Guest Post: Why is it So Hard to Downshift?

Today I’d like to share a guest post from an interesting new reader to the blog. This guy, Jason, showed up here from some random Twitter surfing, and had this to say to me:

I would like to write a guest post for your readers. As far as I know, there hasn’t been too much written about the emotional hangups that you have to get over when adjusting to a more frugal lifestyle. Everyone says “Just Do It! Just sell all your unnecessary things, cut your bills, and just live simply! Come on! It’s Easy!”

And yet, as far as I know, no one has done an adequate job of tackling the emotional “HOW” that this sort of transformation takes. Bloggers just assume, “Hey… you’re here. You must already have it under control…”

I understand it because I’ve been living a huge emotional down-shift for the past two years, and I’ve had the freedom and time to understand it. It’s been excruciatingly detailed for me. I’ve had to tackle every emotional hangup headlong I had that was keeping me poor and hopelessly unsuccessful. Now, I’m able to see the same problems in others that I once had.

I want to write such a post for your readers so that maybe it can help them clear the ‘imaginary’ hurdles they may not know they have.


Perhaps you need a new clutch… or perhaps you simply posses an unimpressive Money Mustache and would like that to change. In the latter case, it’s likely that your life is overly conceptualized. Now what does that mean? It means that growing up in the modern school system you were probably treated to a concentrated barrage of ideas that were intended to get you to idealize life slightly more than is healthy—all with the hope that you would one day grow up and cure cancer. Have you cured cancer yet? No? In that case, let’s examine the emotional obstacles you may face while aspiring to Badassity:

The urge to be entertained every waking second will be the first hurdle you will need to clear. It’s like when your parents chided you for staying up past your bedtime because you “were afraid someone might fart and you wouldn’t get the chance to smell it.” Your brain has been conditioned to grow from exposure to near constant stimulation. If you’re not doing something, you feel like you’re wasting your life.

Entertainment addiction rears its ugly head whenever you watch something you’ve already seen, hang out with friends you don’t like, “go out” on a habitual basis or aimlessly browse the internet. The addiction often stems from the concern that you will be left behind.

But watching the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy or the latest kitten video on Youtube doesn’t promote you to the next grade level in the adult world. It just makes you less of a real person and actually sort of dull. Once you begin cutting back on your entertainment over-indulgence, plan on the next menace to rear its ugly head; namely Boredom…

Now that you’ve stopped drugging yourself with constant mindless stimulation, you have a whole bunch of free time. Great. That’s when Boredom sets in. Boredom used to have a different name back when people primarily worked with their hands. It was called “REST”.

With the decline of physical labor jobs, those who make a living with their mind muscle have begun to put in all kinds of ridiculous work hours that normal people with bodies wouldn’t even dream of. Think about it… You wouldn’t dig ditches for 80+ hours/ week, so why would you work on demanding legal cases for that long?

You can be emotionally drained just as easily as you can be physically drained. We’ve simply found a whole host of creative ways to ignore our emotional needs (*cough* *entertainment!* *cough*). If you regularly feel stressed, chances are you need emotional rest, and lots of it.

But what about when you don’t feel tired anymore, yet still have plenty of free time on your hands? No, it’s NOT time to go back to entertainment. It’s time to get to know your best friend in the whole world…

Besides a well groomed ‘Stash, your best friend in the entire world is none other than: yourself. Who’s always been there for you? That’s right; you have.

And you haven’t been treating your best friend very kindly. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably even been downright neglecting her. Why is your best friend so easy to ignore? Because she’s shy and only feels compelled to talk when it’s quiet and there’s plenty of time.

ALL of your problems with developing a superb cash-hoard lie within your best friend’s quiet lips. And she’ll only tell you why your life is such a mess if you give her the time. SO NOW IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION!!!!!!

… by simply doing nothing. Now that you’ve removed the entertainment that’s been keeping you anaesthetized to life, you’ve rested, and finally decided it’s time to understand how your life got so messed up in the first place.

It’s time to just sit silently and listen — for a good long while. Angry things may begin to come up. You’ll begin to think about all the horrible emotions you’ve squashed back down into your neck-hole because they weren’t convenient or comfortable at the time. You’ll remember the time you made your mother cry. You’ll remember that little boy you couldn’t help. You’ll remember all the feelings of fear and hatred and self-doubt and guilt and loathing that have ever refused to leave your body.

You may feel nervous, doubtful, agitated or anxious. It might all rush out like a geyser, but that’s okay. You must let it all come out. Don’t suppress or hold onto any of it. Acknowledge and release every bit. Eventually it will all slow to a trickle and something amazing will happen: silence. Real Silence…

Suddenly you’ll be alone with yourself, and there will be no one else there. Nothing will exist but your thoughts. Lingering thoughts tend to be agitated thoughts, so hopefully even these will drift away. This nothingness can be rather scary initially because it’s your original state—the real you. Finally, it’s time to ask yourself some important questions.

Ask yourself:

“Why do I desire a Starbucks Grande mocha-latte-chino-frappe-ding-dong every morning before work?”
“I think it’s because they taste good.”

“Why do I desire a Starbucks Grande mocha-latte-chino-frappe-ding-dong every morning before work?”
“Maybe it’s because the caffeine makes me feel peppy in the morning?”

“Why do I desire a Starbucks Grande mocha-latte-chino-frappe-ding-dong every morning before work?”
“It’s because my parents were abusive when I was young, and before I had a chance to fully express myself as an individual I had children of my own. So I feel the need to treat myself from time to time because it hurts that I never had a chance get to know myself. It’s also the reason why I waste cash buying my children lavish gifts they neither need nor want, at every opportunity.”

Ask yourself:

“What do I really need to be happy?”
“I need a huge house in the hills and a car and a boat and $100k salary.”

“What do I really need to be happy?”
“I need lots of friends and family; to be utterly surrounded by people who love and adore me.”

“What do I really need to be happy?”
“I’m happy right now.”

You get the idea. Ask any and all questions that stand between you and financial independence.

Something happens when you are able to recognize and give a voice to the reasons for your afflictions: they go away. These were the weeds that plagued your barren savings garden.

Once you understand and acknowledge the reasons why you do the things you do, bad habits tend to get released on their own. You must be careful, though. This powerful technique of Mustache-Foo comes with risks of its own. It should not be used as another method of escapism! Don’t just sit around doing nothing because now its time for… wait for it… ACTION!!!!!

Once you’ve successfully cleared away the dark things that had made nests in your soul, you’ll want to begin the process of transferring that silence you found inside of yourself out into everyday life. Keep in mind: that was the real you. Bring this silence into your daily chores and you will begin the process of making yourself whole once more. To do so turns reality into its own pleasure.

Do only one thing at a time. Wake up early one morning. Make tea for yourself and slowly eat a bowl of oatmeal — without sugar. Enjoy everything you possibly can at face value, from within your own personal silence. It’s all you’ll ever really have, but it’s enough.


MMM Note: You can follow more of Jason’s philosophical thoughts on Twitter if you want to follow him at https://twitter.com/#!/Jsn_Br

  • Kate March 31, 2012, 6:59 am

    Thank you. This article is VERY helpful. You are right. This angle has not been covered. I

  • Cindy@Rhinebeck March 31, 2012, 7:38 am

    It took me years to downshift. It’s a very emotional thing (at least for me, it was) because for decades I was used to a certain way of living. At first, going frugal to me was the same as admitting to failure and who wants to voluntarily do that? For example, 11 years ago I downshifted from a 9 room house to a 4 room house. Yes, I saved a lot of money BUT I cried for the first few years. Because I felt I’s let myself down. Technically, the larger house was killing me. Now, 11 years later, I am so happy that I did downsize I can’t recall what the big problem was in the first place?

    Rule #1: go easy on yourself. Take the necessary time to re-adjust to your new lifestyle. One step at a time. Now? I wouldn’t change my new lifestyle for anything. I love it! I am so happy. AND my wallet and savings account love it also! I enjoy being frugal, protecting the environment, living a more mindfull and eco-friendly lifestyle. I wish I could have done it sooner.

    Who knew?

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple March 31, 2012, 1:41 pm

      You are so right. And like anything, it can be a constant struggle, and a muscle you have to work on. Like exercise. Or diet (you can lose weight and maintain it, but little by little, stresses and life changes make it creep back up).

      I see downshifting like that. I downshift. Then I have a kid. And the external stresses to “upshift” are constant. “Your house isn’t big enough for 4” – from a lot of people. Including a relative who grew up in a 1BR apt with a family of 4. Plus all of the activities people insist are necessary for your kids. Group sports (at age 4, 5, 6!), trips to Disneyland, private schools. There’s even the desire to upshift within our own family. It would be REALLY REALLY nice to have an extra half bath. But do we NEED it? And would the effort to get it uproot us and cause us to be less happy with the rest of the house? “Well, we might as well have a 3rd bedroom while we are at it…”

      Then there’s the work-life balance. We work so hard we “deserve” a week in Hawaii. Although camping is fun too, cheaper, and if you pick the right place, has absolutely zero cell service. It’s so easy to run off and get the new Iphone, the new I-pad, the new toy of any kind.

      I like fitness. I learned to swim by training for a triathlon. That involved some new gear (a wetsuit and goggles), that I’ve used for 2 tris and the training plan (and I use the goggles 2x a week). It also involves a $250 training membership yearly, which I absolutely love (I love group fitness and the comraderie). But it doesn’t involve a new $1000 or more bike. Which I get pressured to buy on occasion. “Oh, you’d be so much faster if you weren’t riding that old mountain bike.” Yes, but why would I spend hundreds of dollars (even on a used bike) to shave 3 minutes off my SIX MILE bike ride for a sprint tri? I ride further on my one-way trip to work. And I don’t get flat tires. But it would be easy to buy a new bike.

    • FreeUrChains April 2, 2012, 12:50 pm

      Keep downsizing in proportion to your age, for when you die you can’t take anything with you. So in the Afterlife you won’t cry for millenia for your possesions. You become happy with nothing, and building everything for humanity out of love and compassion.

  • Dave March 31, 2012, 7:43 am

    MMM, your name came up yesterday. I was in a meeting with 9 people all telling how many lotto tickets they each bought. 1 guy purchased $50. When it came to my turn, I said I purchased none, but I was able to put $974 of my paycheck towards ‘saving’ and a sound financial plan this pay period. I told them my plan did not include get rich schemes. Then I encouraged each person to go to MMM and read the first 4 posts. ‘Either you will be hooked or you wont, but you need to give it some thought’, I told them. At least one person took a look while I was explaining MMM. 4 people told me they could not live a frugal lifestyle and that they needed to have fun.

    MMM, I have plenty of fun, in fact, more fun embracing a weekend of running, biking and taking my dogs to the lake than I had before blowing $750 going to see an NBA game in the next big town and getting dinner and a hotel.

    Thanks for all you do to promote a healthier lifestyle for fellow mustachians.

  • rjack March 31, 2012, 8:08 am

    Hmm Jason…Are you a Zen Buddhist?

    I’m a practicing Zen Buddhist and what struck me about your article is how much it parallels the process that I’ve gone through from a Zen perspective. When I meditate sometimes it is very pleasant but often odd disturbing thoughts come up. I normally note the thought and then let it pass by.

    Your ideas about being present because that is all there really is also a typical Zen outlook.

    Anyway, I really appreciated your article and I’m pretty sure my Zen Teacher would approve of it as well.

    • mamarjan March 31, 2012, 4:17 pm

      No, I don’t believe it’s Zen Buddhism, it’s just simply being quiet for some time :) Actually, it’s simply being quiet for long enough. For me meditation is just that. Be quiet, relaxed, try not to think and stick with it for long enough. For me it’s 20min. I feel like I have 30 pounds less, I’m all positive about life and motivated for some productive action, every time I take the 20min to do it, that is not do it, not do anything :)

      • FreeUrChains April 2, 2012, 1:02 pm

        I did your thought process, and realized if I eat 1/3 less at 1 meal, i will be 10lbs lighter in 1 year. If i eat 1/3 less at every meal, I will be 30lbs lighter in 1 year. (as hard as increasing your income, but it takes action and mental discipline just like higher education and honing your skills). I am already seeing results each week :).

    • Jason April 1, 2012, 8:19 am

      Hey rjack, it’s difficult to categorize myself, so I’ll just describe myself.

      I probably learned to read before I could walk, and my mind has since developed an insatiable hunger to devour everything I come into contact with. My mother likes to joke that I’ve never eaten a meal without something to read; ie: a nearby cereal box, bread wrapper, etc (which understandably contradicts my advice to do just one thing at a time). This drive led me to aggressively pursue Philosophy as both a major in my university studies and outside in my personal endeavors. I actually came to study eastern thought quite extensively in college, and adopted Zazen to clear out the large amount of gunk that my mind tends to accumulate. I particularly enjoy the works of OSHO among Zen practitioners, and at various points in life understood myself to be a functional Zen Buddhist. Eventually I ditched the ism’s and simply don’t have the need for a convenient way to describe WHAT I am anymore. I know what I am.

      If I had to describe for you where my thinking gravitates, I would describe myself as a Perennial Philosopher. I take the understanding we’ve always had as a species (whether accepted or ignored) and try to give it a modern voice that can resonate with people still pursuing an understanding of themselves. Of the Zen tradition, my personal practice is probably more akin to the methods of the Rinzai, rather than the Soto school (hence the recommendation to NOT use meditation as escapism). I believe things like absurdity, nonsense, disappointment, satire and pain are the greatest teachers of all. I think that’s why we’re all here– because we could use a good wack in the head from time to time.

      I thank you and everyone else here at MMM for the wonderful comments as I continue attempting to inspire life’s pilgrims.

    • Seth July 4, 2014, 12:29 pm

      I too had the same impression: this post has the flavor of Zen practice.

  • Heather March 31, 2012, 9:09 am

    I really enjoyed this guest post. Something that I struggle with daily and normally end up in the “beating myself up” part. Great tips and I look forward to a more consistent action stage in lovely frugal happiness.

  • Kurt March 31, 2012, 9:16 am

    Over the years we went through the different phases of “we have to have this and that” and then went for the bigger house. Now we wish we were still in the old house…with a mortgage of one third of what we have now. And the fiancial demands on us were crazy. You are so right (as is Mustashianistic Badassity as a whole) in that all of the junk we’re told we need to buy gets us nowhere in the long run if it’s JUST a posession. Been reading a book about fitness (I’m a amature triathlete), and a related theme, is the “Kokoro” or Warrior Spirit. In that, there is a focus on the here and now. Set your sequential goals, attain your goals, feed your soul and defeat your gremlins (paraphrasing here). The external overstimulation you mention brings about “too many minds” or distraction. So my goal is to thin out all of the stuff that does not add to the quality of LIFE. And it’s working. The house is on the market, we’re selling stuff off (why the hell did we buy that?!) and are looking to the long term with a ever-growing ‘stache and less stress. The tough part was selling my family on this.
    I’ve read your article to my family and it struck a chord. So Thank You (and all of you that reside in the Mustachiansphere) for the great (and timely) article and best of luck with your personal journey.

    • James March 31, 2012, 11:31 am

      +1 in almost every detail.

      Trying to enjoy the journey and not get too caught up in how far it is to where I want to be.

  • carolinakaren March 31, 2012, 9:29 am

    @ Jason
    You’re right about emotions. It can be a difficult process for people to change their attitudes about what constitutes a happy and successful life. The unexpected emotions that surface during a lifestyle change can be THE biggest problem. I’ve experienced anxiety about big decisions that make perfect sense in a “Mustachian” way, but were at odds with the typical “American dream” lifestyle that we are programmed into wanting. Now, I haven’t chased the typical American dream in years, but every now and then when we adopt a new idea to grow our Mustache the anxiety returns. I also see emotional turmoil in my spouse as he begins to shed his previous consumer habits to become more purposeful in life. He experiences so much stress over selling items that he used in his prior career…..even though he hasn’t used this stuff in several years. He used to own a business and I believe it represents a time in his life when he accomplished so much, that to let go feels like admitting failure. It’s so worth it though! He is successful now too, but working from a different perspective.

    On a separate topic… I have a great healthy and inexpensive recipe to add to the forum!


  • AGU March 31, 2012, 9:57 am

    Very interesting article. Most people including myself get caught up in daily cycles so much that we forget to think about ourselves and our priorities.

    A few months ago, I had surgery that kept me in bed for couple of weeks with eyes closed and not able to do anything other than think about my life, people I love and care, and things i wanted to do. There were no distraction like TV or other entertainment. It also reminded me of limited time we have in life. This was first time in life I had such an experience and it was very enlightening. By the end of two weeks, I was a totally different person, realized my priorities were upside down, and was focusing on wrong things.

    Now, I am a totally different person, more optimistic, less stressed and overall positive person. Even some people commented if I am the same person before the surgery. It is unfortunate that I needed a major medical downtime to realize this.

  • noname March 31, 2012, 10:27 am

    It’s all how badly you want it.

    Goran Kropp lived in the woods in a pup tent while he worked a full time job to
    raise money for his Everest adventure.

    He rode a bicycle with 240 pound equipment trailer 8,000 miles from Sweden to Nepal, climbed Mount Everest without oxygen getting within 300 feet of the summit, then got on his bike and rode home.

    That’s about as badass as it gets.

    • Johan May 1, 2013, 2:26 pm

      I have been thinking of reading his book whenever I walk by it in the library.
      Thanks for sharing his story, next time I will pick it up!

  • Fawn March 31, 2012, 10:31 am

    @Jason–you have described the process very well.

    I would like to add a few observations from the place of having done this work over a decade ago:

    1) Other people’s entertainment is pure noise to me. I avoid it as best I can.

    2) Boredom (or in my case irritability) is usually the first sign that I need rest. Now that I know this, I make better choices right away. Saves time and money.

    3) Some afflictions do not go away, such as the death of a child or loss of some other dear love. But buying stuff does not lessen the pain. However, recognizing that others suffer simular pain and finding ways to be present with them in their pain gives meaning to the experience and seems to make it more tolerable. And what better way to do that, than to live so frugally and mindfully that one has the time to do it and the inner silence to recognize the folks who need this presence.

    You rock! Thanks for this excellent post.

    • Jason April 1, 2012, 8:57 am

      You’ve heard the expression, “Time heals all wounds”, I assume. Well, you’re right to point out that some “afflictions” don’t go away, but that’s because they’re not MEANT to go away. They simply need to be transmuted, which takes perspective. I was forced to deal with death at an early age, and from that I’ve learned why certain things work themselves into becoming ‘afflictions’. The death of a loved one should not be an affliction. It is meant to be a reminder of cherished memories. When something as beautiful as that works its way into a painful affliction, you know you have some personal demons left to work through. The death of a loved one forces us to reconsider our own mortality, and this can be the greatest gift they can ever give us. I appologize if this comment upsets anyone. But you can understand anything painful in life with enough time, perspective and love. There is no evil in this world; only misfortune. Thank you for the comment, Fawn.

      • Fawn April 1, 2012, 4:40 pm

        Your name prejudices me to think that you are in your late 20’s or early 30’s. If so, you are wise beyond your years.

        I think that I would like to know you IRL, but that is not likely as I am busy here with the teenagers. :)

        Again, thank you for an excellent post.

      • liz October 5, 2013, 4:37 am

        “The death of a loved one should not be an affliction. It is meant to be a reminder of cherished memories.” Exactly. My mother passed away early this year, and when I think of her I have a mix of emotions. Often guilt, that I could not, or did not, do more to ease her suffering. During her illness but also in her life. But also a sense of gratefulness for all that she taught me, even without realising it. And finally a sense that I can only describe as ‘fierceness’. Of determination that comes from within and is not dimmed by challenges but only intensified by them. (sometimes also called F*** You)

        Thanks for your insightful post. I have never been in more need of the silence than now.

  • Naomi March 31, 2012, 10:44 am

    “all the horrible emotions you’ve squashed back down into your neck-hole”

    There aren’t many times that I laugh out loud when I’m reading on the internet, but this was one of them!

    When I hiked the PCT and I was alone with my thoughts for months on end, I experienced an upwelling of horrible, terrible thoughts (I’ve never told anyone this). They seemed to come out of nowhere. I just attributed them to mental and physical fatigue (and extreme hunger). What you’re proposing makes sense to me.

    THIS is the type of entry that I hope to read on blogs like this! THIS is what I’m struggling with right now, what I’ve been struggling with for years. Why can’t I downshift?

    THANK YOU for writing this!

    • No Name Guy April 1, 2012, 10:22 am

      What year? I did it in ’06.

      Once I got to Mammoth, I was pretty much hiking on my own for several weeks before connecting up with a guy I’d hiked with in So Cal. Heading north of Sonora Pass, I think I saw at most one or 2 people a day for several days. There’s plenty of alone time when you’re walking for 5 1/3 months – plenty of time for reflection, thought and mind clearing….if you don’t drown it out with the latest piece of iCrap.

      • Suhaila November 9, 2015, 4:11 pm

        I must be odd. Whenever I’m walking or doinfg cardio (or even chores) with music I’m actually my least distracted from my thoughts. It allows me to zone out of what I’m doing and if I choose to I can really deal with heavy issues or I can choose to day dream in my little world. The music is usually the thing being drowned out.

        Without music everything else is a distraction. Though if I’m out and about in a beautiful natural setting I do turn it off unless I’m keeping a pace and the beat helps me to keep it up. (even then I like to just sit there an enjoy a moment or two. I need to find more parks and stop being lazy and go walk in nature again.)

  • K March 31, 2012, 11:27 am

    Great post!! I need to pass this on to SO many people :)

  • TonyS March 31, 2012, 11:42 am

    This is great stuff!

    It is so very timely too. I’ve been in the process of starting my own blog for the past couple of weeks (deciding on themes, categories, etc. is hard), and this post does a fantastic job helping me focus a couple of posts I had been working on.

    Incidentally, I didn’t see one listed, but do you have a blog of your own? If not, it might be the time to start, I think you just found a following.

    • FreeUrChains April 2, 2012, 1:33 pm

      I have been doing the same thing the past week or so, mentally the past few months. Expressing yourself on the Internet can set you free, expecially since from birth you were told what to do, what to think, and what to spend money on. Any criticism or comments can only increase your understanding of perspectives. The digital world is a great place to connect, and is transforming the real world one step at a time, though the govts and Overlords don’t want rebelious voices to be heard. A lot of people don’t see the mental traps, don’t feel the career or financial shackles placed on them that take their TIME away from Friends, Family, new experiences, and each other. Make sure to copy and past each and every comment you voice, as it can be used to publish your voice and comments on your own blog for others to read, share, and experience.

      • Kay January 23, 2015, 7:44 am

        What a fantastic idea to keep a record of comments you make on other blogs. In the spirit of this post, a teacher of mine once said, “listen carefully to the best advice you give to others; it’s almost certainly the advice you need to hear.”

  • Derek March 31, 2012, 12:25 pm

    MMM you nailed this one on the head.

    I’m similar to Naomi above. I finished a16 month backpacking trip across Asia last year came out with MMM results above. It was quite the trip mentally, esp in the first few months when I had to deal with being a nobody, unknown and alone. Very strange thoughts came out of my head, what I initially thought was depression or stress due to travel turned out to be 25 years of unsorted thoughts that required some serious work.

    Result of all this is the ‘new me’. ADD has been greatly reduced, happier, friendlier and my quality of life has be GREATLY improved.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 31, 2012, 1:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing that interesting experience, Derek. I’m now wondering if I’ll get one of those rough thought upwellings when I eventually try some really difficult travel. Or maybe I already had them during some previous activity, like my “Big Mistake” years of 2005-2009

      I should note that it wasn’t ME who hit the nail on the head, since I didn’t write this post. It was Jason. I agree that he is a good writer though.

  • Devin March 31, 2012, 12:31 pm

    I’ve always considered marketing the art of selling ice to plug holes. Our genuine human needs (for nutrition, hydration, philosophy, community, art) create a desire that is easier diverted with consumable trinkets than sated with true solutions… as we continue to neglect our actual needs the desire grows, requiring more crap (and more time spent producing crap for others in exchange), fueling our unsustainable consumer culture and decreasing quality of life for all. Sounds like you’re an addict in remission, keep it up one day at a time :)

    • Amonymous October 20, 2016, 9:43 pm

      Woah… Awesome insight Devin. Thanks!

  • Judy March 31, 2012, 12:52 pm

    @ Jason — Thank you very much! The emotional part is the WORST. I’m working very hard on this. And, like Naomi, I totally laughed out loud at “all the horrible emotions you’ve squashed back down into your neck-hole”. Seriously–why do we do this to ourselves! Thanks again.

    • Judy March 31, 2012, 9:05 pm

      Oh–and let’s not forget: “Starbucks Grande mocha-latte-chino-frappe-ding-dong”, which of course, is my favorite thing.

  • Robyn March 31, 2012, 3:00 pm

    I just want to say the comments section gives me a great sense of community. Sometimes it can be difficult and lonely to maintain the Money Mustache skills when there are a lot of pressures to upgrade and consume from those in society with no mustache. Posts like this one and the accompanying comments section remind me that there are others trying to live a similar lifestyle and I enjoy everyone’s insights and suggestions. Thanks MMM!

  • Dolly March 31, 2012, 4:18 pm

    Jason, I loved your post. As a person with an anxiety disorder, I prefer low levels of ‘entertainment’ and thrive on just being, instead of being forced to ‘do’ something all the time. It took some time before I could embrace that there was nothing wrong with this, nothing wrong with not having ‘plans’ for off hours fun. I use to buy stuff all the time to alleviate the anxious feelings; now I have turned to spiritual mindfulness and sold a bunch of crap I never even used anyway. I’m so much happier, and I never use credit cards now :-) my mini stache is growing. More Jason posts please!!

  • Dark Sector March 31, 2012, 4:42 pm

    It should probably be ‘Mustache-Fu’.

  • Bethany March 31, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Since becoming more frugal and (I thought) less materialistic, all I seem to think about is money! I want to sell everything not nailed down and save all our money. We have no debt (including the mortgage as of last week), but I feel more stressed and anxious. Has anyone felt like this or am I just cuckoo?

    • Mr. Frugal Toque April 1, 2012, 7:43 am

      Your debt was a guiding influence over your life for a long time. Everything you were doing – even before you realized the value of a frugal life – was done in the shadow of all of that debt.
      With the debt gone, you feel like you’ve lost the rudder on your boat, but you haven’t.
      What really happened is that you’ve escaped the narrow and danger fraught straits of a debt-based lifestyle and you’re wondering where you should go in the big, wide ocean of financial independence.
      The answer of course is “anywhere you like.”
      The anxiety you’re feeling is just the effect of the excess oxygen you’re inhaling from the pure freedom around you. The feeling of dizziness will eventually pass.

      • Chris April 1, 2012, 9:44 am

        Bravo, FT. Well said Sir!

    • Devin 2 April 2, 2012, 10:22 am

      You have hit the what I call “debt free now what stage”. We often plan so well for paying off the debt, but often don’t understand that this was only a few steps. It can often be shorter than we expect. Now the amazing journey has begun and the direction you choose appears to be unclear or so many options that no single one stands out. The obvious first one was get debt free now. This can be overwhelming as you have been focused on a single goal, stuck to it and were successful at achieving it. Good for you. Celebrate, relish this moment. Reflect on your achievement. Now take time to set a big picture goal (life goal) and start putting in place steps to achieve it. This or these goals may not come to you immediately. They may take time. Now that you are debt free, time is on your side. I have been looking for this answer for sometime now for myself and it can be rather overwhelming. I think the article speaks to this extremely well. Be mindful of what you do next. For moving just to move is moving without purpose. These can lead you in a direction that you may find is or is not what you want. But now that you are debt free you have time and energy to explore and find purpose. Find passion. Find yourself. And that my friend is worth so much more and is so much more rewarding than any bank account or material item on this earth.

  • The Stoic March 31, 2012, 9:04 pm

    Great post Jason. You really hit on some thoughts I have had since I started this journey a year and half ago. When I stopped buying stuff, owning a t.v. listening to the radio, driving a car I began to experience the lack of entertainment and the boredom that followed. My true self must have been truly pissed at me for not giving it a voice all those years.

    Replacing what once made me happy from buying stuff and experiences in my former life to what makes me happy now has been one of the hardest yet enlightening changes I’ve undergone. I’m still dealing with this, but I’m getting better. I’m finding a happiness that is sustainable and no longer dependent on things or experiences, just the daily gift of being alive and growing as a person.

    Thank you for giving voice to something many of us feel.

  • Mirella March 31, 2012, 10:36 pm

    I think this whole idea that we grow up without ever giving ourselves the time nor opportunity to get to know ourselves is really key here.
    I really do think it comes down to “know thyself” and it’s as essential as nourishing ourselves properly and getting enough good sleep.
    Increasingly we will be raising young people who simply have no true idea of who they are outside of the consumerist model.
    Thought provoking article, thank you.

  • TonyS April 1, 2012, 6:05 am


    I’ve had a similar experience. Once I really started embracing a more frugal lifestyle, I found myself having a hard time not obsessing over saving. In fact, if it were not for my wife’s better judgement, I probably would have had our family living in a CONEX container out in the woods somewhere just to save even more money. I think that the key though has been covered by MMM several times, in different ways. We are trying to become the masters of our lives, and mastering our money is a prerequisite for that in this modern world. I think that obsessing over savings is a direct result of making the shift to a frugal lifestyle without doing the necessary self-analysis and having the emotional growth that Jason summed up in this post. I’m definitely still working on it!

  • minimalist April 1, 2012, 6:25 am

    I feel like I was born on track as an ERE’r or MMM’r. But I got lost along the way. I have had an easier time adjusting because I knew all along this shallow road I had gotten on was wrong for me.

    I feel more authentic and peaceful being back to my simple self. My struggle is that most everyone I know is still very plugged into the Matrix. I’m free they are still imprisoned. That’s my huge area I have to work on.

  • Jamie April 1, 2012, 7:16 am

    Good article and entertaining as well. Going through the emotional phases are definitely part of downshifting. Once I got through it I realized it was called “growing up.”

  • Bethany April 1, 2012, 8:12 am

    Thanks for the responses! My husband doesn’t understand why I feel this way, he’s just happy to be debt free. It’s hard to share with people in real life without sounding like you are showing off or being whiny :)

  • Parizade April 1, 2012, 9:31 am

    Excellent post Jason! I experienced an emotional crisis during the crash of 2008 that led me to a really fine therapist. Although not well covered by my health insurance, the money I spent on that year of therapy was the best investment I ever made. So many things that seemed impossible to me before are now effortlessly easy and simple.

    As Carl Jung put it:

    “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

  • minimalist April 1, 2012, 10:31 pm

    I hope we can talk more about this angle to ERE. I really enjoy this site and this article as well. I also wish we could talk about other things such as how ERE has effected giving and the feelings around it. I am finding new and deeper meaning in giving. I’m also occasionally feeling guilty about my past financial decisions. I also think about what I could have been doing, and who I could have helped instead.

    It seems like when you wake up in the financial area it awakens other areas as well.

    • FreeUrChains April 2, 2012, 12:46 pm

      I love giving homemade, material from reused wasted electronic generator solar/wind systems to people, so they can listen to music and dance with their friends, children, and SOs for free each and every night.

      Then i show them how to make a bow, spear, fishing pole, and how to grow fruits, veggies, and meat so they never starve again.

      Education and encouragement are needed to avoid Consumerism, Dictatorships, and Evil destructive habbits.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 2, 2012, 9:03 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and It reminded me of how much I used to enjoy meditating, when I made time for myself to do it. It’s so easy to get caught up in “life” and then you don’t even realize that it’s happening to you right now.

    We pile on these layers, onto ourselves and build ourselves up until we don’t really resemble our true selves anymore. Most people live their whole life without really trying to experience what it’s like to be themselves!

  • FreeUrChains April 2, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Learn to shoot a homemade bow and arrow for hunting needed game after reading “The Hunger Games” at your local library (if you can find a copy). You will be Happier just to make this accomplishment after hours of learning and training to do so. Increase your Skill Sets and learn new skills at every opportunity you can your entire life. Be Badass and adventurous every moment of your life and there will be nothing you can’t do and haven’t tried. Each skill you master will only help you master the next skill. For example, being flexible leads to kicking high leads to knocking out that tall guy who has to kill you for the honor of his Overlordly Rich and Powerfully Controlled Government.

  • FreeUrChains April 2, 2012, 1:40 pm

    Last week i walked alone for 2.5 hours across a bridge dominated by cars and traffic to a park, dominated by forests and back again. Last Friday i went to DC for the Cherry blossum festival (A week late) and walked around for 8-9 hours, going in and out of interesting paid by taxpayer museums and seeing beautiful sites. Most of that was entertainment, but there was a lot more unusual interaction amongst time-loosened tourists and other thinkers/joggers who had taken TIME off to enjoy the Capital as well. I would expect there were a lot of MMMs there, just without me knowing it. It was wonderful meditation on oneself, politics, history of mankind, and how we interact with one another moreso when we are not driving around.

  • wahine April 13, 2012, 3:57 pm

    Good post! So much to think about and act on.
    Tomorrow, off with the cable, taking the daily trips to SB off auto-pilot and heading outdoors. Thanks, MMM and bloggers, for opening my eyes.

  • Thrifted October 29, 2012, 9:02 pm

    This was an amazing post! Thank you Jason.

  • Sarwat January 7, 2013, 6:07 am

    I have gone through all the posts on this blog and loved every one but this one resonates beyond financial independence. It really is the answer to understanding yourself and what you really need in life. I just loved the statement “your best friend in the entire world is none other than: yourself” If everyone realized that, they could be so much more functional and happy. Quieting my life to hear what I really think.

    • EarningAndLearning May 8, 2017, 3:54 pm

      Oooh I love that, “Quieting my life to hear what I really think.”

  • Heather June 12, 2014, 12:56 pm

    What a helpful post! It reminds me of the emotional journey I had while losing 50 lbs (what I came to call my “squishy armor”), when I no longer had comfort-eating as a way to avoid emotions, nor the fat and overly-large clothes behind which to hide from other people. Just as you’ve said for downshifting, no one tells you to expect, or at least not be surprised by, the roller coaster.

  • Ishabaka September 11, 2015, 9:53 am

    Good post – reminds me of the saying “Don’t just do something – sit there!”

  • kindoflost August 16, 2016, 4:21 pm

    I can relate to some of this, to the boredom “phase”. I feel like the dog that caught the car… Have to still figure out what’s next, how to still be a contributing member of society. Have a lot of time on my hands and want to fill it well. I am also in a kind of withdrawal phase, still hate the very idea of a corporate job, just miss the paycheck and a few people. Lots of “work” to do.
    Thanks for this post

  • EarningAndLearning May 8, 2017, 3:52 pm

    Loved this post. I am definitely an Entertainment Addict. Big time. Hours of movie and TV series watching, especially with the advent of Netflix. I BUY movies on iTunes often, rather than just renting them, so I can re-watch them many times over the following years.

    I cancelled Netflix last month (I already cancelled cable TV last year) because I just can’t take the temptation of the abundance of media on there, and I don’t want to lose any more evenings and weekends to excessive binge-watching. I’ll still rent a movie almost every weekend on iTunes, or maybe re-watch one of the movies or TV shows I’ve purchased on iTunes, but I’m watching WAY less now without Netflix.

    Thanks for the reminder that one can be addicted to entertainment and distraction and numbing out on mindless media. I want to read more, get outside more, and spend more time with the wonderful, positive people in my life.

  • NevermindScrooge July 18, 2017, 5:05 am

    Sorry for the late response, I’m new here and working my way through all the posts. Initially I wanted to refrain from replying until I was up to date but this post resonated with a part of me. Thank you, Jason, for sharing your wisdom. You voiced something that I think I knew already, I just couldn’t put it into words or action.
    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the distractions: living in a big city, media, peer pressure… and when I feel overwhelmed I tend to bury myself in another distraction, hoping to drown out the others. Weirdly, this doesn’t make me feel better. Thanks to your words I will try to find a quiet spot and maybe deal with the demons. Not fighting them but embracing them, hopefully. Thanks again! (insert picture of girl in awesome armor snuggling a fierce dragon)

  • Indu November 21, 2019, 10:08 am

    I am 7 years late and I don’t know any of you here but I feel a sense of belonging here that I can’t explain. I am almost drowning in the wisdom here yet I have never felt more at peace. Dear MMM, you are doing work that you don’t have to do yet you still do to make all our lives better. Thank you.


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