A Peak Life is Lived Off-Peak

campsiteOne of the key Principles of Mustachianism is that any and all lineups, queues, and other sardine-like collections of humans must be viewed with the squinty eyes of skepticism.

Paradoxically enough, I have found that if so many people simultaneously decide to do something that they are forced to stand or drive in a queue to do it, there’s a good chance it is something that is not worth doing.

How can I dismiss the desires of the millions of line-waiting humans as just wasteful folly? It is because in our natural state, we are supposed to be a diverse and individualistic species. At any given moment, you might choose to be walking in the woods while I’m at home cooking some dinner. Later, we might get together with some of our other friends for a party on my back patio, but we would not expect everyone else in town to suddenly mob into the yard as we did that. If we turned around and saw a lineup of people stretching around the block, we’d know something fishy was afoot.

So the sort of mass behavior that causes lineups tends to occur only in special situations:

  • When there is some central authority planning or advertising it
  • When herd mentality has taken over, turning People into Sheeple

Marketing causes crowds of people to want each new Apple phone on its release day, so those suckers end up in the silly all-night lineups you hear about every year. Black Friday sales are a similar phenomenon.  The 9-5 workday, (combined with poor choices of home and work locations) causes hordes of people to want to drive cars just before nine and just after five every weekday. And thus, these people end up in lines as well.

Herd mentality also makes certain people love certain bands and sports teams, for no better reason than the fact that they are already popular with other people. And thus they line up to get tickets and parking spaces at the crowded stadiums.

Knowing all this, it should not surprise you to learn that as a general policy, Mr. Money Mustache Does Not Do Lineups.

If I’m planning a car trip through a big city, I’ll plan around the rush hour traffic jams, no matter what. Back where I grew up, some of the biggest traffic jams on Earth would form on a daily basis across the megacity of Toronto. To traverse that expanse, you need to plow through over 60 miles of the sixteen-lane-wide highway 401, a road so busy that the daily traffic jam lasts about 18 hours. The only sane conditions are found between 10:00PM and 4:00AM – and so that is when I make my stealthy crossing.

In Colorado, the ski resorts have become so popular that a spectacular lineup forms around each lift chair. A 500-person mob of people waiting and shuffling instead of skiing and snowboarding, is your reward for trying to visit one of these places on the weekend. On top of that, the traffic jam that forms on Interstate 70 on weekend afternoons can turn a one-hour descent back down from the mountains into a six-hour ordeal. But if you stop by on a Tuesday, both conditions are cured.

As a lifelong music-lover, I love to go out and see live music as well.  But this doesn’t mean staying up all night to buy tickets for a sold-out arena to hear the world’s biggest pop stars repeat their radio hits. The best music experience for me is seeing insanely talented young musicians play the music they just invented,  in a small venue, where you can shake their hands, say thanks, and buy a T-shirt and an old-school CD from them directly after the show.

And during my recent stay in downtown Las Vegas, I found people queuing up for everything, with no apparent benefit to themselves. There are lines to get drinks at the bars. Lines to check into the hotels. Lines of cars everywhere. Lines waiting for the elevators that extend almost to the doorway to the empty staircases.

It’s all a bunch of nonsense. As explained in last summer’s post about reaching the top 5%, most people spend most of their time doing what everyone else does, without giving it much thought. And thus, it is usually very profitable to avoid doing what everyone else is doing.

On the trip, we did a little experiment: Mrs. MM and I wanted to get away for a few minutes. So we decided to go down to the hotel lobby and get some fancy coffees at the Starbucks, which we would sit peacefully together to enjoy. Already I can see your eyebrows raising, but try to stay calm and remember this is just an experiment.

When we got to the coffee stand, I was dismayed to see that everyone else had had the same idea. There was a line of at least 10 people snaking out from the cash register, including two formidably proportioned gentlemen sitting on electric scooters and towing life support equipment. My first instinct was to chuckle out a few new curses towards the overcrowded venue and keep walking. But we persisted.

After sufficient waiting, we finally earned the privilege of forking over $8.11 for two grande lattes. This is roughly the same amount I normally pay for two pounds of organic fair-trade espresso beans at Costco, which makes over 100 cups of fancy coffee at the MMM Homebrew Cafe, but again, we wanted to see what everyone else likes to do. The cafe tables were all full and people were awkwardly leaning on the noisy slot machines or enduring the Beyonce-blaring lobby nearby in order to drink their coffee.

At last, we decided to end the experiment, satisfied that the behavior of the masses was not for us. We found a quiet-looking staircase and walked up three flights to an abandoned conference center area. There was nothing to buy up here, and no automatic conveyances to carry your body here, and thus it was completely empty. We sat down on a comfortable little couch and drank our incredibly pricey coffees with no sounds beyond those of our own conversing voices. It was blissful.

Other parts of the vacation reinforced this pattern: In Moab, Utah, we usually stay in one of the little campgrounds in the canyon along the Colorado river. This year, I was surprised to find them all full, and we had to give up our first two nights of camping and stay at a hotel instead.

The hotel manager informed me that we picked one of the peak times to be in Moab – an event called “Jeep Week”. In this tragic comedy of an event, people from all over the country tow their ridiculous motorized La-Z-Boys with knobby tires from the comfort of their enormous 20,000 pound motorized RV homes. Once in Moab, they detach the smaller recliners and sit in them, pressing pedals and burning gas to bump around on the red rocks for a while. All apparently oblivious to the Muscle over Motor principle, which explains that greater fun could be had by simply riding a 25-pound mountain bike on the same trail.

To get back to the point, by unwittingly arriving at this peak time, the MMM family ruined its own fun and missed out on two nights of camping, because the campgrounds were full.

Although we tried our best to obey the Off-Peak principle, we also made another major stumble: touring the Hoover Dam. To understand the error, check out this quote directly from the visitor’s brochure:

“Although several modern dams are higher, wider, and produce more electricity, the Hoover Dam remains the most popular for visitors, hosting millions of visitors every year”.

Translation: “We have no idea why so many people are lining up to tour this old thing, but shit, we’ll keep taking the money if you keep giving it to us”.  

The pamphlet went on to explain that the popularity is continually reinforced by major movies that feature action at the Hoover Dam as part of their plots (Superman 1 being my favorite).

Sure enough, we took the tour, and it was over an hour of lineups and crowding just to see a turbine room briefly and hear a guide squawk out a few memorized facts. There was even a lineup to get into the parking garage.

Meanwhile, a much better experience can be had with no waiting: park in one of the free pullouts on the Arizona side of the dam. Hike down the hill and walk over the entire length of the dam to explore the stunning scene with your own eyes. Then hike back up and climb another 200 feet, to the astounding new Colorado River Bridge (built between 2005 and 2010), where you are so high that the dam looks like a little toy in the canyon far below you.

You can use this general principle to end up with a better life in all areas. If you find any part of your life subject to overcrowding, consider whether there is another way it can be handled. Crowded roads are eliminated by biking, replanning, or even moving. Crowds at Disneyland and National Parks are avoided by visiting areas where there is no RV parking or gift shops. Crowding at venues is eliminated by being a producer of entertainment, food, sports, or music, rather than just a consumer of it. Lineups at shopping malls are easily avoided by not going to shopping malls.

The off-peak life works perfectly for working people, since it frees up some of your limited time and money. And it takes on a new dimension once you gain the flexibility to escape the 9-5 work schedule. Suddenly you can do everything when everyone else is at work, from renting vacation homes down to visiting the grocery store. This saves you even more, and frees your mind from some of the overhead of dealing with constant crowding.

So from now on, if you ever find yourself amid a crowd of running sheep, just turn around and run the other way.

It can take a bit of dodging at first, but it’s worth it for the much better view.

  • Joe April 8, 2013, 9:51 am

    I hate waiting in line too. If it’s too busy, I usually just leave and come back another time. I just feel like it’s such a waste of time to be stuck somewhere.
    Rush hour traffic is the pit. It’s great that I don’t have to deal with it anymore. Whenever I’m stuck going somewhere near rush hour (3pm), I feel so glad I don’t have to do it on a regular basis.
    As for traveling, we like the shoulder season too. Everything is a little cheaper and it’s not as busy.

  • The Floman April 8, 2013, 9:53 am

    Really bummed out I didn’t get the chance to meet you in person on Thursday Mr. MM. I manage two casinos on the Strip and I was planning on giving you and Mrs MM a couple of comps when I met you at the park. The plan was to pick up my father at 3pm and walk with him for an hour or two and then find you guys at 5. Unfortunately my father passed away from a sudden and unexpected heart attack at 11:30 Thursday morning. I found your website about a month ago and have been reading it like a book from the beginning. I’m only up to July of 2011 right now but I wanted to thank you for all the free financial info you provide I’m definitely going to need it moving forward with helping my mother. Please let me know the next time you’re heading to Vegas so I can meet you and give you that comp I’d love to talk with you I feel we share a lot of similar views. Stay frugal my friend.

    • Snow White April 8, 2013, 5:30 pm

      Floman, my deepest condolences on the unexpected death of your father.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2013, 6:07 pm

      Man, sorry to hear that Floman. I’ll definitely look you up next time.

  • Ms. Must-stash April 8, 2013, 10:22 am

    And you know what else is really fun? Each additional year I am on this planet, I care less and less about what I think of as “pretending to be normal.” At this point I don’t care enough to pretend to be like those crowds of “normal” people who simply must all do the same things at the same times.

  • ShavenLlama April 8, 2013, 10:51 am

    We went out to visit Arches around Thanksgiving one year. The park was full and every hotel in Moab was sold out. We were told about some B&B out someplace where we MIGHT be able to score a room for about $250/ night.

    So instead, we got out the ol’ atlas and saw that there was a little town named Green River a little further up the highway. We got a room for a reasonable rate, had dinner at a local restaurant, and went to the “club” (bar in any other part of the country) across the road and met some of the weirdest locals and generally had the best night of crappy 4.2 beers and karaoke. When the bar kicked us out, we followed one of the locals to her shift at the truck stop next door where she filled us up with pies and ice cream.

    You just don’t have that kind of fun when you follow the crowds to the tourist spots.

    • GregK April 8, 2013, 12:05 pm

      Bingo. I’ve had these kinds of experiences all over the world. You don’t even have to go very far off the beaten-to-death path to have an actually-authentic experience.

  • ultrarunner April 8, 2013, 11:28 am

    I-70 is why I stopped skiing. The “dick around factor” wasn’t worth it. I was spending more time in the car than on my skis.

    Once I am FI and retired, I may take it up again on a limited basis. (It’s still a bit too expensive to my new frugal lifestyle… though Eldora is fairly reasonable and accessible by RTD, even if the snow is a bit janky most of the time)

  • Lina April 8, 2013, 11:46 am

    I hate waiting in a queue. I use internet extensively to avoid waiting in lines. You can often book tickets at museum at advance. Groceryshopping by internet is also really nice. Otherwise shopping early in the morning or one hour before the store closes is also fine as well as using the self-service.

    Pretty often you can buy tickets in advance to different functions by using internet. Less lines. By prebooking bus tickets and train tickets you avoid the queues. Same goes for doing you check in for your flight at home or on you way to the airport. If you have luggage you have to print out the tags but otherwise you can walk directly to the security checks so mostly I adapt my luggage so that I don’t need to check it in.

  • KB April 8, 2013, 11:49 am

    MMM, you are a very insightful and talented writer! I try to go against the herd but sometimes I look around and feel like I’m the only one which I guess is good. I have made many herd mistakes in the past – one memorable one was going to to Disney World during March break because I didn’t want the kids to miss school. I’m embarrassed to say how long we waited to go on the Toy Story ride, so I won’t say! :-0

  • GregK April 8, 2013, 11:53 am

    Great post — I try to live my life as off-peak as possible, and HATE when I am forced to or accidentally stray from this path.

    My girlfriend and I are going to Paris (to visit family) and then Portugal in June. We found a direct flight from Toronto to Paris and then from Lisbon back to Toronto for under $600pp. That is unheard of in the summer! How? The different arrival/departure cities helps (using either city for both would have cost more; just a benefit of being unusual), we’re leaving on a weird day and coming back on a weird day, and we’re not going in July or August, which could easily end up costing twice the price. We’ll also save tons of money while we’re there by not staying in Overpriced Hotels, and eschewing major cities for the most part, opting instead for the gorgeous and less-frequented countryside, and tiny coastal towns. We’ll have more fun, spend less money, meet real people (instead of just tourism-focused salespeople), and generally have a more authentic experience.

    I cannot for the life of me understand people who flock to über-crowded places for vacations. Cancun is my nightmare. There are gorgeous, safe places very close by that will cost less money and have infinitely fewer idiots to deal with. Examples like this abound.

    • LoboDasMoedas April 8, 2013, 4:07 pm

      Hi GregK, saw your post here about visiting Portugal, and since this is a frugal blog (The Frugality Blog :) ) here’s a small tip for you when arriving and departing from the Lisbon Airport, do not take a Cab or a Bus to go into the city centre. Use the subway, it’s about 25 meters from the airport exit, and much cheaper than the other options. It’s 1,40€ per person +0,50€ for the rechargeable ticket card.
      For that price you won’t even be able to enter a cab, much less go into the city center :) As for travel time, for 20-25 minutes will take you almost everywhere on the subway line.

      • GregK April 10, 2013, 5:40 am

        Muito obrigado, Lobo! I ALWAYS tell people going to Paris to take the RER to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport. It doesn’t take any longer, and if I remember correctly it costs 9,10€ (Paris is expensive, and CDG is fairly far from city center). Still way less than a taxi! I’m very glad to hear there’s a similar option in Lisbon.

        Por que você é um lobo? Desculpa; meu Português não é bom…

        • LoboDasMoedas April 12, 2013, 4:35 am

          Hei Greg,

          The Lobo is just because I really like wolves :)

          Oh and I forgot to tell before, that the ticket itself is refundable (the card) you can return it at a clerk in the subway to get back the 0,50€ it cost :)

          • GregK April 12, 2013, 9:04 am

            Awesome — I love how mindful Europeans are of recycling and reusing things.

  • Sean April 8, 2013, 12:14 pm

    One of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes:

    “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  • Pretired Nick April 8, 2013, 12:19 pm

    I could not agree more!! When I was working I always did a 7-4 shift to not only avoid traffic, but even better, to avoid all the 9 am arrivals at work! Even now I’ll work hard to schedule any errand to avoid crowds.

  • WageSlave April 8, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I once volunteered at a fundraising event. Within the event were lots of random activities for people; practically all activities had a line. Two activities were too close together in space, and people kept getting confused as to which line they should be in. So as volunteers, we were asking people standing in line, “Which event are you waiting for?” Based on their answer, we’d direct them to move or stay put, to ensure they were queued up for the right activity.

    One couple couldn’t even answer our question: they didn’t even know which activity they wanted to do. In fact, they didn’t even know what the line was for, only that there was a line, so they thought they should go stand in it! Pure herd mentality right there.

    Before all the recent upgrades to the MMM website, there was at times a virtual line to consume the latest content. :)

    • GregK April 8, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Haha ZING!

    • InDifferentCircumflexes April 10, 2013, 4:59 pm

      SOP in the East Block before the liberation:

      If you saw a queue, you lined up in it – then you asked the person in front of you what the queue was for…

      (And whenever people ventured out of the house, they brought a couple of carrying bags (of the old-fashioned net variety) with them, just in case they came across something for sale. Even if they didn’t want it, they could use it for barter to get what they wanted…)

  • No Name Guy April 8, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Speaking of National Parks, crowds, etc: I hiked through Yosmite on the PCT during the 4th of July weekend several years ago. Heading north from where the trail crossed the road near Touloume Meadows, it was an absolute zoo at the road and parking area. Tourons everywhere. Heading up the trail, for about the first 1/4 to 1/2 a mile – again, tons of tourons waddling along clutching a small water bottle. After about a mile, it was amazing – the number of tourons had dropped by about a factor of 10 versus the parking lot and the first 1/4 mile of the trail. Of course, being Yosmite on a holiday weekend, there were still lots of ’em around, but clearly the herd had been thinned by the distance. Within 5 miles, call it Glen Aulin, there was hardly a touroun to be found – and mind you, those were easy miles. The sad thing is that all those tourons were missing some of the best that Yosmite had to offer by staying within that narrow strip close to the road.

    • L'Enginieuresse April 9, 2013, 9:08 pm

      Tourons, lol.

  • Tyler April 8, 2013, 12:43 pm

    I dislike peak times as well. My favorite example is that we go to the beach here in South Carolina usually in late September or early October. There are no crowds because everyone is in school or working. The weather is still nice enough to enjoy the water and the sun.

  • Nick @ AYoungPro.com April 8, 2013, 1:19 pm

    As always a wonderful post MMM. I think you would be very satisfied to listen to the song “Long Line of Cars” by the band Cake.

  • Dee18 April 8, 2013, 1:26 pm

    I am so looking forward to being off the school vacation schedule when my daughter graduates in two years. Until high school, I went ahead and just took out of class for vacations but now they really cover so much in a week that doesn’t work. I have found the best time to travel in the US and Central America is the week after Thanksgiving. The first full week of January is also great.

  • ultrarunner April 8, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Nice shot of I-70 going into the San Rafael Swell.

    Next time, if you want solitude and cool stuff w/o the crazy Moab crowd, there’s PLENTY in the Swell. Take a left turn just before that spot the photo was taken and head towards Hanksville. Slot canyons (family friendly and hardcore), hiking, mt biking, big vistas, and very few people. I can recommend a few things worth seeing next time you go, drop me a line (assuming you can see my email address as an admin).

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2013, 5:58 pm

      Thanks Ultra! I have always wanted to stop and play in that area.. 100 miles from nowhere, completely empty, and yet one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in my life. We did get out and hike to the top of a little hill to look around everyone found it quite amazing.

  • Doug April 8, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Wow, this is a topic I can really relate to. Mr. Mustache said: we are supposed to be a diverse and individualistic species. I don’t know if that’s true or not, as I’ve heard the idea that we live in an individualistic society, but personally I don’t believe one word of it. If you are really individualistic, you’ll stand out as odd in a society of conformists.

    Many of the comments made here I can really relate to, such as Darrow who said: There must be something about frugality and financial independence that doesn’t mix with crowds. I instinctively avoid them too. From the original posting and comments I’ve read, many people are drawn to crowds. By contrast, I move on when a place gets too crowded and find a quieter place. The same rule applies to investments, when most people are raving about how great an investment is (tech stocks in 2000, real estate, precious metals), it’s time to take your profits and move on to something that’s largely ignored and cheap. That would be stocks in general during the dips in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and now uranium, potash and natural gas stocks. Emerging markets, commodities, and energy stocks and funds are getting cheaper these days.

  • John@MoneyPrinciple April 8, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Great principles – but what if you have kids?

    Our schools force you into queues! We hate queues as much as the next family but in the UK everyone has to take holidays at more or less the same time. Even weekends can be a nightmare!

    Taking kids out of school during term time is really frowned upon and the stupid timetables give lots of useless half term days!

  • Sara April 8, 2013, 2:55 pm

    There is 1 queue no woman will ever avoid – the queue for the ladies (aka toilet, Washroom, conveniences.. fill in local term)!!

  • Oelsen April 8, 2013, 4:30 pm

    +1 for the traffic and mall tip. We live about 400m away from a little mall (by US standards), but it is almost empty at morning hours or after 19:00. We avoid Friday evening and Saturday after 11:00. We almost never wait at the checkout.

    The downside of this strategy, when omitting the faster train e.g. which is there faster and costs only a few percent more, the slower option is filled with plebs that can’t behave. So sometimes it is indeed better for the nerves to have a well behaved crowd, than to share a room with a loud few for an hour or two. But this is the exception, though.

    A huge saver is to book off season in well connected and developed destinations. Everything there what you need, but less tourists. Going to ski resorts in summer works sometimes.

  • Jeremy @ Go Curry Cracker! April 8, 2013, 4:31 pm

    A few years ago my wife and I lived in Taipei, Taiwan. In a city of 6+ million people, waiting in lines was something that couldn’t always be avoided.

    In Taiwan, movie tickets have assigned seating, and you can buy them online. This doesn’t prevent large lines from forming outside the theaters. Arriving early doesn’t get you a better seat. Ticket kiosks mean no lines are required for buying or printing tickets. People still wait in lines as part of the “movie experience”

    On another occasion, we passed a line that stretched around the corner of a block. We asked a few people what they were waiting in line for, and they didn’t know! They just saw a line, figured something interesting must be at the end of it, and joined in. This form of entertainment is seemingly practiced by people in large cities around the world :)

  • 25 Hour Human April 8, 2013, 6:58 pm

    This is a great post! One of the best “off-peak” experiences I’ve had was camping at a popular local park (Pace Bend, near Austin, TX) over Thanksgiving with a few friends. We called ahead to make sure the park was open, and they said yes, but they wouldn’t give us a straight answer about how crowded it might be.

    That turned out to be because they didn’t know! There wasn’t even anyone there to collect our $10/vehicle entry fee – we posted up, had a great little camping trip, and didn’t see another soul all weekend. Off-peak indeed!

  • Kevin Watts @Graduatingfromdebt April 8, 2013, 7:16 pm

    Good post. I hate waiting in lines and being stuck in traffic but I always try to look at the bright side of things. If I am stuck in traffic I can always listen to a great book that I am reading that makes the drive a lot better and productive. If I am waiting in line I might chat up the cute waiting next to me to see there is any opportunity there :)

  • stellamarina April 8, 2013, 7:59 pm

    I like to travel in off peak times of the year. Spring and Fall. However, I have recently realized that there are more and more people traveling at this time of the year. Why? Because we have all the baby boomers starting to retire now and more and more of them are doing their travel in the shoulder seasons.

  • LeRainDrop April 8, 2013, 8:09 pm

    And how in the world are you supposed to avoid the long line at the DMV? Ah, yes, MMM’s old friend, the bike ;-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2013, 8:36 pm

      Don’t they have online license plate renewal where you live? I only need to visit that place to register a new used car, which is hopefully less than every ten years..

      • Erik Y April 8, 2013, 9:31 pm

        Making an appointment helps at the DMV, but I don’t know if this service is offered anywhere outside of California.

  • cj April 8, 2013, 8:17 pm

    We love Austin, but this post makes me ponder SXSW because we live in Houston and we’d like to have a few nights in Austin on spring break. That is now impossible due to the crowds associated with SXSW.

    On the other hand, we find ourselves less and less in lines these days. In fact, we are often alone or with a few others in restaurants or bars. Far from lonely, it is peaceful and we always get the dart boards.

  • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle April 8, 2013, 9:09 pm

    I can’t believe how many people save their shopping for Saturdays when the shelves are well stocked and the aisles are empty on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I understand it is hard to drag yourself out again after a long day at work but the relaxed shopping atmosphere is worth the trip.

    I work shifts and sometimes I have to shop on Saturdays but the closer you get to the supper hour the quieter the stores are.

    My time is extremely valuable to me and I won’t waste it fighting traffic or standing in a line up. Why wait until Friday night to stand in a big line at the Beer Store when they have the same beer for the same price on Monday nights when you are driving past the store on your way home from work?

    • Double D April 29, 2013, 4:52 pm

      Because if I buy beer on Monday, it’s gone by Tuesday…

  • racherin April 9, 2013, 2:43 am

    We use this principle all the time. Living in Italy for the moment, there is no true off-peak time in some places, as different countries seem to come at different times of the year, but it is still worth avoiding times when Americans tend to travel – the summer. For example, everyone says how expensive Venice is, but both times I’ve been there I stayed in some of the cheapest accommodations I’ve ever found in Italy, once a hostel and once a two bed-room apartment right in the center. We mostly bought our food at the grocery store, and when we did go out we knew how to spot the restaurants that mostly serve locals – also one of our cheapest meals traveling around Italy.

    Avoiding crowds doesn’t always work here, though, because personal space and privacy are more of a luxury. The best places to eat, for example, are usually tiny and hence crowded.

    I’ve been amazed to learn how narrow the crowded track really is, even in very popular and famous destinations.

  • C40 April 9, 2013, 9:29 am

    1 – nice post

    2 – You’re being a bit hypocritical.
    A- Why are you drinking all this coffee? Are you addicted to caffeine? Are you drinking coffee just because it is popular? Either way, drug addictions or sheep behavior are serious problems.
    B – Why are you going to Las Vegas in the first place? (One of the most popular vacation destinations, and not really for any good reason). Gambling addiction? Just because other people go?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 9, 2013, 9:37 am

      1. Thanks!

      2A – You are right, I do have a habit of drinking coffee almost every day and have an article brewing on whether or not this is a good idea.

      2B – Las Vegas was just one stop in our circuit of the amazing canyons and rivers of the Southwest. We added that stop so I could show my son the Hoover dam and other crazy sights, because it is warm and sunny, because nice hotels are cheap on weekdays, and to take the chance to meet some of the blog readers. But it was more crowded than I expected, so I won’t be returning to downtown or the strip (although other peripheral areas are very nice). I’ve never gambled or bought a lottery ticket anywhere, of course – why place a wager when you already know the odds are against you?

      • C40 April 9, 2013, 4:38 pm

        2B – It is a pretty cool area once you get outside of town (for those not used to deserts or the big river lakes before the dams).

        If you didn’t while you were there, (or for anyone else going to the area soon) it’s cool to check out river a bit upstream of the dam (Lake Mead).

        My buddy and I were driving out to check out Hoover dam once a few years ago. There was quite a lot of traffic, so we pulled off and just checked out the lake and hung out there for a while. I think we had more fun doing that than we would’ve at the dam (and this is for two engineers)

  • Edward April 9, 2013, 11:44 am

    I spent my time to earn my money so I will *not* spend time to spend my money unless it is exactly what I wish to be doing with my time.

    The easiest thing I’ve learned? I walk away. The line at the A&W taking too long, people can’t decide what they want, the back of the counter severely understaffed, the orders wrong, people getting frustrated? Walk away. Queue at the grocery store insanely long with no hope in sight? That’s not my problem. I put down the basket and walk away. Don’t need frustration to get a few cucumbers. The subway overpacked, risk a broken collarbone trying to fight my way in. No thanks, man. I’ll wait for the next one. Opting out of the game is the most powerful thing you can do for yourself.

    • L'Enginieuresse April 9, 2013, 2:25 pm

      Yes Edward! This is the same feeling I have towards bidding wars on houses too.

  • L'Enginieuresse April 9, 2013, 2:22 pm

    To a point.

    My husband has the opposite view – he looks at what everyone is doing, because someone else has sussed out the bargains and good buys. For example, everyone’s got toilet paper in their shopping cart, it must be on sale – saving money on this unavoidable purchase is a good thing! He actually pays attention to what the herd has in their shopping carts.

    Toyota is a popular car maker known for quality. I’ve never owned one, but I can rely on the opinion of the herd because the herd has done the homework for me.

    Line-ups at Second Cup – on the one hand, it IS like an experience being marketed to you, but I also like the coffee, much more so than Tim Horton’s, so it’s a draw there.

    Travelling: summer peak times are unavoidable with kids, but our oldest is in kindergarten, so we’re travelling in June. She won’t miss that much at this grade level, no exams to worry about (lol, could you imagine?).

    Commuting: I used to do 10-6, to avoid the traffic. Now even 6 pm is no good on the 401. Going to work is ok, it’s the evening drive that’s brutal, especially on Thursdays. I haven’t driven the 401 home in a few years, instead I do a combination major streets with less traffic.

    Herd. Sheeple. Have you been reading Garth Turner?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 9, 2013, 4:46 pm

      Regarding the Toyota observation – small cars and especially efficient 4-cylinder manual transmission hatchbacks are really rare in the US… while the Ford F-150 pickup truck is the best-selling vehicle, despite the fact that “Farmer in a remote, snowy region without paved roads who needs to pull 10,000lb trailers” is a relatively rare occupation in this country. So clearly following the herd won’t get you ahead in this case.. because the herd is a bunch of people who watch 4 hours of TV and commercials per day.

      On the other hand, if your ‘herd’ is the Mustachians in this blog’s forum section (a highly educated and thoughtful group), you could definitely end up making great choices by following along. MNVO mobile phones, Vanguard investments, 40MPG cars, bikes, etc.

      • L'Enginieuresse April 10, 2013, 7:01 pm

        I thought the Honda Civic was the most popular vehicle, so I’m surprised at the F-150 is the top vehicle. That’s not the herd I’d follow. Quick googling confirmed the same for Canada. (Hate it, takes up more than its fair share of parking space. It’s like being aggressive with your vehicle, which you can get away with versus personally being aggressive). Although they could also be purchased by businesses, other models are also purchased for business, so I can’t see the business purchases skewing the results that significantly. Perhaps the herd varies geographically, or varies by profession or education, as I see only one annoying large F-150 in the parking lot at work.

        Perhaps my husband just inherently pays more attention to Mustachian qualities in certain herds. In the po’ ass country where he’s from, he watches what other people are buying. People don’t have much discretionary income there, so when they are buying, it must be a deal of some kind… or a fad or status purchase, you have to distinguish that on your own, can’t follow blindly, it’s not a 100% thing.

        It is good to watch what the herd is doing in the markets, and in general, do the opposite. Speaking of markets, we may have some Vanguard in our portfolio.

      • Doug April 12, 2013, 11:24 am

        What’s odd about that is hardly a day goes by I don’t hear someone bellyaching about how tough times are with higher fuel prices and stagnating incomes, yet trucks are big sellers these days. If times were really that tough there would be very few trucks sold, and only to persons or businesses that really NEED them. Everyone else would be driving small 4 cylinder econo cars, and driving them a lot slower on the highway to save fuel.

        If periodically the need arises to haul a lot of stuff around, why buy a truck if a trailer will do the job? It’s far cheaper that way. I recall posting a comment about trailers rather than trucks earlier this year.

  • Alicia April 9, 2013, 3:43 pm

    We live in the Orlando Area and are fortunate enough to have free access to the Walt Disney World Resort as a perk of employment. We refuse to go to the parks during peak season. If any line is longer than 15 minutes, it is hardly worth the wait.

    It is our free fun. We have even gotten into the habit of bringing food and drink with us to not spend money in the parks. We are the pros at doing Disney for free/almost free.

    I was there this morning actually…went to see the Festival of the Lion King with my dad. But had there been a line…we would have just walked around and people watched :)

  • Chipamogli April 9, 2013, 3:48 pm

    Somehow I think I changed over the years… I was okay with waiting in line before (it was mandatory at university for anything like the copiers or getting a student ID card).
    At my current job, I have coworkers who commute 2.5 hours each way.. vs a 25 minute bike ride for me.. I feel so spoiled. I know I couldn’t do what they are doing.

  • JCamasto April 9, 2013, 10:19 pm

    Our multi-generational family gathers at my parent’s “summer” house in MI for the 4th of July. We all hail from the Chicago area, and must endure frustrating & dangerous holiday traffic on the slog up – and then an overcrowded and noisy lake when we arrive.

    We simply opted to pick/vote for the weekend before or after the 4th, and call it our 4th of July. Quicker, quieter, safer, saner, efficient and effective. No one arrives spent from traffic woes, absolutely requiring a drink – instead we enjoy a drink!

    My wife & I plant a tent in the back yard so we aren’t packed into my P’s small house with siblings kids, and their guests – sleeping on fold-out beds (torture devices), couches, or wherever. We gain some welcomed privacy, as well. The tent idea is catching on. Each family plans & prepares a meal for the whole bunch – dishes are cleaned communally.

  • Kerry April 10, 2013, 4:00 am

    I once saw a huge line up – they were all waiting at least an hour for a free bottle of coke!

  • Gloria April 10, 2013, 4:34 am

    This post seems timely. Yesterday was Ben and Jerry’s free cone day. I made a point of riding by on my bike on my way home from volunteering at the hospital (something I have time to do with ER).

    Yesterday was an early warm day here in Boston and it was interesting to see a lengthy line snaking around the store with a guaranteed 30 minute wait for a $3.50 ice cream cone.

  • Daryl April 10, 2013, 8:00 am

    Another great post! Great advice — works in business too.

    When my business partner and I started our engineering consulting firm 25 years ago, the “experts” told to pursue defense business (like everyone else.) Instead, we decided to pursue the emerging commercial business. When the inevitable defense slump occurred, the experts were starving while we were thriving.

    One of those experts told us we *must* have commercial space. Instead, we set up home offices. Cost less and the commute is great. Incidentally, the office expert was soon out of business.

    We call this “going where the others ain’t.” Thanks for another thoughtful post!

  • Laura @ Frugal Newlyweds April 10, 2013, 10:08 am

    I used to go to Walmart once a week for groceries. Now we have pretty much completely skipped this and only go to Aldi once a week. We always go on Sunday mornings after church which is a dead time (all the Amish are home!). I hate it now when we have to get something at Walmart because it is always so crowded during the times when we can go.

  • Danielle April 10, 2013, 10:45 am

    Ha, I can feel your pain about the “Jeep Week”…. BUT don’t paint all RV’s in the same light.

    Because of our lifelong Mustachian principles that my husband and I found independently before we met each other, we retired and in our early 40’s are awesomely able to live off our rental income. We bought a 1990’s class A, 34′ with one slide, for less than $20,000, and it’s our one and only house, we ‘fulltime RV’. We spent the winter in the AZ desert. Right now we’re sitting pretty in our space overlooking the Oregon coast, where we’re spending the entire spring and summer volunteering for the National Forest Service for 28 hours per week in a visitor center in exchange for free ocean-side RV parking, electric, water and propane, while spending our copious time off hiking, beachcombing, tidepool-gazing, and eating delicious home-cooked meals.

    EVERY lifestyle can be Mustachianized.

    • RV_Carol May 7, 2013, 3:48 pm

      Thank you Danielle!

      I have been a full-time RVer for 4 yrs. Bought my RV used and paid for it in cash. I workkamp when I need to and when I don’t, I sit back and watch those beautiful sunsets wherever I am.
      ‘Home is where I park it.’

  • Jennifer April 10, 2013, 3:00 pm

    THIS is what I miss about waiting tables. Because your work schedule is variable, you get to do all of your grocery shopping during off-peak hours. Need to go to the DMV? No problem – you don’t even need to use vacation time or make up hours to do it! I’m fortunate in that my current 9-5 is very flexible compared to others, so it’s not such a hassle to take care of workday chores as it would be if I worked just about anywhere else with a traditional work schedule. But this is certainly one excellent reason to work towards the Mustachian lifestyle. It opens up more opportunities to waste less of your most valuable resource: time.

  • Noel April 11, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I loved this post. Very fitting that it was written while I was on vacation as well. I noted a funny phenomenon while driving through a particularly scenic area. There were many pull outs to get out of the car and enjoy the view. Some were completely packed with cars. Others were empty. The views at each were very similar. At one point I tried an experiment: we passed one particularly busy overlook and pulled into the next empty one. We spent a few minutes taking pictures, looking around, and whatnot. When we went to leave there were three or four other cars with people that had pulled in. I like to think we were the trendsetters there.

  • DJ April 11, 2013, 10:06 pm

    Reminded me of, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr Suess…. The Waiting Place “starts at 3:08 – 4:25”

    Read the book it’s much better without the cheesy soundtrack but for those that don’t have it…or have a thinly stocked library enjoy:


    MMM Read all your posts since the beginning, a gracious and hearty thank you my good man.

  • brian April 12, 2013, 4:46 pm

    About once a year I go through an entire weekend day hardly seeing anyone. No lines at the grocery store, sidewalks are empty. And if it’s one of the 3 or 4 times I go skiing each winter, the lift lines are unusually short. I’m not always the quickest, so it takes a while for me to notice. Then it hits me in a flash, I’m missing the Superbowl!

  • Aarchman07030 April 13, 2013, 2:41 am

    I’ve always been highly allergic to waiting in (on) line. Living in NYC offers countless opportunities to waste precious hours waiting to eat at a “hot” restaurant, dance in a “hot” club or listen to a “hot” band. I don’t deny that when the opportunity has arisen to see a live performance by a personal musical hero, I’ve done my time in (on) line, but in most cases, I think sheeple are missing the actual genius of NYC–yes; you can wait on line to eat a fantastic meal by a famous chef in a famous restaurant. OR–you can go around the block and find 3 young chefs who will be famous next year, making fantastic food NOW–no waiting. Whatever you’re waiting hours for in NYC–there are 20 other people selling the same thing someone nearby–just leave the line and open your eyes.

    As for the poor suckers who spend an hour (or more!) in traffic 2x/day getting to work–there is literally no job in the world for which I could make that sacrifice. Do these folks think they have unlimited time to waste in this life? Wake up and take control of your (short and beautiful) lives!!

  • Miki April 13, 2013, 4:43 pm

    Guys, please read this article. It’s hilariously entertaining. People in London complaining about how they’re poor making 184K per year because they can’t wear Chanel and go to restaurants all the time. I laughed and laughed:


    • Mr. Money Mustache April 14, 2013, 10:03 am

      That’s pretty funny! Sounds like the author has had her lifestyle messed up by “luxury inflation” – the price of luxury items went up in London faster than her salary due to the an economic boom among the city’s ultra-rich. Yet the folly of being interested in consumer luxury spending in the first place – even if you can technically afford it – has not yet occurred to her.

    • Doug April 18, 2013, 8:39 am

      Yes that is quite funny, it’s like something you would see on Monty Python. London is an expensive place to live, no argument there, but making over 100 grand a year I believe I could live there and still save some of my income.

  • Giddings Plaza FI April 16, 2013, 2:32 pm

    Funny post, and absolutely right on. A good friend of mine calls this crowding for dumb events and dumb stuff phenomenon The Law of Convergence.

  • Jeff April 23, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Great post! It’s a Catch-22. Until you’re FI, it’s difficult to do things off-peak, which means you have less time and less money. But time and money are the two commodities you need to reach FI! Keep pushing toward FI, everyone!

    By the way, we need some sort of list of readers that have achieved FI on this website. A little section of the website where users can declare their FI once they achieve it. Maybe do a short little story about themselves and how MMM has helped them get there. It would be incredibly rewarding to see the ranks of the MMM FI swell over time!

  • Berito May 2, 2013, 9:39 am

    I love that my husband’s shift work lets us take advantage of weekday off-peak times! The zoo especially is a much better experience, even if there are some large groups of field trippers. The keepers have more time to talk with you about the animals, and we’ve even figured out some of the enrichment schedules. It’s much more fun to be the only family watching the leopard play with his new bone, rather than shuffling about on a crowded Saturday for a peek at a sleeping cat…we have those at home.

    However, I will put up with crowds for certain situations. In our area, there are periodic consignment sales for kid’s clothes. The organizers only rent out the space for a few days a couple times a year, and don’t mind putting up with a line to get clothing for a buck or two a piece (bought with room to grow, of course). I’ll avoid the more crowded days if I can, but I save time shopping there vs. scouring clearance racks, since I wind up with stuff I don’t need if I buy it a little at a time.

    Also, I do like shopping at places like farmer’s markets, etc. where local vendors come together for a few hours once or twice a week. I’ll put up with a little crowd for quality goods for a fair price, but on the whole, I agree with your rule of thumb, that if a really large amount of people want something, it’s probably not that great.

  • Elisa May 22, 2013, 9:04 pm

    When I’ve gone to amusement parks in the past, I’ve convinced my friends to tour the water features first, in the cold cold morning, and the dry rides in the hot hot afternoon. I think if we ever did the rides in the conventional order, we’d cut our total “amusement” by half, because of the crazy lines. I definitely appreciate where this article is going.

  • The Roamer May 27, 2014, 10:49 am

    Late to this party as usual but I had to comment as it is completely applicable . Just yesterday a family member gifted us tickets to six flag. but it’s so far I thought ( thanks to MMM making me think anything Outside a 10 mile radius is to be avoided .)

    Now I can add to it the fact that most of that fun gift is going to be spent waiting doing nothing but staring at phones.. Back in the old days at least people talked.. Any who let’s say we get to ride 15 rides( way optimistic) and each ride lasts 10 min that’s 150 mins of fun ( 2.5 hrs) and let’s say we only have to wait 30 min lines (30x 15= 450 min = 7.5 hrs ) and there goes the whole trip plus the 3 hrs of driving . Even in this real optimistic scenario you get the short end of TH stick . And reality will probably be much worse at 1.5 hrs of waiting and maybe 6 rides… Wow that is not a great gift .

    Also would I be wrong in saying religions also make their money from herd mentality .. Just a thought


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