Muscle Over Motor

It’s definitely late fall here in Colorado, and the trees have dumped most of their leaves onto the ground.

In my neighborhood, this invariably triggers a flurry of lawn contractor activity. A pickup truck pulling a long trailer full of equipment pulls up, a fleet of young guys gets out and each picks up a leafblower, then for the next hour they blow leaves and gasoline fumes back and forth at each other while the surrounding square mile of city becomes a toxic and ear-splitting war zone. Eventually they manage to get a portion of the leaves into plastic bags in their trailer and they motor off.

Just a few days ago, we had an early snowstorm here, which dropped a quick few inches of luxurious fluffy powder onto the newly blown lawns. I was enjoying a casual bike ride through the stuff on my way to the grocery store when I glanced over and noticed a shockingly irrational specter: One of my neighbors was clearing the light powder from his short sidewalk with a SNOWBLOWER!

Like 99% of the snowfalls in this region, this was a quantity of snow that could have been easily swept aside with a shovel, or a broom, or even a tiny little bird feather… but this able-bodied gentleman was out there doing his duty with a gas-powered appliance. The stench leaking from the crude 2-stroke engine left a stain in the air that could be smelled from 500 feet away.

Earlier in the week, when the temperature was in the 60s, other neighbors were using gas-powered lawnmowers to slowly mow their lawns while simultaneously sucking up and chopping the autumn leaves into the lawnmower’s bag, which they then threw out with their weekly trash.

All of these events led my brilliant engineer’s brain to come up with a few new Inventions:

Imagine a leafblower so advanced that it harnesses the power of your abdomen and biceps, while sucking away your stored fat reserves. Yet it operates nearly silently and costs under 15 bucks. With just a simple wooden handle and a few ounces of sturdy bent plastic or metal prongs, it could be lightweight and quite wide, and be able to clear thousands of square feet of densely-packed leaves per hour, leaving you feeling refreshed and healthier and more connected with Nature every time you use it.

Imagine a snowblower so supreme that it works a complementary set of muscles to the leafblower above: your shoulders and your lower back, as well as the hamstrings and portions of the gluteus. It also operates with silky silence, and it ALSO gets 100% of its power from the ultimate renewable resource – your beer belly.

You would assume this futuristic device would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? Wrong! This too is under fifteen bucks.

My next invention is an advanced motorcycle that weighs less than thirty pounds and costs less than three hundred dollars. Yet it has a range of over a hundred miles per day, and you never have to find a power outlet to plug it in, because its power source is – you guessed it – the cellulite stored in your ass which gets converted into muscles in your legs and calves as a side effect of the transportation!

I know I am blowing your mind with these inventions, but I actually have working prototypes right in my garden shed and garage.

I also have a lawnmower with a spinning reel of sharp metal blades that gets its power from me pushing on the handle, and even a boat (which I am demonstrating for you in the picture below), that is 11 feet long, and able to navigate everything from tranquil lakes to roaring ocean surf waves to car-sized river rapids.. but which deflates to fit in a bike trailer, weighs less than 25 pounds, costs less than $100, and is also powered entirely by muscles.

boulder creek

Yee Haw! Motorboats be damned.

I think you might be noticing a pattern here. And the pattern is of course Muscle over Motor.

It’s more than just an article. It’s a Founding Principle of Mustachianism, because when you embrace it, it adds great fun to your life even while it simultaneously strips away the fat from your physique and your budget. It’s one of the most powerful little three-word sentences you can embrace.

Because of the power of Muscle over Motor, you should be deeply suspicious of anything with a motor. A motor represents a shortcut to getting something done. That sounds good on the surface, but you must consider what you are shortcutting.

A motorboat will get you across the lake quickly, but wait a minute, you like being on the lake – so why not use your muscles to actually earn your trip across it? It takes longer – that is a good thing. You will enjoy the beers on the deck afterwards much more when you really deserve them.

A Hummer will get you up the logging road and across the rocky meadows. But dude, you’re sitting in a glorified Lazy-Boy recliner and pushing on a pedal. What kind of wussy way of climbing a mountain is that? Leave the motor vehicles where the pavement ends and put on your hiking boots like a Real Man or Woman (or a pair of old flip-flops if you want to be even more badass like some of my old-school Colorado friends).

If you want more speed than walking and the ability to cross dozens of miles of terrain per day (as well as catching much more air on the descents), try a mountain bike instead of an SUV.

A Harley – of course with its quiet stock mufflers replaced with illegal straight pipes – will get you through some beautiful rocky canyon roads and allow you to ruin the outdoor dining of thousands of people in the hopping downtown Chicago restaurant districts. But a nice lightweight road bike will get you up the same roads and let you hear the birds at the same time, and your resulting muscular physique and healthy glow will get a lot more positive attention in downtown Chicago than the overpriced motorcycle and standard-issue black leather “Independent-minded Renegade Harley® Rider” Halloween costume ever will.

If you need to carry a few bags of cement over to a neighbor’s house, try a wheelbarrow or a dolly instead of a pickup truck. If you need to get up to a different level of a building, give me a break, you don’t need an elevator or escalator… find the stairs! You work on the 63rd floor? I envy you!

In the gym, the machines with fancy paint jobs and HD displays are to be mocked, because there is already a much more effective yet simpler tool that helps you exercise, namely the chunks of metal with handles on them in the free weights section.. or better yet, in your own garage or basement or living room or friend’s house.

Even if you’re missing some of your younger physical abilities or you are in a wheelchair, you can still use what you’ve still got to kick as much ass as possible!

The thing about this philosophy is that it keeps you very busy, which means it keeps you out of financial trouble as well.

If you are following Muscle over Motor, your leisure time is packed with active high-effort outdoor activities which you love. And because of this, you don’t even have time to take up expensive hobbies like waterskiing behind a powerboat, or jacking up your Jeep so it has higher ground clearance so you can drive it around the trails at Moab, or riding ATVs around to shoot at animals. Sure, these can be fun activities as well, but we all have a finite amount of time and money.

So which activities do we choose: the expensive ones where you sit on your butt and twist a throttle? Or the low-cost ones that also make us healthy and develop our physical skills?

This isn’t a perfect rule, because there are exceptions. Motors are still useful when we’re trying to get some serious work done. I’m not suggesting that the world’s excavator operators climb down out of their cabins and pick up garden shovels, or that carpenters sell their table saws and start cutting 16-foot trim boards with a handsaw. Taxi drivers may or may not want to switch to rickshaws, and accountants should definitely not give up their computers.

But when applied to most of your life, this whole idea of powering your own damned recreational activities (including lawn care) is a great one. It’s another form of Insourcing, but it applies to everyone, not just homeowners with chores.  If you find yourself tempted to use a motor when a muscle will do just as well, you should imagine me hovering behind you and reminding you of the slogan every time you reach for a gas-powered lifestyle accessory.


This is email #14 of roughly 35 in the MMM “Just the Classics” boot camp series. You can always find the original versions of any of my posts in .

  • TLV December 5, 2011, 8:01 am

    I guess I’ll bike to work instead of taking the bus today. Thanks for the pep talk!

    • Jim Wang August 16, 2015, 5:22 am

      When you make the mental shift to it’s “working out” instead of just “work,” it’s liberating. And a little exercise never hurt anyone. :)

      • lenny February 24, 2017, 11:54 am

        Respectfully, I believe that misses the point somewhat. Work is difficulty, challenge, it represents a side of life our innate being would choose to avoid. It is experience and the wisdom contained within that teaches us to appreciate the bitterness of life to extract the uniquely beautiful joys that come attached. To mow the lawn, to the rake the leaves, is that not to experience a joy that cannot fathom a price? When the last bag reaches the curb? Or the last leaf plucked from the vines of the suburban jungle? Cherish the difficult as well as the pleasurable: Work not ‘working out’.

    • Rad January 8, 2020, 11:32 am

      Bike to work enough and you will start hating the few times you have to take the car.

  • Tom Armstrong December 5, 2011, 8:26 am


    When I moved from the apartment (no yard work!) to the small house my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I rented, she had a cheap reel mower. The handles on that thing were under-built, and broke soon after. I went to the hardware store, but they had nothing that wasn’t gas-powered or coal-powered (electric), and I found myself at a home center (Home Despot?), looking at their selection of reel mowers. They had one in a damaged box, that had one wheel bent in a non-problematic way. I paid half-price for that mower, and it’s been working almost perfectly since (I did get a replacement handle after the first one broke, but it was a warranty issue).

    A few months after I got that mower, a flier appeared on my doorknob, advertising a lawn service that was offering to cut my grass for $35 a week, or a bit more than half what I paid for the mower. That flier found its way to the recycle bin.

    I bought a couple of snow shovels later that year, and they work fine. My wife and I use them (note that she pulls her own weight in such efforts) for the occasional snow accumulation we have here (far short of what you see in Colorado, of course), and never feel need for a snow blower like that a neighbor uses to clear his tenth-acre concrete driveway (room to park the five cars his family maintains).

    My wife and I both cringe when we hear the leaf-blowers going at full blast, knowing that we can manage our leaves in about the same amount of time with two rakes and a tarp (city picks them up for mulching–our back yard doesn’t get enough sun to have a garden, and as we’ve been in the house less than two years, we haven’t gotten around to building a garden in the front yard–that’s in the five-year plan, though).

    The money we redirect by not having the gas-powered mower, leaf-blower, and snow-blower goes toward better quality food until we can grow more of our own. Life is more enjoyable without all the dratted noise. I find that my abhorrence of lawn mowing is lessened because the reel mower doesn’t make the dust cloud a rotary would, and my allergies don’t flare just from cutting the grass for half an hour. So many benefits!!!

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 9:00 am

      That is an interesting detail you mention about the handles breaking on the reel mowers. A friend and I just rescued a very nice (wide cut) Scott reel mower from a trash heap which the owners had discarded because of a broken-off stem and handle. With a few minutes of welding and some heavier-gauge pipe steel, I am going to build a new handle for it that will hopefully outlast human civilization, let alone a piddly few decades of lawn mowing.

      • Tom Armstrong December 5, 2011, 9:07 am

        Yeah, if I had a welder and some scrap metal around, I would perhaps have gone that route. Since the handle was replaced as a warranty matter (with a stronger design), I chose that route. It’s been fine since!

      • Ned December 7, 2011, 10:04 am

        “I am going to build a new handle for it that will hopefully outlast human civilization, let alone a piddly few decades of lawn mowing.

        Pity that these two deadlines are converging so folks like our neighbors can have leaf and snow blowers…thanks for crushing two of my biggest pet peeves in one post. and for reminding me that my snow shovel broke last winter…I am here from ERE and here to stay. also loved the post on biking through the winter…I have noexcuses here in Brooklyn if you can bike in Colorado. Great blog! The torch has been passed.

    • isaac February 19, 2016, 5:10 pm

      Lawns are pure evil. Bee keepers in the US lost over 40% of their hives last year, within 5 years that number could hit 100% and within 10 it probably will. European honeybees that have escaped captivity and other pollinators – be it bumble bees, carpenter bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, beetles, moths, bats, flies or mosquitos – aren’t doing much better. A “weed” free lawn provide absolutely no forage for pollinators, maintaining a lawn is literally worse than doing nothing at all. And then there is the issue of water. California had less than 360 days of water left when they finally started making a completely half assed effort at water conservation, and had less than 270 days left when the drought broke. Problem is that even before the drought California was pulling water out of its aquifers faster than they where being recharged and even with the drought broken they will probably be completely out of water within 10 years. Lawns don’t only require water to maintain, but a “well kept lawn” (short, “weed” free) does not slow the moment of water as much as a “weed”-y lawn, which means that more water will run-off and less will soak in providing recharge, more over many lawn care practices make it worse, cutting grass short encourages leaf growth over the growth of roots and rhizomes and lacking the agitation of root growth soil can become compacted and lose porosity; this is further compounded by pesticides and overly rich fertilizers killing soil bacteria and macroscopic organisms (worms, moles, etc) which further removes a source of soil agitation.

      All the yard work you need to do is watch out for trees and vines that can fuck up your foundation, siding, gutters and roof (note: housing that isn’t built on the assumption of cheap energy (and hence HVAC) usually have drip lines that are out away from the house and don’t require gutters…… ), foot traffic will keep down the vegetation in any parts of the yard you actually use, leafs don’t matter and before you shovel snow you should really ask yourself “how hard is it really to walk through snow?”…..

      Lawns where created as a way for rich aristocrats to show off there excess by showing how thoughtlessly they could be wasteful; waste is fucking disgusting.

      • Onnagodalavida April 3, 2016, 12:12 pm

        Yup, I agree. If you leave your lawn alone, nature will grow an incredible diversity of plants there that will support a diverse insect population, which in turn supports wonderful bird life. The plants nature chooses look beautiful, a natural bouquet that feels right & provides a sense of harmony to your life. Plus think of all that time you save by not mowing!

      • Grizzlybearmom October 10, 2018, 10:34 am

        1. Yes we must stop worshiping lawns, or symbols of our wastefulness. Twenty five percent of US or is it world fertilizer is applied to lawns, washes off, kills fish and causes algae blown in the water killing more water life. I won’t let my dog walk on treated lawns because they absorb chemicals through their paws. It kills the bugs that birds, frogs, toad, and snakes feed on and probably them in turn. Keeping lawns wastes water. It removes cover that the critters need to live. I leave mine as long and possible and don’t apply chemicals, water or gasoline powered blades until I’m past county standards. 2. I have chronic tendonitis. So I don’t mown or rake but I walk 6 miles daily as part of my work commute,park far away in the shade if possible, carry 25 pound dog food bags through the store, etc.; and call this my fitness program. As a 58 year old woman I have impressive biceps and deltoids.

  • Tom Armstrong December 5, 2011, 8:32 am

    Oh, and, even though I have a well-known-among-family-and-friends aversion to cycling in the rain, I rode to work today. That isn’t but so newsworthy for me, as I’ve ridden roughly 6900 miles “instead of driving” so far this year. At thirty-one cents per mile (and dropping with every mile pedaled), the fancy new commuter bike has all but paid for itself when compared to using a car, and will continue to return value in greater proportion than a car ever would for me.

    • Matt December 5, 2011, 9:38 am

      You’re ridden 6900 this year?! Wow! That’s incredible. I’ve only been able to pull off 2100 since April. I’ve got a long way to catch up, but there’s always next year!

      Happy Riding!

      • Tom Armstrong December 5, 2011, 9:59 am

        My to-work commute is thirteen miles or so each way, and moving closer is not a good option with the bulk of our social life the opposite direction. The time allotted for the bike ride is about half-again the car time, and I consider that time spent getting exercise (with all the physical and mental benefits) instead of paying for a gym membership.

        Some time ago, I encountered the concept of car average speed as including the time I spent working to have money to pay for the car. In other words, every hour I spend earning car money is added to the car use time to calculate average car speed. I found that for most of my transit needs, the bike gets better miles per hour. Unless other factors (cargo or severe weather or really cruddy roads for bike use or severe time constraints) come into play, the bike usually wins in this equation. While not, perhaps, precisely within the MMM realm, it does add to quality of life.

        • Matt December 5, 2011, 12:08 pm

          Incredible. My to school commute is around a 13 mile round trip and it takes about 5 minutes longer than going in a car, and half the time that it would take on the bus… So I can definitely see understand why you would make the commute on bike. It just saves so much time, and no need for the gym!

          • JB December 18, 2014, 1:48 pm

            it takes me about 45 minutes to bike to work and 25 to drive. I have free parking and not much rainy gear. Most of the time I bike to my gym and shower there then walk another mile to work. If I plan better, I can just use personal wipes and “hose” myself off.

            • Renee July 3, 2019, 10:43 am

              If you don’t have much rainy gear, I would invest in some…

              After ditching the car and choosing the bike, the rain and the sun and the cold and the attentiveness and the need for planning ahead have taught me lessons that have been worth more than the rain gear and the wipes and the cost of the bike.

  • qhartman December 5, 2011, 9:33 am

    Good stuff! The wife and I just had a “leaf raking party” this weekend. We helped a couple neighbors (one elderly) rake the leaves off their lawn and piled them on our garden beds to mulch them for the winter. They get clean lawns, we get free mulch! Win win!

    The one yard care area that I break down and go for power if I have a small electric tiller / cultivator. It makes really short work of preparing the gardens and tearing out turf. Since I’m still working full time, it would take me weeks of evenings to get done by hand what I can knock out in a Sunday afternoon with that tool. It was $120 on Amazon (about what similar gas-powered ones were going for used on CL) and thanks to my wind/hydro power credits through the utility I’m on, is fossil fuel free.

    • tim rapp December 5, 2011, 9:57 am

      Funny article. I agree, but lazy people require more motivation to change their ways (rather than just calling them lazy). Point out that gas mowers, snowblowers, and leaf blowers TAKE MORE TIME TO USE than manual tools (no trips to gas station; no long tangled electrical cords to deal with; no trouble starting engine, etc). They also take up more storage space — a big motivator for anyone with a packed garage/shed.

      • Eldred December 21, 2013, 12:02 am

        I have a gas mower, but I’ve been considering buying a reel mower for one reason – it’s quieter. That means that I could mow my lawn on weekend mornings before I have to do other stuff, and not disturb my neighbors. Or, I could do it before the summer heat becomes unbearable. In other words, when *I* have the time and energy(they don’t always happen at the same time), and not being constrained by ‘reasonable hours’. But using my gas mower doesn’t take any longer than using a reel mower, and it starts on one pull. And I’m sure a leaf blower would actually get the job done MUCH quicker than raking. I don’t make extra trips to the gas station, because if the gas can is near empty I fill it up when I fill up my car. I’ll give you the space issue, though. A rake, reel mower, and shovel take up much less space than a leaf blower, gas mower, and snowblower…

        • Joe Average March 19, 2015, 3:27 pm

          We have two reel mowers and a small gas mower as well. The reels were used, the gas mower a former hardware store returnee that I bought for half the cost of a new mower.

          The reels do a wonderful job and I love using them BUT – they won’t mulch sticks. In fact the sticks bring them to a sudden stop if you get one trapped in the blades. I reel mow 98% o f the time and mow with the gas mower the rest – just to grind up the sticks and acorns and such.

          Also the reel mowers won’t cut any sort of blades of grass that are not standing upright but instead laying over at some extreme angle. They just get pressed flat only to stand up later.

          The perfect middle ground is an electric (battery) mower.

          We LOVE to share chores with family and friends. Love that “barn raising” mentality that helps everyone be more social and get the chores done faster (at least the work part).

  • Tam December 5, 2011, 9:46 am

    You sure like bikes! I would wager 63.4% of your posts are about bicycling in some way. Nothing wrong with that, but it would be nice to have some variety. Or maybe you should start a biking blog.

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 1:06 pm

      Or maybe you should start a blog that doesn’t talk as much about bikes, ’cause you ain’t gonna change Mr. Money Mustache, Sukka!

      I’ll talk less about bikes once they are the normal mode of transportation in the US as they should be, and thus it is redundant to encourage people to use them.

      • Grant December 5, 2011, 6:40 pm

        More bike related posts, please!

      • Tam December 6, 2011, 5:39 pm

        Not trying to change you. Just wondering if you have anything unrelated to bikes to say. Maybe not? But yeah, bikes are great. BIKES!

        • MMM December 6, 2011, 7:02 pm

          Haha… nice sarcasm.

          I just looked at the list of articles since the Dawn of the Mustache in April 2011. I see that I’ve thrown down 151 of them so far, and I’m too lazy to scroll through all of them so I just surveyed the most recent twenty. While only one of them mentions bicycling in its title, three or four of them use bicycle-related ideas as a pivotal part of their argument. That’s about 20%. And I believe I’ve been on a bit of a bike binge recently, so with careful research of the whole 151 posts, you would probably find an even lower percentage.

          So yes, I’d say I do have some things to say that are unrelated to bikes. In fact, I think I agree with Grant that we need MORE bike related posts, not fewer!

          As a technical tip, you can probably get your browser to display even more bike-free content by typing different URLs into your web browser’s address bar.
          (yeah, I know that’s the third time I’ve used this joke in the last year on different critics… I need to think up some new witty comebacks, don’t I? :-))

      • Beth W August 28, 2015, 10:14 am

        You’ve got plenty of support in Seattle. We have bike to worth months, and it’s the preferred transportation for anyone near enough to the city to use one. Beats the heck out of $600/month parking, traffic, gas, etc. I use the train and walk myself (bad knees and a crippling fear of being hit by a car) but even in hilly areas where biking can be very much a hard workout, it’s generally cheaper, better for you, AND better for the environment than driving.

  • No Name Guy December 5, 2011, 10:44 am

    It seems to me to run by the personality type. There’s the type that generally / mostly chooses non-motorized recreation and the type that generally / mostly chooses motorized recreation. Compare and contrast both the expense and physical effort required of each form of recreation.

    – Mountain Bike versus ATV / dirt bike.
    – Bass / Ski / runabout / ocean fishing boat versus canoe / kayak / float tube or fly fisher
    – Snowmobile versus cross country ski / AT / Tele
    – Hikers / back packers versus RVers / Car campers ( comparison on the camping part of it).

    I kind of pity the machine oriented types. They miss out on the bulk of the beauty of the world. Several years ago I was out hiking for the summer. I passed through Yosemite near the 4th of July weekend. As I crossed the road up in Tuoloumne, it was an absolute zoo – cars, buses and hundreds of people milling about. As I headed north, the first 1/2 mile from the road, the crowds dropped by a factor of 10 (give or take). Within an hour or two, I was back to complete solitude and the absolutely gorgeous scenery of the back country of the park. Those that wouldn’t walk 5 miles from the road missed out on some of the best that Yosemite has to offer.

    I also have to say there MMM – yuck on that Sevylor. I’ve had to use those things in adventure races before – they stink for a paddling experience. Yeah, yeah, yeah….packs down. 25 lbs. Works on white water. Inexpensive. But man – you can’t get ANYWHERE in those things on flat water and they kill my back. A real kayak is a 17′ touring boat – 20-40 miles a day is quite doable with sufficient supplies to last 10-15 days (I’m a Puget Sound / Seattle type so it’s salt water touring for me. Lower end plastic boats can be had fairly inexpensive used – check Craigslist or your local kayak shop selling their demo / rental boats. Backpacking gear translates great to kayak touring gear. YMMV. And yes, different strokes for different folks…. :-)

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 7:34 pm

      Hmm.. I’ve heard from one of my friends that it is part of the culture of you Northwesterners to make fun of Sevy boats. But I will have none of it! I mean, just LOOK at that shit that I’m riding through in the picture!

      It is the most Mustachian boat for my situation, because I don’t currently live near the ocean, and I don’t want to be a slave to my boat (special vehicle arrangements for carrying it, special area needed to store it, etc.). I’ve even done a big multi-day group camping/whitewater trip on the Colorado river with a whole flock of Sevylors. One of the best trips of my life!

      Later, I did 3-day kayak+camping trip around part of Kauai’i on one of those touring boats. It was fine too, but the big waves made me miss the Sevy.

      But I also appreciate YOUR boat choice as well – it sounds like it is suitable for you. The important part is we are both powering them with our own arms!

      • No Name Guy December 6, 2011, 10:56 am

        One thing I wouldn’t do is take my touring boats in water like the picture. What is that, Class III or IV? I bow down to your whitewater skills – not my cup of tea. Yes – I could see for Colorado that a Sevy is a great choice. Ever try one of those little stubby whitewater boats? Effing insane what those folks go through. :-)

        Class II is about all a touring boat is good for on a river – been there and done that during adventure races. ‘Tis exciting enough when there are log jams and sweepers without huge frothing, standing waves. I’d never take a touring boat through conditions in your pic (discretion being the better part of valor, or something like that).

        Storage isn’t all that bad for a touring boat for a home owner (it would suck for an apartment dweller) – I built a couple plywood racks to store my 2 touring boats outside (a solo and a double for me and the GF / race teammate). I keep them covered with tarps and cockpit covers. If my garage was big enough I’d keep ’em inside but the garage is too short to fit them in there.

        Transport isn’t all that bad. Just about any 4 wheel motor vehicle will do. My vehicle (2 door, high 20 mpg car) hauls the double reasonably well on the roof rack and the single very well. I just have to do the bow and stern straps with care. Lake Washington and a public launch point is only 10 minutes away, Puget Sound and salt water only 20.

        This summer GF and I took a surf class in the touring boats on the tip of the Olympic peninsula. Riding the waves into the beach was quite fun in a touring boat – all you have to do is be trained. Yeeeeeeee Haaawwwwww!

      • Derek Frei October 22, 2013, 1:22 pm

        On a related note almost two years after this thread began, here is a cool way for us Pacific Northwest kayak snobs to haul our sea-mobiles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alxn5Sff9PA

  • Edward Betts December 5, 2011, 11:27 am

    Should I worry about using an electric coffee grinder to grind my coffee beans?

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 1:11 pm

      I tried to smash the beans once with a hammer during a power failure.. It sucked, so I still use my electric one. I’m not a purist at anything :-)

      • qhartman December 5, 2011, 1:18 pm

        Hand-crank coffee grinders work really well. No excuses!


        You can often pickup the old brass ones at garage sales or junk shops for next to nothing.

        REI even has a backpack-friendly one:


        • MMM December 5, 2011, 7:38 pm

          Cool! It is good to know those exist.

          I will switch to manual grinding if someone gives me a used one for free. (The ones in your links are nice, but fantastically expensive compared to my electric one that cost $9.99 and has been working perfectly for 11 years and counting so far.. which I bought before becoming Mr. Money Mustache so it is grandfathered in ;-) ).

          • Quentin Hartman December 5, 2011, 9:11 pm

            Oh yeah, definitely not worth replacing a functional unit at those prices, but if one were in need of a grinder, they are relatively easy to find used for a fraction of those list prices. At least, they are around here.

          • oskar December 6, 2011, 7:35 am

            I have a manual grinder from the 50´s that is fixed to the wall in the kitchen, it works really well and looks nice. i also have two stove top mocha brewers. All together I payed about 30 USD for these at flee markets and they make a great cup of coffee!! I have a friend that has a 3500 USD automated Swiss coffe maker that does the same, but it does not look as nice and it takes up much more room…..


  • Brian December 5, 2011, 11:33 am

    Great article. I always think of how cool a bicycle is. With much less than a horsepower continuous, you can get around Chicago faster than any 200 HP car. They take up so little space on the road, you can park right in front of your destination and are so cheap to operate. A little grease on the chain and some air in the tires now and then.

    It is nice to ride home on Friday through a mile of stopped traffic.

    • Josh December 7, 2011, 1:27 pm

      –Fellow Chicago biker

      • Renee July 3, 2019, 10:48 am

        Very envious of your amazing bike lanes, Chicago.

        – Atlanta biker who visited Chicago recently

  • Rob December 5, 2011, 11:41 am

    Hi. Just recently started reading your blog and really enjoy it. Keep up the good work.

    This entry reminds me of my recent adventure I had pruning an overgrown plum tree in my front yard. I thought I would share.

    To do this I used:

    1. An 8′ ladder
    2. 20′ of rope
    3. Hedge clippers (for limbs up to 1.5” in diameter)
    4. A hand saw.

    Some of the limbs on this thing stretched 25 feet high and were 5” in diameter. A chain saw would have been a nice luxury but I do not own one and have been too frugal to buy one in the past (wish I could say a concern for the environment was my primary reason – but its not). I really enjoyed this project because it was a great workout and was really an interesting puzzle. As you cut a large limb at certain angles with a handsaw, gravity will start working against you by pinching the cut location and causing the saw to stick. I figured out how to use rope to both secure the limb (safety) and to create a makeshift pulley (i.e., another limb of the tree) to apply sufficient force to keep gravity at bay. Worked out great and I was so tired by the end of the project that I had the best sleep I’ve had in weeks. I recommend it to anybody.

    Note: I’ve since acquired a 30” bow saw which would make this a much easier and faster task next time.

    • Brave New Life December 5, 2011, 12:59 pm

      Rob, another trick is to cut a small triangle about 1/3 of the way through the branch from the bottom up. Then cut from the top down and use gravity to your advantage. This also prevents stripping away bark, which looks bad and also can cause fatal rot.

  • Timmy December 5, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Yes! Power to the people!
    I especially love the comments about making it a community unity thing. Let us get to know thy neighbors, and help the ones who can’t help themselves. Karma can pay well too.
    I make an extra $20 or batch of cookies here and there for adding minimal time to my neighbors yards and walks. The best part, it feels good, and they insist on giving

  • AGil December 5, 2011, 12:14 pm

    While I agree with this article, there is one motorized activity that is equally if not more fun and energy burning than mountain biking, and also quite cheap if not cheaper. Dirt bikes. You can burn up miles and miles on a dirt bike making them very fun and able to reach more remote places than on a mountain bike. The amount of energy required to keep them upright in gnarly terrain rivals mountain biking. The amount of processing your brain does when riding complicated terrain is unreal. It is both physically and mentally draining. I purchased mine used for $1,200. It is one of the cheapest hobbies on earth. If you have never tried it, you may not ever want to even try it since its irresistibly fun and relatively safe if you keep the speeds down, just like mountain bikes.

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 8:04 pm

      I don’t know, AGil, I think I am still going to have to declare Dirt Bikes to be much less Mustachian than mountain bikes :-) Still better than a 4-wheeler though.

      I grew up riding a dirt bike myself throughout high school, and they are definitely great fun, and pretty cheap, as you mention. But I wouldn’t feel right riding one here in Colorado’s front range mountains, because many other people share the area. Everyone else would have to hear my engine, which could ruin their own nature experience.

      There are of course many more remote areas where this would not be the case. But still, the whole point of this muscle over motor article is this: I already don’t do as much mountain biking as I would like, and it’s better for me than dirt biking. Therefore I will devote free time to the mountain bike before I add the additional cost and pollution of a dirt bike.

      • Songbird October 16, 2013, 4:57 pm

        MMM, In CT we have the problem of people using local hiking trails that are specifically designated for foot traffic only for their motorized bikes and quads. This is a huge deal for those of us who live here and enjoy hiking, and also damages trails that volunteers spend hours creating and maintaining. I appreciate that you make this decision with the thought of the other people in the great outdoors in mind. I wish that ATVers and dirt bikers around here would do that more often.

  • Acorn December 5, 2011, 12:39 pm

    I love the sound of my reel mower, so much more pleasant than a gas mower. My neighbours ask how I manage to cut the grass with it, but it really requires very little exertion.

    • Brave New Life December 5, 2011, 12:54 pm

      My 120 pound wife could never push our old gas-power mower, yet she regularly mows the lawn now that we have the reel mower. It’s funny people think the reel mower is difficult, when in fact it’s much easier.

      After we got our reel mower, my wife and I were puzzled at how lawn mowers were ever invented. How did they create a marketing plan for a product that is heavier, louder, dirtier, more expensive and more likely to break? That marketing person is clearly a genius, and I have a few products to pitch to them.

  • Brave New Life December 5, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Dammit, MMM. You know I subscribe to your philosophy, but you’re pushing it here. I bike to work, I have a reel mower, I run/walk/bike almost everywhere, and I use free weights and kettle balls at the gym. But I love my motorcycle and can’t seem to convince convince myself to get rid of it.

    I think about getting rid of it a lot. I really only use it to drive to the gym, which I could bike to, not to mention there is a certain embarrassing irony to trading muscle for motor to reach a destination designed for exercise. Sometimes I even jump on the exercise bike to warm up before hitting the weights! It’s like the punchline to the big MMM joke.

    I recall you once saying you had a motorcycle. I can only assume you loved riding it. So tell me, how did you make the move to get rid of it? And do you miss it?


    PS. Great post. Maybe my favorite yet, your style of humor at mocking the hilarity of our lazy culture is getting better and better.

    • jennypenny December 5, 2011, 1:53 pm

      You need one of these to relieve some of the guilt http://olive-drab.com/idphoto/id_photos_m1030_m1d.php . You can get 96 mph and they’re diesel powered.

      • qhartman December 5, 2011, 1:57 pm

        OMG, I want one of those sooooo bad now. I was just the other day wishing for a diesel motorcycle and bummed that I couldn’t find any…. hooray!

      • Yabusame December 6, 2011, 6:09 am

        Up to 100 mpg? That’s fantastic!

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 8:15 pm

      Thanks Brave. I did love riding my motorbike, but I found I just wasn’t riding it very much once I retired from work.

      Since my whole deal is eliminating unnecessary driving, I obviously could never take it out for pleasure cruises on a weekend (plus a bike is way better anyway, because of the exercise). I can’t ride a motorcycle for an intra-city trip, because that’s what bikes are for (Longmont is only about 5×5 miles). And when I leave the city, I’m usually bringing the family, which means using the car.

      It got to a point where a whole year went by and I had put well under 1000 miles on the odometer. And it was sitting there depreciating and taking up uber-valuable space in my workshop garage. So I sold it and recovered something like $5500 back into the ‘stash. Ahhhh.. what a great feeling that was. The next year I downsized from an expensive Subaru wagon to a less-expensive Scion and got additional cash back.

      That was several years ago, and I haven’t missed either of them for a second.

  • Kevin M December 5, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Do you live in my neighborhood, MMM? Seriously, it is only funny because it is so true. I was trimming my tree with one of those long pole-saws last summer and my neighbor asked if I’d like to borrow his pole mounted chain saw….I said no thanks. Not only did my saw do the trick in just a few minutes, his tool just sounded dangerous. Another neighbor asked if I wanted to borrow his leaf blower, I told him no thanks – my rake was doing just fine and I like my hearing the way it is. I may have not actually vocalized that last part.

  • J December 5, 2011, 3:06 pm

    I agree, a great MMM post. Keep them coming! (Please!)

  • gryhrt December 5, 2011, 4:30 pm

    This is my snow clearing solution:


    Easier to use than a shovel, less maintenance than a snow blower, and inexpensive to buy.

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 7:17 pm

      Oh yeah! I remember those beauties from my Canadian childhood. Definitely a good idea for people in high-snow areas with big driveways who might otherwise be pushed into snowblower territory. I still know a few Rural Ottawa residents who have an actual valid reason to own a snowblower.. but there should definitely be ZERO of them in my own neighborhood.

      • Kaibutsu October 5, 2018, 11:29 am

        I’m way late to the party on this post, but
        a) I love the posts about bikes
        b) I lived in CO most of my life and I never even considered a snowblower and to this day I still can’t imagine having one in CO. The sun does half the work anyway.
        c) I do have a snowblower now, but I’m in Maine. Those plow-like shovels are amazing for the first month or two of snow. Once the snow is six feet high on the sides of the road and driveway, it’s pretty freaking brutal on my not-so-young-anymore body to heave that heavy snow up that high.

        I completely agree about leaf blowers and I have close to one hundred trees in my property. Raking is totally the way to go.

        Thanks for the MMM site by the way. It’s great to see so many like-minded people in one place, even if it’s a virtual place.

    • Bill C June 10, 2013, 7:02 pm

      I’ve though about getting my parents something like that, as they have a long driveway. I live in the city, though, and I need to carry snow from the street around the cars past the sidewalk. The shovels with a bent handle are the best thing I’ve found for that.

    • Dave June 16, 2014, 7:17 am

      I don’t quite understand how that thing works. How do you empty it when it gets full? Seems like it would be too heavy to lift it and throw the snow sideways.

      • Eldred June 16, 2014, 7:47 am

        I always figured you’d just tilt it up at the end of the ‘row’, and dump the snow there…

  • MacGyverIt December 5, 2011, 6:12 pm

    It’s not motor specific but this article just blew my mind so I wanted to share with the forum – basically frames the issue as the financial shame and disruption that has occurred to the middle class b/c they can no longer keep up with the joneses (referred to as “expenditure cascades”) by spending (too) much huge, expensive weddings and elaborate sweet sixteen parties:


    “Parents confront similar dilemmas when deciding how much to spend on a child’s coming-of-age party or wedding. The expenditure cascades spawned by higher spending at the top in those categories have raised expectations about how one should mark important social milestones. Of course, a family always has the option to spend considerably less on such events than most of its peers do. But it can do so only by disappointing loved ones, or by courting the impression that it failed to appreciate the importance of the occasion they were celebrating.”

    Thanks to MMM (and ERE, R.I.P) for helping make me sensitive to this ugly social+media programming.

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 9:20 pm

      YES!!! Thank you for sharing that. It is a real forehead slapper. How can we teach our fellow Americans to say “Fuck what the rest of the people are doing, I’m going to design my own life based on the actual merits of the activities!!!”

      That’s my biggest objection to the complaints about income inequality: “None of the gains in income have gone to the middle class since the 1980s or whenever”… this may be true, but we were doing pretty damned well in the 1980s, so let’s celebrate rather than complaining about it!

      The only objection I have is to the increased spending of the rich. In my book, it is never cool to build mansions, regardless of how much money you have. Use the average spending of a middle-class lifestyle as your guideline and invest 100% of your surplus money back into society in the positive ways of your choice. You can still compete with your fellow rich people, but compete based on how much you can GIVE BACK, rather than how much you can spend on yourself. If the rich would start behaving like that, I suspect there would be a lot less anger directed their way. (But there would definitely still be some, as I’ve discovered the complainypants syndrome is alive and well in a certain swath of people).

  • Chris December 5, 2011, 8:26 pm

    HMMM…..I like the idea of a Reel mower and just looked at some online. How often do you have to sharpen the blades? Do they do as good of a job as a standard gas mower?

    I’m also a big fan of the “self powered” snow shovel. When I lived in Alaska, I looked forward to shoveling the driveway because it a) got me out the house in the middle of winter and b) gave me some great exercise while getting a chore done…….then my wife bought me a 4 wheeler and I couldn’t resist buying a blade and I ended up plowing everyone’s driveway on my street:)

    Great article. You’ve upped the ante on me again!

    • MMM December 5, 2011, 9:02 pm

      I’m not sure about the sharpening – I bought mine in 2000 and it still cuts perfectly well without sharpening , so that’s 11 years and counting, although with fairly light use since grass grows slowly in here in rainless Colorado :-). I find that it does a better job than a gas mower, because the grass is nicely scissor-cut rather than ripped like with a spinning blade.

      BUT, you have to watch your lawn cutting procrastination, because if it gets too high, the reel mower will tend to just push over the long grass without fully cutting it. I have an old electric corded mower as a backup in case I ever need to deal with a long weedy lawn at home or at a rental house.

      • Crazyfbs December 6, 2011, 7:40 am

        Where I’m from, Deep South, the gang reels used by most golf courses and big sports complexes are self-sharpening, so the same should be true for individual ones.

      • Bill C June 10, 2013, 7:08 pm

        I bought mine in 1998 and it’s been a constant source of trouble. I’ve been doing really well with not procrastinating this year, and it still takes four passes for most of the lawn before it’s mostly cut.

        People have told me it might not have been sold sharpened in the first place, so I’m looking for how to sharpen it or get it sharpened, now.

      • Gavin November 25, 2016, 12:26 pm

        I bought a Fiskars reel mower, it’s got a bicycle chain in it, so the blades rotate faster than the wheel driving it. Ingenious. It’s super easy to push, and I haven’t had to sharpen it yet after three years of weekly use.

        When the grass gets high, I use an old-school scythe on my lawn, then follow up with the reel mower. It’s a nice movement, meditative almost. The scythe needs to be sharpened pretty often, at least once per mow with a whetstone.

        That said, I bust out the stinking gas mower (but battery trimmer!) on my customer’s lawns… Lucky grass isn’t a big part of my work!

    • bogart August 25, 2014, 9:03 pm

      We bought a reel mower for our pitifully — wait! I mean, pleasantly! — small “lawn,” basically the 50′ *10′ of our lot that fronts the road, next to our otherwise treed-in lot. It was impossible to use, as every ~15 seconds of mowing time, it would snag on a twig or piece of pine cone and (effectively) seize up, necessitating considerable interruption/annoyance. We took the reel mower back and bought the cheapest gas mower we could find (we had also tried a rechargeable one, that was what the reel mower replaced but they are expensive and, in our experience, not durable).

      A still easier solution to the leaf blowing option is: leave the leaves alone! We mostly do, though I do gather the bags our neighbors rake up (when I have time) and spread them on our “yard” for extra ground cover. Mowing them (I don’t fool with this) is, I’m told, a good way to facilitate their composting but would, I think, require an engine- (not human-) powered mower.

      I live in the part of the US where we close everything down if we have snow forecast, so the labor created by snow is pretty negligible — mostly it just involves getting to the grocery store to join the crowds buying out milk, bread, eggs, and toilet paper. Because you just never know!

  • Bill December 5, 2011, 9:13 pm

    Be careful MMM, with this message of physical activity, you’ll never sell a MMM 17 DVD box set demonstrating the 501 things to do to get rich by 35, and don’t forget your future Wealth Empowerment seminars!

    After all, if I believe in myself enough then I will be rewarded with a snow blower with a 350cc engine.

    • Gerard December 6, 2011, 5:35 am

      Thanks, Bill, this made me laugh.

  • anonymous December 6, 2011, 3:20 am

    ah the leaf blower. The icon of suburban blight. Well, maybe second behind barking dogs. Seems like the smartest minds get their PhD in engineering, and then sit around trying to invent motorized whatever. Doesn’t matter. Just bolt an engine to it, and people will buy it and delight in creating noise and smoke.

    • Daniel Conway June 2, 2014, 10:14 am

      Truer words were never spoke!

  • T$ December 6, 2011, 6:28 am

    Yes, I remember my days of living in Longmont and riding Halls Ranch. The technical climb at the beginning was worth the reward of the trail skirting the meadow at the top. And running rabbit ridge was always one of my favorite places to take a run and listen to coyotes.

  • Vince December 7, 2011, 5:24 am

    Snow tires were put on bicycle over the weekend. Now ready for a great winter of bicycling around mid-Michigan!

  • Carrie December 7, 2011, 5:56 am

    I too see the irony of a culture that works too hard at a job they hate which makes them fat from all the sitting so they can afford an expensive gym and prepackaged food that makes them even fatter.


  • Mike December 7, 2011, 9:50 pm

    I sell wind energy for a living, so I use electric lawn stuff as much as possible. I have to buy what I’m selling after all! But, when that stuff wears out i plan to go entirely to people powered machines. Less expensive, more exercise.

  • Andrew U December 8, 2011, 9:57 am

    Saw this article the day after your post. another reason to not get a leaf blower. They pollute more than a Ford Raptor according to Edmunds.com. They measured NOx, CO, and NMHC.


    Personally I enjoy spending a few hours raking up leaves on a fall weekend. I usually take that time to inspect my yard and house and I get a decent workout for free. What’s not to love?

  • Fu Manchu December 13, 2011, 4:53 am

    Great video about the EXPONENTIAL health returns of just 30 minutes of low intensity exercise a day. I’m scheming ways to increase the length of my walk to the train.


    • Fu Manchu December 13, 2011, 4:56 am

      Wow, didn’t realize it would embed like that, and take over the page, sorry! Feel free to delete or alter the link MMM.

      • MMM December 15, 2011, 11:07 pm

        Fu, I like that link! That’s what I keep trying to tell people – exercise is much more magic than the non-exercisers realize.

        These days, I’ve been getting about 6-8 hours a day of walking or biking in per day – 12-16 times the minimum recommended dose of that magic medicine. No wonder I am so insanely optimistic about everything.

  • Deb December 13, 2011, 8:20 am

    Awwwww MMM, does this mean the bread machine will get the heave-ho?

    After all, kneading works those arm and shoulder muscles much better than pressing a switch and letting the machine take over…… ;-)

  • Matt September 24, 2012, 11:43 am

    I am teaching a freshman college composition class and we read this today as an example of persuasive writing. Nice stuff!

  • Billy October 8, 2012, 9:40 am

    I’ve done the reel mower thing, and as much hand powered yardwork as I can… and I’m back to gas powered tools. Why? Time. I like the reel mower I had, but it wouldn’t cut anything over a certain height, which included most weeds. And once one of the blades got bent, resulting in uncut sections, I could never get it unbent. I also have a manual edger. I can get about 30% of the edging done before my hands, arms, and back give out. With my power tools, I can get the mowing, edging, and trimming all done in about 3 to 3.5 hrs. Half a Saturday, or a couple of evenings after work. Otherwise, all of my free time would be spent using manual tools on my yard. I agree in general with the “Muscle Over Motor” idea, but I also feel there’s a practical point at which power tools are appropriate. For example, I don’t feel a need to buy a riding mower (like most, if not all, of my neighbors have) to do my moderate sized suburban lot. I have the only pushmower I’ve seen in my subdivision. But I must admit, not all of my neighbors have riding mowers. Some have lawn services.

  • JOey May 5, 2013, 11:57 am

    I think it’s really funny how so many Americans waste their money. I think here in Europe people are much more savory.
    I live in Austria just north of the Alps. We get a lot of snow every winter. For instance 1 foot of snow dropped only during the night to Easter Sunday. Anyway I have never seen anyone operating a snow blower in my village and even in the alps most people use shovels.
    I once tried an electric leaf-blower that my mum has spotted for a cheap price at a discount store. I found this is the most ridiculous gadget I’ve ever used. That stuff is heavier, less effective and more difficult to handle than a leaf-fork. Clearing our garden took me twice the usual time. Since then I’m using a leaf-fork as before. I do use an electric push-mower and a gasoline-powered trimmer and find these quite handy.
    I think it’s smart to decide which kind of tool is more useful. Newer=Better is often not the case.

  • TWO M'S May 8, 2013, 6:14 pm

    Thanks for the article about the pushmower. My yard is an acre, I use a pushmower (gas-powered). Unfortunately, reel-type mowers will not cut coastal bermuda grass or weeds well at all. Still, it uses 1/4 of the gas of a rider, and I get 3.5 hours of cardio. i refer to it as a “zero turn mower with built-in elliptical trainer”.

  • downtownshuter July 30, 2013, 3:14 pm

    it’s hard to finish reading this article because i find myself feeling lazy sitting at the computer, and must get up and do something with myself

  • John Speare December 30, 2013, 6:46 pm

    My bad ass dad, may he RIP, would horse log in flip flops. Ponder that.

    They don’t make ’em like that any more.

  • Andy Connors February 12, 2014, 9:12 am

    It’s a little expensive but for people living in states with higher or heavier snowfall, this looks like a great alternative to a snowblower. We just bought our first house 6 months ago with a fairly long driveway and are using a free snowblower right now which was given to us, but I plan on selling and buying one of these.


    • Bob Werner May 28, 2014, 9:10 am

      The depth of that snow looked well under 8 inches thus violating my rule of no shovel under 8 inches. My neighbor teen was happy to use his otherwise idle snow blower and plow my drive in 20 minutes for $25 for the one time we had more than 8 inches in my Missouri driveway this winter.

      If you live in a state with lots of snow you might be better off buying snow tires and a four wheel drive. The advantage of this is that when you are away from home and it snows 12 inches, you don’t care because you have planned ahead and have a four wheel with snow tires. You will also be safer as you drive the unplowed roads.

      You get home, turn on the fire and kick back. No need to go outside in the freezing cold and darkness to plow. If you have more than 18 inches of snow, call that neighbor who has the plow on his jeep and flip him a $50.

      Personally, I find that worrying, thinking or putting labor into snow under 8 inches on my driveway is a waste of time. I also find that paving long drives is a waste of time and resources. Why would a residential site require so much concrete or blacktop? From the looks of the video the area being plowed should have been gravel.

      Although, the push plow concept does have a curiosity factor. I might buy one and have the neighbor kid try it out next time we have over 8 inches. Although I think he would charge me $35 and I would have the cost of the machine, so I guess I’ll stick with my $25 a year plan and the all wheel drive with 265K on it and new tires.

      Am I cheap or frugal?

      • Eldred May 29, 2014, 1:48 pm

        You aren’t mandated by your community to clear your walks and driveways? In Michigan, you can get fined if you don’t clear the snow off your pathways…

  • David May 18, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Curious how you took the video? Did you splurge on a GoPro, or did you jerry-rig something else?

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 19, 2014, 6:56 am

      That was made with an iPhone 4 zip-tied to an old camping headlamp strap which was over my head. The poor man’s Go Pro.

      • David May 19, 2014, 7:30 am

        I love it!

  • Reed May 21, 2014, 2:30 pm

    MMM, you’ll get a laugh out of this. I’ve thought many times about taking the stairs up to my office on the 31st floor here in downtown Houston. But unfortunately, our Overlords have made it impossible to do so without getting in trouble. You see… there is an alarm on the doors into the stairwells on each floor, so anyone who uses the stairs sets off the alarm. Truly the stairs will only get used in an actual emergency. Too bad.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2014, 5:33 pm

      Yeah, I get in trouble for that violation all the time too. One time I popped out accidentally in the kitchen of the St. Louis Hyatt, and the staff were shocked. “Sir, you’re in the KITCHEN!!”.

      “Yeah, I noticed that myself. You might want to label those staircase doors a little better”

    • Eldred May 21, 2014, 6:40 pm

      Yeah, they do that to keep people from smoking(or worse) in the stairwells. I was in a DoubleTree hotel near Chicago over the weekend, and they had a sign on the the door at the bottom(leading outside) that said that door was alarmed. I saw that sign first, since it was a glass door. But it was ajar, so I pulled it open – no alarm. So later when I went to leave, I took the stairs(from the 7th floor because the elevators were DOG slow). The sign THERE said no re-entry to the guest floor. Not a problem, because I was going out to my car, which was right outside that stairwell door. But that’s pretty stupid – you can’t get back onto the floors from there, but the door at the bottom is supposed to be alarmed? I wonder how many times people set off the alarm before the hotel disabled it?

  • Ben Seigel June 2, 2014, 2:10 pm

    This is part a larger problem: people cannot STFU. From boom cars (those stereos you can hear from two blocks away) and car alarms to barking, untrained dogs, noise abounds. Lawn care gear can be noisy, but that’s not the worst of the problem.

  • Asset-Grinder June 11, 2014, 12:33 pm

    In my neighborhood they want to ban leaf blowers due to their noise. Personally the racket I find annoying of lawnmowers goin off everyday. I support a ban. Lets say the noise pollution of mowers, trimmers and blowers be regulated to one day a week. Just that alone will deter many to skip it entirely!

    Good Day and Grind On!

    • Eldred June 13, 2014, 12:27 pm

      If people skip it, then you’d have people with 8-inch grass(or higher) in their yards… Everyone might not have the ability to do yardwork on the one day per week that it’s ‘allowed’… And besides, who chooses the day?
      edit: wow, it took away the smileys – so I need to say I wasn’t ARGUING with you about this…

  • Matthew Hiser June 13, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Hello fellow Mustachians

    As far as man powered push mowers go does anyone have any suggestions on what to look for in one? I am currently shopping for one and have had mixed reviews as far as the effectiveness of the mower less lawn mower. The area I would be mowing would be a relatively small, flat rectangle of land with nothing to mow around. Any input would be great!

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 13, 2014, 2:43 pm

      I’d just look for general non-cheapness (i.e. a bit heavy to lift), and the widest blade possible.

    • downtownshuter June 13, 2014, 2:51 pm

      I just bought this one and have been using it for about three weeks:

      Overall, pretty good. It has a nice heavy feel and I love watching the blades of grass fly up as I go by! A wider blade would be nice. I have to overlap the cuts by a good amount (4-5 inches or so) to get a really good cut since it seems to leave more blades of grass uncut along the edges. So when you start with a small blade and overlap your cuts quite a bit, it takes larger number of passes than you’d initially expect. With a small yard it’s not a problem at all. The other frustrating thing with that particular model is the outside of the wheels is about 3 inches from the outside of the blade, so it doesn’t work well against edges and you need to trim. It cuts regular old grass well, but if you have weeds or crabgrass or odd crap in your yard it doesn’t cut that very well.

      I would also plan on cutting every 3-5 days vs. once a week for most gas powered mowers. It doesn’t cut long blades well. The cons of these mowers are well documented in the amazon reviews of the mower I linked to.

      With that said, I haven’t fiddled with the cutting blade adjustments as much as I probably should have. It is supposed to come properly aligned out of the box, but after being shipped across the country I can’t imagine it not getting a little out of whack. I tightened one side of the blade a bit but that’s it so far. And now that I look more closely at my neighbors yards, I notice their gas-powered mowers are missing quite a few blades as well.


  • James July 10, 2014, 8:43 pm

    I LOVE this! I live in Upstate NY (no I don’t mean Yonkers…. try way the hell up there in the snow belt).

    I shovel everything but blizzard level snow. Pretty much the only time I get out my snowblower is when the snow is so deep it’s hard for even that damn machine to get through.

    I had a Reel lawn mower, but the handle broke bah! Got an electric mower to replace it…. because I hate noise. Now that’s broken too, but one of my sweet neighbors let me borrow their gas mower. Maybe I can get the handle fixed on the Reel mower. Hmmmmm

  • dude July 26, 2014, 5:14 pm

    What the heck? Cutting grass by reel mower? Are you for real?

    Have you ever experienced the climate of the North East? The grass grows nearly an inch a day from June – July. My father used to use a reel mower and spent an hour doing a job that should have taken 15 minutes. What a waste of time!

    Stop being hipsters, get a plug in-electric mower from a garage sale for 15 bucks and stop wasting a commodity more precious than money – time!

    • Jason March 20, 2017, 12:09 pm

      Ancient thread, but I’ll add this in case others are reading-through like me: I own both a reel and a plug-in electric mower, and both are similarly frugal. The plug-in is almost 40 years old (hand-me-down, actually, both were free cast-offs from motor-toting people), but in great shape as it was stored in a dry shed much of it’s life. The plug-in takes 1/2 the time of the reel mower on my yard (20 min vs 40 min), but the exercise factor is about the same per minute pushing it around (so I *could* do a 20 minute bike ride after using the plug-in and get the same exercise). Both mowers are nearly 100% recyclable (steel), with no fluids or exotic ingredients like batteries. The plug-in uses about a 1/2 kwh of power to do the whole yard, so, worst-case, about 9 cents even at our “crazy” peak electricity prices, and thus produces negligible pollution. Over the summer, the *total* cost of the plug-in is *at most* $1.80 on the electrical bill, but saves me 6.6 hours of work (noting that this time should be replaced with otherwise active activity). The plug-in has the annoyance of the cord, but you learn to mow in a pattern from closest-to to furthest-away from the outlet.

      In the end, use whichever type you can find for free or next-to-it. They both can last “forever,” require almost zero maintenance, and cost almost nothing to operate.

  • Katie Fahrland August 8, 2014, 12:00 pm

    I spent most of the last 3 years living in Africa, before returning to the US in January after a total period of 13 years living abroad. This gave me a lot of perspective on American-style excessive consumption.

    In many African countries, people satisfy their needs by producing things themselves, using their own time/labor, fixing things, or problem solving, not by consuming/buying new things. This is of course entirely driven by their poverty, which is not a good thing (if asked, they would surely like to have more money to be able to consume more). However, I think their ingenuity teaches a lesson which is worth learning.

    For example, grass is cut with a hand-held machete or scythe, food is prepared from scratch, items are recycled (an old mayonnaise jar is now used to store petrol, sheets of an old newspaper are now used to wrap food items, etc.). Broken shoes are repaired by a cobbler. Old clothing is patched by a tailor. Cars are repaired and repaired and repaired…

    Observing this gave me perspective by making me realize how knee-jerk the consumption reaction is in the US. As soon as something breaks, you by a new one, rather than trying to fix it; and as soon something needs to be done, you purchase a device to do it, rather than trying to do it yourself.

  • CheerfulAdventurer August 25, 2014, 3:55 am

    Do you guys know this this picture yet? I have recently received it (just with the signs in my mother tongue) from a friend. “Cheap and Effective Conditioning Machines”:

  • Paula Warren September 8, 2014, 7:47 pm

    I was debating with a colleague recently the issue of why people pay to go to the gym. I don’t have a garden and it’s a short walk to most places I want to go. But I have a large restoration project down a steep hill, so I get exercise by taking the wheelbarrow for a walk. The leaves in the road gutters go onto a leaf pile, and eventually become mulch around the new trees. Apartment compost goes under the leaves and very quickly rots down to feed them. Another restoration project I run provides sheep manure to add nitrogen. Leaves are easily picked up with a shovel, and leaf blowers don’t work well on wet leaves anyway. And wheelbarrow is nice and quiet, so a good companion for a contemplative potter among the plantings. Leaves are a great resource, not a problem. And a restoration project keeps me too busy to have time for serious consumerism.

    My friend insisted that she needs to go to the gym to strengthen specific muscles for outdoor sports, but did agree that moving a lot of buckets of dirt from my current terracing operation would be a fun addition to her lunchtime runs. So I might have to let her off, perhaps on the grounds of insanity.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 9, 2014, 4:21 pm

      Great perspective and stories, Paula. I’d still fall slightly under your insane diagnosis, as I have weights at home so I can do a few exercises that are hard to get from just old-fashioned manual labor (lifting a heavy barbell from the ground to fully over your head is one example). But even with just the hard work, a person will end up ahead of 90% of their peers in terms of health and general wellbeing.

  • Jeff September 10, 2014, 8:09 pm

    Just started seriously working on my mustache and it seems retirement is much closer than originally imagined. However, I don’t know about ditching the Motorcycle although I am selling the one I no longer ride often. Before you give up on motorcycles totally be sure to watch the movie One Week. I great movie if you like motorcycles and a great movie if you are Canadian. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1104806/

  • Steve September 21, 2014, 6:21 am

    In the UK (England,Scotland thankfully and Wales) you rarely see leaf blowers and never see snow blowers even though in winter we can get 3 or 4″ of snow.
    Mainly you see folk with shovels and brush’s.
    But every Sunday if the weather has been good enough for the grass to grow you do hear electric mowers and quite rarely here petrol ones.
    Mind you most folks have 1.1 petrol cars or 1.4-1.9 diesel cars that don’t waste fuel and do the job super efficiently compared with our American Friends,Also Euro emissions mean that these engines have DPF’s and such so I don’t begrudge my neighbours a small powered mower for occasional use and most are electric unless they have very big gardens.
    Now we are starting to get astro turf/fake grass on some properties here for super low maintenance,with an ageing population this might catch on.

    • Chris November 2, 2014, 1:49 pm

      Too true, i live in Germany and we’re all converting now to e-cars and chargepoints. The American dream is far more powerful and all consuming mind brainwashing for the the majority. Material ownership culture has failed as it creates debt for the vast majority that will cmsume the rest of their lives. Live without shit and prosper.

    • Nick July 10, 2015, 4:45 am

      Don’t forget Northern Ireland!

  • Rollie November 3, 2014, 11:41 am

    Thanks for calling out blowers. They’re an outrage! Totally pointless too. Everybody hates them. I marvel at how people are even allowed to get away with all that noise & stink, much less how using them ever got to be considered “normal” in any way.

  • Steve Adcock November 21, 2014, 9:49 am

    Luckily, I don’t live in an area with either snow or lawns (the southwest). But growing up in Virginia, yeah, the sweet smell of gas-powered lawn mowers nearly every week was a smell that I got used to, unfortunately. Oh, and the sound – each had a slightly different tone, and it got to the point where I could pick out who was mowing their lawn based only on the slight variations that each mower would make.

    A couple of people would use those old fashioned grass cutting wheels, and I thought they were strange for doing so. But now, after making the decision to be financially independent and completely happy by 40, I know that ridding yourself of these largely unnecessary technologies prepares you for what truly matters in life – being happy.

    Nice article, and one that I’m sure the large majority of people will ignore, unfortunately.

  • Amy February 15, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Thought someone would bring this up by the end of the postings…. But what about going all out and getting rid of the damn lawn? I am in California, so it was a no brainier for us, as it might never rain again here, but there are so many places where lawns are so unnatural. If you live in a place where lawns thrive by themselves ( no fertilizer, no waterings) great… It is easy. But in much of the U.S., they take a hell of a lot more work (and money, water, chemicals, etc) and there are great low maintenance alternatives. We took out our small, patchy, crappy lawn this summer and now have a decomposed granite patio and a small deck and a lot more free time. If we want to play on grass, we can go to a park to play frisbee.

    • Eldred February 16, 2015, 7:48 am

      It probably depends on if you’re in an area where the community ‘mandates’ a normal lawn. In my city, there’s a lady who has been cited by the city because she has a vegetable garden in her front yard instead of the typical lawn. And a garden has PRACTICAL use. I wonder if she would have gotten the same censure if she had paved over the lawn and had a patio or similar…

  • Candice Brasington March 6, 2015, 11:39 am

    I work two jobs. One as a school teacher, the other at a 1600 acre horse farm. I am working towards the goal of being an online teacher (to be home working on my own 14 acre farm). My farm job is 16 miles round-trip. I would like to eventually get an electric bicycle for that job. But my concern is safety. There are some small stretches of 55mph road that drops 45 to 35 to 20mph and back up to 55. Plus, there are a lot of curves. There is no other shortcut around the 55mph part. I would LOVE to bike to work to my weekend job! I just want to feel safe, too!


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