Mrs. Money Mustache: Routine Will Oil the Machine

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I wake up and read the newest Mr. Money Mustache post.  Sometimes I know what it will be about and sometimes I don’t.  I usually nod my head in agreement and laugh at my husband’s jokes (that is why I married him, after all).  On Monday I woke up and read “Embracing the Nagging Voices of Success” and thought: Yup, that definitely describes The Mustache, but it doesn’t describe me.

MMM and I have completely opposing brains.  We often joke about this and I think it is one of the reasons we get along so well.  It’s interesting to be with someone whose brain functions so differently, because it brings a completely new dimension to your life.  My Mustachioed Husband has always been extremely self-motivated.  This is a rare and awesome trait and it’s great to be around someone that is so positive and energetic all the time — that energy rubs off on me and can lead to great things.

But, being with someone like this can also make you feel like a Lazy Log.  You see, I am someone that is highly motivated by external influences.  In the workplace, I make a great employee because I will never let an employer or client down.  I will work extremely hard for other people, but I don’t always work hard for myself.  I will sacrifice my own happiness for the happiness of others.

In my non-work life, I can sit and think about nothing for a long time.  My mind tends to focus on the moment rather than always straying off to think about other things.  In fact, it is so hard to sort through a problem in my head that I’ve kept a diary since second grade in order to figure out how I’m feeling about life.

There are many advantages to this.  I can clean a house approximately twice as fast as MMM because I do it with extreme focus and intensity rather than getting distracted.  I can travel anywhere in the world and feel perfectly comfortable in my surroundings.  I don’t feel like I have to get things done all the time in order to feel happy.  I love being alone.

But this can also lead to problems.  I often require external influences to get my butt into gear.  I clean the house only when people are coming over, I exercise only if I’m signed up for a class, I work on projects mainly when they are assigned to me by others, and I finish books only because I’m in a book club. I eat when I realize I’m very hungry (which leads me to end up eating plain raw foods, since I’m usually too hungry to cook anything).

I can waste vast amounts of time, if given the chance. I do not have these voices inside my head telling me to get things done.  I actually have to create lists of things to get done, otherwise nothing will happen.

But, this article is not about me.  This is about you.  The point is, during your working career, you have built-in motivation.  You have to get up every morning and go to work or you won’t get paid.  There is a routine to your day and you follow it and you feel like you accomplished something each day. If you’re lucky, maybe you get a few other things done in the evenings and on weekends.

When you stop working, that goes away.  For those of us who aren’t super self-motivated like Mr. Money Mustache, you might end up feeling a little lost.  I know I did and I still do sometimes.  But, this is where the fun begins.  This is the Exciting Challenge in the New Chapter of your Life!!  Embrace it, because you will learn more about yourself during this time than any other time in your life.  You get to figure out what is really valuable to you.  You get to find out who you are.

It can take a while – it can even take a lifetime, but it is very enlightening.  My personal tactic is to write things down so I can figure it out as I go.  Looking back on your own writing, you can read what you wrote in the past from a completely different perspective.  You can actually see things in your writing that you didn’t realize were there and you can give the Past You some advice.  It’s pretty cool stuff.

What makes you happy when you don’t have any external influence like work in your life?  Isn’t that a question worth answering?  I have a child, which is a huge responsibility that motivates me to no end, so I still don’t have the complete freedom one would have with a full traditional retirement.  But, there’s still a lot of time to fill in during the day when he’s at school.  And when you have a kid, you also realize that you really need to take good care of yourself and your needs in order to be a happy and successful role model.

Develop a Routine. The answer for me (and perhaps you too) is Routine.  You need to create a routine for yourself, but you decide what it is depending on who you are.  Don’t follow someone else’s routine.  You can use others as an example, but different things work for different types of people.

For example, I know that if I start using my computer first thing in the morning, I am screwed and I will be on this thing all day long.  So, as soon as MMM bikes off to school with our son, I have a routine: I clean up around the house until he gets back.  Then I’ll do a round of the gardens outside, weeding and watering and soaking up some nature.  This will lead to noticing other things that need doing around the house – incoming mail that needs processing, things that need fixing. The routine causes all of this useful stuff to happen, and without it I would have been just sitting around checking e-mail and perhaps even Facebook (gasp!).

Attack your weaknesses.  My weakness is wasting time on my computer.  I was able to attack my prior Facebook problem by disabling my account for 2 months.  When I went back, I was basically cured.  I no longer felt the need to check it every day and make sure I congratulate everyone with new babies and sympathize with those who had a loss.  The only reason I went back was to connect with family members that I had no other way of getting in touch with.  My time without Facebook was Excellent.

Find out what Motivates you.  Since I have come to terms with the fact that I am motivated by external factors, I have increased my happiness in several ways.  I have conquered my exercise avoidance by joining a local Crossfit gym.  In contrast, MMM doesn’t need a gym to motivate himself to exercise.  I thought I could also work out at home, but this doesn’t work very well for me.  The reason Crossfit works for me is because I love the community, I love the workouts, and I love the competition.  A regular gym didn’t work for me.  This doesn’t mean you have to pay to get your motivation though.

I found other ways to motivate myself before I ever paid to work out.  For example, one year I organized a Weekly Hiking Club.  But it wasn’t a normal hiking club.  It was a Points-Based hiking club with results posted online.  Every week, I would organize a hike and assign points for meeting certain goals and create a fancy web page with pictures and a tally of all points.  You might get 10 points for the hike itself and 10 more points for biking to the hiking meetup spot instead of driving.  Many friends got involved and it was a great time.  Creating some competition really motivated people to come out so they could earn their points and try to win.

Set goals for Yourself.  In order to get things done that you enjoy, you might need to set goals for yourself.  One goal that many Mustachians can relate to is biking to work.  Setting a goal to bike to work a certain number of days per week and somehow being accountable (maybe tell your coworkers or bike with someone) can be very motivating.  I used to bike to work (8.5 miles each way, three times a week) and it ended up being the best part of my whole day.  The pre-determined schedule forced me to do something great several times a week.

Embrace these new challenges instead of shying away from them. The type of person who is worried about what they’ll do when they stop working, is probably the type who will benefit most from leaving the old routine of the job and being forced to figure out what is really worth doing!

  • rjack May 24, 2012, 6:23 am

    Mrs. MM – You sound very Zen, which is a good thing. My wife is alot like you in the sense of living in the moment. I’m alot like you in terms of motivation and goals.

    Since I plan to retire in the next few weeks (I’m very excited!!!), this article is really helpful. My number one worry is how I will structure my time. Both I and my wife knows that I can become lost without some structure. I’m going to define a Routine that makes sense for me and write it down. Then I’m going to attack my biggest weakness which is spending sufficient time developing relationships.

    P.S. I like the new, more badass logo.

    • Chris Turner May 24, 2012, 8:54 am

      Congrats on your upcoming retirement Rjack!

    • kris May 24, 2012, 11:39 am

      Congrats on the retirement. Yeah I like the logo too.

    • Christine Wilson May 24, 2012, 3:08 pm


  • Mr. Risky Startup May 24, 2012, 6:32 am

    Great article and so true. After working for 25 years, 70-80 hours per week (including working through vacations, weekends – even on my wedding day), I tried to take a week off just last month to see how it would feel to not have a job. I left my laptop at the office, offered my employees huge reward if they do not call me or email me during my vacation and changed my phone from “jingle bells” of alerts to silent mode.

    Well, as I suspected, it did not work very well for me. Yes, first day was nice – instead of customary 4-5 hours of sleep, I slept 8 and even took a short nap. Then, I took my son mini-golfing, to the park, we had picnic by the lake…

    By day 4, having exhausted my son by going to million places and doing million things, I tackled other little projects – detail my car, deleted unused pictures from my gigantic library of photos, performed back-up on all my computers… I watched more movies during that week than I did for the previous 12 months. I even played golf twice (it is amazing how long days are when you are not working – you can fit a lot of stuff in a single day).

    I stopped shaving daily, stopped getting dressed for work every day, even skipped shower on the day I had no plans to leave the house.

    My fears were confirmed – other than my work and my family, nothing else interests me. By the time Monday arrived and I returned to work, my wife was glad to see me go back – I am apparently not so much fun in big doses :)

    When I finally returned to work, I remember having a huge smile on my face – I was actually happy to go back!

    So, while early retirement sounds good, in practice, I think I will end up working until I die. However, that does not undermine my quest for Financial Independence – I want to be financially independent so that I can chose when to work and what to do.

    Thank you for the great post MrsMM. It confirms my theory that MMM is more of an anomaly than a rule – I think that self-motivating people are rare breed indeed.

    • cdub May 24, 2012, 10:50 am

      I think it is very awesome that you love going in to work like that. It sounds like you have a vested interest as you used “my employees” and maybe that is the key? I am one of those employees for my company and I can easily fill up a lifetime of stuff I would rather do than come to work.

      • Mr. Risky Startup May 24, 2012, 12:25 pm

        Actually, I am currently trying to get more vested interest in the business (which is not going well, hence RiskyStartup :), but I am only managing the company for someone else.

        Sadly, I am that boring – I LOVE to work. When I moved to Canada 16 years ago, I was expected to live off the immigration aid for 1 year and learn English. Within 7 days, I was so bored that I went down the street, knocked on the doors of various businesses and by the end of the day, I was a plumbers assistant earning $6.85 per hour (and never happier).

        Funny enough, my younger brother beat me by 2 days – he had a job within 5 days :) and he still works at the same place (in fact, all 3 of us brothers are now in our 15th year with the same company).

        I think it has to do with the family upbringing – my dad, uncle and grandfather were executives with companies with over 50,000 employees so I probably never even considered doing anything but manage (my second choice would have been being a chef at a good restaurant).

    • mike May 24, 2012, 11:05 am

      As an aspiring early retiree (by 40)..I kind of find what you wrote rather sad.

      I guess some people should just work. ;-)

      • Mike Long May 24, 2012, 12:13 pm

        At least Mr. Risky Startup, has *something* in his life that he loves. :)

        I find that I have ZERO interests when it comes to both work and outside of work. It’s tough to function in the world when nothing beyond survival motivates you…be it internal or external.

        The only thing in life I’ve ever found in life that I’ve enjoyed…is changing it. I thrive on change. Stability is incredibly boring and drives me nuts.

        And right now everything in my life is so safe and stable that it’s literally driving me crazy.

        So I lack the “voices” and routine makes me nauseous. Not quite sure how to tackle that one…

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 24, 2012, 1:07 pm

          Wow, that’s a weird problem to have. What would the Caveman version of Mike Long have done? I guess he would have just caught enough animals to survive, then spent the rest of his time in a Cave Funk?

        • LMHB May 24, 2012, 11:09 pm

          What about travel? And not the cushy kind – try the backpacking kind. When I’m on the road in Jordan, all I care about is where I’m sleeping tonight and what I’m eating for my next meal. And since most tourist visas are 90 days or less, change happens whether you like it or not =)

        • Diana June 25, 2013, 12:32 pm

          I know that feel, bro. And I don’t have an answer yet. But I think it’s important to keep challenging and questioning and searching for it.

        • Life with Ben and Jen April 16, 2018, 8:32 am

          This is such an old post and I hope you have solved this problem by now, but if you haven’t I strongly encourage you to literally give 90% of your wealth away to people in need, but not by writing a check and calling it a day. Instead, go to those people, find their needs, finance the solution to their needs, manage it, work it and enjoy it. I know that’s how I found the most meaning in life and, let me tell you, it’s not safe at all!

    • Chief Punch in the Face March 7, 2013, 11:01 am

      Risky, I can really relate to your way of thinking and doing. I’ve been working for quite some time full time weekdays and 3 to 4 hours on weekends. I love the work; it’s repetitive but also is creative. I’ve built up a nice nest egg but recently I, too, tried to take some time away — remaining home but not working. I couldn’t do it. Probably force of habit that I really needed to get away from the workplace (home).

      Anyway, through reading from the start of the blog, I have so many ideas to cut out my own wasteful spending and become truly financially free. I love it. So many new ideas about how I could make my living another (less time consuming way) and learn some Mustachian DIY Badassery… I fixed my sink the other day…I know “real tough stuff — Junior Peach Fuzz Badassery). I’m thinking I might tag along with a handyman I know and work with him gratis in exchange for his knowledge of handyman skills.

  • Johonn May 24, 2012, 6:42 am

    Thanks for the post Mrs. MM! It’s always nice to hear from you.
    That bit about not getting on the computer first thing is totally what I need as well… I can spend an entire day on my computer getting precisely zero accomplished if I don’t watch out.

    • Kenneth May 24, 2012, 9:21 am

      Yes, being glued to your computer, laptop, ipad or smartphone is an addiction MANY people have, including me. Also, TV on for noise in the background. Sometimes, especially on weekends, I just sit in the living room, TV off, no ipad, and enjoy a cup of coffee for an hour or so. The silence is wonderful.

      Just being, just being present in the moment, is the most delicious thing we can do. Why we try to distract ourselves with computers, phones, tv, booze etc. is beyond me.

      • Jaclyn June 15, 2012, 6:39 am

        Oh, yes, and the TV on for background noise. I have been trying to change that habit, but after living with me for 4 years, my husband is now addicted to the background noise too. Next Friday, he is moving out for 5 weeks to teach a summer program at a boarding school. I plan to use those 5 weeks to break my internet and TV addication.

        • IAmNotABartender April 21, 2015, 3:31 pm

          I don’t like quiet either, but I usually just have Pandora playing.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache May 27, 2012, 4:36 pm

      Thanks Johonn! I’m a little late replying to comments since I was trying not to use the computer. ;)

  • Kuz May 24, 2012, 7:19 am

    Thanks for the post! I am planning on sending it to my wife. I realize that I am a lot like Mr. Mustache but my wife does not think in quite the same way I do. I think you summed up perfectly that individuals think and react differently to situations. Also, it made me realize that not everyone has those little voices that I do. Great post

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka May 24, 2012, 7:24 am

    This is funny – my boyfriend and I are like this, but I’m the self motivated one and he’s the “others” motivated one. I should send this article to him!

  • Jakub May 24, 2012, 7:30 am

    I’m more like your husband. I have hundreds of voices in my head all the time “you are not doing enough” “come on you lazy bitch!” “be better” etc… I’ve moved out from my parents house 4 years ago and I changed 3 cities, 4 jobs and 2 continents since than. I’m progressing quite well, but I still want to go faster and better. And sometimes I’m frustrated, because I know I’m still far away from my 100%… And it’s difficult to stop for a while, so I think your way could be much more satisfying

  • Osprey May 24, 2012, 7:49 am

    Mrs MM, are you me? Thank you so much for this post, Mr MM’s one led me into a bit of a panic wondering why I never heard nagging voices and if this meant I could not be successful..! I am taking all your advice to heart. Thanks again.

  • icebiker76 May 24, 2012, 7:56 am

    The “voices” article clearly wasnt written for me either,lol. I feel no urgent need to be productive at all times, and I value alone/creative time. I could happily spend most of the day pondering the nature of the universe or whatever. :)

    If i want to accomplish anything/have a social life, writing the goal down and imposing structure on myself is a requirement.

  • Angela May 24, 2012, 7:59 am

    I am very much like you Mrs. MM. I also require external forces to movitate me on a daily basis. At work I use the Pomodoro Technique to stay on track. Have you heard of it?

  • Guitarist May 24, 2012, 8:19 am

    I find that there are some things I can self start on and some I need some form of outside influence to get going. For example, I used to hate running for the sake of running. I played soccer through 10th grade and I loved the sport but did I ever hate running. I know it was a fitness and stamina thing but if I wasn’t actually kicking a ball while doing it, I didn’t want to run.
    Now that I am a bit older, I want to get fit to play soccer in an adult league around the area, I know I need to improve my running speed and stamina. No matter what I did, I would notice no improvement in my running. I would still be winded, I would still be sore after running the same distance/speed as I did 3 weeks earlier. So I looked around and found c25k. Once there I saw set goals in front of me, I found it easier to do, I even like running now. The improvement is there. I am on week 7 and am already finishing 5k in under 30 minutes (with the first 5 being walking). It may not seem like much, but it once took me about 24 minutes to run 2 miles my freshman year of high school, so for me it’s pretty good. Once I get done with the final week I am going to keep up the running for 30 minutes at a time but slowly include my own set of goals to increase my speed for bits of time that increase week to week. I will also include some time in my week to just do sprints.
    I had a similar experience with lifting. Writing down my lifts and keeping track of weight and reps helps me see the results.
    Goal setting works, but you need to write it down and stick with it!

    • shedinator May 24, 2012, 8:30 am

      that’s a very familiar sounding story… :)

  • shedinator May 24, 2012, 8:28 am

    It’s interesting to see the two diametric opposites you two represent. For myself, the one thing that’s almost certain to motivate me is competition. It doesn’t have to be truly external- I can set myself a deadline for something, and I’m probably going to meet it- but I like to have something or someone I’m competing against, whether that’s an opposing team, a co-worker, myself, or just the clock.

    The drawback to be competitively motivated is that you can accomplish some pretty great things, and still feel unsatisfied with the results if you’re aware of someone who did had more success than you in a given area.

  • Roo May 24, 2012, 9:00 am

    Love the post Mrs. MMM. I’m a mix of both but lean more to having trouble motivating myself. I’ve often wondered how things went for you as I suspected that MMM was a rare breed of person due to personality/upbringing.

    I’ve found for myself really realizing an underlying reason for doing something helps. It’s not perfect but it helps. Like tidying a little every day will make for a happier more relaxed me. Nothing like the motivation of company but it’s cool if you can find a reason to do it for yourself. Also with food – some foods don’t make me feel as good so I shouldn’t eat them.

    I think that part of why externally motivated people are prevalent comes from growing up in a school system where independent thinking isn’t valued. You’re expected to follow the system. You learn to put your own interests on the back burner in order to fit into the system. In the process you end up losing yourself.

    It’s so much harder trying to figure yourself out later.

  • Mr. Money Mustache May 24, 2012, 9:06 am

    Thanks very much for the great post, Mrs. MM!

    It is fun to see the contrast between me, you, and Mr. Risky Startup – all of us have different styles.

    For example, I’ve only worked one or two 80-hour workweeks in my life. Except during the go-getter early years, most of my career was the classic 37.5 hour workweek. So Risky is far more driven to work than me.

    In writing this blog, I often pretend there is only one personality type just to keep things simple. Otherwise, you have to write sixteen subcategories for every point you make, and it’s hard to set out RULES THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ALL when you’re being so wishy washy.

    But just this once, I will acknowledge that there really are differences between people. And by learning your own strengths and weaknesses, you can customize the rules of Mr. Money Mustache so they work even better for you. That doesn’t mean you can skip the rule about riding a bike though :-)

    • Mr. Risky Startup May 24, 2012, 12:41 pm

      Keep doing what you are doing MMM. You are pretty unique – if you were the norm, we would all be reading the blog by MWM (Mr. Work Moustache) and discussing how do we find more time to spend working :)

      All of us use your example in different ways. In my case, it is how to manage living expenses – blogs like yours and ERE led me to realize that I do not need 5M in the bank to be financially independent.


  • Tim Stobbs May 24, 2012, 9:24 am

    Oh, too funny. I find I only get stuff done in the morning if I do turn on the computer in the morning (it’s my writing time of day). Otherwise I get crap all done during the day as my mind can’t focus on stuff without getting that writing out of it first thing.

    I really like this post as it does point out you have to find what works for you and yes it may mean your spouse is completely different in their approach. I suppose that is why I come across as wishy washy myself at times, as it really does depend on your own personal context and I try to cover that (not so well some days). You have to find what works for you and so if you need some help finding your way…read all those different blogs to get ideas (just make sure you keep coming back to MMM, right?).

    Thanks for the reminder, most of the ‘rules’ are really guidelines.


  • Jeff May 24, 2012, 9:44 am

    Great post! Computers are a huge time suck. In fact, I’m sitting in front of one doing pretty much nothing at work today. Reading your post is the most productive thing I’ve done so far.

  • Brandy May 24, 2012, 9:57 am

    I like the Weekly Hiking Club idea! That sounds like a lot of fun!!

    • Bullseye May 24, 2012, 10:46 am

      Yes, it does! In fact, I want to duplicate this idea in my area. Mrs MMM, can you share any more details about it? ie. Was your site custom designed or out of the box adapted?

  • Nurse Frugal May 24, 2012, 10:23 am

    So awesome!!! I would feel a bit also feel a bit lost without having a job. Although, there are times when I get 5-7 days off in a row, I do find myself getting in a fun little routine. The coolest thing about you guys being retired is that you can do WHATEVER you want!! Learn all the things you wanted, travel, read, play, ANYTHING!! I am definitely looking forward to an early retirement too (not quite sure when yet, definitely after the house is paid off next year.) As a nurse, you can do what’s called “per diem” shifts which usually means that you get to choose when you work and usually the minimum requirement is 4 days a month! I can handle that someday! Then maybe I can really start my mustachian ways: riding a bike to work, etc.

  • Clint May 24, 2012, 10:52 am

    “The routine causes all of this useful stuff to happen, and without it I would have been just sitting around checking e-mail and perhaps even Facebook (gasp!).”

    Good thing it’s just Facebook and not Facebook stock :)

    I think I’m a mix of Mr. and Mrs. I hear the voices, but I’m not quite as self-motivated and as strict as MMM. Sometimes I can get down on myselft about this, but I’m also seeing great progress thanks to this blog, which makes me feel good about myself. Go figure. I didn’t ride my bike to work today because I have to get home quickly for my daughter’s concert, BUT I did pack a nice healthy lunch. (Whereas last year this time, I was going home for lunch on days whenI drove, adding an extra 12 miles. Stupid!)

    I work hard for other people like Mrs. MMM, but I’m now trying to channel any and all financial gain from that work right back to the people that matter most in my life, rather than see (or fail to see) it seep away on frivolous stuff.

    One thing I’m not worried about is what to do with my time when I finally retire. I can’t wait for that day. Wish it was yesterday!

  • Bullseye May 24, 2012, 10:54 am

    I also wanted to add that I am crazy self-motivated and origanized like MMM, and my wife is very laid back and disorganized, sort of like Mrs MMM. Sadly, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed this major personality difference like you guys have. In fact, it’s been a recurring problem in our 18 years together, as I’m always frustrated by her ability to self-motivate, even though she is super awesome in many other ways.

    I’ve been reading some books and articles lately trying to better understand how to be more accepting of our differences, but this post also helps me be more understanding, so thanks!

    I’m learning (obviously very slowly) that you really can’t change people or mold them to your liking, and that you need to accept people for who they are, and always look at the positive aspects they have. Negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts, until you get into a mindset you can’t break out of.

    • Mrs. Neurotic Perfectionist May 26, 2012, 7:32 pm

      As soon as I read “very laid back and disorganized”, I thought you were going to say you wanted a divorce. I’m sorry if I’m being harsh, but these are really bad things to say about the person you love.
      I am a mix of both personalities here described and I feel I sort of understand both sides although I can’t really fit in any of them.
      I feel people who can get themselves to do what they want whenever they want don’t get us, people who can’t, and tend to look down on us. I think of it this way: everyone has defects. My worst defect is procrastinating. Is it a big thing? Of course it is. Is it the reason of all my big problems? By all means, yes! But does it make me a worse person? No! I’m a person trying to solve a problem like all other people in the world, including that person who’s looking down on me. Only my problem happens to be different. There’s no such thing as “my problem is worse than other people’s problems”. My problem is the worst in the world for me (for I haven’t solved it yet) and that is true for every person in the world struggling with a problem. So if you can’t solve your problem, think of it this way: procrastination (or any other problem your wife may be struggling with) is as difficult to her as the problem you’re struggling with is to you. That is empathy, and it’s the only thing on Earth that can make us understand the problems of a totally different person with entirely different background and issues. Try asking her what she has to tolerate in you, and you’ll notice it’s as difficult for her as it is for you tolerating some things in her (unless she’s got the admirable gift of tolerating). That’s because we’re all different and it becomes hard to tolerate everything when you are so close to a person. That’s natural. But once you see everyone as the imperfectly perfect beings they are, and that the beauty of what they are is a product of what they do right, but also of what they do wrong, then you’ll love everyone as they are. =)
      I hope I have helped more than anything else, but if not, please let me know. =)

      First time in the blog, I’ve read the “voices” post and this one and I liked viewing the issue from both sides. It’s much more clarifying then seeing only one side of the thing. =)

      Sorry for my bad English. ;)

      • shedinator May 27, 2012, 8:01 am

        I am incredibly laid back, and also very disorganized. If you google “Absent Minded Professor Syndrome,” you’ll find a pretty accurate description of me 90% of the time. If my wife were to post on here that I am “very laid back and disorganized,” I would have no problem with it, because it’s true. Maybe you would be offended by such a statement, but the statement in itself is really not harsh at all, and Bullseye’s wife may have no problem with such a characterization.

  • Devin May 24, 2012, 11:17 am

    Great article. This describes not only me to a T, but also my wife. She is the self starter and I am the outside influence required type. The only thing that changed me was I took 6 months paternity leave to spend with my girls. Wife and 2 lovely daughters. I have found a bit more of my self in this time and it motivates me to be financially independent that much sooner. A have found a routine works well for me and lists are a great reminder. I find a done list makes me feel better than a to do list. The done list shows what I have accomplished. The to do list often reminds me what I was unable to complete. I know it is a different frame of mind, even though it is essentially the same list. Thanks for writing this article it was like looking in a mirror for a moment and I liked what I saw.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 24, 2012, 11:28 am

    I really liked this! I tend to be very self-motivated and my spouse seems to be more externally motivated. (He’s also self-motivated too, but just less so than me.) We have conversations like this sometimes, where he says “I FEEL like I should want to climb the corporate ladder or become a VP because that seems to be what people are doing.” (in his circle) “But I just don’t want to.”

    Whereas I would definitely be more interested in climbing the ladder, so to speak, if it weren’t for the 6 year old boy and the bun in the oven. I think we have a great balance. It may take him longer to GET motivated on projects, but once he does, he’s great at them (example: getting organized pre-baby with some internal house/closet projects. I nagged for a couple of months. But once the baby items started flowing in from friends and we had no place to put them, he got started.)

  • drewstees May 24, 2012, 12:00 pm

    With regards to fitness, check out Fleetly (http://www.fleetly.com/).

    It’s a pretty cool site/app for tracking your fitness and competing against others. You can set goals, earn points, create challenges, form groups, etc….that whole gamification concept.

    My wife LOVES to brag when she has more points than me, so yeah, that definitely helps motivate me. :-)

  • Hilary May 24, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I heart Mrs. MM. (Mister, you are pretty swell, too.)

    I can relate to being externally motivated (and I care about earning those metaphorical gold stars from others) and also to the necessity of downtime for “doing nothing” in my life. I’m an introvert who tends to get overstimulated more easily than I would like, and as I journey through my 30s I am realizing that for me to live a good life (on my terms), I have to carefully curate my life. Finding the right balance between being too isolated and being anxious/overstimulated is a big part of my life right now.

    I am a reader, a thinker, and a list maker. The lists keep me on task and the reading and thinking keep my lists constantly evolving. Thanks, as always, Mustache Family, for making me think!

  • George May 24, 2012, 9:01 pm

    Yeah I think routine really helped me and my wife with cooking meals instead of eating out. This has helps reduce stress and as well help us build the stash.

    It dawned on me a couple years that if we made a weekly meal chart for meals and actually wrote the meals down ahead of time, we would then know exactly what ingredients we would need to cook them by looking the at the set of receipts for all meals for each week. Every Saturday, we pick out every meal for the following upcoming week and write them down. From this an accurate grocery shopping list could be made for the weekly Sunday shopping trip.

    Thus, by making the meal decisions early, we could buy only what we needed, and actually be prepared. I put a clipboard up on our kitchen wall for our meal chart that marked Mon to Sun and each day with a columns breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with a convenient pen to write stuff down.

    That way the night before, we would realize things like oh, I have to defrost this frozen meat for tomorrows dinner. Also I found myself doing stuff like getting the right pans out for breakfast the night before, or actually reading recipes ahead of time to know whats going on (instead of getting my ass kicked by the recipe at meal time).

    By doing this we saved so much money. See in the past, we would just try to wing it, and wait until the last second. I would end work day so tried and we would both be starving but too hungry and weak to do anything about it; we found ourselves ordering out, pigging out on junk food snacks, or going out to restaurants spending money for unhealthy stuff.

    Of course some people would say this meal chart idea is too boring and doesn’t allow for flexibility or fun. However, we agreed that the day of a meal, that we would always have the option to call on audible and change the play if circumstances changed (i.e. if originally we were making a suppose to make soup but it turned out to be bright and sunny that day and it just begged for grilling). Anyway the structure provided a fallback or default meal we could always get ready in time, and the structure took a lot of stress out of our lives and made things so much easier. It also resulted in us making less grocery shopping trips. It cuts back on those shopping trips to pick up just one thing.

    So yeah routine definitely oiled the machine in this case. We started that meal chart about 2 years ago and we still use it everyday. In my file cabinet, I have a whole thick stack of past meals charts, one sheet for each week, so the routine definitely helped here.

    • Someone July 25, 2012, 11:53 am

      I wanted to reply to this comment since I instituted a kitchen whiteboard a few years ago when we started cooking more meals at home. Our system is a bit different: the whiteboard is for listing what’s in the fridge/freezer so we don’t “lose” anything, though there is a quick list of potential meals for the week on there too. We’ve developed a food philosophy as a couple that we use intuitively now, so we tend to each simply shop for things whenever inspired, bring home some stuff, and announce what we’ll be cooking that week in the knowledge that we’ll both like it.

      I never thought I would enjoy cooking much but it turns out I’m quite good at it, and at finding (or inventing) recipes that not only make good use of what we already have on hand but that extend what we’ve already made. I’ve learned that a really decent working kitchen is sort of a rolling prospect…once your collection of seasonings and other ingredients, tools, and preservation systems gets built up, branching out into all kinds of dishes from there is easier.

      However, I wanted to note that in the spirit of simplicity and decluttering, I wonder why in the world one would file paper lists of past meal charts. :) What I do is keep a private blog where each entry is a recipe or some other cooking-related thing I need to remember. It’s searchable and takes up no space! And the whiteboard saves paper too while being infinitely editable. Yay for new ways of doing pretty darned traditional things!

      I also wanted to say to the general MMM populace: thank you SO much for not stapling the differing personality thing to so-called gender differences!! The tendency of our society to reduce contrasts to binaries and then rigidly assign them according to imagined gendered qualities is one of my biggest angry-makers.

      As for us, I find that I and my husband are *both* more like MMM. Neither of us are particularly other-directed at all, and we are both list-making, planning, goal-setting sorts who love jumping into whatever activity inspires us to grab the particular carrot that we’re after that day. We aren’t exactly the same of course; different things can be important to each of us depending, but overall we see things very similarly and the compatibility is such a relief after other relationships where there was less. We are also both pretty good at setting and/or deviating from routine where it makes sense to do so.

      We’re having a great time and quite enjoy the blog…I just discovered it recently and noticed that we have been doing most of the very same things as the Mustachians for the past few years, whaddaya know. It’s great to find kindred spirits.

    • IAmNotABartender April 21, 2015, 4:32 pm

      We’ve been doing the same thing for almost a year, and it is great! We make our meal plan and grocery list on Sunday and go shopping Monday. It alleviates so much stress!

  • pachipres May 24, 2012, 9:03 pm

    So great to hear from you Mrs. MMM. You sound so down to earth. I like your style of writing. I like MMM too though! I too find it hard to do yoga in my own home unless I am consistently going to classes. Thanks for posting.

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 May 25, 2012, 7:52 am

    Wow, you guys sound so interesting. :)
    My motivation is mostly internal and that makes it hard to get going when I’m a lazy dog sometime. I think making a routine will really help. I’m taking some time off now and I’m not productive at all. It’s hard to get anything done with no structure.

  • Heidi May 25, 2012, 8:52 am

    Great article! Its always nice to hear from you, Mrs. MM. I find my husband is closer to Mr. M and I to you. Its super-fun to be married to someone so different and see a different perspective.
    I really depend on routine for being a stay-at-home mom but have been pleasantly surprised to find out that I respond best to just a few activities each week with other people. After that I get sick of not getting enough accomplished at home and need to re-charge.

  • Melissa May 25, 2012, 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the great article MrsMM! Your personalities and tendancies sound very much like ours. My husband is always very motivated and doesn’t tend to worry about what others think. At the beginning of our marriage he had difficulty relaxing and doing…..nothing. Left to my own devices I tend to move from project to project without always completing them. He helps me stay focused and I help him slow down and enjoy what we’ve built together. We make a great team that way!

    And since I know he loves a challenge I was the one who gave him the new challenge to work on….retiring early. He thinks nine years, but I am a dreamer and think we can do it sooner. Together, who knows what we will come up with.

  • GE Miller May 26, 2012, 8:40 am

    When is “MRSmoneymustache.com” going to launch?
    Very interesting post. Two very different takes on early retirement in the very same house.

    I tend to be somewhere in the middle. The NVS have a strong hold in my life. I find that when I have extended time off, I start to get a bit depressed and even bored. This is a bigger deterrent to making the move to early retirement than any financial or health care concern.

    At the same time, I also can get easily distracted and end up wasting an entire morning browsing around online. And then the NVS come back to yell at me and I move on.

    The depression/identity crisis/boredom issue when first making the transition to early retirement is something that deserves more discussion. For worse, those of us that have been busting ass to reach FI have, more often than not, found a lot of their identity/motivation/focus through their work. When that is given up, it’s almost like you are re-building yourself from the ground up. That can take years. How many have worked so hard to reach FI only to find they couldn’t survive that initial re-build? Or didn’t know that it even existed? Would Mrs MMM still be in software development if there weren’t a Mr MMM to get her through that dip after leaving?

  • Lindsey June 7, 2012, 3:01 am

    Wow – this has just been like a counselling session for me!

    I am totally like you Mrs. MM. Thanks for laying it all out so now I can understand that I need those external influences to achieve most of the time.

  • Candice January 19, 2013, 6:14 pm

    Dear mrs.MM
    My husband is very much like MMM and has recently been reading through his posts every day! So I have been hearing a lot about it and he told me to read this post of yours. I am exactly like you! Motivated by others and can be the best employee, but alone can sit and do nothing for hours! I love how ambitious my husband can be, but can get caught up in all the commercialism and wanting to be “normal” like others. How did you cope with it all or were you both on the same page from the start? Any advice? Great post!

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 19, 2013, 8:14 pm

      Hi Candice,

      How fun to get a response to an old post! I think that in a lot of ways, I have always been a bit tom-boyish, so I was never into the typical girly stuff, which helped a lot with wanting to be like other women. So, I started off in a better place than some, I think, but I do understand that feeling you’re talking about.

      Ultimately, feeling good about myself in other ways (other than the “normal” ones) was the biggest thing. And, realizing that a lot of women (and men) might indulge in guilty pleasures because it helps make them feel better about themselves. Those things do not necessarily make them feel happier.

      I would say the number one thing that has helped me is being healthy and in great shape. That’s what makes me feel good about myself and I feel I don’t need as much.

      I should also say that it’s a long road – it doesn’t happen overnight. For me, being concerned about the environment, not wanting too much stuff, and having real authentic experiences were also driving factors in my purchasing decisions.

      I’ve gotten to a point now where I could probably easily do a buy nothing for a year challenge, where as several years ago, I would have found it difficult. But, as you learn more about yourself and about what really matters to you, you’ll get there too… if that’s what you really want.

      Good luck!

  • Candice January 22, 2013, 7:17 pm

    Wow you are a fast responder!! Thankyou for all the encouragement and advice. I think you are right about it being a slow road, some things I find easy and others very hard… Like turning down that heat ;)! You are very sweet, thankyou again!

  • Melissa April 10, 2013, 4:43 pm

    Not sure how I missed this post but…here I am first-time reading it. Mrs. MM and I are two peas in a pod. I could daydream for lengths of time that would make my significant other cringe. Sometimes I wish my boss would call and tell me to get the house cleaned and the closets organized because otherwise I have absolutely no motivation to do so. We could start a club for people like us. I’d much rather be outside playing with the kids, digging in the garden, riding my bike, even washing windows. As long as it’s outside. If I must be inside–reading is the game. I know exactly how I’ll spend my retirement days….I’ll be outside….avoiding housework! Thanks again!

  • Diana June 25, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I know, it was over a year ago, but I’ve been reading every post from the very beginning and wrestling with fears about what I will really do when I retire, and feeling down on myself for not being the same sort of person as MMM. I’m not self-motivated, I’m not energetic, I don’t have the urge to seek out the thrill of challenge, but I want to attain happiness. I’m definitely not quite like you, either, but it’s comforting to see a perspective on your early retirement lifestyle from more than one personality type. Rock on, and maybe someday I’ll come meet you in Colorado.

  • Bhagavati August 29, 2013, 11:05 pm

    Ms. MM, I really liked the way you described retirement as a chance to get to know yourself. Before retirement your time is not your own, or doesn’t seem to be, there are grades to maintain and extra curricular’s, then a job and then you retire and you get a chance to “learn more about yourself”.

    I know that private school is not very musician, but want people to know about a type of school that gives kids a chance of this self-realization when they’re still young! They’re called Sudbury schools (after Sudbury Valley in MA) and the theory is that given the time and space everybody (kids as well as adults) will figure out what they want to do and lead happy lives.

    Whether you like the idea or not it might give you something interesting to ponder on at your leisure!

    Thanks again for this great blog Mr. & Ms. MM!

  • Jennie April 23, 2016, 9:08 pm

    Mrs. MM, I think we’d be friends! Everything you wrote on this post could have been written about me. As I am not married to such a self-motivator as your Mr., I’m going to try harder to implement your advice here. (Especially not turning on the computer in the mornings – the quickest way to waste a whole day!)

  • Carrie October 17, 2016, 6:17 am

    Goodness, MMM you are not a lazy log! You and Mr. MM just have different styles. Gretchen Rubin talks about the “Four Tendencies” on her blog and is writing a new book on the topic. You are a classic Obliger, and your husband sounds like an Upholder (or perhaps a Questioner). Obligers need external accountability to accomplish their goals – they meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves. Upholders don’t have this struggle. I have found this framework helpful in understanding myself and others: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/01/ta-da-the-launch-of-my-quiz-on-the-four-tendencies-learn-about-yourself/


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