Mustache on the Move: Wintering in Hawaii


Dear Boss,

This is to inform you that an opportunity has come up for me to spend the next seven weeks in Hawaii, and thus performance of my regular work duties will become spotty and unpredictable during this time.

Mr. Money Mustache

I’ve been keeping this a secret from you for a while, but since my plane is leaving in less than a week, I thought I should let you know. Here’s what happened:

Almost a year ago, I published an article summing up the end of The Foreclosure Project, a fun series of posts where I described some adventures fixing up a rental house in my neighborhood with a friend. At the end of it, I wrote a little shout-out to look for future projects, which contained this sentence: “Or perhaps you have a house in Hawaii that needs attention during the winter season?”.

That invitation ended up catching the eye of several residents of our country’s finest volcanic island chain, and some neat projects were discussed. Recently, the perfect one came up, I accepted it, and it has been in intense planning ever since. So here’s what’s going on:

In a few days, I’m heading to the Denver airport, alone, with a suitcase full of tools. A direct flight will get me to Honolulu, where I will meet an adventurous MMM reader for the first time. Together, we’ll head across the mountains to the small town of Kailua, and immediately start destroying portions of the expensive house he and his wife just bought.

The goal is to convert a 200-square-foot area near the back corner of this house, into a small but luxurious vacation rental suite, complete with kitchenette and bathroom. A separate entrance and a new soundproof wall will add to the usefulness of the suite. This will allow them to offset a large portion of the home’s cost of ownership, while sacrificing only a small part of their living space.

It’s all being done with full approval of Hawaii’s stringent building inspection department, which is adding several monkey wrenches to the project. On top of that, we’re doing things in Mustachian fashion with minimal outside help, materials sourced from Craigslist where possible, and borrowed tools when available. But we’ll get it done, and done right.

So for the first 2.5 weeks, I’m planning to work like an insane nuclear-powered robot, to complete as much as possible of the suite with my new friend, effectively creating a cozy new sleeping environment for myself. As many hours as my body will allow, with breaks only for food and sleep… which happens to be my favorite way to do construction.

Of course, the fact that I’m living in a beautiful tropical island setting will not be lost on me – there should be some spare time to run around the place with bare feet, drink fancy beverages on the edge of volcano craters which overlook the ocean sunsets, and all that stuff. But mostly it will be hard work at first, with urgent reports to you whenever enlightening life lessons happen to materialize from the experience.

At this point in the vacation, Mrs. and Junior ‘Stash will touch down and join us for another month, where we’ll enjoy the newly-built digs and live like locals, just a short walk from one of the nicest beaches on the island.  Hiking, biking, sports in the waves,  and general exploring will ensue.

If it all goes as planned, we’ll come out of it with a new respect and knowlege of O’ahu, a warm set of lifetime memories, and some new friends as well. All for the cost of only a few discount plane tickets.

So until we return on January 13th, you might see a bit less action from me on this blog. And the posts you do see will feature decidedly more lush background scenery. But the list of draft posts is longer than ever, and the need to write them for you continues to intensify. So don’t forget this URL just yet.

Meanwhile, if you happen to live on the island and want to meet up, get in touch! Gatherings would be welcomed and I’d like to learn as much as I can about living in Hawaii. With sufficient tempting, we just might never leave. In the worst case, we’ll get home to the Rocky Mountains just in time for a quick snowboarding trip before the rays of springtime start to shine around here again.

Have a great time in your own winter adventures, and let’s keep in touch.

  • Paularado November 19, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Because you mentioned soundproofing…..Blue cotton insulation is awesome for soundproofing (made from recycled blue jeans!) and they make specialized sound proofing caulk. We used both in the walls of our home due to it’s open floorplan and high ceilings. We also did two layers of drywall. Good luck with your project.

  • Jessica November 20, 2012, 1:07 am

    My very frugal sister lives in Honolulu and loves it! Her yearly income is very low but she eats really well on the cheap and bikes all over the place!

  • Dave S November 20, 2012, 4:43 am

    That sounds awesome. This totally redefines being retired. It a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of life!

  • Matt November 20, 2012, 7:45 am

    It seems having construction or associated skills is very mustachian. You’ll never have to look far for work if you need it, and you can work where you want, says me stuck behind my desk :(

  • Mike November 20, 2012, 8:37 am

    Sounds like a great idea! We have just moved down to Devon, a rural area of the UK and we are planning to turn our garage into a holiday let apartment next year.
    If any other Mustachians have any ideas or suggestions – or would like to come and help – drop me a line!

  • JaneMD November 20, 2012, 8:49 am

    Lol, you are now a snowbird! Perhaps you should check out a retirement community while you are there. Your family’s presence will certainly drop the average age of the group by 10 years!

  • Aaron November 20, 2012, 10:45 am

    Don’t forget, you still need to report taxes on this exchange of services. Kind of ridiculous if you ask me.



    Bartering is an exchange of property or services. You must include in your income, at the time received, the fair market value of property or services you receive in bartering. If you exchange services with another person and you both have agreed ahead of time on the value of the services, that value will be accepted as fair market value unless the value can be shown to be otherwise. “

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 20, 2012, 6:26 pm

      True, true. I will check on the applicable numbers, but it is a bit odd in this case: We’re helping some friends build some stuff, while staying in their house – not in a finished vacation rental, mind you, but in a construction site. So the value of the accommodations would be pretty low. And of course, if you are valuing accommodations as pay, you’d have to deduct all travel expenses as a business expense, right down to meals and airport transfers. It would result in a net tax deduction, rather than taxable income, by my reckoning. The IRS might not be happy that you presented this information to me :-)

      Similarly, every time anyone stays with friends or family, and helps them out with something during the visit, it could technically be considered taxable barter. The amount of pointless tax paperwork would crush our country!

      • George November 20, 2012, 7:12 pm

        Realistically, the IRS will not give a crap about your barter trip, it will probably cost them more in wages to pay an employee to do an audit and look at the paperwork than they would get out of any additional tax revenue.

        The taxable barter rules are on the books most likely to prevent someone from gaming the system on a large scale. For example, image two large corporations coming up with some agreement to barter with each other to avoid paying millions in taxes. This is the reason these rules exist.

        Alternatively, the IRS may care about it if you are someone who is doing the work exchange for room barter all the time during the year, i.e. you were doing 100k+ in work for 100k+ in housing, then it may fall on their radar screens.

        There are some other more humorous rules they have too, i.e. if you rob a bank or sell illegal drugs, they ask that you report that income and pay taxes on it
        (under Myth Number Four: Illegal activity is not taxable)

  • jlcollinsnh November 20, 2012, 12:12 pm

    well, Damn!

    I no sooner return, today, from my little Ecuadorian escapade than you up and head to Hawaii. Bien viaje, amigo.

  • Tony November 20, 2012, 3:16 pm

    What an awesome adventure! I am sure you will miss your kids for a bit, of course. If you have a chance to check out the Symphony there you will not be disappointed! Good luck!

  • Chad November 20, 2012, 3:59 pm

    What’d you pay for airfare, MMM?

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 20, 2012, 6:14 pm

      The tickets were about $700 each (roundtrip, direct Denver to Honolulu). Still a sizable chunk of change!.. but if I had been motivated to rent out our house for the month when it will be empty, that would pay for all three tickets. We definitely would have done this if cashflow were a major consideration at this time. Maybe I should have done it anyway.. lazy man.

      • Chad November 20, 2012, 8:39 pm

        You’re certainly not lazy, my friend. But note well: I’ve just booked a trip to Hawaii with four free tickets using the chase sapphire card. They give a pretty substantial bonus for signing up, so we got one for me and one for the mrs. Then we turned those points into united points, thereby adding them to the united points that we got by signing up for a couple of united cards. That’s about $3200 worth of tickets from my location in the midwest! All because we signed up for four charge cards.

      • Jan November 29, 2012, 6:42 pm

        Just for future… Fly to Vegas and then take Hawaiian over. Prices are usually less and the trip is much nicer.

  • Dividend Mantra November 20, 2012, 6:52 pm

    Have a great time MMM! Totally jealous of you right now.

    Never been to Hawaii, but I strongly considered moving there before I finally settled on making Florida my permanent home. The lower cost of living was the main factor in that decision.

    Hawaii seems beautiful. It’s definitely a place I’d love to see sooner rather than later.

    Enjoy yourself! Well deserved.

    Best wishes.

  • frugalscholar November 20, 2012, 7:05 pm

    I was in Hawaii (Maui) about 12 years ago–for 2 weeks–so take my comment with a grain of salt. Yes, rents, property, food–all sky high. Yet there are many countercultural/surfers/marginally employed types there–that’s because after the food and rent, almost everything that makes Hawaii wonderful is free: the beauty, the weather, the water. It even smells good–you’ll notice when you get off the plane.

  • Nords November 20, 2012, 7:21 pm

    For those of you waxing nostalgic about Maui’s hikes into Haleakala Crater (or for those who are planning one), here’s some photos:

  • Christi November 20, 2012, 10:18 pm

    My family of 6 just moved from So Cal to Kailua this summer. We love it! My husband works from home now and the kids ride their bikes to school; a complete lifestyle flip. We have a 9 yo old boy if your son is close to that age and wants someone to hang with. We know a couple awesome local hikes too. We would love to join you all for a meet up. We need some “real” locals to give us frugal grocery tips!

  • Andy November 21, 2012, 12:50 pm

    I live over on the other side, in Honolulu, and would also love to do a meetup with other folks in the area. Maybe a beach potluck?

    • C November 21, 2012, 10:11 pm

      I’m in Honolulu too, yes let’s do a beach potluck! Sounds like we have critical mass….

    • Mac November 22, 2012, 7:05 pm

      Seconded, I’m also in Honolulu. It would be awesome to meet other fellow Oahu mustachians!

  • hands2work November 21, 2012, 1:01 pm

    You Da Man!!!

  • Jennifer November 27, 2012, 11:33 am

    I just set up a topic in the forum for a Hawaii holiday meet-up to welcome MMM/family to the island. Let’s set something up! I’d love to meet fellow Mustachians in Hawaii – I’m a Kailua girl, been here 3.5 years. It sure is tough to be Mustachian in Hawaii but I’m proud of us for sticking it out! Go to the post in the forum under Meet-ups and Social Events.

  • TomTX September 3, 2013, 5:07 pm

    I’m going to have to re-read all of this, as we will be going to Hawai’i – in November/December. Not 7 weeks, but close to two.

    Well, when a sibling chooses a destination wedding, you decline because of the cost, new baby…. and they offer to pay for the airfare and 4 nights around the wedding itself… plans changed.

    Not that I have much in the way of “plans” yet, other than having a week free after the wedding before we fly back. Never been there, don’t know where to stay, what to see/do (Lava? Observatory? Awesome tropical forests and beaches? Tropical fruits from random backyard trees?)

    I’m now here near the carpenter that Mr. Money Moustache is ;)


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