Why Should I be Frugal, When I’m So Rich?

bin_jettinAhh, money. The more you have of it, the more you get to spend, right? Everybody does it that way, so that must be the right way to do it. We all agree that, sure, the debtors and the flashy live-beyond-their-means club need to rein things in. But for those honest folks who work hard and earn plenty of money – they might as well spend it on whatever they please. That’s the good life. They deserve it!

This is surely what people are thinking when they call Mr. Money Mustache “Extreme”.

“The triple M family retired with too little money for comfort, and that is why they are forced to live such a spartan lifestyle. They’re fooling themselves if they think they really are living well on $25,046 per year!

To illustrate the point, let’s dive into the MMM Mailbag and consider a couple of recent letters from readers:

Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

What made you want to retire? You are a very young guy who is very well educated. Your education allows you to make over 100K a year + benefits. I am not criticizing, I am curious. It seems that you were happy at work, what made you want to quit?
Why live a frugal lifestyle when you can easily spend without thinking about money and work?

While this reader initially caught my fancy by throwing out words like ‘educated’ and ‘young’, the letter rapidly took a turn for the worse when it started talking about the $100k and the benefits. Because that transported me right back into the cubicle, with a thick layer of tinted glass between me and that expansive view of the Rocky Mountains and the accompanying fresh air that used to taunt me at work.

Why live a frugal lifestyle when I could instead go back to work in order to earn more so I could spend more? Because I love being free to do whatever I want… right now! Because I have a seven-year-old boy, my little pride and joy, who has way too many plans for us every day to ever let a job get between us. And because I couldn’t imagine spending any more money than we already do – our life is already an overwhelming conveyor belt of abundance and I can hardly keep track of all the tumbling boxes of luxury as it is.

Now let’s consider another email that offers an interesting counterpoint:

Dear MMM,

Comments: Love the blog.  Wanted to give a perspective I’m not sure gets expressed very often:

My income last year was a little over $1 million pre-tax, and while my wife and I live a quite modest lifestyle by high-income NYC standards, we still spend absurd amounts of money on absurd things.

The “problem” (obviously a cadillac problem) is that we have no incentive to make smart choices on a day-to-day basis. Since we live so far within our means, we just go ahead and shop at the crazy-overpriced neighborhood gourmet grocery store because it happens to be the closest. We buy organic meat because why the hell not – maybe it’s a little bit better for you. We take cab rides at $30-$40 a pop when the subway is inconvenient.

Now… obviously it’s a luxury to be able to put such a high priority on my own time and convenience and minor health improvement. But… I find that living this way is actually somewhat stressful and depressing. Trying to find the cheapest/best way to navigate life used to be invigorating and emotionally rewarding for me, as I know it is for you and your army of Mustachians. I stopped doing it because it started to seem irrational to put a lot of thought into saving $20 when I make that much in 3 minutes at my desk. But it turns out that putting that thought in is *fun* and keeps you vital.

I don’t know how many purely recreational mustachians there are but in 2013 I will be trying to become one!

By the way I now know two other successful Wall St types who are big fans of yours. In this business we tend to hate our jobs, so we are a very good constituency for early retirement advice!

What’s going on here? Why would a man be frugal on a million dollars a year? And then seek out additional frugality measures to make his life more interesting?

Therein lies the whole reason this blog is useful to anyone. If I were telling you to spend less money just so you could get out of debt, save up a fortune, and then eventually spend loads of money (which I recall is a paraphrase of the Dave Ramsey slogan), the advice would be useless. Because that would imply that the lower-spending portion of your life is less good than the subsequent high-spending part. What if you never get to the high-spending part? What if you fail or die first? It would have all been a waste. Better to just keep spending all your money now, to get the most out of life.

While this has become the accepted wisdom of contemporary society, you and I are fortunate to have discovered at such a young age that it is all bullshit.

Spending more money on yourself can spare you from hardships. But hardship is just an unpleasant way of writing “effort”, and effort is really the only thing getting you out of bed in the morning. Effort is the spice of life. If you smooth over all possible difficulties with Benjamin Franklin Wallpaper, you end up with your enormous jello-like form sprawled in a hovering cruise-ship deck chair staring at an LCD screen while soft-spoken robots bring you drinks. Your life would be like playing a video game with infinite cheat mode enabled and the joystick taped to the right – you just coast through level after level perfectly straight while the bad guys explode as they touch you. Except in real life, you too die at the end.

Although I’ve never made a seven-figure income, I can still relate to the writer of that second letter. You see, a little-known fact about the MMM household these days, is that while we continue to live the lifestyle that many consider extremely frugal, we’re not actually short on income.

Try as we might to earn less money, our income has gone up almost every year since retirement in 2005. Rental income increases from the rental house, stocks pay dividends that are reinvested. People take up hobby occupations that end up delivering occasional windfalls. All in all, we are now at a point where we could probably triple our annual spending forever, without running out of money. And yet, I continue to ride my 2008 commuter bike everywhere, get filthy doing local construction projects, and buy everything used from Craigslist. Mrs. Money Mustache rides a 10-year-old mountain bike for her primary transportation, wears old clothes (that still look rather nice on her fine form) and spends about $50 per year on haircuts and beauty products. We’re even shopping around for a smaller house in the neighborhood, to downsize our space a bit. How could this possibly be?

It’s because our current life is already more than enough. We don’t want to lose the challenge and the spice that is part of life right now. I have only one digestive system, so I can’t eat any more spectacular food than I already do. My house is already big enough to hold everything I own, plus all my friends. My subcompact Scion hatchback can easily hold the whole family and our stuff, and exceed any legal speed limit. How could an even fancier car possibly make us any happier?

Another factor in happiness for me is the satisfaction that comes from efficiency. I love seeing things that are efficient, elegant, well-designed. And of course you’ve probably noticed my corresponding boiling rage for things that are not. Buying treats for yourself that aren’t truly necessary is inefficient. It’s unsatisfying.

Paul Allen’s 414-foot Octopus yacht has engines totaling 19,000 horsepower, which burn about 622 gallons of diesel fuel per hour at cruising speed. It’s currently off the coast of Australia, a journey which took about $780,000 of fuel to make. This is an inefficient way to have fun. A man skilled at having fun should be able to achieve equal bliss within walking distance of his own house. He could then invest the surplus funds to save a few lives, which are surprisingly affordable these days at only about $200 per human according to Peter Singer. Or you could start companies, fix cities, or even change countries. All challenging and effort-filled endeavors, that these days can be done just as effectively in thrift-store clothing as they can in Armani suits.

And so I’d like to issue a challenge that you consider deflating, rather than inflating your own lifestyle as you get richer. The desire for luxury, while very real and occasionally pleasant to satisfy, is actually a weakness that stands in the way of a happier life. Getting off of the path that society has beaten for you will lead to much better adventures. So I’d rather work towards strength as I get older, rather than striving for weakness.

After all,  which would you rather be, the man who requires 622 gallons per hour of diesel and a crew of 60 to have fun, or the one who can do it just by stepping out his front door?


  • Andrew April 25, 2013, 9:09 pm

    Great article as always, MMM.

    One of my goals after my retirement is to see how low in spending I can go.

    • Giddings Plaza FI April 26, 2013, 10:55 am

      Since you’re the first comment I ran into, I’ll ask: how are you doing that? What will you do to cut your spending?

    • AnnW April 26, 2013, 1:38 pm

      If you teach at a boarding school you get housing and free food. Think about that!

    • Chad Brick April 28, 2013, 8:25 am

      During my last year of undergrad, I lived on $3600 for nine months, or $5000 in today’s money. That includes everything except tuition and books (scholarship) and health insurance (on my parents’ plan). Roughly

      $175 for rent (shared room in a $700/m 2br)
      $100 for food (pooled groceries, rotating nights as cook)
      $50 for utilities (pooled, split four ways)
      $10 for gas for my roommate’s car (I normally walked/biked everywhere)

      That left $15/week for everything else, usually an occasional meal out, movie, or a bottle of cheap wine.

      It was one of the best years of my life.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina April 25, 2013, 9:18 pm

    I’m the first to post!!! Wow :) that’s a first! :p

    I don’t need a whole lot in life. Really, all I want is to be able to live comfortably, which is around $3K a month for us, and help my family (parents and brother) live a better life ($20K a year).

    • Kevin Akey April 26, 2013, 3:48 pm

      For what it is worth, IMO, you are better off teaching them how to live a better life than paying for it.

      That all said, situations differ but typically if you “help out relatives” in a $20k per year fashion, you are not challenging/showing them how to provide for themselves which results in doing them a disservice.

      You are better off spending your time and money in ways to encourage them to support themselves. In the long run you will leave them stronger and less dependent on you and your money.

      • Savvy Financial Latina April 26, 2013, 8:45 pm

        My dad’s an electrician, and my mom works almost full time by cleaning houses. I don’t really have to teach them how to take care of themselves at all. They do provide for themselves. My brother is young and still in high school, and he is doing very well in school and extra curricular activities. I set a great example as an older sister.
        By “helping them” with money, is helping my mom to not clean so many houses. She has a bad back, and she in constant pain. I would also like to my mom to go on vacations. Believe my parents are extremely frugal and live well below their means. But there is only so much money they have been able to live as immigrants in this country. Both my parents are college graduates in their native country, but decided to move to a different country seeking a better life.

        • Adrian M March 28, 2014, 7:12 am

          Maybe your parents could be a Mustachian Makeover case study! I’m sure there are quite a few things that can be changed. An extra 20k a year really sounds like a lot(It is!), especially if you haven’t reached FI, yourself.

  • Simple Economist April 25, 2013, 9:22 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I find inefficiency and waste, even if I had millions, difficult to deal with. Simply the idea of having to have so much to be happy is almost saddening to me. I too like the idea of drawing contentment from spending time with my family. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put a price on that and early retirement gives me that luxury. I also find it ironic that my wife and I have decreased (regardless of our earnings) our spending every year we have been married but my fulfillment continues to rise.

    • LightTripper April 26, 2013, 4:48 am

      That’s the bit that resonated with me most too (but then I’m also an economist, so maybe that’s our training speaking!) I think there were comments before about a lot of MMM followers being engineers: maybe a lot are economists too (maybe even the NYC high earner in the post and his Wall Street friends?)

  • Jonah April 25, 2013, 9:27 pm

    That number, $780,000, just tugs at my heart and makes me sad. How many human beings with the spirit of life within them are dying due to lack of nutrition or medical care?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 25, 2013, 9:40 pm

      Yup, at 622 gallons per hour and $200 per human life, recreational cruising in a ship like that is like tossing a newborn baby into the sea every six minutes.

      • Hamster April 26, 2013, 2:21 am

        The yacht is particularly egregious, but where does one draw the line? Buying an iPhone? just cost 2 lives. Family of 3 flying to Chicago to visit relatives? Just cost 5 human lives. Family vacation to Hawaii at the Maui Hilton? 26 human lives.

        I’ve struggled with the idea of how to rationalize any non-essential purchase against these realities, and honestly do what most of us likely do – some volunteer work, some charitable giving, and try not to worry to much about the immeasurable fortune and privilege I’ve been lucky enough to have received relative to much of the world’s population.

        • Brad April 26, 2013, 10:42 am

          I found my line when I realized that death is just natures form of population control. I do however still agree with MMM that we should be giving what we can to keep babies from starving in impoverished countries. It’s a good investment in our future because at some point, when all other fuel has been spent, burning babies will be the most economical option and these countries will be able to finally give something back.

          • Holly@ClubThrifty April 26, 2013, 2:47 pm

            That is awful. HILARIOUS, but awful.

          • TunaFishTuesdays April 30, 2020, 10:15 pm

            This Modest Proposal of yours reminds me of Jonathan Swift. :)

      • Cricket April 26, 2013, 7:22 am

        I agree with Hamster. Something that has bothered me for a long time. Spending is all relative. We have a clear self serving bias when evaluating other’s “wasteful spending” in light of the problems in the world that could be solved by that money.

        My wife and I give away a substantial amount of our yearly income which will double or triple the MMM prescribed retirement plan for us. I could saddle up my high horse and deride all Mustachians for such selfish socking away of their cash when their able bodies could earn more income to help save the world. But I can’t do that. Someone else is out there giving away double the % of income I am and ready to tell me how selfish and wasteful I am being. It’s endless.

      • Andrew April 26, 2013, 7:51 am

        Oh please, what an overwrought analogy. Recreational cruising in Paul Allen’s ship is like burning a hundred dollar bill every three minutes; shoveling babies into the engine of your baby-powered yacht is like throwing a newborn baby into the sea every six minutes.

        And besides, who’s to say that giving money away is necessarily the best for the recipient (e.g., all the economic basket cases in Africa) or the giver (e.g., the Boston bombers on welfare)?

        • Cricket April 26, 2013, 8:16 am

          Andrew, I agree with your assessment of MMM’s analogy. However, your second comment about giving assumes that the only way to give money away is to large inefficient charities that make people rely on that welfare rather than actually improving their lives.

          There are many ways to thoughtfully and effectively give money away that will the get the most “bang for your buck” abroad. Not to mention the things closer to home like helping pay for child care for the immigrant single mother that works at your laundromat whose husband just abandoned her, etc.

        • Mr. Frugal Toque April 26, 2013, 8:27 am

          Are you telling me that hyperbole *isn’t* the most awesome force in the universe?
          That beggars belief, sir.

          • Mr. Money Mustache April 26, 2013, 9:23 am

            Thanks Toque. The wise reader knows that if you don’t like overwrought analogies, you don’t complain to Mr. Money Mustache about it. Why would I stop writing in the way I like writing, here on my own blog?

            Instead, you can simply type a different URL into your address bar and go off in search of any writing style you like.

            And anyone who doesn’t believe that charity can be efficient and measurably beneficial should read up on the Gates Foundation: http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/

            • Andrew April 26, 2013, 3:22 pm

              I love exaggeration as much as the next guy and your facepunching style is what keeps bringing me back for more. But I gotta call BS when you say something illogical. The moral footing of, say, blasting the entire contents of Scrooge McDuck’s vault into the sun is rather different from ordering thousands of units from Babies’R’Us (that’s what they sell, right?) only to watch them bob and sink under the waves of the Pacific. Am I defending Paul Allen’s ridiculous wastefulness? Hell no, it’s emblematic of everything that’s wrong with modern society and morally repugnant from an environmental standpoint. But he doesn’t have blood on his hands, literal or figurative, just because he didn’t donate that money to his buddy Bill Gates.

              My other point has nothing to do with the efficiency of charities but the utility of grand save-the-world projects in general. Typically, dependency breeds dependency (“The Incomparable Advantage of Having to Work for what you Get,” anyone?) and humans, like dogs, sometimes bite the hands that feed them. Furthermore, there is Kenneth Boulding’s utterly dismal theorem which states that “if the only thing which can check the growth of population is starvation and misery, then the ultimate result of any technological improvement is to enable a larger number of people to live in misery than before and hence to increase the total sum of human misery.” Or, in this case, the number of lives that can be saved for $200 will increase to use all available funds.

            • Mr. Money Mustache April 26, 2013, 4:23 pm

              Agreed – it is best not to think of EVERY $200 you spend as being another dead baby. You’ll just hurt yourself like that. It reminds me of a sad scene near the end of Schindler’s List.

              But I have good news for you – I too used to assume that saving lives in poor countries would just increase the population of the world, which would be counterproductive. It turns out that most of the population growth comes from those same countries, and when you help women to have babies that don’t die within the first few years of life, they start choosing to have fewer babies. Check out this neat short video on the counterintuitive fact: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwII-dwh-bk

              Of course, you also have to ensure that birth control and related education is widely available and not suppressed by the crazies that currently fight against it. Which is another reason the Gates Foundation is effective – it is science rather than religion-based.

              Then as the countries continue to advance, you have to ensure that they don’t just graduate to mindless overconsumption. The free market doesn’t handle this step very well. That’s where Mr. Money Mustache comes in :-)

            • Hamster April 28, 2013, 6:01 pm

              Andrew – “if the only thing which can check the growth of population is starvation and misery, then the ultimate result of any technological improvement is to enable a larger number of people to live in misery than before and hence to increase the total sum of human misery.”

              Only, that assumption that the check on populuation growth is starvation is completely false in the modern world. Maternal educational achievement is the biggest check on fertility rates. Natural population growth rate in most developed countries has become neutral or negative except for immigration. So, the answer to population growth isn’t limiting resources so people will die, it’s supporting development so that people will naturally choose to have fewer children.

        • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 9:18 am

          I don’t think anyone was saying the money should just be given away as an alternative. :) Just that that power should be used for good instead of stupid.

          The other side of the coin not really discussed here is the environmental benefit/harm. I think this could be really significant for the million-dollar earners. I always think, of very wealthy people who cruise through life without thinking, what potential they have to live a LESS harmful life than the average person, rather than a MORE harmful life, as most wealthy people choose to do. If money is no concern and you have no incentive to be frugal, perhaps here’s a better way of looking at it: How can I live my life in such a way as to harm others as little as possible? This means eliminating pointless consumption, finding sustainable ways to achieve your basic needs, and living, not just within your own financial means, but within the means of the planet that supports you, i.e. the carrying capacity of your little part of the earth. It is very difficult to live a life where you do no harm, but with $1M/year, I bet you could achieve it.

          The organic meat that person mentioned is a case in point: it’s not just better for you, but better for everyone you know. Better for everyone you don’t know. Better for your children, and grandchildren, and your neighbour’s grandchildren, and some guy in New Zealand’s grandchildren.

          • Mr. Money Mustache April 26, 2013, 9:33 am

            I fully agree, Kenoryn. You probably already know that environmentalism is really the main point of this blog. Sure it’s about living the best life possible and having loads of money, but neither of those things is possible without an understanding of the planet that MADE you.

            I also agree with the idea with using your wealth to consume less resources, rather than the traditional path of using it to burn more. And the behavior tends to catch on – the wealthy Wall Street man has surely planted an idea in the heads of his high-earning friends. And by sharing this letter with all of us, he reached thousands of other high-income people who might now consider adopting the same philosophy.

            • Kevin Akey April 26, 2013, 4:00 pm

              And that would be one of the true advantages of wealth. The ability to explore spending less resources to live a comparable lifestyle. The definition of this, of course, varies from person to person, but I personally would be far more supportive of Mr Paul Allen’s Yacht fetish if he figured out a way to power it using renewable resources … other than babies :)

          • MBK April 26, 2013, 2:24 pm

            I currently live in an apartment where all utilities are paid by owner.
            And I was feeling chilly few days ago, but didn’t turn on the heater as I hate burning gas. When I mentioned the morning chill to my wife, who is vacationing in India, her first reaction was “Why don’t you turn on the heater. We are not paying the bill”. I still have a long way in educating her the benefits of Mustachism.

          • Kansas Beachbum August 9, 2013, 9:42 am

            Could not agree more Kenoryn. Most (well, Ok…maybe not most, but a lot) people with excess money behave in this manner and think not a thing of it. I don’t begrudge people their little indulgences. They earned the money, they are free to spend it as they will. But as a closet environmentalist the impact to the planet of this kind of spending is criminal.

            • gr8bkset December 12, 2013, 8:34 am

              “They earned the money, they are free to spend it as they will.”

              By the same logic, should we say teachers, cleaning ladies, firemen didn’t earn their money and therefore deserved to be paid low?

              It seems to me that Paul Allen feels he is entitled to his “luck”.

      • Jacob April 26, 2013, 2:02 pm

        While I am physically disgusted by the waste of that 780K, How do you justify your retirement, when you could be using that additional 100K per year to save babies?

        Is that additional time with your child really worth killing 10 babies each and every week?

        /Tongue very much in cheek

      • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:01 pm

        MMM, have you read Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story “Those who walk away from Omelas” ? It gets into this a bit. It doesn’t answer the question of “where does one draw the line,” but it’s very good as a way to focus your thoughts on the issue of charity and obligation.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life April 27, 2013, 1:06 pm

        But…but….if the yacht ran on babies, then maybe Aerosmith wouldn’t want to come on aboard and jam at the on-board recording studio. Because *that’s* why Paul Allen really has that boat.

        • Mr. Money Mustache April 28, 2013, 7:59 am

          But Wayne’s World already proved that Aerosmith will come and jam right in your mom’s breakfast nook, if you are cool enough!

  • Jen April 25, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Ah, yes – hedonistic adaptation. I think “enough” is a really important concept, and an important dimension to Mustachian-style living.

    We recently moved into a smaller rental – also cheaper, and also (it turns out) with more mold. My problem is that I have trouble drawing a line where hedonistic adaptation stops and “being reasonable” begins. Now I feel guilty about the primer & paint I’m about to buy to seal the mold up while we live there! Isn’t it enough that our home is (mostly) safe? That we have a roof over our heads at all? And on top of that, I expect it to be healthy and mold-free? Sheesh, I’m demanding! (I also want to stop our potential future children licking flaking paint off the wall…).

    For the cost of primer and paint we’ll save heaps of money by living here, and it’s otherwise a fine little house. I wouldn’t buy it, but it’ll do for a few years. =) Of course, we are cleaning and painting ourselves – not hiring that out!

    I’m tempted to suffer through the mold now, but husband and cats are wheezy…

    (BTW, We don’t quite make three figures between us, but live on about half our income (yay!) – this is Australia, so it’s a little different than in the US).

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 25, 2013, 9:37 pm

      Yeah Jen, you should definitely buy that paint. There’s frugal, and then there is cheap.

      Setting yourself up in a place that is healthy and aesthetically pleasing to you is definitely well within the reasonable definition of “Enough”. After all, a simple life involves spending time at home. Make it something you love spending time in, and it can actually reduce your desire for other stuff.

      • Jen April 26, 2013, 12:36 am

        LOL… my husband leans toward cheap – and he’s the one wheezing! Better than having to deal with a partner who’s super spendy though ;)

    • Praptak April 26, 2013, 3:39 am


      Do not just paint over the mold. It doesn’t mind being painted over, this makes it grow even faster. You can try killing it with bleach or borax, although the success here depends on how deeply rooted the mold is – bleach only kills the part of the mold it comes in contact with. Really bad cases might even require removal of plaster (or whatever the walls are covered with.)

      Assuming this doesn’t turn out this bad and the bleach does away with the mold, re-paint it with an anti-mold paint. There is a DIY forum here at MMM’s, you might want to ask for more advice there.

      Also, this is my first comment here, so hi all.

      • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:13 pm

        (I took it as a given that whatever she was doing really *would* kill the mold, but she wasn’t planning to bleach first or whatever, +1 to this comment. Seek permanent solutions.)

    • lurker April 26, 2013, 5:29 am

      yes. ENOUGH is enough. when did consumerism get so totally warped and sick?

    • Ez April 26, 2013, 5:53 am

      Jen, as a tenant in Australia, your landlord should be the one paying to fix any pre-existing mould problem.


    • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:12 pm

      Oh, this is an issue we dealt with by way of my grandmother, who grew up in the Great Depression. She didn’t really always *get* the idea of buying high-quality things (in order to prevent having to buy *more* things later on down the line).

      NEVER sacrifice your health because you’re too cheap to pay for something you really *can* afford. (Also, the idea of your cats being avoidably wheezy just makes me sad. If you can’t or won’t take care of them, rehome them. Now imagine if I had written this sentence about your potential kids.)

  • Buck April 25, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Great perspective and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We’re only a few years from financial independence and the weird part is that the wealthier we get, I’m finding that I actually feel less inclined and less fulfilled to spend. I’ve always had a ‘savers’ gene and when I was younger, it always fueled dreams of all the cool stuff I could buy once I had “made it”. Now, the closer I get to the type of wealth I dreamed about 15+ years ago, it’s amazing how my perspective has changed and all those luxuries don’t mean as much as they used to (if at all).

    • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow April 28, 2013, 11:02 am

      My wife and I are the opposite, we’ve been struggling with the spending gene. But the link MMM posted in the comments a while ago (stupid things poor people do) really hit home. You spend money the moment it comes in as your afraid it will disappear. I’ve been thinking of starting a forum journal describing our struggle to go from spend it all know to save for a raining day.

      Matter of fact it’s been in the back of my mind to comment on the last case study as to where that 700 bucks or so a month goes. We’re in the middle of moving and I keep thinking, man oh man we (or she) had to earn all this after tax money to buy all this stuff i keep finding that we didn’t know we had!

  • Mrs. 1500 April 25, 2013, 9:29 pm

    Wow. This is a really great perspective. You have enough money to live comfortably and can have whatever you choose. You just don’t choose to have all the things that everyone else has.

    I think so many have been taught that you work until you are 65, then you retire, that the possibility that you COULD retire well before 65 just doesn’t occur to most people. And with everyone wanting to keep up with the Joneses, retiring – cutting off that source of income – seems foolish.

    Of course, those are the same people who have $45 in their retirement portfolio and say “how can I afford to save for retirement when I have a new iPhone to buy, I need a Kindle and an iPad, my kid needs an American Girl doll.”

    I love that you are retired so you can spend time with your son. What a great way to spend his childhood – WITH him!

  • Stephen April 25, 2013, 9:48 pm

    What an excellent post. Next time I’m in Colorado I hope we have a chance to meet up. Been reading this blog for about 2 months now and am definitely inspired. It’s SO easy to get caught up in today’s world of spend spend spend, when as you have clearly said time and time again, it is often those of us that live the simplest lives that are happiest.
    Its definitely somewhat true, I find that the more we earn, the more we worry about how much we are earning/spending etc. There is definitely a horrible trend of earning=more spending and it really doesn’t do much to fuel happiness. Heck, some of the most miserable people I know make over $200k a year.

    Thanks again for inspiring those of us that read this blog!

    • Marcia April 26, 2013, 1:11 pm

      off topic, look at that adorable baby!!

  • Carlos April 25, 2013, 9:50 pm

    Great post. I especially liked your comment about one digestive system and a car that already exceeds the legal speed limit.

    Keep ’em coming!

  • Giddings Plaza FI April 25, 2013, 9:58 pm

    Yes to effort being the spice of life! Yes to living a wildly prosperous life for under 30K (or under 10K, if that works for you). Living on less is a great way to reach financial independence, and that’s what I’m shooting for in less than 4 years. But you are right on, MMM, in writing that even at this relatively low dollar amount, life can be amazing and full of friends and experience, and even weirdly luxurious.

  • calgary lip fuzz April 25, 2013, 10:01 pm

    you’ve been watching WALL E, hover chairs with drink delivery….. that really made my honey and I cringe. We have never “cruised” ick…. but we were on an overnight ferry from Newcastle to Bergen (long story – frugal travel story, but never mind) and the behaviour there was like seeing some creatures in a zoo.. so cruises will never ever be on our radar for any reasons, let alone the feeling that you have been captured on a boat by Scientologists…..

  • Jayadeep Purushothaman April 25, 2013, 10:29 pm

    “A man skilled at having fun should be able to achieve equal bliss within walking distance of his own house.” – couldn’t agree more. I am trying to teach this concept to my family!

    • Clint April 27, 2013, 6:50 am

      Agreed! What a great closing paragraph.

  • Geek April 25, 2013, 10:47 pm

    This is an awesome perspective. Like the 7-figure earner, I often like the challenge of frugal things just for the sake of being frugal. I’ve discovered I like things like eating at home a lot better – it’s faster than waiting to sit to wait to have an order taken so you can wait to be served.

    I’m doing better in some than others, but we’re at ~60% savings.

    Most people are jealous that I’ll have FU money at 35, in a “but I could never do that” sort of way. However…

    I make 1 or 2 big entrees for my week of lunches unless I’m having bacon salad. One day I was having coconut chicken curry (no rice) and a coworker mocked my twice-heated green beans that had been cooked once with the curry for dinner sunday and microwaved for Tuesday’s lunch.
    When I told him why I generally bring lunch from home he said he’d rather just spend money.

    I was a little confused, but I think he’s more honest than the guys who “wish” they could do it.

    • Marcia April 26, 2013, 1:13 pm

      Yes, I had a coworker once tell me that it would be “healthier” to eat out rather than eat leftovers. I had to remind him (he’s a long time coworker) “remember, I did eat out a lot more. And…I weighed 50 lbs more.”

    • Jacob@CashCowCouple April 26, 2013, 4:03 pm

      And that’s the mindset I can’t ever seem to understand? Why do people willingly toss money away (on food, gadgets, entertainment, cars) when they could easily find ways to spend less.?

      Most of them have no money stache and seem unbelievably happy in that sad fact! Why keep spending if it’s easy to save?

      • skart April 28, 2013, 8:37 am

        Spending more for convenience is easy to rationalize.

        Worse than that, spending more for status symbols: there is always the temptation to show off, to be the Joneses.

  • Statistical Deviant April 25, 2013, 11:12 pm

    Of all the articles you’ve ever written, this is by far my favourite. I’ve often wondered what possessed you to lead a frugal lifestyle and the focus on efficiency struck a chord with me.

    Keep up the good work Mr MM! I try and catch up too. Just went and took a perfectly working bike that my friend was going to chuck away and ride it for my first Mustachian grocery trip last week. Though I have a fuel guzzling sports car, I hope to use it less and less and only for the fun of taking it for a spin.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • AC April 25, 2013, 11:17 pm

    Count me in as one of those high income “Wall Street” types who reads your blog.(actually Lasalle St. as I’m in Chicago). I live on way less than half my income(which is still too much). I do it for exactly the reasons MMM has outlined throughout this blog. 1.) I care about the environment and the health of our planet. 2.) It just feels wasteful to overspend. I’m not optimizing my life if I spend too much. 3). I enjoy the challenge. I use coupons and shop at Aldi to try to get my grocery bills down to mustachian levels. I hyper mile and take public transit as much as possible. I garden with a focus on ROI. 4). Working in finance seemed exciting when choosing my college major and getting started in the field. Now, I am surrounded by money all day and motivated by money all day. It seemed exciting to a younger me, but now it just seems shallow. The most important reason why I save is so I can retire at 40 and pursue more fulfilling work and spend more time with family. Thanks for all your work MMM. I think you are really making a difference! The MMM revolution is gaining steam! Now, I just need a bike… :)

    • SarahT April 26, 2013, 1:09 pm

      If you’re in Chicago, check out WorkingBikes. It’s a used bike store/non-profit. I got my vintage schwinn roadbike from there 4 years ago for a mere $60, and it’s been my primary means of transportation ever since.

  • savingtofreedom April 25, 2013, 11:33 pm

    Interesting post. So what will you do with all of this extra money? Donate it? How will you efficiently handle the surplus of funds that you create every day?

    I agree you can’t spend to happiness. It takes effort to step away from the dogma that is broadcast across our country to spend, spend, spend. I am working and flexing that muscle all the time and it does get easier. Please continue to spread this message – I think more people need to hear it.

  • Mike @ UB April 25, 2013, 11:52 pm

    Fantastic article MMM. I just got off of the Boglehead forum where a guy worth $65 million is asking for financial advice.

    Your article is right in line with this Boglehead guy. I wonder, what would I do if I had so much money.

    But here’s the truth. As Warren Buffett says, just being born in America, we won the birth lottery. Then to have our health, our five senses, friends, freedoms and the list goes on, we’re already incredibly rich.

    I’m sure if I had the money as the 2nd letter guy, I’d be frivilous with my money too. But I hope as he has, I’d start to question if that is what makes me happy. Good for him for asking those questions.

    And as successful as your blog is, I could see MMM himself coming into that kind of money in the not to distant future.

    One more thing I’d like to point out: The older I get, the more simple I make my life, the happier I am. And that goes to what kind of food I eat too.

  • tcp April 26, 2013, 12:09 am

    Incredibly well put and a joy to read.

  • robz April 26, 2013, 12:24 am

    I read letter number 2 and wept. Of all the people I know I am probably on one of the lowest wages yet I am saving 60% of what I’ve got. I had a friend , a train driver, moaning that he only made £55k last year and he lives from paycheck to paycheck. How can this be ?
    I have to wonder what will happen to these people when the gravy train stops , Ill heath or some other event tripping em up ? By the way I have stopped trying or even suggesting to a anyone to get their ducks in a row , instant stink eye and hatred flows forth .

    • Sara April 27, 2013, 6:13 am

      Yep, me too. I make less than most people I know in my age range, but I save more, much more and can usually afford the things I care about. It is absolutely the simple and debt free lifestyle that does it. There are so many things I just don’t spend money on: excessive clothes, eating out, new gadgets, subscriptions, interest on loans, cable tv,, etc. I buy everything I need and most things I want used and use the free time created by not shopping to do other things I enjoy, like hanging out with my kids, making music, walking, etc.

  • Alexis April 26, 2013, 1:15 am

    You’ve done it again, MMM! Great post, really hits the nail on the head.

    Being smart and efficient (and, cost effective!) about life can sure be fun. The thrill of the chase! Finding a good deal is exhilarating. Spending less than society thinks you have to? Ego boosting.

    I’ve made some big changes in my life since finding your blog. Thanks for being a continuous source of inspiration! If you’d like pics of your target audience (they need you!) check this out: http://richkidsofinstagram.tumblr.com/

    • ael April 26, 2013, 1:33 am

      No redeeming social merit in the pics.

  • vern April 26, 2013, 1:41 am

    I really enjoyed this post triple M. It made me think about Hetty Green.


  • Vilx- April 26, 2013, 2:21 am

    Funny, but as someone who lives more or less frugally by necessity, all this optimization seems… tiring. I often feel exhausted of running through the numbers again and thinking about what we cannot afford (again) just to get to the next paycheck… There’s a desire to be able to go into the shop and just buy the things I like/need without worrying (yet again) how much they cost and whether I can afford them.

    • Stephen April 26, 2013, 6:18 am

      When you do it by choice, it can be invigorating. Hang in there, and soon enough it will be by choice.

    • Al April 26, 2013, 8:50 am

      I understand your comment. Having not had much money, I hated having to go to different stores with coupons etc. What’s different and empowering is learning to make different meals that are cheaper. You build skills, eat better, develop a hobby.

      I think that getting to the second stage is much easier when you have more time and a bit more space (kitchen/utensils). Not being a whiner, I’m totally a MMM supporter now as I make a decent wage and want to optimize my life and achieve FI but I still remember how frugality was grinding when I really had no choice.

    • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 9:34 am

      I think it’s the worry, not the actual going over the numbers, which is tiring. I remember when I was in the same boat as a student and found it exhausting. But doing it now – when you know you have another option, and you know you’ll be able to pay your bills next month even if you make the wrong choice now about which groceries to buy – is rewarding.

    • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:22 pm

      Yup, it can be exhausting – when I talk about frugality blogs to my friends, I take pains to distinguish MMM’s blog from things like the poor_skills community on LJ — the former is for people who can/should choose frugality; the latter is for people who have no other choice.

      And sometimes it’s hard to read a blogger whose unspoken “Step 1” is “Be able-bodied.” But if that’s not an issue for you, or if you can get past it, there’s still a lot of good stuff to learn here – and as the other folks said, hang in there; eventually it won’t *be* by necessity, it’ll be by choice.

  • Hanne van Essen April 26, 2013, 2:54 am

    Great post, MMM! This helps to keep us all on track. I usually work part-time, but more than a year ago there was a period where I had to work a lot. On almost every saturday (due to bad planning) there would be stuff the children needed, clothes, whatever, so for some weeks, I worked during the week, and on my free day would have to go into town to the shops to drag stuff home. Not my idea of a good relaxing time. I was not yet an MMM reader then, I think, but it occurred to me then, that it seemed like a stupid drag, working to be able to buy more stuff. Work less and buy less gives much more happiness, no matter how much money you have.

  • rod April 26, 2013, 4:00 am

    Of course we all live in the now, and prices go up, luxuries are many. Seems most people have to make more and more. People 100 years ago did not have all the things most take for granted now. I use modern luxuries, but still enjoy the time tested fun things like walking, or riding bikes in the rain and getting muddy. Since committing myself to your challenges and examples, we have made progress I never knew possible, due to easy credit and laziness. I feel better, save more and smile more. I enjoy the frugal way so much while I watch others try to impress me by spending more and trying to earn more for the so called better life. I wonder what they intend on doing with their tail once they catch it. Thanks for doing this blog, it actually reverts me to childhood when fun was the key. Not money.

    • lurker April 26, 2013, 5:33 am

      great point. kids know how to have fun in part because they NEVER worry about money….at least I never did…and we did not have much.

  • JC April 26, 2013, 4:26 am

    “The desire for luxury, while very real and occasionally pleasant to satisfy, is actually a weakness that stands in the way of a happier life.” Loved this sentence and this whole post!

  • Ann Stanley April 26, 2013, 5:13 am

    Absobloodylutely, as we say here in Australia. We have just paid off our house and are debt free and I love it. I don’t feel like spending. I just want to live within our means and see how much we can save each week. Living within your means and having luxury occasionally definitely makes you happier. And time is more valuable than money, because it really is a scarce resource.

  • Johnny Moneyseed April 26, 2013, 5:54 am

    We’ve lived our life Your Money or Your Life style for a while, and as our net income goes up our net spending continues to drop as well. We’re dabbling in the housing market now and about to pick up our first rental property. We save money virtually everywhere and it feels great to know that I am smarter than the corporations and advertising agencies.

    The longer I live this lifestyle the more I become sickened with other people’s blatant disrespect for their cash. I saw an Audi R8 yesterday on the road (Starts at around $115k). All I could think was “What a sucker.”

    And yeah Dave Ramsey is a real piece of work. I can’t stand that guy, but I give him credit for getting people to start thinking about their finances. Hopefully these same people seek out REAL advice from personal finance bloggers that know what they’re talking about.

    • Jexy April 26, 2013, 5:04 pm

      “And yeah Dave Ramsey is a real piece of work. I can’t stand that guy, but I give him credit for getting people to start thinking about their finances. Hopefully these same people seek out REAL advice from personal finance bloggers that know what they’re talking about.”

      Haha, it’s funny you say that, because I found this blog (and ERE and early-retirement.org and several other invaluable resources) via the forums on Dave Ramsey’s website. I don’t agree 100% with everything he teaches, but I do think it’s a great starting place for a lot of people. And if people follow his plan to the letter and never look beyond that, they’ll still be in a good place. I felt like there was more to personal finance than he teaches, and… here I am. :-)

    • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:26 pm

      WRT Dave Ramsey, I think different people respond differently to the various approaches. Like Ramsey’s “debt snowball” idea – it’s bad mathematically, but it’s good psychologically if you’re the kind of person who’s motivated by that. The right method is the one that results in financial security/independence — we shouldn’t forget that in a search for ideological purity!

    • desk_jockey April 28, 2013, 10:57 am

      OK, I’ll come out in support of Dave Ramsey.

      I can understand why MMM and others here don’t like some of his message, but his “…later you can live like no one else” doesn’t necessarily mean to spend more later. I’ve heard him deliver face punches showing people that if they’d just get rid of the bass boat and the car payment then they could afford their *dream* of having one spouse stay home with the children.

      Yes, it’s nowhere as good as MMM, but his message reaching people in my part of the country who don’t read blogs and need help start to improve their finances with basic systematic instructions.

      Now the young earth non-environmentalism aspect is another thing entirely…

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 28, 2013, 3:38 pm

        I agree with all of you too – Dave Ramsey has helped a lot of people – more than I probably will ever manage to do myself.

        But it’s still OK for us to make fun of his approach here, because it’s part of defining our own little niche. This is the Advanced personal finance blog – by nerds, for nerds. While we acknowledge that psychological tricks work on even us, we also require that the math works out. And most of us prefer Separation of Church and ‘Stash as well.

  • Emily Allred April 26, 2013, 6:04 am

    Great post, and well-timed for me, as I’d begun drifting. (Not that I am not always more of a semi-Mustachian, but I’ve been veering from the course I’d prefer to be on, and really only due to increased apathy and some self-sabotage). Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies April 26, 2013, 6:05 am

    Money aside, there gets to be a point in life where you have “enough”. If I had wanted to spend lots of time acquiring things, figuring out how to store them, proper care and maintenance, and preservation for posterity’s sake, I would have studied for it in school and become a museum curator or a librarian.

    • Ms. Must-stash April 26, 2013, 10:40 am

      Yes! I HATE feeling controlled by my stuff. The only way to re-gain control is to get rid of as much as possible and bar the door against anything else!

      I always go back to this favorite line from a poem by Emerson: “Things are in the saddle / and ride mankind”


    • Ms. W April 26, 2013, 11:50 am

      I agree! The last few years I’ve definitely been purging my life of “stuff”. I have a crazy enough schedule, I certainly don’t have time to clean and care for all the extras!

  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) April 26, 2013, 6:21 am

    I agree with everything in this post, but I want to emphasize the environmental component of frugality. If the rest of the world consumes like we Americans do, then out species will perish. Frugality helps reduce consumption by doing more and being happier with less. It’s awesome and fun!

    Also, maybe I’m naive, but I hope for the day when all citizens of the world are entitled to basic needs like food, shelter, healthcare, and education. Our level of productivity has multiplied by so much that should be possible now, if we stopped wasting our resources.

    • Debbie M April 26, 2013, 7:08 am

      Yes! One of the advantages of having way more money than you need is that you can shift your focus from minimizing use of your own resources to minimizing use/abuse/destruction of the world’s resources (even if it costs more of yours).

      Eating organically may not be healthier for you, but it’s healthier for the earth and for farmworkers. Organic meat has not been given antibiotics preventatively, so that means more people who are sick can be healed with the antibiotics that are available to them. And staying away from GMO food means you are not subsidizing the idea that we should make food without viable seeds so a company can force farmers to re-buy.

      Making do with what you have means using no additional resources at all. Buying used means using no resources but transportation and maybe retail space maintenance.

      Buying from Etsy, coops, fair-trade associations, etc. instead of from places selling sweatshop-produced things seems like a good idea, too.

      This is not exactly the same kind of thinking as (self-centered) frugality, but would make an excellent goal for someone like your second writer who really does not need to conserve his own resources anymore.

      • CALL 911 April 26, 2013, 10:08 am

        I agree with you about the IDEA of Etsy being better, but the vast majority of the items on the site are terrible from a fair trade/green/socially conscious standpoint. The artists make sweatshop level wages, with first world expenses, and drive their 4000 lb motorized laz-e-boys to Hobby Lobby to buy one roll of Chinese yarn, one Korean glue stick, and some Vietnamese googly eyes. I don’t have a solution, just wanted to point out an often overlooked reality.

        • Debbie M April 26, 2013, 4:40 pm

          Thanks for pointing this out!

        • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:27 pm

          Also, *many* of the stores on Etsy aren’t even overconsumptive US producers, but *actual sweatshops.* The blog Regretsy covered this periodically – it’s not updating anymore, but you can read the archives.

      • ael April 26, 2013, 10:34 am

        I largely agree with you. However, I grew up frugal on a farm raised by survivors of the great depression. Now I myself am a semi-retired and still frugal farmer. I must take exception to a couple of your assumptions: 1. that organic farmworkers are healthier, and 2. that GMO foods force farmers to buy new seeds every year. The careful use of chemicals, observing reentry and residue regulations has resulted in very few if any harms to workers and is carefully reviewed with scientific rigor on a regular basis. I personally have used the least possible chemicals.

        Regarding no. 1, organic farms (especially vegetables) have many more weeds requiring the equivalent of the banned short hoe to control them–back breaking work. Likewise, harvesting organics is much less likely to be automated but to be equally back breaking. Not a recipe for good spinal health. Driving a machine is usually less harmful than severe repetitive labor. And finally can you cite any studies rather than anecdotes that support your assertion.

        Regarding no. 2, If GMO seeds are more expensive but lead overall to lower cost production, it then becomes a choice between economics and philosophy (note that “philosophy” as used here and as used by most people avoids the introduction of solid science). I should note that never once, before the advent or after of GMO seeds, did I save seeds for commercial planting. Many other traits stray with the second generation and it gives unpredictable results. Also, some crops that incorporate BT in the plant reduce the use of chemical insecticides just as the Roundup Ready plants reduce the use of other chemical herbicides. There are always trade offs.

        I offer these comments, not in the spirit of confrontation, but in the hope that just as Mustachianism requires careful thought about the easily and popularly assumed nature of work and life cycles, so too will you see that the casual assumption of popular slogans needs careful analysis prior to “jumping to a confusion.” Failure to examine your assumptions always deserves a “punch in the face.” A friendly one though.

        • Ms. Must-stash April 26, 2013, 10:53 am

          Hi ael – I am certainly not an expert like you are but I wanted to offer this comment in the spirit of continuing the discussion.

          Having recently read “Tomatoland” – very detailed investigative journalism about the harmful effects of conventional chemical farming on workers’ health in the tomato industry in Florida – I think that what you describe is the exception rather than the rule.

          Your minimal-chemical usage/philosophy sounds reasonable to me and although I prefer to eat organic when possible, I personally would be happy to purchase something from your farm. However, without knowing who is growing one’s food, it’s impossible to tell whether something that is non-organic involves minimal chemicals like your farm does or excessive amounts (with horrifying consequences to worker health) like the Florida tomato industry. Therefore the only way to be sure is to go organic or to buy from local growers. When we participated in a CSA for example, they explained that they were not certified organic because of the regulatory burden and because they occasionally used minimal amounts of chemicals.

          • ael April 26, 2013, 11:07 am

            I appreciate your thoughtful reply, not the heat without light type. I have to go do some tractor work now or would continue this discussion further. I mostly would like to emphasize the idea of an open mind whether you abide or abominate chemicals. By the way even organic farmers use chemicals; they are just different, sometimes less complex, usually less effective, sometimes, but not always better understood than what mainline farmers use. I can think of very few farmers who use chemicals without a specific need.

        • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 12:01 pm

          As someone who grows most of my own food, though I don’t call myself a farmer because I grow only enough for myself and my partner, rather than selling it, I can say that at a small scale, the work is not crippling. Indeed, with more and more interest in organic food these days (and of course drawing on thousands of years of organic growing that worked just fine before the advent of pesticides & herbicides) there are more and more methods of organic growing being invented and tested or dusted off from the olden days. These methods are viable alternatives to pesticide and herbicide use at a small scale, though I agree that given the scale of agriculture these days where a single farmer might have thousands of acres, it may not be workable within that business model. To me, however, that suggests we need to change the business model, not that we need to give up and go the conventional route. Increasingly science is demonstrating that pesticides and herbicides are not as benign as we’d like to believe. Though we may argue that they biodegrade within a short time, how many farmers could tell you what products they biodegrade into, and whether those are any better? You can bet the chlorine atoms in an organochlorine molecule aren’t going anywhere. So they’ll make another organochlorine. Better hope that one is an improvement! Equally importantly, they are not as effective as they once were and someday they will not be effective at all. That is, with the rampant widespread use of pesticides and herbicides, weeds and insects are developing resistance, requiring the dose to be continually increased. Therefore the formulation of, say, Roundup, gets stronger and stronger. Now Dow is developing new herbicides to combat the weeds that are resistant to Roundup, and GMOs to go with them. You can bet their products will not be more friendly and benign. Where will this ultimately lead? Can we just keep producing stronger and stronger pesticides forever? I think not. It’s a losing battle. At some point we’ll have to re-learn how to work with the earth instead of against it.

          That brings me to the GMO point: I think what’s being referenced are Terminator seeds, which I understand Monsanto has said they will not produce or sell commercially. I think they would be more of a concern to third-world farmers anyway. The aspect of GMOs that scares me is that they enable the massive and increasing use of herbicides and pesticides which otherwise would not be possible, and they destroy genetic diversity and create a monoculture system which is vulnerable to any number of ailments like disease, infection or weather conditions that could wipe out all of one crop across a continent en masse. Also the use of open-pollinated GMO crops where Monsanto sues farmers whose crops have been contaminated by Monsanto genes. And wins. Just creepy.

          • ael April 26, 2013, 3:57 pm

            Life is complex; some points I agree with you, others I will quibble. I love gardening, but somehow can’t find enough time to do it right. And yes, scale matters greatly. If I can find some time this evening, I will reply further. My only concern is we may have wandered (my fault mostly) rather far from the topic of this post.

            • Debbie M April 26, 2013, 4:53 pm

              Thanks you guys! I don’t think we’ve moved too far from the point of this post. People with lots of money who switch to preserving the world’s resources instead of just their own certainly have quite a challenge ahead of them, not only to actually do it, but also to figure out how to do it.

              Virtually all the food I buy is grown on a large scale. In that situation, I prefer organic, non-GMO, etc. (Non-GMO because I just don’t want to support those companies which are, in my opinion, unethical in many, many ways.) But my favorite milk is a local non-organic milk. And CSAs are awesome. And farmer’s markets, where you can talk to the actual farmers. And growing your own food, at least the foods that naturally grow well in your part of the world, is great. But then there are still the issues of efficiency, pesticide resistance, back-breaking labor.

              I suspect some foods are more problematic in general–very hard to grow without pests–and eliminating these from the diet might be another way to go.

          • another planner April 26, 2013, 7:05 pm

            Thank you ael for bringing facts to the discussion.

            Kenoryn – there are many types of GMOs in the market, but certainly the first kind were pesticide resistant crops. GMO crops themselves do not result in monocropping, smart farmers practice sound crop cycle. The glyphosate resistant crops have actually allowed no-till practices, and resulted in a lot of environmental (and other) benefits. Not all organic production practices are environmentally friendly, many are quite the contrary (excessive cultivation, leaching of excessive nutrients from manure use, etc). There is no black and white here.

            Some pesticide resistant GMO crops (e.g., Bt resistant cotton) have resulted in less pesticide use and better farm worker health. There are also drought resistant crops, based on GMO technology, etc. Unfortunately some folks prefer scare mongering (don’t mean you necessarily) and happily ignore science and facts. Sad but true.

            • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 8:41 pm

              Certainly, there’s good and bad to everything, and when ‘organic’ is a trendy thing or a way to get more money from consumers, you’re going to have farmers who don’t care aiming for the simplest/cheapest way to achieve the organic label without really delving too deep into the effects. Similarly, good points about potential benefits of GMOs – I have always argued there’s nothing inherently evil about GMOs, but considering Monsanto has the corner on the market right now – well, I do think Monsanto is pretty much evil. All in all, from my perspective the harm in conventional farming practices currently outweighs the good and for organic products the good outweighs the harm, and the flaws and benefits you cited can be found in both sectors. Perhaps other more niche fields like permaculture will catch on to the mainstream someday. If you’re also concerned about your own health as well as environmental health, organic is probably the way to go for that reason, too. However- all of this is why I just grow my own food and then I know exactly how it was done and what went into it. ;) And Debbie, agreed that CSAs are awesome as well, for the same reason!

      • ael April 26, 2013, 10:58 pm

        One of the things I value most about this blog is the readers. Overwhelmingly you are good, thoughtful people I’m sure I would like to meet in person.

        • Kenoryn April 27, 2013, 6:19 am

          I was just thinking that! Normally I have to keep reminding myself to never read the comments on anything as I’m sure it’s bad for my health, but there are always great comments on MMM. Thanks! :)

      • ael April 27, 2013, 11:20 am

        My wife just made a very thought provoking comment. If GMO is bad how will a person holding that view reconcile with possible life saving gene therapy for diabetes or less common diseases if and when such therapy becomes easily available, especially if that person has said disease.

  • Headed Home April 26, 2013, 6:21 am

    Great call to action! Very exhilerating post.

  • Stephen April 26, 2013, 6:23 am

    I’ve seen Armani at thrift stores. Jacob sailed yachts for free. Not only is massive spending unnecessary for happiness, it’s unnecessary even for a lot of what the rest of the world calls luxury.

  • Amanda April 26, 2013, 6:25 am

    I liked the Wall-e reference:)

    • Joe (yolfer) April 26, 2013, 5:19 pm

      Ditto! I was wondering how long it would take until MMM would equate lazy folks to the passengers on the Axiom!

    • Mr. Bonner April 26, 2013, 10:03 pm

      Yes, Wall-e!!! I could see the scene, but just couldn’t name the movie. Thanks!

  • Executioner April 26, 2013, 6:43 am

    Somewhat opposite the writer of the first letter, I’ve had conversations with my co-workers wondering why members of our executive management team remain at work for longer than a few years. When earning $300-$500K annually, what is the point if staying employed more than 5 years or so?

    • geek April 26, 2013, 6:54 pm

      As someone who is strongly externally motivated…
      a CEO salary is a strong indicator of status just like a fancy car for many people. But in this case its competitive status.
      alpha femaleness. Its not about the money, its about getting an A in life.

      and while many here view the A one way, these folks view it another.

      perhaps they spend it all to justify ever increasing competitiveness? :P

    • Tim April 27, 2013, 12:41 pm

      Lots of people like what they do. Perhaps a corollary to “Why should I be frugal, when I’m so rich?” is “Why should I retire and live on less, if I like working?”

  • Dragline April 26, 2013, 6:49 am

    Nice post. Gets to the core idea that frugality is a fundamental Virtue that can be the source of many good outcomes and that the failure to pursue it often produces bad ones. See also: http://kbonikowsky.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/the-forgotten-virtue-of-frugality/

    “Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything.” — B. Franklin

  • CashRebel April 26, 2013, 6:57 am

    I really like that second email you got from the Wallstreet type. I don’t personally know any super rich Wallstreet folks, but it’s always interesting to get their opinion on early retirement. I’m constantly confused as to why my boss’s boss who makes over $300,000/year is still working. I guess I figured she’d find something better to do with her time now that she clearly doesn’t need money…

    • @debtblag April 26, 2013, 8:20 am

      Probably not the money that they care about anymore. I imagine you have to love work for work’s sake to get that far.

  • My Financial Independence Journey April 26, 2013, 7:13 am

    I just don’t see the “enough” point. If I had more money, I’d up my spending so long as I can meet my savings and financial independence goals. I’d love to hire a maid. I’d love to hire a personal trainer. I’d love to have two houses so that I can live the snowbird lifestyle. I’d love to pay for trips across the country and the world. I’d like to take art and music lessons.

    I get your point about optimization and effort, but I have no interest in wasting my time doing stuff I hate, like cleaning my house or living in inclement weather (Southern summers or Northern winters), if I’ve got the money to avoid ever having to do those things again.

    Resisting lifestyle inflation makes sense when your working towards financial independence or some other important goal. But after you’ve crossed the line I think it makes more sense to use your extra money to remove aspects of your life that you find unpleasant and to begin improving yourself as a person.

    • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 9:54 am

      Except for the part about being a responsible citizen of Planet Earth. :) As per Debbie’s and rjack’s posts above.

      Also, I think “remove aspects of your life that you find unpleasant” and “improving yourself as a person” are at odds with one another as life goals. Improving yourself as a person is not just about gaining ‘hard’ skills like art or music skills. It’s about gaining things like humility, wisdom, compassion, and personal strength. With no hardship in your life, with no effort, you will never gain those things.

  • Mrs. Bookworm April 26, 2013, 7:28 am

    I can relate to the writer of the second email. Although I am not earning anywhere near a million dollars a year, I do get paid an income way above average with my job in the finance sector (I also worked in Manhattan a long time ago). My husband and I got accustomed to spending on conveniences or luxuries simply because we could afford it. For a while, my mindset was:
    – Starbucks coffee everyday, why not? I earn more than that during the time I take the elevator to the ground floor and queue up to buy it.
    – Taxi from my house to the train station? Sure, saves me five minutes.
    – One hundred dollar meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant? It’s a great experience.
    – New iPhone? It’s so much better than my old one.
    – Five thousand dollars for a Hawaii vacation? You only live once!
    It became easy to justify this lifestyle because we were surrounded by people who earned lots of money and enjoyed luxuries that were far greater than ours, making us feel like we were the frugal ones. And there was still enough left over at the end of the month, so we didn’t feel any pressure to cut back.
    This cycle was broken for us after we went through the Tokyo 2011earthquake and nuclear crisis – as we left our belongings to hastily fly out of the country, we realized how we had accumulated little wealth and too much non-essential “stuff”. I don’t think we will ever be as frugal as MMM but we are carving out a path for ourselves to get to financial independence sooner rather than later.

    • CY April 27, 2013, 9:30 am

      I can relate to your post, Mrs. Bookworm. Hubby and I were in similar circumstances to yours — we made the money and spent it on luxury items. Why not? If we wanted it, we got it.

      One day, we decided enough of the “rat race” and methodically started paying off our debts. Hubby retired early at 54 and now, I will retire next month @ 53.

      We made being frugal a game of how low can we go in spending. Watching the utility bills, food bills, etc. get lower every month became fun. We live within our means and even have 3 pets that we are able to support.

      I love the fact that I will be able to enjoy an active lifestyle and not needing money to do it.

  • Leigh April 26, 2013, 7:40 am

    I spent way more money than I should last year and I knew that this year was going to be a ridiculously amazing year for income, so I’ve made a really conscious effort to spend less money this year. My goal is < $24,000 including everything except mortgage P&I since that should be paid off in another 3-4 years. That is so far resulting in an amazing boost to my net worth!

    It's interesting working in software and watching how old people are and what they do with their lives. A lot of the older people I see, I wonder how they haven't retired already. For some of them, I think they *gasp* actually like working, but for others, perhaps it's just crazy spending? I don't really understand how a million dollar house is that much nicer than a $400,000 house – that kind of goes past the point of it being more luxurious to have a more expensive house. It's funny that most people I talk to seem to understand the concepts of "the gap", "saving your raises", and "you don't have to be that frugal at our salaries to retire early". I mean, I'm now up to saving 66% of my regular net pay (and all of my bonuses) and I'm still spending what many people would consider an obscene amount of money.

    I just…I don't really know what I would spend all that money I'm saving on. I can't fathom it.

    • CALL 911 April 26, 2013, 10:31 am

      If you can’t fathom it, I’ll tell you why (prepare for a nickels worth of armchair psychology). My first premise is: you were not handed your salary, you earned it. You started making $6/hr at Subway in High School, then $10/hr waiting tables while busting ass in college, then $40k at your first post college job. Then you changed jobs and busted ass to earn a promotion to $60k. Then another promotion and job change. Now you make $125k . . . but you didn’t always, so you understand what it takes to earn money – thus you don’t want to give it away to corporate America. Secondly, and more importantly, you’re fulfilled. You don’t have a hole inside of you demanding you fill it. If you’re unfulfilled, and don’t know how to reach fulfillment, the TV tells you to buy a bigger house (HGTV), with a faster car (Speed), and tons of clothes (Oxygen) for your tropical vacation (Travel Channel), while eating well (Food Network). If you don’t know better, you believe it, and spend all of your money. But you aren’t fulfilled, so you try again the next year. And the next, and the next. So you spend (more than) all of your money, but never fixed the reason you weren’t content in the first place.

  • Trish April 26, 2013, 7:44 am

    “Recreational Mustacians”.
    Dang, I like the sound of that….!

    • @debtblag April 26, 2013, 8:16 am

      Me too! Or maybe, “Mustachians of leisure” :)

  • Joe April 26, 2013, 7:51 am

    This is my first comment although I’ve spent the better part of my evenings last week going through ALL of your archives. Love the blog, and wish I had this information when I was younger. I’m 50 now, thisclose to being debt free except mortgage, and looking to cut expenses further (car insurance, cable, etc.). I’m OK with my current position, looking to get better, and it’s looking like my wife may be coming aboard the frugal train as well.

    I’m lucky because I hung around my immigrant grandparents for most of my life, who survived the Depression and thrived later on. They lived a physically demanding life, didn’t want for much, and spent and saved their money wisely. My grandmother was one of the happiest people I’ve ever known, and she used to recycle potato chip bags!! They were all the proof I needed to realize happiness doesn’t come from wealth or possessions – it comes from within.

  • @debtblag April 26, 2013, 8:16 am

    I’d just explain to them that frugality isn’t just for frugality’s sake. It’s really a prioritization of what’s actually important.

  • SHP April 26, 2013, 8:21 am

    While, your post hits home I am not the type that every “human” is created equal and we all have our own unique abilities…

    “Try as we might to earn less money, our income has gone up almost every year since retirement in 2005.”

    My point is there are many other blogs out there that teach “frugal” living and have not been as sucessful as yours. Would say there is some luck there but would think it also has much to do with the talent of the individual. Why do top CEOs and Atheltes and Actors make mega millions and the average Joe’s make basically peanuts…. Someone has to pick up the trash and keep the electricity pumping….

    • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 2:26 pm

      That’s partly about the attitude, as well. If MMM were just advocating frugality, well, that wouldn’t have much to do with income. But MMM advocates muscle over motor. Doing things yourself. Learning new skills. Building your personal capacity and flexibility. Building good relationships founded on trust. And I imagine it’s those things, not necessarily inherent talents, that have led him to accrue more income.

  • Pretired Nick April 26, 2013, 8:25 am

    Many years ago i was sitting at my desk on a particularly depressing day at work. It was pouring rain outside and I was dealing with nonstop office politics and staring down a long afternoon before I could head home. I turned away from my computer for a moment and noticed a Hispanic man spreading barkdust in the rain. He was filthy from his day of working out in the weather.
    Suddenly he felt me looking at him and looked up to the windows of this shiny office building. We locked eyes for a moment. Suddenly I realized we both would trade positions in a second. He, envious of my warm office and window office. Me envious of him being able to spread bark in the refreshing rain, free from corporate bullshit. My fancy income, car, house, etc. were instantly rendered meaningless.
    I think I spent the rest of that day working on my pretirement spreadsheet.

    • Debbie M April 26, 2013, 5:01 pm

      I love this story.

    • SomeYoungGuy April 27, 2013, 5:59 am

      I understand the sentiment, but I do wish our (working age) generation would appreciate just how easy we have it. There are people that work long, boring hours for terrible pay, and even more that have no prospect of stable income. Talk about soul crushing! I hope we take time to thank our lucky stars for having options, appreciate what we can achieve with relatively little work, and help and motivate others that are less fortunate!

  • Renee S April 26, 2013, 9:18 am

    This post reminded me of a story called “How Much is Enough?”

    The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

    The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

    The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

    The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

    The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

    The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

    The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

    The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this take?”

    To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

    “But what then?”

    The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

    “Millions?” asked the fisherman, “Then what?”

    The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos!”

    (Author Unknown)

    • geek April 26, 2013, 6:58 pm

      I’ve suddenly realized that siestas may have nothing to do with taking a nap.

      • DuckReconMajor September 5, 2018, 12:13 pm

        I get the joke here but actually I learned from another article recently that siestas were necessary in hotter climates before air conditioning was widely available. I know that’s not the only reason and I’d love for the siesta to make a comeback, but even in countries known for siesta it is becoming less common, in part because of widespread A/C and in part from America’s continuous push of its culture across the globe.

  • Jeff Reynolds April 26, 2013, 9:24 am

    Wow, wow, wow. I can say this is without a doubt my favorite MMM post ever. Probably because it captures my views on money, efficiency, life as well as anything I’ve read.

    That doesn’t mean I do it just like you.

    When I decided to take my family of four on an around the world trip in hopes of breaking free of the (naturally occurring) American-centric view of the universe, I set a financial limit of $10k. This help me focus on efficient ROI not just ROI. Yes, I realize going around the world is, by definition, self-indulgent and inefficient, but I’m speaking in relative terms here.

    Anyway, thanks for everything. Forward!

  • Josh April 26, 2013, 9:50 am

    LOVE this post!!! I think the real issue people have is that they can’t figure out how to be happy with what they have, whatever that might be. The reality is that most of the people who question early retirement aren’t living below — or even close to — the poverty line, but they can’t see how to diverge from the throw-away consumer life. “Look at how happy the people are in the commercial for that thing that only costs $9.95! I want to be that happy! I can BE that happy for the low price of $9.95!!!” That’s one facet of the complex we’ve been given by the Church of Consumerism. Another is that we’ve been convinced that we shouldn’t worry about quality because spend time caring for and/or fixing the things we own is a waste of time.

  • retirebyforty April 26, 2013, 10:16 am

    Hey man, why don’t you stop being selfish and try to help improve the economy! :)
    Just joking. I am totally in your camp. Our budget is pretty tight right now, but I probably won’t spend much more even if we make a lot more money. I would probably spend more on traveling though.

    • CALL 911 April 26, 2013, 10:39 am

      I know it was a joke, but you bring up a common fallicy amongst our fellow man. Unless he has his entire net worth in a shoebox in his closet, he does help our economy. By owning a rental house, he is increasing the Boulder County tax revenues, allowing them to hire another Sheriff, or landscaper, or paper pusher. By maintaining his house(s), he keeps the guy at the PEX plant in work, and the guy at Home Depot too. By buying stocks, he is effectively loaning money to GE, who will use it to build a factory to pay people to assemble efficient trains, which will then be sold to BNSF, who will hire an engineer to drive it, to take your organic oatmeal from the New England farm to your local grocery store (I skipped a few steps) cheaply. Without his investment, no trains are built, with unemployed factory workers, engineers, grocery employees and farmers, with oats rotting in the fields.

      • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 2:50 pm

        Further to this is the idea of applying the principle of ‘enough’ to the entire world. Modern economic theory holds that in order for us to be successful and prosperous, the economy must be growing. If the economy stays the same, that’s bad, and if it shrinks, that’s REALLY bad. Of course a few moments’ thought about the theory will cause you to ask “… but for how long?” Where do we stop? Do we keep growing and growing for ever and ever and ever, into eternity? Obviously there’s no way that’s possible. The world is finite. Its resources are finite and eventually we’ll run out of many of them. At some point, we’ll hit a wall. Moreover, our current growth, due to the nature of population growth, is exponential, so we’re getting to that point faster all the time. The economy will either have to remain stable at that point or start shrinking (or, if we haven’t done any planning by that point, more likely it will collapse completely). So when we say ‘good for the economy’ – is it really good? What we mean is helping the economy to grow, but is that a worthwhile goal to strive for? Surely that’s just stepping on the gas when we can clearly see a cliff ahead. If we’re in favour of the continued existence of the human race, we’ll have to reach a steady-state economy, and it can’t be within our current system, which is dependent on non-renewable resources. So I would venture to say that you help to improve the economy with every decision that steers you, or others, away from the consumption status quo and toward sustainability.

        • Andrew April 26, 2013, 8:38 pm

          Ahh, you are a commenter after my own heart. I agree 100%, and to my mind there’s no way to avoid the cliff. Economic growth comes from one of two things: population growth or efficiency improvements. Population can’t grow forever due to the finite nature of the Earth (and there’s evidence that it’s stopping as the world gets more “developed” anyways) so that can’t possibly be the solution going forward. Let’s assume the energy and resource questions gets solved by some dei ex machina. Where are efficiency improvements going to come from? Getting more work out of older workers? Good luck with that. Robots? MAYbe, but that will just push lower skilled workers out of the marketplace, and they won’t be able to buy what’s being produced if they’re out of work (unless you are some sort of communist!). And as demand crashes, prices crash and *poof* there goes your growth. Oh, and no, not everyone can be a knowledge worker. Have you ever seen YouTube?

          Remember: crash early, crash often.

          • Kenoryn April 27, 2013, 6:51 am

            Ha ha, I like your axiom there. I would add that even if you find efficiency improvements (through technology, the main thing that has allowed the products we buy to keep getting cheaper and cheaper, along with the exploitation of third-world populations) or you adjust the working situation somehow to get more labour out of the population (as happened with women entering the workforce), it can’t last forever. Women entering the workforce only happened once. You could up people’s work-weeks to seven days, but that would only happen once. Eventually you’d have nowhere left to go, and you’ll have efficient technology with little room for improvement. Plus, that world would suck.

  • Cecile April 26, 2013, 10:23 am

    Thanks a bazillion for that last part.
    Yeah I’d rather be happy just by stepping out of my house and hop on the bike, without having to burn as much fuel as that rich guy. And I like to convince my friends they can also be happy without burning fuel.
    But maaaan, there is a loooong way to go before everyone thinks like that.
    Keep it up MMM !

  • Heath April 26, 2013, 10:50 am

    You are blowing my goddamned mind here, MMM!

    I know I’ve seen plenty of community comments to the tune of “you must have written this just for me, because it’s incredibly relevant and helpful at this moment in my life”.

    Today, I’m one of Those People.

    Recently a friend of mine spoke to me about our different financial ideologies. She used some of the exact terminology you did in this article (‘deserve it’, the frugal part of your life is less good, etc.). Ever since I discovered your website, I’ve tried to adopt and refine your philosophies, and share some of my revelations with her. But the very mention of your blog is now enough to get her eyes rolling, as she considers you to be ‘extreme’ for the very reasons you posited above. It’s interesting because she does have some very frugal habits: usually prefers hanging out at home to going out, usually prefers going hiking/camping/climbing to fancy hotels/dinners, etc. But she wants a ‘nice house’ because of what she imagines other people will think of her. I’m slowly sanding away at that by example. The longer I live a happy and fulfilled life while simultaneously eliminating waste, and the closer I get to eliminating my debt, and the more freedom I give myself to live life free of the shackles, all while ignoring the scoffs of the indebted and wasteful… the more I hope it opens the eyes of my friends and family.

    Anyway, thanks for being a badass! And double-thanks for speaking your mind :-)


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