Challenge: Who is up for Maximum Mustache March?

It has been a while since we ran an MMM challenge here at Mr. Money Mustache. The last one, where I instructed you to start getting your groceries with a bike trailer, was way back on October 20th. And even that one was a bit of a cheat for me, since I didn’t have to change anything in order to meet it (although I’m still proud to say I’ve made only one car-based grocery trip since October 20th – due to needing supplies for an impromptu party in January immediately after an 18″ snowfall in my area).

So anyway, over in the Forum, someone came up with the idea of  this March becoming “Mutilate the Mortage Month”.  We agreed to broaden the idea to include non-mortgage-holders and hardcore mortgage leveraging investors, and thus we settled on Maximum Mustache March.

So here’s the deal:

For just one month, find a way to increase your hardcore focus on monetary efficiency, boost your badassity, and supercharge your ‘stashing. Cut your spending in novel and healthy ways, and see how well you can do. Reducing total outlays by 10% is a nice goal.

My personal goal is to up my game in healthy cooking for the family in a strategic way that allows us to spend at least $100 less on groceries for the month. With an average that had crept up towards $400/month throughout 2012, I’d like to keep it well below $300 this month with a goal of $250. This means eating less meat, and more things that are lower in cost on a calories-per-dollar basis. Spicy bean and rice dishes, an Indian vegetarian curry recipe, the occasional baked potato with cheese and chives, and plenty of fresh fruit come to mind. The remaining meat dishes can have more things like grilled tilapia, which is cheap and yummy, instead of organic beef and chicken, which is expensive and yummy.

I’ll also make a point of taking on one extra full day of paid work in my construction business (which will be nice since I’ve been a bit lazy since finishing the Foreclosure Project). This will add a few hundred dollars to the family income for the month.

Other ideas for setting a new record in your own performance this March:

  • Make it a “buy nothing month”, where you eliminate all optional purchases except groceries. It’s okay to make exceptions when needs come up (prescriptions, things for kids, fixing important things) but gadgets and wardrobe upgrades are out!
  • Take the “One Tank Challenge” where you fill your car’s gas tank before the month begins, and make it last through all of March. This would be too easy for for the MMM family, so we could shoot for a “One Gallon Challenge” – driving less than 40 miles in our 40MPG car – instead. But with a family camping trip already planned, we might have to apply the challenge only to the portion of the month we are in town.
  • Get new quotes on your house and car insurance to see if you can drop the rates. See if you can beat the ones we’re getting as mentioned in the new “MMM Recommends” page.
  • Set a goal to ride your bike at least 100 miles (3 miles per day) during the month – for work commuting or errands.
  • Consider switching to a new cell phone plan or internet plan that meets your needs at a lower price. Some neat ideas came up in this forum post on that subject.

These are just a few ideas out of thousands of ways to improve your bottom line. Then you take all the profits and roll them into either paying down your highest-interest debt, or investing some other way into your Early Retirement Fund.

And there’s actually something quite tricky about this challenge: I am fooling you into thinking this is a one-time exercise, so it sounds easy. But really, trying any of these things where you push one of your boundaries, will automatically result in new frugality skills. You’ll find that a portion of the new behavior just sticks, effortlessly, and you will benefit financially from the new skill for the rest of your life.

In my own case, I’ll learn a bit more about affordable cooking, with a new recipe or two to go with it. That knowledge will help me spend less on groceries, forever. And I’ll invest 100% of the extra few hundred I earn from my day of work, resulting in a higher stream of passive income, forever.

Yahoo! What will you do with YOUR Maximum Mustache March?

  • Kim March 3, 2012, 3:36 pm

    Wow, great challenge. It makes me think of a couple of things:

    1. Currently living in Amsterdam, we bike everywhere. Unfortunately balancing a bike with a 40 pound kid on the back isn’t something I’ve mastered. Families here have box bikes so I thought that would be our route, too, but with only 1 kid and a €1700+ price tag for a box bike I’ve been hesitating. Just got a freelance pay day so I figured I’d go for it when I learned from another mom on the playground that her bike trailer was only €300. She let me and the 40 pounder take it for a spin and we both loved it. When I returned to the playground my friend told me she had one she would sell me, for €10!!! Brought it to the bike shop today (it’s a US model not designed to fit my Dutch bike) and the guy happily MacGuyvered the hitch for free (well, included with an overdue €60 tune up). So, for about $100 US I have a car replacement, a happy kid, my pay day in the bank and a perfectly tuned bike!

    2. Back in NY I was great about monitoring spending but here I haven’t quite mastered online banking just because it requires a little ATM card device and I never asked my spouse how to use it. No more! I make all the household purchases so I need to see where the money is going. We have an appointment for a tutorial on Wednesday.

    3. Since we are likely to stay here longer than expected and our landlord likes us I’m going to ask for a small rent decrease when we renew our lease. I see a lot of vacancies around. He may well say no, but I’m going to ask.

    4. Most importantly a renewed zeal for frugality. I’m originally from New England so get a real kick out of Yankee thrift. Thanks for helping to reconnect with that.

  • Hair Raid Offense March 5, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Great idea – I’ve grown an actual mustache in the past for March…This is much better. Here’s what I’m doing:

    1) Packing my lunch. I was eating out way too often for BOTH breakfast AND lunch. Ouch. Savings? $200+ for the month.

    2) No “going out by myself” aka “laziness”. I call this laziness because pretty much the only reason I ever go out to eat by myself is because I’m being lazy. I will cook on these occasions. I expect to save $100-200 this way.

    3) I was going to say survive on the last 1/4 tank of gas, but I can’t as I have a 3 hour drive (one way) coming up this month. Whoops.

    4) Knock Netflix down from the DVD & Streaming service to just Streaming. Savings? $10.

    5) When I go out with my buddies, no eating anything more expensive than an appetizer or salad. Additionally, only the cheapest drinks and no more than a couple as they easily start to add up in a major city. This will probably be worth $100-200.

    5 days in and going strong. Still a long way to go and it is pretty helpful that my best friend is out of town – he can be a savings drag!

  • carolinakaren March 11, 2012, 12:29 pm

    I’m chiming in a little late, but up to the challenge! I found MMM through Jacob’s site ERE ( read all his posts)….found you guys about the third week in Feb and read EVERY post here too! Since I didn’t finish until Mar 7th I’m late starting this challenge.

    1. Already paid over $27,000 toward my mortgage this month (saved for a long time to do that, it was a second mortgage).

    2. Last Thursday I negotiated a cheaper internet package and cancelled Netflix because I don’t watch videos very often. ($33 saved)

    3. Tonight or tomorrow I’m slashing the phone bill using the advice offered on one of the MMM forums.

    4. I am terrified of riding a bike in traffic, but it’s out of the storage shed! We pumped up the tires today and I can get to the grocery store, pharmacy, and several restaurants by avoiding major roadways…. thanks MMM for all your posts about cycling! I am now able to see how useful and healthy using a bicylce can be!

    5. Cooking at home more and eating out less….eating out is one of our favorite things, so it’s VERY challenging! This is one of the few areas where we spend money that is anti-mustachian.

    6. Finally, I’m working lots of extra time this month to boost income and further pay down the mortgage!

    *We already don’t have cable and I almost always brown bag my lunch, but John is trying harder to pack his lunches and begining to grow a mustache too!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 11, 2012, 9:21 pm

      You ROCK Carolina Karen! I am totally amazed that people are still reading every post here. It gets to be a more and more daunting challenge every day.. but that is yet another expression of Mustachian Badassity, I suppose.

  • Kathy March 16, 2012, 7:26 pm

    I like everything you said in the blog post, but … what about those that live in the country? I highly doubt that riding a bike to work will do the job for me, when any town is a major distance away. We do have a horses…lolol. I wonder if the Amish neighbor will borrow us a buggy??? We won’t be able to drive our horse until it is sent for further training (by the Amish – great deal too).

    Our horses support themselves. I just finished college for a second time and was just hired for two jobs (1 full-time, other part-time). Hubby just lost his job due to plant closing.

    We do not have TV (only for videos which we rent FREE from the library). We don’t eat out much. Hubby builds wood boilers on the side; hence, our heat is cheaper than anyone elses (wood takes two days before ya really have to refill it). Our hot water is endless and heated by the boiler. It is so warm in here during the winter we can wear pratically nothing ;)

    We get most of our clothes from thrift stores. We have reusable coffee filters. Most of our food is home-made. So, I am not sure what else to do for being smarter… other than reading your blog posts :D

    I do know fuel is killing us since our little KIA Sportage is now running on 3 cylinders, and we have to drive the big boy truck (fuel filled not gas). So that will have to change; although if it rains here we are mud boggin in 4-wheel drive ;)

    I finally invested in my feet which I should have done a looooonnnggg time ago. I ended up costing more because I didn’t take care of the feet. I have posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. So shoes… you pay for what you get. Walmart didn’t work on that conservative note.

    Any advice for country folk? Oh… we have eight laying lovely ladies in our barn that give us awesome eggs… and soup if they don’t ;)

    We are open for advice…

  • Sweta October 10, 2012, 12:30 pm

    I know I’m wayyyy late in posting this, but I just wanted to say that I recently dumped Sprint and signed up w/ Tracfone. I was paying Sprint way too much considering I have a dumb phone that I don’t use too much. Now I pay about $11 every 3 months for enough minutes to serve my needs.

  • Paula September 22, 2014, 11:31 am

    Hi MMM,
    I hope you get to see this post as we are in need of a new challenge for 2014! How about October 2014 Challenge!!! It’s been a while. A few ideas:
    – Prepare and bring your lunch to work every single day
    – Say no to any After-work get-togethere (Tons of mindless spending in this office related outings)
    – Absolutely no purchases (clothes, gadgets, etc.etc)
    – Donate, sell, give any extra items you have not used/worn for the past 6-9 months!!!
    – Run, bike, walk anywhere you need to go within 5-15 miles away!
    – Refuse to buy any Halloween related ornament, custome, gift, candy. Sorry, kids! no trick or treating this year!

    I love your website and it’s has inspired to be such a badass about my attitude towards life, money, investing and frugality! Keep up the good work!

  • STBJ February 4, 2016, 6:13 pm

    So difficult. I finally had to admit I am addicted to snack and fast food spending during the work day. Now I have decided to reward myself for everyday I don’t spend money on restaurant or snack purchases I will pay myself $20 in savings deposits.

  • Simplesam May 20, 2018, 4:51 pm

    Love this idea! I’ve done “buy nothing” months in the past which have helped me in a lot of ways, both health-wise and financially. With the extra cash left over I’m gonna pay off the rest of my credit card.


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