The Principle of Constant Optimization

non_optimal_transportationA few years ago, I was helping a friend with some kitchen renovations. He’s a smart guy with a good career, and he likes to work hard on the weekends. He had done most of the carpentry himself, completely transforming a very small house to make it work better for his growing family and greatly improving the home’s value as well. But as we talked about life over the background task of installing backsplash tiles, he mentioned that he wished they could afford to build an addition someday to get a third bedroom, or possibly move to a bigger place.

This was interesting to me, since I know this couple well, and they are pulling in two very solid salaries while living in a modest house that cost under $200,000 back when they bought it. With similar incomes, Mrs. MM and I lived in and renovated a larger house, and still had enough left over to accumulate a retirement-sized investment pool over nine years – about the same length of time we’ve been friends with these people.

Using my secret identity as Mr. Money Mustache, I naturally began to look for clues as to how this might have happened. I noticed a Honda CR-V and a (financed) Honda Pilot in the driveway. Those are great vehicles if you run a rafting company and need to pull people and trailers up the forest access roads to get to the best rapids, but they are not suitable for commuting to work, and yet that was their primary purpose. Their jobs were in two different cities, and neither of them has ever worked in the city we live in – despite the fact that both job types are available here as well. The recycling bin was piled high with fast food containers, which my friend picks up when returning from late shifts at work, and empty Gatorade bottles. The modern wall-mounted TV displayed the razor-sharp images and broad channel selection that are telltale signs of a premium cable subscriber.

So while I had solved the mystery of where their money was going (to the endless stream of seemingly tiny budgetary leaks that are part of a middle class life), I still hadn’t figured out why these otherwise-intelligent people were continuing to burn money even while they obviously had higher priorities in their lives than Gatorade. I asked a few more questions:

“Say, that Honda Pilot is a pretty posh machine – what made you decide on that one?”

“Well, we’ve always liked Hondas, and when we had the second baby we just figured we’d like a bit more space”.

“That’s cool. Hey, you often mentioned you don’t like your morning commute – have you ever considered looking into getting a similar position here in Longmont?”

“Yeah, I’ve thought of that, and it would be great. It’s just that, you know, I’m in a groove and I like my coworkers at the company in Boulder. I just haven’t really looked around at the opportunities here. Plus it’s only really a 25 minute drive if you hit it at the right time.”

This conversation went on for a few more cycles, and it became evident that the main reason for most of these ‘stash-draining behaviors was not conscious choices that my friends made in search of a better life, but just things that had been locked in at one stage or another earlier in their lives, which never ended up being changed. They were a form of habits.

As I mentally put myself into their shoes, driving to and from work and buying Gatorade for myself, I started feeling uncomfortable. I felt the inefficiency and the daily drain, but I was not able to fix it. And this brought me to a realization of something I have always done, that is not widely practiced. But it is so important, I think it could be considered one of the Principles of Mustachianism:

Practice Constant Optimization

in all areas of your life.

When I was younger, I was faced with the typical young person’s perpetual shortage of cash. I had wants and needs, but with zero net worth and minimal income I obviously could not meet them all. The solution for me was to try to meet them, in order of priority, at minimal expense.

But the thing is, your wants and needs change over time, along with the rest of your life situation your income level, and the world around you. Your original way of meeting needs will soon become inefficient, and if you stick with it after it is obsolete, you are wasting your own time and money.

For example, way back when I graduated and got my first engineering job, I needed a place to live. Knowing that driving cars costs money and time, I naturally wanted a place close to work. But I also wanted to share a house with three friends, so we could pool our rent money to afford a really nice house even while paying less than we would each pay for separate small apartments.

On paper, this was the perfect arrangement because all three of us worked at the same high tech company. We were excited about the synergies of sharing friends and career advancement and carpools to work.

The problem was that certain members of the group were party boys who wanted to live within stumbling distance of downtown. I preferred to live near work (which was 20 miles West of downtown), figuring you go to work far more often than you go to the pubs. So we all talked it out and shopped for rental houses, settling for a place roughly halfway between downtown and our workplace.

It was reasonable, as I could bike occasionally and carpool the rest of the time. But the next year when the lease expired, the party boys had matured slightly and were willing to live closer to work. So I took the initiative and found us a nicer house with a shorter commute. Optimization had been performed and we collectively started saving thousands of dollars per year in commuting costs. One year later, we moved even closer. And so on.

As the years have gone on, I have always felt the nag of any monthly expenses, seeking to reduce or eliminate them. Borrowing money for anything other than a house was obviously out, since that would trigger a monthly interest expense – an easy thing to optimize away. But much more than that came under the microscope and continued on to the chopping block. I compared insurance rates at every policy renewal date. Looked for new ways to eat that would result in better nutrition and lower cost. Ditched my sports car as soon I realized I no longer used it regularly, with my fancy motorcycle following the same path. Both were fun to own at the time, but when the desire for them faded, they were optimized away.

Even now, I still enjoy keeping a creative eye out for ways to streamline my life. Do I still need my Google Fi mobile phone plan with its generous free international data roaming, or can I switch to a cheaper plan now that I travel less?  I definitely love my current house so I’m keeping it for now, but would I sell it and shrink my footprint a little bit once little MM is all grown up? And do I really need two motor vehicles in the driveway when I typically drive less than once a week?

When you practice constant optimization, nothing should be considered sacred, and all of your old assumptions should be challenged on a regular basis. Are there other people out there doing things in a smarter way than you are? Great! You can easily follow their lead. Have your needs or tastes changed as you got older, or new innovations come up since you last bought something? Ideal – another chance to optimize.

Constant optimization may sound tiring when you list two decades of steps out like I did above, but in reality it is incredibly simple and easy. You just have to keep your mind open, asking yourself occasionally, “Is there anything I could change for the better?”

Often, the answer is no, and you can go on in the old pattern. But sometimes your open mind will find things to improve, and you will be far richer for it.

Getting started with a new habit like this can be as simple as saying, “I like to experience new things.” Then back it up by doing it.

Take a different route to work as often as you can, until you’ve tried and compared them all. Subscribe to automated updates on the housing and job markets in your areas, just so you always have a mental map of what is out there. Make a list of your ten biggest monthly expenses and tape it to your fridge, just so you know they are all there, constantly using up your money, so they had darned well be worth the resources they are consuming. If they are worth the expense, continue to enjoy them. If they are not, optimize them away. Look at your daily routine from an outsider’s perspective, and figure out if you are really getting the most value from each one of your hours.

An unexpected benefit of all this self-imposed change is that it helps protect you from forming bad habits, which are hard to change once you get them. In fact, change itself becomes the habit, which is a good one to carry with you through your life. The willingness to experience change brings opportunity, wealth, learning, and happiness for those of us who are bold enough to embrace it.

  • Mrs EconoWiser May 15, 2013, 10:19 am

    Ah, another delightful MMM article! What a wonderful read. I find it difficult to converse with friends who are obviously draining money and don’t even see it. Yet…I also don’t want to lecture them nor give them feedback they didn’t ask for.
    I find it fascinating that your friends haven’t figured you out yet with all the exposure of the blog lately!
    What do you tell friends when they find out? What sort of reaction do you get? Or hasn’t this happened to you yet?

    • Bob Sayer May 15, 2013, 12:44 pm

      Same here. In fact my friends get a little annoyed with me when I suggest things like, “You don’t really need $80 cable TV. You could get Dish for $30.” Or “$50 a month for a cellphone? Wow. I only spend $25. And my landline internet is a mere $15.”

      Sometimes I think people would rather spend energy complaining, rather than spend energy finding ways to save. Messed-up priorities.

      BTW I like Honda too, but I bought an Insight which was rated 70mpg. It can carry a kid just as easily as a giant Pilot. If for some reason I need more trunk space to carry luggage or five friends, my second car is a 50mpg Civic hybrid.

      • Matt May 15, 2013, 7:41 pm

        You and five friends in a Civic hybrid? Unless you work for Ringling Brothers, lets not kid ourselves!

        The savvy moustachian might note that owning two hybrids may imply you are doing far too much driving. I found myself trying to calculate how much I’d “save” by owning a compact diesel. A punch to the face reminded me the most significant savings could be had by driving less miles.

      • Jane Savers May 16, 2013, 7:12 am

        You are correct. People would rather complain than take action.

        I do make suggestions about possible savings but I sound preachy and naggy to friends and coworkers so now I only make suggestions if asked.

        I do nag my sons about money and they are stuck listening even though it doesn’t seem to change the way they live their lives.

    • InDeepDooDoo May 16, 2013, 10:56 am

      I’m one of those folks who first heard of your blog through the Washington Post. Since then, I’ve read through much of the blog, going back to the very beginning. There is a lot of inspiration along with practical advice to be found here. I’m one of “those” people who has managed to get themselves into a big pile of financial doo-doo through 2 or 3 BFMs — but mostly through mindless, wasteful spending (a $10 DVD here, a $20 book there, $30 Chinese take out, 85 trips to Home Depot during a small home fix-up project…). So the most insane part is that I don’t even have a hoard of shiny new things to show for this massive pile of debt – no McMansion with nice furniture, no closet full of designer clothing. We live in the same entry level townhouse we bought 20 years ago, our beat up Honda Civic has 228K miles on it. Almost all of our furniture is second hand; we don’t have Mac books or iphones. The underlying problem is that when we started hitting rough patches, we didn’t really change our behavior – we just simply downshifted to cheaper retail outlets (Costco instead of Whole Foods), switched to take out rather than sit-down restaurants. The thoughtless, sub-optimal spending continued. And of course, we weren’t saving much at all to begin with. On the financial independence scale, we’re a 6.5, maybe even 6.8. So at this point, I’ll be lucky to retire at 92 – but I wanted to let you know that your blog has given me the courage to turn around and face this pile of doo-doo head on. To end the folly of denial and actually add up all those balances to find out how scary high the debt pile really is – and to start taking control. Wish me luck!

      • lurker May 17, 2013, 4:40 pm

        Good Freaking LUCK!!!!! as we say in Brooklyn and I hope you make it!
        Let us know how it goes and we can take inspiration from you. BEST

        • InDeepDooDoo May 19, 2013, 6:43 pm

          Thanks! I will need all the strength I can muster to tackle the job ahead. But I have some hope. As I was reflecting on this article, I thought of a conversation I had recently with a good friend of mine. She said her husband had turned off the hot water taps to the bathroom sinks as part of his reduce expenses, save the earth campaign. His reasoning was that the amount of energy it took to run hot water through the pipes for a few seconds of hand washing was extremely inefficient. I remember saying “Wow, that’s crazy” and thinking to myself: “who would put up with THAT?!” But now, after just a short while lurking here among Mustacheans, I think “Wow, that’s some serious badassity.”

          I think this simple change of perspective is the start of something good.

    • Joshua June 15, 2013, 10:43 am

      Just out of curiosity, how does Mr. Moneymustache defend the principle of constant optimization while not violating the first step of the Gearhead’s 12 Step recovery program where it states “optimization is just another loophole for upgrading your stuff”?

  • AC May 15, 2013, 10:19 am

    Another great post. I’ve often thought about how 2 individuals with identical incomes could live such different lifestyles. One that has everything they need(and then some), the other with piles of plastic crap and empty fast food containers. This exact scenario is playing out all over the US. The idea of lifestyle optimization is becoming second nature the more I read the MMM blog!

  • Savvy Financial Latina May 15, 2013, 10:23 am

    Great article once again! A reminder to always look at how you can lower your expenses. I think a lot of people think a bigger house, better car, etc will get them more happiness.
    It’s okay if you can afford it, but most people can’t. Then they are complaining they can’t retire in their 60s, and when you look at how much they’ve earned their entire life, you realize they don’t need to be complaining. So many people out there are poorer, lived below their means, and others didn’t.

  • BNL May 15, 2013, 10:24 am

    Nicely put.

    i was thinking about this exact topic on a smaller scale during my bike ride home from work yesterday. I’ve been riding the commute now for 2 years, and yesterday I realized that there is one stretch of road where I can hop up onto the sidewalk near a series of 3 way intersections, allowing me to skip past multiple red lights while still keeping my route safe (in most cases, sidewalks are less safe than riding on the road and following traffic laws).

    As I continued to ride, I thought about constant optimization – although not in those exact terms. Even after 2 years of a repetitive task, there was still room for optimizing my route and shaving a minute or two off my already short 15 minute bicycle commute.

    Plus, it’s fun to race the cars and take advantage of the flexibility that my bike gives over driving.

    • Claire May 15, 2013, 11:33 am

      How do you figure that riding on the road is safer than riding on the sidewalk?

      I’m just starting my bicycle commuting adventure (1-2 days per week), and I’m rather slow and out of shape. There is no way I could even pretend to keep up with traffic, especially when riding up steep or long hills. There are nice wide sidewalks along the road I take to get to Cherry Creek State Park for my scenic ride into the Denver Tech Center, and traffic speeds are probably 45-50 mph and I’m peddling along at 10-12 mph right now. Hopefully as I get stronger, I will get faster, but right now the road seems like suicide.

      • Matt May 15, 2013, 1:20 pm

        I don’t mean to be rude but in Canada riding bikes on the sidewalk is illegal. A lot of people do it and the law isn’t really enforced but…

        Is this also the case elsewhere?

        • Kellen May 15, 2013, 2:09 pm

          In Georgia, and I am guessing in other US states, it is also illegal to bike on sidewalks (except for kids under 12). It isn’t strictly enforced, as far as I can tell, although I did see some cops pull a biker over the other day, so maybe they got him for that!

        • TLV May 15, 2013, 4:34 pm

          In Washington State, it’s legal at the State level but some cities restrict it.

          • Praxis May 16, 2013, 11:52 am

            Washingtonian here. I can confirm this. In my city, it is illegal in the downtown area (where there are bike lanes), but legal outside of the downtown area.

        • claire May 15, 2013, 10:31 pm

          I don’t think that’s rude. I think you are right. I believe it is true in Colorado too. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to ride in the street when you are going at least thirty mph slower than the cars actually following the speed limit. I’ll let you know if I get pulled over.

        • Kruidig Meisje May 16, 2013, 2:34 am

          I’m from NL, and work in Amsterdam. Riding the sidewalk is illegal, but enforcement in Amsterdam is a paradox term kind of. Plus we have bike lanes (if cars are allowed in the street that is).
          But biking to work is quite common here. 60% of all trips in inner city is bike…..

        • woodnclay May 16, 2013, 8:32 am

          Yes, it’s illegal in the UK too, unless it is marked up for cycling. I’ve never heard of a case of it being enforced.

      • Naners May 15, 2013, 1:53 pm

        Riding on the sidewalk is dangerous at intersections too. Drivers don’t expect something fast-moving to suddenly appear at the crosswalk.
        I believe there are stats showing that being hit from behind (your biggest fear on a fast road) is not a common way for cyclists to get hurt. Intersections are where it pays to be very cautious, and that includes driveways.

      • Alexander May 15, 2013, 11:09 pm

        Claire, you might want to study this site http://bicyclesafe.com/
        if you’re just starting to ride (commute or for pleasure/sport does not matter) on public roads.
        You will find answers to many of your novice questions.
        I ride 10k miles a year (commute is just little part of it, mostly it’s training rides) and very rarely I find myself on the sidewalk.

        • Chad May 27, 2013, 4:59 am

          Generally, going out and taking the lane is the safest thing to do on a bicycle. However, there is a big difference between doing this on a 20-mph road bike and doing it on an 8-mph cruiser. You will get aggressive and violent behavior directed at you in the latter case.

          Sidewalks are more dangerous *in general*, but it is really context dependant. In some places, the roads/intersections are awful and cycle unfriendly. In other places, the sidewalks are wide open and have few driveways and none that are blind. For example, if riding my slow hybrid bike, I often used to ride on a particular stretch of sidewalk near my apartment, including the “wrong way” against-traffic direction, which is by far statistically the most dangerous. Why? Because it was completely clear due to a series of schools along that side of the road, with only a few driveways that were only used twice a day for an hour or so. Visibility was 100%, and the artertial on which the schools were located was not fun to ride on if at all crowded due to the high car speeds (45 mph or so).

          Overall, the best strategy is simple to avoid big intersections and arterials in the first place, even if that forces you out of your way. Use side streets and take the lane, only moving over to the side to allow people to pass you when you are sure it is safe to do so.

      • BNL May 16, 2013, 2:07 pm


        In most cases, your speed doesn’t really matter. Either way, the 2-ton trucks are going a lot faster than you are.

        The reason sidewalks are generally more dangerous is because cars won’t see you at intersections. To some extent you can reduce this risk by ALWAYS assuming no one sees you and stopping at intersections to look all 4 ways, but even then you’re one mistake away from a serious accident. There is also a higher risk of surprises – big rocks, big potholes, etc.

        Riding on the road takes a little bit of courage at first, but with practice and study, as well as confidence, it gets easier and safer. I’ll also recommend http://bicyclesafe.com/

    • Patrick May 16, 2013, 8:13 am

      Yeah man! Constant optimization is a way of life if you’re truly focused on improving. Just like it doesn’t take long to totally kill your financial prospects, it also doesn’t take long to optimize through a series of mild transformations.

      Thanks, MMM for another killer post. These reminders keep the nose to the grindstone, and provide another layer of motivation.

      I just moved 6 miles from my worksite (instead of 75), and am hacking my bike commute everyday. I have a lot to say thanks for w/in this here piece of web real estate, and I couldn’t be happier today.

      Virtual fist bumps all around, mates!

  • retirebyforty May 15, 2013, 10:28 am

    Something is still missing from the big picture about your friend’s finance. If they have 2 good income, the cars and fast food shouldn’t be a big obstacle for them. I guess there must be other bad habits that they are stuck on too.

    You are right about ongoing optimization. I like to think of it in nautical term. When you set sail, you can’t just point your ship in one direction and let it go that way. There are many factors that will affect your journey. You need to monitor your progress and adjust your course constantly.

    For us, our housing cost is higher than I’d like, but we rarely drive and we save in other areas. When my wife retire, we’ll probably think about moving to a less expensive area.

    • Neverland May 15, 2013, 10:33 am

      Probably student loans for graduate and post graduate degrees?

      These are expensive in the US I understand in some colleges

    • Lisa May 15, 2013, 5:30 pm

      I think the fast food is merely a symbol of the lack of optimization and that they squander in other ways too. All of the little things add up. I am sick this week and so ordered pizza, and have taken the bus to work instead of riding my bike. How can I optimize? I’ll allow the bus rides, but having more ready to go foods would have made ordering the pizza unnecessary. Live, learn, optimize.

      • Simply Rich Life May 15, 2013, 5:51 pm

        When I’m sick/tired/busy, I just cook simple things that I’ve done many times using ingredients we always have. Practice the right things and you can always have a delicious and cheap meal in under 30 minutes.

        I also ride/work out (a bit more lightly) to get better but I’m not sure if that work for everyone.

        • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow May 17, 2013, 1:23 pm

          Even faster (unless you have a family to feed) is a couple of eggs or PBJ sandwich. That’s been dinner for my wife and I for many years

        • JaneMD May 20, 2013, 8:18 am

          We have an entire freezer full of Morningstar Farms. 8 fake-meat patties for 6 dollars at Walmart. 2 minutes in the microwave and two slices of whole bread costs under a dollar per meal. A Big Mac costs at least 3.29. If you need a soda, you can get 12 for under $4 at the grocery store, rather than a fountain drink for $0.99.

  • Neverland May 15, 2013, 10:31 am

    Well you know if you already have enough to retire on and you are still happily working you can actually optimise your spending upwards you know…

    just saying…

    • Matt May 15, 2013, 1:21 pm

      I don’t think that is the point of this blog.

      • Simply Rich Life May 15, 2013, 4:38 pm

        On the contrary, it is the point. If you truly understand the happiness and satisfaction you’re getting out of your spending, and how much of your life you’re giving up in order to afford it, there’s nothing wrong with spending more on the things that are worth it to you.

        The problems start when you pick up other peoples’ used ideas about how spending 80% of your waking hours with people you don’t like and then buying some expensive things will lead to a good life.

        • Lisa May 15, 2013, 5:32 pm

          But MMM optimizes downwards. He’s got a great life, but he’s not going and spending a fortune just because he still makes money at his fun job. Besides, does chronic fast food actually ever make anyone happier?

          • Simply Rich Life May 15, 2013, 5:52 pm

            Chronic fast food making people happier? That sounds like a used idea that got run over by a few extra-large SUVs (actually the food looks like it too). I wouldn’t touch that.

          • Valentin May 16, 2013, 11:07 am

            MMM optimizes downward because he is starting from a very affluent basis. If you’ve been living like a college student for 5 years while making good money, it might be optimal to replace your 86 honda with a 2006 honda, or your apartment with a house. optimization is definitely possible in an upward direction (my very expensive bike has already cost me less per mile than my motorcycle) but optimizing down should be the rule for 95% of americans, if not more. You are correct that that is what this blog is about, but my guess is that fewer than 95% of MMM commenters need to.

            And that is why MMM’s washington post article is so insanely great: because it gives him a pulpit where he’s not just preaching to the choir on his blog. He’s going to change the world in the way that Bertrand Russell would have been proud of: http://www.davemckay.co.uk/philosophy/russell/russell.php?name=in.praise.of.idleness

    • AndyfromTucson May 17, 2013, 8:01 am

      “Well you know if you already have enough to retire on and you are still happily working you can actually optimise your spending upwards you know…”

      I did that a few years ago. I loved my job, had plenty saved, and figured there was no harm in splurging on stuff. About 2 years into my spendthrift phase my employer laid off the managers I loved working for and moved me into a position I don’t love. Now I wish I had just stuck with frugal living so that I had more saved.

  • Mr. 1500 May 15, 2013, 10:57 am

    People don’t realize the long term ramifications of wasting money early in life. For example, if you’re in your 20s, the long term effect of buying a Honda Pilot is huge versus buying a used car (or better yet, no car at all) and investing the difference. Just that decision may have cost you hundreds of thousands in future income given 30 or 40 years.

    My favorite analogy is the Titanic. Had the captain known the iceberg was there 10 miles ahead of time, he would have had to turn the big wooden steering wheel thingy a quarter of an inch to avoid it. The longer you wait, the more drastic your actions become until you’re out of luck. The big difference is that we all know the iceberg is there. Some of us choose to ignore it.

    So, start saving early in life with small tweaks and you’ll be rewarded down the road.

    • Matt May 15, 2013, 1:23 pm

      A fine comment. I have been telling some of my friends about the power of compound interest both in income and debt. The largest factor is time.

      • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow May 17, 2013, 1:25 pm

        Give them a copy of Millionaire Teacher, great book

        • Ogopogo May 17, 2013, 7:24 pm

          I’m also a huge fan of Andrew Hallam’s Millionaire Teacher. I credit that book with my financial awakening and full conversion to index funds, especially Vanguard.

          Highly recommended.

    • Brandon May 15, 2013, 7:13 pm

      This post inspired me to put together a spreadsheet for calculating the time value of money for different types of purchases.

      Some purchases are one-time expenses, but most lifestyle choices involve spending money regularly (yearly, monthly, daily). My idea was to calculate the factor by which money spent in these periodic patterns would have grown. This probably already has a name in finance, but I decided to call it the Future Value Factor (FVF).

      By multiplying the FVF by the cost of something you’re considering buying, you can see how much money you could have at your planned retirement date if you skip that purchase and invest the money instead.

      The FVF is useful because it helps you understand how small changes to your daily expenses can have a huge long-term impact. For instance, for a 20-year retirement horizon and a 7% rate of return, the FVFs are 4x (one-time purchase), 40x (annual purchase), 500x (monthly purchase), and 15,000x (daily purchase).

      This means that, at retirement, a $50/month cable bill will have set you back $25,000 ($50×500), a $300 annual gym membership will set you back $12,000 ($300×40), and a $4/day latte habit would set you back a head-exploding $60,000 ($4×15,000).

      The FVF tables and my calculation spreadsheet are available here:

      Feel free to make your own copy and play with it!

    • jj May 16, 2013, 11:49 am

      Excellent comment! Even though I am far from a well-developed mustachian, I can look back clearly at my aversion to debt starting at a very young age as step one to financial freedom. Spending my 20’s driving a crappy car (no loan) so I could pay off my student loans in <4 years was some of the best decisionmaking of my life… because it was a smart decision made EARLY.

    • GamingYourFinances June 3, 2013, 9:08 am

      That’s a great analogy Mr. 1500! Making those smaller tweaks are much easier to implement. It takes only a small amount of effort to tweak your lifestyle for the better. These tweaks then snowball and end up having a huge effect!

      We’ve been tweaking (aka ‘gaming’) our lifestyle for years and are now at a 60% savings rate. But it wasn’t always that way. The good thing is that we made small tweaks so it never felt painful.

  • GTITA May 15, 2013, 11:03 am

    Now that my wife and I are out of debt, we have embraced this new philosophy (and quite frankly “a new way of living”) will gusto. We are always tweaking our budget and lifestyle to wring the maximum amout of fun per day with the least amount of expense. We suffer for nothing, enjoy a simpler side of life and quite frankly we relate better than we did when the world was demanding our consumerist nature be focused on consumption and diversion from what is really important.

    “We got it” and now “life” is something we drink in every day. As a former lover of STUFF and Ducati’s and offshore fishing boats and high end cameras and car payments and wickedly expensive cable packages, I can tell you, those things were not where the happines was. Matter of fact, does anyone on here need 2 flat screen TV’s? I have no use for them anymore. Funny how things change…

    Although we are learning mustachianism each and every new day, optimizing our already modified lifestyle is paying dividends we never expected. We are more active, more content, better focused in our careers and able to do whatever we like whenever we like. Our savings and investing are moving up at a rapid rate and early retirement is likely 8-10 years away. Less is more folks, and if you don’t believe it, try it on for size… it may not be your style ‘yet’ but the fit is undeniably perfect.

    As an aside, I noticed that MMM and I have the same GT MTB, paint job, front fork and all. I was recently being tempted to get a “new” bicycle as I have nearly worn mine out but I decided to ride it until it breaks. I will replace whatever breaks in the future and ride it some more. Becoming financially independent and correcting my past consumerism transgressions has never felt so good. Change your behavior to what you know is right in the world and in short order you will be a happier person.

    • Bob Sayer May 16, 2013, 9:48 am

      Why get rid of the 2 flat screen TVs? Just hook-up an antenna and you can get free entertainment (also news, weather). I get over 40 channels, free, in my location near Philadelphia.

      • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2013, 12:27 pm

        The reason to get rid of the TVs, is so you don’t get tricked into wasting your time watching TV.. ever!

        There are SO many amazing, useful, profitbable and life-enhancing things we can do these days, but many of them don’t reveal themselves until you eliminate the possibility of watching TV instead of doing them.

        Just try it for a month.. No TV at all. Hide the thing in the garage.

        • Meg May 16, 2013, 2:45 pm

          Also, some research indicates that people who watch more TV, spend more. Given that reading women’s magazines fill be with an overwhelming urge to buy stupid, unflattering on-trend things, I’d believe that.

          We have neither television nor women’s magazines in the house. It’s like a vaccine against overspending, since you just don’t find out about all the Must Have Cool New Stuff.

        • RetiredGal May 16, 2013, 5:48 pm

          No cable for us – husband NEVER EVER EVER watches TV – he gets his news on-line, newspaper, radio. I watch it for local/word news and a very few other shows. We’d rather not park our butts on the couch because it seems to GROOOOW there!! Take a walk, take a hike, take a bike ride, go visit the neighbors! Read a book (from the library, of course!!) Take up a hobby/craft. TV is really a wast of time. I’ve often though people who watch reality TV were a bit odd – who’d sit around and watch someone else live their life??? To me, that’s just wrong!!

          • Rob aka Mr and Mrs TV May 17, 2013, 3:02 pm

            So how is surfing the web better than watching TV, shouldn’t you be doing something more productive, like I don’t know watching paint dry.

            As I mention below there is nothing wrong with watching TV, at least in comparison to putzing around doing nothing productive. Thankfully MMM is always in productive mode

            • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2013, 4:08 pm

              Even “surfing the web” is probably better than TV, because it is an active rather than passive pursuit (you choose your own adventure according to your interests).

              But even better than surfing the web is “reading articles on the Internet” – if you avoid the junk like celebrity gossip and your distant acquaintances announcing their cute baby bowel movements on Facebook, there is a SHITLOAD to be learned out there – some of the best blogs and online magazines rival the best books. And reading good writing makes you a better writer yourself – a very useful skill in business and life in general. Every time I stay up late reading all the fun stuff on websites like these, I go to bed with a pleasantly tired brain and sleep well, waking up full of new ideas next day!

            • InDifferentCircumflexes May 17, 2013, 4:13 pm

              And there are books on the ‘net, as well.

              Granted, a large percentage of them are old ones (for copyright reasons), but projects like Gutenberg do contain thousands of books free for downloading and reading.

            • RetiredGal May 18, 2013, 12:59 pm

              Oh yes, MMM – I do agree! When I am surfing – I am usually looking for instructions on how to do/make something (thus saving money) or reading some blogs like yours – inspirations for living a better life. Oh, and on a side note, when on-line, I do run a little bitty Ebay business that brings me in some fun money to the tune of $1,000/month – that’s my putzing around!! Like I said – I really think TV is a big waste of time. I’d much rather read a book over watching TV. Or at least be productive in some way.

            • Rob aka Mr and Mrs TV May 19, 2013, 9:30 am

              Agree, a lot of my time is spent reading and researching, learning and growing, probably my only real vice is I spend too much time on political blogs

        • Patrick May 17, 2013, 10:00 am

          Rogo… We’ve been sans TV for some time now. Just like Fight Club:

          “God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. and we’re very very pissed off.”

          None of this is new. What we’re engaged in inside this forum is mass rehab. The Interwebs is our support group because we rarely find it in the “outside” world.

          Hello, my name is Patrick Gallagher. It’s been 72 days since my last episode of Friends.

          Hi Patrick.

        • Bob Sayer May 22, 2013, 12:55 pm

          I read in another of your articles that you go walking, or cook your own food, since you canceled the TV. That’s fine because you enjoy that kind of entertainment, but I do not. To me walking/cooking reminds me too much of my first couple of jobs at a restaurant (work/torture).

          I prefer science fiction so I watch the latest scifi shows on TV (or online) at zero cost. And no I’m not depriving myself of “wonderful life experiences”. I’ve still managed to visit 50 of our states, and all of the Canadian provinces, plus a few of the states in the EU.

          I don’t have to completely cutoff the TV to still have a rewarding life. Please do not fall into the idea that your form of entertainment (walking,cooking) is superior to my form of entertainment (drama,fiction). It is not. I canceled the cable many years ago but still kept the TV to watch free dramas/news over the antenna (like Dragnet or Adam-12)

          Oh and my savings are almost half-a-million after just 9 years of fulltime work. So I’m not wasting my money either. :-D

        • Cameo June 23, 2013, 1:47 pm

          I totally agree! I gave up TV when the switch to digital took place and forced everyone to get a fancy new digital box and antenna. I hated the time TV sucked out of my life, even just watching one show a day seemed a waste of my precious time. I decided to dedicate that time to things that really matter to me. I chose to really learn and practice my Spanish and am now fluent. :) Time well spent.
          This article really sums up the Mustachian lifestyle and captures the life that I pursue each day. It’s a process and such a thrill to optimize in a new area of your life, or even the same area once again. Thanks for sharing your Mustachian ways so I can join in on the fun. I’m having a blast! Gracias y Gracias!

      • Holly@ClubThrifty May 16, 2013, 2:39 pm

        We also get FREE tv with a basic antenna. We don’t watch a lot, but it’s nice to have when something of value is being covered on the news or my husband wants to watch a sporting event. I honestly can’t believe that people still pay for cable or satellite!

  • Stephen at SE May 15, 2013, 11:12 am

    I think this is the single principle that distinguishes true mustachiens. A lot of people drink the cool aid occasionally but once you build the habit of consistent optimization is it difficult to go back. I think this is a great principle because our lives are consistently changing as are our desires and needs. If you don’t actively optimize on a regular basis bad habits or inefficiencies are likely to creep in. It can still be tough, like you mentioned, to observe others inefficiencies. You start to build a list of areas where it is most obvious and painful. But, on the positive side, it makes for years of writing material!

  • AnnW May 15, 2013, 11:21 am

    I guess your friend doesn’t want the larger house enough. If he did, he would figure out a way to get it. Like ask you to help him build it. Barter with you for your work. People are careless. He probably could car pool a few days a week with someone else. Doesn’t want to bother.
    People have a vision of themselves as a particular type of person. They don’t want to go outside their vision or comfort level. Also, few people really come to your home, so you can fake it. I don’t buy cheap shoes. But most of my shoes are about ten years old. I just keep getting them fixed. Ann

    • rjack May 15, 2013, 11:45 am

      Mea Culpa! I’m having trouble of getting rid of my car that I don’t really need anymore. I grew up in Detroit which is serious automobile country and my car always represented personal freedom to me.

      Any advice?

      • Aaron May 15, 2013, 12:25 pm

        Loan it to someone else (get rid of it for the short term). Or get rid of it for real. Pretend that it was totaled and you have to make due without it.

        If you find that you really, really, really need another one even after you make adjustments, then get one that is better optimized to your new lifestyle.

      • Debbie M May 15, 2013, 12:37 pm

        If it is only representing personal freedom and is not actually enhancing personal freedom, the choice should be easy. So why isn’t it? Maybe one of these ideas will help:

        * Remember that you can always rent a car (or better yet, borrow one), if you want to take a long trip in a car. (I found that car rental places that cater to people whose cars are in the shop work better for carless types than rental places that cater to travellers.)

        * Keep a record of every time you actually use a car so you get a handle on the actual facts.

        * Measure how long you can go without using your car. Maybe you’re not totally sure you can give it up, but can convince yourself by giving it up before you get rid of it.

        * Remember that it’s not good for cars to sit unused for more than a week at a time. Your car deserves better and can get treated better by someone who really wants it.

        * You could accept that getting rid of the car is going to feel sad and allow yourself to mourn it. I held a wake/slumber party for my first car (after which I went without a car for four years until I could properly afford one). I posted pictures with my car in them (I didn’t really have any pictures of my car, but I did have a few pictures of other things which also happened to have my car in them). My friend made a cake in the shape of the casket, decorated only by the ignition key and trunk key crossed on top (after having been boiled in water for a while). I wrote a poem about my car’s previous strengths and weaknesses–what she liked and disliked. You could also show movies that feature cars (“Gran Torino” is pretty good. Or “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” for lighter fare.) You could play board games that feature cars (not that I can think of any). Maybe you’ll think of a fun way to admit that you are just going to be uncool in Detroit and that this is going to be okay. No one will take your mourning seriously, of course, but it might be a fun way to achieve closure.

      • Jacob@CashCowCouple May 15, 2013, 6:57 pm

        How on earth does a car represent personal freedom? If you don’t use it, the car is an unnecessary, ongoing mistake. It’s costing you money which is costing you personal freedom.

        • Jess May 16, 2013, 10:36 am

          That’s a slightly sanctimonious response, and probably more deserved if the car in question is/was an incredibly expensive and/or inefficient road hog still demanding monthly payments.

          I completely understand the idea of equating “personal freedom” with having a car. I’ve got a 2002 2-door Honda Civic. It’s fully paid for so it costs me gas and insurance. It’s a pretty hardy little car, and doesn’t demand much in the way of maintenance. I don’t NEED it, per se, but the idea of not being able to get in my car and go where I want makes me feel completely stifled and claustrophobic. I’ve gone without it for long periods of time while away from home etc, and I’ve never been happy being without it. I am completely willing to pay it’s ongoing operating costs in order to have that freedom.

          • InDifferentCircumflexes May 17, 2013, 12:57 pm

            While I generally sympathize with your comment, I must point out the flaws in your statements:

            The basic cost of owning a (fully paid for) car, is the cost of the capital invested (or its earnings from alternative investment), and the depreciation that comes with time and deterioration. Then you add maintenance, insurance, operating costs…
            (and, to make the picture complete, there is also a certain market uncertainty (which could go both ways), in that a car might start depreciating faster because of some external factor).

            No, I’m not saying you should sell your car (or buy one, for that matter) – all I’m doing is correcting the listing of costs involved.

      • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 16, 2013, 8:40 am

        Thanks for all the great suggestions!

      • Bob Sayer May 16, 2013, 8:59 am

        I think you should keep the car, if it’s already paid off. You’ve invested ~20,000 dollars and you’d probably only get back 10,000 when you sell it. There is no sense throwing away that much money. Instead hang onto the car so you have it when you need it (like a long trip to the beach or mountains).

        • Mrs. Money Mustache May 16, 2013, 10:08 am

          If he’s not using the car, he’s throwing away money by just letting it sit there. It’s depreciating all the time and he has to pay insurance and maintenance. He won’t lose $10K by selling it, he’ll GAIN $10K!

          I don’t see the sense of hanging on to a car just in case. There are other ways to get around.

          rjack – you can probably figure it out with math. How often do you use the car? Is it really worth keeping? What transportation options do you have if you get rid of it? Maybe it’s worth it, maybe not. We still have a car despite the fact that we could probably get by without it. We hardly ever use it, but we do take it out for road trips and visits between towns. Unfortunately the bus here is not that great…

          • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 17, 2013, 5:24 am

            I use the car about 6 times per month, but 5 of those times I could get a ride from somebody else or use my bike. My wife still has a car (Honda Fit) that we can share. It is probably not worth keeping.

            Part of the problem besides my attachment to the car is that my wife doesn’t want me to sell it. She has the following reasons:

            1) It is nice size (Toyota Camry) for trips.

            2) What happens if one of our sons who live near us and are
            carless need a car?

            3) She likes having her own car and doesn’t want to share it.

            4) What happens if her car breaks down and she needs me?

            • Debbie M May 17, 2013, 6:20 am

              1) car rental
              2) car rental
              3) as long as she takes you along to places you’re both going, that’s good. Otherwise, car rental.
              4) car rental – you could pay

              How much would all those car rentals cost compared to how much car ownership costs? How inconvenient is renting a car where you live? (Enterprise will pick you up and drop you off, but they’re still a busy company–it’s not like having your own car. I’d take the bus there after work and let them drop me off after I returned the car.) Is there something you could offer your wife that you really don’t want to do in return for her letting you get rid of the car without complaining? Or would she enjoy occasionally joining you on an interesting rental (my boyfriend likes driving a Fiat 500 when he has to rent)?

              When my friends lived on bus routes, it was waaaay cheaper for me to be carless. But I had a friend who would lend us his car while he was on vacation (if we would drive him to and pick him up from the airport), so we could make big purchases or go somewhere far away occasionally for free. I’d make the 200-mile trip to visit my parents 2 – 3 times a year and rent a car for that.

              Now that 90% of my friends live in suburbs, I want a car for locational freedom. And I also like being able to loan it to my boyfriend when his car breaks down (and, back when she still lived here, my sister). And mine gets better mileage and is less polluting than my boyfriend’s, so I like to use mine for longer trips (across town and beyond). Even now that I know to buy only 10-year-old cars in reliable models, it’s still expensive. If I were a real mustachian, I would make new friends with people who live much closer.

            • AEBinNC May 17, 2013, 8:40 am

              Debbie, really nailed it on points one through four. I’ll add one additional argument for selling now.

              My father is a used car dealer, kind of a one man shop. He said that he’s never seen used cars selling for so much money as they are right now in the 32 years he’s been in the car business.

              The reason for it is that during 2008 and 2009 the number of people leasing new cars and buying new cars went way down. Since then, people have been holding on to their cars for longer and longer.

              Finding a gently used car, that has been well maintained can be a bit of a needle in a haystack. I’d recommend selling now while the market is high.

            • Lina May 17, 2013, 11:25 am

              I sold my car, that I used about 6-8 times a month to go swim and grocery shopping and for some longer trips, last year in August. I calculated that I could rent a similar car every weekend of the month for less money that the car cost me. During these last 9 months I have rented a car twice and I have been flying once to my parents instead of driving. One time I rented a bigger car as it was more convenient and once a smaller car as it was all I need for that weekend.

              I bought a bike instead and put on some studded tires. So I have biked to the grocery store and pool all winter. Everything else is in biking distance. I also took a cab once from the grocery store when I needed to fill my cupboards. It was not that fun to bike when it was windy and -20 celsius or – 4 F but when I thought about the cost of the car it felt ok.

              Basically I really liked having a car but hated paying for it. I prefer living without a car.

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2013, 12:31 pm

          Indeed – listen to the wise woman. You don’t lose the money when you sell a car for a loss. The money is lost as soon as you buy the car.

          Then you continue to lose more every second you hold onto it.

          Cars can always be bought and sold on the used market, at any level of newness. Unlike houses, there is very little overhead in this transaction.

          So until you are infinitely wealthy where money no longer matters to you, you keep as little car “inventory” on your books as you can efficiently live with.

          • jj May 16, 2013, 1:40 pm

            “Cars can always be bought and sold on the used market, at any level of newness. Unlike houses, there is very little overhead in this transaction. So until you are infinitely wealthy where money no longer matters to you, you keep as little car “inventory” on your books as you can efficiently live with.”

            I think you just blew my mind here. Gimme a sec…

            What you’re saying here is that I can ditch my car (a paid off Mazda3, a smart choice but widely available used) for a length of time, thus paying zero for maintainence & insurance and then if I find myself needing a car sometime in the future I can simply buy another one of the same model, use it for whatever length of time my family needs two cars and then sell it again, returning our “inventory” to one??? Holy cow. I have literally never thought of a vehicle in that way.

            • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies May 16, 2013, 2:00 pm

              Before you start doing this with any regularity, consider that while there may be less cost associated with transfering vehicles than homes, it can still add up pretty quickly.

              Sales tax when you purchase car: 6% of $5K = $300
              Title Transfer: $75
              New Plate: $30 a
              Partial Year (1/2?) Registration Forfeit: $50

              And if you use ebay or some other fee system to sell your car, that can easily be a couple hundred bucks or more.

              It might still make sense to sell and rebuy in a couple of years after accounting for those costs, but it’s not a completely cost-less transaction, so it’s worth remembering those little costs can add up, too.

            • jj May 16, 2013, 9:03 pm

              Yeah, it’s not something I’d just jump into, especially given that my car is well maintained, low mileage and paid off and my husband currently travels extensively for work. But I can see times in the future where we might only need one car for a space of several years, but then possibly need two again. I hadn’t really thought of just selling down and buying back to two when we need two.

            • CincyCat May 17, 2013, 7:05 am

              I agree with JJ (capital letters). For a long time, we were a one-car household, but occasionally needed a second car when both of us needed to be in different places at the same time. Solution? Rental. It was far more cost effective to simply rent a car for a day or two than it was to get a second car.

            • Ms. Must-stash May 16, 2013, 9:08 pm

              Similarly – one of my favorite early MMM posts (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/11/get-rich-with-craigslist/) was about the concept of using Craigslist as your “storage unit.” It’s such fun to sell things that you no longer need, knowing that if your needs should change, you can always pick up an equivalent item for a minimal price.

              I look forward to the day when the epidemic of “oh-but-I-might-need-it-someday-itis” has been cured. :-)

            • AEBinNC May 17, 2013, 8:34 am

              I have tried using Craig’s list for storage. In my case it didn’t work out as planned. I sold my 2003 mazda miata back in 2009 to free up some cash. I was newly married and wanted to get my wife’s Honda fit paid off ASAP. Thinking about the monthly interest we were paying was driving me mad.

              I sold the miata for 8,000, which was 200 above KBB value. I bought a used car for 4,000 and used the difference to pay off a good chunk of my wife’s car. We made some big payments and had it paid off within a year of getting married.

              It’s been three awesome years of no car payments. However, I miss my Miata and I’d like to buy a similar model outright. Unfortunately for me, the used car market is really hot right now and I’d have to pay roughly 2,000 more than I sold mine for. So I’ll wait for a few years and see what happens, hopefully by the time I consider them reasonable, the prices will be back down.

              Point being, you can use Craig’s list for storage but you open yourself up to market changes.

            • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2013, 10:32 am

              Neat story, and I too am surprised to hear about used car appreciation!

              On the positive side, if this is making you live without a Miata for a bit longer, only good can come from the practice of delaying the purchase. Builds your frugality muscles and your taste for minimalism. If you’re really lucky, you might be freed from the desire before you end up buying the car.

              Full disclosure: in 1999 at age 25, I actually wanted a racy Honda S2000 convertible and even visited the dealership to ogle them seriously – with sufficient cash in my bank account to own one. Fortunately for me, I decided to buy a house instead, and got distracted by living a good life for 14 years.

              Now I can really afford a fancy car, but I am thrilled to discover that completely don’t want one, even if they were free.

            • Rob aka Mr and Mrs TV May 19, 2013, 9:38 am

              Andrew Hallman in his great book Millionaire Teacher talks about how vulch a great used car, idea is to find a reliable used but fully deprecated car, it takes time and effort but what in essence you get is a car that can driven for 1-2 years and then sold for what your paid for it.

            • Diane C May 20, 2013, 7:11 am

              Don’t forget to factor in the sales tax, the fact that you probably know your car inside and out, the hassle of starting/stopping insurance. Not saying don’t do it, just saying you might not be thinking of all the costs. Kind of hard to anticipate when you’ll “need” a car” particularly since it tends to be unexpected life events that dictate the “need” for a car.
              I’m not taking a pro or con position on owning a car, just exploring various facets of the theory you present.
              Looks like Mrs. PoP covered this angle before me, so I say “What she said.”

      • GayleRN May 16, 2013, 1:35 pm

        Fellow Michigan girl here. What most people outside of Michigan fail to understand is how deeply embedded car culture is in Michigan. It is not just a mode of transportation but how most of our families made a living. It was normal for us to buy a new car every 3 years and this was part of supporting what was essentially the family business. Your first car literally represented freedom in so many ways. This is for us an emotional issue not just logical. So be nice to yourself as you figure it out. It is okay to keep a car just because you want to. Just not stepping into the showroom is huge progress for a son of Detroit.

        • Joe May 19, 2013, 9:21 am

          Fellow Michigan guy here, and I agree that car culture is deeply embedded. I sometimes go through the psychological mind games riding my bicycle instead of driving my car to get around at times. It’s a point of pride to have a car and not rely on public transportation or a bike as a Michigander, sad but true. I have to rationalize to myself that I’m doing my body good getting exercise, curbing my wants, and minimizing my environmental impact :)

      • Patrick May 17, 2013, 10:02 am


        The last vestige of my automobile existence has 6 hours left at auction, and I couldn’t be happier.

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2013, 10:23 am

          WOW – you fellas are very inspirational.

          Because of you, I am considering a challenge of ditching my construction minivan after this summer’s travels. It is still really useful, but not all that often. I could replace it with a small trailer for my Scion. Heck, I could even sell both the Scion and Van and use a portion of the combined money to get a used Prius – bigger and more comfortable for family roadtrips, but uses even less gas than the Scion. That would still leave $1-$3k or more left over for investing.

          Is it worth spending the time to do this even when I have no need for money and still “like” having the van? Hmmm.. must consider deeply.. constant optimization at work.

          • sticks May 19, 2013, 11:55 am

            I have a small trailer that serves as my truck. I use for everything. Turns my small car into a 1/4ton truck. Trailers are wayyy underutilized.

      • AndyfromTucson May 17, 2013, 12:54 pm

        Think of getting rid of a car as an experiment, not a permanent change. If it turns out that you regret getting rid of the car you can always buy a similar one of similar age on the used market.

      • Rob aka Mr and Mrs TV May 17, 2013, 3:08 pm

        Even MMM has a car, the key isn’t to,get rid of it simply to reduce the cost of owning it.

  • Punching Myself May 15, 2013, 11:25 am

    Agreed! Another nice article. I’ve been implementing a Mustachian way of life slowly over this year that I’ve started reading. Cut cable (satellite), reduced energy consumption, and gotten rid of the luxury sports car in favor of a Prius C which I’m hypermiling to the tune of 58mpg. Still have a ways to go and optimizations to make (still take far too many unnecessary trips Clown Car style). So funny that I now notice all the wasteful cars and stuff. I counted 15 consecutive SUVs as I entered my neighborhood. My next door neighbor just stopped by the common mailbox in her family SUV with her son in the back…200 feet from the house. Really?! Guess I just need to focus on my own wastefulness..plenty to get rid of.

    I need help with my health insurance. Have a cadillac individual plan and haven’t been able to switch to another carrier nor change plans with the same carrier due to preexisting conditions (ironically, conditions that no longer exist).Want to get a higher deductible plan with a lower rate. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Kacie May 16, 2013, 9:52 am

      Private health insurance is such a booger right now, but maybe in 2014 you will be able to get the plan you’re seeking? In theory? It’s hard to say what the ACA will do in practice.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque May 15, 2013, 11:28 am

    I feel like I’m involved in this one, being perhaps included as one of the “party boys”. We all soon realized that the best place to live was somewhere that was both close to work and within a very short taxi ride of the express bus route that would pick up downtown drunks as late as 2:14am. (2am being last call around here).
    At the moment, I’m pretending to be a grown up non-party boy, so we’re living a 15 minute drive from my place of work. On the one hand, I regret the distance, since this will add quite a bit of work to my life. On the other hand, the cookie cutter houses available close to work didn’t allow customization – or even verification of good construction practices.
    But if we’d done it right – somehow built a good house near work – we’d be in a much better position relative to bicycle usage, grocery shopping, library access, etc.
    We could still move, of course, and surrender our heavily personalized place of residence … sigh.
    Yes, optimization. Thou art a heartless bitch.

    • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies May 16, 2013, 10:27 am

      “Yes, optimization. Thou art a heartless bitch.”
      I tend to make sure I include happiness in my optimization calculations because seriously, my happiness is worth more than $0.02, even if you apply compound interest over the next 60 years.

      Sounds like the cookie cutter HOA houses around your work are similar to those around Mr. PoP’s job. Not our lifestyle at all.

      Our house isn’t optimally located when you consider JUST Mr. PoP’s job. But there’s also my job to consider, which is in the opposite direction. (The house is between them.) And even more significant to our long term and short term happiness, it’s in a great area with lots of resources and personality where we want to stay for a very long time, and we were able to buy at a time when it was significantly undervalued.

      So while it might look non-optimal from the outside, it’s actually pretty well optimized considering our long term plans and the type of atmosphere we want to live in now and in the future.

  • Marcia May 15, 2013, 11:33 am

    I really liked this post and it’s something that we take pretty seriously. It also makes it easier if they are a bunch of “small” things.

    We got rid of cable last year. We started biking to work one day a week (soon to be two). It’s not a huge deal to bike once a week. I tweak our meals to save money. I tweak our travel plans to do the same.

    I recently realized (after a discussion with a friend about how much her sick dog was costing her), that it costs me about $8 a day to drive to work when you factor in gas and wear and tear.

    Someone up above mentioned the cost of your choices when you are young…boy, when I was about 34 I went through a box and found a credit card bill from when I was in my 20’s. I spent 800-1000 dollars a month eating out. Ugh.

  • CALL 911 May 15, 2013, 11:33 am

    One downside to constant optimization is encountering inefficiency you can’t fix. Since starting MMM reading, I’ve increased my own optimization significantly. I’m still a worker bee though, and the inefficiencies there are starting to give me headaches. I see problems. I see implementable solutions. I get “that’s not protocol” or “we haven’t noticed an issue” or “that’s what we’ve always done, and it works”. When I think about the inefficiencies on a national scale, I realize we should be energy independent, retired by 40, and only work 30 hours a week during our working lives. Instead, we keep lights on in rooms we never go in, build rooms we don’t need, sit at red lights for 4 minutes a time (idling and wasting gas), and throw things away after using them once (since the package says “single use”, when in reality they could be reprocessed or have minor design changes to be multi-use). Waste. It’s a four letter word!

    • Lina May 15, 2013, 1:15 pm

      I have always liked optimization. I do encounter the same problem as you at work but I have realized that I can’t change everything at once. Sometimes you have to plant your ideas and let people think about them for a while. If you also can point out to your boss how an implementation of your ideas can save time and money you will reduce the inefficiencies greatly. Your colleagues probably likes ideas that save them time. I have also realized that I have to packages my ideas differently depending on who I am trying to “sell” them too. My boss likes one thing and his boss likes another. If I can find arguments that my boss likes and the arguments that makes it possible for him to sell the idea to his boss (in those cases that he can’t make the decision) I have a winner.

      • Christy May 15, 2013, 2:43 pm

        I often divide things into the following categories:
        1. What is in my control
        2. What can I influence over time
        3. What is out of my control
        When I first created a graphic organizer to track where i was putting my energy, I discovered that I focused mostly on things out of my control. This simple tool helped me became much more productive and I felt better as I could see tangible results.

    • Ishmael May 16, 2013, 8:00 am

      Wow. You just described what is in my head all the time. Finally, someone understands. It’s kind of maddening, isn’t it?

      Especially then when you have people that try to say that we can’t do much about protecting the environment.

      Efficiency = saving money = protecting environment = maintaining standard of living and working less. It’s an awesome, virtuous circle that I’m always stunned that people can’t see.

  • Kraig - Young Cheap Living May 15, 2013, 11:35 am

    I’ve practiced quite a bit of constant optimization throughout my past few years. It all started after learning how terrible it felt to be broke and how trapped I was in that situation. Starting then, I got on a path of dropping expenses like crazy and I continue to make lists of expenses I can, and would like to, cut. It’s a process that will likely never end. I should really make a goal of spending less and less every single year. That’s proof of constant optimization.

  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 15, 2013, 11:38 am

    This post is destined to be another MMM classic!

    I find Lifestyle Optimization fun as I’m sure many of you that read this do also. I find it a natural way to think (except related to my car, see above) probably because I’m an engineer that likes solving problems. If you are a STEM major, then it probably means that you already have a similar natural ability. It’s not necessarily that a STEM major make you better at Lifestyle Optimization; it’s that STEM majors are attracted to STEM because they already have an aptitude for Lifestyle Optimization.

    However, for many people, it is a struggle to think in terms of Lifestyle Optimization. I’m not saying they can’t do it – just that it requires more conscious effort than it does for me and others. That may be what is happening to MMM’s friend.

    • Bob Sayer May 16, 2013, 9:04 am

      STEM == “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” for those who don’t speak acronym. ;-)

  • Michelle at Making Sense of Cents May 15, 2013, 11:38 am

    Great post. We are working on lowering our expenses, and long gone are the day where we spent thousands a month on eating and going out.

  • Johnny May 15, 2013, 11:45 am

    This post makes me feel better.

    1. A lot of the somewhat innocuous spending habits and decisions that your friend makes/has made threw up red flags in my mind. A few years ago, they wouldn’t. That’s progress.
    2. I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I go through a marathon MMM session. I get in a habit of thinking that it must be all or nothing. If I’m not biking to work, doing all my home repairs, saving a lot more than our current 25%, etc. etc. etc., than I’m doing it wrong. I’m happy to hear that even you went through optimization phases. Your blog offers up a giant elephant and I’m happy to hear that it’s fine to eat it one bite at a time.

    • PurpleHat May 15, 2013, 7:55 pm

      I feel the same way. I really like this post since the strategy is forward looking. Focussing on constant improvement allows you to overcome problems of sunk cost or guilt for past errors of judgement.

    • Slinky June 14, 2013, 10:45 am

      I often say, “better is better.” It reminds me that i don’t have to have everything perfect or do it all the best way, i just have to make it better. It also reminds me that i should always be trying for something better. So i guess i like to find the happy medium between never settling for the status quo, but not driving myself crazy with perfectionism either.

  • M May 15, 2013, 11:52 am

    A friend of mine recently commented that she encourages older folks to get down on the floor at least once a day. Her reasoning is that it promotes stretching, reduces lower back compression, and works the joints in new ways. She further commented that, “We live in an affluent society that can afford furniture. All that sitting has consequences.” Darn. Never looked at it that way. And so simple a concept!

  • Giddings Plaza FI May 15, 2013, 11:53 am

    Wow, it’s frustrating seeing friends struggle with money, especially if they make the same or more than us. Your friends’ cars, especially, must be a huge drain. I finally got rid of my car a few months ago, after quitting my job and starting to work from home. After I donated it and told a some friends, I heard a couple of them whispering that they thought I must be broke now that I quit my job. Funny, as I’m the opposite of broke, well on my way to being “retired early” like the estimable MMM! Needless to say I set the whisperers straight, and rubbed it in their faces. :)

  • Ottawa May 15, 2013, 11:55 am

    Nice detective work MMM! I often practice the principals of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot for entertainment on my cycling commute! I often think it is possible to spot closet Mustachians this way…or rather..non Mustachians…for instance:

    1) garbage day is revealing – recycling box filled with take outs? gatorade? pop cans? 50″ TV boxes? perfectly good 4×4 posts?

    2) car(s) in driveway – how many? What type?

    3) satellite dish? or antenna (I’ve only seen 1)!

    4) fancy tools to claw out dandelions (I see these all the time!) I mean…seriously? You’re waging war on a pretty yellow edible flower because…the Jones’ do? Because…you have nothing better to do?

    5) Garages piled high with crap (I estimate >75% don’t even have room for their cars!)

    6) Loading kids in car for school down the road!

    When I see the intersection of 2 or more of these observations at a single house…I would wager they are nowhere near optimized and similar to the friends you introduced in your article. Now…how to help them SEE?

    • CincyCat May 15, 2013, 12:30 pm

      That’s interesting that you mention getting our friends and family to “see”. I just read Black & Gregersen’s fascinating book, “It Starts With One”, for a recent class that I took. While the book is geared toward organizational change, they make the point that *individuals* actually do the changing, not *companies*. To that end, they describe three barriers to change: failing to see, failing to move and failing to finish; and various techniques to help get over these barriers. It’s a great read, if this type of study is interesting to you.

      • Lindon May 15, 2013, 1:17 pm

        My biggest struggle is how to enable my friends who are in the “failing to see” stage to see. I don’t know how to effectively tell them that they are essentially flushing their money down the toilet.

        Any ideas? Should I help them crunch their numbers? I think part of them is afraid to find out how much they’re actually spending.

        • CincyCat May 15, 2013, 4:28 pm

          Most of the time, failure to see is emotionally driven. Black & Gregersen say that the reason people don’t seem to “get it” is because it “feels” more secure to travel a path that we already know, or has been “successful” in the past, and we are basically blind to alternatives. Even when the path starts to feel very uncomfortable, it may be difficult for people to “see” another way because the path they are on is “all they know.” To help combat this, we must live the life, and provide actual experiences that demonstrate the difference. For example, instead of going on expensive outings, invite these friends to low- or no-cost outings that are just as much fun. If this is a spouse/SO or a close family member, we may be able to simulate a “what if” type of financial crisis – or an opportunity lost – (perhaps in a spreadsheet) that would clearly show the consequences of inaction. This is what I had to do with my mom, who saw the value in creating a budget, but did not connect the dots that she also needed to track her spending to make sure she stayed on track with it. She always threw receipts away immediately, and never could figure out why she ran short month after month. When I took 3 months of bank statements & categorized them for her, we saw immediately that she was grossly underbudgeting in a couple of areas, which directly caused her to run short in other areas. The frustrating thing is, these messages may need to be delivered repeatedly before they sink in. Patience and understanding is also key.

          • Bob Sayer May 16, 2013, 9:18 am

            >>>” it “feels” more secure to travel a path that we already know, or has been “successful” in the past, and we are basically blind to alternatives.”

            I saw this in Japanese tsunami videos. The car drivers continued following the roads parallel to the ocean, rather than take a right turn into the grass and drive away from the oncoming wave. Their unwillingness to change caused them to drown. (The few that drove directly through the fields managed to escape.)

        • Snow White May 15, 2013, 5:25 pm

          I make the “lessons” about me and not them. For instance when a friend talked to me about her desire to buy a new car, I shared with her that I am too cheap to get rid of a car (that I needed) simply because I was tired of it. I “confess” that I am more interested in the freedom that comes from being debt free than any consumer product or anyones thoughts about me. Folks who are interested will ask questions and others won’t. We are all at different places on our path and that is ok. I had several significant conversations with former colleagues who were intrigued about how I retired early and I provided them with links to MMM, Get Rich Slowly, etc.

  • nicoleandmaggie May 15, 2013, 12:18 pm

    I dunno, I think I’d rather have a job with colleagues I liked and whatever little luxuries I want over a bigger house. (We have a really big house, and we’d be just as happy with a smaller one. Live and learn.) We don’t have the same luxuries as your friend, but I’m sure we have different ones. Just idly saying, “I’d sure like X” doesn’t mean “I wish I could trade all these other things for X.” I’d like, I dunno, world peace, but I’m not willing to trade say, my family life, fighting for it.

    • squeakywheel May 16, 2013, 8:18 am

      NicoleandMaggie, we used to have a big house and some buyer’s regret. Three years ago, we got rid of 2/3 of our stuff and moved into a very small house (4 people in 1300 sq ft). Others were shocked! But it has worked out really wonderfully for us. The only time I have ever missed the extra space is when we have guests. And why pay for all that extra space 100% of the time when you only have guests maybe 1-5% of the time? And you have no idea how much better I sleep knowing that we don’t have that huge mortgage hanging over our heads.

      • Sylvie from Montreal March 29, 2017, 9:57 am

        4 people in 1500 sq. feet here;
        +1, not to mention:
        – easier, faster clean- up ( so no cleaning person needed)
        -less heating required
        – much more natural interaction as a family ( can you believe some people actually consider this a negative point?)
        -doesn’t encourage stuff accumulation, otherwise first point about ease of cleaning is jeopardized.

        • HeadedWest March 29, 2017, 12:16 pm

          Agreed. Our (soon to be ) family of 4 is moving into a 1540 sq ft home next March. In addition to the the points you mention above, I’m looking forward to one additional benefit – more incentive to spend time outside. We will be in a cozy little neighborhood near Puget Sound and several parks. This will be so much better for our kids than an 80 inch TV. I’m really pumped.

  • CincyCat May 15, 2013, 12:25 pm

    I was musing on the thoughts of your friend, and how he wanted to enlarge the house, when I was reminded of a time when the kiddos needed new beds. One still had one foot in the crib, and the other was using my husband’s hand-me-down bed that was at least 30 years old, and was starting to fall apart (a safety issue). I bought them bunk beds from an outlet store, even though they would be sleeping in separate (tiny, finished-cape-cod-attic) bedrooms. My logic was that IF we ever needed/wanted to downsize, it would be easier to put the two kiddos in the same room if they had bunk beds. While this happened long before “personal finance” was a hot topic on the internet, I think this type of thing is what you mean when you say to really think through every purchase. Don’t just look at the here & now. Look at the usefulness/flexibility of the item over the course of its life.

  • Johnny Moneyseed May 15, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Dude, that’s exactly how my mind works. I always try to find out where the waste is in my life and follow it up by altering my daily life when possible. Obviously you can’t reduce all of the waste, but everything you can change should be subject to scrutiny. We had cable and once the bills started to increase (as they always do) we downgraded to streaming media only. Our insurance bills were crazy, so we dropped to the lowest coverage possible, because we have the money put aside in case anything crazy happens. And now, we’re trying to buy a second home, so we can downsize and someone else can pay our first mortgage.

    • Kruidig Meisje May 16, 2013, 2:28 am

      This remark synchronisez with my thought that optimizing needs to start somewhere. Might there be a connection to the “nagging voices” blog of MMM? MMM’s voices are very present and very active, giving him a lot of initatives, which he also follows up on.
      Not everybody has these helping voices (see mrs MMM’s blog thereafter), so is there advise for people with active nagging voices?

      The follow-up part is also a stumbling block for some, but I gues that’s a subject large enough for a university study (like psychology or sociology?), slightly too large for a simple advise or blog.

  • rax May 15, 2013, 12:36 pm

    That’s exactly how I started to think about my own spending shortly after stumbling upon your blog a few months ago, so congratulations on a job well done :)

  • Mudd May 15, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Great article!

  • Alexandria May 15, 2013, 1:22 pm

    Another Great Article.

    I also think for me personally I find to constantly optimize *everything* is very overwheming. But, to always be focusing on improvement in one or a few areas is much easier and extremely rewarding. Over time, successes begin to layer on top of each other. For example, we have always had none/small commute and bought extremely modest vehicles and a modest home. When we first had children we really focused on harnessing our food costs, to manage our income being cut in half (spouse stayed home). These are all the substantial things we have done, but we are constantly learning small tricks to save $5 here and there. No doubt these things add up with time. (Examples? We barely buy paper towels or plastic bags, someone suggested we wash our shower curtain rather than replace – doh!, trying to repurpose and make do than always run to the store for every whim). I don’t feel like – “I already do everything to save money and there is nothing else I can do.” That’s ridiculous – even if we already optimize more than 99% of the average middle class American. To me, unless you live entirely off the grid, Optimization and new ideas seem rather endless.

  • Ryan May 15, 2013, 1:51 pm

    I’m excited to say that I’ve officially CAUGHT UP….yeah!! I’ve read every article from the very beginning! And putting things into practice along the way has been most exciting. Still a ways to go, but making adjustments all the time…..just as the article describes as ideal.

  • Andrea May 15, 2013, 2:15 pm

    This is one of the main reasons I continue to read this (and other similarly-themed) blogs, because it serves as a continual reminder to keep reevaluating my lifestyle and seeking ways to optimize. It is so easy to get swept into the consumerist current, complacently accepting all of the practices that our culture promotes as normal (constantly upgrading, shopping as a recreational activity, living on credit), that I find it really helpful to have an online community to make me feel normal in doing it differently. Hearing MMM’s story, and those of the other readers, challenges me to dig deeper. As an example, before I became a reader of this blog, I never seriously considered riding my bike to work. I did take public transit, and felt pretty pleased with myself for doing so even when I could “afford” to drive. But a few months ago, my employer stopped providing a subsidy for public transit, and it made me reconsider my transportation options. Obviously, having ready MMM’s many exhortation’s to just “Ride a Bike”, I had to include that among my options. I realized that by riding a bike at least a few days a week I could not only save some money, but I would also get some exercise during time in which I would already be commuting, and I discovered that the bike ride is actually ten minutes shorter than my bus ride. Talk about optimization! I am only a few weeks into my new biking habit, and I’m still a little slow and tentative, but I’m really enjoying the extra time outdoors and find it’s a great way to start and end a day. So, thanks MMM, for providing the inspiration and the forum to help us to keep pushing each other to do better!

  • Kaytee May 15, 2013, 2:31 pm

    In the spirit of constant optimization, I have recently discovered and adopted refridgerator oatmeal. Amazing, absolutely amazing.

  • sara May 15, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Appreciate the encouragement to mindfulness in order to optimize how I use resources of time, money, etc. The bigger question, of course, is “to what ends”? People have different utility functions (both actual and expressed–there is of course the issue that most people live as if they had a different utility function than they would claim they actually have), balancing competing goods. Some of the different things people might seek to maximize include; leisure time, consumption, power, impact for good on the world, prestige, personal relationships, accumulated resources, independence/freedom. You’ve clearly expressed your views on some of these (and I would agree with you that seeking to maximize consumption is something a lot of people in practice do that doesn’t actually increase their utility as much as they would expect), but I’m curious where you stand on some you haven’t expressed views on, and if you think everyone should be seeking to maximize the exact same mix of these as you do or not?

    • Mr. Frugal Toque May 16, 2013, 5:09 am

      “Some of the different things people might seek to maximize include; leisure time, consumption, power, impact for good on the world, prestige, personal relationships, accumulated resources, independence/freedom.”
      What you’ll notice is that, except for consumption, all of these goals will be easier to accomplish if you have your financial house in order and, preferably, have financial independence.
      Debt troubles can definitely cause relationship problems, issues with self-esteem (and therefore prestige) and mess with your freedom if you’re worried what your employer might think of what you want to do and say.
      Admittedly, this blog is not going to help you consume much, or accumulate resources, but rather convince you that these are terrible goals.

    • AndyfromTucson May 17, 2013, 3:46 pm

      “The bigger question, of course, is ‘to what ends’?”

      Optimization is for whatever ends you want! Whatever the goal, there are always ways reduce the time and/or money required to reach that goal. Let’s say you hate small cars and want to drive the biggest car possible, and that really and truly makes you happy. There are still ways to achieve that goal using less time and money. For example, you could buy ten year old monster truck instead of a brand new one. You could put extra effort into finding a house close to your work so you could afford to get 11 mpg.

  • Janina May 15, 2013, 6:51 pm

    An enlightening article that gave me an “ah-ha” moment! In my professional life, my efforts to optimize and run an efficient department is labeled good business acumen and, quite frankly, expected in my position. In my personal life, I continuously look for ways to optimize all areas, but I never recognized it as such because it was always seen by others as “suffering from the grass is greener syndrome” (looking for better and never happy with stagnant)!

  • Jacob@CashCowCouple May 15, 2013, 7:00 pm

    I’m always amazed at your ability to put my thoughts into your computer. I think about this all the time when I’m around family and friends. It’s the black and white difference between folks who live a life of meaning and those who slave away in the system, always wanting a little more.

    I think the mindset goes far beyond money. When you realize that there might be a better way to do something, and you choose to change, they sky’s the limit. Most folks refuse to questions any action of their own.

  • Bob Sayer May 15, 2013, 7:30 pm

    This blog censors posts. If the owner doesn’t like what you say, he makes it disappear. Not cool. (I am anti-censorship.)

    • Emmers May 15, 2013, 8:06 pm

      That’s not actually what censorship means; why don’t you start your own blog with your rebuttals? Freedom of speech is awesome!

      • Bob Sayer May 16, 2013, 9:34 am

        Well I posted a reply to a guy saying, in essence, if your car is paid-off you should keep it (rather than sell it at ~50% loss). The owner deleted the post because he disagreed. And yes that is censoring of opinion.

        • Delphine May 16, 2013, 11:56 am

          That post is still there- see above

          • Brandon May 16, 2013, 7:11 pm

            The first time I posted a comment, I thought “oh, that Mean Mr. Mustache! He deleted my post!”

            …half an hour later, it appeared. He probably reviews them before they go up, just to cut down on spam and garbage and commercial stuff.

            • Kenneth May 17, 2013, 6:01 am

              MMM blog hosting has improved greatly for speed. But I find I have to hit the browser refresh button to get the latest updates to comments.

            • squeakywheel May 19, 2013, 12:05 pm

              Yes, I also have to refresh the browser (Chrome) to see new comments. Didn’t used to happen with the old blog host.

    • squeakywheel May 16, 2013, 8:26 am

      Personally, I really appreciate the group of like-minded individuals who comment on this blog. And I appreciate the owner for keeping the positive spirit here intact by removing negative comments that have no value. I have seen many thoughtful comments that don’t agree with MMM, so I know he doesn’t remove those. I bet that the ones that are removed (or not posted in the first place) are those with needless vitriol. And thank goodness for that! If I want it, I can find that in plenty of other places on the web. But I can’t find the good ideas and advice that are here in many (any?) other places.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque May 16, 2013, 9:41 am

      I’ll only get upset about censorship if he starts censoring himself by, for example, not swearing in order to appease a credit card company.
      Until then, the comments section is an efficient and handy part of the content of the blog. If MMM is throwing out posts that are tangential, spammy or whiny, then I give him credit for constantly optimizing those away for our benefit.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2013, 12:40 pm

      Sorry that not all your comments made the cut, Bob! I have appreciated some of your tips here. Here are the guidelines I follow when curating these comments:

      – it must be evident that the writer read and understood the whole article, and most of the already-posted comments (to avoid duplication).

      – the comment should be written from the perspective of trying to help people, rather than just espouse an opinion, criticize a reader or complain about something

      – the comment should be worth having thousands of people read, not just “hey billy, are you in Seattle too? Where do you live?”,

      – in every article, you will see plenty of comments that I disagree with that did get posted. But they need to be reasoned points rather than just an angry disagreement. Those are better posted on your own blog.. and you’ll note that in turn I will never visit your blog to angrily disagree with you.

      More than 98% of the comments around here get posted. But filtering them is not censorship – this blog is not a public square, it’s part of my living room and the Mustachians are all invited guests having a party. So we occasionally have to bounce some people in the interest of better discussion.

      • Da55id May 16, 2013, 1:54 pm

        I’ll vouch for MMM’s curating approach. I was the one who suggested that MMM could now tackle hubris since he’d taken the retirement police to the dictionary woodshed. Not only did he let the post get published, but he used it as a taking off point for further useful discussion.

        MMM seeks optimization – especially of himself. Admirable.

      • Da55id May 16, 2013, 3:13 pm

        I see

      • Emmers May 19, 2013, 2:23 pm

        Good explanation; I hope Bob read it!

    • CincyCat May 16, 2013, 2:54 pm

      I think it also may depend on your browser. When I post from my work machine (IE 9) the posts seem to “disappear” shortly after I submit them (or sometimes, MMM’s page won’t load at all!), but then they “reappear” a few hours later. When I post in from my home PC (IE 7), they show up just fine and stay put, and I can always see the posts that I submitted using my work PC.

      EDITED by me: I just saw MMM’s reply above, and it seems that he does screen the posts, but I absolutely agree with his methods. It’s what keeps this blog constructive rather than devolving into vitriol.

  • Angeleena May 15, 2013, 7:31 pm

    Dear Mr. MM,

    Before I found your blog two weeks ago, I already considered myself a minimalist and frugal person. But I had zero savings and was driving a car to my job 2 miles away every day. Whenever I had extra money, I looked for “problems” I could solve by spending it. I actually thought 5% was a healthy retirement savings rate. It never occurred to me that I had the option of exiting the rat race early – I just took it for granted that everyone has to work until they’re 60. (I’m 25.)

    Having now read a large number of your posts, I feel like something has clicked in my brain. The possibility of being able to quit corporate life in 10 years has completely energized me. Last weekend I bought a used bike on Craigslist for $60 and have been taking it to work every day (I’m pretty sore, but it gets a little easier every time). I’m loaning my car out to one of my car-less roommates in exchange for splitting the insurance costs. I’ve calculated that in my current situation, I can probably put 60% of my income into savings.

    Which is all to say that this blog has been entirely life-changing. So thank you.

  • Eric May 15, 2013, 9:04 pm

    I just have to say that you, Mister Money Mustache, are a true American hero. I’ve always practiced mini Mustachian principles (without knowing it) like contributing the max to my 401k, sharing one old car for my wife and I, and going without cable TV. I caught your interview in the Washington Post and have started reading through all your older posts. It’s been about 3 weeks since I first found this site. And here’s what I’ve accomplished:

    I negotiated a lower internet bill
    I cut my car insurance in half by eliminating collision & comprehensive
    I’ve started riding my bike to the grocery store instead of driving the 2.5 miles. (why the fuck was I driving 2.5 miles?!?)
    I’ve started hypermiling and drafting behind big trucks on my commute increasing my MPG by 20%
    I’ve started tracking all spending

    All this in 3 weeks. You know why? Because you’re the most inspirational writer I’ve ever read! We’ve always had a goal of retiring early, with a vague idea of around 50. But we are SO MUCH CLOSER than I ever realized, and it’s all thanks to you changing my perspective and thought process. I’m 36 years old, and with a little luck, I think I’m about 6 years away from retirement. (only 8 years with no luck) That’s so close I can taste it! So now before I buy anything, I ask myself, “Are these concert tickets worth working another 3 months? I’m sure it will be fun, but you know what else I’d enjoy more? NOT WORKING!”

    Now not all is up to true Mustacian principles. I have a 50 mile round trip commute to a job that I don’t even particularly enjoy. I’ve looked for jobs in the past, but most all of them want me to know how to operate Quickbooks accounting software, which I don’t know. So you know what? Instead of being a fucking complainypants and whining that no one wants someone without Quickbooks knowledge, I went out and bought the software and am now learning it every night on my own. In a few months, I’ll be able to snag one of those jobs where I can start riding my bike to work.

    Thank you so much for your work here. You’ve motivated me like nothing ever has before. I’m forever indebted.

    • earlyFI May 17, 2013, 8:46 am

      Welcome to the blog & congrats on your life improvements!

  • thepotatohead May 15, 2013, 9:09 pm

    They say old habits die hard right…Since finding your blog I’ve been trying to re-prioritize my spending and thoughts on consumerism. It’s definitely not easy taking those first few steps. It’s actually very scary cause you are throwing away everything your grown accustomed to. First big step I took was axing cable…and it feels awesome. Trying my best now to let the optimization spread to other areas of my life and cut down on other frivolous items. Thanks MMM!

  • Mr. Bonner May 15, 2013, 11:37 pm

    The guy who used to run our company spoke at a few company-wide events about tinkerers, which is similar to your point here. Never be content with the status quo. Always ask the questions: how does this work and how can I make it better? Those people that have the inclination to tinker and probe are usually the ones that find better ways of doing things. In your case you apply this to your finances, but it can be applied in so many facets of life.

  • Nikola (Blogging Games) May 16, 2013, 2:24 am

    It really does happen quite often, in all areas of life, doesn’t it? People just forget to reassess their views or the situation and simply fall into a habit. It’s probably related to evolution somehow. Maybe our brain evolved that way to save energy.

  • Ralph Beale May 16, 2013, 2:24 am

    It’s very easy to get stuck in a routine, doing the same things day in and day out. The thinking behind constant optimization is mostly about seeing if you can allocate your resources better, which I totally agree with. But life should be about having new experiences. I once read something that had a profound effect on my thinking, it went something like this:

    “Most people don’t live for 70 years, they live the same year 70 times”

  • My Financial Independence Journey May 16, 2013, 3:40 am

    What’s missing is that optimization can and should go both ways, not just down. I’ve improved a number of things as I’ve gone from being a student to having a respectable job. I could have kept living in a tiny studio apartment, but I’d rather live in a nice one bedroom apartment with some amenities.

    I’ve never been one for commuting, but I can’t really say that I like where I live now, which is pretty close to work. If I lived farther from work I’d have access to a lot more more enjoyable activities and people who are more likely to be educated professionals as well. But the longer commute would annoy me. This is where optimization starts to break down – because no matter what you pick, it’s wrong.

    • Gerard May 17, 2013, 7:57 am

      But it sounds like you’re using “wrong” to mean “the opposite of perfect”. Optimization is always about making the best of what’s available. Every option, except the incredibly low-hanging fruit, will involve accepting some slightly bad shit to get some really good shit. Otherwise you end up unable to move, and you rationalize it by obsessing about the bad shit: “Some guy was killed while cycling home drunk on the interstate! Whew! Good thing I don’t ride my bike to work!”

  • Ross May 16, 2013, 6:02 am

    I meet so many folk who are unwilling to even discuss changing their habits in order to optimize their lives. What is crazy is that I love changing my habits, its what makes life fun!

  • wendi1 May 16, 2013, 8:01 am

    Using the principle of “low-hanging fruit” may keep you from being overwhelmed. Instead of questioning each purchase of Gatorade, maybe focus on those decisions where lots of optimization can occur for very little work, first.

    I notice that very few people make lists of requirements when buying a house or car, for instance, preferring to make the decision on the fly. This is a recipe for disaster. One of my co-workers was going to decide on a car purchase based on the styling of the vehicle, alone.

    And few people seem to think that getting “more car” or “more house” than they need is a waste of money – they seem to think of it as pampering.

    • CALL 911 May 16, 2013, 8:14 pm

      I wholeheartedly disagree with your characterization of Gatorade being hard work. It is much easier than making a list about what features you want in a car/house.
      It is a constant opportunity. It comes up daily for this guy.Do I need one? No. Do I want one? Yes. Is this one Gatorade worth the sacrifice? No today, yes tomorrow, etc. THIS is the low hanging fruit. Not a once a decade purchase like a car. And there are a LOT of these fruits. These fruits are the bounty that make up the feast of a life well lived.
      Additionally, your co-worker is an idiot.

  • Debt Blag May 16, 2013, 10:05 am

    I definitely agree! And this applies to so many aspects of life these days too. Even if you don’t work in technology (but especially if you do) you have to constantly work to learn new things to make sure that your skills are employable and create value for whoever you might want to work for. Likewise, there are so many new financial products and options out there these days that I’d do a great disservice to myself by not staying informed. Great post!

    • Lina May 17, 2013, 11:43 am

      I believe many people miss this point, that they have to work to be employable and create value for their employer. In my workplace we have people at another department that constantly complain about their work and workload but if you suggest changes to optimization it is not good. Optimization at my department on the other hand is seen very positively.

      I love to learn new thing and therefore I read a lot, that is sometimes work related and sometimes simply for my pleasure. From most of the books I can take something that I can implement in my life at home or at work. I realize that I have to be updated of what is happening in my field otherwise I am doomed after a while so I am spending a couple hours of my own time being updated and it has payed me well as my colleagues see me as someone knowledgeable about the progress in the field.

  • Anita May 16, 2013, 10:10 am

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve strived to lower my bills. There is always a way, and if you stay on top of it , something will open up a new way to slash further.

    I have no debt, large net worth, and retired happily at 58, as did my Father.I had great role models in my parents, who made me believe I could retire early, as they did.

  • Anita May 16, 2013, 10:14 am

    I have always strived to continually find ways to lower my bills. If you stay on top of it, something eventually opens up as a new way to lower them.

    I have no debt, a large net worth, and retired happily at 58, as did my parents.They were wonderful role models.

  • Joe W May 16, 2013, 10:36 am

    Another great article MMM! It sort of encapsulates the entire message of this blog.

    I had to laugh about the Gatorade comment. I’m a runner and cyclist, and in my training, I came across the concept of MAKING YOUR OWN Gatorade. It doesn’t taste as sweet as the real stuff, but most researchers agree there’s way too much sugar in commercial sports drinks. It’s really cheap to make…only dilute fruit juice+salt+potassium salt. A link to the discussion of this with recipes can be found here: http://www.chefinresidency.com/2012/04/make-your-own-gatorade-stay-hydrated.html

    Of course, water is generally all that is necessary for workouts less than an hour, especially if it’s only mild to moderate exertion.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2013, 1:54 pm

      I agree, Joe – I also like to make my own sports drinks too for things like 4-hour bike rides in the summer. Just a bit of honey, salt, potassium and sometimes even a crumbled-up chewable vitamin C tablet. Even if Gatorade were free, I’d feel obliged to make my own because I can’t stand the idea of buying a disposable bottle when it could be avoided.

    • PawPrint May 17, 2013, 9:34 am

      Thanks for this link. My one gripe with this article was the Gatorade slam because my husband drinks it to avoid painful leg cramps (side effect of medication). While recycling is big in our new city of Seattle, it’s difficult to purchase those plastic bottles in the first place. Since moving to Seattle, I’ve been grocery shopping using the bus or walking, and we’ve been exploring our new city via bus. My husband gets a free bus pass from work, and I pay 75 cents per trip. Hiking through the lovely parks is free. We moved within a mile of his work so he can walk when he wants–the hills are knee killers, though. Temptation abounds in restaurants that people seem to want to point out to me. I just smile and nod and cook at home.

      • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2013, 10:25 am

        Is it the nutrients in Gatorade that help his legs? Or the brand name? I can’t help thinking that the homemade gatorade mentioned elsewhere in these comments (with less sugar) would accomplish the same thing. Definitely not knocking the idea of proper hydration, just suggesting the constant optimization that makes you question anything you find yourself buying repeatedly.

        • PawPrint May 18, 2013, 10:38 pm

          He actually drinks whatever low-sugar sports drink is on sale. Yes, it’s something in the drink–don’t know what it is. He already takes massive quantities of potassium tablets. So making our own and being able to figure out what it is that helps the leg cramps would be pretty awesome. Not having all the plastic bottles to recycle is a big bonus.

  • John May 16, 2013, 12:36 pm


    Ever since I started reading your blog, I have become obsessed with efficiency/optimization! Things can add up surprisingly quick and before you know it, $100 a month is gone for things you don’t really need. I’m glad I realized this through your blog at such an early age.

  • Joe May 16, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Thank you for another great article MMM! Reading it, I laughed about the Gatorade. As a runner and cyclist, I make my own. All it takes is some fruit juice, salt, and potassium salt. Directions can be found here:

    Incidentally, it’s better hydration going homemade, as the commercial stuff has double the amount of sugar than optimum hydration recommendations from the WHO.

  • diana May 16, 2013, 1:41 pm

    hey MMM- wanted to share how this blog finally made me put my $ where my mouth is. I had an insider opportunity to apply for a great job outside of San Francisco that I am very qualfied for. It would have changed my current 25 min bike commute into a traffic-y 45 min drive combined with a delightful $6 toll, and an 8AM start time. Basically, my commute would have made me into broke, crabby ball of rage. Instead I referred a friend to the job, and he’s in final interviews! He lives about 5 minutes away from the office. My favorite thing about this blog is constantly reevaluating and optimizing my spending, but also seeing how I can sneak ittle bits of mustachianism into other people’s lives without them noticing. Hopefully I will have just helped a friend score a 5 minute commute. I also love doing things like packing lunches for my boyfriend so he doesn’t buy crap, and organizing camping trips for cheap weekends with my friends. I’m trying very hard to not develop a reputation as a cheapskate while still being a good influence on my friends.


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