 per month, and that’s for a high deductible plan. In real life, it will probably be more. We pay about $750 for a high deductible plan.

        Its great that your wife is employed and that her employer picks up the tab but in setting forth whats possible, it is better to be realistic. I don’t know a single family that pays for health insurance out of pocket that can do it for anything close to what you are projecting. Even our insurance is considered low. I’m not complaining–that’s part of the deal.

        Also, you were educated in Canada but your kids will go to college here. What about saving for college? Or is the plan that they will pay for it all with loans? If that’s the case, they have no hope of being out of debt age 30 something.

        Finally, wrt inflation. I hope that your investments do provide 5% per year net of inflation. Good luck.

        • MMM October 7, 2011, 12:30 pm

          I happen to know TWO families currently enjoying insurance at rates like the ones quoted. That’s what inspired me to look up the rates for myself to see if I could duplicate their results. Perhaps the difference is in our deductibles – I’m comfortable with $10k or more, such that you basically never use your insurance, unless something highly improbable happens.

          As for saving for college – that’s addressed in the post called “The Coffee Machine that can pay for a University Education”. I already have plenty of money to pay for any education in cash if that should happen to be needed. But I’ll bet you, right now, that my son will be able to pay for his own education using money he earns by himself in high school and during university. Things in the MMM family just work a little differently than they do in standard Consumer Complainer Culture. Keep reading through the years and you will see.

          5% after inflation? Thanks, but I don’t even need luck to get results like that. I can do it in stocks, with dividends, or with rental houses.

        • jDeppen October 7, 2011, 12:32 pm

          FYI: My wife(34), daughter(3), and I(33) have a high deductible private NY plan and we pay $308/mo up from $145 in KY. I know it will jump up next year.

        • Bakari Kafele October 7, 2011, 12:35 pm

          Re: college

          Average community college annual tuition and fees: $3000
          Average state university annual tuition and fees: $8000

          2 years at a community college, transfer to state school for 2 years.
          Total BA or BS cost: $22,000
          Assuming they did moderately well in high school, grants and scholarships can cover much of that cost.
          $5000 per year Pell Grant is basically automatic if the student is independent (or the parents can’t afford 22,000 over 4 years)

          That leaves about 10k a year to be earned by summer jobs and part time work during the year.

          There would be food and housing costs regardless of going to college or not, so that can’t be added to the cost.

  • oz January 7, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Federal, State, FICA taxes are expenses you have omitted. I don’t pay FICA (retired) but taxes were my single largest category at 19% of total expenses on income of ~30K. Mrs. should pay FICA even on a part-time job.

    Utilities – I live in a cheap midwest state with no A/C, heat @68 day / 65 night, utilities 1,600. With a baby your utilities are ~1,200 on the grid?

    Gasoline at 777/year including 2 2,000-mile trips seems implausible.
    Mine was 837 all local driving, no trips, about a tank a month. Avg $3.xx/gal

    Hang on to that part-time job as it is a health-care goldmine. $336 total expenses for a family of 3, no premiums, no deductibles, is out of this world!
    Regular dental visits would be advisable, though, as later in life, deferred dental maintenance is a retirement-savings-destroyer.

    I have been pretty scrupulous on expense management, but you are beating me by 7% on Gasoline and 25% on Utilities, with a family.

    But the tax expense omission calls all of your other numbers into question… just sayin’. Best not to exclude housing expenses, tax, etc. ’cause it is better to over-estimate expenses and have surplus than to under-estimate and have deficit.

    I am a lot closer age-wise and finance-wise to “retirement” than you are, yet you seem far more confident than I that the concept of comfortable retirement is achievable. Very interesting to read about others’ experiences here. I should have “retired” 5 years ago but better late than never, I guess. I just don’t want it to be temporary.

    • MMM January 7, 2012, 3:17 pm

      Good point about taxes. I don’t include them since they vary widely depending on income amount, income type (dividends, rental house, self-employment, tax-exempt government bonds, short or long-term capital gains, number of dependents, state of residence, etc.). Much more relevant is what my after-tax expenses are, which is what I share here. Here in the US, taxes on all income ranges are very low compared to most other countries, and we should all be thankful for that overly generous blessing.

      Utilities: Yup, you read correctly. Note that many readers of this blog poke fun at me because of my exorbitant gas/electric use compared to their own levels. Having a baby or child shouldn’t raise your utility bills significantly. Light and heat is the same, you’re just adding a tiny amount for slightly more laundry and bath/shower use.

      Gasoline: $777 at $3.25/gallon buys me 239 gallons, which is 9500 miles at my 40MPG average. I generally don’t drive except when doing some sort of roadtrip, since we use bikes for local transportation. So including our smaller camping trips, etc., vacation driving was probably over 6,000 miles!

      Health care: wife is actually about to quit that particular part-time job, so we’ll be choosing a different health insurance strategy soon. Already did the research, not worried about it at all.

      It’s useful to compare, but I’d encourage you to do it in a more positive way rather than questioning the accuracy of this stuff. I retired over six years ago, and the expenses just keep dropping over the years, rather than rising, as our frugality skills grow.

  • Helena December 13, 2012, 1:41 am

    I’m really surprised that the largest expense was childcare, especially as you are both at home and can care for your boy. I know Kindergarten is good preparation for school, did you think it was essential? I’m not sure how much got schooling is but I wonder if homeschooling would be more viable? Have you considered it, seeing you both are at home?

  • Laurie March 18, 2013, 3:48 pm

    I have been spreadsheeting like this for 3 years, and we always get near the $30,000 mark. Problem is, we only make $30,000. I have been trying to cut more fat out of our spending, but we are extremely mustachian as it is. We live in an expensive area I guess. Most of our money is lost to food and housing. This year I am going to take a different approach.

    It seems that I can easily track our expenses when we use our cards to pay, but we have no restraint on how much we are spending when we swipe. Now, if I have to go to the store, I take out a maximum amount I can spend in CASH, and I CANT go over that amount because I don’t have my card. The problem is that we lose our receipts easily and so I have no idea how much we are spending on what.

    And this spreadsheet thing is VERY time consuming.

    • Matt M December 21, 2016, 2:31 pm

      Wow. Two people making a combined income of $30,000 while living in an expensive area would prompt me to move stat.

  • Sarah April 30, 2013, 11:20 am

    $100/mo in utilities? The base service fees for gas, electric and water in my Atlanta suburb home are around $30/mo Each. I’m new here so I’m probably missing something, are you off grid for water and electric? Geo-supplemented for heat? What appliances do you have that use gas? Please share the details – I’d love to cut my utility bills by 2/3rds!

    • Oh Yonghao April 9, 2014, 12:44 pm

      Here in the Portland Metro area my water base fees come out to $95, luckily it is bi-monthly, gas and electric are much nicer though, at around $10 apiece, and another $8 for garbage. Across the river from here my bi-monthly water bill was only $25. Our usage charges now run about $26 for two months. Even with only using 9 units for 2 months it is impossible for us to get our bill below $100.

      Being new to gas our usage started out at $100 for the first 2.5 weeks in December, and dropped to $100 for each of the next two winter months. We have gas heat and water, but use electric for cooking food. In March we dropped to $66 and hope to see this trend continue through summer.

      Garbage service we have on will-call pickup and get about every other week, this saves us around $10-$15 every two months. The $8 base fee is for their recycling service which we get every two weeks. We generally do will call every two weeks in alignment with our recycling and it works out fine.

      Electricity has been hovering just under $40, starting at 9.5kwh/day going down to 9kwh/day last month. We noticed that the largest change seems to be the central air fan not running as much now that the temperature has been rising towards our thermostats temp. Being from Taiwan we will probably use our AC only when guests come over or it gets above 85, and even then it will probably only be set to 80.

  • bartelby June 2, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Great and inspiring website as a whole. One area, however, that I find far too small for comparison’s sake is the charitable giving area. It seems that MMM spends a good deal of time working for/with others, so that may affect this, but given his gifts (financial and other), wouldn’t it seem like a moral imperative to “spread the wealth.” Not jumping on, just saying that I can’t really compare our budgets well with that different of priorities.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 2, 2013, 5:19 pm

      Sure you can compare the budgets: just add and subtract line items to adjust things to match your own priorities.

      If you read on through enough of the blog, you’ll see that I did start some bigger charitable things later on. Over a lifetime, I have a goal to give away 90% of what I earn over my life (and leave virtually no estate to the family, assuming they are wealthy enough by that point not to want any of it). This helps motivate me to earn more and spend less even when money appears to be in surplus.

  • Carrie September 29, 2013, 9:37 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write and share all of this information. I am pretty frugal , but not in your league.

    The health and dental costs really have been adding up for my family of five. Especially , when unexpected. I needed a root canal, then a cap. Total was over $2000.00!! That really hurts(financially, not so much physically) .

    I wonder if I should try to negotiate with the dentist? Any thoughts?

  • ocean September 15, 2014, 1:46 pm

    I’m surprised nobody has said this yet. What about just using cash only? I try to use cash for every possible purchase.
    The main reasons why, in no particular order.

    1. If you have to pull out wads of cash to pay for something, you might think twice.
    2. The hacking/stealing card data from stores, which it seems to be becoming more common.
    3. Supporting credit card companies and big banks. Every time you use a credit/debit card, the retailer has to pay a fee, which can be up to 3% for a credit card, less for debit. This can result in higher cost of goods overall, or less profit for the retailer. All this so we can get “rewards” from our credit card?
    4. Cash purchases are harder to track, for those with a conspiracy theory slant. (I’ve been accused of this at least once :)

    Any thoughts?
    Love the blog!

    • Stephane September 15, 2014, 2:40 pm

      #1 Makes sense, I agree.
      #4 Sure, though I’m not sure I’m worried about being tracked.
      #3 – Sucks for the merchant, but the credit cards will give us some of the kickback, so that’s good for us right?
      #2 – Plain false. If you are robbed, you lose ALL the money, and have no recourse. If your credit card is stolen, either physically or through elaborate techniques, your maximum liability is usually dictated by law – in Canada it’s $50. Often credit card company will wave that too. Who gets stuck? Usually the poor merchant who accepted the credit card the thief handed to him (sucks for the merchant again).

      • ocean September 15, 2014, 9:23 pm

        I hope I don’t double post here, but my first response didn’t post.
        Anyway, lol robbed! That’s the last thing I think of, at least in the locales that I frequent. I don’t carry much cash usually. Good point on the liability though. The hassle factor of a security breach is something I consider as well.
        It seems in these examples that paying cash might help the merchant a bit and not help or support the credit card companies or banks.

  • Bahri October 8, 2014, 7:20 pm

    I am a new reader and i started from beginning after hopping through several articles on your site. I’m going through all the articles and the comments that you replied to. Your blog became a reference to show to my wife for some things that we can spend on less and don’t lose anything from the quality of our life. I use your site for some stuff that i say all the time but didn’t have proof to show. She likes proof like me since we are both engineers.
    I’m still a learning mustachian but i doubt that i will ever be 100% Mustachian. I’m tailoring your ways to suit me best.
    My question is:
    How do you keep your home+car insurance that low? I would be very happy if you can expand the insurance expenses.
    I’m paying 1300 for home insurance in OK which is kind of average for my area. It’s combined with car insurances and we have a crystal clear history with the insurer. Size of my house is 5% less than yours. I just raised my deductible from 1000 to 5000 to get some more discount. I will see soon if that helps when they send me the updated policy.

    You have two cars which cost probably 600 minimum to insure for a year. I would love to see an article for the art of home owners insurance shopping and car insurance shopping.

  • Maea April 17, 2015, 4:42 pm

    I’m wondering what your advice is to people who have high-expenses for health. My medication costs over $3,000 a year, and that’s with the generic brand. One of my meds cannot be generic because well…I can’t breathe without the strong stuff.

    I have considered cutting back on food by buying more store-brand items and eating more cheaply. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work too well for being borderline insulin-sensitive (and the steroids in my meds have contributed to me becoming overweight).

    What do you suggest?

  • Allan January 11, 2016, 10:17 am


    I have been entertained by reading your blog. However, I find it not very useful. Who wants to live like you do? I sure don’t. That’s not a knock on you personally since you seem like a nice person. But, the most valuable thing in my life is my time. And therefore I do not want to spend an undue amount of time wheedling a few bucks here and there. I earn enough per year and save about 100k/yr above and beyond 36k/yr to my retirement plan, and another 35k/yr to my children’s college fund. My family has an aweome lifestyle, and I love my job. Sure I could save more, and lower my family’s standard of living, but why? I already have way more than you recommend for retiring, and why retire if your family is secure and happy and you love your job? When I do retire, I will continue to have an amazing lifestyle, and quality of life. I have neither the inclination, or the need, to pinch pennies like you do.

    I could retire today, I suppose, or work part-time but why? I love my job, and my life, and I’m getting paid very well to do it. It’s too bad that more of your readers don’t spend their time in a job that they love. It seems that a pervasive belief is that work is bad, and people hate their jobs. Sure, financial freedom is great, but it is possible to work to make money, and STILL love your job and love to work.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 11, 2016, 12:17 pm

      Glad you like working Allan! So do I. This article I wrote for Vox magazine might resonate more with you:


      I think you’re mistaking my lifestyle, which I describe as “spending the most money that I could possibly justify without crossing over the insanity threshold which tends to reduce happiness”, for “pinching pennies”.

      None of our spending choices are done out of a shortage of money – because of the unusual situation of this blog, we technically earn more than you do (even though I’m giving the money away to other causes).

      • Kathy Abell January 11, 2016, 9:31 pm

        GREAT VOX article Triple M!!!

    • Kyle January 11, 2016, 12:59 pm

      Allen, I suspect you haven’t really read the blog if you think this is about “pinching pennies” or “wheedling a few bucks.”

    • Kathy Abell January 11, 2016, 10:02 pm

      Allen –

      I’m glad you love your job (I loved mine too) and your family has an awesome lifestyle. You are right that your most valuable life asset is time, and you don’t want to waste it. But how much time does it take to decide to buy the $15k Nissan Versa rather than the $45k monster gas guzzling truck? And how much time do you think you will have? Are you saving all that time to spend when you finally retire at 65 or 70? How much time do you spend with your wife and children now? If your wife dies of triple negative breast cancer at 50 or from frontal temporal lobe dementia at 60 will you regret not spending way more time with her in your 30s and 40s? What if your son or daughter dies in a head on car collision before they turn 30? Will you regret not spending more time with them in their formative years? Or perhaps you yourself suffer a debilitating heart attack before you turn 50, or kidney damage before you are 60? Life rarely goes according to plan – although we make all sorts of plans for ourselves. What is that saying? “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” What MMM is trying to teach us is that financial independence gives us freedom to choose what we want to do when we want to do it. People implement various methodologies to reach FI; MMM’s way doesn’t have to be your way – he is just showing a simple way for those who don’t make the bug, big, BIG bucks.

      I’m glad you love your job and your family has an awesome lifestyle. But tell me the truth. If you had only 30 days left to spend with your family, would you really spend the majority of those days working at your job?

      • John February 9, 2016, 5:35 am

        Thank you Kathy. :-D

  • Caroline February 8, 2017, 3:44 pm

    Oh my, how insurance has changed. Health insurance for a family of 3 was $240 in 2011? It was $120 for an HMO plan in 2012 for me. I now have a PPO plan through the open marketplace and the cheapest was $320 for an individual (at my annual salary). I will now be getting a PPO plan through work but the premium is still $290 from what I saw monthly. For one person. Hopefully it doesn’t increase much more!

  • Anthony February 19, 2017, 5:12 pm

    Hi MMM!
    I really listened the shit out of your Ferris podcast and I want to say I really love this whole philosophy in general. It really hits home and it’s given me more motivation to live more diliberately in regards to spending. I’ve never been one to keep track very well, but after reading this I decided to look at my year in review. Downloaded quicken and punched everything in from statements from last year. I found many ways of improving. Grocerys and eating out where big and my wife and I have made commitments to drastically reduce. The one thing I can’t figure out however, is your utilities. I live in Colorado same as you and for the last year our electric bill alone was $1600. A whole $400 more than all of your utilities combined. All totaled up with garbage, city fee, and water it was $2632. So I’m just at a loss and wonder how we could do better. We only live in a 1500 sq ft place. there was one month where our hose broke and ran our water bill up $200. But even without that we would still be double yours. Im wondering if you have thoughts on this. Thanks!

  • Shani March 17, 2017, 6:35 pm

    My family of 6 runs expenses of about $3000/month, including mortgage and the like. I thought I was at bare minimum, but a serious re-study is in order, methinks! I live in Calgary, so I’m sure cost of living factors in there (food alone, for example). I’ve been inspired to revisit my cloth diaper stash, I’ve gotten lazy with the laundry.

    I just have to say, all this talk of doctors visits costs and health care premiums REALLY makes me grateful for my Alberta Health Care. I just just took a visit to the ER in the middle of the night a few days ago with the 20 month old (nothing serious, if it was day time, I would have gone to my doc) and walked away with no bill. Ever. Not for my c-section, twin 14 day NICU stay, nothing. Not even my midwife. Every time I think I might like moving to the States, health care seriously has me staying put. I count my blessings :)

  • Kate January 4, 2018, 3:22 pm

    MMM, the link to the insurance article is broken! I am most curious about covering health insurance, would love to see where that article is.

  • David February 26, 2018, 5:21 pm

    Love your blog,
    Our current yearly expenses are about $95k in Australia with 2 little ones and 2 big ones in our family. I’ve put it all out on a spreadsheet and was surprised how much waste there is in there. The next 12 months will be done smarter for sure!

  • Changwei November 15, 2018, 9:44 am

    Thank you for the knowledge. I’m currently serving in the military, and plan on being semi-retired after doing 20 years. I spend quite a lot of time in studying finances, such as Dave Ramsey, and even Robert (Rich dad poor dad), as well as others (the millionaire next door) . I think the most important portion is to find what’s best for you, no matter what others say. It’s your life after all.


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