Why Your Spare Time is Worth Way More than $25 per Hour

At the very center of Mustachianism Itself, lies the issue of What to Do With Your Time.

Time is one of your greatest allies in getting rich, but it is also a constant foe, since we all have a limited supply of it. So it makes sense that Mr. Money Mustache would spend some of his time, sharing some strategies that help you get the most of yours.

But sometimes, my bold and presumptuous advice will stir up a cloudy soup of questions and complaints from advanced and beginner readers alike:

“You can’t count the ‘cost’ of the time I spend driving to work, because I have no way to get paid for those hours”
person trying to defend a long car commute after reading The True Cost of Commuting

“I’m so busy at work, that I’m glad to pay someone else to mow my lawn, freeing up my weekends to do things I enjoy”
person with a busy job and many outside-of-work hobbies.

“I’m an efficient IT consultant and I get paid a lot. Shouldn’t I pay somebody else to paint my walls, since I earn more than they do?”
an efficient IT consultant currently stuck with pink bedroom walls.

“If my time is really worth as much as Mr. Money Mustache says it is ($25, $50, or more per hour), should I really waste any of it doing things I don’t enjoy?”
person who wants Mr. Money Mustache’s permission to skip out on all manual labor chores.

I can see the confusion, because at first glance, the Way of the Mustache might seem to have some contradictory rules. If a car commute is unacceptable because it wastes time, then surely we can justify buying free time in any other way possible too, right?

The answer lies in a hidden realm where numbers are sparse. The missing concept which ties together all of this is something called Fully Rounded Badassity. Let’s express some of the principles to see how they can answer our questions.

1. Self Improvement Time Pays CEO-level Wages
If you eliminate your car commute and free up two hours per day, those hours go directly to your evenings, doubling the amount of time you have to get things done. If you invest this time in things like furthering your education (at school or with nonfiction books), or building up your own side business, refinancing your mortgage or getting better deals on insurance, or even just learning about stress and happiness, you are making permanent improvements to yourself or your financial situation that will last a lifetime. An hour spent shopping for insurance can save hundreds of dollars per year. Learning to spend money more efficiently (the subject of this blog), can allow you to cut your living expenses in half for life. Learning to eliminate prolonged mental stress can actually save your life. Far from being unpaid time, the free time you get outside of work is the most valuable time you have.

2. Demanding Physical Activities Pay Double Time
Some people complain about the time it takes to ride a bike to work, or to mow their own lawn or create a garden. But they don’t realize that these things actually take no time at all, because they come with free exercise. One of my rules for life is that you need to average at least an hour per day of pretty hard physical exertion if you want to keep your life in balance. So if you aren’t already getting this much active time, you can schedule in any number of these physical tasks and collect double pay: Once for the tax-free savings of the cash you no longer need to fork over to a lawn contractor, and a second time for the physical fitness dividend that you receive. Compare this with the strategy of  a “time-saving” car commuter where you drain your money with every mile, sitting idly on your ass while the machine carries you around in a supremely unhealthy display of inefficiency.

3. If you don’t like Maintaining a Luxury item, you Shouldn’t Own it
Suppose you accept my exercise argument above, but you’d really prefer to get your exercise riding your $2400 carbon fiber road bike around in the foothills instead of cutting your own lawn. That’s fair enough – but it means you shouldn’t have a lawn. Just as you shouldn’t have a motorboat if that requires you to hire a mechanic who services, tows, and stores it for you, or a private jet with a pilot and hangar staff. Sure, you may enjoy these things, but until you’re financially independent, you simply can’t yet afford to pay others to maintain your shit for you.
If you un-velcro those Pampers from your brain, you will surely be able to find activities that you enjoy both producing and consuming. And those will be the activities you prioritize. Cooking and eating fine food is one example, as is maintaining and riding a bike, and even hosting and attending parties. There will be plenty of time for hiring others to produce luxuries for you, once you’re not so damned poor.

4. Learning a Practical Physical Skill pays Quadruple Time
The Efficient IT consultant above had a sound argument based on the old ‘law of comparative advantage’ from the economics textbooks. But what he was missing is that painting a wall changes more than just the wall color. It counts towards your physical activity requirement. It teaches you a skill that is essential for any homeowner and will pay dividends for life. The end product is likely to be more satisfying, because it is a permanent symbol of your own accomplishment. AND it pays you a tax-free salary equal to what you’d otherwise have to pay the painter. Do-it-yourself activities are deceptively powerful, because you will quickly reach a skill level so high that you can complete a job for yourself with less time than you’d even spend hiring and supervising a contractor. The skill can also provide you with portable source of income at any future point in your life.

5. Insisting on Doing it Yourself Paces your Consumption
You’ve got a big to-do list, and only a limited amount of free time. Some house painting, a new garden, a bathroom renovation. You can hire them out right now, and have them done within a month. Or you can work your way through them individually, and get them done in the next year. Which option allows you to spend more of your salary?

By forcing yourself to proceed only as your own free time permits, you are producing a powerful vortex of joyful self discipline and wealth. Your spending is limited. Your costs for each project are drastically reduced. And your time-management skills are constantly honed, as you learn not to waste time on things like TV and websurfing, because the pepto-bismol-pink bedroom is a constant reminder that time management is important.

As explained in the old Classic “You Can’t Cure Obesity with Bigger Pants“, it is usually much more profitable to leave your problems around to stare you in the face, than to sweep them under the rug with a broom made of Franklins.

6. Remember Hedonic Adaptation – It’s Hard to Believe, but Buying Shit Doesn’t Make You Happier
This is one of the trickiest and most new-age concepts in Mustachianism. But it is one you must strive to understand, and make progress towards throughout your lifetime. The bottom line is that no matter what you buy, you’ll soon adapt to the new level of luxury and be no happier than where you were before. This applies to anything – even paying someone to repaint your pepto bismol bedroom to a nicer color. Even owning a vacation home in the mountains in which you get to throw great parties every weekend.

The thing is, even I have trouble believing this. Taken to the extreme, you would logically conclude that it is best to own virtually nothing, and live in monk-like simplicity in a commune. Sometimes it just feels so right to buy something. The justifications are so rich and intellectual-sounding. The purchase will allow you to express your creativity, or stay in better shape, or spend more time with your friends and family. How can buying things possibly not make me happy?

To resolve the discrepancy, I think of the journey away from materialism as a lifelong challenge. I acknowledge that I do still suck, and I still have weaknesses. That’s why I still have a very nice house filled with relatively fancy stuff. It’s why after two years of fighting the urge, I broke down this week and bought this shiny “Ultrabook” laptop on which I’m now typing to you. The weakness causes me to crave new things, and it is my job to work against materialism, and towards other forms of happiness.

The good news about all of this is you can simultaneously be sucking and succeeding. You don’t have to achieve perfect freedom from materialism to become rich these days. You just need to wipe out enough of it to be able to save 50-75% of your income. That’s relatively easy for households who make over $100,000 per year, because you just have to learn to be happy without some really high-end stuff that most people can’t afford anyway, like Mercedes Benz products. Most of my own wealth comes from the fact that I’ve eliminated all desire for fancier cars, houses, trips, or motorboats. At much lower levels of income, it takes more practice, because you may need to be happy living without more common amenities, like any sort of car at all. But as soon as you realize that the situation is entirely in your control, the scale moves rapidly away from sucking and in the direction of success. And you might find your income creeping upwards towards those higher ranges as a byproduct of this success.

In the grand scheme of things, the way to get the maximum rate of pay for your time comes from a balance of factors. Improving yourself through education and learning skills will increase the market value of your services. But trading too much of your time for money will decrease the value of your money itself, since you’ll be creating an unbalanced and unsatisfying life.

Thus, you will need to bust ass in a variety of areas, not just one, in order to maximize the value of your time. The $8.00 per hour Subway clerk needs to stay up late and study his math textbooks to get that business degree. But the $200 lawyer also needs to get her hands dirty mopping the floor and get some scratches while trimming the trees from the top of a ladder. Mr. Money Mustache still needs to set tiles and install new toilets into the homes of other people, even while he sets aside time to slave away over this backlit soft-touch keyboard in order to write to YOU. Even when he feels like just relaxing and watching movies instead. These balancing activities may or may not happen to generate income, but they are still essential parts of getting the maximum value from my time.

It’s all a bit counter-intuitive at first, but just remember this: the way to earn the most from your time, is to consider the many ways you can extract value from each moment of your life.


  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies October 18, 2012, 6:18 am

    I combine #1 with 2, 3, and 4 pretty much all the time by frequenting the library section that has the most 90+ year olds – the audiobook section.
    Take the 90 minute run I do most mornings – Audiobook time. In the ~9-10 hours per week that I run, I can get through a pretty standard sized non-fiction (or fiction, I alternate) in a week or less. (Most audiobooks have between 7-9 cds.)
    When it comes to maintaining stuff around the house I do the same thing – but usually switch to some of my favorite podcasts because they’re in shorter bites.
    Even when I was learning and using tons of new skills renovating our rental property with Mr. PoP, we pretty much always had a podcast or audiobook playing. It’s just such an easy way to keep your brain going in what could otherwise turn into a mindless activity.

    However, the one stipulation that I would add to make sure the “self-improvement” time pays off – you need to apply it. You can learn a lot about many different topics – but until you start applying some of the lessons contained therein, I’d say the actual ROI is pretty low.

    • julia October 18, 2012, 6:55 am

      hi Mrs. Pop – You and I are much alike in this area! I also love to listen to podcasts while I run and while I do household chores. But lately I’ve tried to run with nothing in my ears at least once a week, and sometimes I forgo the podcasts while I wash dishes or hang laundry – all in an effort to clear some space in my head.

      I think we all need mental space for reflection, not even active reflection, just a time of reduced inputs into the brain. This lets the mind process (consciously and/or subconsciously) the information it’s been taking in, and even start working out new ideas. This has been vital to my creative life, and well worth my time!

      Or you could go the Zen approach too – mindfulness while cleaning – see Leo Babauta’s post here – http://zenhabits.net/mindful-simplicity/

      • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies October 18, 2012, 4:13 pm

        Julia – Thanks for suggesting the zenhabits link – very interesting.

        I completely agree that some time without screens or sounds is definitely necessary – and my yoga instructor would say I need to meditate more. I like to go on walks during the day – 10 or 20 minutes – and on those it’s just me and my thoughts. If it’s during the workday it’s usually more than enough time to let my mind wander and I often come up with solutions to the problems I was struggling with even without actively trying to. Some of my weird blog posts come about wandering on these walks and just seeing where my mind goes.

        But, when I’m ironing, I think I’ll still have a podcast or something to listen to. Just not sure I could get all zen-blissed on starching collars. =)

        • julia October 18, 2012, 5:39 pm

          Oh girl, you starch collars?! No, i think you’d need to be a monk (or monkess?) to bliss out on that :)

          I read somewhere that Thoreau went on 4-5 hour walks most days to think, and I also read a great article by Joan Didion about how important her long runs are for her writing. Can’t find it now though.

          Best wishes on your writing, running, and ironing :)

    • peter October 18, 2012, 12:20 pm

      You what’s even more amazing? My wife just showed me how to skip the CDs at the library and download/borrow digital format from the library (Canada). Last road trip, she downloaded an interesting audio book for us to enjoy on our drive about 5 minutes before we left!

    • Dave November 19, 2014, 6:15 pm

      There is more than just the cost of doing something once to consider. For instance, I HATE mowing the lawn. With a vengence. I hate yardwork of all kinds. My solution was to first, when building the house, have absolutely nothing in the yard to maintain. No trees. No shrugs. No leaves to rake. Nothing. The one thing I couldn’t avoid was a lawn – have to keep the soil from all eroding away somehow. There are also requirements as part of the neighborhood for that. So fine, I have a lawn.

      What is something I don’t have? I hate mowing the lawn, so I don’t own a lawnmower. My yard is so big I would need a riding mower to mow it. So mowing my lawn isn’t just about the cost to pay someone to mow it, it would also be the cost of buying and maintaining a riding lawn mower. So instead of paying over a thousand dollars plus maintenance, plus gas, I paid ZERO. And then I pay the neighbor kid 25 dollars for him to mow for me using his own mower and his own gas. And I don’t spent a single minute doing something I hate. Life is too short to do something you hate. If i had to put a price on mowing the law, I wouldn’t mow someone’s lawn for less than a thousand dollars per mowing. That is how much I hate it. So I feel pretty good about paying someone else 25 to do it with their own equipment.

      • Drew October 18, 2017, 12:42 pm

        What’s to hate about a relatively mindless workout where you can get some good thinking time in? Not only that, but unlike a lot of jobs, you can immediately see the impact of your work. Was always one of my favorite chores growing up, and I had a lot to choose from. I rent currently, and would probably avoid a lawn to save costs and water, but if I ever have to mow again, I’ll look forward to it.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty October 18, 2012, 6:18 am

    3. If you don’t like Maintaining it, you Shouldn’t Own it

    This is my exact reasoning for my minimalist lifestyle in the first place. I have very few things and anything that doesn’t get used frequently gets the boot.
    Why? I don’t want to maintain it, keep track of it, dust it, organize it, clean it.
    And guess what, not wanting to own stuff saves a ton of money. Can you tell I hate stuff?

    Anyway, another great post! Time is what I value most- more than money. The way that I see it is that earning and saving now is buying myself time in the future by becoming financially independent. When that time comes, I will use that time to do whatever the hell I want!

    • Doug October 18, 2012, 8:16 am

      That’s fully consistent with my observations. More stuff than what you need to live comfortably is more clutter, which not only doesn’t put added value to life, but becomes a hassle and a drain on the pocket book. It’s like paying extra money to run the air conditioner to cool your house to an uncomfortably cold temperature. Most people don’t get my aversion to excess stuff and think I am somehow depriving myself. It’s obvious we mustachians are a very small fraction of the population.

      • Holly@ClubThrifty October 18, 2012, 10:30 am


        What you are saying is exactly how I feel. “Less is more” is a cheesy cliche but it is so true. People sometimes find it preplexing when those who can afford to choose not to indulge ourselves in every gadget that comes along. I don’t want things. I want experiences.

      • Marcia October 18, 2012, 11:47 am

        I hate the excess clutter. That’s the problem I have…I feel like I need to maintain everyone else’s clutter. Toys, etc.

        • Edward October 18, 2012, 1:24 pm

          Once I grasped the idea that when someone buys something, they’re also effectively paying to store it (in your house, garage, shed, etc.), I became even more minimalist than I was before. Time is money, but so is indoor/outdoor space. The more stuff you have, the larger a place you need to keep it all in, the more you have to pay for a larger space, the more you have to pay to keep that space clean.

          • julia October 18, 2012, 3:20 pm

            We are DIYers, and I also hate clutter and extra stuff. But one thing we’re still trying to learn is a balance between DIY and stuff. Because if you do a lot of things yourself, you need some stuff to do it with. For instance, my husband is renovating our house. That requires lots of tools. He also likes to sew (yes it’s true!), so he’s got a closet full of sewing equipment. I love gardening and cooking from scratch, canning food, etc. – more equipment required! We fix our own bicycles, car, etc. etc. – all of which requires us to store and maintain the equipment needed to do these things.

            Not a show-stopper, but certainly no monk’s life. And as I said, it’s about finding the balance that works best for our household.

            • James October 18, 2012, 7:39 pm

              No shame in sewing, I sewed my own blanket, sheets, and pillow case when headed to college. My kids still use that blanket, though I don’t think I told them I made it, I should do that.

              I need to get back into more of my own DIY stuff, I’m ashamed to say I’ve been paying to have the oil changed on my car in the past few years, despite doing it myself for years before that.

            • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 19, 2012, 5:15 pm

              Definitely tell your kids about the sewing! We need more examples of men doing traditional ‘women’s work’.

            • Norman Frank April 8, 2014, 6:53 am

              I’m male and have been knitting since high school when I needed a sweater and found a little ol’ lady who had a yarn shop in her garage and would teach me to knit if I bought yarn from her. Even last year I knitted matching winter sweater, scarf, and hat. Knitting my own allows me to use special yarns not available in the china sweaters at Walmart.

          • Marcia October 18, 2012, 3:49 pm

            Yes. I’ve been working on this with the six year old. He’s getting better at putting h is stuff away. But sometimes I feel I’m the only one who cares. I have higher standards I guess.

          • TomTX October 20, 2012, 11:25 am

            The WAF* on decluttering has been low. Sure, she agrees in theory, but when we get to the nitty-gritty, there’s always a reason to keep 99% of the stuff.

            *Wife Acceptance Factor

            • Jaclyn November 7, 2012, 12:18 pm

              I have this same issue. For me, I think it comes from growing up poor. We never threw anything out because we needed everything we had. Now, my brain is in a constant battle between “You have too much stuff!!” and “Hoard it all now in case you need it some day!!”

    • Mandy @MoneyMasterMom October 19, 2012, 6:51 am

      Stuff sucks – we severely cut the number of toys our kids had because we got sick of cleaning them up at the end of the day – they help a little (4,2, and 10months) Cutting the # of toys probably gives us an extra 15 minutes a night to relax. It’s also great for piece of mind without the crazy clutter

      • Holly@ClubThrifty October 19, 2012, 9:37 am

        Toys!!! Oh, how I hate toys!

        My kids are 3 and 1 and I have a ton of toys. Like you, I try to go through them about once a month and get rid of some. I always tell people not to buy toys for Christmas and birthdays and put money in their 529’s instead but nobody listens! They just buy them more junky toys and I get stuck with them.

        When they were babies, I would just give their toys away….but now that they are older I cannot get away with it. My 3 year old knows who got her what and I feel bad getting rid of stuff that she truly likes and plays with. I just try to get rid of the things that they dont play with and it keeps the toy clutter down.

        Some of their toys have many pieces…like play food! It drives me crazy but they have so much fun playing store and cooking on their little play stove. I just have to ignore their toys and remember that they are kids and just want to have fun.

        • Mandy @MoneyMasterMom October 19, 2012, 12:19 pm

          Holly, I share your pain, I’ve asked my mom to stop buying toys too. It’s even worse because she’ll buy 5 really cheap toys instead of one nice toy so they have more presents to open. If I was bolder I would bring a trash bag and put them in the trash infront of her to finally convince her I just don’t want more crap in my house. But I love her, so I smile, remind my kids to say thankyou, and cringe inside :(

          • Jamesqf October 19, 2012, 9:31 pm

            “…she’ll buy 5 really cheap toys instead of one nice toy so they have more presents to open.”

            Reminds me of my neighbors’ grandkids: divorced parents with new partners plus several sets of indulgent grandparents means the kids get presents up the wazoo. So they spent an hour or two opening everything, then ignored the toys and had fun playing with the boxes & wrapping paper.

          • Plastic Kiwi February 2, 2016, 8:30 pm

            Oh Mandy I nearly split my sides laughing! I have the exact same problem with my 3yr old daughters Grandparents…so much TAT! When she was younger I’d just give it away but now she’s on the case. She even role-played with a dolly the mean Mummy that gives her stuff away because she doesn’t play with it anymore. Dolly was very sad…because even though she doesn’t play with it anymore it’s HERS and she might want to play with it tomorrow!!

            I’ve decided, for now, to just keep everything and try to minimize in other ways (strict “no presents” rule for everybody else!) At her last birthday it worked a treat and we got lovely art from her peers instead!

        • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 19, 2012, 5:21 pm

          Holly, have you tried rotating the toys? Set a limit of, say, 8 or 10 toys to keep in their room at a time. All the other toys go into a box in the garage. Every three months, bring out the toy box on a Saturday and let the kids ‘trade out’ one for one. It’s almost like Christmas all over again.

          Any item that doesn’t get chosen for more than a year, you can probably get rid of without a fuss.

          • Holly@ClubThrifty October 19, 2012, 8:01 pm

            Yes! That is kind’ve what I do now. Certain toys disappear for a while then reappear when I get sick of the other toys.

            They do have a play room, luckily, so I am not stuck with toys all over the rest of the house. I am very thankful for that!

      • Edward October 19, 2012, 9:51 am

        Toys are different now–and much, larger!! I grew up in the 70s and by the time my 3 siblings and I hit our teens, (combined) we still didn’t have as many toys as my nieces and nephews do at the age of 4. Of course most toys sort of sucked back then–you’d get a puzzle from one person, a paint-by-numbers from someone else, one Hot Wheels car, and a Disney record on 45. All your presents stacked together could be carried at once.

        • victoria October 22, 2012, 8:02 am

          The larger ones aren’t the ones that bug me — it’s the smaller ones. The Playmobils, etc., with a bunch of tiny parts. The kiddo gets a lot of enjoyment out of them — she and her friends can pretend with them for hours at a time — but they are the biggest pain to keep clean.

    • Jeff October 24, 2012, 1:41 pm

      The best way I’ve heard it described is that too much stuff makes you the “curator to the museum of your life”.

    • Ishmael May 23, 2013, 4:09 am

      You don’t own stuff… stuff owns you.

  • Rebecca October 18, 2012, 6:22 am

    So, taking all this into consideration, how do you bill people for your time? I make bow ties, and typically add in $30 for the 1.5 hours it takes to put one together… (I make $10/hr. at my regular job). I may be undervaluing my time, but I’m not sure how many bow ties I would sell at $75 for time plus $15-$20 for materials. I know those high-end ties are out there, but I’m also making them in a spare room in my house with no name recognition or even sizing guides in the ties (troubles sourcing these, if anyone happens to know where to get them!). Obviously as my skill and product quality go up, so can my price (much like a carpenter or mason might work for years to become a true craftsman, and will then be sought out by people and able to charge a lot). But where do you start?

    • Loris February 26, 2014, 10:13 am

      I’d love to know that too. I sew aprons out of printed cotton duck and charge $30 each. It takes about four hours to sew one. I know I’m getting horribly stiffed on both labor and materials, but I love to sew, and aprons are all anybody seems to want out of me – my embroidery, which is quite good, generates no interest. $30 is also the most anybody will pay, considering they can buy a flimsy Dwell apron on clearance at Target for $10. I’ve pretty much determined that I will never recoup my labor, and when sewing stops being fun, I can just quit for a while because it’s a hobby, not a job.

  • rjack October 18, 2012, 6:22 am

    I love these higher level philosophical articles. This is destined to be another classic MMM.

    “In the grand scheme of things, the way to get the maximum rate of pay for your time comes from a balance of factors.”

    We all have to find the right balance of emotional, physical, and intellectual activities. If your job requires you to sit at a desk 8 hours per day, you should find regular money-saving activities that move your body. This will help you find the right overall balance that optimizes saving and quality of life.

    • gestalt162 October 18, 2012, 6:40 am

      Totally agree. I am a software engineer, and it has amazed me that almost every software person I’ve ever worked with has some sort of major outdoorsy or creative side hobby. Some campers/hikers, gardeners (like myself), fishermen, and even a couple semi-pro musicians. It just goes to show that after using one side of your brain all day, the other side needs some work too.

      • Donovan October 18, 2012, 7:59 am

        Same with the body. Personally, after sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours straight, I just feel absolutely no motivation to touch one when I get home! I’d much rather plant roses and punch things.

  • JJ October 18, 2012, 6:27 am

    Forgive me for sounding dumb, but is Fully Rounded Badassity the same as a bubble butt?

    • JJ October 18, 2012, 6:35 am

      Sorry – that would be Fully Rounded Assity.

      Seriously, great article. Life is short and each year goes by quicker than the last. It’s scary how quick a decade can pass following the whole wake up / goto work / come home / have dinner / watch TV routine. That’s why it is so important to make the most of free time while working full time, and why it is so important to get out of having to work full time ASAP.

      • Carl Jensen October 18, 2012, 7:27 am

        Yeah, really great point about life being too short. I work with people who are 70+ who made great income all of their lives but still have to work because they found crap to spend it all on.

        Really nice post MMM.

        When do you plan to the slopes? A-basin is open…

  • Kenneth October 18, 2012, 7:04 am

    Even Mr. Money Mustache is not perfect! He bought an ultrabook! I intend absolutely no disrespect in noting this. We all make our own decisions and create our own lives. I, for one, will NEVER use a spray bottle to cool myself and my passengers on a hot summer day in my car with the air conditioner turned off, as MMM suggests. But this doesn’t mean I can’t learn and apply a whole lot of good stuff from this blog, which has the effect of lowering my expenses, increasing my income, shortening my time to financial independence, and staying physically fit also. It’s just that I’m not obsessive compulsive enough to feel I have to adapt everything written on the blog. Just the stuff I feel comfortable with, and that works for me and makes sense for me.

    • TLV October 18, 2012, 10:45 am

      I think it’s rather impressive that MMM held off on the ultrabook for two years. I’ve been resisting a ~40″ flat screen TV that would replace a 19″ computer monitor and a 19″ tube TV for about a year and a half now – if I can make it past Black Friday I should be good for another year.

      Whenever I start feeling like the screen at home is small compared to the dual 24″ monitors at work, I remind myself that I really don’t need to stare at screens at home after 8 hours of them at work.

    • Jamesqf October 18, 2012, 12:11 pm

      “I, for one, will NEVER use a spray bottle to cool myself and my passengers on a hot summer day in my car…”

      Even if you tried it, and found that it actually was more comfortable? I’ve always hated typical auto A/C, where (except on long trips) you sit in a hot car with a couple of jets of frigid air blowing on parts of your body.

      • jet October 18, 2012, 8:19 pm

        that isn’t now the AC in my car feels! in 5 minutes it cools the whole car down, though I only use it if I have passengers (human or canine, the dogs really don’t tolerate heat as well as people do).

        You don’t direct the air directly on to yourself….

    • PawPrint October 18, 2012, 12:32 pm

      A comment I agree with wholeheartedly. Love reading this blog. Feel the target audience is not my demographic, but I find I learn something every time I come to this site.

    • JZ October 18, 2012, 9:18 pm

      MM is perhaps being hard on himself. There are a few things that I don’t mind getting – tools. If something will actually be used to enhance my ability to better myself and work, I see no problem with acquiring it.
      This is why I have no problem paying for a bicycle, and why I have no problem with having paid a bit for the smartphone that I use to read books and email on while on the bus – also reducing my need to warehouse physical paper. If the ultrabook is actually being put to good use increasing MM’s productivity when he’s away from home, then it is helping him to earn value for his time.
      Mobility theory actually sees no real difference between a computer, a phone, bicycle, or car at a fundamental level – you’re using them all to network and leverage your presence and ability to shuffle between tasks. And MM certainly hasn’t been shy about putting money up in front to get a reliable bicycle. he could walk – but the walking time is probably not as productive as what he was going to do when he got there, and if he had no trailer while walking, the productivity drops even more. Mostly you have to start being careful of this when the tools have upkeep costs – cars have high upkeep costs – or when the productivity is unclear – people like to think the car is saving them time, but the actual travel speed after lights and hunting for parking isn’t actually all that fast.

  • Romeo October 18, 2012, 7:18 am

    Epic post. I use my time commuting to work listening to language learning audio recordings. I do the same thing when working out or doing work around the house. I’m currently paying myself $4 per sqft, instead of paying Lowes, to install my own ceramic tiles. I use my time to study for an HR certification while waiting for my son to finish football practice. I use my evenings away from work to type on my blog or work on an app that should be hitting the market soon. I’m now trying to acquire an investment property. I’ve written a pf book, “How We Prevent Wealth” and finished my MBA in the same time period. By the way, I’m a single dad.

  • Dillon October 18, 2012, 7:34 am

    I won’t disagree with the first 5 points but for Hedonic Adaptation, I just have to respectfully disagree. I can see where the theory would work a good chunk of time but in many cases I think it is very feasible that buying something could give you more happiness. I think it is a combination of proper research and mental strength that goes into if buying things gives you any (or more) happiness. I’m not saying it is easy. I just don’t think it is a guarantee that the consumer adapts to this new level. That’s where the mental strength comes in. You just can’t take what you have for granted and of course that applies to many areas outside of “stuff” like friends, families, and spouses but I digress.

    I still think my first generation Galaxy S (that I refuse to “trade-in”) smartphone is badass and I am constantly reminded how thankful I am for the technology (gps, doubles as my internet/cable, games, etc.). I mean I’ve adapted to use it and am familiar with the way it functions but it just amazes me how often I use it in ways that were not possible with dumb phones. I consider these dividends. As long as a consumer is still aware of these dividends and agrees that the purchase is still better than what life would be by not purchasing it (by any registerable degree), it is possible to be happier with a purchase. Of course I swing and miss all the time when buying things, I am just trying to say I don’t think the Hedonic Adaptation theory is all-encompassing to me as it is for others. YMMV.

    This does remind me of a comedy bit by Louis CK where he discusses the first flight he was on when they had wifi and then it didn’t work and some guy was pissed about that and Louis CK was incredulous at this. I think I’m like Louis CK in this regard, I’m still amazed at many things while perhaps many consumers are like the other guy and adapt very quickly and therefore, don’t get as much utility as others out of new things. It is well worth youtubing ‘Louis CK flying’. Just have to keep grounded and realize how lucky we are to live when and where we do (on a global and history of man scale).

    • rjack October 18, 2012, 8:42 am

      In Zen Buddhism, there is a vow that goes “Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to put an end to them.” I think this is what MMM is getting at in his Hedonic Adaption point. We tend to give in to our desires and then find out that having is not as satisfying as we thought it would be.

      I think everyone can agree that some spending (for food, shelter, etc.) lead to happiness. However, there is a low-end shelter (tent, hut, cabin, RV), high-end shelter (mansion), and everything in-between. How much happiness a mansion will bring you over a small home is debatable.

      In short, I think we all need to look at our true Happiness Return On Investement (HROI) before we buy and consume more.

      • Dillon October 18, 2012, 9:14 am

        That’s a fair viewpoint. I know I have desires but I have a vague relative sense how much utility each one would provide on a per dollar or per time basis. Obviously the more you reduce informational asymmetries and the more you research a product, you can narrow in your scope (the variance) and have a better idea of the HROI as you call it and then make a decision to purchase or not. I’m saying you CAN give into your desires and you might be perfectly satisfied with what you bought or your expectations might even be exceeded by reality. It’s just when you do succumb to your desires, be an informed consumer and know what you are getting into and remind yourself what your life would be like had you not consumed that good. If you realize your life isn’t better, then yeah, you goofed in your calculation and that’s fine. Lesson learned and hope the next purchase…….be it an excellent tasting apple, a computer, whatever………you hope your HROI calculator is that much more refined and accurate and that you enjoy your dollar’s worth.

        Like I said, I think the concept of hedonic adaptation may in fact exist a lot of the time when a consumer is looking to purchase something (and hopefully the consumer does NOT buy in that situation) but I don’t think it is as encompassing as the vibe I get from this blog thinks it is. That’s fine, just my two cents.

      • Philip October 18, 2012, 9:01 pm

        I think at the end of the day we’re all looking for that in between balance. For instance, I’m a die-hard baseball fan. My team is the Atlanta Braves but unfortunately I live in Kansas. Now, I make enough money that I could probably go several times a year to games in Atlanta or on the road. My solution, which for me is MMM, was to purchase a nicer, larger flat screen when my previous tv died last Feb, and to suscribe to MLB.com. I now get to watch every single game the Braves play, on a large TV (to include instant replay), drink my own beer, eat my own food, for an entire season (6+ months) for what 1 game in person in Atlanta would have cost. And I can continue that for many yrs. That to me is an excellent return on HROI.

    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 18, 2012, 10:11 am

      That airplane wi-fi thing was a seriously hilarious bit. I think of ethical side of what you are referring to as gratitude. I have some nice shit but I remain extremely grateful that I have it. That changes my relationship to it. You sound like you are still grateful for the capability of your phone, instead of resenting that it is no longer the most advanced (or whatever). Many people are so busy wanting the next thing that they lose their gratitude for the current thing. Big mistake, in my opinion.

    • Jamesqf October 18, 2012, 12:21 pm

      Re Hedonic Adaptation, I think both you and MMM kind of miss a point. Yes, buying stuff can make you happy, but that increase in happiness is never permanent. It tapers off as you become used to the new thing. What you need to do is integrate (math here) the increase in happiness over the time that increase lasts, and divide by the cost.

      If you happen to be one of the mainstream “retail therapy” addicts, that taper is pretty fast, lasting a day or two, or maybe just ’till you get the new stuff home, so your total happiness increment is near zero unless you keep repeating the therapy. If you apply a more considered approach, you can get something – say my near-silent laptop vs the vacuum-cleaner sound of the desktop it replaced – that goes on incrementing happiness for a long time.

    • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 19, 2012, 5:40 pm

      Dillon: Hedonic adaptation is characteristic of all humans; you don’t get to ‘opt out’. :)

      That said, there are mindfulness practices that can reduce its effects. It sounds like you regularly remind yourself what life would be like without your Galaxy S, which is one of the best ways to counteract hedonic adaptation.

      I *adore* that bit of Louis CK’s. “Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy.” I have it bookmarked — enjoy:


      • Jamesqf October 20, 2012, 11:58 am

        “Hedonic adaptation is characteristic of all humans…”

        Is it really? Or is it just a psychological theory that explains some things some of the time?

        Certainly it doesn’t seem to apply to my life experiences. Suppose we rate happiness on a scale from 0 (utter depression) to 100 (ecstasy). So when I was living in an apartment in the city, my base level of happiness would have been averaging about 20 or so. Without changing anything else, I bought a house in the country. Happiness level jumps to say 40, then declines to a new base of 30. So yes, there is an adaptation effect, as the “new” wears off, but there’s also a permanent (well, 10+ years so far) change in the base happiness.

        Same with many other life events (some purchases, some not). There’s the short-term rush/downer due to the change, and possibly also a long-term change to the base. The problem with most consumerist “retail therapy” is that it gives the rush, but no long-term change.

        Indeed, I’d have to say that MMM’s whole philosophy implicitly refutes the HA theory as a complete explanation. We are supposed to become financially independent and retire earlier because that will make us happier than having to work. But according to HA, shouldn’t we expect to go back to our same working happiness level shortly after retirement?

  • David@SkepticFinance October 18, 2012, 7:35 am

    I never thought of how much I’ll make per hour by refinancing my house.

    Let’s see, I refinanced to move from 3.75% to 3.25%, which on my loan balance will save about $3500 over the 8 or so years left to pay it off. It probably took 4 hours of total work on my part from running around and filling out paperwork, so $3500 / 4hrs = $875/hr. Not too shabby :) Anyone know of a part time job making $875/hr?

    • B October 18, 2012, 9:32 am

      You had no closing costs?

      • chad October 18, 2012, 12:01 pm

        I just refinanced my old Wells Fargo loan with a new one taking me from 5.875% to 3.75% and there were no closing costs and no appraisal. I think I paid a couple of hundred dollars in notary and other processing fees. All said we are saving $350 a month.

        • James October 18, 2012, 7:42 pm

          I did the same, went from 5.5% to 3.75% with Wells Fargo last January. Didn’t cost me a single dime, saving hundreds a month as well. Now if I could only sell the house itself I could save some real money… :)

      • David@SkepticFinance October 20, 2012, 11:19 am

        That’s right, no closing costs. I literally paid zero out of pocket except the cost to drive to closing (sorry MMM, I didn’t bike this time). I used a mortgage broker and he offers no closing costs in exchange for a slightly higher rate. In my case I got 3.25% instead of 2.875%.

        It may seem silly to do it that way, but this was I don’t hesitate to refinance when rates drop. I’ve knocked over 2% off my rate in the last 2 years with 3 refis, which saves me about 3k per year in interest.

        • Liz October 22, 2012, 11:20 am

          How did you do that? What program?

        • CrucialDebtCrusher October 24, 2012, 7:55 pm

          Does the mortgage broker negotiate the 0.375% as his own pay?

  • Phoebe October 18, 2012, 7:42 am

    I just wanted to chime in to say that I love these kinds of posts. I worked and scraped and saved to pay off $65K of debt, and now have a small stache of around $250K but I’m getting bored and a little restless. I even start to think about “outsourcing” like all of my colleagues do to have a small team of people manage their lives (nanny, house cleaners, repair people, painters, lawn care, etc.). Luckily I haven’t fallen into this trap yet, and I’m so glad you wrote this article to highlight why it doesn’t make sense to have people perform your maintenance just so you can focus on earning. Thank you!

  • Jesse October 18, 2012, 7:52 am

    One of your least-snarky posts to date — it was quite an enjoyable read. I don’t know what you have against pink bedrooms though.

    Best Quotable:
    “it is usually very profitable to leave your problems around to stare you in the face, than to sweep them under the rug with a broom made of Franklins.”

  • Jason October 18, 2012, 7:56 am

    Two favorite blurbs from the article today:

    “the way to earn the most from your time, is to consider the many ways you can extract value from each moment of your life.”


    “If you un-velcro those Pampers from your brain…”

  • Tamara October 18, 2012, 8:04 am

    We’ve already reached Financial Independence, and yet we still apply these principals to our lives. Even with Financial Independence, possibly even more so actually, there is a finite flow of money, and we don’t wish to waste any of it on stuff, or the said maintenance of stuff, that doesn’t return equivalent value.

    We recently sold our triked-out motorcycle because we weren’t using it frequently enough to justify the considerable upkeep and maintenance it required – insurance, riding equipment upkeep, frequent oil and tire changes and the cost of usage – gas, hotels and restaurants.

    We upgraded our trailer from a folding canvas trailer to a folding hard sided trailer, because that will (is) the focus of our retirement travel. Even still, we went with the simplest, least tricked out trailer we could find, because every single upgrade is simply another piece of stuff to maintain. Ironically, not a single one of our not-yet-financially-independent friends appears to get this. They all think we should have gone with something bigger and fancier, and are constantly giving us advice on what piece of equipment we simply must go out and buy next for our trailer.

    In the meantime, we simply ignore, and continue to enjoy our time on the road.

  • RubeRad October 18, 2012, 8:09 am

    “If you un-velcro those Pampers from your brain…”

    Classic! Another gem for the MMM archive, or dare I say, Legacy!

  • Neal October 18, 2012, 8:10 am

    Great read. Except you definitely should have used the more alliterative “broom made of Benjamin’s” IMHO :D

    I do somewhat agree with Dillon that buying stuff can (in extreme and carefully considered moderation) occasionally lead to an increase in happiness. The smartphone example is an interesting one. I know many people perfectly happy not to own a smartphone, but on the other hand, I believe it is one of the most revolutionary pieces of technology since the personal computer.We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the improvements that technology can bring to our lives (none of them having to do with texting!). Or if you don’t like that one, the computer itself (ultrabook or no), need not be a sacred cow. I’m sure you could live a happy, fulfilled life without one. But at the same time, I can rattle off a hundred ways in which owning a computer makes my life happier (at least indirectly).

    • Uncephalized October 18, 2012, 12:58 pm

      It’s all about the Hamiltons, baby…

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 1:04 pm

      You sound logical, Neal.. but you must go deeper!

      We all love our luxuries and they do seem to make us happier.

      But it is great practice to imagine yourself being able to be even happier WITHOUT those luxuries. Maybe you’re living with a tribe of great friends on a tropical island where it’s all fresh coconuts, fire-grilled fish and plenty of sex. Or maybe some other wholesome fantasy.

      Part of this mental exercise involves reminding yourself that for everything you do on the computer, you give up time that could potentially be used to do something even more enriching.

      Then you might go back and use your computer, and perhaps even enjoy it. But it is critical not to attach a desire for additional happiness, to a desire for more stuff. It takes time, but the connection continues to break over the years of practice.

      • Neal October 18, 2012, 7:28 pm

        I can’t disagree. I suspect I subconsciously want to be talked down from believing that any material possession (of any kind) can possibly increase my happiness. Nevertheless, in matters of happiness (or health), I believe in personal experimentation. As someone who highly values knowledge and social interaction, I see many advantages to a number of technological devices that cost money. This very instant, I am having a stimulating conversation with people that live thousands of miles from me, with no special effort. How amazing is that???

        And yet, how much money am I willing to spend on those devices at the expense of my own financial independence? Well, I suppose that is the key question, after all.

        I guess my take-away here is that even if material things can occasionally increase my personal happiness, I should be mindful of free or inexpensive alternatives that might be equivalently effective. I imagine regularly confronting that possibility is +EV proposition over the long-haul. Besides, we could all do with a little more fire-grilled fish.

  • lurker October 18, 2012, 8:34 am

    have come to the same hour a day of exercise needed for balance conclusion myself over the past year or so….so I get on my bike and haul ass and feel so much better for it.
    I call it the Sacred Hour of Power.
    Oops may have shared too much there but I feel like we are all friends here, right?
    Party on.

    • BonzoGal October 18, 2012, 11:02 am

      “Sacred Hour of Power” FTW.

  • Mex October 18, 2012, 9:16 am

    Really great

    your posts are always inspiring…………
    by the way i’m a reader from Nigeria and a lot of your stuff applies here too.

  • redagain October 18, 2012, 9:27 am

    My maid is the least mustachian expense in my life, but it also eliminated the recurring marital strife of a chore chart and uneven household duties which, as statistics bear out, fall on women.

    I pay my maid $70/week, and that’s for a solid 5 hours of work I do not want to do, and at this point I am not sure I could function without her.

    I’ve often looked at that maid section in my budget and thought it was ripe for a mustache trim, but just can’t do it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 12:23 pm

      Hmm.. sounds like a complainypants comment dressed up in good grammar, don’t you think Mustachians?

      In my house, the household chores fall a bit on the man side, just because I happen to have a lower tolerance for chaos than Mrs. MM. Cleaning this place up is good for the soul. But five hours a week? Maybe you’re keeping it TOO clean!

      • Gypsy Queen October 18, 2012, 2:10 pm

        Rules of my house: whoever gets annoyed first by the mess – cleans it up.
        Naturally, since my “mess tolerance” is much lower than his, I clean more. But it also gives me the priviledge of asking him to clean when I’m too busy, or too tired. (Also, keeping a small, unclattered 1 bedroom house clean is very easy :-))
        But the main reason that we don’t have a maid is simply that we don’t trust anyone which isn’t family around our home and shelter, moving stuff from one place to who knows where (she doesn’t have to steal, it’s enough that her version of “the right place” is different than mine to make things lost). Well – that, and the satisfaction of looking at a tidy home after a “cleaning tornado”…

        • Emmers October 26, 2012, 9:37 am

          Do you think your mess tolerance being lower than his is something that is *completely* unique to each of you? Or do you think there might be something deeper at work?

          I agree firmly with redagain, and I say this as the messy one of my couple.

      • JaneMD October 18, 2012, 2:19 pm

        I think redagain has a point. Everyone has a few things that are too burdensome/time consuming things in their lives that it is worth more to outsource. For $100/month, our housekeeper saved our marriage when I was working over 80h/week as a medical resident and hubby was in law school. We also have a $40/month cleaning bill because there is NO way on earth I am pressing all 25 dress shirts to make them look professional in the law office. My attempts to cut his and my own hair were also total failures – though I am able to highlight my own hair.

        I personally consider some of the services things I pay for as ‘rent.’ I get the benefits a a huge extra room, swimming pool, equipment, cable, and free babysitting at my local gym for $88/month where I attend 4x/week. It also qualifies for our date night as we play jeopardy against each other on the elliptical trainer.

        For me, the key is moderation – do you find yourself paying a housekeeper, a laundress, a caterer, hairdresser, manicurist, room designer, and storage facility for your extra stuff?

        • Marcia October 18, 2012, 3:59 pm

          I know what you mean. We pay a cleaner $75 every two weeks. It is SO not mustachian. I know this. Hey, I canceled cable, right? I can see sometime in the future when I’m not nursing and pumping and washing bottles and pump parts when ill be ready to give that up.

          But for now, most of my free time is Internet time, usually while nursing a baby. Haven’t figured out how to do that and clean. If I had a few extra hours, I’d use them to sleep.

          • Geek October 19, 2012, 11:10 pm

            If someone introduced a “you get annoyed, you clean it up” rule at my house, someone would find himself sleeping alone, out in the car, and looking to rent an apartment. It sounds like your significant others new your tolerance, and made up the rules to suit themselves.

            Regardless of the unequal division of labor in your households, I suspect your houses are too big and you have too much stuff. Hell, my house is too big and I have too much stuff. Cleaning it is less than fun (but I like mowing the little lawn and maintaining our few plants outside).

            Just own it.

        • 7Years October 21, 2012, 7:03 pm

          If you wear dress shirts every day, buy only non-iron dress shirts. Brooks Brothers, Jos A Bank, LL Bean etc. (My favorites are BB and Jos A Bank traveler shirts.)

          You will never use an iron again. I promise. And, even though the purchase price is high, I’ve had BB shirts last me for about 5 years with weekly washes.

          Just throw them in the washer at home, put them in the dryer, take them out and hang them up. Good to go.

          Shop the sales too.

      • Rob Madrid October 19, 2012, 7:44 am

        Well my wife threatened that if I didn’t learn to clean better I was going to be sent back to work to pay for a cleaning lady.

        At this point I’m still undecided what I like lessor:)

      • Hanne van Essen October 19, 2012, 11:36 am

        Reading this blog was the main reason for us to start cleaning our house ourselves, instead of hiring a cleaninglady. This was about half a year ago. Since it has not been always nice or easy to clean the house ourselves. But we got used to it, and also makes me feel like I own the house I live in more. Plus we are doing it as a family together (me, my husband and three kids) every saturday morning, which also makes a good lesson for the kids, and is sometimes even fun.

      • redagain October 20, 2012, 7:41 am

        Maybe. We both make quite a bit more per hour, and my husband works really long hours and “can’t” do chores and “shouldn’t” because he didn’t make the mess, I did with all my grocery shopping and cooking. I try to prioritize time with my kid, and I do not want to mop floors or vacuum or do dishes or change sheets. If you can do those things in two hours, I’d like whatever you are on.

        We have a savings rate of 60%, which is almost mustachian, for my husband’s uncertain job. But I fear that if my husband were laid off, we’d still have this same chore issue. So, if anyone knows how to make men do chores, I’d love to hear it.

        • Emmers October 26, 2012, 9:42 am

          Sweet jesus — you “made the mess” with grocery shopping and cooking, and he “shouldn’t” have to clean it up? Holy skewed priorities and balance, Batman!

          There’s really no way to “make men do chores” – the trick is to marry a man who believes in a fair distribution of labor, and actually puts that belief into practice. (In our house, he cooks, I launder; he rakes, I mow; we both vacuum; and dusting and ironing are not spoken of, because there’s nothing to dust and nothing to iron.)

          I think that, given how you describe your family, the maid service is the best solution — divorce is *way* more expensive (and thus un-Mustachian) than a cleaning service. (Only partly tongue in cheek.)

          Best to you.

          • Indigo Clean August 31, 2015, 2:38 pm

            I’ve been following MMM for a couple of years and funnily enough I actually run a cleaning service in Warwickshire (UK) as part of my path to FIRE. You’d be surprised at the huge range of customers we get. From the but “my family needs it” un-mustachians who book our cleaners despite complaining on FB about how little they earn to the wealthy, retired owners who just don’t see the value in cleaning their homes themselves.

            Luckily I find cleaning quite Zen so I’m happy to do it myself :)

    • James October 18, 2012, 7:46 pm

      Wow, 5 hours per week? What is she doing with all that time? We spend a couple hours every saturday cleaning up our house, the rest is just hit or miss stuff during the week. I agree about the “too clean” idea.

      • Philip October 18, 2012, 9:11 pm

        I have to wonder what all the cleaning entails. If it includes laundry, dishes, dusting, general pick up, vacuuming, ect., I can see where an hr a day is appropriate. For two hrs a day you must live in a SMALL place without children, lol.

        • Geek October 19, 2012, 11:12 pm

          Maybe 30 minutes a day average. Including occasional vaccuums, tub cleaning, toilet cleaning, and everyday kitchen+pickup. And our place is maybe a little too clean, since we’re really picky.

      • Shay October 19, 2012, 9:19 pm

        I also wonder where you find a housekeeper for $14/hour!

      • victoria October 22, 2012, 9:38 am

        My standards are probably wonky (I grew up in a house where my mom spent about 30 hours a week on cleaning tasks, including everyday kitchen cleanup and laundry, and to this day could run a bed and breakfast in her house without changing her routines one iota) but I can’t imagine getting my house clean in five hours a week.

        To keep the laundry done and put away, keep up with the usual kids’ stuff (even when she helps clean it up), clean up the kitchen and dining room after dinner everyday, and then do bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, etc., is in the ballpark of 15 hours a week for us, and I don’t even think the place looks great at the end of that time, not the way a professional could get it.

        And I have to say, I absolutely hate it. Hate it, hate it, HATE it. I know people who find it relaxing and all, but I don’t. We don’t hire it out now, since it wouldn’t be a good move financially and we do have time to do it. But having had a cleaning service before (when I was on bedrest during my pregnancy) and knowing just how nice it is, that is something I would absolutely love to have again.

  • George October 18, 2012, 9:27 am

    Another thing about DIY projects is that they actually are a form of entertainment, although it may not seem so beforehand. Its entertainment that pays you by not having to pay someone else to do it.

    When you are in a project, and designing or improving something, its problem solving, its making the world around you more optimized for your goals or lifestyle. Its your will against physics and reality. When I spend 2 weeks building my own fence, its actually exciting to so the progress as you are working on it. If I am spending my time doing this, I am not spending money, i.e. going to a store or movie for entertainment. Also when seeing that nice finished product, I get a sense of satisfaction that cannot be bought.

    Also, for some reason painting is also a great form of stress relief. While, you are sitting there with a small brush in a quiet room doing the edge work, you think about life and you tend reflect on your life.

  • Liz T October 18, 2012, 9:52 am

    There is an unspoken assumption that we all define happiness the same way, and sometimes it’s confused with pleasure. I see pleasure as a transitory emotion, a reaction to stimuli received via the senses. Happiness is a deeper emotion, a state of mind, not necessarily dependent on external stimuli, but it can be affected by it.

    Purchased objects can cause pleasure, which may or may not permanently affect happiness. If happiness is seriously affected by the acquisition of objects and the momentary jolts of pleasure that provides, then something deeper is missing.

    To me, that’s the heart of Mustachianism: Removing, or at least minimizing, that dependence on purchased objects for happiness, and the infrastructure required to generate the money that dependence requires.

    Too much hard thinking… I need a nap.

    • Neal October 18, 2012, 10:10 am

      Excellent way of putting it and a point well taken. And yet, here we all are posting responses from our personal computers, tablets, or smartphones (much props if anyone is actually at a library reading this!). Are we sacrificing happiness for the short term pleasure of having this conversation? While any attempt to tie happiness to stuff is inherently subjective, I would posit that any “thing” that increases my ability to expand my mind and/or connect with fellow human beings is a “thing” that increases my overall sense of happiness, and thus is a “thing” worth spending money on. This feeling presumes, of course, that I am not going into debt to purchase this “thing.”

      • Liz T October 18, 2012, 11:22 am

        I consider my electronic toys to be tools, and while my happiness isn’t dependent on them, I appreciate that I have them available (and can afford them!) When the aliens come and set off the EMP bomb and all our electronics are useless, it will take me awhile to get used to not having them, but I’d like to believe my overall happiness isn’t dependent on them. Or so I tell myself. ;) Not saying I’ll ever reach that ideal of happiness independent of objects, but I’m working on it.

        • Neal October 18, 2012, 11:46 am

          For sure. I didn’t mean to imply that happiness is dependent on choosing the best things to purchase, nor that a post EMP world would be devoid of happiness (they can take our lives, but they better not take our iphones!). However, a major component of my own happiness is having continual learning opportunities, especially when they help me connect with others and increase my understanding of the human condition (as much as is possible). Thus while there are many fine individuals within walking/biking distance of my home, technology (specifically, information transmission/communications technology) provides opportunities to expand my world in a way that would be impossible post alien invasion.

          Does that mean I will reach higher levels of happiness today than I would have a thousand years ago? Perhaps that’s an impossible question. The key there, I think, is that a thousand years ago, I would not have been aware of what I was missing. You can’t miss what doesn’t exist. Today, knowing that I can interact with people from around the world at the click of a mouse button, I don’t think I could be as happy if I intentionally deprived myself of that opportunity. Not because I like the “stuff” but because I like the social interactions that the stuff facilitates.

          Alternatively, post EMP, the opportunity would be gone, and there is no use crying over spilled milk. I think I would be able to get over it in that case. That’s how I reconcile it, anyway.

          Many people look at gadgets as toys or means to increase productiveness. I see the true power of them as being their ability to help build communities and transmit knowledge with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Acknowledging that gadget-lust is an ever-present danger, I still feel OK holding onto that small vestige of materialism.

          • Jamesqf October 18, 2012, 12:29 pm

            It works both ways. I too would, post-EMP, miss computers and what they make possible, but by the same token, in today’s world I miss having the opportunity to take the horse and a bow, and head out to Green River.

        • Philip October 18, 2012, 9:15 pm

          And that may be the crux of the matter: you choose to look at electronic devices as tools. Some look at them as toys, others as necessities. It’s how one chooses to look at them. It also has to do with what level a tool is. I’m typing on a 7 yr old Dell desktop. It does all I need it do (I admit to having upgrades various parts) because I realize the latest and greatest is generally more than I need. Same applies to transportation. My 10yr old truck gets me from point A to B just as efficiently as a Porsche. A vehicle is simply a tool.

          • JZ October 18, 2012, 9:29 pm

            Yeah, I use a 7yo computer at work. Stuck Bodhi Linux on it for free and it runs faster than a lot of the new computers. I just need the tool, it doesn’t need to be the shiniest and flashiest. Nonetheless, needing the tool leads me to occasionally get newer technologies as they prove their worthiness.

          • Rob Madrid October 19, 2012, 7:48 am

            “My 10yr old truck gets me from point A to B just as efficiently as a Porsche.”

            But how well does it go to the garage?

            this is the number one reason why I traded my 10 year old car in for a almost new one. Do I sink a ton of money into repairs and still have an old car or do I buy a new car which needs no repairs (oddly the insurance wasn’t much more)

            BTW the 20% extra fuel mileage helps too.

            • Mr. Money Mustache October 19, 2012, 9:03 am

              News flash: 10 years is a NEW car. My also-new construction minivan is turning 14 this year. I’ve never had to bring any vehicle I have owned to a mechanic since early 2000. It’s almost always far less costly to keep an old car on the road, than to buy a new one out of fear of repairs. The exception is if fuel efficiency is bad in your “old” car. But the solution to that is selling it, and buying another one of similar age with great fuel efficiency. And most importantly, driving less since maintenance costs rack up by the mile, rather than by the month.

            • Ryan October 19, 2012, 11:55 am

              I believe mythbusters did an episode on this. Their conclusion was that until the frame is too rusted to continue bolting new parts to it, it’s cheaper to fix old cars than to buy new. I’m sure this depends on if/how much you pay for labor.

            • Rob October 20, 2012, 10:47 am

              MMM thanks for commenting but That might be true if you bought the car (nearly) new and it ran problem free for man years, but in my experience my friends who did the old clunker thingy ended broke with cars that didn’t run well.

              On the point of driving less that is something the Wife and I are discussing in our pending move. With a bit of luck we’ll be able to reduce our driving by 3/4 or more, which as you said will save more money than anything

            • Jamesqf October 21, 2012, 10:52 am

              “My also-new construction minivan is turning 14 this year.”

              And it’s a youngster. My still-going-strong Toyota pickup will be 25 next year (or maybe is now, if you consider the way automakers introduce year X models about halfway through the previous year). Only repairs in the maybe 5 years I’ve owned it have been things like wiper blades, battery, and tires.

  • ComplainyPants October 18, 2012, 9:56 am

    I don’t disagree with your logic or reasoning… but I’m going to be a bit of a complainy-pants for a second. The questions and complaints you cited resonate with me because I work 55-60 hours/week, with a total one hour commute/day. The commute is a combination of walking and train. I could bike, but biking eight-miles-each-way would take longer than my current 30 minutes. My day is basically: get up at 5:00am to grab about an hour of exercise, be out the door by 6:30. Get home just shy of 7:00pm: dinner, followed by minimal time playing with and putting to bed my ~2 year old. By then it’s 8:45ish, giving me roughly 45 minutes with my wife before I need to be asleep (in order to get 7.5 hours of rest).

    As we all know, there’s two variables to early-FI: reduced spending and increased earning. I keep these hours for the latter. I’ve calculated my real/actual wage to be about $140/hour, erring on the low side if anything. And that’s using “Your Money or Your Life” accounting, i.e. including my commute time, subtracting all work-related expenses and taxes, etc. My wife is a SAHM.

    Our annual expenses run about $80k/year. That’s not as bad as MMM’s former “middle class” colleagues, but still a far-cry from “kick ass”. Yet, even at that spend level, we save well over 75% of our take-home pay. About 1/3 of that annual outlay is for rent (and once the ‘stache is big enough, we intend to buy our home outright in a much-lower-cost-of-living area). Still, we acknowledge that there are some indulgences in there, generally in the form of time-saving convenience. I would love to do all the hands-on maintenance you talk about. But what little time I have away from work, I feel I owe to my family.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I love the MMM blog. The rub for me is, I’m at the poverty level with regards to *time*. So many frugality concepts (not just here, in general) revolve around using your time instead of money. But money is really just a proxy for time, right? Until FI, money represents some time you gave up for someone else’s ambition.

    Particularly with regards to the DIY maintenance and repair ethic of FIRE: I fully agree, the value of learning these skills is really beyond calculation. But at least for me, I feel like I need to wait until I’m not working so much to develop these skills. If I already had a lot of the requisite knowledge and experience—yes, it would be a no-brainer to DIY. But there is an upfront “tuition” cost to learning these things. I’m the kind of guy who generally has to do something wrong before I can do it right. I don’t feel like I can afford the time commitment right now. I’d feel guilty taking time away from my family, when I could pay someone for these things, and *still* save 75% of my pay.

    Do I get a break or just a face-punch? :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 12:31 pm

      Hey Complainypants. I think you are off to a reasonable start because your savings rate is good. But why not go further? An 8 mile bike ride takes me about 24 minutes. Even a beginner wouldn’t take much more than 30-40 mins, and you get the aerobic portion of your exercise for free, which gives you back an hour. That sounds like a profit to me.

      Later, you can take a look at your weekends and make sure they are coming out the way you want them to. And perhaps even find a way to want less than $80k/year of consumption. But you’re right – in the upper echelons of earning, the math gets a little funny. It’s a good situation to be in, as long as the spending doesn’t tag along for the ride.

      • ComplainyPants October 18, 2012, 3:45 pm

        By the way: are you diverging from the “Your Money or Your Life” suggestion to use your “true” wage to determine when to outsource versus DIY? That is: in my example, according to my true wage, my time is worth $140/hour. So when looking at DIY versus outsourcing, if outsourcing is less than $140/hour, I should outsource, as that would be a more efficient use of my time.

        Of course the problem with the YMOYL analysis is that DIY “pays” more than just the cost avoidance. You’re also learning, gaining knowledge and experience. As I suggested above, it pays in the form of tuition. Perhaps another way to look at it: liken DIY work to an internship or co-op where you may or may not get paid, but the real value is the resume-enhancement.

        On the other hand, built into the rate a professional charges you is not just his time, but also his knowledge and experience (and even his overhead). The handyman that has a 10-year history of doing quality work for many customers can charge more than the guy who’s just starting out, even if they can both do the same job. So maybe a fair way to determine outsource vs DIY is to look at the *highest* possible outsourcing cost. Even if that’s not what you’d actually pay, you can use that as a proxy for what your own time is worth. And from there, you compare that cost to your real wage.

        To circle back around to my original comment. With regards to the bike commute: to be fair, I’ve never attempted it. But Google thinks it would take 50 minutes. I posted to a bike forum where people are familiar with this commute, and they agreed, at least 40 minutes. (For fellow Chicagoans: from roughly 4000 North on Milwaukee Ave to the west loop. Lots of stop signs and lights.) Not to mention, my train pass is $85/month, which works out to just over $1k saved/year—a negligible difference in my savings rate (note that it would cost $400/month in parking alone if I were to drive)… and I glossed over my workout details a bit, I actually sleep in twice a week, because I do pure strength-training, which I wouldn’t want to give up just because I started biking. Also, safety… I agree that bikes are probably statistically safer than cars, but how about compared to commuter trains? :)

        • Philip October 18, 2012, 9:21 pm

          Your train of thought makes good sense. Time vs money. There are many things I’ve paid others to do in recent times because I either don’t have the time or expertise. In 8 months I’ll retire after 28 yrs in the Army and I’ll have the time and opportunity to gain the expertise. That’s when the trade off will occur for me.

        • Jaclyn November 7, 2012, 12:57 pm

          First time I rode my bike to work, I did 10 miles in 50 minutes and I am EXTREMELY lazy and a HUGE cardio complainypants. Also, I second MMM on doing great at saving 75% of your income. But I have to say 80k in expenses seems like a lot and I live in one of the most expensive regions in the U.S. Again, great job, but if you could do even better, the faster you’ll get to FI and the more time you’ll have with your family.

      • Marcia October 18, 2012, 4:05 pm

        That’s how I looked at it. My 10 mile ride, when I was doing it, took me 45 to 50 mins. 41 if I was really hauling ass and got the lights right. I would bike to work, hubby would drive, and I’d drive home and he’d bike.

        So. My commute this way was 46 min in the morning and 13 mins in the evening. 60 mins of commuting and 46 min of exercise and meditation really.

        If I do the gym and drive thing, I would drive to and from the gym, 15 min total, and work out for 40 min. The total there would be 55 min for the gym, plus 26 min for the commute, or 1 hr and 20 mins of my time used for only 40 min of workout.

    • JZ October 18, 2012, 9:48 pm

      There is an issue with the money/time thing, with that being that when peoples time gets short, they often start substituting money for time. But they often layer a lot of such things together at the same time, and it is the entire stack that you have to take into consideration, not just one thing at a time. It isn’t just “I’ll hire a maid”, it’s “I’ll hire a maid, order pizza, get an extra car, buy bottled water to drink on the way, and..” and they’re all stacking up at the same time. At a certain point, it can reach an extreme for a lot of people where they could earn more money by cutting their work hours back.

    • Red October 20, 2012, 4:17 pm

      Umm… you get 45 minutes / day with your wife? Does that go with YMOYL thinking if you’re in a satisfying happy marriage? :|

  • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 18, 2012, 10:15 am

    I suggest cloth diapers for around your brain instead of Pampers. Less cost down the road and better environmentally too.

    Today’s post over on my site is an exercise and chart to help people work through why they really want what they *think* they want, as these things are often not the same. Most MMMers are already doing this, I imagine, but I find that getting all psycho-analysis on what is driving me to want something is a pretty effective way to curtail needless spending and prioritize things like time and family.

    • Dancedancekj October 18, 2012, 11:09 am

      Erica, I just wanted to say that I really like your exercise/chart! I think it is definitely a good way to be mindful about your wants/purchases. I’ve modified it slightly to add a column for “Alternatives/Substitutes” to help me decide whether or not the given “want” is a good way of achieving the goals or feelings I’ve stated.

  • totoro October 18, 2012, 10:23 am

    I really like this article. Self-improvement does pay off imo – waay underrated too. There is some stiff upper lip rationale in our society that promotes the idea that you supposed to keep perservering and working hard even if you are unhappy. Alignment of goals with self sometimes gets lost which costs a lot in stress-related illnesses.

    If you don’t like maintaining you shouldn’t own it? I don’t agree. If you don’t like maintaining figure out a way to have it paid for by the asset or a way to increase your motivation to maintain. Rental properties fulfil this for me. I also dislike car maintenance and don’t want to do it. My work pays mileage for this purpose. Much rather pay someone to do this and get reimbursed than master that skill. I have other skills that I’d like to work on like cooking and home design.

    That said, we have gotten real joy from decluttering and having less. We are becoming more and more ruthless with possessions. Possessions do take your time to manage. I’d rather have the time than 90% of the possessions.

    Hedonic adaptation, yes, it exists I agree for many things, but I do get a lot of joy from a few possessions. I love owning a place to entertain, carry out family life, to improve, and to rent out and gain income from. Things that pay for themselves and appreciate make sense to me. My vacation home does this for me and I really enjoy making it a nice place to be. It does bring me joy. I feel a boost when we are there and that has not changed in four years. Simple aquisition would not do it for me though, it is the whole system of use and motivation for improvement and the fact that it pays for itself that makes it satisfying.

    I think you nailed it in the last paragraph, “the way to earn the most from your time, is to consider the many ways you can extract value from each moment of your life”.

  • att0m October 18, 2012, 10:42 am

    An added plus … when you doing a practical job like painting you can’t be out at the mall buying useless garbage!

  • John October 18, 2012, 11:08 am

    I understand that tasks like tiling floors, painting, basic wood working are jobs that you have ability to do yourself and should, but what other items are worth outsourcing? I would think that tasks that include a certain level of danger (ie cutting down large trees close to homes). At what point does specialization matter? In other words I don’t think anyone on this board advocates performing minor surgery on themselves to remove cysts or defending themselves in court?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 12:39 pm

      Yeah, there are surely some tasks that are still worth outsourcing. But over time, I really enjoy making that list shrink. For example, I do enjoy my own tree trimming and I’d love to learn how to put a good set of stitches into a wound too. Car and computer maintenance are very rewarding too. On the other hand, I do outsource my electricity and gas production, most farming, and any real medical stuff. Plus obviously any manufactured things I buy.

      I think the key is just having a positive attitude towards things. You should never say “I hate doing this chore”, or “I can’t do that”. Those sentiments are just byproducts of not being good enough at something.. yet. And they tend to be self-fulfilling.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 18, 2012, 2:30 pm

        So really it’s a just a question of the values/interest/money/time intersection, isn’t it? I, for example, am “insourcing” quite a bit of my “farming” and would happily take on backyard honey or meat production simply for the challenge of it but have very little interest in learning how to properly sand and refinish a hardwood floor or cut down a big tree. This doesn’t stop me from enjoying our hardwood floors or cursing the neighbors messy and diseased tree. Limited hours + unlimited possible skills to take on = necessary prioritization.

      • Jamesqf October 18, 2012, 3:55 pm

        One way (not the only one, of course) to decide what to outsource is the investment in tools & equipment. You might not want to cut down your own tree if you e.g. have to buy a chainsaw that costs as much or more as the outsourcing, and which you won’t use again until the next tree needs cutting, years later. (By which time the gas you left in it has gummed up the carburetor so it won’t run anyway…)

      • James October 18, 2012, 7:49 pm

        If I make it down to your area in the next year as I hope, I’d love to trade some suture lessons for a bottle of your home made beer… :) I’ll provide the suture and even throw in a few packages of dermabond on the side…

        • plam October 18, 2012, 9:38 pm

          Ha. While I was getting 15 stitches (snow picket!) I asked the ER doc about stitching oneself up. He said that it usually ended poorly. Alcohol consumption was usually a contributing factor.

          • JaneMD October 20, 2012, 9:23 pm

            I’m a doctor and I won’t stitch myself up. Or any of my children. Or my husband. Or anyone outside of the ER. Depending on the injury, site, and the length of time since injury, it may or may not be safe to stitch the wound anyway. It probably would take alot more financial investment than one believes to do your own stitches. I mean, we numb you for a reason . . .

            I do advocate asking doctors why certain tests are being done and what alternatives there are to doing them now, later, or not at all. For example, during my last pregnancy, I failed the 1 hour diabetes screen. My insurance told me I had to spend a whole day at some 1 hour away lab to do a 3 hour screen. I talked with my OB about why I didn’t want to do that. Instead, she drew a hemoglobin A1C and I performed my own 3 hour glucose test with my own glucometer at home. (Passed!) I went on a low carb diet and dutifully recorded my sugars when asked, but we both knew I didn’t have diabetes.

    • Joy October 18, 2012, 1:35 pm

      Years ago we had some large pine trees we wanted cut down.
      They were in the front yard.

      We outsourced. They cut a tree down and, it fell on our house.
      True story.

      Fortunately it only hit the fireplace, no one was hurt. It was a great
      time in the neighborhood as everyone wanted to come over and,
      SEE! :)

    • Emmers October 26, 2012, 9:50 am

      I think there’s a reason “licensed, bonded, and insured” are the bywords in the home-contracting industry…

  • Bob October 18, 2012, 11:38 am

    “But trading too much of your time for money will decrease the value of your money itself…” Reading this sentence, I had an interesting thought: at present, the money I’m earning through my employment, beyond the amount I spend on living expenses, has very little value to me. This is because the things I could currently trade it for (big TV, new car, fancy electronics…) are not particularly appealing. But what little value it has to me now is offset by the enormous value I expect it to have in the future, as my little employees throw off enough income to pay for my living expenses. I will be buying the free time to do whatever I want, which is incredibly valuable.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 4:13 pm

      Definitely, Bob! I have spent over a million dollars (of foregone income) on freedom so far, and it has been worth every penny! And yet, retirement has just begun – seven years down, 70+ to go :-)

  • Van October 18, 2012, 11:51 am

    I think that taking hedonic adaptatiion to the extreme is a perfect justification of the principle. I would argue that the majority of monks are happier with their life than those of us who struggle with our desires for material wealth and freedom. I would agree with the ladies above that much of that has to do with their gratitude towards that which we have been given.

    • Dillon October 18, 2012, 12:21 pm

      I don’t fully understand the use of monks as an extreme. That could be because I don’t know any monks. Are monks happier in general compared to non-monks? I have no idea and don’t know of any studies. Not saying they don’t exist but I have heard of studies that show not being in social isolation and creating kinship/social networks and having a significant other/family/kids can be quite healthy for the mind. I don’t know, maybe monk life just isn’t for me. If an individual has such a vicious struggle with the desire for material wealth and freedom, then maybe the stereotype that I think is being referenced is a legitimate escape for that troubled person. However, this is 2012 and I live a modern country where I have great autonomy. It would take some drastic self-control issues to appear in my life for me to even start to wonder about the life of a monk and how that would be preferable to my own.

      I take it back, I have never met him but I guess I know of the Dalai Lama. He does seem to be pretty happy but then again, he is viewed as a god. I guess if I could be a monk and know that people would think I was the nth incarnation of Buddha or whatever it is, I might consider it. I sure do like having sex though…….

  • ImaFrank October 18, 2012, 12:07 pm

    I am going to quit reading these comments and get off my ass and measure out my cabinets to prep for us routering out our new ikea countertops for the stovetop and sink. I tend to want to read everyone’s input but this post motivated me to quit now – go do something else.

  • hands2work October 18, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I am embarrassed to admit here that I do have a 16 mile car commute. I won’t make excuses, I’m just not as badass as some of you. It is a 16 year old car that has a manual transmission, is very good on gas and reliable. (’96 mazda protege). However I am proud to say I don’t waste one little bit of the time I am on the road. I listen to recorded books, usually non-fiction/biography that I get from the library AND I crochet at the stop lights and traffic jams. Over the years I have made hundreds of baby afghans that I give as gifts and sell for $50 a piece. I can finish one afghan a week. My friends laugh at me but I have the last laugh because I am quite sure I have the most relaxed and enjoyable commutes in the Washington, DC area!!!

    • Marcia October 18, 2012, 4:08 pm

      I was about to wonder how you crocheted at traffic jams, then I saw you live in DC. I used to rent in crystal city. Had a mile walk to work.

    • Rob Madrid October 19, 2012, 11:46 am

      @ hands2work

      what about repairs? I had to get rid of my 10 year old Mazda Diesel at 145,000 k (180,000 miles) due to over heating problems.

      BTW great way to make a commute pay for it’s self!!!!

    • CrucialDebtCrusher October 24, 2012, 7:39 pm

      Are you able to ride a bike? If you can, you may think it’s hard in concept but you can work up to it.

      Metro buses have racks on the front, you can slowly increase the distance you ride to work for a buck and change versus the cost of wear on your car, plus $3.50-$4.15 gas, plus $7-$20 parking D.C. will drain you of daily.

      If you take a bike trail, the entire time you get to look at scenery and get exercise in peace away from the frustration of traffic. You get to see those overpasses on 66 and 495 from a blissful bird’s eye view. You get home earlier, you’ve exercised, and you’ve saved $10-$23 in gas and parking (God forbid you get a ticket for parking in a zone for too long!) plus the .50/mile wear and tear at $15/day. $25-$38 per day, $125-$190 per week you could have in your pocket.

  • Cynthia October 18, 2012, 1:30 pm

    I am interested on your thoughts on bartering?
    What if I want someone else to paint my bedroom in return for helping them with another project.
    Have I found the perfect solution to avoiding the task I don’t like or, am I missing something entirely?

    • totoro October 18, 2012, 2:15 pm

      How do you go about organizing a bartering system? How would you find people with services to trade? I like the idea.

      • JZ October 18, 2012, 9:54 pm

        Well, first you have to get out and talk to people around you. This is harder now than it was way back in the day, though not impossible: the other people around you tend to jump in their car and go zooming off, and not want to talk to people because they’re expecting to move to a better paying job soon anyways.

      • MsSindy October 21, 2012, 1:14 pm

        @totoro – For bartering, look up Time Banks. We have one in our community and it is a great way to exchange volunteer time. For example, if you helped another member by helping them to paint their fence, sort through their closet of junk, move, or whatever, you record the amount of hours and put them in your ‘bank’. Then, when you need someone to dog sit, drive you to the airport, or teach you Spanish, you put a request out there and someone volunteers their time. The more active you are, the more you build trust and community.
        There are a limited number of special cases that don’t need to contribute hours such as older people or those who are ill, they get to make ‘withdrawls’ with no deposits.
        Even if you don’t think you have any skills, they always need people to help set up for fundraisers or just general labor skills. There’s often requests to borrow things, too – like floor jacks to change tires. It’s really a great concept.

    • Gypsy Queen October 18, 2012, 2:24 pm

      What your’e missing is the feeling of achievement – the “I can do whatever I want, need or must” potent, self reliant feeling.
      My method – do it (and do it well) at least once – just to prove that you can. Afterward, if you really don’t like it – outsorce, barter, whatever. Youv’e earned the right.

      • Philip October 18, 2012, 9:32 pm

        The problem with that train of thought is there are some out there (myself included) that might not get any satisfaction or self fullfillment from completing a task e.g. I’m happy that cleaned out my own septic tank.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 4:16 pm

      I DO love bartering. What you may lose in generalization of skills, you gain in building bonds of friendship and trust among people you know. Because it takes a closer connection to do successful barter than it takes to exchange cash in a retail or professional environment.

  • sockmunkee October 18, 2012, 1:46 pm

    Are those truffula trees being destroyed by a smartphone-powered robot?

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 9, 2012, 8:44 pm

      Why yes, that IS what is happening in the cover image.. thanks for noticing!

      That robot was part of the daily “whiteboard war” I have with my boy. We divide the board in half, each draw a powerful robot, base, or animal, and the rules invariably morph in such a way that his destroys mine.

  • addieforshort October 18, 2012, 1:51 pm

    One word that comes to mind after reading this post is “wisdom”. There are plenty of smart people in the world, but few with the kind of wisdom you’re dishing out. I really enjoy reading your blog and keep pushing my siblings (who all have far more earning potential than this lowly artist does) to read it too. So far, the youngest one has been following, and I think he’s on his way to Badassity. I feel pretty bad ass myself, biking and walking around, always striving to live with less. Thanks for taking the time to write these posts, Mr. MM.

  • peter October 18, 2012, 2:03 pm

    A great point that you just touched on in #4 is: When you do something yourself you are paying yourself an after tax salary!

    Any time you hire a service you are paying with after tax dollars, taxed at your marginal rate.

    If your marginal tax rate is 40%, are you actually paying that painter $15/hour?
    He’s making $25/hour of YOUR salary. Add in the cost of commute and everything else work related that you wouldn’t have to pay if you weren’t working, and even if you’re making $35/hour at your job. It’s still worth it not to pay the painter.
    Add in all the other physical/experiential benefits from DIY you mentioned, and you can bump your own salary up to 45-50/hour before breaking even!

    So maybe…MAYBE if you are some super genius making 60+/hour, then it MIGHT be worth paying that painter 15 to do your walls. Otherwise, do it yourself.

  • Tara October 18, 2012, 2:46 pm

    Another awesome post – it took me a long time to understand that buying stuff would not make me happy, but now that I finally got it through my thick skull, I am finally able to save over 60% of my income and foresee a day when I can reduce my work hours and do the things I really want to do because I have reduced my expenses down to the minimum. After years of stupid spending, I am finally debt-free and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a great feeling! Reading your posts helps me get even further along the badassity road.

  • Matt October 18, 2012, 2:53 pm

    “Remember Hedonic Adaptation – It’s Hard to Believe, but Buying Shit Doesn’t Make You Happier… The bottom line is that no matter what you buy, you’ll soon adapt to the new level of luxury and be no happier than where you were before.”

    This is a mantra I believe to be true and am increasingly trying to embrace. Since learning about FIRE/ERE/MMM less than a year ago, I have made many deliberate decisions to curb my spending. The “low hanging fruit” was the easiest to shed: shopping at Whole Foods, buying lots of “toys” (computer and stereo equipment), eating out too often, etc. Now I’m slowly working on the “harder” changes, the ones that will move me from Frugality 101 to Kick-Ass.

    But I’m afraid it might also cause me to grow apart from one or more of my close friends. One friend in particular is exceedingly wealthy (seven figure post-tax income, probably in the 0.1%). Until recently, he’s been too busy working to spend much money (an “accidental Mustachian”). But now he’s semi burned-out with work, and has started going in the opposite direction that I have—that is, spending more on luxuries. I have another friend who is not not nearly as wealthy, but is doing quite well. And he looks to the first friend as a role model, and wants the same things (and is burying himself in work trying to achieve it).

    There’s no jealousy or hard feelings or anything like that; these are people whose friendship I still value tremendously. I’m confident they feel the same; we all still greatly enjoy each other’s company. But I can’t help but worry that there’s a rift forming, like maybe our lives are changing directions.

    If you find yourself in the middle of a great conversation with your close friends, take a step back and listen to the exchange. What are you doing? You’re relating to each other, sharing your experiences, your challenges, your problems, your successes. How does one who deliberately chooses a life of frugality and minimal consumption relate to someone who increasingly embraces a life of consumerist luxury?

    At a deeper level, I think that shared values are the foundation of good friendships. What happens when values change? More and more, I value quality time with my family and finding happiness without spending money (MMM’s “new fanciness”). But it seems like my friends are increasingly valuing luxury cars and laser hair removal and personal trainers and bigger houses and more exclusive vacations (“old school fanciness”?). I don’t want to drift away from my friends, but I’m certainly not going to spend to keep up with them. And it’s not like they are pressuring me to spend or would ever deliberately exclude me from something. But there will simply be more instances where the “spend divide” (my spin on “wealth divide”) will have an impact.

    • MsSindy October 19, 2012, 6:46 am

      @Matt – There is something romantic about having a close friend forever – some are lucky and their goals, visions, political views, etc., remain fairly constant that they are able to maintain this close friendship; but more often than not, people grow and change into different people than they were in high school or their early twenties. I guess what I’m saying is that close friendships come and go through-out your long life. It is hard to let go, but it makes room for the next one.
      Where this gets more complicated is with marriage. My DH has not embraced mustachianism, but because it is a marriage that should not “come-and-go” we have worked through our dividing viewpoints and met in the middle where we are both happy. Friendship doesn’t always have the same motivated parties, so sometimes you just have to let go. It does suck, though.

  • Spork October 18, 2012, 3:49 pm

    A corollary sum-up of 4, 5 and 6: Doing stuff myself makes me happy. I can literally sit and stare at something I’ve done “adequately” and smile. Making something out of nothing or making something that works out of a broken thing makes my day.

    I actually negotiated this into the house we built… forcing the builder to offload simpler tasks onto me. He was REALLY not thrilled with the idea, but admitted later (when it was done) that I had surprised him. Certainly his subcontractors might have done a more skilled job… but my job made me happier. …and cost less.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 4:23 pm

      So true, Spork. In my own house, almost every room has some major feature that I’ve done by myself over the six years of living here so far. A wood floor here, or a tiled shower, or a new window, shelves, lighting features, studio building in the back yard, etc. I just built a tiled shelf ledge in the basement staircase this afternoon (future vegetable-growing area).

      I get to contemplate these things every day, remembering every moment of their construction, and it is very satisfying. Each one feels like a little art project to me (even if the beauty is in the eye of the beholder in some cases ;-))

  • MJ October 18, 2012, 5:11 pm

    I consider time the most valuable commodity that we have, and the awesome thing is that we all have exactly the same allocation. I have chosen to give away my time, as a regular volunteer for the ICU in our local hospital and in a local public school. Those hours are my happiest, perhaps providing me with the best roi of all. I wonder where that fits on the MMM checklist.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 18, 2012, 5:59 pm

      Good point MJ! I spent the morning in the elementary school today too, and it was a pretty kickass experience as always. As with all my articles, this one is incomplete and can surely be improved. But the imperfection jut means I get to write more stuff in the future to try again, which is part of the fun.

      • MJ October 18, 2012, 7:27 pm

        I was asking sincerely, for all I knew, being new to your site, giving away time would be a MMM no-no. I hope that you will write more on this subject.

        btw: My experience today in the elementary school was more ass-kicking(mine) than kick-ass….those kids have so much energy; there was a special activity involving more than 100 kids! But I wouldn’t trade it for the world because you are right, it is kick-ass to have the privilege to be there.

        • Neal October 18, 2012, 7:40 pm

          Being a MMM newbie myself, I see giving time away more as a natural result of living the MMM lifestyle. The point (as I see it) is to make money (or perhaps more accurately, compensation) an unimportant factor when deciding how to spend your time.

          I find this interesting because my career is in volunteer administration and a major problem in that industry is a perception by management that we are a relatively unimportant department. Yet, as you just mentioned, time is the one currency in which we all possess equal wealth. There is no donation I consider more valuable.

    • Philip October 18, 2012, 9:38 pm

      I plan on giving my time away in the not too distant future. I’m retiring from the Army after 28 yrs and with proper planning have no debt. My late in life blessing, Olivia, will be starting kindergarten next fall and I plan on being a classroom Dad. I’ll also be volunteering at the VA and my church. While I don’t have an enormous portfolio, my retirement income is more than adequete to keep me from a 9 to 5 for the rest of my life if I choose.

  • Shawn October 18, 2012, 5:13 pm

    Hey MMM, Thank You for writing this

  • Jawisco October 18, 2012, 5:59 pm

    Great Post and I agree with the other poster that there is a lot of wisdom here…

    One way that I motivate myself to learn new skills is I try to think of it like compound interest – the more skills I aquire, the better I am able to do everything in the future…and just like compounding interest, it pays to start young.

  • MrKistic October 18, 2012, 9:34 pm

    Very interesting. As an efficient IT consultant who currently has yellow walls left in my house and who also wrote to you last week regarding the arguments of DIY vs. hiring contractors, it certainly is quite the coincidence that this week you write on this very subject! I don’t know why anyone would want to change pink walls but I can tell you my yellow walls are fairly puke worthy.

    I certainly agree with your points in general, but I think it’s worth noting a point you touched on in the article about prioritisation and enjoyment. I’ve already done plenty of painting in my house. In fact I’ve taken care of plastering, rebuilding, rewiring, plumbing, stripping, sanding, painting, rendering and the like. My first call is always DIY and only when I really can’t do it myself do I hire someone in. But frankly, I find that the prospect of the remaining stripping and painting required… horrendous. Given that I’ve got plenty of other tasks that I’m working on and happy to learn them too, I don’t see that it’s completely wrong to consider getting in a painter to take care of the bulk of the remaining work. I can paint, and I will in future but right now… meh. (Pretty sure that comment will get me a MMM face punch – so be it)

    I do still rely on part time IT work so in fact it’s also important to keep my IT badassity honed. Plus, I really enjoy it! So if I can spend the time working to pay the painter and also get to work with some sweet new technologies, I reckon that’s okay. As you say: “Improving yourself through education and learning skills will increase the market value of your services.”

    In the meantime I can get plenty of physical activity and fulfilment on other tasks like changing the gear box in my car, landscaping the garden, finishing building my garden shed, finishing my driveway gate and the like. In fact, the sun is out now so I have no idea why I’m still at my keyboard… there’s lawn to mow!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 19, 2012, 9:13 am

      You’re the guy, MrKistic!

      Indeed, the Efficient IT Consultant in this article was inspired by your letter to me.

      In this post, I tried to lay out the reasons that I’d still do all my own painting in your situation. Just as a means of slowing life down and getting one thing done at a time. But I can see that you too are very thoughtful in deciding how to use your own time, and you are definitely not suffering from Consumer Sucka’ disease. So I will not add your address to my list of places to mail spring-loaded boxing gloves. Happy ‘stashing!

  • George October 19, 2012, 12:36 am

    Speaking of DIY, how about cooking? We used to eat out all the time a few years ago but now we are down to once a week.

    Also since its fall and the squash is in season, MMM we made your Thai curry and coconut butternut squash soup twice already. The second time I even added the toasted coconut flakes which makes it taste so much better, it gives it a sweet crunchy texture that goes well with the soup.

    We are making the recipe again this weekend since it appears to be a hit with the family. For the 3rd time, I even found the ever mysterious kaffir lime leaves at the store and will be adding those in too.

  • Joe October 19, 2012, 1:30 am

    Combining points one and six:

    Buying new stuff makes you happy…for a short time. There are good things in life that make you happy for a long time: relationships, skills, lifestyle modification. This life-infrastructure can’t be bought, and requires investment of time.

    But people discount future rewards. The hedonic reward of life improvement is huge over a lifetime, but seems tiny when hit by a multiplier that falls off (for example) exponentially with time. Dollar for dollar, a new video game or ultrabook has a much lower subjective reward over the course of a life, but it’s all front-loaded into that early window that our value function emphasizes.

    Couple tangents: Maybe primitive people are happier in part because they don’t store their work into large reserves of a fungible resources that they can lever on a whim into wasteful purchases; every large economic exchange would have to be carefully planned in advance, putting those life-improving projects on equal footing with frivolous waste. Second, I’d like an Amazon membership tier where everything gets to me in 60 days instead of 2-14.

  • Joy October 19, 2012, 6:12 am

    If your purchases have a true purpose in your life, the happiness
    continues as long as the purpose remains.
    Now, the thrill of the purchase may fade. But, the happiness goes on.

    This is true in relationships too. That is why we have the word
    “Honeymoon.” :)

    Many crave the euphoria of new relationships, just as others crave
    the thrill of new purchases. However, there is a cost involved in both
    of these activities. Realizing the cost before engaging in these activities
    can save one from debt and, pain.

  • slashandz October 19, 2012, 6:51 am

    A week ago I wrote in with concern that I wasn’t making enough income to apply your blog’s ideals. From what I can tell, the comment was deleted (and rightfully so – it was phrased in a very complainy-pants way).

    I had honestly nearly given up when you suddenly post this fantastic motivation for people with lesser incomes like me. I don’t know if I had anything to do with the creation of this post, but I do want to thank you.

    Thanks Mr. Money Mustache!
    I sincerely hope you continue to write articles like this in the future. :)

  • Long October 19, 2012, 9:02 am

    Because I work a full-time job, I’ve always put a premium on my free time. Since I have the option of having spare time to do other things to improve my life or work overtime, I price my free time at my overtime rate. Because of that, I think there is a peak, or plateau, on how much working more will pay off.

    If you take the time to chart the difference between the value of working more and the value of your free time, you’ll find that at some point it will cross over. That should be your deciding factor on when work no longer pays off.

    I see so many people at my place of employment working multiple 16 hour days and then spend at least another 1.5 hours commuting to pay for a lifestyle that they say is worth it. It’s kind of sick how their spending habits perpetuate their lifestyle. I feel bad for their families because they end up spending more time at work than anywhere else.

  • Edward October 19, 2012, 10:19 am

    I’m not sure I fully understand the “I make x amount at my profession, therefore my time is *always* worth $50/hour, therefore it’s cheaper in the long run if I pay someone else to do it.”

    Heck, I have a good salary, but I ain’t payin’ no maid $70 to clean up my mess. …And if you are, please give me that money and I’ll come over to your place and do it in my free time! Does Saturday work? Money is money, and if I’m not doing anything anyway, I’ll take the $14 an hour. Whether yours or I’m saving by just doing something myself.

    By the same logic, somebody had tossed a handful of about 6 pennies in the parking lot. I was with my brother and (of course) I swooped them all up. It took less than two seconds–what’s that? A rate of about $108/hour? I guess we’re similar because he said, “I can’t believe you saw those first.” :-)

    If someone who hires a maid spends 15 minutes browsing a grocery flyer and finds a total savings of $5 for a few of their regular items, they could argue that the time spent equates $20/hour. Not as much as their regular pay rate, so not worth doing again? …All these little “I get paid more for my time” arguments don’t make much sense to me because it adds up to huge bucks.

  • BC October 19, 2012, 10:44 am

    Agree with 1-5. On #6 my materialist tendencies are tempered by consciously and deliberately feeing Gratitude numerous times per day. For instance every time I open the fridge I am grateful. When I pick my son up at preschool I pause to take in the scene of him with his friends and his wonderful teachers. And I’m also grateful for my health, my family, and my job. It makes me more mindful of the what I already have but it also applies to new purchases, experiences, et cetera. I’m now grateful that my three year old computer is holding up well but when the time comes to replace it I’ll be grateful for the new shiny one too!

  • Noel October 19, 2012, 11:25 am

    #5 is so right on (as are the rest of your points). After buying our house a little over a year ago, I thought to myself at first, Wow, home improvements are expensive. We’re really going to have to slow down to make sure we don’t bankrupt ourselves on this stuff. Then it quickly became apparent after I had my garage full of insulation for two months that was meant for the attic that the real limiting factor on my home improvements was my time. Every time I want to run down to Home Depot and buy everything I would need for some project, I tell myself that I can do that after I have completed the projects for which materials were already purchased and sitting around the house. Now our home improvement expenditures are much more manageable. All I have to do now is kick it in gear and get some more of it done.

  • Monevator October 19, 2012, 3:54 pm

    A fast-evolving rule of mine is becoming “If you don’t like buying it, you shouldn’t be buying it”.

    I hate buying stuff, and I’m amazed some (most?) people consider it entertainment.

    Shopping for anything more than groceries in real-life is an appalling waste of time, and full of endless hassles, risk of personal confrontations with grumpy shoppers, queues, and embarrassments around changing rooms. Thank goodness for the Internet.

    Worse, half the stuff I buy when I do buy doesn’t work. Maintaining it? I’d be happy to have it working from day one. (Latest exhibit — super fast broadband that one upgrade and a few weeks later is still only running at half speed, necessitating endless emails and phone calls). Hate it!

  • Neil Gussman October 19, 2012, 4:24 pm

    Even the bikes multiply. I have two carbon fiber race bikes, a tandem (I have six kids), a single speed I rode in Iraq, a folding bike for riding to and from the train–AMTRAK does not allow full-size bikes, and a Surly travel bike.
    So your carbon fiber bike only cost $2400?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 20, 2012, 5:07 pm

      No, no.. I would never own a $2400 bike! I’m not even IN the Tour de France, let alone expected to be a top-10 finisher!

      I do have a fairly nice road bike that I got for free when a tenant abandoned it on one of my rental houses. It might have been worth $600 new, and I still can barely justify owning it, since I already have a city commuter bike that is fine for riding the 30 miles roundtrip to Boulder. But yet I keep it, and it has a couple thousand miles on it, and I occasionally have to punch myself in the face for maintaining such a ridiculously overmaterialistic and luxurious lifestyle.

      • Rob Madrid October 21, 2012, 12:21 am

        just curious but does the same rule apply to buying tools since you like to “do it yourself”. That is buying cheap or free rather than quality. My Dad always bought quality, my father in law always price.

        Of course with bikes my wife and I are at opposite ends, I bought her a beautiful custom built Bike Friday folding bike (less than 2400 though), me on the other hand went with a el cheapo folding from Decathalon, 149 Euros, but I did have to upgrade the seat.

        Funny thing is I’ve ridden both and am very happy with the cheap one, cheap parts were made up by great engineering.

        • Neil Gussman October 22, 2012, 11:41 am

          Actually, I have a $375 Dahon folding bike I bought from Performance that I use to commute to and from the train–2 miles at each end. It’s OK for 8 miles on the commute. Folders used to cost more. No problems after a year of riding.

      • Neil Gussman October 22, 2012, 9:40 am

        MMM–I race bikes so I have two Trek carbon race bikes that cost more than $3,000 each. I keep a spreadsheet of training miles and also of broken bones, operations and hospital stays–many from bike crashes, one from cheap component failure–a shattered collarbone from a snapped crank. I drive an 11-yr-old Chevy with 152k miles, but ride the bike equivalent of BMW. My wife is Miser-Mom. She is planning to do an Ironman in 2015. She will need a bike that will be good for the 5000+ miles per year she will have to ride to train for that. I want her on the best tires and wheels and drivetrain. Did you ever think about racing?


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