To Reach the Top 5%, You Must Simply Kick the Ass of the Other 95%

To get the Free Parking, you must be willing to walk along this street.

Oh boy, look at that headline.

Sounds like another one of Mr. Money Mustache’s trademark brash claims based on chronic overconfidence, doesn’t it? I can already hear you saying “Oh, thanks for the insightful advice, Mr. Money Mustache. I’ll get right on that assignment of kicking the asses of 95% of people”.

But while I do mean that headline almost literally, the challenge is not as daunting as it seems. As long as you set the right goals in the first place, choose your battles carefully, and understand a bit of the math behind what you’re trying to accomplish. As usual, the concepts are best illustrated with a little Story.

Earlier this summer, a dear family member found himself in the hospital for a few days (he’s fine now, thanks). My older sisters and I met up and traveled there together, surprising him with a visit in the recovery room. It was a great way to support each other and spend some much needed time together as well. But the family meeting is just the backdrop for this particular story.

One of the things about Ontario hospitals is that they are often set up as the Crushing Singularity at the center of a Parking Black Hole. If you are foolish enough to drive there instead of biking, you arrive to find a parking garage priced at $12.50 per hour, with a daily maximum of $25.00. In other words, to squeeze the visiting family of any inpatients to the maximum possible amount during the period of a typical visit.  If you smoke your tires out of there in fear and disgust, you’ll find street after street of “No Parking At Any Time” signs strategically arranged, designed to exhaust your willpower and eventually suck you back into the black hole.

My sisters and I did drive to this hospital, since we were coming from another city. And we knew about the parking situation in advance, deciding to pay it on philosophical grounds since the revenue goes to the hospital, which is publicly funded. Since our family was actually using this hospital, we felt it was not unfair to make a contribution.

But this good samaritanship had faded by the next day when we decided to visit the hospital again. Two $25.00 parking bills would be excessive, so Mr. Money Mustache was called into action.

So before departing for the hospital on that second day, I pulled up a Google Map of the surrounding area. I saw the grid of streets that were probably the no-parking zone. It was a ritzy lakeside neighborhood with large commercial strips nearby. But I also saw bigger trees and quieter locales just a few blocks inland. Then I spotted my target: a neighborhood soccer field with a small and old-looking parking lot. It was well under a mile from the hospital. I programmed this parking lot into my GPS navigator in advance and brought it with me, since my sisters have not yet learned to always travel with a GPS.

As we neared the hospital, the GPS effortlessly guided us through the residential neighborhood to the parking lot. It was free, and empty. We parked the car and enjoyed a twelve-minute stroll through the shady streets of a rich neighborhood, lined with huge oak trees and stone mansions. Mulberry trees were hanging over the sidewalks, so we stopped to harvest a few handfuls of ripe berries. It was a beautiful contrast to the cramped concrete parking garage, even before considering the victory of avoiding a $25.00 charge.

At that moment, I was struck with the inspiration for this article. We, the Mustachian Siblings, were enjoying a privilege and benefit that less than 5% of visitors to that hospital would ever experience. And it was available simply because we were willing to walk about 0.7 miles (1.1km) to get to our destination.

During the online research of the neighborhood, I had estimated in advance that free parking would probably become available as soon as you got far enough that most people would consider it too far to walk. At this radius, the cranky high-income residents would not be seeing their pristine curbsides polluted by non-German cars, and thus they would not have lobbied city council to make the streets No Parking zones. Using a 95% rule of thumb, I figured that this radius would fall at just over 1km, and I was right in this case. Now let’s just repeat that to realize how crazy it is:

The willingness and ability to walk 0.7 miles to save $25 on parking put the Money Mustache Siblings in the top 5% of the population.

That is a very significant realization, because it means that we kicked the asses of 95% of our competitors with virtually no effort.

Is it always so easy to kick everyone’s ass? Not always, but much more often than you think. It all depends where you choose to do battle.

Let’s take “putting the nose to the grindstone and working more than anyone else in the office” as one category. It’s an honorable pursuit, and I’ve even dabbled in it myself back in my engineering days.  People still do it all the time in their quest to get ahead. But the average US professional workweek is already around 40 hours. To be in the top 5%, you’d have to put in about 65 hours*, which works out to.. hmm..  pretty much your entire waking life, after accounting for sleep and other bodily functions.  Since happiness decreases beyond a certain threshold of hours worked, there’s a high cost to so much dedication.

It is of course possible to earn more income more efficiently than simply working more hours at your current job. But adding more income still takes some work, and that effort should still be weighed against other Top 5% options.

What about owning a ‘Top 5%” car? That’s a goal many people fantasize about in their quest for more money. With the average new car(truck) purchase in the US hovering around $30,000 today, you would need to spend well over $60,000 to have a car so nice.

Unless you’ve got a job you absolutely love, and no family or friends you like spending time with, neither of these contests are as profitable to enter as the parking and walking example above. But let’s not despair: maybe there are other battles where more asses are readily kicked.

Health and Fitness: to reach the top 5% of fit people in the US populace, you don’t have to sacrifice nearly as much. I’d love to get more charts on the matter to add this article, but for now let’s assume you need roughly to accomplish this:

a bodyfat percentage below 17% for men (28% for women)
the ability to jog 2 miles
the ability to do 10 consecutive pull-ups and 25 push-ups

We haven’t even  qualified for a beginner’s crossfit competition yet, but I betcha** a person with those stats is already within the top 5%, even if you’re counting only people under 50. And yet, from personal experience I know almost anyone can reach this “top 5%” status with less than a year of putting in less than 2 hours a week of effort into it.

Compare that to an extra 25 hours a week for decades to be a “top 5%” office worker, and I think you can start to see where it’s better to invest your time. Especially if you compare the benefits of top working hours to those of top fitness.

Moving on throughout your life, you can do additional comparisons of Effort vs. Asskicking Potential in many different areas:

  • Optimizing your spending: how many hours would it take to figure out how to spend less than 95% of people of your income level, while maintaining equal or greater happiness? Reading most of this blog might already get you there, and with 262 articles at 1000 words each and an average 200WPM reading speed, you’re looking at  less than 24 hours of work. (But do space it out over at least a couple of weeks, because my shit’s not so good that it’s worth staying up all night for!). The hours you spend building your Frugality Muscle will probably deliver the highest hourly wage you’ll ever earn, because you build it once and it pays you back for life. Mine has already saved me at least $1 million, with many decades of payback still to go.
  • Caring for your Children: I’ve got one myself, and I’ve heard that they are only young for a few years. How well are your peers raising their kids? Can you think of any areas where you could do a better job than most of them? How about if you measure it in “hours spent together outside” or “how little time we spent sitting in cars”? It’s not a contest, of course, but it can still be rewarding to put a few hours a week into improving in the areas you think are most important.
  • Trashing the Earth Less: How efficient are your friends are family? How much work would it take to do less Earth-destroying than 95% of them? Is a healthy living environment worth any of your time?
  • Wasting Less Time: The average person wastes about 4 hours a day on TV. How little TV would you have to watch to be in the bottom 5%? How difficult would that be to achieve?
  • Learning more: Most people only read actual books for a few minutes per day. If you read for 45 minutes a day, how high would you rank?
  • Becoming Happier: what is the underlying purpose of everything you do in life? Is it to get stuff done, or is it to be happier? Now, how much time do most people devote to the study of happiness itself? Would you be able to out-learn 95% of those people?

In the end, we’re all going to build our own Badassity Portfolio in a slightly different way. We may prioritize income, spending, generosity, or entirely different areas. But in all cases, the return on investment, and the competition in the playing field, should be assessed first. And in most cases in the modern world, people are currently fighting the wrong battles.


Hastily Researched Sources:


  • Tara September 10, 2012, 5:08 pm

    I have also used the park 1km away and walk to the hospital trick because the parking fees chap my ass. As for your other categories, I would bet I am in the top 5% of the not watching TV and reading over an hour a day….

    • Nurse Frugal September 10, 2012, 7:00 pm

      We try to only pay for parking if our lives depend on it, which is hardly ever. It was funny because we once heard a financial guy speak and the parking lot was full for the $25 parking, but the one that was down the street for $10 was empty……how could that be? Are people just to lazy to walk nowadays! I am starting to build my Badassity Portfolio and it’s coming along quite nicely. I stopped watching TV altogether and now I just need to start reading more!

      • PigPennies September 11, 2012, 1:29 pm

        I did this same thing while getting a second degree – instead of paying $5 a day, I Google mapped the area (which had neighborhoods around it) to figure out a good area to park and walk in. Of course once I got there, I discovered there was a no parking sign buffer in all the neighborhoods around the school. But, just a little further there was a park and ride and some street parking near some delicious blackberry bushes. I took a .8 mile walk back and forth to school every day through a peaceful neighborhood park, and squeezed in a little low impact exercise during my pregnancy and the busiest year of my life!

        • Ultros1234 September 11, 2012, 6:06 pm

          Yet another shout-out for walking: When I worked in downtown Oakland, most of my office mates paid monthly parking fees in expensive underground structures. Most of these structures were 2-3 blocks away from the office. I, on the other hand, parked on the other side of the freeway, about 9 blocks away, for $Free.99.

          Sadly, I now work in Berkeley, which is a city that MMM would be proud of, in that they make it extremely expensive to commute to work by car (i.e., there is no free all-day street parking in the entire city). For now, I’ve been reduced to shelling out for the monthly parking pass. Trying to work my way toward the daily bike commute.

          • Mrbasepauly July 16, 2014, 5:16 pm

            Berkeley does make it extremely hard to park for free on the street, however, there are quite a few all day spots but you just have to know where to look. On Shattuck north of UC Berkeley, and in the hills, you will find plenty of free all day parking. I used to park every day on Shattuck and walk about 15-20 minutes to Philz coffee shop and read/write/work ($3 for large coffee in your own mug a little extravagant, I do admit).
            On the other hand, it is really easy to BART into Berkeley, and ride your bike almost anywhere. The hills are a challenge though.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 11, 2012, 6:31 am

      Remember when Canada went to HD for the over the air TV broadcasts?
      Yeah. Our family didn’t. So there’s that going for us.
      I’m probably also in the upper 5% for “wearing shorts to work throughout the year.” Not so sure if that’s a battle worth fighting.

      • Tyler September 12, 2012, 6:28 am

        I’d love to be able to wear shorts to work, and all the time for that matter. My wife sure notices a difference in the time it takes to wash and dry laundry when I haven’t been wearing jeans for a week.

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 12, 2012, 10:11 am

          Wait a minute.. wouldn’t wearing jeans for a week just imply an average of 1 pair of jeans that need washing? Surely you get at least 5 good days out of a pair (in a rotation with other jeans), unless you work in construction?

          • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2012, 11:12 am

            While I don’t generally wear shirts more than one day each (depending on the office temperature and whether I go home and do other stuff in any given shirt), pants don’t need to be washed with every day of wear.

          • Tyler September 12, 2012, 5:38 pm

            I must admit that I never wear my pants or shirts for more than one day. It’s what I have always done and I never really thought about squeezing out more days between cleanings.

            • GregK September 20, 2012, 1:33 pm

              Good god, man! Shirts, certainly (although if you’re wearing an under shirt, didn’t sweat into it, and didn’t spill anything, a shirt can often get two or three wears between washings), but pants?? Jeans??? Making your wife wash 7 pairs of jeans per week should be considered spousal abuse.

              Drying 7 pairs of jeans IN THE DRYER every week is also insane, and terribly expensive.

            • Thomas / Boy Toy April 13, 2013, 1:55 am

              What the f…
              Washing that often is (in my opinion) hysterical and unnecessary. Does your clothing need to be sterile? Your body is full of bacteria anyways.

              I wash my pants once per month or so. Works fine. Saves time. I really dont understand why people wash so often.

            • Oh Yonghao October 17, 2014, 3:10 pm

              My rotation is about one pair a week. I work in an office for a computer giant and bike 3mi each way. On Monday I get a new pair from the closet, when I get home I change into my sleepwear, generally a pair of exercise shorts or pajama pants which have their own random rotation determined by my wife.

              Shirts go through an every other day rotation, so in any one week I generally wear two, maybe three shirts (the third is on the weekend sometimes). Then those go through their own larger rotation depending on season.

              In winter I switch from shorts to jeans, and add a button up shirt on top for extra warmth.

            • TunaFishTuesdays April 18, 2020, 8:22 pm

              Hey all, let’s give Tyler a break! Seems like he was on the cusp of a time-, money-, and earth-saving realization/behavioral change, and instead of applauding him, the previous three respondents jumped on his case. We should all work to help each other to do better, no matter where we each are coming from.

  • barb September 10, 2012, 5:22 pm

    My brother did the same thing in B.C.
    He parked his minivan 2 km away and rode his bike up to the hospital.
    By day 5 he was parking further and further away from the hosptial as he found the bike ride so enjoyable.

  • Heath September 10, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Bravo, good sir! The parking story had me smiling broadly :-)

    Though I appreciate the sentiment of constant self-improvement, I’m really not interested in the whole ‘contest’ of being better than everyone (even though that’s where I’m heading anyway). But, to be fair, turning everything into a contest does appear to be solid motivation for a lot of people.

    I try to base my goals directly on my physical and mental health; and financial health strongly affects both of those! Thus, my love for your site :-)

    PS: even though I don’t use it to further my self-improvement, it does feel good to know (well, ‘guess based on observation’) that I’m already Beating 95% of people on all of your bullet points (except raising children because I haven’t got any).

    • Hanne van Essen September 11, 2012, 1:07 am

      I totally agree. The contest should be with yourself, not with others. Concentrate on self-improvement, not on beating others. This is a much more powerful strategy in the end.

      • TunaFishTuesdays April 18, 2020, 8:24 pm

        That’s the ticket, Hanne!

  • Tim September 10, 2012, 5:41 pm

    You are the statistician that I want to be and kick Pareto Principle’s ass. Hooray for 2σ.

    I get the Gini coefficient from the research, and that Americans have a greater gap in income between classes, and we work more, but I am not sure what to make of the second research on BMI, WC, and WSR. My layman interpretation of that is get of my rear end and and exercise and eat a better diet than the 95% of people.

    Great post!

  • Lance September 10, 2012, 5:45 pm

    Picking your battles is a great lesson to be learned here. I’m a big fan of being in the top 5% of working smarter not harder but wouldn’t even want to be in the top 5% of hours spent in the office (even if you do play facebook games the whole time). I plan on trying to break into the top 5% for my side project and that should get me going income wise to be able to live a comfortable future outside the normal nine to five if I wish.

  • Jamesqf September 10, 2012, 6:16 pm

    I do the same park and walk at the local university, when I have to drive there.

    As regards the office, though, I think MMM may have been out of the work world too long. It’s not usually the time YOU spend working that determines success/pay, it’s the amount of time you spend a) brownnosing the higher-ups, and b) taking credit for the work of others.

  • Cecile September 10, 2012, 6:47 pm

    I really like this idea of “badassity portfolio”. Thanks a lot MrMM for keeping this entertaining and fun !

  • Lindsey September 10, 2012, 7:33 pm

    Sometimes it is worth it to me to spend the $25 to park. My father died last month and when I visited him I would have spent $50 to park by the door. I was just so depressed and exhausted that walking a half a mile was just not something I felt like doing. I know, I know, it would have been good for me and perhaps for my mood. And maybe I am a weakling and don’t belong in the Mustache club. But I felt like indulging my every whim, including even eating out a lot of nights that week, and would bet that there were others in the parking garage in the same position.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache September 10, 2012, 9:12 pm

      I think that in times of grief you fall back on your habits, as MMM did in this case. Sorry for your loss.

      • Matt September 11, 2012, 5:14 am

        I don’t think there was anything wrong with your decision. Mustachianism isn’t about saving every single last dime, it’s about value and true worth. Of course your Dad was worth AT LEAST $50 a day parking, and if you have the occasional splash out to make yourself feel better, then go ahead – Dads are very special people. I still miss mine :/

        • da55id September 11, 2012, 11:28 am

          To my mind the real story is the financialization of visiting the sick. I understand that it costs money to run hospitals, but the net result of charging exhorbitant fees on visitor parking is that fewer people visit and those that do visit come less often and stay less time. This is definitely very bad for the health and happiness of those staying in the hospital who NEED the support and love of their friends. Sad times…

    • It Figures September 11, 2012, 9:28 am

      Lindsey I am so sorry that you lost your dad. I went through the same thing when my dad was sick in the hospital an hour away from me. I drove there everyday after work and paid ridiculous amounts for gas, parking and eating fast food every night for a month until he died. Being frugal in our normal day to day life gives us more freedom to spend when times are tough and money is the furthest thing from our minds. You did what was best for you and him at the time:)

  • FinanceViking September 10, 2012, 7:34 pm

    The parking story is a great example of how a little extra effort can save a lot of money. My frugality muscle grows with every post!

  • Baughman September 10, 2012, 8:04 pm

    Me and a grad school buddy got our families together to go to a zoo a few years back. When I emailed him a suggestion to park about a quarter mile away from the official zoo parking for free, he scoffed. My family did the free parking, and enjoyed a bit of exercise in the process of saving $10-15 or so. He parked a few hundred yards closer than me, starving his body (and his family’s) of much needed exercise in the process.

    I get similar responses from the naive regarding my choices regarding not eating out, not driving a car much, wearing clothes I’ve owned for 10+ years because they simply don’t wear out, and not being a mindless consumer of goods/services. I’m the crazy guy. Of course, the fact that they are consuming themselves into a lifetime of paycheck-to-paycheck living, with the associated personal and marital stresses, does not strike them to be the least bit crazy. Thanks to our society, that’s “normal.”

    It’s too bad that our colleagues can’t see that huge amounts of wealth can be accumulated through a bunch of simple and painless (and mostly life improving) lifestyle changes. I finally convinced a neighbor of mine to bike to work today after months of trying. It was a rewarding morning as we made the 6 mile trek together. Hopefully he sticks with it.

    • Sweta September 11, 2012, 8:41 am

      That’s weird that your friend scoffed at the idea of free parking at only .25 miles away. I would love it if you found free parking.

      I get teased sometimes by my peers and even my mom about not spending money much. To some people not being a mindless consumer makes you crazy. But I get more of a thrill from saving.

      Good job on your Mustachian ways!

    • Debbie M September 11, 2012, 6:30 pm

      I prefer the term “weirdo” to “crazy guy.” At least that’s how I explained the phenomenon to myself when I went to a conference a couple of decades ago. I saved a lot of money compared to other people because:
      * I drove there instead of flying.
      * I stayed at an economy hotel instead of the official convention hotel (the camping site I had picked out was just too far away).
      * I walked across the bridge (from Little Rock to North Little Rock) instead of paying to park outside the convention center. (Admittedly, it’s a rather long and windy bridge.) (I never could figure out the bus system because I saw no bus stops–apparently you just stand by the side of the road and wave at the bus you want?)

      Another way to benefit from being a weirdo is to do things at less favored times (matinee movies, happy hour, grocery shopping sometime other other than after work or Sunday afternoon, going to the gym at times other than right after work). Then there’s paying for a whole year up front for things (like various utilities, gym memberships, car insurance) instead of paying a finance charge.

      I don’t think this is always about being better than 95% of people–it’s about being different. As pointed out, some ways to be different are easy and fun; some are hard and terrible.

      I’d never thought to apply my parking lesson to other locations–but now that you mention it, of course it would be universal (in the US).

  • MB @ 12 Year Career September 10, 2012, 8:07 pm

    So true. I personally get the most joy out of the “optimizing your spending” category, although it’s fairly easy to beat the 95% there. The 95% needs to step up their game! I’m ready for a challenge!

  • mike crosby September 10, 2012, 8:29 pm

    MMM, what I like about you is that things that are rolling around in my sub conscious you bring to the fore.

    Parking fees have always been a pain in my a**. You’ve given me a tool to beat it. Simply “Google” the area and look for a spot to park. Might seem like a simple idea, but it’s pure genius.

    Unfortunately, I’ll catch grief from my wife, but I can drop her off at the venue. She’ll just have to wait for me while I park the car. Recently I bought a fold-up bike, so I could put that in the back of the car. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’d bet I could bungee cord the bike to my 80 MPG scooter.

  • Cynthia September 10, 2012, 9:12 pm

    I just started reading this blog this summer but it makes me proud of myself when I already do the things MMM recommends. The only place I encounter paid parking is downtown (I live in OKC). Whenever we go downtown we always park for free at Bass Pro Shop which is on the eastern edge of downtown. I was curious how far it was to walk to Chesapeake Arena where the OKC Thunder play and it was 0.7 miles. Hmmm, coincidence?

  • FiveSigmas September 10, 2012, 9:23 pm

    Great idea for an article. I’d love to see some hard-core stats on this stuff. How does one go about estimating the distribution of folks willing to walk x km to get free parking (or, for that matter, to think ahead and search online)? What exactly does it take to be in the bottom 5% of TV watchers? How many lbs of waste does a 5%er throw out a month?

    On that note: Would 1 out of 20 blog readers get off their lazy asses and do the research themselves rather than requesting the info be spoon fed to them? Wait, don’t answer that last one.

    • John September 16, 2012, 12:47 am

      If you’re willing to accept US-only data, the definitive resource for time use is the American Time Use Survey at http://www.bls.gov/tus/ . I haven’t ever looked for data on waste generation, willingness to walk, etc. — it sure would be interesting!

  • jeff September 11, 2012, 5:27 am

    Id say that there are huge advantages to being in the top 5% bu t also for decreasing / increasing current habits by 95%.

    For instance – if you watch 4 hours of tv per night, decreasing that by 95% would mean about 15 mins per night. That would free up a lot of time to learn, exercise, read, take care of kids, etc

    Even a 50% increase of the good things and 50% decrease of bad things would probably be extremely helpful. Whether its competing with others vs competing with yourself, the end goal is being a bigger badass.

    • EarningAndLearning May 23, 2017, 5:59 pm

      Ooh I like that! Decrease my bad habits (TV watching, procrastinating) by 95% (or heck, yes, even 50%!) and increasing the good ones (the small amount of bike riding I’ve begun since reading MMM, reading, meal planning & frugal grocery shopping) by 50%. That looks like a fun & winnable game to play against myself! :)

  • rjack September 11, 2012, 6:53 am

    I see the same type of thing when I park in a store parking lot. People drive up and down the parking lot looking for a spot close to the door as possible. I just park in the first spot I see, walk, and save a little gas money.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 11, 2012, 8:47 am

      My parking strategy is thus:
      1) Close to the exit, to minimize the driving time in the parking lot and therefore avoid the dangers of Bad Drivers backing into my car
      2) A couple spaces from a cart corral in order to make ditching the cart easy but not so close carts will get smacked into my car either.
      After that, we’re all able bodied human beings so I don’t even care how far we have to walk.

    • Jamesqf September 11, 2012, 11:50 am

      I also park where I can pull through to the other side and park facing out. This saves me a few seconds (and a bit of gas) from not having to back out when I leave.

      I also walk quite a bit faster than most people, which means that even if I park further away, I get to the store in the same amount of time, and get a bit of cardiovascular exercise in the process.

    • Kenneth September 11, 2012, 1:26 pm

      At the YMCA at 5:30 AM, everyone is parked close to the door. I park in the furthest away spot, walk briskly with my bag, and get my workout in. My 2012 Honda Fit avoids door dings, and I get more exercise. Oh and I did 45 minutes, 15.58 miles, 556 calories on the exercise bike this morning at the Y.

    • Jen September 12, 2012, 8:02 am

      Don’t say, it is a huge pet peeve of mine. Really hate being in a car with people who would cruise around to get a spot nearest to the store (or whatever) entrance, while there are 300 empty spots just 50 yards away. God forbid I spend 20 more seconds walking, I’d rather sit 2 minutes in the car until somebody leaves their ‘premium’ spot. Yes, I’m talking about somebody I know.

    • Heath September 12, 2012, 8:33 am

      Here here, rjack! That really really bothers me as well. I can’t stand it when I’m in the car with someone who absolutely refuses to just PARK. They’re more interested in hunting around for the optimal space, and are occasionally willing to just WAIT for one to open up. Ridiculous. If you must minimize your walking distance (something I don’t agree with), then just drive from the entrance to the store/event/whatever outward into the lot, and take the first available space, however fucking far away it ends up being.

    • Posted On September 12, 2012, 11:16 am

      In Phoenix, I parked where ever I could find shade. Usually, that meant a ways away from the store’s entrance – trees are usually decorative items placed around the edge of a lot. Funny, people preferred shorter walks to cooler cars (upon return).

      In our current city, we began the baseball season paying $20 to park directly across the street from the stadium. The lot is new, and has a very easy exit to the freeway so that we escape 95% of the stadium traffic leaving for home after a game. Oh, that’s not the 95% MMM was talking about…OK.

      We paid the $20 once or twice, but then we found a bridge over the freeway and some free neighborhood parking! True, it is a 1 mile walk, but it is a straight shot to the stadium, and the sidewalk is at least 20 or 25 feet wide. The bridge over the freeway is nice and wide so we don’t feel threatened by cars, and it is not a major freeway intersection type of bridge, so it is quite safe to cross.

      Because of the freeway, there is no parking between 1/2 and 1 mile from the stadium (in this area anyway).

      Funny thing is, after we cross the bridge and get about 1/2 mile from the stadium, we reach dirt parking lots for the stadium. These places charge $10 per car and the folks have to walk about 1/2 mile to the stadium!

      So, the people who park at these outlying lots are willing to walk a half mile to save $10 (vs. the $20 AT the stadium), but not willing to walk another half mile (1 mile total) to save another $10 (ie. save the full $20).

  • Fast Body Blast September 11, 2012, 7:06 am

    Great post as usual.

    Using your stats, you don’t even need 2 hours a week to get to the top 5% in health and fitness.

  • MsSindy September 11, 2012, 7:22 am

    I’ll bet most MMM readers are somewhere near the top 5% in most of these habits – It’s a great motivator, but we mustn’t rest! The sad thing is how little effort it really takes to be in the top 5% on most things — 4 hours of TV a day?? Really? Even on my laziest most sloughful night, I could barely stomach an hour.

    • Gerard September 11, 2012, 8:25 am

      Yeah, I’m amazed how easy it is to be non-average for some things. I just read that the average American walks about 300 yards a day. I told my son that our trip to/from the library yesterday (through the ravine, watching hawks hunt) was the distance the average American walks in a month, and he laughed with incredulity.

      • John September 16, 2012, 12:56 am

        300 yards a day can’t be right. Average adult stride is about a yard, so that’s only 300 steps in an entire day, fewer than 20 steps every waking hour. Even inveterate couch potatoes have to get up to get another bag of chips and head to the bathroom once in a while.

        This study, conducted with pedometers, says the median is closer to 2.5 miles: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/the-pedometer-test-americans-take-fewer-steps/

        “A person is typically considered sedentary if they take less than 5,000 steps per day.”

    • Posted On September 12, 2012, 11:27 am

      What do you do to occupy your time if you can only stomach 1 hour of TV per day? I’m serious. My wife and I find that at the end of a day (in the evenings) we prefer just to relax and veg-out. TV is perfect for that because it doesn’t require us to put any effort into it. It is not that we are lazy, or we spent the day doing nothing. It is that we have spent the day working, commuting, thinking, applying ourselves, etc. Rather than go to bed at 7p, we find we like to spend some time doing nothing. Having someone (something) else provide input to us for a couple hours feels good, instead of us being required to put out, so to speak.

      How do others handle this period of the day when things are quieting down, and the thought of having to do another round of efforts looms?

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 12, 2012, 11:57 am

        Oh man, don’t even get me started on how much better you could do than watching TV!

        Books, for example, are a great way to zone out and build your mind with no effort. Walking is another way. Quietly writing in a journal to plan out your thoughts for the next day and the next week.

        The key is to just cut yourself off from TV and see what happens. You’re probably addicted right now, which means there will be some nice initial boredom. But after that, REAL life will begin!

        Man, I can’t believe broadcast TV still exists.. I need to make another article about this so we can destroy it.

        • EarningAndLearning May 23, 2017, 6:11 pm

          And while you’re at it MMM, maybe consider adding some info/stats/opinion on Netflix binge-watching. I had to cancel my Netflix subscription because I was watching way too many hours at a time. When I had cable tv years ago, I could never watch for too long because there never seemed to be anything on and the commercials would get so irritating. But I think Netflix may have upped the average number of hours people watch “TV” (we should call it watching “Screens” because we consume media content on big screen tv’s, iPads and phones now).

          I’m much happier now with no Netflix. Like the addict I can admit I am, abstinence is easier than moderation. :)

      • Tara September 12, 2012, 12:14 pm

        I read books, sit outside and watch the sunset or go for a walk to relax after work… TV gets on my last nerve with all the stupid shows and ads.

      • Lina September 12, 2012, 12:29 pm

        I haven’t had a TV the past ten years. I read a lot and exercise. Running and cycling makes you feel great while you can let your brain rest, you can let your mind wander or resolve a problem. It is also a great way to socialize with friends or a partner.

        Since I started exercising I have also gained much more energy than I ever had when I spent my evenings watching TV.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2012, 2:22 pm

        Drop the television viewing. Don’t worry, you’ll find something else to do.
        Have you ever talked to former smokers?
        Ask them how everything smells now. They practically get teary eyed and poetic about how amazingly well scented the world is.
        Giving up TV is like that, but for your ears and your brain. You’ll wonder how you ever put up with the incessant buzzing.

      • Lindsey September 12, 2012, 2:43 pm

        We play Scrabble, read, put on some slow music and dance in our living room, work on small projects like sanding a frame (him) or knitting (me) while we talk, I read to him while he works on a small project, we prep for meals later in the week by chopping together while we talk, tell ourselves we will spend 15 minutes on some odious project together (like weeding) and then realize we could finish if we spent an hour on it so we do…write a letter to people who still like receiving real letters (like Grandma), write a thank you note to someone (like we hunted down the name and address of my very important to me fourth grade teacher and his former pastor and wrote them saying we had thought of them and wanted to thank them for paying attention to one of us years ago when it made a crucial difference in our young lives).

        • TunaFishTuesdays April 18, 2020, 8:31 pm

          Lindsey, as a just-retired elementary school teacher, that’s wonderful that you wrote to your old fourth grade teacher to thank him/her. One of my most treasured files from school was the one filled with the little notes that kids would write me occasionally. I still look at them every few months or so.

      • Matt September 13, 2012, 3:59 am

        If you need to relax and veg out by 7pm then you must be really low on energy. Maybe going to bed for a few nights at 7 would actually help? When you have more energy available, you’ll want to do something else besides watch telly

        • Posted On September 15, 2012, 10:43 am

          After reading the responses, I’d have to agree that it could be an energy level issue for me. I’ve had a long day, just eaten a wonderful meal the missus has prepared, am digesting it, and I don’t feel like expending much energy, or having to concentrate on much of anything.

          Most all of the suggestions sound good, but in this vegetative state I simply want to sit/lay down and relax. Having the telly on allows me to have others tell me stories, share their experiences, or entertain me (sometimes) without me having to keep my eyes open all the time, sit up, act like I am listening, or expend any effort what so ever. They (the telly) come to me.

          The closest I can come to that from the responses given is listening to an audio book. Which, I may try, but then I am seen as ignoring the missus since we tend to do this together.

          I agree with a lot of the rants above about the evils of TV, and I lived without one for 5 years or so, but in my case, my life does not revolve around TV. It’s not something I sit around and do all day. I ride bikes, fix my own cars, care for my own home and lawn, etc.

          My trouble comes at the end of the day (after dinner), when going to bed at 7p seems a bit extreme. Perhaps, as Matt indicated above, going to bed is the best choice for me. I used up all my energy during the day, and I feel guilty for going to bed like an 80-yr old, so I turn on the telly to make me feel better about myself.

          • Tyler June 23, 2014, 10:44 am

            I found that TV prevented me from recovering when I was stressed or tired after work. I could come home feeling exhausted, watch an hour or two of TV, and still feel pretty crappy after that.

            Eventually I discovered that if I just gave my body a little time to completely rest with no extra sensory input, I recovered very quickly. So now, when I get home feeling exhausted, I just sit on the couch (or bed or a chair) and think in silence for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, I feel refreshed and have some good positive energy for cooking dinner and accomplishing a few other things during the evening. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes.

            • Nidiyao April 13, 2015, 2:44 pm

              Reading this much later as part of my ongoing project of reading all posts and comments. I’m a bit surprised no one suggested listening to music while just relaxing. And a book I read recently (can’t remember the title, sorry) recommended sitting quietly, or walking, cycling, etc. for 30 minutes, just thinking. You can just think about random things, or something specific like a problem or project. I tried it and really enjoyed it. I like to keep a journal or notepad handy to capture any important thoughts that come up. Reading is also really relaxing. Also a short meditation or prayer time. Yoga works well for me to refresh the mind and get in touch with the body. There are a lot of good YouTube yoga videos.

            • frugal14 August 11, 2015, 6:46 am

              Could that book be “The magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz?

      • Premananda March 31, 2016, 1:48 pm

        There are so many things to do than watch mindless tv. Read, yoga, deep breathing and meditation, colouring books, piano, walking in a mindful way, board games, calling a friend, writing an uplifting email, gardening, a relaxing bath, even tidying the house. I used to indulge in the tv habit, but it’s just that, a habit. Go tv-free one day a week and see where it leads!

  • Dan September 11, 2012, 7:55 am

    A lot of people are stuck on this parking story, but the post has implications well past walking a bit to save some bucks, as MMM noted.

    This is one of my key philosophies to life, actually, that you just have to be willing to do more than other people. You can (almost) always have things work out for you as long as you put in the time and effort that others are not willing to. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to finances.

    The easiest way to accrue income is by working harder than everyone else: and I not just at the job you have, but also in the job market.

    The easiest way to grow your income is by paying extra attention to your investments. Stocks are basically a zero-sum game and you only make money when someone else is losing it.

    The easiest way to KEEP your income is by spending as little as possible, which requires that you do more things for yourself versus paying someone else to do it, and also that you spend effort finding the best deal on the things you do buy.

    One of my favorite saying is “If it doesn’t working out, I only wasted my own time.”

    • Chris September 11, 2012, 8:50 am

      Agreed. The X Factor in life is effort. One only needs average intelligence and the willingness to put forth a little more effort (or a lot more) to accomplish great things!

    • Cynthia September 11, 2012, 11:16 am

      I think people talk about the parking because it’s so easy to relate to. If I really think about it I can come up with many examples of where people are not willing to do extra work to save money.

      Not eating out and cooking 99% of my meals at home, it’s hard for me to even think of anyone I know that does that. My cousin was willing to throw away tomatoes from her home garden because there were too many and she couldn’t eat it right away. I gave her a few suggestions on how to use it up and preserve it but she kept giving me excuses. She finally admitted that it was more work than she was willing to do.

      Drying laundry outside is another thing I do that no one I know does. It’s too much work for most people.

      Most people I know would rather buy things new at full retail price. I’m always willing to search for a bargain and/or buy used.

      The common theme is that a lot people follow the path of least resistance and that is why it’s so easy to kick the ass of the other 95%. There have been many times I have suggested ways to do things that are less spendy to friends and family and usually the response is either lack of time or too much work. If it takes more effort they would rather spend more money instead.

      • Dan September 11, 2012, 2:09 pm

        That the parking allegory is “easy to relate to” I think runs counter the underlying concept of the post which is that opportunity tends to open up to you if you are just willing to do more than most people. “Easy” and “effort” tend to run counter to each other. That isn’t necessarily just frugality advice, it’s advice that works in all walks of life.

        The concept of walking further for cheaper parking is one people can relate to because, as MMM says, it takes a minimal amount of effort. The gain there is minimal because the effort required is minimal. Obviously, greater gain generally requires more effort, but the tendency is to only identify the “low-hanging fruit” which runs counter to the whole idea of simply trying harder in life.

        Talking about this in quantitative terms (95%) makes it sound much more difficult than it really is to get ahead, but the missing factor is that you may not even realize how many people default into that 95% you’re trying to kick the ass of. The best example I can give is running a 5k. When you run a 5k, even if you just walk the whole thing, you still beat the people that didn’t bother to enter. “Success” does not require you to be the best at something. Sometimes you just have to do things that others aren’t willing (or able) to do.

        Just keep that in mind the next time you hear someone use words like “impossible” or “impractical.” Opportunity lurks where others fail to tread.

      • John September 16, 2012, 1:02 am

        With regard to your friend who has too many tomatoes, I just learned about an organization called Ample Harvest that works to connect gardeners with food pantries so that they can share their surplus with people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to fresh produce. http://www.ampleharvest.org.

    • James July 8, 2015, 2:33 pm

      Stocks are really not a zero sum game; money is made from corporate earnings being returned to shareholders. It’s only a zero sum game to the extent that you attempt to extract money in excess of earnings from the market. Even this, to a great extent, isn’t totally zero-sum; there’s also a value premium in the future earnings growth of the companies, as well.

      • frugal14 August 11, 2015, 6:57 am

        Short term trading done with individual stocks really is a zero-sum game. It’s more like gambling but still, when you sell a falling stock, the guy you sold it to loses. When you buy a rising stock, the guy who sold it to loses the future income he gave up. Value stocks on the other hand, are not dependant on somebody else losing. You generate income from the products the companies sell.

  • Mr. Everyday Dollar September 11, 2012, 8:54 am

    I’m happy to know I’m not the only one that would go to these lengths to save money on parking!

    I usually tell people I have a sickness that doesn’t allow me to pay for parking. I always research the a way to either avoid altogether, or minimize, the cost of parking.

    This usually comes into play when I absolutely have to bring a car into a big city. If I’m staying at a hotel (via Priceline Name Your Own Price, of course) I never valet my car. I will look up the cheapest public parking within a mile or so radius of the hotel, park there and walk to the hotel with duffel bag in hand. Doing this saves me at least 50% off valet, which is a good chunk of dollars.

    My other pet peeve about parking is the people that circle a parking lot looking for the absolutely closest spot to the door. I find it extremely satisfying when I follow one of these drivers into the lot, I park in the huge swath of open spaces in the back, walk to the front door and when I’m close to reaching the entrance I see that same driver still driving around looking for a space upfront. That brings a smile to my face!

    Parking close to the door is for old people and pregnant women. Everyone else needs to park in the back!

    • Sarah November 24, 2012, 9:29 pm

      I hate paying for hotel parking. However, I once put the car in a $5 lot just a block from the hotel (so practical right?) Except our tire got slashed and I spent the whole next day worrying about getting it replaced before the shop closed for the weekend. I lost $50 instead of saving $20. Now I always pay in city hotels for peace of mind (safety is an expensive illusion, I know, I know.) fortunately I rarely travel by car to distant cities and stay in hotels.

  • PK September 11, 2012, 9:19 am

    “the ability to jog 2 miles
    the ability to do 10 consecutive pull-ups and 25 push-ups”

    For people out of college? MMM, you’re an optimist! I bet those stats put you in the top 2.5%.

    • Jen September 12, 2012, 8:08 am

      Ladies, how many pull ups can you do? I’ve never been able to do one, even in my best shape (i.e. ideal weight and gym 5 times a week for several years). Maybe lacking in technique :/

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 12, 2012, 10:09 am

        Hey Jen!
        Mrs. MM will probably have a comment on this, as I know she does that exercise regularly.

        I’ve helped a few people (both men and women) lose their pullup/chinup virginity and it’s a matter of just trying regularly to do them, even if you can’t complete one yet. In Crossfit, they give you a rubber strap to help push up on your feet. Or a friend can help you. Even easier, stand on a box or chair and jump into the top-pullup position, then lower yourself down excruciatingly slowly. Repeat a few more times until your arms feel like jello and are barely contributing. Repeat this routine 1-2 times a week. Soon you’ll be able to do real pull-ups, then more of them, then when you can do 12 properly, you can even start adding a backpack of weight or having small children hang from your legs!

        5 times a week in the gym might be too much – strength like the ability to do pullups comes from heavier training, and most bodies can’t handle that 5 times a week.

        • JaneMD September 12, 2012, 1:05 pm

          I agree with Jen. The pull-up goal t is much more difficult on women than it is men. A few years ago, I really wanted to do pull-ups, but in my best shape I could only do 3. I had a professional trainer, similar equipment to what MMM described, and still never reached that goal. (Another woman I knew that never trained easily did 10.) At the time I was running marathons and benchpressing my own body weight.

          So my 5% goal replaces the pull ups with the benchpressing – motivation to lose weight and lift more.

          • PK September 12, 2012, 9:59 pm

            Pull-ups or chin ups? Did it make a difference in your experience?

            I personally find chin-ups easier (5’10”), for what it’s worth. My wife can’t do a single of either though, for the record (5’8″).

            I do my pull-ups on one of those door frame bars you can get for a few bucks at a sporting goods store.

          • James July 8, 2015, 2:44 pm

            3 pull ups for a woman generally isn’t bad. I’m willing to bet that the woman who did 10 was much wider-shoulders and shorter-armed than you are. In general, wider shoulders means there’s a larger cross section of muscle to use, and long arms means greater range of motion — this can result in pretty vast differences in the amount of force generation possible at a given level of muscularity, and the amount of force generation necessary to complete a rep.

      • Lina September 12, 2012, 12:37 pm

        I have done an Ironman but I can’t do pull-ups. That will be one of my gym goals this winter!

      • Shandi76 September 12, 2012, 4:53 pm

        I can’t do a single unassisted pull up and I’ve been strength training for years. Used to do more ‘girly’ training though: high reps so lower weights, mostly Body Pump as the free weights area of my old gym was a scary place that women never ventured into without a Personal Trainer.

        Just joined a Crossfit gym 6 weeks ago and currently doing chin ups using a resistance band. Hope to be able to do at least one unassisted within the year! Loving the Olympic lifting. Lifting heavy is so much more liberating than doing 100 reps of a trivial weight (which is pretty much what Body Pump is).

  • Tyler Karaszewski September 11, 2012, 10:12 am

    At most things, being better than 95% of people is actually pretty easy, because most people aren’t even trying. Even a casual effort at almost any endeavor puts you in the top 5% compared to the general population.

    I am easily a better surfer than 99% of Americans, as less than 1% of Americans have even been surfing more than once or twice. The other day I installed an electrical outlet in my garage. It was the first time I’ve ever done that, but I’m probably already in the top 25% of people for electrician’s skills now, as most others have never tried at all.

    I guess the question this raises is: what’s the advantage of being in the top 5%, anyway? Not that it isn’t nice to be good at things, and I’m sure I saved money by doing the electrical outlet installation myself, but the end result of top 5% is a bit ambiguous for most things.

    • Geek September 11, 2012, 10:24 am

      Perhaps MMM is a gamer (board, rpg, or video). For me, as a gamer, it’s about winning. Yeah, it’s silly but ‘winning’ makes it fun! :)

  • Elaine September 11, 2012, 11:02 am

    Love this! I found your blog thanks to J.D. Roth. I really like the perspective you bring to this topic. It’s given me a new motivation to work smarter, not harder.

  • mike September 11, 2012, 11:10 am

    If you enlist in the military you automatically kick 99% of peoples’ asses in the “serving your country” category. http://m.npr.org/story/137536111?url=/2011/07/03/137536111/by-the-numbers-todays-military

    I bet that simply walking into a recruiters office would nail the top 95% metric.

    • Jamesqf September 11, 2012, 12:02 pm

      Not entirely accurate: it’s true that at any one time, only a small fraction of the population – about 1% or so – are actively serving in the military. Add up those small numbers over an average lifespan, and you come up with a much larger number who have at one time or another.

      • Mike September 12, 2012, 10:34 am

        True enough, although my comment is consistent with the spirit and methods in the article. For example, “The willingness and ability to walk 0.7 miles to save $25 on parking put the Money Mustache Siblings in the top 5% of the population” doesn’t contemplate all people over an entire average lifespan, but rather a snapshot of the population at the time. Many people were maybe willing / able to walk before they saddled themselves with an auto-based lifestyle, but since have become drivers rather than walkers. If you added up everyone who was ever in their lives willing to walk a quarter-mile, it probably does something similar to MMM’s 95%.

        I also didn’t include the many other ways one can serve one’s country (police, fire, public office, etc).

  • GayleRN September 11, 2012, 12:50 pm

    There are hospitals in Michigan that I would gladly pay the parking price. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the location. I don’t live there. Strangely, the hospital I do work at has the employees parking in a ramp and the patients/visitors park in an open lot. All for free. I don’t understand it but I am really grateful for it in the winter. And for those who don’t think that is very kickass remember that I am working 12 hour shifts.

    On another note, any kickass suggestions for airport parking? Last time I flew internationally I returned at 3 AM to a very deserted Detroit airport and was really glad I had parked in the nearest parking garage, but it did cost me $. Since then I have paid the higher ticket price to fly to my home airport rather than pay hotel/gas/parking/driving time to a big city airport. I figure the cost of driving to a big airport is $200 to $300 for me. YMMV.

  • Paul September 11, 2012, 12:55 pm

    When I graduated from college many years ago I got a job in the city. Parking was very expensive so I did what MMM did. I found the closest free parking spot to my office (about 2 miles) strapped on my rollerblades and headed to work!

  • Julie September 11, 2012, 2:04 pm

    Phew! I just finished reading/listening to all of your articles! I’ve got to admit that I feel like a pretty mighty mustachian now. Definitely not a top 5% mustachian, but I’ll get there :-)

    By the way, hearing the robotic text-to-speech voice repeat words like “those sumbitches” and “fuck yeah” was highly entertaining. Keep up the occasional swearing and thanks for the blog!

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 11, 2012, 8:15 pm

      Wow, congratulations Julie!

      I like the idea of an electronic voice reading out Mr. Money Mustache’s Finest Shit – what software were you using to accomplish that?

      • Geek September 11, 2012, 10:46 pm

        Mac’s VoiceOver should be plenty entertaining

        • Geek September 12, 2012, 8:53 am

          Rather “Apple” not Mac. Showing my age. Comes with every Apple computer, and will read to you in the electronic voice of your choosing.

          • Julie September 13, 2012, 11:56 am

            Yeah, exactly. It’s a feature of my trusty old Macbook. I just right click, select text-to-speech, and then listen to blog posts as I work around the house. If you don’t mind listening to the monotonous robot, it’s a pretty sweet way to multitask.

  • Marky Mark September 11, 2012, 2:19 pm

    Flipping hospital parking is a chiz! I don’t have the stats to hand but here in the UK some hospital trusts make an awful lot of money from car parking charges. This in a system that’s already wholly funded from taxpayer receipts.

    I wonder if there’s a deliberate attempt to extort money here as many people visiitng a hospital are likely to need transporting to the doors anyway. It’s not as if the car parks are near any shopping centres or stores that also charge.

    I’m visiting a hospital tomorrow (routine check-up) and your post has inspired me to google nearby streets for free parking. I’m looking out for local public amenities rather than residential streets – people here get quite angsty about parking in their street, even though its perfectly legal.


    Inspiring words as usual, M3, keep it up

  • FreeUrChains September 11, 2012, 2:33 pm

    I have used the Park 0.7 Km away on a Pittsburgh Steelers Game Day, not to pay $70+ to go to the Game itself and to avoid $35 Parking. I then walk to the Casino after walking around the stadium a few times and lounge in their luxurious lounges while watching the Game from a Big screen and being socialable while helping myself to free sodas or cups of water after tailgating and eating pre-cooked snacks at the car.

    It is better yet to pick up a game of football with any fan then it is to watch the top 5% Pro’s kill each other for $$$,$$$ each game.

  • jet September 11, 2012, 8:52 pm

    A classic case of ‘picking your battles’. Who wants to be the best office worker anyway? That’s a game for chumps that apparently a lot of people are willing to play!

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 September 12, 2012, 9:10 am

    It’s not easy to get to the top 5%. I think that section of the bell curve is quite flat and only a few dedicated people (like MMM) can get there. It’s much easier to get into the top 15%-20%. We rarely pay for parking too, but I don’t know if I would be willing to walk 0.7 miles to the hospital. $25 is worth it though and it sounds like quite a nice walk.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 12, 2012, 10:00 am

      “I don’t know if I would be willing to walk 0.7 miles to the hospital” …

      Joe, did you write that just to prove my point? The point of how EASY it is for a Mustachian to reach the top 5%?

      Sheesh.. I’d be willing to walk 0.7 miles just to get a closer look at an interesting chunk of dirt on a hillside. Or to see what my 1000 of my footprints look like in the beach sand.. or for no reason at all, since we all need to walk at least a few miles a day regardless of reason.

      Keep training, though – I have hope for you! :-)

      • Joe @ Retire By 40 September 12, 2012, 1:54 pm

        Hahaha, We just walked about a mile around the neighborhood today. It was a great day and we went down to throw some stones in the river. I guess it is the state of mind. If I was going to the hospital, I would be too worried to walk much.

  • MMMLurker September 12, 2012, 10:06 am

    Hi! Been reading MMM for a while as a lurker, but found the “Top 5%” hit home. Had been musing about the the “Occupy” folks recently and found I had been slpping into a whinypants. Thanks for the wake-up!!

    As a “Top 5%” goal, why not think about a simple Financial Independence goal? Wealth or specifcally “Net worth”. Looking briefly at US household net worh on line this morning, anyone with a net worth of $1M is in the top 10%, and north of $2M puts you close to the “top 5%”.

    Seems a natural for this community!

  • JaneMD September 12, 2012, 1:23 pm

    About the price of hospital parking, the hospital is not generally specifically preying on the families of the sick/dying. many hospitals have outpatient offices that supply alot of the parking revenue because they are a much higher traffic source. Some hospital units/offices also validate your parking, but usually if you are the patient or a direct family member.

    There are times where you have to decide efficiency versus price on paying for parking. I have pushed a stroller with a 2 and 15 month old in it over a mile to my doctors office – because my compact car does not easily fit my double stroller. Since I do not always have an extra 45 minutes, there will be times where I use the baby carrier and the single stroller and park in the garage since the office also validates parking.

  • Laura @ No More Spending September 13, 2012, 3:44 am

    I walk everywhere in my home village, but when I get in the car, I think nothing of paying for parking?! Not sure why, but I won’t be doing it again!

    Great post. We can all reach the top 5% with a little effort (and I think your site is well worth staying up all night for!!) :)

  • Greg@ClubThrifty September 13, 2012, 6:00 am

    Being at an Ontario hospital, I may have chosen to park in the garage as well. However, I’ll never let the blood sucking hospitals here in the good ‘ol USA get my money in a parking garage! They cost me enough as is:)

    I’d have to agree with you. All you have to do is put in a minimal amount of effort and you can be in the top 95% of performers in almost any category. Does that say more about the individual putting in the effort or less about the lazy bums that we as a society have become?

  • Bullseye September 14, 2012, 8:09 am

    You must have been at Oakville Trafalgar Hospital? I work nearby (and bike there from next city over!), and walk those manse-filled leafy streets every day at lunch time.

  • anonymous September 15, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Working more hours than 95% of people is not a sensible goal, especially if you’re a salaried employee. However, if you actually work at it, being more *productive* than 95% of people while working the same hours is much easier, and *that* one will get you noticed quickly.

  • Deserat September 17, 2012, 8:45 pm

    Excellent points – I think the key is that you took the time to do some research regarding your options ahead of time so that you could make informed choices. It amazes me how many people don’t plan.

    I lived in Europe for a few years and they have plentiful mass transit available….of course from the standpoint of scale, the distances one must travel are much shorter in Europe compared to the USA. However, one time I decided to try and use the mass transit system available to me to get to a conference in Baltimore from BWI. I ended up taking a bus, a train, another bus and about a mile walk – it took about an hour more or so and the cost was much less than taking a cab. My colleagues thought I was nuts, however, I was on my own for expenses (I’m a consultant) and minimizing my expenses maximizes my profits. Plus, I learned a lot about how good or bad the mass transit system is in the US – did the same thing in Charlotte this last year.

    Lastly, by doing this, you truly get to see all types of people, which can be quite entertaining :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 17, 2012, 8:52 pm

      Nice transit story, Deserat!

      I did the same thing just last weekend – took the bus the 40 miles from my house to a 4-day conference in Denver, where I stayed in a hotel. I was the only one out of 400 attendees who had taken the bus, and the $10 roundtrip bus fare saved me 2 hours of driving, $40 of driving costs, and $100 of underground parking fees. I felt like a genius, and yet it was comically easy to do.

      • Oh Yonghao October 21, 2014, 1:17 pm

        Having grown up in Vancouver, WA right across from Portland I’m amazed at the difference in transportation systems and the grumble that local politicians in Vancouver make about Light Rail. Living West of Portland now I have taken advantage of the superb public transportation offered here. For $5 I can ride the Max (light rail) and Trimet (bus service) all day. I take a 45 minute train ride into Portland, which is 18.3 miles by car and takes 35 minutes, and then struggle to find free parking, or pay ridiculous rates to park, generally costing at least $5 on top of the $18.30 just for driving there*.

        Sometimes we head to downtown Portland, then out to East Portland, often times visiting my father, or head up North to North Portland for sushi, and then head back home for the cost of $10 for 2 people and all day travel. The light rail is awesome, without the constant jerking back and fourth of buses, and you can sit and read, or chat with other people. I have generally found that bus routes and connections actually meet up more often than not.

        I can never seem to stop saying enough praises over this system. Not only is it awesome like that, but very bike friendly. Even during rush hour you can stow your bike on the Max, or on the bus if there is an available slot. I once rode to Vancouver**, hiked, then took the Max back home at the cost of $2.50 for a 2-hour ticket. I felt very badass that day.

        * Using AAA’s estimation of $0.50/mi, although that estimation is higher now
        ** Vancouver is 27 miles and 1500ft elevation gain away. After 31mi of riding including that 1500ft elevation gain and a 4 mile hike with an additional 1500ft of elevation gain I gladly paid $2.50 to haul me through the mountain then rode 9mi on mostly flat ground home.

  • Spencer September 25, 2012, 12:22 pm

    Great points, if a bit over dramatic. (But I’ve come to expect that from the ‘Stache-man!) I think it’s extremely easy to defeat the lower 95%, simply because they’re not thinking at all about what they’re doing with their time or money. I wrote a post about how my wife paid off $45,000 in student loan debt in a year: http://www.militarymoneymanual.com/how-my-wife-paid-off-45000-in-student-loans-in-1-year/

    Most of the comments I got on it were “oh, it was so easy because she had such a high income job and lots of benefits.” Well, yes, that’s what made it possible to pay off the loans. But she could have just as well blown all her money on clothes, gadgets, or any of the other inane things you can find at the mall. Instead, she stayed focused and knocked out an amazing achievement in less than a year.

    Anyways, just wanted to let you know that she’s with you Mr. ‘Stache, kicking the ass of the other 95%!

  • David Wendelken November 21, 2012, 2:14 pm

    Sometimes you can just get lucky if you have the right mindset.

    Last summer I was in a class when we had a terrific hailstorm in my area.
    All the other people in the class were concerned about the dents being put in their cars.

    I was dancing around the room, singing “Money from Heaven! Money from Heaven!”

    Both our cars were totaled by the insurance company because it would cost too much to remove all the dents. There was no damage to the cars that was not simply cosmetic. We bought the totaled cars back from the insurance company and cleared $10,000 on the deal because we, not the bank, owned the cars. Now our taxes and insurance are way cheaper, too.

    We’re both driving dented cars and we don’t care.

    • EarningAndLearning May 23, 2017, 6:31 pm

      Ok THAT is badass! And hilarious! The dancing, the making $$$ from insurers, and driving dented cars! Love it! Thanks for the chuckle!

  • Michael April 9, 2013, 4:54 pm

    So it sounds like you managed to avoid paying to park your car, and then somehow interpreted this to mean you had ‘reached the top 5%’. Come on, guy! That’s some petty shit right there.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 9, 2013, 10:27 pm

      All right Michael, since you don’t seem to get it, I’ll try to explain how writing works.
      When you’re trying to teach people something, you start with a little story or metaphor at the beginning to illustrate the real-world application of a principle. Then, you can broaden the example out to explain to people what you’re REALLY getting at, while the first example remains in their minds to clarify things.

      So no, this article is not really about saving $25 on parking. It’s about earning and saving a million dollars or more while you’re still young enough to enjoy it, staying fit for life, growing out of bad habits that end up wrecking your life, learning not to complain about things, and all sorts of other things that at least 95% of people don’t do very well in today’s US society, and how doing these things isn’t really all that difficult.

  • quinsillyfish June 24, 2013, 8:56 pm


    I finished reading your post and promptly shut my computer. The kids, wife and I went and enjoyed a lovely walk around the neighborhood at sunset. Thanks for all the work you do to remind us what is important in life.


  • Rachel August 26, 2013, 10:47 pm

    We see the exact opposite parking issue every year at our state’s fair. It appears people will pay for parking just to avoid the possibility of having to walk a further distance.

    Every year, this included, we go to the state fair. Parking is free on the fair grounds. If it’s busy when you get there, then you might have to walk a bit to get in, but still way less than a mile. This year we laughed as we drove by all the various parking lots across the street from the fair that were charging for parking. Of course we went for the free fair parking, and this year we hit the parking lot jackpot and were directed to our free parking spot a few short rows away from the entrance. All the while cars were filling into the lots across the street, further away and shelling out cash for the privilege. I guess people were hedging against the potential of a walk.

  • exhedgie September 20, 2013, 10:05 am

    Thanks for writing this! I found you via JD Roth and have been reading from the beginning because each article was so good. I really identify with what you’re saying and admire that each post is so well-crafted. I have to admit I have some Mustachian tendencies so this is exciting for me and eye-opening. I am pretty pumped to have found your blog and beg to differ- hahaha- i did stay up late reading it, hey, it’s better than watching nonsense on TV.
    This really helps the issue of focused awareness around spending, I am enjoying reading my way through. Figured it was time to comment a couple days in.

  • Doodles September 21, 2013, 12:55 pm

    Another perspective: I work at a university and it costs > $200 per year to park anywhere on campus. A bicycle permit costs $0 so I bike a few miles each way. Since I started biking in, I opted out of the $25 per month rec center membership since I get exercise by biking and walking up 4 flights of stairs to my office. Glad to have found a community that values practicality and common sense.

  • Edie June 10, 2014, 9:43 am

    Realizing I’m late to the party, I would just like to add a comment. I work at a Canadian hospital, and probably have a conversation every day with a patient about parking. (by ‘conversation’ I mean, they complain and I listen) Our parking fees do not support the hospital at all, rather it is a private company that uses the fees to maintain the lots (which, granted, does involve a lot of snow removal in the winter). I’m guessing they make a healthy profit as well.

    It is interesting to me how many people think that THEY are entitled to free parking. Basically, everyone – patients, visitors and staff. I quietly continue to walk and bike to work, grateful for the health to do it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 11, 2014, 7:11 am

      Wow! I wonder if that is the model used by all hospitals – a private contractor milking the public for high-need parking with no competition? If so, it would make sense for the hospitals to take over ownership, lower the prices, and keep the profits themselves, since the margin is far too high at $25+ per space per day.

      I agree that parking shouldn’t be an entitlement. That pavement does cost money to maintain, and the people who park in it should be the ones who fund it, either directly or indirectly.

  • Kristin October 14, 2014, 9:54 pm

    For airport parking, my best deals have been trading car use for a ride to the airport. Last year, I found two car-less friends to take my car while I was gone for about a month. I picked up one friend at her house before dawn the day I left, and I drove myself to the airport. I gave her the keys and some money for tolls and gas, and she drove herself home. She used the car for awhile while her sister was visiting from out of state, and then she passed it to friend #2. Friend #2 drove the car for awhile and picked me up at the airport when my late night flight came in. Both friends got to enjoy a free car for awhile, and I didn’t have to pay for a month of airport parking at $16 a day. A taxi from my place would’ve been about $50 each way.

    • Guinnessphish March 18, 2015, 12:21 pm

      Are you supposed to inform your insurance company about something like this?

  • Petra May 7, 2015, 11:23 am

    Having a litttle folded bike in the back of my car, saves me al lot of parking money when visiting family in Amsterdam. I just drop of the kids and stuff at their house and drive to a cheap 10 euro a day parking and bike back. Prices in the centre of amsterdam are ridiculous.

  • Runrooster October 11, 2015, 6:41 pm

    I was dubious about the 95% for health numbers, but your reference does state <25% is a bmi of 19. I haven't hit a bmi that low since I was 18, and think it would be close to 17% bf for women which is low end of healthy or close to losing menstrual cycles. Similarly, a pull up correlates with very low bodyfat, about 20%. My experience with paid parking is the subway, and in DC suburbs, free spots are full early in the morning to save $5. The differences are: subway parking is a daily event and its a short payback to time investment. Also, most people going to work are healthy and wearing comfortable shoes and weather proof gear. Not women in heels, fine silk, or young children or old women.

    I have a different reaction to the TV viewing, after only 4 years of watching TV on an iPhone while exercising and cooking, I don't find it any worse than other passive entertainment. Like reading blogs, cookbooks, or chatting with friends. I was surprised to find myself up to 9 hours/week of new shows, plus 4 podcasts, movies, and music.

  • Young23Reader October 12, 2015, 11:06 am

    Hey I guess this is more for me then for the community but I’ve started from the first post with a goal of reading everything. Made it this far :) feeling pretty good.


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