Which Part of the Money Wave do you Surf?

Hawaiian Early Retiree Nords from the-military-guide.com demonstrates how to handle your money

Hawaiian Early Retiree Nords from the-military-guide.com demonstrates how to handle your money

One of the silliest objections I run across to the Mustachian lifestyle, is the concept that it is Extreme.

Mr. Money Mustache needs to go out and buy more shit right now, because otherwise he’s depriving himself. And his family too.

You only live once, and what good is money if you don’t spend it on yourself – you can’t take it with you!

You might imagine my fists starting to clench at such a statement, but in reality I admire the sentiment behind it. Yes, we really should live life to its fullest, and I’m doing my best to do so right now. My disagreement is only regarding the detailed tactics on how to do it.

So today we’re going to take a trip to the beach for our lesson. You see, I spent this past winter in Hawaii, and pretty much every day I jumped in the ocean to play in the big waves of Kailua’s beaches.

Although I haven’t learned to surf yet, I still did my best to catch rides on the waves – on a stand-up paddleboard, on boogie boards, and even with just my own frantically swimming arms. Sometimes, you get your timing wrong and the wave just passes under you or crashes on your head. But in certain magical situations, you can wedge yourself into the sloped wall of water and just stick there, roaring diagonally across the shoreline for free until you are deposited way up in the shallows next to all the sandcastles. What an amazing feeling!

Eventually, the Hawaiian vacation ended and the MMM family had to pack up our stuff and return to Colorado. But the feeling of the waves came home with me, and I have noticed that the same pattern comes up in our financial lives as well: your life and mine, and the very different lives of our spendypants opponents.

Some people just can’t seem to get ahead. They get up early every weekday and get to work on time every day. On the second and fourth Friday of each month, they collapse into the couch, having earned a much-needed paycheck. Despite the 80 hours invested, they won’t be keeping any of that money, because it is already all spoken for. Student loan payments, car payments, credit card interest, a mortgage or rent, and any number of additional bills. They could stop the work, but the bills would keep coming, leaving them rapidly swamped.

Other people have a sensible cushion and are not so afraid of losing their jobs, but still could not imagine retiring early. Where would the money come from? And they enjoy the luxuries they have earned at this point in their lives. Best to keep working so as to afford them.

Finally, there are the wealthy people. Many of you are among them, and some have even retired early. They’ve got a pretty cushy life. It’s the full American Middle Class all-you-can-eat buffet, with just a few of the fatty edges of the steak trimmed off. We don’t even have to go to work to sustain this lifestyle, and we can go anywhere, or do or buy whatever we want, at any time. Considered on a practical level, it is as complete a freedom as any generation of humans has ever known.

The funny part is that in theory, all three of these groups could be living at exactly the same level of spending. The only difference is the portion of the wave upon which they are surfing.

The struggling person has debt. It’s an absolutely destructive and useless thing to bring into your life, unless done on an investment basis with a calculator firmly in hand. Debt used to finance luxuries just creates a backwards current on your life. Suddenly you must paddle fiercely just to stay in one place.

Just a few feet forward on the exact same wave, rides the debt-free person. Everything they earn can be applied to spending, which means they have much more power to buy things when compared to the indebted person.

A few feet ahead of the debt-free surfer is the Investor. This person doesn’t subscribe to the statement, “money is no good unless you spend it”. Quite the opposite, their belief is “money does you no good if you just go out and spend it”.

Because the investor has put most of her past earnings to work, there is now an unstoppable wave behind her, pushing her along whether she decides to work or not.  Any additional work will push her forward very quickly, and spending in moderation won’t knock her off the wave.

All three of them may be moving along at the same speed, buying the same stuff and living the same lifestyle. And they’re only a few feet apart. They can converse freely over the roar of the water, because the difference between wealth and poverty is only really changing a few spending habits until you amass a sufficient ‘stash. But the level of  struggling and cubicle-sitting and clock-punching and money-stressing is completely different, just because of how they have positioned themselves.

The lesson is therefore to get yourself to the front of that wave. Whether you value the simple living philosophy of Mr. Money Mustache, or your goal is a Wal-mart-sized-garage full of Bentleys*, the only efficient way to get there is on the front of the wave.

If you do your shopping too early in life like the 99% tend to do, you’re screwed. Instead, why not lie down and paddle a bit first?  You’ll look better when you eventually stand up anyway, sporting a well-pumped set of Frugality Muscles.



*In reality, I am just writing this to tempt the young spenders enough to listen. By the time you get rich enough to afford such a thing, you will have freed yourself from the desire to buy it. Which makes you end up even richer.

  • Mark ferguson May 25, 2013, 7:07 pm

    Good stuff! One way people get themselves in trouble is buying a house with the maximum a lender will qualify or them for. Most lenders allow 28% of income to go to house payments and that is a very high amount. Our payment is about 6% of our income and that allows us to invest heavily in rental properties.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 25, 2013, 7:12 pm

      Good point.. unless you can theoretically afford the house in CASH, it usually makes sense to buy the least expensive house you can reasonably enjoy, rather than the most expensive one you can qualify for. (Expert real estate investors who will be renovating and selling later for a profit can take exception to this rule).

      • Mark Ferguson May 25, 2013, 9:18 pm

        I could pay for my house in cash if I did not invest my money. My interest rate is 3.5% on my home loan and I am getting over 5 times that return on my investments. It doesn’t make sense for me to pay cash for my house or pay off my mortgage early when I have those returns.

        • Giddings Plaza FI May 26, 2013, 12:08 pm

          You are right on with not paying off your mortgage. And you’re one step ahead of me in having bought rental properties with the extra cash you have. I want to buy my first one in early autumn. And I am using the money that I did NOT use to pay off my mortgage early. When I tell friends to not pay off early, and even show them numbers, they often still don’t believe it’s a great idea. You can lead a horse to water…http://giddingsplaza.com/2013/05/13/part-2-get-rid-of-your-debt-today-and-buy-back-your-soul-except-for-your-mortgage/

          • Mark ferguson May 26, 2013, 2:14 pm

            I agree. One thing people don’t realize is you don’t see any actual returns until the mortgage is completely paid off, or you sell the home. When I buy a rental I see immediate cash flow and immediate returns.

            I talked to a lady the other day who wanted to use equity in her home to buy rentals. She had paid it off completely and was able to retire early. The problem was no bank would refinance her home because she was retired and did not earn enough income to qualify! Even though she has 100s of thousands of dollars in equity it is completely unusable because she can’t refinance and if she sold the home she would not be able to qualify to buy another.

        • Chris May 29, 2013, 12:12 pm

          17.5% ROI? I’m skeptical. And interested.

          • Mark Ferguson May 30, 2013, 6:41 am

            Hi Chris, Many people are skeptical, but my returns are actually around 24% on each of my 7 rentals. I detail all the numbers on each property in my blog and that return does not include any appreciation, equity pay down or tax advantages.

            I won’t lie, it is not easy and takes a lot of work. The key is buying homes below market and choosing the right homes that cash flow.

            My average rental costs 100k, I put 20% down, put 15k into repairs and rent it for $1200 to $1300 while my payment with taxes and insurance is about $450.

      • totoro May 27, 2013, 2:31 pm

        Another exception to this rule is if you are buying a multi-family property. Where you have rental income along with your primary residence you will likely subsidize your living costs far below what you would be paying for a more affordable single family dwelling.

    • Gooki May 26, 2013, 1:00 am

      28%??? My bank was willing to lend up to 55% of our income to payments. We ended up at 40% of income, but aggressively paid it down and were happily mortgage free 5.5 years later. The issue is not the lending limit. It’s people pissing away their spare income of depreciating stuff, instead of investing or repaying debt.

      This is why I strongly recommend repaying the mortgage as fast as possible to most people, even in low interest environments, as it locks their money away from their speedy hands.

      • Geek May 26, 2013, 12:48 pm

        Mr Geek and I went for a 19% (with property tax) ratio on our place on just my salary. Now that he’s back in the corporate world, I think we’re looking at 7% debt+tax on the house to income. I’m pretty sure we could pay it off in another year, but then I’d have to guess at what the stock market is doing instead of staying camped out in index funds…

  • Brandon (And Higher Still) May 25, 2013, 7:20 pm

    Many parents don’t give their kids a chance, in this respect. If you enter legal adulthood already burdened with expensive tastes, financial ignorance, and an inherited aversion for ‘doing things the hard way’, motivating yourself to excise even the most grotesque of luxuries will be a struggle.

    Your life from age zero to 18 does a lot to shape your conceptions about money, setting your initial position on that wave before you’ve had much of an opportunity to think about it critically for yourself.

    Dearest Mustachians: if you have children, talk to them about money! If you know or work with young people, introduce them to resources that teach about personal finance and the mathematics of investment and debt! If you’re an expert in these areas, find a way to volunteer some of your time and knowledge for the benefit of others.

    Finance is a taboo subject, and the schools certainly aren’t teaching these practical skills. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so that we can spread the wealth and free others from ignorance.

    • Hanne van Essen May 26, 2013, 5:19 am

      Bravo! Good comment! I realized this a bit late, about one and a half years ago, and have started talking to my kids (now 11, 8 and 5) about money a lot. It helps, I hope we were not too late.

    • Elizabeth May 26, 2013, 5:39 am

      +1! Not all kids will follow their parents’ example, but I think it is far easier to save and be debt-free — and enjoy life — if you’ve had good role models. I think habits like saving, budgeting, giving to others and living below your means are easier to adopt as children than as adults.

      • OhYongHao February 20, 2015, 2:46 pm

        That’s absolutely correct. My parents were the worst at this. I used to think checks were made of rubber because my parents always talked about them bouncing. One trick I had learned from them, and never implemented myself, was the going to 3 or 4 grocery stores, writing a check for $20 over, then taking the $60-$80 and going to McDonald’s or some other restaurant with 7 people (family with 5 kids) and hoping the checks didn’t come in till after payday. As a kid I never realized how horrible this idea was.

    • Chris May 26, 2013, 11:39 am

      Great points expressed Brandon

    • Giddings Plaza FI May 26, 2013, 12:12 pm

      Brandon, you were clearly a smarter kid than I was.I grew up in a working class, lower-middle income family, and it felt dingy and depressing to me. I got into a lot of debt in my 20’s and early 30’s. Luckily one day when I woke up at 34, the scales fell from my eyes and I paid off all my debt ($26K) in one year. That’s when I also got smart about living well on much less, and slowly started thinking about financial independence and retiring early (although MMM was way ahead of me with that).

    • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:37 pm

      Yes! Very much this – both for your own kids and for other kids in the community.

    • focused May 26, 2013, 1:20 pm

      In addition to years of teaching my kids about saving and investing, I’m sending my 11-year-old this summer to a 2-day mini camp put on by our local teachers’ credit union. This is agenda:

      What Goes on at Camp Millionaire:
      Kids have fun learning how to become FINANCIALLY FREE by using interactive GAMES and ACTIVITIES. They learn the basic time-tested principles of creating financial freedom:

      How our beliefs and attitudes influence how we make and manage money.
      That money is simply a form of energy.
      The many ways people earn and make money (employee, self-employment, business owner, or investor).
      How to put money to work using the stock market, real estate, and business.
      How to set goals and manage their money.
      The importance of helping their community, i.e. giving back.
      The Money Camp is based on simple principles like:

      You are the CEO of your own life.
      Pay yourself first.
      Save early-Save often.
      The three pillars of wealth (stocks, real estate, & business) that produce passive income.
      Put your money to work for you.
      How much money you make is less important than how much money you keep.
      The key to creating financial freedom is smart money habits.
      Life is an adventure, let passion be your guide.

      I’m excited for the kids!

      • AEBinNC May 29, 2013, 11:14 am

        I would love to see a follow up post or thread about this in the forum. You could give us an update under the mini money mustache section. Thanks.

      • EarningAndLearning June 7, 2017, 12:11 am

        I want to go to that camp! :)

    • Nov62 May 27, 2013, 1:58 pm

      TOTALLY AGREE!! You cannot start teaching your children too young about money! How mom/dad go to work to receive a paycheck. How it’s then spent once it’s earned (groceries, house payment, gas, car, dance lessons, sports) and SAVING!! One of 8 kids – we learned about money at a very young age as the older ones started paper routes and the younger ones helped and delivered and often collected payments. I’ve worked and saved since I was 12 or 13 – and we just retired a few years ago at 48 and 58. We just bought a second home in AZ for winters. Were going to pay cash, but at 2.7% interest rate, that was a no-brainer! Was worth saving and living below our means (which really was never a struggle) – to enjoy the good life! You can never start saving too young – because TIME is on your side!!! SAVE SAVE SAVE!

    • Milkman May 30, 2013, 9:34 am

      I routinely “borrow” money from my 5 year old. I’ll “need” a dollar for something at the grocery store, so I borrow it from her and pay her back $1.10.

      The next lesson? We’re going to figure out how much it costs to make cookies, and compare that to buying them at the store!

    • Mark Schreiner November 15, 2020, 7:19 pm

      Agree. A couple of things I like to do. I pay each kid 1% interest per month on the balance in bank savings account where they put their money from gifts and odd jobs for neighbors. I show them the monthly, paper bank statements so they see how much they earn “just by not spending your money”. I showed them how each month they earn interest on the interest from the previous month, and they know that at 1%/month, their savings will double in just 7 years. They know that spending $500 on a PS5 will cut their monthly interest by $5 each month afterwards. If we get stuck eating out (usually in a grocery store where they serve hot deli food), I give them the cash for whatever I figure an average deli meal would cost and then they can choose whether to buy the hot deli meal, get something else from the rest of the grocery store of their choosing, and that they get to keep any of the money that they do not spend–sometimes they get the hot meal, sometimes a cheaper off-the-shelf grocery item that they can eat, and sometimes they pocket it all and eat for free when we get home. For things that like shoes or school-logo shirts that are “nice to have” but not “need to have”, I give them, say, half of what it costs and say, “You can buy it and pay the other half with your own money, or save the half I just gave you for something else.” This way, they are spending their money, not mine. This also provides them with money to learn with, even without an allowance. Likewise, if hot lunch at school costs $5/day, I give them $2 cash every time they take a sack lunch. Keys are (1) giving them cash, so spending/saving is less abstract and have immediate, tangible consequences, and (2) Linking “more cash in hand” with decisions not to buy, and (c) letting them make the decisions (even if do not choose what I wish they would).

  • Johnny Moneyseed May 25, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Most Americans think they’re pampering themselves when they take their annual vacation to Disney or on a Cruise, when they’re actually just spending the money they earned to relax. Wouldn’t it make more sense to do the early retirement thing where you have your investments paying for your vacations?

    • Mr. 1500 May 25, 2013, 9:03 pm

      Early retirement is a bit like a big vacation as well. MMM went to friggin’ Hawaii for weeks. Most folks never make it there at all.
      Vacations are overrated too. There are so many things to do in our own backyards, I think that in most cases, spending 1000s to go to some tourist trap is highly overrated. Take a road trip and go camping. Leave your phone in the car, break out the marshmallows and talk to your children. Life really doesn’t get any better.

      • Elizabeth May 26, 2013, 5:48 am

        MMM, I love your attitude towards travel! PF blogs always tout “experiences” over “stuff” but I’ve seen people collect experiences as if they were stuff. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said they were disappointed by this or that major tourist attraction but had to go just to say they’ve been there, done that.

        I can’t help but wonder: why spend on anything — experience or not — that doesn’t add value to your life?

        And having worked in my hometown’s tourist industry, I second the point about how you don’t have to go far or spend a lot for great experiences. Many of us live in pretty awesome places, or not that far from pretty awesome places. When I clued into the fact that people came from around the world to see my area, I started to look at it in a whole new way.

        • Lina May 26, 2013, 9:25 am

          I love vacations and experiencing new stuff but I would not find Disney land or cruises relaxing. I am one of those that prefer experiences over stuff. I guess it also depends on what you make of your vacation as I am to restless to go on a vacation where I am sunbathing all the time. I am always amazed over how much crap people by as souvenirs. I am buying a souvenir approximately once every fifth year and then it is something artrelated.

          I have just spent 10 days on Mallorca in Spain biking around the island, swimming and eating. I believe you can experience a lot of places on a budget but you have to lift your nose from the guidebook and look up from behind the camera. I mostly walk when I am vacationing because I can experience and see so much more.

          For me my biggest disappointment when it came to tourist destinations where Niagara falls. The falls were amazing but the rest of the place was a horrible tourist trap that I was really eager to leave. I can’t believe it is a popular honeymoon destination!

          • Shandi76 May 28, 2013, 9:52 am

            Lina, I have to agree about Niagra Falls. I went there as part of a 2 month tour of North America over a decade ago, and though the falls were beautiful the town itself was so tacky. I was glad it was just a day trip from Toronto

            The best part of the trip was the 4 weeks we spent camping in the Yukon and Alaska: it was just breathtaking.

          • Leila May 29, 2013, 7:26 am

            I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that Niagara Falls is the American bride’s second greatest disappointment.

            • Gerard November 1, 2013, 2:01 pm

              I love this, thanks! A bunch of European visitors were talking about making a day trip to Niagara Falls from a conference I was at recently, and I had to ask them, why would you spend a day to go watch sewage fall off a cliff?

        • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies May 27, 2013, 4:12 pm

          Totally agree, Elizabeth. It seems like the natural state is to take your place of residence for granted no matter where it is, and it’s up to us to squeeze every ounce of joy and enjoyment out of it. I have friends that claim to love the beach, work <5 minutes drive from the beach, but only go there and enjoy a sunset or an afternoon in the sand once or twice per year.

      • Diana May 27, 2013, 7:41 am

        As I type this,I’m sitting in the bathroom of our hotel room, while Hubby sleeps. Yes, we are on vacation right now! We left the craziness of NY for the quality of life that TX provides four years ago, and this is one of those obligatory vacations where you run around trying to see everyone.

        Don’t get me wrong, we are having a fun time seeing friends and family, but all I keep seeing is how damn expensive everything is out here! It’s a constant reminder of why I got out, and further motivation to keep at our goal of retirement in 5 years or less.

        My father in law made a comment last night about how “the more you make, the more you spend”. I resisted the urge to challenge such a platitude – I wasn’t going to change the minds of everyone nodding in agreement. But I do feel sad for them, they say stuff like that to justify where they stand in regards to never becoming financially independent.

        • GH May 27, 2013, 8:54 am

          Diana, I left NJ 9 years ago intending to move back after 4 years. I lived in NYC for 5 years in my 20s and miss it so much. We now live in NE where affording to be a stay at home Mom is easy. We can never move back near family and live the same quality of life we can here. II can’t help but feel disappointed at times because it is so darn expensive it deprives me of living near family and great friends. These are thoughts that bring me down and start me feeling like my life without the city, the ocean, the ease of getting to DC, Boston, museums etc is unsatisfying. It is why I feel bored bcs in NJ there was never time for boredom. But there wasn’t time for free time either working 60 hours a week to get by. What part of TX do you live in? We’ve considered moving there too.

          • Frugal in DC May 27, 2013, 9:23 am

            Hi GH, a good friend of mine lives out in the SW and sometimes feels isolated because all her family and many good friends are on the East coast. She flies out to see them for long weekends every 3-4 months or so, which she says helps a great deal. I know it’s not easy to travel with school-age kids at home, but maybe your husband could support you by staying home with the kids when he’s not traveling so you can get your East coast fix.

            If it helps, I will add that at least here in the DC area things have gotten more congested and expensive over the years. It’s probably the same thing in NYC since the whole NYC/DC corridor is one big megalopolis. I’m here for now because of my daughter’s school and other reasons, but as much as I like cities I can’t imagine retiring here. I need a bit more elbow room and would be content sampling city life for a few days at a time.

          • Diana June 2, 2013, 11:17 am

            Hi GH,

            Sorry to hear how unhappy your are about leaving the tri-state area! I’m hopeful that you can plan mini-trips every so often to help alleviate that sadness.

            I’m hopeful that at least some of my friends & family will one day “get it”, and join us here in the Austin, TX area. I’m amused by how they are all amazed that we got out, like what we did was some incredibly amazing feat. They repeatedly spoke of how the area has changed, how costs keep going up, how traffic continues to get worse and worse. All good reasons to get up and go, in my opinion, but they have to be willing to make that choice for themselves. Many of them have promised to come to Austin and check things out, but I’m not holding my breath.

            I’m back in TX today, and breathing a sigh of relief. Hubby will want to go back and visit every so often, and that’s fine, but if I never set foot in NY again, that would be fine by me. To each their own, I guess…

      • squeakywheel May 28, 2013, 11:10 am

        +1 to Mr. 1500. Just got back from a Memorial weekend camping trip with family and friends. Life truly doesn’t get any better than hanging out with like-minded people, playing campfire games with the kids, and enjoying nature. You cannot tell me that I would have enjoyed anything that costs $ (Disney, cruise, or whatever) more than that. And to see the kids having such a great time is just wonderful.

      • IAmNotABartender November 8, 2015, 5:38 pm

        I hate camping. :) I truly love cruises and Disney.

  • AC May 25, 2013, 7:48 pm

    Wow… You have a rare gift MMM. “People need to paddle a little before catching the wave”. Love it! New grads want everything right now. Happiness actually comes from a slowly improving your lifestyle. Not one where you buy everything all at once and just try not to lose it.

  • Phoebe@allyouneedisenough May 25, 2013, 8:06 pm

    Great post! I actually wrote something similar a few months ago, though much less eloquently. I equated the journey to trying to push a huge snowball (my $65K in debt) up a big hill. As I got closer to the peak of the hill (debt freedom) my snowball melted and it became eaiser and eaiser as I went along. Now I’m on the other side of the hill, and I have a new snowball accumulating month after month, but instead of being a debt snowball this is now my networth snowball filled with cash. I’m now at the place where my snowball has picked up such mass and momentum that it’s rolling down the hill without any effort (very similar to your thought of being in front of, and carried by the wave).

    I hope this is encouraging to anyone starting out. When I first looked my $65K debt in the face, it seemed that I could make very little progress with a ton of effort. Now, I have to make hardly any effort and that same momentum that held me back is now propelling me forward. Fantastic post MMM!!!

  • Free Money Minute May 25, 2013, 8:07 pm

    If feels so nice to have that wave (compound interest, investment income, dividends, etc) pushing you along rather than dumping on your head (interest you pay/owe, credit card debt, new cars you can’t afford, keeping up with the Jonses). Love your articles MMM, you say it like it needs to be said!

  • SavvyFinancialLatina May 25, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Another awesome article. Wish more college students read your blog. I have always been rather money conscious but when I started working I thought this is what I have to do for the rest of my life. Hopefully with some smart investing and keeping an affordable lifestyle, we will be able to pursue our own interests. I think it’s possible. We are starting young, as we are in our early 20s. So glad I found your blog! It keeps me inspired!

  • thepotatohead May 25, 2013, 8:33 pm

    Trying myself to get in front of the wave after having been sucked under a few times. It’s challenging trying to learn to surf in the sea of finances, but it sure beats the constant knock down of the waves and never being able to stand up at the shore. I definitely think that your site should be required reading in college and high school. Make people think about what they really want out of life, not just blindly following the herd in cubicleville for the next 40 yrs of their lives while never getting ahead.

  • jlcollinsnh May 25, 2013, 9:00 pm


    Just the other day I was on the Bentley website:


    thinking, Mmmm that Continental GT looks nice….

    ….and realizing it would be more trouble than it’s worth.

    Guess that’s why I don’t own a car.

  • chlewis May 25, 2013, 9:23 pm

    Mister Money Mustache, I’m just trying to get my bearings straight here on your blog. Do you or your wife receive any money from your respective parents or grandparents? Do either you or your wife receive money from companies or funds that your respective parents or grandparents set up? Please understand that my intent here is not to be disrespectful, but rather to be inquisitive.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 26, 2013, 9:35 pm

      Sounds like you’re curious about whether we made our own money or inherited it. This post might explain where it came from:

      To be honest, after retirement there has been some inter-generational generosity taking place. Some of it flowed in our direction, and some of it has flowed from us to others. Although it is not a regular occurence, currently there is still a net positive balance in favor from those past gifts, although I lost a larger amount in a business at one point, then made an even larger amount subsequently from post-retirement work.

      So I try to keep it simple for readers by focusing on the process of going from zero to financial independence, which is what is most relevant to most people.

      • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow May 27, 2013, 12:18 pm

        If I can mention this please keep talking about savings. It’s what sets you apart from a gizillion other PF bloggers. Almost nobody talks about the importance of having a lot of money in the bank.

        I mention this because the people I know who are super frugal (sometimes bordering on cheap) have no savings and probably struggle as much as people who live pay cheque to pay cheque do.

        So yes while spend less matters, saving matters more.

        • Sister X May 28, 2013, 11:26 am

          I’m curious as to how that works. If they’re super frugal but still only live paycheck to paycheck, how do they not have any savings? I’m assuming these are people with adequate incomes and not just those right on the poverty line.
          If they’re making a decent amount of money and not spending tons…where does the rest of their money go?

  • CashRebel May 25, 2013, 9:46 pm

    Earlier today I was having a discussion with a friend who recently bought a brand new car that cost him somewhere in the $30,000’s. He asked me why I haven’t upgraded my car yet to something sleek and stylish. I told him because my vehicle was perfectly capable of getting me from the city to hundreds of miles away quite efficiently, and I’d rather have that $30,000 making me richer every year instead. He couldn’t comprehend what I meant or why I would make such a choice. We have so many similarities, but this one difference could be positively life changing.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 26, 2013, 11:24 am

      Cars…some people are really into cars. I have friends who just bought a new car because they went from 1 to 3 children. Brand new Ford Explorer because “my husband won’t be caught dead in a minivan.”

      I sent the link to car-seat.org that shows how you can fit three car seats into a lot of sedans…

      Anyway, the funny thing is, SHE’S the one driving the kids around, not him. So why did he want the Explorer?

    • LTF May 26, 2013, 1:39 pm

      I have also had this same conversation about stoves. Mine cost about 480 dollars, but according to a few of my friends some people need a 5,000 dollar 6 burner Wolf Range for a family kitchen. The reason is that they want to cook a gourmet meal, that a top chef would prepare in a 4 star restaurant, every single night of their lives. Also, it apparently helps with the resale value of the house. I also use a charcoal webber grill that I got for free but it probably won’t help my home equity.

      • PGH May 27, 2013, 6:40 am

        As one of those people who will purchase a high-end stove (albeit a slightly dented, on-sale model) for our next home, I think it goes back to what you value and saving the money to pay for those values. If you don’t believe you have to have all things, you can spend the money on those things – or experiences – that make you happiest.

      • Gerard May 28, 2013, 7:47 am

        But, funnily enough, there’s a whole generation of hip urban chefs starting tiny restaurants where they cook on used four-burner home electric stoves, because making such choices lets them open their own place, rather than working for someone else for years.

  • SirAlkaloid May 25, 2013, 9:57 pm

    Thanks to this blog and Mr. Money Mustache’s efforts, early retirement and an accumulation of wealth has gone from and impossibility to a certainty for me in just a few months. Why then is the education system failing to teach such simple and life-changing principles to today’s youth? My “conspiracy theory” self believes Mustachian or minimalist concepts are intentionally avoided as they would be counterproductive to America’s consumerist society. The other half believes the individual has lost sight of meaningful living and that void is being filled with over consumption. Either way, I wish Mr. Money Mustache could be heard and understood by the masses.

    • TOM May 26, 2013, 3:22 pm

      I think there’s a number of reasons why we don’t have personal finance taught in schools, and I doubt that some CEO or pol is in some back room fearing the enlightenment of our nation’s youth. More realistically, it’s not an SAT subject, it’s not a college major that I’m aware of, so we aren’t producing teachers who are subject matter experts, and the mainstream expert advice for adults is still fairly elementary (see previous article). Finally, I’m of the opinion that high school children may have a difficult time applying all the concepts at this point in life, when many do not get any experience earning money from an employer until sophomore at the earliest, may not have bank accounts, and probably don’t have regular bills.
      GRS recently had a series of articles examining effective finance education in high schools. Many schools that do have programs don’t have a high rate of successful outcomes, which is unfortunate. I believe it’s an important topic, but the programs need to be implemented, monitored, and improved.

      • PGH May 27, 2013, 6:47 am

        Yet high schoolers can easily begin applying the most important lesson of all: to live within a budget. It could be an allowance or money from a job, but even young children can learn what it’s like to save money for an important purchase or deal with the pain of having frittered it away on little things. I taught high school at three different schools (two on the west coast and one on the east coast), and all had short personal finance classes for seniors. The problem is that they were presented in a very dry manner that bored the pants off the kids.

        • TOM May 28, 2013, 12:25 pm

          Oh sure. My comment may have come off more negative than I intended. I believe it could be done, and there is a lot of value in doing so. I was trying to quantify why it’s not widespread, and I believe the main issue is that it’s a non-core subject that has to compete with resources with all of the rest (music, arts, what have you). You hit another problem (boring course material) that I also alluded to earlier with the poor outcomes from schools with personal finance courses available.

          • Ron May 30, 2013, 11:13 am

            When it comes to financial health, what is the more important variable—subject matter knowledge or intestinal fortitude? I would argue self discipline or intestinal fortitude by a long shot. There are lots and lots of examples of people who understand economics, markets, and investing details, but their personal finances are a mess. As discussed above, parent modeling is key. Teachers are less able to model fiscal self discipline.

            Related story. When I was a young high school teacher some of my students (at the end of class) were standing by the second floor windows looking down at the faculty parking lot. One said, “Our cars are nicer than yours.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but ours are insured.” I was pretty proud of that return of serve.

    • RMD May 26, 2013, 10:16 pm

      In my school in small town Ohio there was a class called Consumer Economics and it was required Jr. year. Walked through savings, compound interest, how to read a check stub, how to read a bank statement, high level stock market, how to budget, how credit cards work, etc,…most valuable class I ever took. I took it in 1988 and it created a great foundation. Wish I would have been better at applying it but it did keep me from falling into cc debt. When my brother and sister (six years younger) hit their jr. year I don’t believe they were still offering the class, much less had it as mandatory. I still have the workbook around here somewhere…

  • Pretired Nick May 25, 2013, 9:59 pm

    Love this metaphor. Very apt and makes me want to head back to the islands!

  • Hung May 25, 2013, 10:21 pm

    Good health is key to building wealth — and to keeping it. Watch what you eat. Watch what you automate. Too much physical comfort leads only to one place — the hospital. Try to lift a finger and do things around your house by yourself. Mow your own lawn; cook your own food; wash your own clothes, clean your own dwelling. Your body needs physical labor, which is the food that will sustain it.

  • Nords (The-Military-Guide.com) May 26, 2013, 12:47 am

    Thanks for the surfing metaphor, MMM! I love it.

    No matter how that wave goes, there’s always another wave waiting behind it for a second chance.

    I also noticed that my blog traffic doubled today, but now I understand why…

    • EarningAndLearning June 7, 2017, 9:46 am

      Thanks for that PS on the wave metaphor: “there’s always another wave waiting behind it for a second chance.” I’m counting on that second chance!

      And cool your blog traffic doubled! Wow, the power of the internet (and the size of MMM’s readership), amazing! I heard you on a podcast recently, good work and congrats on your early retirement!

  • Kaizen May 26, 2013, 3:52 am

    I read this and looked down at my wrist. It sports a £8k Rolex. Beside me in my Louis Vuitton wallet and on top of it, is the key to my BMW. You can say, I’m a poster child for consumerism. Lavish luxuries that I could do without in the morning. I found this blog at the start of this year and it’s posts like this that keep me right on track with my spending less now and investing for the future.

    I have always been ‘good’ with money (mortgage paid off at 30, no debt, great savings and investments and a great business) but keeping things sensible, is what I find greatest about this blog

    Thanks MMM

    • Nov62 May 27, 2013, 2:34 pm

      My 20-year old Seiko keeps great time, too – I put the other $7,950 in the bank back 20 years ago! Can you even imagine what you’d have it you’d have just walked right past those designer labels? I always think when you buy the designer labels, it’s like you have a hose hooked up from your bank account to the Designers (say Ralph Lauren) – and you’re just siphoning it over to them, draining your bank account, filling up theirs! No wonder these people have 5 or 6 houses! People are willing to WAY overpay them for their “stuff!”

  • Patrick May 26, 2013, 4:07 am

    “Despite the 80 hours invested, they won’t be keeping any of that money, because it is already all spoken for. ”

    For some reason, that made me incredibly sad. That used to be me.

    Never again.

  • Albert May 26, 2013, 4:33 am

    Good article, but I think quite a few people myself included feel very comfortable on the “second wave”. Even though I have no debts and just bought my first rental property, I probably wouldn’t last more than 10 years with the money I have already. But I also love my work as a research chemist and don’t particularly yearn to retire already. Can’t even say I’m particularly overworked – I spend about 45-50 h at work, have 6-7 weeks of paid vacation and enough money to travel around the world while I’m still young.

  • JC May 26, 2013, 5:20 am

    Do you think these principles can be taught to our children or do they need to learn it the hard way on their own? I so want to get my 3 year old daughter off on the right path, but I’m afraid that peer pressure will eventually take hold and everything I’ve tried to instill will be for nothing.

    • Hanne van Essen May 26, 2013, 5:24 am

      Sure you can. Don’t let your kids borrow from you, or other kids. Teach them to save instead. Show them the difference in price between expensive brands, and regular ones. Don’t give them (too much) allowance, so they know the value of their money.
      Peer pressure will be there, and with a little luck, it will make them make mistakes early, so they can learn from it, without hurting too much. Just be there as a parent to teach them the values you want.

    • Elizabeth May 26, 2013, 6:00 am

      I don’t think any education is ever wasted, to be honest. Children understand far more than we realize, and it’s so important to have good role models. Maybe you don’t start out trying to explain debt and investing, but establishing good habits such as saving a portion of your income (starting with allowances or baby sitting money, for example) are important to establish early.

      I think when you treat habits like budgeting, saving, investing, donating and price comparing as normal, kids accept that as normal too. They can see the adults in their lives make conscious choices about about spending and setting priorities, or they can see their role models whip out credit cards without a thought.

      I think it’s also important to help youngsters appreciate the simple pleasures, and realize you don’t have to spend a lot of money to live a rich life.

      There’s no guarantee the youngsters in our lives will follow our examples, but it’s still better to have the tools and knowledge than not!

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 26, 2013, 11:30 am

      I think you can teach it, but there is no guarantee. I have a bunch of siblings. Most are pretty good with money, but two are pretty bad.

    • Susan May 26, 2013, 12:33 pm

      When we were little, my father would give my sister and me each $1 and tell us that we could spend it in the store we were about to enter, or, if we kept it, we could have another dollar when we came out. My sister always spent her dollar, and I almost always kept mine. I remember one time when she convinced me to spend it, and I was so disappointed as we left. I had purchased some plastic crap and wished I had the $2 instead. Nothing has changed. My sister stills spends her money as soon as possible – a new car every few years, lots of dining out, expensive purses, etc. My husband and I are on track to an early retirement. I think starting with your three-year-old is a great idea. Apparently those early habits stick!

      • MolokaiMoBetta May 27, 2013, 9:15 pm

        This could be our family. When our kids were young, at the beginning of the family vacation, we would give them each the same amount of “vacation money” [$5 – $10 – $20] and tell them if there was something they wanted, not to beg US to buy it for them, but to use their own money.

        One year our daughter spent her vacation money before we’d even left our home airport. On almost every trip, our son asked, “if I don’t spend it, can I keep it?” Yes, dear.

        Fast forward 20 years and imagine what each’s life is like now.

        • Chad May 28, 2013, 6:48 am

          There are actually some classic psychology experiments that show a powerful correlation between children’s ability to delay gratification and their success as adults.

          However, if that is the case, (and consistent with your anecdotes), then this difference is largely genetic, not a learned behavior or something that is “deserved”.

          • Elizabeth May 28, 2013, 4:24 pm

            Take it from a former teacher, kids have different personalities! Financial advice tends to treat everyone like we’re all the same, but some people are inherently more impulsive and spontaneous while others are more analytical and patient. Given the right circumstances, all personalities can excel — but they aren’t going excel at the same things.

            Some personality characteristics make it much easier to save and invest. I think personal finance education has to focus on individuals’ strengths and weaknesses rather than just delivering one-size-fits-all content.

            • Xtal May 30, 2013, 2:55 pm

              ” Given the right circumstances, all personalities can excel — but they aren’t going excel at the same things.”

              Yes!!! This is so important to keep in mind.

              I think about how our ancestors were organized mostly in tribes of up to around 150 people. Think how important it must have been to have variation in temperament, interests, and abilities. That way all of the many different jobs required for survival and comfort of the tribe would have gotten done.

  • Elizabeth May 26, 2013, 6:11 am

    I like this way of looking at early retirement (or financial freedom, whatever term people prefer!) Now I’m picturing myself on the wave being pushed forward — and I’m glad I have the ability to swim when unexpected things come my way.

    I’m thinking about making early retirement more of a priority in my life and was wondering if anyone knows of any examples of people who have done it — or who are in the midst of saving for it — who aren’t married? Advice such as “live on one income and save the other” is lost on me at the moment :)

    • Susan May 26, 2013, 12:46 pm

      Hey, Elizabeth,
      How about “live on half your income, and invest the other half.” Or 60%/40%, or whatever you can reasonably do. Sometimes a spouse makes it harder to be a Mustacian. I came this close to calling my husband a “complainypants” yesterday. He’s just not buying the “bicycle to the grocery store” concept! Save for you. Think how great you’ll feel when you hit that first million all by yourself. :)

      • Elizabeth May 26, 2013, 3:29 pm

        Gee, why didn’t I think of that? ;) I meant that it’s more challenging trying to live on half of your income when you’re single than when you have a two income household — especially when they’re six figure incomes.

        But you’re absolutely right — it takes both spouses being united in the Mustachian vision to pull it off.

        i doubt even 60/40 is doable for me, but I do the best I can and always look for ways to improve. I hope when I do find a spouse we’ll be on the same page when it comes to finances.That certainly wouldn’t be the case with some of the guys I’ve dated, unfortunately!

        • AmAnda May 27, 2013, 5:05 pm

          I can totally relate to you, Elizabeth. I find Ive reached my frugal limit. There is only so much you can do as a single person to lower your bills. During winter I tried going to bed when it got dark out so I didn’t have to use the lights. I didn’t see a huge difference so Ive stopped. But Ive tried a ton of things like that.
          In the end its still just one person paying for the internet, phone, hydro, property taxes etc.

          I cant think of any bloggers that do it as a single person. I agree with Susan and I try to just be happy that I don’t have deal with anyone that isn’t as frugal as me.

        • Sister X May 28, 2013, 12:27 pm

          I know this isn’t doable for everyone, but would it be possible to find roommates? Even just one to share the bills works great, and you don’t necessarily have to find someone as frugal as you are if you separate grocery shopping and such. I just know that when I was a fresh graduate, having roommates helped me save half my (tiny) income. But I do also realize that it’s much easier to find/live with roommates when you’re in your early 20s.

          • Mandy May 29, 2013, 9:29 am

            I agree with this, although it can be tough. I was lucky enough to find a good roommate 3 years ago and its a great way to split your bills. Finding someone that you mesh with is definitely easier said than done though.

            I’m about to look into short term renters a la airbnb, which might be a happy medium. Also, if you are very near a major airport, a “crash pad” for pilots or flight attendants might be a good option.

            As a single person, I am just happy that every single expense is under my control.

        • Elaine June 3, 2013, 8:33 am

          Hey, I know what you mean because I’m in the same boat, I’m partnered but we keep finances totally separate. I don’t make as much as a lot of the folks on here (I make about $46,000 pre-tax or $31,200 after tax). I am able to save 50% or $15,600 a year despite the fact that I also live in NYC. The way I’ve been able to do it is by having no debt, so I’m not paying interest on anything or paying off anything, living with roommates past the point where many people would (i.e. I’m 26, I’ve been with my partner for 5 years, and we still live in a rental with two roommates in addition to ourselves). I wasn’t sure if it would be possible for me to do 50%, in fact, I had just read a bunch of articles that said living on $15,000 a year was absolutely impossible. I decided to just try and do it anyway, I made a mental decision not that it was something I’d “try out”, but that it was something I absolutely had to do. I decided it was not optional, and that I’d just have to figure out a way to make ends meet. And guess what? I do it, and it’s honestly not that hard. Essentially I’m living the lifestyle of living paycheck to paycheck, I just pretend that I don’t even get that 50% of my income. So at times, I do feel poor, I pack breakfast, lunch, and coffee for work so that all I spend during the week is on my metrocard. Sometimes I miss out on fancy dinners with friends, although I would say about 75% of the time I can swing it. I just know that it’s all part of the trade off. Whenever I am feeling unhappy or like I am giving up too much I just look at my savings and assets, which in a relatively short period of time I have built up to $17,000. I haven’t been doing this that long, but if you had told me over a year ago that I could save that kind of money on what I make, I would have said you were insane. Best of luck, hope my story makes you feel a bit better!

  • Dr. Vacation May 26, 2013, 6:14 am

    Let’s talk about BARTER! (and apologies in advance for my lengthy comment – hopefully you’ll find it valuable)
    As usual MMM’s post is spot-on, and the Hawaii and surfing references reminded me of my own little mid-life crisis at age 29. It wasn’t a full retirement, but it was a 3 year break from a good engineering job with a major US company.
    The main reason I’ll add my $0.02 to the comments log is that there’s something MMM hasn’t much addressed on his site (at least as far as I can see), and that’s barter as a component of any retirement scheme. I completely agree that it’s important to stay busy after F.I., and I think it’s equally important to look for creative ways to get “paid,” since everyone wins in a good barter transaction (except the IRS I guess).
    How does this tie back to Hawaii for me? The very brief, Readers Digest Condensed version; quit my outstanding engineering job back in 1995 at age 29 and moved to Maui to go windsurfing; bought a $1k car to hold $5k worth of windsurf gear; after a few weeks mail-ordered (!) a computer and started designing websites; and here’s where it ties into the MMM philosophy…
    The first year was dirt poor; I grossed $14k! And Maui is not exactly a low cost-of-living place. But I embraced the MMM style and focused on optimizing my expenses. I rented a room in a house with a couple other folks, I shopped the high calorie/low cost/healthy items at Costco (black beans, rice, etc.), played golf at the local muni course that back then charged $20 per month “membership” and then $1 for each 18 hole round (you read that right, $1 a round – if you had a Hawaii drivers license!).
    However, my AGI and cash expenditure wasn’t the whole story. Because this was Maui, most of the businesses with money to spend on this new internet thing were golf courses, resorts, restaurants, and windsurf shops. Many of those companies were only too happy to trade credit at their establishments for a reduction in their invoice. I love to play golf and eat at restaurants and buy windsurfing gear, so…
    Fast forward to year three, I was grossing three times as much cash, yet incredibly was spending even less than during year one. Because of barter, I had golf passes at over 50% of the resort courses on Maui that even back then were charging $120 and up for a round. Because of barter I had multiple restaurant credits all across the island; what better way to impress a future client than take them to a resort course and a nice meal (they didn’t know it was barter). Because of barter I had thousands and thousands of dollars of credit at three of the five main windsurf shops on Maui, so I could satisfy any of my gear-head desires.
    Even today, after re-entering the workforce for a few years and then essentially scaling back to doing project based consulting _very_ part time (less than 500 hrs per year), my wife and I use barter as a major component of our life. As I write this, my very favorite wife is working on a website for an amazing little resort in the Bahamas, at which we will take three vacations over a 12-month period (two vacations in the bag, one more coming this fall), and all for the cost of some plane tickets from the DC area to Ft Lauderdale. EVERYTHING else (food, lodging, water toys, even the charter flight from Florida to the Bahamas) is covered by our barter arrangement. And these are trip-of-a-lifetime quality vacations; charter plane ride, on-the-water cottage, delicious restaurant onsite, plus each room comes with a runabout speedboat to explore the surrounding islands.
    To wrap up, not all “pay” for your post retirement projects needs to be in cash. Business owners, especially small-business owners, seem to brighten up when you offer to reduce your rate in exchange for some product or service they provide anyway. So let’s add BARTER to the arsenal of tools available to the Mustachian way of life!

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 26, 2013, 8:17 am

      Awesome story, Dr. Vacation! If you read the Hawaii story that I linked, you’ll see an element of barter in there – in the sense that I helped some friends with their house and lived there while doing it, avoiding the need to rent a place for seven weeks. And we’re dreaming up a reprise next year, which might feature a long segment in New Zealand!

      If you do formalized barter on a large scale as you describe, I’m sure some readers will pipe up and talk about the tax implications. So I thought I’d point it out here just to try to head off one of those long comment-arguments: yes, barter is taxable in the US code, so each person do your research before embarking. On the other hand, informal agreements with friends, like “I’ll cut your lawn when you’re on vacation, then you take over the lawnmower when we head out of town later this summer”, are part of the normal ties of society.

      • Dr. Vacation May 26, 2013, 12:03 pm

        Excellent points as always, MMM! You are of course 100% right, barter IS considered taxable by the IRS, I probably left town before I was tracked down by an IRS agent eager to visit the land of aloha and put me away.
        I guess the essence of my point (which I completely failed to codify at all in my comment) is that even if one paid taxes on the barter, it just felt GOOD to do trade the old fashioned way, when you do something valuable for someone else and they do something valuable for you. It’s fun to operate outside the “money” realm, even for a little bit.
        -Dr. V.

      • Katrina May 27, 2013, 4:28 pm

        Hi, great news you are thinking of coming to New Zealand, I live in Ricmond (South Island),50 mins drive from the start of the Able Tasman National Park, Which if you have time I think you would really enjoy visiting. It is 3 to 4 day tramp along the Coast with golden beaches and Native bush, staying in National park Huts.
        I really enjoy your blog and will encourage my daughter who is just about to finish her Finance Degree in a few weeks to read it and hopefully get her on the path to being financially free.

      • Rob May 30, 2013, 3:55 pm

        Another NZ reader checking in. I really enjoy reading your blog and would love to hear about your Mustachian adventures here!

    • EarningAndLearning June 7, 2017, 10:29 am

      Loved the bartering story, Dr Vacation!

      I have a very frugal aunt who pretty much NEVER spends money. To give gifts, she finds things in her home like a pretty vase & flowers from her garden, or old jewellery she never wears, with a re-used blank card where she rips off the front of a card she was given & makes that a new card. This aunt is a bartering queen. She gets free haircuts, free manicures and salon treatments & probably free stuff, by bartering with her interior design and feng shui work (which she also does for pay). Definitely fun to operate outside the money realm (and I’m sure she’s paying tax on none of it)!

      Thanks for the reminder to look for trading and bartering opportunities in my own life!

  • My Financial Independence Journey May 26, 2013, 6:38 am

    I don’t think that someone needs to spend every bit of money that they earn, but I do feel that people need to understand what’s important to them and what isn’t. Then focus their spending accordingly.

    Currently, I set savings goals (50% of income) and then allow myself to spend the rest. I could probably spend a bit less, but the ascetic lifestyle doesn’t really appeal to me. There are plenty of days that I feel I should be spending more. Finding the right balance between saving and spending isn’t easy unless you have tons of money available or love being cheap.

    • Albert May 26, 2013, 6:55 am

      Exactly. I could save and invest even more money. For example, I could spend all of my vacation hiking and cycling nearby hills instead of flying to India or Southern Europe, but why??? It’s not painful for me to spend few thousand dollars extra every year for activities I enjoy.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 26, 2013, 8:55 am

      Yeah MyFi, but we already know that you and I have different philosophies on the idea that less is more in living a rich life. If I may quote a few of your earlier comments,

      ” I’d love to hire a maid. I’d love to hire a personal trainer. I’d love to have two houses so that I can live the snowbird lifestyle.”

      “I just don’t see the “enough” point. If I had more money, I’d up my spending so long as I can meet my savings and financial independence goals.”

      “But I’m not giving up a six figure income at a job that I like so that I can bike to work.”

      “Now, I have to drive everywhere. Comes with living in this area.”

      There’s nothing wrong with having these differences of opinion, but when they start to show up on every one of my posts, I start to wonder: wouldn’t these opinions be more efficiently expressed on your OWN blog rather than mine?

      Not trying to be grumpy or anything here.. it’s just that this blog has a certain philosophy of embracing simplicity as a core virtue. Every single one of our weaknesses for luxury needs to be acknowledged and mocked. You don’t have to give up the luxuries, just acknowledge that if you were strong enough, you could be even happier without them. Then gravitate slowly towards strength rather than weakness.

      It’s not the only way to do things, but it’s what we generally like to do on this particular blog.. and having comments from people who are really good at living this way reinforces the message for those who are seeking to get better at it themselves.

      • kyle May 27, 2013, 6:54 pm


      • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce May 28, 2013, 5:11 pm

        Oh man, what I would pay to have a live webcast of you two talking this once out.

        That said, I am struggling with one thing here: I own 2 homes. One is in VT (I bought it when I had no business buying it) where I run my camp. I live in it 3 months out of the year. Could I rent a camper during the summer? Could I camp in a tent on the grounds? Sure. But I would NOT BE HAPPIER. With a wife, 2 kids, and 2 dogs….I would not be happier.

        So my question is:

        If I was strong enough, could I live without the luxuries?

        Does strength and weakness actually play into this scenario?? I am not so sure…

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 28, 2013, 10:47 pm

          Hmm.. what about asking the question differently? Could you be equally happy renting the house out for the other 9 months, if you’re not already doing so? What about renting the second house instead of owning one? Renting out your primary house while away? There are always tricks that can be played.

          If ALL members of the family were simultaneously strong enough, then yes, you could all theoretically be just as happy in a rented RV.

          Your point is good though – when you are responsible for the comfort of other people, the decisions change. I could personally be just as happy in a rented RV as in a house, for a summer in the woods. But with 6 beings crammed into such a space – not so much. Most times I resort to automobile use, it is to carry the wife and son around, so we don’t all have to bike 15 miles along a busy road to Boulder, which I personally enjoy doing by myself.

          It takes more money to accommodate more people and pets at a given level of comfort – no doubt about that one.

          Note to people still in a position to make such decisions: if planning to support two kids and two dogs, FIRST become quite wealthy. THEN expand the lifestyle. Just the same order you would follow with any purchase :-)

          • Elizabeth May 29, 2013, 5:04 am

            The last part of your comment made me smile, MMM! (I assume you’re being tongue-in-cheek?) It seems like there’s always some health expert criticizing women for having children later rather than in their 20s when they are the most fertile and there is less risk of complications… Not to mention some people who think you’re selfish or unreligious for reaching a certain age without procreating.

            If you do have kids young, then financial experts are all over you because of how that affects your career as well in terms of hampering your advancement, lost wages, lost pension or retirement benefits, etc.

            I guess you can’t please everyone!

          • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce May 29, 2013, 5:49 am

            The rental scenarios are good. I tried it a few times, and sometimes it worked well for us. Then we get into sharing personal space and all that fun stuff…something for another post. The house is an X factor, simply because 1. I run a camp there and love to visit and 2. I will retire there. I totally get where you are going, though…maybe I’ll rent my primary home this summer!

            I would be careful with the advice about FIRST becoming wealthy before having se….er…..a family and THEN expanding. Behaviors are such that many people would never have kids if that were the case…..necessity often breeds action, not the other way around.

            Just sayin’.

  • Frugal in DC May 26, 2013, 7:43 am

    This is a wonderful metaphor, MMM, and a great way to explain FI to kids (“Once upon a time there were three surfers…”).

    I hope you and Mrs. MM consider writing a book at some point, maybe even self-publishing your top posts on Blurb or something like that. I have told spendy friends about your blog, but I’d love to hand them books too. I’d buy several copies and break my “we don’t buy books, that’s what libraries are for” rule.

  • GH May 26, 2013, 9:07 am

    I am not trying to sound smug or bitter. My parents saved and planned for retirement and then my Mom died from breast cancer 5 years before. She waited her whole married life to enjoy doing later. What if a person doesn’t enjoy sitting on their deck for 20 years while not spending money? I don’t have enough to invest and we are bored if we aren’t out enjoying spending money on entertainment. How do you find a balance? How do you work your but off and then not spend because it isn’t smart? How do you enjoy life when you don’t make over $200,000 annually? I truly am not being sarcastic. I would love honest insight on how to enjoy life while not doing anything fun and just saving and trying to pay of a house you may be dead before owning?

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 26, 2013, 9:34 am

      What if you could figure out how to make your enjoyment of life completely independent of your money-spending?

      What if spending less money could make you happier – instantly – if you just learned to let go of everything the TV set tells you to do?

      Then you could get both things done at the same time: saving a bunch of your income, and starting to live more happily immediately.

      The subject of a good chunk of this blog’s 350 articles is just that! I agree that it would be no fun to save money, if it meant compromising your life in the process. And indeed, if that were the case, I would surely be spending more than $25k per year now, given the virtually unlimited amount of money we have accidentally amassed. But it turns out that with just a small amount of reading and practice, you can completely change your perspective on things.

      • GoCubsGo May 26, 2013, 10:04 am

        What I’ve learned the last six months of reading this blog is that perspective is everything. It’s nice to know that I’m in the sweet spot of “the wave” but that allowed me to become complacent. My family did our first cheap road trip last summer (took the kids to caves in Kentucky and rode horses and hiked). Two months before that my wife and I went to St. Thomas at 15x the expense of the KY roadtrip. Guess what, the second one was better. I used to lean more towards the “I could get hit by a beer truck tomorrow” and spent accordingly. Looking at things with a different perspective has been life altering. I will still spend on some things I really think add value or great joy but I will at least thing long and hard first. +1 on all the kids comments.. I just bought a house to rent or maybe flip and my kids (10&8) are already choosing the jobs they want to do on the house. The deal is if we make $ on it they get a cut. If we don’t they worked for nothing. They are all in. I hope to teach them by example and not just words.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 26, 2013, 11:47 am

      I don’t really have a whole lot to add to what MMM said up there. But the idea that you’ll “wait your whole life until retirement” to have fun is a really bad life’s plan. But the opposite, “YOLO” isn’t that good either.

      Why can’t you have fun during your regular life? Do you like music/concerts but cannot afford to go? Get a job working at a concert hall, volunteer to work the bar (a couple of friends do this), find local free concerts.

      Do you like the outdoors/ beach? Find local places to go hiking, find the nearest beach. If you live in Ohio, maybe you’ll drive to Michigan and find a beach along the lake. If you live on the East Coast, save money for a trip to Florida or New Jersey or maybe even the Bahamas, but don’t bother with Hawaii it’s WAY more expensive for airfare.

      Do you want to see Ireland more than anything in the whole world? Skip vacations for a decade (or do staycations) to save up and go. Don’t bother going on other vacations that you don’t want to go on just because. If you cannot afford Ireland no matter what you do…find another way to live the fantasy (buy some Guinness, cook some Irish food…seems silly, but when I miss Hawaii I’ve been known to throw on a Hawaiian shirt, buy myself pineapple and coconut and make a Mai Tai.)

      I never vacationed as a child…we couldn’t afford it. Well, when I was 7 we went on one vacation to NC from PA to visit an uncle. It was fun. But you know…summers were still great. We went to my grandparents’ camp every weekend to roast marshmallows and hot dogs with the cousins. We’d drive to Erie, PA and pitch a tent at Presque Isle. (or in the back yard) We picked wild blueberries in the fields and rode our bikes and went to the local pool.

      • Frugal in DC May 26, 2013, 2:52 pm

        I agree with Marcia. There are plenty of creative alternatives to spending lots of money on entertainment. I would try to downshift gradually if going cold turkey is too much of a shock. For example, if you like going out for dinner and a movie, first try not going out to eat, then go to a cheaper matinee rather than an evening show, then get a movie from the library or Redbox and have friends over to make dinner and watch it together.

        Over the years I have reached a point where it pains me to spend money on anything that has a less expensive or free alternative. I’m happiest when I’m physically active, spending time with friends and family, and doing free or inexpensive stuff.

    • Taryl May 26, 2013, 2:08 pm

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. For those who have to spend for entertainment and happiness I recommend counseling and maybe starting a local MMM support group. There’s something deeper going on when a person can’t imagine a life without instant gratification.

      By the way this is coming from a newly reformed spender trying to sell off a collection of Cartier watches because every time I put one on I want to punch myself in the face for even buying them in the first place.

      • GH May 26, 2013, 10:07 pm

        Taryl I appreciate your honesty in saying you are reformed from instant gratification. Is there a specific type of counselor I should seek? I already take anti depressants for mild depression. And being unsatisfied and unmotivated was one of the reasons. Well I am still finding difficulty enjoying the every day aspects of life. I seek change and that happens by leaving home which causes me to spend money. Can anyone recommend some books for me to read to help me find enjoyment in things like sitting home reading or baking or walking? I work part time and can’t work more bcs my husband is gone 14 days every month, leaving me lonely and bored when my 2 kids are in school. When my husband is home the other 14 days we entertain ourselves by overspending. Just discovered this blog today so I will start reading past posts too when I can. Thank you everyone. Please don’t judge me. Help me.

        • Frugal in DC May 27, 2013, 7:31 am

          Hi GH, the doc who prescribed your medicine has probably already mentioned this, but the most effective treatment for depression is medicine paired with therapy (usually cognitive behavior therapy). So I would start by asking your physician for a referral to a therapist who takes your insurance. If you have an employee assistance program at work, a therapist there can get you started with several free sessions and provide a referral to keep you going. Make sure the therapist is a good fit for you, it may take some “shopping around.”

          The National Alliance on Mental Illness , nami.org, is a great resource. They have a toll-free helpline, links to local chapters and support groups, referrals, and online forums.

          One of the first things a therapist will probably recommend is getting physical exercise to boost your mood. There are lots of free and low-cost ways to get exercise. MMM has posted about working out at home. Maybe start by going for walks by yourself or with friends. Drew Manning, a personal trainer in Utah, has posted an entire home personal fitness program for free at fit2fat2fit.com/workouts (he looks kinda chunky in the initial videos because he gained weight on purpose to demonstrate how to lose it through diet and exercise). Try checking workout videos out from the library. You can sample a lot of videos at collagevideo.com and see what might work for you. Have a friend over and work out together! Local govt. recreation centers also offer low-cost exercise classes. Who knows, if you volunteer there you might be able to take them for free.

          Meditation really helps with depression too, but it can be hard to start by yourself. See if you can find local meditation lessons, groups, or retreats. Start with 1/2 hour sessions and build up if you’d like.

          Good luck to you – you can do it!

          • GH May 27, 2013, 8:40 am

            Thank you Frugal in DC. I belong to a gym and haven’t been going, of course. I will make a point to get back in. Also I was prescribed meds w out therapy so I will also look into counseling. I appreciate your kind thoughts.

        • Nov62 May 27, 2013, 2:51 pm

          GH – Have you ever thought of taking up a hobby? Possibly even one that you could turn around and profit from? (learn to sew, then make items to sell at craft sales/Etsy?) I absolutely LOVE to go to thrift stores and find amazing deals! While I keep many of them, I also flip them on Ebay for a nice little profit of about $1K a month. It’s fun, I’m “shopping” (but not in the pricey malls!) and I’m making extra fun money! Part of that money pays our HOA at our new winter AZ home. Husband always tells people it’s the ONLY hobby I’ve ever had that didn’t cost him money! And I absolutely flipping love it!! There’s no reason I HAVE to shop in thrift, as we are early retirees and set for life, but hey, why the heck not? I get a “rush” from finding things others paid full price for for just a few bucks (and they’re probably still paying it off on their credit card!) So the extra money stays in MY bank account!!

          But learn something new when your husband is gone and the kids are at school! Or how about volunteering? I volunteered in the Salvation Army soup kitchen and it was an amazing, eye-opening experience. Met a lot of really nice folks – both other volunteers and some just down on their luck. I, too, have suffered from mild depression. A good way to try and remove the “focus” of that is to do stuff for others – it’s an awesome feeling, and a win-win for everyone! They needed me, and I got an awesome feeling from doing it and it didn’t cost me a dime (other than a bit of gas money).

        • Annamal May 27, 2013, 5:53 pm

          Hi GH

          I’m still somewhat addicted to instant gratification but I find one of the most satisfying things to do is just go out walking without my wallet.

          No ability to buy things = no temptation.

          I also take an audiobook along with me on my ipod, there’s a decent chance your local library can supply these and they make walking much more pleasant.

          A friend of mine is also on anti-depressants and he notes that his doctor told him that the serotonin uptake works much better if serotonin is being produced (as by exercising).

        • Xtal May 30, 2013, 3:11 pm

          What about a creative hobby? Just about anyone can learn to crochet or knit, sites like Ravelry provide instant community, and the activity of making things is so soothing and fulfilling (at least for me it is). The only potential danger is spending too much on yarn, but if you think about the cost per time it takes to knit it up, it can be a frugal hobby.

          There are lots of other fulfilling hobbies that can make you feel good inside because you’re growing as a person and creating. Gardening, writing (journaling, poetry, fiction, essays, blogging, etc.), making music, volunteer work, etc.

        • Elaine June 3, 2013, 8:45 am

          For me reading the teachings of Buddhism has given me a new perspective on life. It has helped me be grateful for what I have and to live in the moment. I have also stopped feeling so fearful of death, daily situations and obstacles have become easier to adapt to and overcome. I know that there is not one path for everyone, but for me this has been completely effective.

      • Catherine May 28, 2013, 8:41 am

        This exactly. “Reforming” spender here. (I can’t say I’m entirely reformed, but working on it.) I am also in the process of simplifying my lifestyle and home. In fact, I too have been trying to sell off/donate excess items that I shouldn’t have purchased (and didn’t need) in the first place. None of these items brought me happiness. I have an amazing amount of clothes, purses, and God knows what else. Everytime I look at my collection of purses, I just grimace. Granted, at least they aren’t overwhelmingly DESIGNER handbags, but still. Too much spending, not enough saving/investing. But the tide is turning!

      • Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com May 28, 2013, 9:48 am

        Exactly! It really is like a money addiction for some people. They get that instant high and feel better about themselves, but it never lasts. True happiness can only come from within, not from material crap!

    • a mom May 26, 2013, 8:32 pm

      “we are bored if we aren’t out enjoying spending money on entertainment”

      Seriously? What about reading a book, baking some bread, playing a game, going for a walk, playing some music, learning to play some music, calling a friend, learning to draw…

      Please don’t think you have to be entertained to be happy, because that makes you PASSIVE, and that is not what you want to be. You have only one life, create it! Don’t let someone else feed it to you. Please.

      • GH May 26, 2013, 10:12 pm

        Please guide me in not being passive. I already do all the things you mentioned. I can’t help feeling disappointed that I can’t do things that cost a lot of money like traveling to foreign countries or Hawaii or California. I need help appreciating what I think is boring. If you can recommend something that would be great. Thank you.

        • Karie May 27, 2013, 6:50 am

          GH – I am also a stay at home mom and I do part time child care. Staying at home especially when hubby is away so long can be lonely. Make friends, volunteer, find a hobby you like – preferably one that is free – walking, running, gardening. If you don’t really like those things but like being on the computer, do research. How can you get enough frequent flyer miles to get somewhere without overspending, what vacation would give you a Hawaii like setting but not be too far from home (example, a beach, bbq/luau/festival type atmosphere); is there a local fair/amusement park that could give you that Florida type atmosphere. Try to have things to look forward to and find ways to make your family’s money stretch so you can do lots of little things for less.

          • GH May 27, 2013, 8:42 am

            Karie, I like your idea of turning my Internet time into research as opposed to pinning things I never get around to making. A much better use of my time. :)

        • a mom May 27, 2013, 8:56 am

          Hi GH,

          I am older than most MMM readers, in my mid 50’s. Perhaps because of that I have a real sense of life slipping through my fingers. I want to make a difference before I go. Someone once told me to envision the kind of family life I would like to have and then do something to move in that direction. To envision the kind of community that I would like to live in and then do something, however small, to move in that direction. That is how I think about most of what I do. If I work on beautifying my front yard, I am making a nicer home for my family and a nicer neighborhood for my neighbors. My neighbor might be in a better mood after walking past my peonies. He might be kinder to someone else as a result.That, to me, is more “fun” than going out to eat or to a movie. Likewise, if I bake bread, I am saving money, I can be creative in trying a new recipe or inventing one, I am probably feeding my family something healthier than they would get from the store, it smells good baking and cheers people up. Healthy, happy people are more likely to be kind to others when they go out into the world. Again, way more fun for me than going out and spending money on entertainment.

          But there is nothing wrong with going out or traveling to Hawaii. And I will admit that I got to live overseas for a few years when I was younger and that I have been to Hawaii. So maybe my appetite for those things has just been filled. The important thing is to decide what is most important to you and your family and then to spend both your time and your money accordingly. Maybe just write down everything you want and then rank them. Then when you are feeling disappointed about not being able to travel to Hawaii, you remind yourself that you are in control and that you have decided that saving for X or spending money on X is more important. Then the satisfaction of living according to your values should help to make up for your disappointment at not having everything you want.

          Also, being home with kids is tiring, I know. When my family was younger, playgroups were a big help. The kids would play with each other and not need so much attention from me and I got to talk to other adults. And they are free. :)

        • Chara May 27, 2013, 9:35 am

          GH, look into “mindfulness”. Sit down with, say, an orange. Take a careful look at its shape and color. Feel the weight of it in your hand. Smell it, feel the texture of the skin. Concentrate on the pressure you need to use as you peel it. Keep smelling as the citrus oil is released as you peel. Look at how the sections within are arranged. Take a section and slowly, slowly take a bite. Put all your concentration into how it tastes.

          I’ve never been good at meditating, but I find that when I totally focus on something, there is no room for stress/disappointment/anxiety/etc. You can do the exercise with the orange with *anything* in your life, even mundane things like doing the dishes. The more you do it, the richer your life becomes.

          Good luck.

        • Cas May 30, 2013, 2:33 pm

          GH: Just because you can’t now, doesn’t mean never. Keep doing what you’re doing, trying to live below your means, and, eventually, you’ll realize the dreams that are important to you. We are doing just that. My whole life, I’ve dreamt of going down under to visit relatives and see where my mom grew up and all that it has to offer. We are going! I’m 42; it took a while, but it is happening. I know vacations aren’t preached about here, but I’m very excited to fulfill this dream with my husband and children. And, yes, we are going all out on tours and experiences (it’s a once in a lifetime trip!), but we are fortunate enough to stay with family too. 18 years ago, we bought a house and his income for the next year was under $10000. I never thought we’d see this day. We are also debt free with savings. Hang tough!

      • Sara May 29, 2013, 2:34 pm

        I do all of these things; I bake, I play several instruments, I sew, I garden, I can my own jams, I don’t have cable and so I don’t watch t.v. I also workout, and generally keep myself active and busy. But this is the loneliest existence I can imagine. I have a job and the people there are nice, and I have volunteer work I enjoy as well. My finances are in pretty good shape for a new divorcee. I have my kids with me half the time and they are very active. But it isn’t enough. If I didn’t get up and go to work I think that I would die of loneliness. I just have too much time on my hands and have long since ceased wanting to fill it with shopping or tv. There just aren’t enough people around me wanting to live the same way. I have no wish to live the other life full of consumerism and passive entertainment, but really, don’t any of you get lonely for other people?

        • Tara May 29, 2013, 3:15 pm

          What about friendships? I fill my time hanging out with friends and my animals, I don’t feel lonely at all. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to invite a couple of friends over for a meal or go on a bike ride together and have a picnic.

          • AmAnda May 29, 2013, 4:28 pm

            I had friends. Notice the past tense. Id say it was a combination of trying to be frugal and not having a boyfriend/kids that ended the friendships.

            What you suggested are all great ideas and ones that Ive tried to get others interested in. Sadly all they wanted to do was spend money. They get their nails done or go on kid outings(which i would love to go to but am not invited). I wanted to go and explore the world, they wanted Las Vegas and Ski Resorts.

            Maybe there is a gardening club you can join? Ive looked into volunteering at my local zoo. Start your own blog? :)
            I find it very hard to have a connection with people. Especially if you don’t watch tv. No one wants to have a conversation anymore and would rather be playing games on their phone.

        • Elaine June 3, 2013, 9:08 am

          Fellow canning enthusiast here! I used to do lots of very gourmet cooking because my perfect day is being in the kitchen for 5+ hours. I love canning because I get to spend lots of time in the kitchen, I can experiment, and eventually come winter we save tons of money and get to eat delicious things! I also love freezing fresh produce all summer long, opening your freezer in february and having fresh cut corn from the cob always makes me feel fancy!

    • Major Tom May 26, 2013, 10:59 pm

      Having recently completed treatment for breast cancer (age 44), my future plans have changed dramatically! We are now planning to sell our expensive house, buy a much cheaper one, eliminate the mortgage and hopefully have a chunk left over to invest! Thank you MMM for showing us the way to take control of the future so efficiently. And we would LOVE to welcome you to NZ – it’s a great place for (all kinds of) surfing!

      • Mr. Frugal Toque May 30, 2013, 7:58 am

        I think this is a really important point.
        Too many times we hear criticism of Mustachian principles on account of “What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? What was the point of all your saving then?”
        And yet here, when we hear from a person who actually did get (figuratively) hit by a bus (almost), the reaction is exactly the opposite.
        It turns out that accumulating possessions is pointless in the face of the various careening buses the world throws at us.

  • Kokuanani May 26, 2013, 10:16 am

    Just discovered your blog and enjoy it very much, but there’s one topic I haven’t seen you address [and I’ve read a LOT of past entries]: charity.

    In addition to one’s money being able to “do good for you,” what about having some portion of it do good for other people? I’m not just thinking of money. This applies even more to all that extra time people in “retirement” have available.

    Charity has always been a part of our lives, and not just sending off a check to some organization which has spent money to mail us a solicitation. Tutoring in the local [very horrid] schools, working with a rescue organization to find homes for abandoned animals, growing food to donate to the local food bank, etc.

    I’d like to see you address this, which should be an aspect of our lives.

    • Heath May 27, 2013, 9:27 am

      Good call! Fortunately, MMM has written a good bit about charity. Check out this post: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/29/weekend-edition-the-life-you-can-save/

      And I haven’t checked thoroughly, but I think there are other posts as well.

    • Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com May 28, 2013, 9:51 am

      Your time is the ultimate charity. I believe MMM has basically said the same thing. Anyone can stroke a check, but you get much deeper fulfillment from actually participating.

      You can be very charitable without giving away a dime…

      • Kokuanani May 28, 2013, 9:32 pm

        Agreed. I’d just like to see that emphasized more. Solves the “what do I do in retirement” question as well.

  • My Own Advisor May 26, 2013, 11:19 am


    Point taken MMM. Trying to pay off house and invest as much as we can. This year, we should be able to invest close to $10k.

    If we keep that up over the next dozen years, the house will be paid and the portfolio will be ready for retirement. I only wish I was doing this in my 20s not 30s.

    I guess it’s never too late.


    • Nov62 May 27, 2013, 3:00 pm

      I hear ya – but if you know any young folks in your family in their 20’s & 30’s, try to tell them that TIME is on their side where saving/investing comes in! I keep telling my nieces/nephews that they will NOT have a pension when they retire – and who knows about SS – so it’s up to them the quality of their retirement years and how they will finance them (or work till they’re dead). I tell them had I saved all the $$ I spent on beer in my college years and 20’s – we’d for sure have another hundred thousand in our bank account! ;-) Seriously, it was ridiculous!

      I agree with others – you need to find a balance – and there are so many things/ways to go about enjoying life that can cost little, if any money. Thankfully, my husband and I are both on the same page. And it’s been a wonderful life – living below our means. We always knew if we were out of work, we could survive – and that is a damn comforting feeling! We just started early retirement 2 years ago and I tell him every night, (although I’m only 50!) “should I die in my sleep – please know I died a very very happy chic!” Achieving inner peace is amazing once you reach it.

  • Jennifer May 26, 2013, 11:30 am

    Very inspiring post. Love the metaphor of the wave pushing me along…

  • Spoonman May 26, 2013, 11:44 am

    @MMM:”Considered on a practical level, it is as complete a freedom as any generation of humans has ever known.”


    I’ve been watching Game of Thrones lately and I just keep telling myself:”I have a more comfortable life than that pompous king!”

  • Melissa May 26, 2013, 2:50 pm

    This weekend I watched a very good Larry King interview with Tom Arnold. Tom spoke highly of Iowa (which pleased me) and his family and friends. Larry commented that Tom was still involved in several projects at one time. Tom said something like, “Yes, I love to work. I wish I had enough money that I didn’t have to do all the jobs at once, but, here I am. I’ll work forever.” I was both stunned and shook my head. I know stars probably feel peer pressure to live a certain lifestyle but wow. I really thought after his many years of success he would’ve had investments enough to choose to work vs. having to work. Sometimes I am really surprised by the ones I think surely are at a point where they work only should they choose to–both Tom Arnold and people closer to home!

  • Dennis May 26, 2013, 2:55 pm

    “Paddling hard to stay on one spot” is a very precise metaphor for being in debt.

    Great post & I love your approach in general: “learn to be happy with less money and all the rest will come”.

  • Johnny Aloha May 26, 2013, 4:35 pm

    Another analogy to surfing: once your skills take you to the pinnacle, you can use terms like “pitted”, “barreled”, and “gnarly” to describe your experiences.

    Educational reference for context: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJdF8DJ70Dc

    For example, the success of MMM’s blog is like being pitted, so pitted.

  • Chris May 26, 2013, 9:20 pm

    Release me! I see the wave.

  • Sara May 27, 2013, 5:21 am

    Mr MMM – you might enjoy this


    Why bother saving when your country wants you to spend?

    The lawyer is a bit complainypants though as it is possible to get more than 2% in the UK. Getting more is harder as you have to sock it away for several years to get a better rate but he IS supposed to be saving for his very young children!

    • Shandi76 May 28, 2013, 10:02 am

      I’ve seen too many UK articles like that. Their argument doesn’t make any sense. Yes, you might be losing some savings to inflation,but spending your savings on depreciating items is a worse idea. And there are ways to get higher returns, though often the risk doesn’t necessarily justify the reward. For example, our main peer-to-peer moneylender (ZOPA) has average returns around 5% which is much lower than what bloggers claim to make from Lending Club or Prosper in the USA, and the yields on rental properties here are lower due to a higher population density and higher property prices. But I’d still rather be investing than wasting money on stuff I don’t need.

  • Pinkytoe May 27, 2013, 8:14 am

    I am new here and most likely much older than most but have been attracted to a more frugal life since my late 30s. By that time, though, we were deep in the cycle of spend to catch up and like so many others probably can’t retire until our early 60s. Took spouse a few years longer to get on board. Now, we are watching our grown daughter become fully engaged in a consumerist lifestyle. I have forwarded this website to her on several occasions but she and her boyfriend are caught up in spending their very adequate salaries and enjoying their young lives right now. From my vantage as an older person, I realize now that the choices we made when we were younger would have made all the difference in being able to retire earlier.

  • Doug May 27, 2013, 9:45 am

    That’s a good comparison you use, about what part of the wave you’re surfing. Many years ago, I thought of the same idea but used a comparison to paddling canoes or kayaks, something I’ve done plenty of. That’s especially true during those times when I’ve been between jobs and “retired”. The struggling person is paddling upstream against the current. The debt free person is paddling in calm water, and the investor is paddling downstream with the current. That’s a good a testament as any of how I’ve been mustachian all of my adult life, now as the investor.

    This website draws many people who are like minded, and I’ve had the same discussions with non mustachians that many of you have had. I still hear about how I am “depriving” myself because I don’t have a big house (and big mortgage) full of junk I’ll never use and thus have to work hard to pay for it all. While I don’t have any place in mind at present, I have the freedom to just pick up and go on a travelling at the drop of a hat. I still think that those of us here who think that way are a small minority in the population and don’t expect that to change any time soon.

  • Joy Host May 27, 2013, 9:14 pm

    One of the simplest and most easy-to-grasp analogies yet, Mr. MM. Eager to share it with friends & family … and I cannot WAIT to be on the debt-free side. Just adjusting my lifestyle as I pay off debt has brought such peace–i.e., owning a fuel-efficient tiny car that has already saved me hundreds in repairs, gas and oil changes. Woohoo!

  • Alan May 27, 2013, 9:31 pm

    A friend and I just reconnected and we joked about moving up into the 21st century by buying smart phones. I mentioned my mustachian ways and my $10 a month AirVoice plan (thanks to MMM’s recommendation) and he was astonished! Then he told me he is paying $90 a month and it was MY turn to be astonished because I know he is riding the debt wave.

    He’s not a lavish spender, so why is he riding the debt wave still higher? Because it’s so easy to accept the marketing hype without considering any alternatives. So thank you, MMM, for reminding us that almost all our expenditures have good alternatives if we’re simply willing to look for them.

  • Courtney May 27, 2013, 11:27 pm

    My mom taught me an important financial life lesson when I was little. She would take me shopping with her to discount stores like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls where you can buy name-brand clothing at reasonable prices. She would tell me, “this is where the rich people shop.” When I asked her why rich people shop at discount stores (can’t they afford the full-price stuff?), she simply explained that if they spent all their money on full-price clothing, they wouldn’t have any money left in the bank and therefore, wouldn’t be rich. Such a simple and impact-full lesson to teach a child.

  • Jim May 28, 2013, 8:52 am

    You did not directly address the biggest flaw in the “spend money on yourself” argument. Is time or money more valuable? Is it better to have time to spend on yourself and family, or money? I see money as mostly buying time. When I worked an hourly job, I used to look at costs as “x # of hours” and do the >\< math in my head – would I work 3 hours for this?

    Glad you enjoyed Hawaii – you should be able to pick up surfing, but paddle boarding looks fun too.

  • Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com May 28, 2013, 9:45 am

    Great post. I have to laugh every time I drive by some 20 something college kid in a new BMW, AUDI, or Mercedes.

    I am literally shaving decades off my working life by choosing to drive a 10+ year old Toyota while they have their fun now and pay for it by working until they are 70. As you said, it’s all about kicking your feet to get to the “sweet spot” on the wave!

  • tallgirl1204 May 28, 2013, 12:53 pm

    i thought of a metaphor that works for those who say MMM is “too extreme” or that his situation is “too different” or that they don’t have enough money coming in to save like he does–

    I liken it to watching the Biggest Loser on television (which I am sad to say, I do sometimes, for free online.) At any rate, I could watch this show and say, “sure I could lose weight if I had trainers, time to work out 8 hours a day and access to all this fabulous equipment.” And then I could sit on my butt and watch another episode (and maybe eat some ice cream to console myself.

    Or I could look at these people and say “wow, that’s inspiring– if this guy who weighs 400 pounds can walk up a mountain, I bet I could walk to the store instead of driving. If this woman who weighs 300 pounds can run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, I bet I could go out and run a mile in my neighborhood.”

    In other words, there is always a choice to say “I could never do what you do” and give up. But there is also always a choice to use someone else as inspiration and create your own path to your own goals.

    I say this as a 50-something who wishes that I had stayed as frugal as I was in my twenties, so that I wasn’t working now. That said, MMM is helping me chart a course towards a “pretty soon” retirement rather than the age 65 that my coworkers seem to regard as normal.

    I’m not going to whine that he and his wife made eight times the income I made in my twenties, or that my income has never (and never will) touch six figures. I’m going to celebrate that I am still fit enough to bicycle or walk to work, and smart enough to analyze (and reduce) my own spending in other parts of my life as well, and whatever it is that I can do– not the things that I think I can’t do.

    • Elizabeth May 28, 2013, 4:05 pm

      Totally agree! I don’t have many of the advantages that early retirement advocates like MMM do, but I think we can all do the best we can to be financially secure. I think your analogy is a good one — we can be inspired to make take smaller steps or we can let ourselves feel overwhelmed and not do anything.

  • What May 28, 2013, 1:27 pm

    I make 93,000 a year pre-tax, my only bills are rent, electricity, and internet, I have zero debt and zero loans, I don’t even own or drive a car, and I live in a modest apartment that takes 40% of my paycheck to keep. I have a nest egg of a quarter-million in the bank and I spend about 20% of my paycheck every 2 weeks for food and the occasional luxury. I’m 29.

    I have no idea how in the world you really expect me to get to the front of the wave, ever, in my entire life, despite following your rules rather strictly. What the hell are you talking about?!

    Disclaimer: I was just linked to this article and probably need to read the rest of your website.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 28, 2013, 4:35 pm

      Dude, you’re already on the front of the wave – as long as that quarter million is in index funds and not in a savings account, it should be providing about $12,000 per year of dividends and growth to you over time. That’s $12k per year that is pushing you forward – forever. Congratulations!

      Now just keep that growing until it is big enough to cover all your spending, (and consider moving somewhere where apartment rent is not 40% of a $93,000 salary), and you are financially independent.

      • What May 28, 2013, 8:17 pm

        Yeah, I figured that would be the answer. Too bad my idea of financial independence includes a private jet. ;)

        • Stephen at SE May 29, 2013, 7:47 am

          Spend some time reading the site and that private jet desire will magically be wisked away. MMM could save you 5 years of work on that idea alone.

  • Tara May 28, 2013, 3:01 pm

    I spent 20+ years on the paddling-in-place debt wave, but finally at long last I saw the light with the help of my frugal SO and it is so wonderful to be saving 50% of my income rather than paying constantly on debts. I never want to go back to those dark days of being in debt constantly and not being able to do the things I dreamed of doing in life because I had to keep working hard to pay what I owed. I am selling off my designer purses that I no longer have any interest in owning. I do still want to go shopping when I am feeling depressed or stressed, but now I can reason myself out of those urges and remind myself that every dollar spent takes me further from the dream of early retirement. Reading MMM gives me just the occasional pep talk I need to keep on the straight and narrow.

  • Kokuanani May 28, 2013, 7:08 pm

    On the subject of “what to do with yourself in retirement,” there’s an interesting NYT article by Stanley Fish, on both that subject and “what do I do with all my books?”

    Even more interesting are the hundreds of comments from folks who explore both questions.


  • Timothy Mobley May 28, 2013, 10:09 pm

    Fantastic post! You could not have said it better. Our relationship with money is so fascinating because it reflects on the importance we give to appearances. As you point out, regardless of where one is on the wave, the appearance will (or can) be very similar. Those magical little plastic cards let us look and feel like we want to, not like we are. It’s so convenient in a society that values, no that needs, instant gratification more than anything.

  • Ivan May 29, 2013, 6:28 am

    This is a great read! It’s so true that your money is either working for you (i.e. invested wisely) or working against you (i.e. spending until you’re eyeball-deep in debt).

    Like a wave, it usually starts small. And people often don’t realize which part of the wave they’re surfing on until the wave becomes a roaring wall. At that point, it’s a mighty struggle to change things should they find themselves on the wrong side of it.

    Fortunately, my parents have always instilled good money habits since I was young. I’ve been taught at an early age how to save, invest, and plant “seeds” for the future so that they can one day feed me (and allow me to retire).

    To me, this is such an obvious thing! But I guess not everyone was brought up the same way. If someone grew up with a debt-always mentality, they could be paddling for a long time in their lives (and still not get anywhere)!

  • Stephen at SE May 29, 2013, 7:45 am

    I think my favorite concept in the piece is that wave with either work for you or against you. It is a nice feeling when you hit the wave correctly, you just seem to float on it without much effort. I think most American don’t spend very much time identifying the waves and most spend their time financially swimming against the current.

  • Debt Freedom Plan May 29, 2013, 10:27 am

    I wish my 20 something self (heck, even my 30-something self) would take the “you don’t need a bentley” advice. At close to 50 my ‘wants’ are not much – a fraction of what they were at 20 and a bentley? no way.

  • listenuplovers May 29, 2013, 10:54 am

    I love the way you break it down for all to grasp. I have always considered myself a Mustachian, but my word for it is Thrifty. I am on the right track with saving about 60% of my $20k a year, owning my home, and having no debt. I also want to share my strategy with all who will listen. It kills me to watch my friends and family fight the financial battle when the solutions seem so obvious to me. You inspire me to take it to the next level!

  • Jon May 30, 2013, 12:48 pm

    I wish I would have found this site 10 years ago. I wouldn’t have wasted so much money on two luxury cars and an expensive house. Luckily I am almost rid of the last car and I have renters in the house.


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