$3 Per Month: The Largest Possible Music Budget

Mr. Money Mustache loves his music.

I need a constant soundtrack of it at all times – different types of music for breakfast-eating, house-building, furniture-making, driving, blog-writing, exercising, dancing,  house cleaning, patio beer-drinking-and-campfire-having, and more. And it has to be different music all the time – no repeating the same song within a week (preferably a month), different genres throughout each day, and of course absolutely no talking or commercials interrupting the mix, ever.

With a habit like this, you can imagine that I have to spend a lot of time collecting and organizing the music, and making mixes that meet my stringent requirements. And in the past, I have spent a lot of money on the hobby as well. Let’s talk about those olden days to explain how things were, and how they have changed.

Ever since that golden day when my dad brought home a little battery-powered radio from an advertising industry trade show, I have been hooked.  I used to slip the flat radio under my pillow before going to sleep each night as a 9-year-old, and one of my parents would quietly reach under my sleeping head and turn it off on their own way to bed later that night. At the time, I listened to an AM rock station called CKOC that played the cutting edge early ’80s rock and pop music that thrilled youngsters of my generation. Toto’s Africa and much of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album blew little Pre-teen MMM’s mind.

As the years went on, my interest grew. I bought my first double-cassette deck portable stereo (“ghetto blaster”, as we called them back then, despite the fact that we lived in a crime-free town, population 4,000, and thus there were no ghettos available to blast). I started buying tapes, meticulously recording songs from the weekly American Top 40 broadcast with Casey Kasem, and swapping recordings of records and tapes with friends. I discovered the concept of High Quality Sound, and commandeered the stereo system from the family living room for my own bedroom. After scoring my first minimum-wage job, I went crazy and bought an $1100 stereo system of my own, and some of my budding little audiophile friends followed suit. CDs were invented and we bought some of the first CD players and started accumulating CDs at a brisk pace, despite their punishing $20-per-disc price ($36.38 in today’s dollars if you adjust for inflation). I joined, and quit, the Columbia House music club repeatedly as a way of getting more CDs for less.

That was a funny time in our lives, since our spending on music as a percentage of income was ridiculous. By the age of 17, I had amassed about 300 CDs, representing well over $4000 of casual spending collected onto one heavy bookshelf. This is comparable to me buying and maintaining a multi-bedroom luxury motor yacht today, something which I obviously would not even consider. But kids will be kids, and Mr. Money Mustache wasn’t around to admonish me at the time for the careless spending.

But thankfully, both the Internet and the globalization of manufacturing have come along, and completely wiped out the old model. It’s much more difficult for Leather-clad Hair Metal bands like Kiss, Winger, Slaughter, and Quiet Riot to pack stadiums while simultaneously making millions for themselves and their managers and merchandisers and owners. But it’s much easier for independent musicians like my brother Wax Mannequin to spread the word and gain a moderate but dedicated fan base that spans a few countries and lets them travel and rock out upon many ‘a’ fine stage. And music consumers like myself have enjoyed the effects of Napster, Usenet newsgroups, eMule, Bit Torrent, and many other technologies that have fleshed out music collections worldwide at minimal expense, even while we enjoy buying the music of local musicians directly after a barroom concert, with cash, over a compliment and a handshake.

The thing about music for music enthusiasts is that we need a LOT of it. If I listen to music for an average of 4 hours a day, 30 days a month, with no repeats,  I’d need a rotation of 1440 songs, or $1440 dollars worth of music at iTunes prices just to get me through the first month.

In the bad old days, a listener was trapped in a triangle between the options of Incredible Expense, Time-Consuming and Possibly-Illegal Piracy, or Awful Commercial-laden FM radio.

Then Internet Radio came along.

Suddenly there were thousands of streaming radio stations playing nice DJ-arranged mixes of music, supported only by small visual ads but no intrusive audio ads. It was a huge step forward, especially for office workers who want to groove along with headphones all day while they work on their computers. But each DJ’s taste still seemed to differ from my own, such that an annoying tuneless grating noise song or a schlocky Celine Dion-style ballad would pop incongruously into the mix and snap me out of my concentration.   Because of this risk, I often had to resort back to my own digital music collection and the attendant time expenditures.

But one year ago, I discovered a nice hybrid of the two systems: Pandora Internet Radio. You type in the name of a musician, like my favorite Jazz piano player Ahmad Jamal. Pandora automatically creates a “Station” that plays only Ahmad Jamal and similar musicians.. 24 hours a day, advertising free, as long as you pony up the $36 per year fee for the premium Pandora One service.

If a station ever plays a song you don’t like, you run over to your computer and click the “thumbs down” button. This feeds back into Pandora’s algorithm to further figure out your tastes and make the station even better.

I have been a paying Pandora subscriber for one year, and it has been a constant companion for me, streaming out of my laptop into the main stereo at home, and out of my iPhone into the Construction Radio when I am out in the yard or at a party or job site.

I’ve created and customized about 30 stations, each of which draw upon thousands of songs, and I get to sit back and mix and match them for the event at hand. Ahmad Jamal, Alana Davis, Action Figure Party, AC/DC, The Biscuit Burners, Celia Cruz, The Dining Rooms, DJ Shadow, Don Ross, Fila Brazillia, India Arie, Jurassic 5 (best hip-hop group ever), Manu Chao, Me’Shell NdegeOcello, Medeski Martin and Wood, Mountain Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Strunz & Farah, Turntablism & Beat Science, and the classic early hip-hoppers Young MC/Digital Underground are just some of my stations that form the broad foundation of this crazy new world of infinite music listening.

Pandora satisfies my desire for high quality audio as well. With the premium service, I get streaming at a bitrate of 192kb/sec using a compression method that is more advanced than MP3 (aacPlus). I run this sound stream out of the digital output on the back of my laptop, into my beefy Yamaha receiver, where the digital-to-analog conversion is done in a nice low-noise environment. It is amplified with a fantastic amount of clean power, and pumped out to the gorgeous row of woofers and tweeters depicted in the headline photo of this article. The end result is rich, detailed concerts in my living room, where the fine hairs of brushes hitting the drums strike out into the kitchen, and where the Bass tickles your buttocks at strategic moments. (I will admit that in the area of music reproduction, my frugality has broken down in earlier years. Someday when I lead a more minimalist life, this equipment will have to go.. but for now, the MMM Household rocks on.)

All at a monthly cost of only 3 songs from iTunes, or 3 Justin Bieber ringtones that a teen might purchase for her phone while walking around in the shopping mall. If I can get all this legally for $3 per month, it is hard to imagine spending more in any situation. So I am actually enjoying the most decadent and expensive music collection that can possibly be justified.

It makes me wonder who these people are that are pumping hundreds of their hard-earned employees into Apple’s iTunes store each year, when I already have the largest music collection imaginable at $3 per month!

Sometimes it is great to be a big spender.


  • Geek September 23, 2011, 4:04 pm

    “(I will admit that in the area of music reproduction, my frugality has broken down in earlier years. Someday when I lead a more minimalist life, this equipment will have to go.. but for now, the MMM Household rocks on.)”

    A problem with minimalism… getting rid of things you genuinely enjoy. I got a receiver and a nice 5.1 system a little while ago, and I expect it to last nearly forever. Sure, I could use the speakers on my TV and still get enjoyment, but not as much. Is it mustachian to get rid of something that obviously brings you such (buttock tickling…) enjoyment?

    • Dancedancekj September 23, 2011, 4:09 pm

      I guess it’s all about priorities, right? As long as you’re not consuming excessively or spending excessively, there are no fast and hard rules. Especially if something like that brings you so much butt tickling enjoyment. Spend your money on a few select items that will bring you much joy and are worth it (MMM’s bread machine was a good example on here) as opposed to cheap plastic crap that won’t give you any fulfillment.

      I believe that being a Mustachian doesn’t mean a vow of poverty – just of priorities :)

      • MMM September 23, 2011, 5:12 pm

        That’s the Joy of being an MMM reader.. it’s not Minimalism.. it’s not Hedonism. It’s Enlightened Hedo-Minimalism.

        You just have to QUESTION everything you own, and everything you are tempted to buy, and feel the positive and negative emotions, imagine the lifelong burden of owning extra stuff, and do a bit of math.

        Sometimes, owning the material possessions still wins – as with my house and stereo and even a reasonably new 2005 car.

        On the other hand, over time I am finding that the joy of reduced material burden continues to grow, so I buy less stuff over time, and shed more and more things that turned out to be unnecessary (like my motorcycle, or the desire for an even fancier house, etc.). It’s the opposite of what usually happens to high-income consumers over time.

        • CSR April 28, 2013, 5:15 pm

          “It’s Enlightened Hedo-Minimalism. ”

          My favorite MMM quote so far.

          I use Spotify myself, but I do so love me some Pandora.

  • David Galloway September 23, 2011, 4:12 pm

    Sounds good. I’ll eventually go for $5/month as I prefer Spotify, but I agree with your basic premise!

  • rosarugosa September 23, 2011, 5:01 pm

    We get most of our music for free – legally – from Internet Archive (archive.org). We’re pretty much Deadheads when it comes to music, and there are thousands of live audience recordings of our favorite bands (Grateful Dead, Ratdog, The Dead, The Other Ones, Phil Lesh & Friends, Furthur, Rhythm Devils) available on the Archive. And there are other great Bands such as Stringcheese and Carolina Chocolate Drops, so it’s not just for Deadheads. It;s great to be able to get a concert off the Archive the day after you’ve been to a show.
    Not all bands will allow their stuff to go on the Archive though, and unfortunately, none of MMM’s favorites seem to be listed :(
    There’s also video and literature and such.

    • CSR April 28, 2013, 5:30 pm

      Thank you very much for my new favorite website.

      As a musician, I refuse (as much as possible) to pirate my colleagues’ work, but I think I might submit my own to this :)

  • Kevin September 23, 2011, 5:23 pm

    So MMM, I just gotta ask – why not go for the free version? It’s unlimited listening as well (as of this week), you just have to put up with ads. No ads worth $3/month to you? I guess they are to me as well, just curious why you didn’t address it.

    • MMM September 23, 2011, 6:10 pm

      Yup, you guessed it. I can’t STAND audio advertising. Even one ad shatters my nice concentration zone while working and leaves me frazzled – because radio ads are so loud and fast-fake-talking and non-musical. If pandora played up to a maximum of one ad per week, I could survive.. But they seem to play many per day in free mode. The $3/mo also gets you higher-quality streaming and longer timeout before auto-stop, which is essential if you are not next to a computer all day and want the music to continue.

      • omgrun August 29, 2013, 9:30 pm

        I have Adblock Plus for chrome, which is a free browser plugin. It completely prevents the ads from playing, even in the free version of Pandora. It also does a handful of other nifty stuff, like blocking the ads on Youtube, and blocking the grand majority of browser ads that pop up in the sidebars, as well as blocking popups.
        Occasionally an audio ad will still manage to squeeze by on pandora if you change the station, but this happens to me very rarely.
        So there, a completely free AND ad-free solution!
        Still, the money might be worth the good quality audio itself, depending on how passionate you are about your music :)

        • cgc007 January 28, 2014, 11:40 pm

          The only problem with that is, Pandora is providing you an awesome service, and now you’re not paying them their $3/mo OR listening to the ads.

          It’s this type of thing that drives awesome companies like Pandora out of business.

          Please turn off adblockers for Pandora, or pay for the ads not to play.

          <3 Pandora.

      • Suhaila September 28, 2015, 11:07 pm

        I’ve confused pandora. It keeps playing ads in languages I don’t understand fluently so it’s a wash for me. My issue with pandora is that I’d rather listen to my playlist of 10 songs while working out than pandora(also bc I don’t want to waste my data while out and about.)

        I only buy singles these days and I’ll go awhile without buying anything and then I’ll buy a few songs that I really want. Keeps me motivated while working out and it’s better than dropper $10-15 a pop like I did in college on a cd that I may only like 2 songs on.
        I’m more careful when I buy songs now that I’ve gone on my financial diet.

  • Matt Faus September 23, 2011, 5:55 pm

    I like Spotify at $5/mo because it gives you much more control on your music instead of randomly generating the list of songs. I like to listen to entire albums at a time. Too bad none of these streaming sites have some of the Greats like The Beatles and Tool.

    • MMM September 23, 2011, 6:16 pm

      Yeah.. It is poetic justice for those control-freak publishers like the beatles, because if they don’t want to make it easily available legally, anyone can type in http://www.thepiratebay.org, type beatles, and have the complete anthology with all b-sides, pictures, videos, articles, remixes, etc. in one multi-gigabyte rar file within a few minutes… For $0. To compete with Free, you have to offer convenience, rather than oldschool lawyer attacks and snobbery. Yay Internet!

    • visitor September 24, 2011, 6:32 pm

      Pandora has Tool and The Beatles.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque September 23, 2011, 6:24 pm

    Not available in Canada.


    Sure we have that national health care thing, but what if my doctor prescribes 24 hours of Jazz infused butt tickling? Where will I be then?

    Maybe Spotify will work.

    • EarningAndLearning April 23, 2017, 6:47 pm

      I am in Canada too & LOVE Spotify ($9.99/month now, a few years later than this article). I used to buy individual songs on iTunes, but with Spotify I now consume music differently, due to the sheer unlimited abundance of Spotify. I listen to a lot more albums, I hear a lot more NEW music (and put my favorites onto playlists of all kinds) and I seek out ambient music like mellow jazz or instrumentals when I’m reading or puttering around the house. LOVE Spotify!

  • Smurph September 23, 2011, 8:43 pm

    It’s good to know for once that I’m already doing something that MMM recommends. Pandora One is so worth it. I think it’s weird that I can get one whole YEAR of premium music for less than the price of one month of cable TV.

    Song to check out: Bronx Sniper by Mister Heavenly

  • Ellen September 24, 2011, 6:32 am

    Not available in the Netherlands either. I make do with my freeplay-wind-up radio and sometimes my ipod (yes, with music I actually paid for).

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple September 24, 2011, 1:21 pm

    So you can stream it through an Iphone, but is there anyway to get it to an Ipod?

    I don’t have a smart phone, so when I’m out and about, the Ipod is it.

    Then again, I don’t really pay for my songs, I get about $25 to $50 worth of gift cards for birthday and Christmas, and that’s how I get my music.

  • Duckface September 25, 2011, 1:08 am

    The shift in music delivery medium is for the better in terms of cost. But how has it affected the way we listen to music as a whole? We used to purchase albums with an expectation for the entire piece of work. Now we seek individual tracks. Our selection of music towards a particular mood or feeling could be pinpointed to a specific disc we purchased, but now we hope that a streaming service satisfies that need when we no longer own the tracks or have ability to select them. Does this change the way we collect, develop taste, and appreciate music as a whole? Comments?

    • MMM September 25, 2011, 3:50 pm

      Yeah, that’s a nice point. I love the Full Album Experience too, and when I’m REALLY listening to music, like just sitting in a comfy chair centered between the speakers and soaking into it with no other activities, that’s how I do it – from track 1 up to track 16 with no breaks.

      But sometimes during a construction work day, when I’m walking around and climbing ladders and using noisy saws, having a mix is nice as well. Also, the randomness of Pandora is what allows me to discover new bands that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of. When an amazing new track comes on, I run down to the radio and bookmark the song for easy future reference when finding more music from that person.

  • Gerard September 25, 2011, 8:26 am

    “Enlightened Hedo-Minimalism” is the best name for anything ever.

    • MMM September 25, 2011, 3:47 pm

      Really? THE BEST NAME EVER!? Man, thanks a lot, that is quite a compliment. But I must admit that it throws my whole life for a bit of a loop. Making up silly yet amusing new terms for things is pretty much my main reason for living, and indeed, for writing this blog.

      If I’ve made the best possible word in human history just like that, by accident, right here in this comment stream, I might have to quit and just cruise aimlessly for the rest of my adult life!! Shit!!!

  • TomR September 25, 2011, 9:53 am

    Good article! I resisted streaming subscriptions until Spotify. They won me over. I’ve usually spent a little over $10/month on music, so it’s easy for me to justify the premium Spotify package (and I loving having all those tunes available on my Android). Pandora is quite good, and I respect their music genome project, though I’ve seen some really… QuIrKy… things coming outta that. So much so, I kept thinking someone was just trying to see if I was paying attention! Still, I wanted the control, which I get with Spotify.

  • Steve September 26, 2011, 8:54 am

    I’m liking Spotify. I also like listening to Icecast radio and either streaming NPR or my local college station. I also use Replay music to record my streamed music for those times I’m offline.

  • Gregg Bond September 26, 2011, 1:11 pm

    If you are an adventurous sort, http://www.thesixtyone.com is an excellent (and beautifully designed) source for music. Select a Genre, hit go, let the music take control.

    Another legal free source of music is http://www.jamendo.com, the music is Creative Commons licence on a donation model. This is a download service so you can create playlists and use it offline all you wish.

  • Gwen September 26, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Being in Canada, Pandora isn’t an option for me, but I do use something that sounds very similar. I listen to Jango all day at work and love it. Good quality, no commercials and free. Sometimes there are emerging artists that play, and some I have liked, but if I don’t like what I hear, I just hit the “next” button. Judging from the friends list on my profile, it seems to be available world wide.

  • Ray September 27, 2011, 2:42 pm

    Pandora is FREE without commercials if you use the ROKU set-top box. Roku allows you to add channels, mostly it’s clam-to-fame is that it was developed to stream netflix content. But there are tons of other channels.

    Pandora is on there, once you add it and connect up your regular non-paid account it plays through the set top box. Which costs as little as $60 bucks. No subscriptions or fees. You just need a high-speed internet connection.

    But pandord on roku gives you streaming without commercials, just like you had a paid account. I listen to it all the time at home, piped through our audio surround system which is connected to my TV.

    It’s easy, free (after you buy the box), simple and easy to use. Oh and you get a remote control too.

    In my mind the best way to stream pandora content!

  • The Schmett November 8, 2011, 2:50 pm

    Spotify > Pandora * 10

  • RoseRed December 8, 2011, 5:56 am

    I can’t believe how cheap internet music streaming is in the US. To access music on my phone I would have to pay £10 a month, which my handy currency converter tells me is $15.72. .

  • Tanner December 14, 2011, 2:13 pm

    I know you like Jurrasic 5. Good Stuff. My favorite group is Deepspace5, an underground super hip hop group, with a similar feel. I haven’t used Pandora so not sure if they are on there or not. One of the members, Sintax the Terrific (My favorite), set up a sweet blogsite about a year or so ago where he raps current news events once or twice a week. You might like it, check it out Ipoet laureate

    Fresh Raps every week is nice. I think a few of favorite’s were on Steve Jobs, Real Life Superhero in Seattle and his book review of Endgame (most recent biography of Bobby Fischer). Also in his day job he is a lawyer which is pretty rad.

    I’d be interested to see what you think.

  • Gus January 12, 2012, 8:16 am

    1) Pandora IS available to Canadians such as myself. By using a Proxy service located in the USA, one can gain access to the free version of Pandora. I believe the paid for version is also accessible but would require you to have a friend with an US address.

    2) MMM, you mentioned that you do not want any songs to be repeated within a month. How do you handle that with Pandora? In my experience, using the free version, it often happened that the same song played almost back to back. This is especially true if there are several versions of a song (remixes) or if the pool of similar songs is limited (i.e., if you pick an obscure group to create a station).

    • MMM January 12, 2012, 9:36 am

      Awesome – Proxy servers are a sweet invention and a nice way to get around the douchey big media companies who like to pretend they can control the flow of information. Do you have a recommendation for one in particular? Some of the more reliable ones (which cost a couple of bucks a month) might even allow you to stream Netflix movies to other countries, correct?

      Regarding the repeating songs – I just use a very large rotation of stations on “Quickmix”, and then if a song still repeats too often, I click “I’m tired of this song” whenever convenient. It would be nice if Pandora would offer more control, like options such as “never repeat songs within days.

      From what I can tell, they have a very minimal software development team. There isn’t even an iphone app that lets you control another instance of Pandora running on your main media server computer, for example. And there is no “I’m tired of this song” option on the mobile version. But I look at this as an exercise in Mustachian training for myself – learn to appreciate something that is already awesome, rather than focusing on what it is missing.

  • Martin January 18, 2012, 4:12 am

    For european readers there is a new pandora-like service from Germany called Aupeo: https://www.aupeo.com/
    It works from a PC (work) and from Android/iPhone. Yes, it’s free.

  • James Petzke January 29, 2012, 1:14 pm

    I wrote a blog post about getting music for free a little while ago myself. It goes over not only Pandora, but some other great options as well. It’s at : http://jamespetzke.com/2012/01/why-you-should-never-pay-for-music-in-the-21st-century/

  • Johonn February 25, 2012, 5:10 am

    Love the image for this post… Best speakers for the best price!

    • john September 29, 2012, 9:20 am

      @johonn, which speakers do you mean? i have a nexus 7 tablet and am looking for good, less expensive speakers for it…. any suggestions anyone>

      2 quick pandora-specific questions: approximately what kind of data usage do people see with it on their phones…. i’ve been using pandora on the phone direct wired into my aux port on my ca stereo, and absolutely loving it! just curious how much dat its using because i’ll be scaling down my cell plan at the end of the year and want to pan accordingly for the data part

      also, i’m still not sure why the paid subscription is worth it? i’m very new to pandora, and yes, the script is only $3, but i don’t pay anything and get a ton of enjoyment… what am i missing? thanks guys!

    • Three Wolf Moon December 5, 2013, 4:23 pm

      I was also wondering about the speakers – the headline photo for this artice I’m seeing is an old man in a suit playing a piano. Guess since I’m late to the party I miss out on the original…

      • Mr. Money Mustache December 5, 2013, 7:23 pm

        Oh, right – when the articles are new and still on the front page of the blog, I have a “headline” picture which is usually different from the one inside the post.

        This was the headline pic for this article- one of my Axiom speakers http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/speaker-1024×764.jpg

        You can dig around to see the old front pages of the blog by playing with this URL: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/page/23/ … just change the number to move forwards and back in time.

        • three wolf moon December 11, 2013, 7:41 am

          Thanks for the tip, I’m slowly working my way through all the posts from the beginning after seeing the Yahoo! article on you – taking some time but loving every bit of it!

  • Alex March 10, 2013, 9:32 pm

    I can certainly appreciate the thinking behind this article, and while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it per se, I do want to point out that services like Pandora and Spotify have come under pretty intense criticism over the past couple years for not compensating artists enough. If an artist’s song gets played tens of thousands of times on one of these services, the royalties still don’t add up to more than a couple bucks…

    I don’t think that makes internet streaming services wrong, and they can be extremely helpful for helping artists get connected with new listeners. But I thought it was worth emphasizing that when you do stumble across artists whose music you deeply enjoy and relate to, it’s worth the extra time and money to actually purchase their albums, support them, let them know you care. For many of the bigger artists with household names, you might feel comfortable thinking that they won’t miss your $7-$10 since they’re already so successful, but it’s also true that many artists who might seem successful from the perspective of your average music fan are actually making very little off their artistic endeavors, and they could really use your support.

    So kudos for a nice Mustachian tip on how to legally consume vast amounts of music for those times when a constant stream is needed, but don’t forget how meaningful it is to actually purchase albums directly from artists you love!

    • Jeff K January 22, 2020, 7:01 am

      Hi Alex, this is an old post so I’m here in the year 2020 responding 7 years later. I love your idea of rewarding the artist by buying their CDs when you said, “For many of the bigger artists with household names, you might feel comfortable thinking that they won’t miss your $7-$10” (for CDs), but throughout the history of recorded music, the artist has gotten screwed royally! When they were selling CDs for $15-$18 in the 90s and beyond, the artist was lucky to make $1 per CD sold, and the rest went to the music company and middle men. Only the very biggest stars had better deals.

      The way to help music today is to attend their concert, go out and see your LOCAL live music, and if the locals are selling CDs or downloads that they produced, then THEY will make the money, so go ahead and purchase them. Thank you for thinking about artists. I’ve been a drummer for 50 years.

  • Mr Military Money Mustache September 5, 2013, 10:17 pm

    I’m a big fan of DI.fm (Digitally Imported) for electronic music and TheBlast.fm for aggressive Christian Alt-Rock.

    DI has lots of channels for different sub-genres of electronic music. My favorite is the PsyChill channel. Especially when working, biking or (perish the thought) driving. It’s got this awesome vibe that makes you feel like you are in some kind of super spy movie.
    The Chillout channel is also great for relaxing tunes.
    Bitrate options for the free service are 40k or 64k HE-AAC or 96k MP3; for the paid service it gives you the additional options of 128k AAC or 256k MP3 plus no audio or banner ads.
    I haven’t brought myself to subscribe to DI.fm’s premium service just yet. There are ads with the free service but I don’t find them annoying enough… Yet… Once I get closer to my goal of retirement I will probably break down and subscribe. Until then I’ll just keep flexing my money muscle.
    DI has its own app for the iPhone and you can run it on your ipad too.

    And when I feel the need for heavy rocking music I switch to TheBlast. Which also has its own app. It is listener supported so you don’t get commercials from various companies but you will of course hear an occasional request for more donors. If you avoid Christian music because it just isn’t badass enough for you, give TheBlast a try.

  • JT October 31, 2013, 9:01 am

    As an independent artist, I thought I’d drop by quickly to rain on all y’alls parades: Pandora and Spotify, while great for the industry and the consumer, are ABYSMAL for artists. Their royalty rate is orders of magnitude away from even being merely insulting. I’m all for saving money and living frugally, but if you spend the extra money on organic beef and produce, I’d recommend spending it on art as well.

    That doesn’t mean never listen to streaming internet radio — hell, my own girlfriend listens to pandora basically non-stop. And I have for years told everyone who would listen to consume my music however it’s most convenient for them.

    But if you discover a new artist, go and buy their albums. Go see a show. Buy them a beer. Give them a hug. That’s all.

    • Garrett September 6, 2023, 1:57 pm

      I completely agree with your statement.
      Even on my journey to FI, I’m happy to
      purchase music. Music isn’t created for
      free. The music was created by real people,
      eating real food, taking real time. They
      deserve to be compensated properly for
      the enjoyment they’re bringing me.

  • Nicolas Garcia December 18, 2013, 5:59 am

    I highly recommend Songza as an option that gives you the about as much variety as Pandora without the formulaic feel of computer-generated mixes. The free version has visual ads and one audio add every time you start a new mix. I don’t have the paid version, but it looks like it’s $4/month, no ads.

  • Mr. Actuary Guy April 29, 2014, 7:44 am

    Hi MMM, I’m a new reader going through all the posts. I love the blog and have been neglecting my other reading to catch up. I feel the need to keep you honest here, though. In every post exhorting spending cuts you mention the 10 year cost and rail against the monthly payment mentality. I agree the Pandora is a deal for you, but you should have calculated the 777 * 3 = $2,331 10 year . Now, go punch yourself in the face and don’t let it happen again.

    Mr. AG

    • Mr. Actuary Guy April 29, 2014, 7:49 am

      Make that 3*173 = $519. Excuse me while I go punch myself in the face.

  • Greg K. August 29, 2014, 11:09 am

    I use Google Music these days at a slightly higher $7.99 per month cost. It’s the last luxury in my budget on the way to financial independence, but it’s one indulgence that allows me to forego the massive amounts of money my musical habits can cost – after all, what is life without music?

  • Victor C. September 8, 2014, 6:39 pm

    I had Pandora One but they recently switched to a $5/month monthly-only payment model, so I cancelled. I’ve been using Jango since then…I don’t feel like I listen to either one enough to justify the now $60 annually that Pandora One would cost.

    Before then I had listened to RadioParadise frequently; they play a nice variety of music, but that’s not what I’ve been wanting to listen to lately. I still occasionally listen for an hour or so, maybe once a month.

  • Scrittitrader E. December 28, 2014, 8:14 am

    I’ve been a big fan of Amazon Prime for a while now – not for the dangerous instant gratification shopping experience – but for the unlimited commercial free playlists, full album downloads (yes downloads that you can keep), and music recommendations for prime members. And books, and films – all “free” for Prime members. I’m sure Moustachians have some strong feelings about Mr. Bezo’s empire, but the music feature is really great – if you are disciplined. Now back to “Sounds of Brazilian Jazz” – oh yeah.

  • Darcy January 6, 2015, 2:16 pm

    My library partners with Freegal to offer card holders 7 legal downloads (to keep) for free each week. The offer resets each Sunday at midnight so you can’t roll unused downloads from week to week. I will say, while they have a pretty excellent selection, it’s not iTunes (indie bands are virtually non-existent). Still, I have downloaded ~600 songs over the past few years, and if I wasn’t already well supplied with 80s music (don’t mock) the options would be endless… They also have free streaming. It’s all handled from a convenient link on my library’s homepage, and I use the same ID# and pin# as I use for my online library account. Truly couldn’t be easier. Hope some of you out there have access!

  • Ginny January 6, 2015, 8:25 pm

    Songza! The free version gives me:

    – Unlimited streaming music from countless artists (once I found a song by a musician from my tiny home town in Nova Scotia!)
    – One ad everytime you open a playlist you’ve never opened before. After you open the playlist once, you never have to watch an ad again (I have been locked to one playlist for a few months now because it’s AWESOME, which means I have been ad free for months)

    The drawback is that you can only skip ahead songs a few times per hour (or day…can’t remember which). BUT there is a way around this. If I don’t like a song, I switch to a different playlist, then switch back. Boom, new song (in two clicks).

  • David March 3, 2015, 5:42 pm

    10 years ago I bought a lifetime subscription to Sirius satellite radio which included internet listening. At work I almost never have wifi access and usually no cell signal, so no streaming. My Sirius receiver plugs into docking stations in my truck, boombox and home stereo. The lifetime subscription was $500 and I have spent about $700 for hardware. As of now it has cost $8/month and that number will go down until I need to replace a tuner or antenna. That gives me 130 channels to listen to in places where streaming is not an option. All I need is a clear view of the western sky.

  • Laura March 24, 2015, 2:42 pm

    I bought a subscription to MP3 Rocket, a one-time fee of about $50, and have access to all the music ever for download onto my computer. It’s pretty great, even if there are some songs that I have to go and change the volume settings or cut off some time at the start or end. I supplement that with free Pandora and other radio stations to decide which to download, since I don’t have a problem repeating songs.

  • John July 28, 2015, 11:21 am

    I started reading through your posts in order a few weeks ago. It is getting kind of scary the similarities that have come up. I have an Electrical engineering degree that has provided well for us over the years. I spent some early years as a landlord / rehab house flipper in order to build an early stash further. I prefer making furniture now rather than construction job, though I continue to do both. Now I see that we both enjoy Ahmad Jamal and other artists in common. I consider myself a SWAMI. I am still enjoying the cushy office work and have not joined the ranks of retired yet, that day is fast approaching though. Perhaps brothers from a different mother.

  • Paul d'Aoust July 30, 2015, 10:09 pm

    Your brother is Wax Mannequin?!?!? His music is seriously messed up, but in a good way. He must be exhausted after his shows. I saw him at a local coffee shop here in Penticton, BC about a decade ago, and I still sometimes get “Animals Jump” stuck in my head from time to time. In fact I had that very earworm a couple days ago and couldn’t remember the guy’s name. Thank you for reminding me.

    In other news, I discovered your blog a couple days ago and I’m seriously enjoying it. (Although you are responsible for a couple nights of insomnia.) Thanks for making the math so unexpectedly straightforward and promising.

  • Stephen September 29, 2015, 12:40 pm

    Just a quick update on the music scene since this post is getting somewhat old and gray. Amazon Prime has a solid selection of music that included in the $99 fee. I’ve dropped my service and continue to get solid tunes streamed to my exuberant living quarters.

  • Alison March 9, 2016, 9:01 am

    I learned about you, M-cubed, from the New Yorker. I am really enjoying reading through these posts from the beginning! May I say a quick word about another free source of music with relatively little advertising? Here in Boston we have multiple excellent college radio stations. (Big shout out to WERS, WMBR and WHRB!). They rotate formats so much that I can listen for days & never get bored. Most of them stream online, too. It is nice to send them a contribution, but of course not required.

  • Matt July 22, 2016, 10:59 pm

    Those speakers look awesome. The first set of nice speakers I ever heard were a friends Axioms. I was hooked. I ended up researching the shit out building your own to save the money on the name and assembly and built two sets that I love the sound of. There are a lot of diy plans out there that you can build that are very budget oriented. Check out Paul Carmody’s designs. I made a set of Overnight Sensations and Classix II a few years ago. They sound amazing and were only about $150 in materials each.

    A side note – my non-contract cell plan though boost mobile is $35/month and includes 4gb of data. The cool part is that they have a contract with Pandora so any streaming done in there doesn’t go toward your data plan.

  • Laura November 15, 2016, 10:42 am

    What happen to your music collection? After getting tons of music, why not digitalize it and have it for free? We could play all of our music 24/7 for over 30 days. Napster and Bit Torrent helped us increase our collection. But my husband has been collecting for over 48 years, starting when he was 12.
    His music collection is over 190 GB in size yet fits on a custom iPod. Anyway, enjoy your music.

  • Erica November 20, 2016, 10:47 pm

    I’ve been a big Spotify fan for years, personally. We pay $15 for the family plan, which means myself, my partner, my brother, mother, father and SIL all have premium with no ads and unlimited skips and I basically feel like a musical god. Music is a huge need in our family, but we wisely maximize the plan to minimize individual cost and all walk away the music nerds we are.

  • Peter December 19, 2020, 6:07 am

    Is this what you wrote sponsored by Pandora?

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 19, 2020, 2:07 pm

      Nope, they don’t even know that I wrote this article. But it’s quite out of date – since then I have switched to YouTube Premium, which is considerably more costly but worth it for both the music and video sides of it (I share an account with me, my son, and several friends)


Leave a Reply

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

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


welcome new readers

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

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

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets