224 comments

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?

 

  • snacks April 26, 2013, 11:02 am

    MMM, your $25,046 per year makes me think about my options… Plan A: continue working the next 20 years and paying into state retirement, to hopefully get about $40,000(+,-) per year to retire on. OR Plan B: work for the next 5-7, clear debt, save, invest, create streams of passive income, take advantage of the free classes offered to employees by my college and learn some trade skills, and do my own version of early retirement. Well My Mustachian Messiah, thanks for guiding me and my family to the promised land of Plan B!

    Reply
  • Kestra April 26, 2013, 11:28 am

    Directed to the second story. If the local store serves your needs and has good products, please keep shopping there. Overpriced is relative. If they are jerks and overpriced that’s another story. But I’m happy to spend a little more to keep smaller grocery stores open. If everyone shopped at the big discount stores even when they could afford better we’ll ruin things for small businesses. My job is relatively easy and well paid and I’m happy to spread some of that money around the local economy, even if it means working a bit longer.

    Reply
  • Jack April 26, 2013, 11:32 am

    Wonderful post, MMM!

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  • Lisa E. April 26, 2013, 11:54 am

    Great article!

    This is something I’ve been pondering a lot lately. Like, how can it be that athletes, businessmen, and celebrities who make millions go into debt? I’m guessing the answer is that they never stop wanting. They’re never satisfied.

    I, on the other hand, dream of retiring early and even being a millionaire. No, not so that I can spend whatever the hell I want, but because I want to make sure that MY millions go towards something good – my church, the poor, etc.

    I always love your articles! They’re definitely inspiring!

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  • Ms. W April 26, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I think a lot of people do get stuck in the typical worker mentality, and find it hard to think outside the mold we’re given of “work until you’re 65, if lucky retire”.

    When I had my first *real* job out of college, I met with a financial planner, who preached that as a young 20-something with no real responsibilities, I should “live in a box… eat ramen noodles… have roommates… whatever it takes so you can someday retire comfortably.” In your early 20s, *someday* is 40+ years away!

    Now, had someone told me that I could do those things and retire in 10 years, never having to work again? My life would look completely different right now! Ah well, better late than never!

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  • John April 26, 2013, 12:10 pm

    You raise some great points here, MMM. The millionaire crowd doesn’t seem to grasp the ultimate goals of being independent, both financially and location-wise. Ever since I started reading your blog, I though a lot about what retirement is for. Being able to do whatever the hell I want, where I want is much more enticing than having “stuff” to maintain such as the aforementioned yacht. Well done sir!

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  • smedleyb April 26, 2013, 12:25 pm

    “But in its blind unrestrainable passion, its wear-wolf hunger for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight…. All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labour-power that can be rendered fluent in a working-day. It attains this end by shortening the extent of the labourer’s life, as a greedy farmer snatches increased produce from the soil by reducing it of its fertility” Karl Marx.

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  • KB April 26, 2013, 12:46 pm

    I think there is a large majority with “My FI Journey” above and that’s exactly why people who earn 300K keep working. I remember starting out making 23K thinking people who made very average incomes were very rich.

    Lifestyle inflation creeps up on you ever so slowly. You have a little extra money – you go to Disney with the family. Some of your friends go every year and they recommend Animal Kingdom Lodge where animals are right outside your hotel and it all ends up costing several thousand; you get a maid (but only once a month then that increases to twice a month and then every week), your start buying some pre-prepared meals at Whole Foods. Next thing you know, you’re moving to a more affluent community because you want to be around professionals like yourself and suddenly you’re spending more on sports like golf and skiing plus education like special tutours so you’re children will get ahead (lots of your friends are doing it) and so it goes.
    Now you need that 300k to maintain your lifestyle which you think isn’t even that over the top because your kids don’t even go to private school and you don’t have a second house so then you want to make even more…
    (This is hypothetical, not me but I can see how it can all happen)

    It’s just like anything – I’ve gained 15 lbs slowly in the last 5 years, maybe right around 1 lb every 4 months or so then the next thing I know I can’t fit into my clothes.

    Life is like that so we need to make conscious decisions about our lifestyle and goals, otherwise you’ll find yourself just swept along with the crowd… Anyway this is to answer why people earning 300k keep working!

    Reply
  • Rita Vail April 26, 2013, 12:55 pm

    I think it was Lurker who asked the question, “When did obscene levels of consumption become the norm.” I think the answer to that is – when everyone installed a box of talking heads in their living room pushing products on even the most innocent of us – the kids (which would be us).

    And how many people ever think about the ginormous jump in energy usage when you upgrade to one of those big flat screens. Maybe they can afford the electric bill, but Mother Earth is wilting under the demand for more coal fired power pants.

    Reply
  • Monevator April 26, 2013, 1:31 pm

    Mr Money Mustache, are you familiar with the word “eustress”?

    It’s a helpful word, and relevant. I think you’d like it! :)

    Reply
  • Auburn April 26, 2013, 1:46 pm

    Oooh, Mr Money Mustache, you are right smack dab in the middle of today’s Washington Post site! With a great LONG LONG LONG article/interview! Woo hoo!!!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/meet-mr-money-mustache-the-man-who-retired-at-30/2013/04/26/71e3e6a8-acf3-11e2-a8b9-2a63d75b5459_story.html

    Reply
    • bogart April 26, 2013, 7:58 pm

      Yes, that’s great. Congratulations!

      Reply
    • Neo April 27, 2013, 12:36 am

      Already 880 comments , 878 on health care costs :)

      Reply
  • CrucialDebtCrusher April 26, 2013, 2:08 pm

    WaPo is having a meltdown in the comments. Then again, that’s all day erry day.

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    • Mr. Bonner April 26, 2013, 10:25 pm

      Yeah, just browsed some of the WaPo comments. Tough crowd, but it sounds like lots of new Mustachians have been created.

      Reply
      • Clint April 27, 2013, 11:52 am

        Whoever JDoolin and guyslp and ray Williams are… Way to go! You’ve helped lower my blood pressure.

        Reply
  • Jeremy @ Go Curry Cracker! April 26, 2013, 2:44 pm

    I can’t honestly think of a single item that I could purchase that would make me any happier than I am today. Twice as much money wouldn’t make me twice as happy.

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    • Emmers April 26, 2013, 7:41 pm

      There’s definitely a threshold for this. For example, some people would be MUCH happier if they could afford health insurance. But if you have your basic necessities covered (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), then I think your attitude is absolutely the correct one.

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      • Jeremy @ Go Curry Cracker! April 28, 2013, 10:44 am

        There is certainly a threshold, I’m in full agreement

        On the flip side, I know many people with health insurance that are totally miserable. Happiness generally comes from within. Even terminally ill individuals are able to find happiness:
        See the Last Lecture of Randy Pausch as an example http://youtu.be/ji5_MqicxSo

        Fortunately for those that want to retire early, health insurance is actually pretty cheap. The MMM household spends less monthly on health insurance than many families spend on their cell phones

        Reply
  • Mike April 26, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Saw your article in the Washington Post. Great! So happy for you and your family.

    Reply
  • Reality Check April 26, 2013, 3:35 pm

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  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets April 26, 2013, 4:40 pm

    Hold on, hold on, wait a minute here. What are you TALKING about? People work 10+ hours a day for 45 years so they can enjoy STUFF! Why would you stop working just to cut all the fun out of life?? Don’t go trying to plow a counter-cultural idea about money, this thing is already baked into the fabric of society. If you want to keep our country running, you need to keeping working so you can SPEND more money. Plus, owning a wasteful yacht makes you happy, and look at all those happy people in new car and boat commercials. That stuff is fun!

    or something like that. Anyways, thank you for blowing up the stupid cultural norm of blowing money just because you have it. And those that don’t should try to get more because blowing money is happiness. It’s absolutely rotting, dead fish stinky garbage. And thanks for making me question WHY I am working so hard, it’s great to put thing into perspective. There are definitely some material motivations to my money strategy that need to be questioned and thought over, that’s for sure.

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  • Pbkmaine April 26, 2013, 4:44 pm

    Funny you should mention Paul Allen. Have you read his book? He is STILL BITTER that Bill Gates got a bigger percentage of Microsoft than he did. Talk about money not buying happiness. He’s the poster child.

    Reply
  • diana April 26, 2013, 5:10 pm

    MMM- forgive me for not reading very many of the comments in your great Washington Post interview today. I’d rather not give myself a rage induced ulcer right before my weekend from all the asshats who haven’t bothered to read your blog before commenting.

    This might be my favorite article of yours yet. Love the perspective of the guy making 1mil/yr, and introducing the idea is that maybe it’s the efficiency of frugality that’s really makes us happy. I think that’s huge. And I don’t think frugality (efficiency) is something that you can or should just turn off that easily when you make it big. I remember one time at work a few years ago we all spontaneously got $1,000 bonuses, (a BIG deal in my nonprofit, but yeah, pretty small potatoes otherwise) and my coworker and I hit Macy’s in an attempt to just kind of blow it. We’re pretty good savers otherwise and thought we deserved it. The thing is, neither of us could do it. We literally had an extra $1,000 out of nowhere, but we were surprised to realize that it didn’t make any of the things we thought we wanted (ya know, purses, boots) seem any more reasonable. We left the store kind of deflated about how cheap and lame we felt, but in the end I was proud of us that getting an extra $1,000 didn’t turn us into idiots.

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  • Kenoryn April 26, 2013, 5:17 pm

    I think reading the Washington Post comments might give me an aneurysm. Thank god for the Mustachians I can spot in the throng making sensible comments and posting links to articles in response to all the dumb questions people are asking. ;)

    Reply
  • Jnew April 26, 2013, 7:13 pm

    MMM

    I am a new reader. I wonder how you handle health
    Insurance on your $25k of expenses?

    Could you send me a quick email and let me know?

    I am hoping to follow In your footsteps.

    Thanks!!

    Reply
  • totoro April 26, 2013, 9:19 pm

    Perhaps the real measure should be happiness per minute and not dollars.

    Reply
  • Mr. Bonner April 26, 2013, 10:28 pm

    It’s fascinating to read/hear about high-earning mustachians. Nice post!

    Reply
  • FederalMustache April 27, 2013, 12:58 am

    I was pleasantly surprised to see MMM staring out of the Washington Post website this morning. The commentariat seemed to include a lot of positive responses, plus an equal dose of standard-issue confusion and more than a few items that are covered here already.

    Reply
  • chucklesmcgee April 27, 2013, 1:45 am

    Your points ring really true about separating material goods from happiness. I’ll say that as my income has grown (300k last year, somewhere in the 500-1mil figure the next) I have increased my spending on things that give me more time or improve or accelerate my acquisition of skills but I haven’t really indulged in luxury for luxury’s sake very much at all.

    I’ve actually been most surprised at running out of things I even really want all.

    I do have to nitpick with you here- “How could an even fancier car possibly make us any happier?” Now look, you aren’t a Buddhist here or anything. There IS something exciting and fun about a fast shiny car and the fact that other people (rightly or wrongly) will compliment you on having it. Hedonstic adaption and all that jazz accounted for, you’re still going to have a small bit of enjoyment for a little while. There IS a marginal increase in happiness, it’s just that it’s incredibly tiny relative to the staggering price of a vehicle and hence a bad choice.

    If someone offered to give you a Porsche Cayenne for a month and subsidized your insurance and gas so that your costs were the same to run it as the scion, I’m pretty sure you’d take the Cayenne, just for the novelty and experience. Ditto with say, an offer to drive a Ferrari around a racetrack, And you’d be happier for it, if only short-term. Obviously if you have to pay for it and consequently work longer or not be able to spend on more worthwhile things or be less financially secure it’s not going to improve your happiness on the whole. But denying that something like a fancy car provides absolutely zero increase in satisfaction borders on a sort of asceticism that’s just silly.

    I also take issue with your bashing of Mr. Allen and his massive yacht. There’s a lot to be said for taking a swipe at the pretty-rich who still live almost exactly or above their means and continue to have to blow their brains out in order to maintain their ultrahigh incomes which are necessary to continue their lifestyle. Paul Allen isn’t one of them.

    His net worth is 15 gosh-darn billion dollars. He’s SUPER RICH and still living way below his means. That enormous yacht of his was a mere $200 mill. His net worth increased by 4 times that in the last year. Those $800k in fuel costs are just chump change- his net worth has increased an average of 3 times those fuel costs EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. If his average increase was obviously above 2 million dollars, he’s earning enough to pay for that fuel in what, a few hours?

    Yes a yacht or something might be an inefficient way to have fun. But it’s still a marginal increase and when you have more money than God it makes sense to buy one, especially when other spending won’t make you happier. And as far as charity goes, the guy’s already signed a pledge to give away at least half his wealth when he passes away. And he’s given probably close to a billion to various charitable groups.So yeah can’;t blame him

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    • Mr. Money Mustache April 27, 2013, 9:29 am

      Hey Chuckles,

      I’d agree with you if we lived in some magic digital simulation with infinite resources. But here on Earth, every single bit of consumption you do needs to be weighed against the permanent destruction of a little bit of the planet. Just like before every car trip, you need to ask yourself, “Is this little thrill worth being slightly more of an asshole to my fellow Man for?”.

      You can’t measure your consumption against your wealth to decide if it’s reasonable. You need to measure it against the sustainable level for all humans. From what I can tell, this is about 1/4 of the average US level of consumption.

      So, no, not only would I forego the free month with a Porsche Cayenne, but I wouldn’t even accept the gift of a free Prius plug-in directly from the CEO of Toyota. Why? Because that’s $30,000 of automotive hardware, thousands of pounds of metal and plastic, that would sit 28 days out of every 30 in my garage because I can already bike most places I need to go. I’m already a considerable ass just for keeping my Scion around – we could survive happily without it too.

      Reply
      • hedonist April 28, 2013, 2:39 am

        Chuckles, I agree with you completely, and I don’t buy the environmentalist argument
        that we should deny ourselves pleasure ‘for the good of the planet’.
        News flash: in 3.5 billion years from now, earth will be incinerated as the sun
        gets hotter. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

        MMM, what makes you think that ‘every single bit of consumption you do’ leads to
        ‘the permanent destruction of a little bit of the planet’ ?

        Is recycling technology getting better or worse over time?
        http://mashable.com/2011/11/02/trash-tech-recycling/

        Even natural resources such as copper, timber and petroleum become more abundant
        over time, thanks to improved extraction techniques and technological progress:
        http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2012/Bradleyresourceship.html
        http://www.planetaryresources.com/

        Do you think that humans have no incentive to develop technology to extract
        carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?
        http://www.greensols.com.au/Technology.php
        http://www.earth.columbia.edu/news/2007/story04-24-07.php

        In short, your fears of planetary destruction seem like a bet against the human
        survival instinct, and against human ingenuity in general.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 28, 2013, 7:48 am

          I agree with your optimism, Hedonist.. but a non-trashed future depends in part on the people themselves knowing enough about the Earth to care about it – so they can make appropriate buying and voting choices and not be completely oblivious to the idea of an environment.

          I have no fears about planetary destruction, because I believe the message CAN be spread, and this blog is my little piece of the message.

          But you’re until you stop thinking that consuming more stuff is actually improving your life in the long run, I maintain that you’re missing out on the chance to have a truly badass and satisfying life. I’ve lived on both sides of the fancypants divide, and there is something better about the simpler side. This is old news, but it keeps getting paved over by new marketing.

          Reply
  • Shadowmoss April 27, 2013, 8:34 am

    I have been reading the blog for about 6 months, and went to the beginning and caught up to present when I started. I just moved to a new city for a new job and because of this blog I intentionally didn’t even look for a place to live that was further than a couple of miles from where I work. Luckily that wasn’t difficult here. I also know that I will take the high deductible health option with the HSA that the company puts some money into. I know that is what I want going forward either with this job or not. I’m late to the bandwagon as I’m in my late 50’s, but better late than never. Now to go find a bike to ride to work. Oh, when I mentioned I needed the lowest mileage option on my Jeep (ok, not a great econobox, but I paid it off already) when I changed my insurance because I plan to bike to work, I got a ‘Good for you!’ from the insurance agent.

    Reply
  • Stephanie April 27, 2013, 9:19 am

    I would like to have an investment property to work as a rental for my family. Then I would like to retire. I’m 43 and I only started saving a little aside 7 years ago.

    My family began being frugal when I was pregnant with our daughter 7 years ago. In that time we got some education, found permanent full time stable jobs, purchased a small car with cash and a unit which we have nearly paid off. We stopped the parties, drinking and smoking. We chose a different path and were happy working the hours we did.

    Now 6 years latter our desires are shifting again. We have worked hard and saved hard – now we want less time in the office and more time doing things for ourselves. More cooking, creating, fishing, gardening, talking, laughing… I’m sick of facing a computer each day. When I stand to stretch at my desk I have the view of the sea – it’s a paradise out there, but I’m stuck inside for more hours then I care.

    My partner was recently told his job was being cut – so interestingly lack of employment has actually put us in a panic as we are not at the stage of having a rental and retiring yet.

    I enjoyed your post – It was great food for thought for me in my time of thinking my life over as was http://wholelarderlove.com/forest-food/ where he talked about a similar topic but in a different way. I’ve never been to your blog before but someone posted it on the Non Consumer FB Page a few minutes ago :)

    Reply
    • Free Money Minute May 9, 2013, 11:54 am

      Best wishes on your plan. Sounds like you are on the right track to retire.

      Reply
  • David Cain April 27, 2013, 9:23 am

    Ah, this is why I love your blog, MMM — because you recognize that personal finance is completely useless except as one more tool for cultivating happiness. I’ve been reading all kinds of PF blogs since I discovered this one a few months ago, and almost all of them talk only about how to improve your financial position, as if an improved financial position is the same as increasing your ability to enjoy your time on earth. They overlook the entire reason for wanting financial security in the first place. Money does nothing for us if we don’t know how to use it to improve our level of happiness. Anyone can leverage money to make more money, but it seems like only a minority of people consciously think about how to leverage money to make more happiness. This blog makes me happy.

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    • squeakywheel April 28, 2013, 6:28 pm

      +1 to David Cain

      Reply
  • Jen April 27, 2013, 10:20 am

    I agree, being frugal is actually fun for me! Now, I am pretty “poor”, being a divorced mom living on $20k a year with no child support, but we live a super nice life! I work five minutes from home for about 35 hours a week while my kids stay with their awesome grandparents! I have plenty of savings, and we can do whatever we want, including cool annual vacations, last year was Maui, this year to visit family in Oregon..we have health insurance and all the other insurances we need too.

    It can totally be done if you are smart with money and think of cheap fun ways to entertain yourself. Today my kids and I are going to pack snacks and go hiking and visit the local nature center! They will have a fun day, and I will spend nothing today.

    Reply
  • Mitchell Freedman April 27, 2013, 1:34 pm

    I am deeply impressed with your frugal style and approach. Two questions: What do you do for health insurance? Where do you live in the US (not asking for your address, just the State and maybe the County where you live). The first question is due to my pre-existing conditions and medication costs. The second is wanting to understand housing prices, property taxes, etc.

    My gut about my wife and I is we will find we can live on about $40,000 income a year (meaning that is a grossed up sum including taxes we’d have pay on the income) once the children leave home. We see our Social Security, if the jerks in Washington/Wall St. don’t completely ruin it, as being quite generous for our lives.

    Thank you again for your insight and advice.

    Reply
  • Miki April 27, 2013, 8:50 pm

    This was beautiful. MMM is as poetic and efficient with his words as he is with his money. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Anna April 28, 2013, 7:09 am

    I love the article on the Washington Post website.I hope it changes a few people’s minds about how to live.

    Reply
  • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce April 28, 2013, 8:02 am

    I am so thankful that you post a few times a week, MMM. You always “bring me back”; I need the reinforcement after getting bombarded by our society’s (and my neighbors’) screwed up values.

    Absolutely LOVED the Washington Post article. Wow, man! How did that happen!?!? What a cool week.

    Reply
  • tree_weezel April 28, 2013, 8:40 am

    We could ask the rich to “save lives” via their checkbooks and that would be quite logical, but it’s too disconnected to be a real diversion for the well-to-do.

    I would like to see the rich take the challenge of reversing urban blight: purchasing crummy properties then financing construction of good buildings and the startup of good businesses or nice housing. It would be like real-life Monopoly for them, a game of exerting their financial might on the side. By doing it primarily for show and not primarily for money, the development would not be strangled by bean-counting or fast-profit temptations.

    Reply
    • Jeremy @ Go Curry Cracker! April 28, 2013, 10:38 am

      The aforementioned Paul Allen did this in the South Lake Union neighborhood in Seattle.

      What was dilapidated buildings, meth labs, and a generally dirty and unwelcoming neighborhood is now one of the most walkable and beautiful in the city. It has one of the best parks in the city, beautiful environmentally friendly mixed use buildings, and the headquarters of Amazon.com.

      Reply
      • Steve J April 28, 2013, 10:30 pm

        Paul Allen is a fine example of a person who has used some of his wealth to improve our city. Yes he is wealthy beyond anyone who posts on this board. I think it’s very difficult for any one of us to imagine our lives if we were in his financial shoes. If you want to get an accurate picture of the man I suggest you read his book: Idea Man
        He has survived two bouts with cancer, and did not grow up wealthy although he did have the advantage of having a first class education at the Lakeside School, which his parents sacrificed for he and his sister to attend.
        Jeremy, thank you for mentioning his work in the SLU area of the city.

        Reply
  • Doug April 28, 2013, 2:41 pm

    I would FULLY agree with Mr. Money Mustache here. It’s all about having time and freedom to enjoy your life rather than being a slave to someone elses schedule to buy more stuff you don’t need which puts no added value in your life. I would add, however, that those of us who think this way represent only a small fraction of the population, 1 percent at the most.

    Reply
    • Valentin April 28, 2013, 6:54 pm

      I think it’s as important to think about how much happier you could be getting rid of some of your stuff. Having a bit more space, in home and mind, for something (anything!) else is really great. Growing down into a smaller house will become more popular, I believe. Maybe we’ll grow from ~1% to 5 or 10%, and we’ll actually be visible to the mainstream.

      Reply
  • Steve April 28, 2013, 3:15 pm

    We’ve done it. Yacht isn’t exactly the right word to describe our home, however, it’s more like just a boat. We can jump off the boat and kayak, surf, snorkel, swim, walk on the beach, eat cheap tacos, etc. all within sight of here. It’s never cold and not too hot. We bought the boat for about that a nice used Toyota pickup costs, sold all our crap and left. The three of us lived in the boatyard in a small RV for several months while we got the boat into serviceable condition and we sailed away.
    We keep our spending down because 1, we don’t have room for any more stuff, 2, cool shiny new stuff is super expensive here, and 3, we prefer life at anchor to life in an expensive marina.
    We supplement our income fixing boats here & there, building websites here & there, and mostly by not consuming.
    I learned this one early on in this adventure. Electricity isn’t free. It’s expensive to make on a boat. What’s the cheapest way to generate adequate electricity? Consume less!

    Reply
  • J_ April 29, 2013, 3:22 am

    Well written and balanced post: Thanks.
    I am on the same path as you (financial, joyful frugality, renting out real estate, doing same type of building jobs) it is remarkable. You in the middle of US I in the middle of Europe. Are cultures coming together?

    Reply
  • Sarah April 29, 2013, 9:54 am

    As soon as our youngest leaves for college my fiance and I intend on hitting the road full time in our 1986 motorhome that we paid cash for three years ago. This is our lifelong dream and we cannot wait. We have discovered that nothing will curb your shopping faster than the question “Where will we put THIS in the RV?” We have been downsizing every month since we met three years ago. The youngest of our combined six children is 11. It is taking absolutely ALL of my self-control not to take him out of school and teach him on the road.

    Reply
  • Joshua Spodek April 29, 2013, 9:57 am

    When the New Yorker talks about his lifestyle, he talks about physical things first — expensive meat, taxis, etc. If he mentions their value to him, they’re “absurd” and “why the hell not.” He sounds like he has stuff, but is searching for meaning to it.

    I think he realizes the point in caring about spending is to save money *second* and to improve your life *first.* He identifies fun as a motivation to care. MMM usually talks about freedom and happiness. So caring about spending is a means to an end of freedom, happiness, and fun.

    The kicker comes at the end of his passage — he and his colleagues hate their jobs. Hate — probably the most powerful word there. For someone who can afford anything and is looking for meaning amid absurdity, I bet fun, freedom, and happiness make frugality attractive.

    I would suggest instead of asking why spend a few minutes to save $20, why submit yourself to a job you hate forty hours a week (more like eighty with bankers I know) so you can save those few minutes?

    As a West Villager with an Ivy MBA who declined that lifestyle, I know he can enjoy 90% of its benefits working about 20% of the time through caring about what you spend, replacing what he hates with things he can love. He can do that now, not just hope for it in the future. I still live in the Village, travel the world, eat great food, stay in great shape, and party with people like him — only I don’t hate any part of my life. He can too. It’s not just about retiring early. It’s about loving every part of your life now.

    Reply
  • Kevin April 29, 2013, 10:04 am

    Good article! Keep in mind that these people that live extraordinarily inefficient lifestyles are living this way not so much to have “fun” (though they probably do) as much as to broadcast to others whom they want to have influence over that they have the means to “get things done” and thus cultivate influence amongst a specific group of people. In many cases, this kind of social advantage can, in the end, far exceed the initial outlay in luxury goods and conspicuous spending.

    It’s one of the main failings of Mustachianism (one of the few for a true believer like myself!) is that it does not take into account the social capital you can earn from conspicuous consumption and how that can be used to accomplish major community and personal goals. Part of financial independence is having the freedom to realize your life goals, and an unfortunate circumstance of the world we live in is that people respect and take direction from people who display enormous wealth. Nothing moves people to action faster than money, and if they believe they can get it from you in spades, they’ll be quick to jump on whatever pet project you have brewing, and gladly.

    If your life goals are small, then you can dress however you want and generally do whatever you feel like… but the bigger your goals are and the more people you need to help, the more of that green lady you need to get it done.

    Reply
    • Sister X April 29, 2013, 11:07 am

      As someone who’s worked in the service industry for all of my working life…bullshit. People will jump through hoops for you if you’re NICE to them. If you’re rude, F you and your money. I know very, very few people (perhaps it’s my area?) who are willing to work harder for someone just because that person is rich. Often, you’ll find that it’s the people who “look” wealthy who are the biggest tightwads anyway.
      If I have to throw around money just to appear wealthy to achieve my life goals, then I need new life goals. Those goals which require the appearance of wealth won’t make me happy.

      Reply
      • Kevin April 30, 2013, 10:12 am

        You misunderstand… I didn’t say anything about being a rude or unlikeable person and compensating for it with money. I’m talking about people who are generally good and helpful people already who have big plans and big dreams. People are attracted to wealth regardless of personality, but if you’ve already got the personality AND you have the wealth on display, your potential is limitless.

        That’s what the conspicuously wealthy pay for when they throw money into “wasteful” luxuries. It’s an investment in social capital and all the benefits thereof.

        Reply
      • Kevin April 30, 2013, 10:51 am

        As an aside, you might find Thorstein Veblen’s (father of the “Veblen good”) “The Theory of the Leisure Class” an interesting read if you want to know more about why the wealthy pursue wasteful luxuries.

        Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque May 3, 2013, 4:29 am

      There are lots of ways to earn “social capital”, as you put it.
      Sure, you can use money, getting people to dance to your tune that way.
      You can also volunteer at your kid’s school, help a neighbor build a deck or move, watch his or her kids during either of these processes or write a blog that slowly changes the world.
      The time you spend *with* people – helping them – is at least as important as the money you’re willing to spend *on* them (or just to show off *to* them).

      Reply
      • Kevin May 3, 2013, 7:39 am

        While I agree that people like us, who are middle to upper middle class and tend to live in socioeconomically homogenous areas can gain a lot by being a “good neighbor” and building up a store of “favors”, it really is an entirely different scale of measurement for the people that MMM is talking about in this post. We play the same game as the very wealthy, but the stakes are much, much lower.

        For the people that spend enormous amounts of money on wasteful luxury goods and services, they aren’t doing it for leisure. There is a very specific utility they are expecting from this type of consumption, and has more to do with power, influence and class than it has to do with leisure. In fact, leisure is very much secondary and is only a byproduct of the drive to maintain and build status with influential people.

        The problem I think a lot of Mustachians have is this image of false equivalence; that the value system of the blue and white collar wage servant class is equal to and on the same scale as the upper and leisure class. It offends our sensibilities to see that kind of wasteful wealth on display, but for the people engaging in it, it is completely rational and the most effective means of building the influence and expected status of someone of their means.

        So, I am far less critical of these people for a couple reasons:

        1) We are all victims of the biologically ingrained propensity to lifestyle inflation. There are well studied and understood evolutionary and sociological reasons for this. It takes superhuman effort, the higher you go up on the class hierarchy, to deflate excess spending. If any of us were in such a position, I would challenge you to do so and see just how difficult it is. The more meager your means, the lower the stakes and the easier it is.

        2) We all work for these people. Their consumption of extraordinarily large amounts of goods and services both by themselves and the people who are directly dependent on them (vicarious consumers) are the engine of modern economies.

        I support Mustachianism because it breaks the cycle of servitude to the leisure class, but we shouldn’t be under any illusions that as we find ourselves moving up the food chain, the lifestyle inflation required to build social status becomes more onerous. None of us are immune to it, and knowing that helps us gain control over it.

        Reply
  • Ryan April 29, 2013, 3:26 pm

    I. Love. This!!!

    I just discovered your blog and it’s filling me with joy to read! So refreshing. So amazing!

    Reply
  • Frugal in DC April 29, 2013, 6:41 pm

    We have very wealthy family members who live in another part of the country. Every once in a while we get to experience life among the 1% when we visit them. Over many years I’ve tried to come up with benefits of living a life of luxury 24/7. All I can think of is that I guess it’s an interesting concept to not have to look up the price of a good or service. But looking up how much something costs takes seconds so it’s not something I mind doing.

    However, there are so many downsides to a life of overconsumption and designer everything. There seems to be an intense need to keep up with what equally wealthy peers are doing or buying. This involves constant shopping and churning of stuff in and out of multiple residences. We all know how incredibly wasteful this is, not to mention time-consuming.

    After our trips I’m always very happy to return to my little house with the beat-up old car outside and second-hand treasures inside. I feel terrible thinking about the waste, pressure, and craziness that are the byproducts of overconsumption. I feel even sorrier for folks who go into insane levels of debt trying to aspire to elements of a life of luxury. Over the years I’ve felt like acquiring so much crap is just not something we’re physically or mentally equipped to handle. Reading Dr. Peter Whybrow’s excellent book American Mania confirmed that – excellent book and highly recommended – http://www.peterwhybrow.com/books/americanmania/about.html .

    Reply
  • Al April 30, 2013, 6:23 am

    Bloody marvelous article! Especially liked the last paragraph.

    Reply
  • Frugal in DC May 1, 2013, 7:10 am

    Hey MMM, I just noticed that the Post article made it to the Google News Spotlight section – #2 link under Most Popular on the right. Here is the link as of right now, the content probably changes constantly though: https://news.google.com/news?pz=1&cf=all&topic=ir&siidp=d16a081670c83c3960faffba51ba796856f8&zx=z7exv6b7lor6 .

    A description of the Google News Spotlight section, according to Google: “The Spotlight section of Google News is updated periodically with news and in-depth pieces of lasting value. These stories, which are automatically selected by our computer algorithms, include investigative journalism, opinion pieces, special-interest articles, and other stories of enduring appeal.”

    Congrats and thanks for sharing so much great information with us!

    Reply
  • Chris May 1, 2013, 12:37 pm

    You make great points about trying to be frugal while rich – and I agree with them but find it hard to implement them.

    The core issue is that there are other motivations for both making and spending money that people with different psychological profiles don’t understand. I grew up different, being made fun of, wasn’t very athletic or good looking, but I had an above average level of intelligence and worked hard in school. My motivation for doing so was so I’d have more and be better off than my peers – and that was when I thought the world evened out for people like me.

    Spending money on nice things makes me more confident as I naturally feel insecure in my own skin. If I’m wearing nicer shoes and watch than the next guy, it naturally gives me confidence. A frugal lifestyle implies that you differentiate on god given traits and the inherent goodness in your personality. If you don’t have very much of the first, and the second doesn’t make you feel a whole lot better about yourself, then you naturally turn to alternatives.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque May 3, 2013, 4:23 am

      Is that so you can drive to your high school reunion in your new Jag, trophy spouse at your side and thumb your nose at the douchebags you used to know?
      Because, while that can be very motivating, it might not get you to a place where your own life is as good as it could be.
      You might want to look towards taking a different turn, like going to your reunion all laid-back and telling the douchebags you don’t have to work anymore because you made your millions already.
      Not that you’re terribly likely to ever actually go to such a reunion.

      Reply
    • Jack May 28, 2013, 11:58 pm

      Feeling insecure is a terrible trait, and spending habits to disguise yourself only adds fuel to your insecureness. Insecurity should never be a motivation for living a rich lifestyle and there is no logical justification for this behavior, just excuses. You should focus on being at peace with yourself, and you could at least try to be frugal with your fashion choices!

      Frugal lifestyle seems to touch points on the philosophy of happiness, which is too deep to discuss. My philosophy is to be able to enjoy the simple things in life while living comfortably. Peace of mind is also a big thing for me. Basically for me, frugal living leads to (more) happiness.

      I was on the same path as you in school since kindergarten and was lucky to have another “different” friend. The idea is to not let other people get to you. Even though I was different from others and should have been physically bullied a lot, like other kids my size were, I didn’t take crap from anybody. If someone got physical with me, I would fight back. Don’t let social anxiety get to you!

      Reply
  • WallStreetPlayboys May 1, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Hilarious.

    Almost certain that the person who wrote you the second letter is referring to myself.

    Just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you have to blow it all on yachts and other things that waste your valuable time that could be spent learning.

    Reply
  • Daniel May 2, 2013, 3:42 am

    I love reading posts like these. It shows how monry isnt happiness, that joy isnt that hard to attain, and you dont need a million dollars to have a good life.

    Reply
  • The Happy Homeowner May 2, 2013, 6:47 pm

    I used to live in Colorado, so I can speak personally of the beauty waiting for you just outside your doorstep. I, too, value happiness and experiences far more than money, although I still have a long way to go on my path. Excellent post!

    Reply
  • Birgit Platschka May 3, 2013, 2:07 am

    Dear Mr. Money Moustache.
    I just love your blog, philosophy and insights. Wow, wow and wow. This is now the third post I have perused with a giddy pleasure as it shows that another way to navigate life’s roads is good and well.
    Again, thanks for your Blog,
    Birgit

    Reply
  • BrookeJ May 3, 2013, 7:56 am

    Love this post, MMM, it put a big smile on my face this morning, thank you for the pleasant reminder about real happiness.

    Reply
  • Raj May 3, 2013, 7:26 pm

    I am a Wall St type too. Although I don’t hate my job.
    Hating your job makes you miserable everyday. I have been there, done that. If people think I can do something and are willing to pay me for it for a certain amount of time, I will gladly take their money.
    However, as you mentioned in the post, so many of us quickly forget how inefficient our lifestyles are. So many of my colleagues, and including myself sometimes, buy unnecessary things like the next big TV, expensive suits, flashy cars, often dining at expensive restaurants, etc.
    Anyways, I hope to keep reading your blog to remind myself to think about the future, 10, 20, 30 years from now, and save for it, so that I too can go and live a simple, efficient life away from the mindless drones.
    Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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