Is it Convenient? Would I Enjoy it? Wrong Question.

A recent paraphrase from a Beginner Mustachian:

“Hey MMM. I can see the financial benefits of your lifestyle. But I just have different tastes. I like my better wine, and my husband really likes his books and his iPad. So we figure that if we would really enjoy something, we might as well get it. And, you know, at this stage we can really afford it.”
– person who still has mortgage debt and a cost of living that will require them to work for the next 20 years. 

Mustachians like you and I are engaged in a lifelong process of increasing our wealth.

In the beginning stage, the goal is mostly monetary wealth, and I see no problem with that. Money is a big and exciting part of our culture. And most of us start out with our arms and legs tangled up in the stuff to the point that it is a source of stress, status, and a loss of autonomy. The need for money is forcing us to set alarm clocks and drive to other cities every morning, give up on the chance of raising our own kids, and sign up for terms of voluntary slavery that can extend 45 years or longer. When you arrive at the door of the Temple of Mustachianism in this condition, it is natural that you’ll have your mind on your money and your money on your mind.

But as powerful as the problem of money seems to a beginner, there really is a solution. Applying the principles of this blog (or many of the other books and websites on financial independence) will almost certainly make you wealthy enough to be free from the need to work for money in a reasonable amount of time.

But then what? The pursuit of wealth still continues, but it just moves to the higher level of accumulating Life Wealth. Freedom, self-actualization, learning, generosity, and other fancy stuff that seems like an untouchable luxury to someone who is struggling to survive, will become your day-to-day challenge. And it’s a happy place, although not one without its own pitfalls.

Now that I’m really old (38 next month), I’ve had a chance to study both sides for quite a few years. And there really is a pattern that shows up as people transition from desperate consumer to seasoned retiree.

That pattern could be summed up like this: “Getting rich is more mental than it is tactical“.

When people first start reading up on how we’re all becoming rich here, their first questions are ones like these:

“How could I possibly live on 50% of my income? Or 25%?”
“How can I cut costs? What are your top three tips?”
“Why is your electric bill a third of mine, and your grocery bill half?”
“How will you pay for your healthcare? Your son’s education? Valuable travel experiences?”

They’re all good questions. But you’ll notice that they are tactical in nature. People want tips and recipes for saving money.

Solid tips are valuable resources, but they work a lot better if they are combined with changes to your mind that make the tips turn into real improvements in your lifestyle, rather than temporary deprivations which are simply means to the end of getting more money in the bank.

“What do you mean, changes to my mind? We’re all born with a certain mind, and it’s fixed for our whole lifetimes. I just want the money-saving tips please, Mustache.”

If you find yourself agreeing even remotely with that statement, I’m excited on your behalf, because it means we have a lot more to learn together.

Even if you’ve never heard of the ancient art of controlling your own mind, that doesn’t mean your noggin is an untouched virgin which has never been modified. It just means that until this point, someone else has been doing all the controlling. Your cultural values and beliefs, your attitudes towards hard work and struggle, and virtually all of your desires to own anything, from a certain style of house to a vacation destination, have been programmed into you by the outside world. Most of your desires are not your own!

To balance the scale a little, all you need to do is understand that you can program your own mind in completely the opposite way. You can build habits, you can eliminate most of your irrational fears, and you can even eliminate most of your irrational desires. The idea of programming your own mind is extremely powerful, it has been practiced since even before the ancient Greeks (see: Stoicism), and it’s relatively easy to do. And yet it’s a practice so rare that the standard Joe Consumer type will think you are a magical superhero if you have the ability to do it. Don’t believe me? Check out this quote:

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.

Old-time Mustachian H.D. Thoreau, 1817-1862 

Is this antique, folksy wisdom that no longer applies in the modern world now that iPads have been invented? Or is Thoreau actually a mind-control badass who figured something out that most people who have come after him have forgotten?

The answer is of course option b). You really ARE rich according to how many things you can train yourself NOT to want. But note that this is completely different than just perpetually wanting things, and aching inside every time you can’t buy them. It’s a much more powerful skill.

One of my friends has a $75,000 motorboat. I have more than enough money to buy a boat just like his and park it next to him in the marina. I wouldn’t even have to come out of retirement to be able to afford this purchase.  But yet somehow, I don’t even want a motorboat. Even with ten times my current wealth, or one thousand times, I still would not want the boat, or a luxury car, or even a bigger house.

 This freedom from desire is actually making me richer, because it allows me to focus on things other than things. And as it turns out, wanting less is an age-old recipe for having a much better life. But to believe it, you need to have control of your own mind at first. So let’s start getting some of that control right now, with a couple of examples.

Let’s suppose you want the latest iPad. You want it because it is convenient to be able to look at pictures and websites and books and play music around the house. Sure, you already have other computers that do those things, but the iPad is special because it lets you do them while holding it in one hand, sitting on the couch.

Wow, that couch is pretty convenient too, isn’t it? It is comfortable, enjoyable, convenient, and joyful to sit and lie on your couch. In fact, wouldn’t it be best to just lie on that couch all day? Forever? Yeah! Maybe you could even hook it up with a catheter and a bedpan, and a friend or robot could bring you all your food on the couch too. With each release, the latest iPad could be delivered to you, and you’d have the most convenient and comfortable and effort-free life ever.

Maybe you were with me for the first bit of that paragraph, but it probably lost its appeal by the time we reached the end, right? And indeed, with proper understanding, almost any consumer purchase (and almost any bad habit) these days, beyond the necessities, should start to sound like a catheter and a bedpan to you.

“I really like my Land Rover, and I deserve it because I’m a big executive now. It’s much faster than biking those five miles to work. Especially since I don’t want to arrive at work all sweaty”. Uh-huh. And it’s much more convenient than a compact hatchback, because you don’t have to bend your knees to get into the driver’s seat. And you no longer have to wait a whole ten seconds to accelerate to 60MPH, because it has a big enough engine to pull its enormous bulk to that speed in only six seconds. Would you, by any chance, like a catheter and a bedpan to go with that?

“I like running my A/C at 72 degrees, because it’s just so nice to come in out of the Texas heat into a fresh, cool house. Then I do the laundry and use my electric clothes dryer to get crisp, hot clothes ready to wear without all that hassle of hanging them up to dry”. Uh-huh. If only your clothes were equipped with catheters and bedpans, then you’d really be set, wouldn’t you!?

We could go on and on with this theme (and you’re welcome to do so in the comments, because I find it pretty funny). But the bottom line is, virtually everything we buy is actually a form of false happiness, a slippery slope that ends at the catheter and the bedpan, and the earlier on the slope that you catch yourself, the richer and happier you will be.

Mental Exercise: The next time you really want to buy some sort of treat for yourself, whether it’s a latte or a Mercedes, try the trick of not buying it instead. Mockingly offer yourself a catheter and a bedpan as a substitute.

Then over the coming months, make a note of your feelings of desire for that item you skipped. How do you feel about not owning it? Are you happy? What are you doing with the time and money that would have been spent in acquiring that item? How do you feel about the accomplishment of voluntarily controlling your urge to buy something? Do you feel more in control of your life in general? Repeat the experiment with more items over time, and note the change in your feelings

Once you master this basic mental framework, you are truly ready to breeze through the tactical aspect of getting rich. Now that you know that virtually no purchases, regardless of their convenience or enjoyability, will actually make you happier, you can instead make the decision based on whether or not you can afford it.

You just need a new definition of “can I afford it?”

If you still need to work for money, or at the very least, if you’re not saving at least 50% of your take-home pay, you can not afford it. Where “it” is anything.

In certain cases, you will still buy things you can’t afford. Groceries are a good example. A bike is another one, because like all good investments it earns you money rather than costing you. Housing, clothing, and plain old FUN with your friends and family are also things worth buying when you can’t afford them. But your decision-making process will simply be made differently – you’ll be maximizing the Lifetime Wealth delivered by each spending decision, rather than the convenience or short-term pleasure.

You’ll have more fun in both the short term and the long term. You just won’t have as much of that catheter-and-bedpan “convenience” we’ve all been spending our money on up to this point.

Only by gaining control of your mind and the conveyor belt of false desires it serves up, can you get true freedom in your life. Freedom, unlike convenience, can really bring happiness. It’s a bit dizzying, and maybe even a bit difficult. But once again, it is the good kind of difficulty.

So who is up for some difficulty?


  • matzieq August 25, 2016, 7:08 am

    I generally agree, although I firmly believe that tablet computers are in fact very useful, and not catherers and bedpans as you present them here. I actually have TWO iPads, one of which is very old and unusable by normal standards, or very old and still awesome by my standards. For my defence, me and my wife live in Poland, are debt free, bike to work most of the time and drive a small but awesomely fuel efficient Renault Clio we bought used for next to nothing (8000 PLN which is around 2000$) in mint condition, we survive on about 1200$ monthly for both of us, of which we save 1/3. Yes, wages in Poland are crappy. Yes, costs of living are immensely lower than in the US, with free university education and all that. No, other shit is no less expensive. Now, back to my point. What’s the point of iPad?

    – I use my iPad Air 2 most of the time like I would normally use a computer. It can do almost everything, including recording music, making drum tracks and editing videos. For 99% of the time I don’t need to fire up my old power hungry desktop. It even plays my favourite game of all time, XCOM. It is also very small and does not make any noise. If you had the opportunity to use one of those desktops, or even older laptops, you know how noisy they can be, and it makes a REAL difference. You could say, ‘well, duh, why don’t you ditch your desktop and buy a silent laptop or something’. So I did. The iPad is my new computer. The only thing I need a PC for now is the rare case when I need to work on an additional project and must run some translation software, or when I want to play some game from my steam or GOG library.

    – Actually it is the PC which is my catherer and bedpan. My thinking sometimes goes “maybe I’ll fire up the PC and consume some kilowatts while I open a thousand browser tabs and waste several hours? Nah, let’s get this done on this little fella. Less tabs, less time wasted, less noise, less headache, more time for good stuff, more joy”.

    – Speaking of prices: the Air 2 is almost top of the line in tablets, and for the same money you can get a middle of the road (very noisy) desktop or lower tier (still noisy) laptop. Considering the life span of other tablets (the venerable iPad 2 is still able to run current iOS 9, and after it stops receiving updates, surprise surprise, it will STILL remain usable) I expect this to last much longer than a PC for the same money.

    – Getting computer shit done while sitting on my perfect couch, wrapped in a blanket and with a steaming mug of coffee beside me, with a great screen which is easy on my eyes and WITHOUT the damned NOISE (yes, I have a personal grudge against noisy computers) is, besides crushing my enemies and seeing them driven before me, one of the best things in my decadent and luxurious life.

    – Why then do I have that second old and crappy iPad? That one is for travel. It has a 3G modem and GPS, and lots of space for importing photos. For the tech addict like myself it is also the perfect travel computer, because it can’t do as much and I can take a break :) It is, however, great for watching a movie, importing pictures from a camera and looking through them, playing music and board games without lugging around actual boxes and looking at a map on a screen on which you can actually see something.

    So, while I know that I don’t really need them (just as I don’t need any computer or electronic device), they do actually bring something of value into my life. I’ve had the Air 2 for only 6 months, but I can tell you, this is the best computer (not tablet, computer) I’ve ever used in my life. It continues to amaze me and even my not-very-tech wife with what it can do and how great it is at doing it.

  • Dylan November 14, 2016, 2:04 pm

    So I’ve been reading your blog from the very start and your catheter and bedpan allusion has definitely helped me more on my path to financial independence almost more than anything else on your blog.

  • Tom May 11, 2017, 2:35 pm


    These are great points, especially about convenience will not actually bring happiness! For those of us who have seen the movie Wall.E, we don’t want to end up like those roly poly human drinking soda and watching TV all day…..

  • M.R. October 14, 2018, 5:50 pm

    Love your mindset. But. The one thing about desire — very often, I notice people have a less of a desire for things simply because they have a choice not to have it — a lot of desire has to do with “you want what you can’t have.” So, if you CAN go out and buy a new iphone, then you won’t want it nearly as much as someone who would have to save years for one. Also, if in the past, you were the one who had bought a ton of crap and changed your mind about material things — then you already had the experience or even access (like a rich uncle who generously loaned you a fancy car), you probably aren’t as desirous since you already satiated that desire at one point. My point: desire is subjective and it really depends on the person and their experiences. Not fair to compare say, a guy who grew up upper middle class versus someone who grew up dirt poor. Their ambitions and needs will be different.

  • fairy8i8 October 26, 2018, 2:52 pm

    “The possession of wealth alone does not produce happiness, although it will produce comfort, when it can be exchanged for the essentials and luxuries of life.” – Brigham Young

    I think we confuse comfort for happiness. It’s the big diaper syndrome. We think that if we live like the old traditional rich and have other people and things to do everything for us that we will be happy, when it is in fact good hard work, good relationships, a life philosophy, health, and some of the other things you have mentioned that bring happiness. Just read Tolstoy if you want to know how unhappy a life of luxury can be.

    Also, I think a lot of people are unhappy, so they seek to comfort thinking it will make them feel better. While it might have a short impact, long term happiness doesn’t come from seeking comfort, it comes from consistently seeking and doing things that bring happiness.

  • Jefferson November 7, 2018, 9:14 pm

    I totally resonate with this blog post and have those aha moments where I am proud of myself for being frugal and not eating out when I can afford it. Going out to eat hurt me mentally basic I don’t want to pay people for food I can make myself ( Chipotle/ anything like it). I’ve also have been wanting a MacBook for the longest ( 3 years now) but cannot justify buying one, because it will n0t make me any happier. I love the saying that “most of the desire is not my own” I totally agreed with this and feel that the MacBook is really not me wanting it, but marketing telling me I want it. smh


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