Reader Case Study: Pulling a Mustachian 180

ecuatruckThe highest form of payment you get for writing a blog like this is happy stories from readers. Although all this Sensible Living stuff becomes obvious after a while, there are still new people showing up every day with all sorts of monetary problems.  The full-on crazy life with the double-financed-SUV-ultracommuting, insurmountable debt, and deteriorating health due to stress.

Occasionally, someone will receive a few of the face punches here and then flip things around in an instant: immediately shed the whole consumer fur coat, slam on the brakes and crank the wheel and smoke the tires to begin a fishtailing joyride in the opposite direction. A friend of mine coined the term for this: Pulling a Mustachian 180.

Although it comes from the opposite end of the financial spectrum, my favorite recent M180 story from the inbox is this one:

Comments: Hey MMM!
My mom mentioned that she likes calling people “complainy pants” around June 10th or so, and when I laughed and asked where she got the phrase, she e-mailed me a link to your blog. Since then, I devoured every last word on every last page. Yes, that includes the comments, even the hilariously out of place whiny ones.

At the risk of sounding like a hyperbolist, this blog has helped me get a grip on my life before it was too late. At 22 I had piled over $15,000 of debt including a defaulted government loan, an eviction, and about $3,000 of collections and consumer debt. I never had anything to show for it, and still don’t. Nothing insurmountable in the long run, but I was building a habit of being careless and untrustworthy.

I teeter on the brink of homelessness, even today, because I was too stupid to have back up plans and savings. I blew $500 in a day on eating out and pleasure driving, and gave a big hearty Fuck You to my future self.

That’s changed. When it was time to get a car (I know, but my hubby is a disabled vet and really is not capable of biking or walking), I bought a manual hatchback and learned to drive it on the way home. I have begun to track my spending, a concept that was completely foreign to me. I have taken stock of whom I owe what, and am working to pay everything off, highest interest rate first, until it’s all gone. I’m even looking into learning skills at Treehouse so that I can earn additional money while still being at home for my partner. I am finding cheaper, healthier, tastier foods at the grocery store and working my middle finger out like crazy. We’re sleeping on the floor in our cheap apartment until we can find free furniture on Craigslist, and we are ridiculously excited at the idea of being free.

Thank you for giving into the urge to type shit into the computer. Count me and my husband as two Americans saved. We ought to be caught up with the rest of the Mustachians in just a few short years!


So I wrote back with my thanks and surprised congratulations, and asked if our friend could share more, so I could present the story to you. Here are the juicy details.


First, some additional background. As previously mentioned, my husband is a retired veteran. He was awarded a temporary disability rating upon exiting the Army, and is now on a permanent, lower disability rating. This change happened in July and resulted in a $901 drop in pay. Also, around August, my husband’s condition had reached a point that unreliable transportation was no longer acceptable, meaning our options were to risk becoming wheelchair-bound or buy a car at stupid high interest rates to avoid walking, as unmustachian a doctor’s order as possible. Luckily, I had a head start on these disasters; I was already carefully nursing my stubble.

Between January and May 2013, this is my best guess at what our spending looked like. We never kept receipts and often didn’t even look at price tags.

Total Income: $3,130
Rent: $900
Utilities, phone, and internet: $600
Transportation: $100 (bus fare, borrowing cars, paying for late night taxis)
Food: $800
Cigarettes: $200
Impulse Spending: $400
Pets: $150
Household $100 (Cleaning, toiletries, maintenance, cheap fixes)
Banking Fees $100 (ATM, Overdraft)
Total Spending: $3,350

Fast forward through June, July, and August, which were spent reading all of mrmoneymustache.com, writing up sample budgets, taking notes where they applied to us, and picking one thing to tackle at a time. In September 2013, this is our budget:

Total Income: $2,229
Rent: $300
Transportation: $320 (insurance, gas, taxes/registration, and maintenance)
Car Payment: $320 ($~4,900 @ 23.99%, hair is on fire emergency.)
Dental Work: $118 ($~2,500, no interest)
Student Loans: $118 ($9,000 @ 4.5%)
Phone: $46 (unlimited, we share a phone.)
Cigarettes: $108 (woohoo, a 46% reduction!)
Food: $250
Pets: $85
Household: $100 (Cleaning, toiletries, DIY toolbox building)
Fun Money: $240 ($120 each, gradually working down to reasonable levels.)
Banking Fees: $75
Total Spending: $1,760 <– Saving $469/mo to throw angrily at debt!

Also, upcoming in October, I am scheduled to start my first month as a part-time nanny. I will be making an extra $300-$550 month, $45 of which will be kept for a Treehouse membership and a gym membership, and the rest will also be thrown angrily at debt.

We are also staying with my mother, she offered for us to stay around the time she found out *I* was going to be on *your freaking blog*. We intend to get out around March 2014.

I am proud of this huge 52% reduction in spending levels, but even more proud of the lifestyle changes that allowed it to happen. For one thing, we’ve started cooking at home with at least partially healthy ingredients with more and more regularity. We’ve also all but entirely cut soda and fast food from our lives. My husband has cut his nicotine addiction nearly in half in only three months. We are no longer fostering stray dogs and are buying better-priced cat supplies.

We have not only cut our discretionary spending, but we have also started buying things we need with it instead of random impulse items. We have started paying off my federal loans, previously left in default. Moving in with my mother is not only saving us nearly what our pay cut cost us, but it also allows me to have a job and easy access to a grocery store with reasonable prices. We are also being forced to think carefully before each purchase due to space constraints and a strong desire to become independent as soon as possible. When things break around the house, I determine which tools are needed, buy them, and add them to my collection of problem solvers.

There are several areas that we have identified for further improvement, including every single section of the budget, but for now our largest priorities are a sucka banking cycle we’ve been in for over a year now (borrow $1500, pay $100 in fees, pay back on pay day, repeat…) and that really hot car loan burning my scalp. Once these two emergencies are settled, we’re prioritizing a small emergency savings, our own dwelling, and our disfigured credit reports/scores. As we continue to learn to not suck, we hope to get our monthly living costs down to around $855 plus mortgage by 2015, and from there who could possibly predict? How’s that for a Mustachian 180?

I would say that’s an amazing Mustachian 180. One of my favorite parts is the very hearty self-mockery that she packs in to every sentence. Because when you think about it, we all really do suck, and thus there is room for easy improvement in all aspects of our lives. Sure, I ride my bike instead of driving, and we’re downsizing our house.. but I still do an awful lot of gas-powered travel and the new house will still be pretty fancy. If finances were a concern, I would be a fool to delude myself into thinking that this was the most efficient life we could happily live. And this is not a depressing thing, it’s an inspiring one.

Are you one of these tire-shredding M180 practitioners? Or more of a steady-handed airline pilot making a few course corrections as part of a long journey?

  • Kraig September 28, 2013, 9:10 am

    Back in 2010, I pulled an M180, before I knew it was even Mustachian. Today, I’m more of a steady-handed airline pilot making a few course corrections here and there. I still do suck, of course, living a life of incredible luxury, especially since I stopped going to work every day to instead work on my own pursuits..

    I love the new term. You’ve just coined something real big here.

  • Miss Growing Green September 28, 2013, 9:14 am

    Inspiring reader case study! I love reading your readers’ stories, especially the Mustachian 180s like this one.
    My personal journey was more of a find-your-blog-make-minor-corrections expedition because I had already implemented my own doctrine of frugality before ever finding your blog. (And in fact, I retired at 29 and 1/2, so I one-upped you ;)
    But that’s why it’s so neat to read your case studies- it’s great to see real-life *extreme* examples of people that have completely turned their lives around.

    • Aimee September 28, 2013, 11:45 am

      I second that – I love hearing peoples success stories but I also love reading about people who are – not quite there yet – people who still find it a struggle – I guess it gives me something to identify with – when you get to see a little behind the scenes – you also get to see that they didn’t get where they are today without a lot of hardwork.

  • lurker September 28, 2013, 9:28 am

    attitude is everything and this person has it big time!!!! infreakingspirational!

    could not bring myself to drop the f-bomb but you get my drift.

    • ABC September 28, 2013, 9:48 am

      If “attitude is everything “, then you’ll enjoy the movie Happy-Go-Lucky by Mike Leigh. Very unmustachian in that it doesn’t cover money at all.

      • Susan September 28, 2013, 3:34 pm

        I LOVE that movie! My husband and I have a saying when we are getting cranky, “more Poppy, less Scott!” My husband even named his car “Poppy.”

      • Lauren October 3, 2013, 7:57 am


  • Johnny September 28, 2013, 9:35 am

    “We all really do suck.”

    Yep. And in our very own sucky ways. I think half the reason people read personal finance blogs and listen to shows like Dave Ramsey is to measure their own suckiness against others. And so long the end result is improvement, I think that’s fine.

    But the reason I keep coming back to MMM is because I man up and stop giving excuses for most of our financial lameness. But I’ll admit, it was really refreshing to hear you admit your own areas of improvement.

    Congrats to your reader. Totally inspiring.

  • Sarita September 28, 2013, 9:49 am

    I’m in between…. gradually became more frugal (paid off student loans, avoided bad debt, often brought lunch to work) but then went into overdrive after finding MMM profiled in WaPo. Since then I’ve increased my after-tax/retirement contribution savings from $200/month to $1500-! I feel like my lifestyle hasn’t changed much at all. It kills me that I let so much slip through my fingers the past twenty years (43 now) but I now sleep much more peacefully at night, am excited by the growing ‘stache, and am no longer worried about retirement– I can see that I’ll actually be able to retire earlier, if not exactly “early”.
    I can not thank you, Mrs MMM, and the MMM community enough — my outlook on life has been permanently changed, and my journey is on a different trajectory entirely. I’m starting to talk to my friends and family about it, and hopefully will be able to expand the circle of sanity.

    • mysticaltyger September 28, 2013, 10:02 pm

      “Expand the circle of sanity”. That’s a perfect and beautiful choice of words!!!!

  • Michelle September 28, 2013, 9:55 am

    Good for you! very inspiring and keep on going

  • jlcollinsnh September 28, 2013, 10:09 am

    Big time major league kudos to Ms. M180!

    not only is she turning around her own life and on the path to wealth, she has knocked a few more props out from under the complainypants contingent in the process.

    She is the very embodiment of one of my favorite Mr. MM quotes:

    “But there’s also no doubt that many people, with fewer advantages than you, have overcome them to achieve much greater things.”

    Well played.
    Well done.

    • Susan September 28, 2013, 3:35 pm

      And to her husband, too. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things anyone will ever do, and it sounds like he is working hard at it. Best of luck to him!

  • Ilya September 28, 2013, 10:13 am

    Good for you! I think this will inspire a lot of people around you. Reading MMM, I’ve noticed that people tend to see good things and join in on the fun. Bikers and cable-cutters are springing up amongst my friends from nothing but my example and they’re not even MMM readers yet!

  • Chipamogli September 28, 2013, 10:14 am

    That’s a great turnaround! It’s not about where you start (debt levels, etc) but where you’re headed and the changes you’re making to get there. Once you are on the Mustachian path there is no stopping you!

    I, too, recently have been more open about my MMM addiction and even got a few friends on board. Everyone was excitedly discussing MMM at a dinner party last night (in someone’s home, home cooked meal) and those that haven’t heard of “THE” blog wanted the URL :)

    • mike September 28, 2013, 6:19 pm

      I agree Chip. The first step is by far the hardest. A few reasons, it’s such a small step with so little to see from it, and the courage to admit previous way of living was wrong.

      The market is up almost 25% this year. So if someone has $1M in a simple index fund, that money has increased $250,000. Imagine, increasing one’s net worth 25% and not doing a damn thing. Of course someone looking on might say, “Hey, that’s a no brainer, I’d do the same thing”. But the reality of it is, he will never take the initiative to begin a savings plan, no matter how small.

      So when M180 can see the change so early is remarkable. Needless to say, they will reap the benefits the rest of their lives.

    • Kenoryn September 30, 2013, 9:07 am

      Wish I got this reaction from people I told about it! :( Any tips for introducing it to people? I think people feel like I’m being uppity if I tell them how well this works for me, or preachy if I tell them it could work for them. Or they’re just dismissive, saying, “Oh yeah, I couldn’t live like that, I need my daily latte.” Or they just don’t grasp the philosophy I’m trying to explain, and think I just mean being cheap, or clipping coupons etc., or living a sad deprived life.

      • Laina October 1, 2013, 6:50 am

        I know exactly how you feel! I feel looked down upon or like a dumb kid when I tell people so I try to keep it quiet, all while I plan my massive transcontinental “victory lap” tour when I retire in less than 10 years. I also feel cheap around birthdays or holidays but someday I will be spending the hard earned TIME with these people I’m foregoing spending money on. When we prove the complainypants wrong by showing them how badass early retirement is maybe they will finally see the light and do their own m180 or maybe they will keep sipping their daily lattes while bitching about the rates of their cable bills climbing. Either way keep it up and don’t let others make you feel bad :)

        • Megan October 3, 2013, 10:30 am

          I try to tell other parents in my neighborhood about inexpensive or free activities for kids around here, and I’m starting to realize they think we’re poor. :/ We drive around 10 year old cars, too, and bought the neighborhood foreclosure, so that doesn’t seem to help with the misconceptions. Just maintain your dignity and carry on. We get it. And maybe one day I’ll meet people like the ones on MMM in real life.

        • Tyler February 15, 2022, 3:45 pm

          Liana ~~ Almost ten years have passed. Are you still on track for the “victory lap”? I’m late to the MMM Universe but found your comments genuine. I hope you are retired or on the event horizon and doing well.

    • Rich Schmidt October 1, 2013, 11:29 am

      Speaking of the URL…

      Is there an alternate / shorter URL that we can tell people that doesn’t require explaining that mister is abbreviated (“mr”) and not spelled out and them knowing how to spell the word “mustache”?

      Just curious. :)

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 12:18 pm

        you can just tell people “search for mr money mustache” – no matter how you spell it, this site will be the first search result. In fact, variations on that theme are by far this blog’s biggest source of visitors, making up about 30% of search traffic!

  • Johnny Moneyseed September 28, 2013, 10:14 am

    I pulled an M180 a few years ago. I spent most of my money on cigarettes, alcohol and energy drinks. The typical lifestyle of most junior service members. After quitting smoking, energy drinks and only partaking in adult beverages from time to time I was able to start saving money.

    Congratulations in the lifestyle changes you’ve made. It’s a shame that they don’t do more for vets. Especially disabled ones. I may in that boat in a few years (due to a back injury) and I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about how vets are treated (or not treated).

    • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:30 pm

      If I could give you any advice Johnny, it is to stay in touch with the VA throughout your entire outprocessing from the military. Otherwise, you might wind up in the strange not-veteran no-benefit space that sucks in so many vets. Also, if you can, stay near a VA center; we live over 200 miles from our nearest VA assistance center, and it makes getting help nearly impossible.

      • Johnny Moneyseed September 29, 2013, 7:58 am

        Thanks Mrs. M180! I’ll definitely take that into consideration when we start planning our post-military life. My wife is also in the service, so it will be doubly important that we are taken care of when we’re no longer under the umbrella of the DoD. Good luck, and get that nicotine addiction down to zero. That’ll be a $108/month pay raise!

      • Jan September 30, 2013, 6:02 am

        Congrats on the 180!
        The keys to vet benefits are never give up.
        Have every injury recorded while active duty.
        Live near a vet center ( and many are little offices who refer you up the ladder) and use your health care benefits.
        If denied, keep records and reapply if anything gets worse.
        Remember that wounded warriors organizations help with things the government doesn’t. Check with you local VFW – those WWII people will jump through the hoops for you!

  • Albert September 28, 2013, 10:21 am

    Impressive turnaround… Congratulations!!! It must have required some serious willpower to kick so many bad habits at once and save so much on a very modest income.

    I myself am pretty much a steady “under spender”. Combination of never having been bad with money and a luxury of high income.

  • Nat. September 28, 2013, 10:26 am

    She sounds awesome. Nicely done on her 180.

    We did a similar 180 in May, 2010. I don’t know what came over me, but I just could not deal anymore, and something had to change. Within about two years (maybe less), we paid off over $65,000 in debt and about $20,000 on our mortgage principal. We were no longer fucking around.

    Now that we’re fully out of debt, we’ve relaxed our intensity a bit, and there is a lot of room for cutting stuff out of our spending. This weekend is going to be partially devoted to figuring out what can go. I’m looking forward to it.

  • lurker September 28, 2013, 10:31 am

    rushing over to Quicken right now to pay down some more principal on my mortgage….gosh that feels GOOD!

  • April September 28, 2013, 10:46 am

    That’s awesome! I don’t like the part about no more stay dog fostering :( I budget for that, it brings a lot of happiness to me. But hopefully they will continue again when their finances are better! But I love this blog! It has changed so many peoples lives! Thanks MMM!!

    • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:32 pm

      It was also a great source of joy for me, but now I find the same satisfaction through volunteering at a local rescue instead. All of the satisfaction, none of the “I really can’t afford this” upset stomach feeling. But don’t worry; once I’m stable, I fully intend to get right back to work!

      • April September 29, 2013, 2:59 pm

        That’s awesome! Congrats! I am working on my M180! Good luck to you!

    • Stephanie P September 29, 2013, 12:28 pm

      Great work! I agree about the fostering dogs though. Is there a rescue org in her area that can sponsor the cost of food and vetting? I foster dogs as well and the rescue groups I work with handle all of those costs. It’s a great (and cheap!) way to have a lot of fun and give back to the community. The dogs are so appreciative and that is a great reward that has nothing to do with money.

  • Rory September 28, 2013, 10:57 am

    I always loved the MMM case studies; it had been a while since your last one and this is one of my favorites.

    As someone who has done financial counseling for a bunch of people in hardship situations, I have to say that this dramatic ‘mustacian 180’ is indeed rare. I personally would meet with people in a similar situation as the writer at least a few times each week. Overall, if I had someone commit to these type of lifestyle changes once per month I felt like I was doing a great job.

    One quick word of advice for her – if you aren’t out of those payday loans yet take a look at the back of your contract – there are often state-run programs that help people pay off the loans without having to constantly renew them at 400%+.

    Kudos to her, her optimism, and her self-depreciating humor.

    • Mr. 1500 September 30, 2013, 10:25 am

      I’m a numbers guy, so I’m always wondering in my head what the economic impact of MMM actually is. For example, I wonder how much debt has been paid down as a result of reading MMM. I wonder how many people have discovered a better way to live their lives thanks to MMM.

      We’ll never know, but it’s fun to think about.

  • Eric September 28, 2013, 11:00 am

    Nice work on the 180! One suggestion: look into the financials of substituting electronic cigarettes for conventional ones. My smoking friends say they’re a lot less expensive per cigarette equivalent (not to mention less unhealthy).

  • Phoebe September 28, 2013, 11:05 am

    Awesome and inspiring story!!! What stands out to me is how happy this reader is with the changes she’s made. She seems psyched to be sleeping on the floor! I know this feeling all too well. I was drowning in debt too, and simply taking action on it (even though I was “depriving” myself of previous luxuries) gave me a sense of purpose and reward like none other. I think many people that are contemplating a 180 worry that they will be miserable, but this reader shows that it can be an amazing ride. I would love to see an update 6 months from now!

    • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:34 pm

      Then an update in March you shall receive, MMM’s schedule permitting!

      • Evan October 1, 2013, 11:16 am

        Is your husband as excited as you are?

        • Ms. M180 October 1, 2013, 3:12 pm

          In some ways, yes. He is not mathematically minded, and so does not share my excitement when I can put an extra $10 on a $5000+ balance. However, he is ready to live a life that is low in stress and unwanted surprises, which he understands financial security will provide. He has been completely cooperative and is finding ways (such as not smoking, not eating out, and tracking his spending for me) to push our goal forward.
          I know this makes me insanely lucky, as an overwhelming majority of people with his temperament (chronic impulsive over-spender) would push against these sacrifices.

          • Justin October 3, 2013, 12:38 pm

            Has your husband looked into using his GI Bill? It’s a pretty solid way to add quite a bit of money to your income, while building useful skills (he could even do all online classes and still get 700/mo, or full E5 w/dependents BAH if at least one class is in person).

            • Mrs. M180 October 4, 2013, 9:53 am

              Good eye for benefits! We had, in fact, recently enrolled him in our local Junior College and have fingers crossed that we’ll hear back in time for this upcoming January’s round of classes. Where we live the BAH is right around $1,050.

  • Petra September 28, 2013, 11:17 am

    Just wanted to say: well done! And keep up the good work, of course!

  • John September 28, 2013, 11:19 am

    Honestly, I only read the “after” budget, and it seems like they still need to pull another M180. Leaving a 24% loan out there while spending $100/month on cigarettes and another $100 on home cleaning supplies (how is that even possible?) doesn’t make much sense. But I hate to be critical, too. I’m sure they’ll figure this out soon enough, now that they have started paying attention. Nice job.

    • PawPrint September 28, 2013, 8:46 pm

      It’s $100 on household items including cleaning supplies, toiletries and DIY stuff. I don’t think $100 is too unreasonable. As someone else mentioned, quitting smoking is difficult and reducing it almost 50% is, IMHO, pretty awesome. I imagine in a few months, cigarettes won’t even be a budget item.

    • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:37 pm

      Well John, I’m sorry you don’t have time to read the article, but I’m happy to see you still find the time to comment!

    • Kenoryn September 30, 2013, 9:20 am

      You could just read the article, and it would explain what’s going on with both of those items… a little out of place to comment before reading it, don’t you think?

  • Alexis September 28, 2013, 11:20 am

    Wooo amazing story! Very inspirational

  • Mary September 28, 2013, 12:10 pm

    My husband and I read “Your Money or Your Life” years ago and it fit right in with our plans to NEVER go into credit card debt. We moved to Colorado with 2 VW bugs and whatever we could fit in them. We slept in a studio apt in our tent because we didn’t have a bed and we thought it would be fun. We did not buy furniture until we could pay in cash. We bought all our non-business cars in cash. This means that sometimes my friends would laugh at me for my old cars while they drove brand new ones. (some of them have been through bankruptcy since then) My husband builds homes so we have never owned a home we didn’t start off with at least half equity already built in and now live in a million $ home that we own free and clear. We look back on the “poor” days and remember them being so much fun and empowering to know that we could do it! The benefits of living this way pay off SO BIG TIME in the end. I wouldn’t change a moment.

    • Heath September 29, 2013, 1:26 pm

      This comment made my freaking day! The concept of living in your tent in a studio apartment is fantastic because it’s something that would shock the hell out of so many Entitled Sukkas, and it’s brilliantly simple. Plus, you spoke of how empowering it is to know that you could live through it with happiness in your heart :-)

  • Brandon September 28, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Wow great post. It’s so cool the self realization and perspective that this blog can bring to people, great work MMM.

    I thought I was a pretty frugal guy before I found this blog but using some of the main techniques (moving close to work, not driving so much) has dramatically improved my savings rate. I’m maxing my 401k and Roth IRA now and marching slowly towards amassing a small fortune, and it feels freaking awesome. I know I still suck at stuff but I’m always improving.

  • TwoPupsOnACouch September 28, 2013, 12:19 pm

    I thought I was frugal, until I started reading MMM. Now I have a cheap cell phone plan, cheaper mail order prescriptions, eat only whole foods, have less clutter, shop at the grocery store instead of eating out for day trips/vacations, learned manual transmission, use less paper tissues, and drink boxed wine to name a few… Honestly, I still suck big time, but this blog has had an immeasurable impact. I feel I should say “thank you” at the end of each and every post. I talk about this blog to anyone who will listen. Thank you, MMM!

    • CincyCat September 30, 2013, 8:43 am

      Some of that boxed wine is pretty darn tasty. Plus, how can you argue with the equivalent of 6.5 “standard” (750 ml) bottles for about $3 each?

  • Petunia 100 September 28, 2013, 12:50 pm

    I am this reader’s mom, and I am very proud of the positive changes she and her hubby have made. :) They are awesome “kids”.

    • Purple September 28, 2013, 3:43 pm

      Indeed they are!

      Throughout the story though I was thinking about you Petunia and the great gifts you have given them. You gave your daughter the seed of MMM and didn’t nag or judge. You have also given them a great gift with a safe, positive place to build their foundation.

      Also, I daresay your daughter’s brilliant writing style must have been nurtured along the way.

      Kudos to you all!

    • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:40 pm

      I love you mom. <3

    • Pete September 30, 2013, 7:31 am

      Great to see parent (s) and children (no matter how old) reading and instituting these ideas. Found out my Son and I were both reading the blog for a while and never knew it. He is so far ahead of where we were at that age. Very exciting to see a family tree changing, MMM is a part of that change. I bet there are many others out there. (Sounds like a good future post idea!) maybe even a contest?

  • Jay September 28, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Wow! Let a million Money Mustaches blossom around the country! Keep it going and we can save the world from over-consuming itself into destruction! Great job MMM!

    • lurker September 29, 2013, 2:05 pm

      AMEN to that my brother!!!!! Amen…

  • Debt Blag September 28, 2013, 1:38 pm

    Hi there. That truly is an amazing turnaround. There were definitely things that seemed out of her control, but she didn’t let it bring them down and made the changes anyway.

    Most importantly I would thank her husband for serving

  • Joe September 28, 2013, 1:57 pm

    Good job! Hopefully you can cut that tobacco habit completely. It’s such a waste of money.

    • Insourcelife September 28, 2013, 3:12 pm

      Or at least start rolling your own… my brother-in-law did that when cigarettes went to $8 per pack to save money until he kicked the habit for good.

  • Micro September 28, 2013, 2:07 pm

    Everyone has their vices that bleed out a little more income than is probably necessary. However, might as well spurge and enjoy the ridiculous things life has to offer us. I want to cut back my consumption and help save money, but I’m not looking to become a monk. I enjoy the luxuries of digital life a bit too much.

  • Edward September 28, 2013, 2:18 pm

    I first found this blog in June 2012, a little more than a year ago. You know when you’ve been underwater for a long time and you finally come up and gasp air? That’s what it was like for me. That’s when my M180 hit–that very day.
    I’d always been fairly frugal, never carried debt, and squirreled the (standard advice of) 15% of my paycheck away every two weeks. (I have no idea what I was spending the rest on–stupid stuff like restaurants and DVDs mostly.) Well, you know many of the paid bank financial advisers? It just wasn’t growing my ‘stache fast enough so I began to take a more active role in my money management. Eventually I started to read personal finance blogs.
    I read finance blogs for two whole friggin’ years and got the impression that most of them were just dicking around with their money and fooling themselves. I started to think there was something wrong with me when I was actually more frugal than most of the so-called bloggers. (And I got very sick of the “So-and-so Versus Debt” theme. Why does a person who owes tens of thousands in consumer debt feel they are qualified to write about good money management?)
    Anyway, finally tripped across MMM (fresh air!!) and quickly realized that if I was crazy there was a bunch of other crazies out there too, led by a guy with a moustache. (I only wish I’d found this site sooner.)
    My net worth when I found the blog last year was $96K, little more than one year later it’s $141K. Is that really an increase of 47%?! 47% in only one year?! Crazy! The bank keeps calling asking what the hell I’m doing and whether I’d like to come in and talk about my “situation”. :-) They never had much interest before. I tell them, “Nope, I’m fine.”
    Cheers for everything, MMM!

    • Jack September 28, 2013, 2:59 pm

      I might have to ask what the hell you’re doing as well! Great work but start investing that money!!!

    • Frank September 28, 2013, 3:17 pm

      Yeah situation.. Now wait for a dip in the markets (we’ve had two promissing dips Thursday and Friday) and get some of that money into ETF’s and for get about it.

      • PawPrint September 28, 2013, 8:48 pm

        That’s what I’ve been watching for, too. :)

    • CALL 911 September 28, 2013, 7:17 pm

      If this is crazy, I don’t want to be sane!

    • JW September 29, 2013, 9:02 am

      What makes this blog and forum so great is that it is filled with ordinary income people doing extra-ordinary things. A lot of financial blogs are, “I make 120k per year and realized I had 50k in cc debt. Then I paid it off in just 2 years. Go me!”

      If you already have a high income, it is easy to pay off high debts and requires no greater secret other than to stop over-spending. When you earn just 40k and save over 15k a year then you can teach me something. I still suck and pay too much for a cell phone and groceries but that’s changing.

  • Insourcelife September 28, 2013, 3:08 pm

    “more of a steady-handed airline pilot making a few course corrections as part of a long journey” – pretty much sums up what we are doing!

  • Frank September 28, 2013, 3:10 pm

    Wow thats a great story! Those of us who have been (knowingly or unknowingy) on a mustician trip for a few years will recognise several additional areas for optimisation. Smoking etc HAS to stop, not from just a financial perspective but because its about the most unhealthy thing you can possibly do and will consequently lead to much higher medical bills in the future if its not cut out. Having said that this turn around is amazing and I fully expect this couple to get everything together.

    When you make that last Mortgage payment (2001 in my case) its the most liberating thing on Earth.. You finally own the roof over your head, that is security indeed. Then all your mustianism goes towards building the pot for FI.. Its much closer than you think. I basically don’t spend ANY of my somewhat muscular salary and have been blown away how fast the stache has built up.

    Keep the faith!


  • Green Money Stream September 28, 2013, 5:18 pm

    Great story, and she even has a great knack for writing in the MMM style. It’s great that a blog like this is inspiring people to make real changes by opening their eyes to another way of living. I’m more of a course corrector myself, but I know there is always something new I can learn (which is why I read MMM)!

  • Brenda A. September 28, 2013, 5:58 pm

    This is by far the most inspiring case study I’ve read here. Mostly because it’s coming from a place much closer to where I am. Most of the case studies I find not that impressive because of the large incomes the people are working with. It’s so much more difficult to get ahead when you’re “this close” to the poverty level. We follow Mustachian guidelines as they apply to us but are just barely scraping by. At this point the goal is to increase our income stream enough to actually get ahead. Because frankly we’ve cut all the corners and tightened our belts as far as they will go! But we’re still determined to make progress no matter how slow it may be.

  • Charles September 28, 2013, 6:16 pm

    Great turnaround at a young enough age where time doesn’t work against them. Time is your biggest ally but works against you when you start running short.

  • Duke September 28, 2013, 7:10 pm

    My life has been a financial roller coaster. I graduated college with an IT degree, got a nice paying, work from home job and, being on my own for the first time(renting), squandered my money even quicker than I spent it.

    I used my credit card for almost all purchases and threw $1000 at it a month, thinking that’d take care of things. It never really dawned on me for quite some time that I was spending more than the $1000 a month that I was paying on it…

    Eventually, I got married and my wife went to school for a 1 year program to a better paying job. Even still, we never paid much attention to our finances and ate out regularly, bought lots of shiny new gadgets and basically just wasted money.

    We finally began to wake up when I realized I was in my late 20s with no savings to speak of, no house, and about 10K in CC debt- not to mention student loans. So we cut back, focused on the CC debt and within 2 years we had paid it off and saved 10K towards a down payment.

    Then, I got laid off. And a week after that, we learned my wife was pregnant. After almost a year looking for work, I gave up on trying to find something that paid what my old job did and accepted at 30% paycut for my new job- no more work from home either. While unemployed, I also had to buy private health insurance- so savings went poof and debt started creeping back in.

    I took another job that involved moving across the state to a beautiful rural area and offered much better pay. It was a good career move for me (more responsibility, more challenging, more skilled), but my wife had a much harder time finding work. We were doing ok financially, but I still wasn’t really tracking my spending and kept getting “surprised” by car insurance bills every 6mos and was making no progress on my new $5k in CC debt. The best thing that happened here was we both got gym memberships and stuck with them. I lost over 60lbs and have kept it off and feel better than I did when I was in High School.

    Eventually, while looking for financial software that did something more than just track spending, I discovered YNAB and it opened my eyes. It was so easy to plan for expenses and live within your means- I was angry it took me until I was almost 35 to discover it.

    I’ve since moved again, taking a better still job and my income is higher than it has ever been- but I still have a lot of work to do. I need to improve my cash flow even more if I’m ever going to meet my goals- one of which is to retire by 50, if not sooner.. another is to buy a house. Resume-wise, I feel I need to stay at this job at least 2 years so I started looking at the other side of the equation- cutting expenses.

    I thought I was doing fairly well at keeping expenses down- then I discovered MMM. What a fool I’ve been! I now cut my own hair, I loath my commute and carpool at every opportunity, and I’m looking to dump our expensive cell plans for Republic Wireless as soon as their new phones are released. And I’m fighting the never-ending battle against my monthly grocery budget. We don’t have cable TV. I’m currently on a promo for cable / home telephone, but as soon as that runs out I’m dropping the phone and going to Google Voice via an OBi100 Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA).

    And I suck.

    • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:51 pm

      Sounds like you’ve also been making the best of your roller coaster. Thank you for sharing your story. :)

  • Ross September 28, 2013, 7:19 pm

    I think we get a little used to hearing the success stories of folks who were already generally on the right path. It’s great to hear about someone who’s made not only great changes for themselves, but they’ll be more productive members of society going forward! Change is hard to keep up at first, but eventually it just becomes natural. Good luck M180-ers!

  • Patty September 28, 2013, 8:57 pm

    I love reading these case studies as it shows over and over again how people can turn their financial lives around no matter what their circumstances.
    I used to think I was pretty frugal myself until I started reading MMM.
    My husband and I patted ourselves on the back for not being extravagant and thinking that we would retire at 55 not 65 like most people.
    Now I can’t believe how deluded we’ve been all these years, throwing our money away bit by bit, “treating” ourselves because we “deserved” it after a hard day’s work. My husband and I would BOTH drive our cars around the corner to our mutual workplace, 3 minutes away! What I didn’t realize when we were spending like this (money, slowly and invisibly, leaking away) was that we were ensuring we would have to continue working far longer than we had to or wanted to.I just assumed that this was the way it was, because everyone around me was locked into that work-spend-work mentality
    Now we both bike or walk to our jobs and use the cars far less. I have decided to buy studded tires for the heavy duty winter weather we get here in Canada so I can continue to cycle.I question every purchase now and am trying to educate my teens as well, though it sometimes feels like we are swimming against a current of affluence and spoiled kids in the community we are living in.
    Because of the changes we have made and our different outlook I will be able to leave my job after this year.
    I am so thankful for this blog because bit by bit we are changing our ways and in the process regaining our freedom!

  • Ms. M180 September 28, 2013, 9:49 pm

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind words. :) And a huge thanks to MMM, who has totally made my month by making me internet famous. Hubby and I look forward to updating you all as soon as it makes any sense to do so!

  • Penny September 28, 2013, 11:12 pm

    WOW! What an inspiring post. To the contributing author I would like to say congratulations and well done on taking these life changing first steps. Now that you have started the journey the further you travel down this path the more you will discover about your capacities to earn and save more. There is no looking back now, just keep going no matter how tough things get. As someone who at around your age paid off a mortgage at a time when I had unstable work and low wage, I can tell you that anything you set your mind to do can be done. But you have to be focused and you cannot take your eye off the main game. For me the game was to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible. For you it is to pay off your debts. But, have I read things correctly, you pay $100 monthly fee to borrow $1500 monthly??? That just can’t be right??? Can it?? OMG if it is, it needs to be sorted asap. That’s a lot of money you are giving away. From experience, I can tell you that it is a big no no borrowing (especially at 24%) to buy a depreciating asset. I hope that your next car will be purchased from actual savings. Looking at your budget I can see that you spend way too much on cleaning products and at the moment when you have this huge debt you just need to bite the bullet and cut our personal expenses to the absolute minimum. You have read MMM, another good blog is Frugal Queen who paid off a massive personal debt and is now on the MMM path. Then there are many other frugal and thrifting blogs that can help you reduce that huge amount of money you are spending on cleaning products. As a reformed smoker I have a rule of not preaching the need to quit to others. I can tell you that since quitting some 12 years ago, I am healthier and happier, and, my wallet is much heavier. Good luck on your journey.

    • PawPrint September 29, 2013, 1:48 pm

      No, you did not read that correctly. She said she spends $100 a month on household items LIKE cleaning products, toiletries, etc. You know, toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, hygiene products, dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent. . .and so on.

      • Kenoryn September 30, 2013, 10:07 am

        And DIY items. One required tool could eat that whole monthly budget pretty fast. (Set of wrenches to fix a plumbing problem, drill to hang some shelves or fix a latch, etc.?)

      • Penny September 30, 2013, 2:26 pm

        I was referring to the ‘sucka banking’. I am not familiar with this system of banking. You may like to enlighten me.

        • Ms. M180 September 30, 2013, 11:22 pm

          I am quite sleepy so I apologize if this doesn’t make complete sense, but basically here’s my sucka cycle:
          Oh no, I’m out of money! That’s okay though, because my bank will let me overdraft for a $25 fee.
          Oh no, I’m out of money again! That’s okay though, I’m only out $50.
          … $75.
          … $100.
          And now I’m overdrafted by $1500ish. No more borrowing for me!
          YAY! It’s pay day! Oh, but I owe the bank $1500 still, so let’s pay that back. Uh oh, now I only have $700 to last all month.
          Oh no, I’m out of money! That’s okay though, because…
          Etc etc etc, on into infinity*.

          *Except that we’re wise to this shit now, and we’re fixing this as fast as financially possible at our current level of suck.

          • Megan October 3, 2013, 10:27 am

            Call your bank and get a line of credit attached to your account so you’re not paying those overdraft fees anymore. You’ll still be in the cycle until you pull yourself out, but you won’t be throwing your money away.

            My husband and I were in a similar situation with our account, but with our line of credit, not overdraft charges. What we finally did was suck it up for two weeks and live on about 50% of his pay to get out of the cycle (the other 50% was going towards the line of credit.) For you, this would mean living on $700 for two weeks. The two weeks of sacrifice is totally worth it to break even for good and permanently add that huge chunk of money back into your budget. You see immediate and meaningful results and that alone is very encouraging. Good luck!

  • Anna September 29, 2013, 1:49 am

    I love reading stories like this. My husband and I were already on a path of paying down debt and further developing our frugality muscle. We’re still making changes, but this blog inspired us to go an entire year with only one car. Recently it became extremely difficult to rely on public transit (or biking) for reasons I won’t elaborate on for space, so we went back to 2 cars. But we bought a cheaper car…even being back to 2 cars we figure we’re still $200/mo better off than the original 2 car scenario. The other area we’ve decided to make drastic changes in (due to this blog) is our cell plans. Our contract is up in a few months and we’re switching to a no-contract pay for what you use service through Ting that will cut our bill in half while still allowing us to use our very fancypants smart phones we love.

    Beyond these concrete changes, the blog has really helped me see consumerism more clearly. It has modified in more subtle ways many other attitudes about what we need to be happy and what our priorities are financially.

    Congrats again to this reader for these giant changes. Excited to for you to become debt free!

  • JR September 29, 2013, 6:14 am

    I don’t have anything of substance to add but I just wanted to congratulate you for your current and future successes.

  • TallMike September 29, 2013, 6:24 am

    This is an amazing story and I wish this couple all the success in the world. I am impressed and inspired by their intestinal fortitude.

    I think the 180 idea has merit, but could use some full blown engineering to extend it considerably using vectors. This should be right up the alley of various engineers, but I think the comments portion is where my idea belongs: feel free to skip over it if you’re not into vectors…

    Let time be represented on the x-axis and investment savings on the y-axis. Once you have your own Mustachian epiphany, you enter the graph at time = 0 and somewhere on the y-axis depending on your debt or savings. $200,000 in debt? You start at (0,-200000). Already have $50,000 in savings? You start at (0,50000). Identify a target for yourself. Suppose you want to have $500,000 in the bank in 12 years. Then you’re trying to hit the point (12,500000). Your job is to get from your starting point to your goal.

    Every year, you apply a vector from your previous position to your new position. The x-value of this vector is always 1, equal to 1 year. The y-value of this vector represents the magnitude of your change, e.g. if you went $2000 in the hole, your vector is (1, -2000); if you saved $6000, your vector is (1, 6000). The angle of the vector determines if you’re moving in the right direction (up means good, as in “pointing towards Canada”, down means bad, as in “pointing down like a bad fall from The Money Tree”) The magnitude of the vector (how big it is) determines if you’re making a massive change like the case study here versus a moderate change like MMM’s home downsize, or a smaller change like ditching a daily latte habit. Because the change on the x-axis is always 1 each year, large changes result in a more dramatic angle, smaller changes in a smaller angle.

    If you’re just treading water, not making progress towards your goal, but not backsliding, you just run parallel to the line y = “your goal” as time marches on, your hair grays, and your back starts to hurt…

    What I like about this vector metaphor: 1) It emphasizes the inexorable march of time. 2) It shows how small changes made early can have a big impact because you get to apply them to all subsequent annual vectors, assuming you don’t backslide on your behavior. 3) It captures both the direction of the change and the magnitude.

    Problems with this vector metaphor: 1) Because of the inexorability of time, the true angle change is always less than 180 degrees… maybe this is a good thing. Maybe the true 180 is only available in the limit (in the calculus sense of “limit”) 2) I’m not sure how to represent compounding interest on previous investments… 3) Because of #1, you don’t get the appealing visual of a car whipping the 180 as shown in the photo for this article. You just have the spare visual appeal of vectors… Perhaps that will appeal to some of the audience here.

    My own vector for last year and this coming year have benefitted from huge prodding from this blog and community. I am grateful to all of you. Thanks for reading this long blog comment about vectors and personal finance. (That’s the first time I’ve typed that sentence!)

    • Kenoryn September 30, 2013, 10:16 am

      I think you are just describing a graph of savings over time. My bank produces such a graph for me, updated monthly. :) You could graph things that are unrelated to your savings rate, like compounding interest or windfalls like an inheritance, on a separate line, and have the sum of the two lines shown by a shaded area on the same graph.

    • Krishanu October 23, 2013, 3:39 pm

      That’s a brilliant extension of the 180-degree-turn point. Love vectors.

  • Rebecca Stapler September 29, 2013, 8:58 am

    I wouldn’t say we did a M180 — more of a M120, but we are converts to the truly frugal lifestyle. I used to think we were frugal before, but there was so much we could (and did) cut after I got facepunched on here!

    We had over $200k in student loan debt, and in 4 months post-MMM, we paid off one $12k loan by stopping dining out, cutting our spending on random shit, putting loan payoff first and foremost in the month, and directing every penny of my husband’s side hustle towards our loans.

    I used to think that we needed every penny of our incomes. But I was just laid off, and the expenditure cuts we’ve made are going to serve us well while I work up my side hustles and/or get a job. We have an emergency fund, but I’m challenging myself to not have to dip into it at all. I’m thrilled that we paid off a student loan and got rid of a monthly payment — it makes us a lot more stable to have one less liability each month.

    • Ms. M180 September 29, 2013, 10:43 pm

      I’d like to bite my pride down a bit and ask why you believe this is not an M180. I believe it is a complete change of *attitude.* It’s not possible to just go “Hey world, fuck off, I’m a MUSTACHIAN!” and have all debt and expenses bow and walk away. In a mere three months, we have cut our expenses by 52%, changed our lifestyles completely, and begun lobbing 55% of our income at debt. How, exactly, does that fall short of expectations?

      • Hadilly September 29, 2013, 11:21 pm

        I think Rebecca was referring to herself, not you.

        Congratulations on your new path!

      • mariarose September 30, 2013, 10:03 am

        Rebecca was not talking about you, as evidenced by the “we” in her first sentence. MMM asked the question of us, as his readership, if we are the 180 people, or the slow steady corrections people. Rebecca was answering that question.

        • Ms. M180 September 30, 2013, 3:29 pm

          The three of you are absolutely correct. My apologies Rebecca, I feel like a complete fool. XD Looks like I suck in more ways than just financial!

      • Kaz September 30, 2013, 11:00 am

        She wasn’t saying YOU didn’t do a 180, she said SHE didn’t do a 180.

  • Sean September 29, 2013, 9:20 am

    Good job on the smoking. I recommend nicotine patches for quitting, they worked for me. The store brands at Target or Walmart work out to $2 a day. That was an $8 a day raise I gave myself. I was a pack and a half a day, $7 a pack. I haven’t bought cigarettes in a year or smoked at all since 2 january this year. The urge still comes back some times but I just remember $10 a day, and it goes away. Good luck to you both.
    And Megalolz to MMM as the marlboro man, you need a cowboy hat.

    • Andy September 30, 2013, 10:00 am

      @Sean – (And any other smokers on here) I appreciate that $2 a day is better than $8 and patches are better than smoking, but I think that replacing cigarettes with something else be that gum, electro-cigs or patches is always doomed to fail eventually, not to mention still costing money.

      I think the best and zero cost way to give up is to change your way of thinking from being a smoker to a non smoker, this can be acheived by to reading, (maybe ALOT) of information, books, blogs, info websites, about how much smoking screws your health up, all of the other negative effects, and any other anti smoking propoganda you can find. We all know how bad it is by osmosis of the amount of anti-smoking stuff in the mainstream media, but how much do we really pay attention to this – not much given the amount of smokers out there. Reading forces you to think more deeply about it and should gradually engender a truly negative feelings towards smoking (the same as 99% of non-smokers always have had I would imagine). In other words you can trick your brain into thinking a new way about something if you force enough information supporting this new way of thinking into it… this is literally how advertising etc works of course. Now we are using this fact it to our advantage of course!
      This will acheive the much needed proverbial M180 on your perspective towards smoking I am sure!
      Oh another thing is to start working out/cycling/running as you will really notice how rubbish your lung capacity is as a smoker, but I take it most mustachians are doing that already ;)

      (The above advice is well intended advice from myself as an ex-smoker BTW so please don’t take this as passing judgement, and I fully appreciate that it isn’t easy and takes times etc. Well done on the acheivements so far and I am sure you will all get there very soon!)

      @Ms.180 You have done very well and should a huge mustachian high five. Good luck in continuing your work, I am sure you can and will find many ways to keep trimming that budget down and still lead a fullfilling and happy life together.

      • Kelly September 30, 2013, 9:07 pm

        I don’t think it is necessarily true that there is a “best” way to quit smoking, or make any drastic lifestyle change for that matter. Quitting smoking is a very individual process, and what works for one person may not work for another.

        Case in point – my mom, smoker for 30+ years. Quit smoking cold turkey when threatened with eviction by her landlord. When I asked her about it she said she did exactly what you said – switched her mentality from “smoker” to “non-smoker”.

        Second case in point – me. Smoker for 12 years. Tried EVERYTHING to quit. Patches, gum, cold turkey, switching mentality, counseling, everything. I finally quit with e-cigs. I don’t know why exactly, but I think it was because they were good enough that I didn’t feel the urge to smoke regular cigarettes, but unsatisfying enough that each time I smoked was a slight disappointment. After about a month my battery broke and I just shoved it in a drawer and walked away.

        But as kind of an anti-corollary, after seeing a single documentary video of a slaughterhouse I went vegan and never looked back. It’s weird to me that I’ve never had a slip up with meat, eggs, or dairy. So you never really know what will make a change click for you and stick.

        So, anyway, as an ex-smoker, I wholeheartedly recommend trying ANYTHING and EVERYTHING until you find something that works for you. It is so worth it (even if the methods that work for you cost money in the interim), and once the mental hold breaks you will never go back to smoking. Even if it takes you a while to find it, whatever costs you incur in the process will be repaid a thousand times over.

        best of luck! Your story is inspiring :)

        • Andy October 2, 2013, 1:10 am

          Good point well made, I just meant that trying the zero cost methods before all others would seem to be the most sensible way round of doing things. I’m the sort of person that is far too frugal (tight) to spend money on a product that solves a problem that I think could be solved by using my own brain, so I guess that’s why it worked for me. :)

      • Glad I Quit October 1, 2013, 9:31 am

        Smoking… from another x-smoker, and a Vietnam-era and Gulf War Vet still working for DoD… [yeah, THIS is what I’m doin’ while Furloughed]…

        I quit in 1978, when CARTONS were about $2.30 each in the Commissary, and ‘buddies’ typically bought each other packs for .25 when they were out. We went to an Army exercise, and I ‘came prepared’ a brought a few cartons [young enlisted guy, knew I’d get stuck pulling guard-duty and wouldn’t get the benefit of going anywhere, used ration card of buddies that didn’t smoke so I could stockpile… I smoked menthol during the colder months… and around 2.5 packs-a-day]. The place we went to [Baumholder] had delivery problems and ‘buddies’ started offering me $1/pack. On the German economy, packs of 17 cigarettes were about $2.50.
        So… from my .0115 per cigarette, to my ‘buddies’ .05… I sold them all and quit cold-turkey… exchanging my nicotine for tooth-picks and big-red chewing gum… to what now, about .40 per cigarette?

        Now, calculate how much you throw away yearly… I’ve sat down with quite a few people over the years to show them how many car payments or tanks of gas they could have had, or a new bicycle or other expenditure that they said they couldn’t afford.

        Chewing gum only went on for a few weeks, but I still gnaw on toothpicks versus grinding my teeth [they wanted almost $600 for a night-guard that’s not covered by insurance, so I clench toothpicks [yes, even in my sleep, no problem] whenever the pressure or pain ‘reminds me’.

        Good luck in changing your perspective, try anything and everything that might work for you, and appreciate more than just the financial savings of being a non-smoker!!!!
        … the other things you already know and previously commented on about current health benefits and future medical costs can not be over-stated.

  • TOM September 29, 2013, 10:11 am

    My 180 came in college, when I met my future wife. We both were RAs, which paid a modest stipend, and we both had credit cards. I had a second part-time job at a pharmacy and carried balances (car repairs, living the college life), and I couldn’t believe she paid hers off every month on her RA income.

    Me: Really?
    Her: Yeah. I just don’t buy things I can’t afford
    Me: Oh. (lightbulb) ohhhhhh.

    Truth be told, I was embarrassed, and didn’t tell her I carried balances. I began researching personal finance and turned my life around. I haven’t had credit card debt since graduating, and I paid off my circa $30k student loan in December, about 5 years ahead of schedule.

    • lurker September 29, 2013, 2:09 pm

      you married really well!!! congrats!

  • DocHolliday September 29, 2013, 1:41 pm

    As usual, a great article and great comments. I’d like to give props to MMM and Ms.MM on the great job they do in weeding out the complainypants comments that must arrive on a daily basis. It is refreshing to read anything on the internet that does not contain trolls and flames.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 29, 2013, 5:12 pm

      I agree that troll and complainers suck, but in this case there is very little weeding required – the Mustachians really are as badass as these comments you see all around you. I checked the trash and zero negative complaints have been trimmed from this post, for example.

      We end up having to delete more positives than anything, because sometimes they get repetitive. While it’s always a tough call not to approve any given comment, we try to keep in mind people like Mrs. M180 herself, who read the posts and ALL the comments – they should be at least somewhat flowing and not too repetitive for a person attempting to read them all.

  • rjack September 29, 2013, 5:16 pm

    You have made excellent progress, so I thought I would add some additional words of encouragement. :)


    All of your fun comes from watching your Amazing Shrinking Debt.

    • Ms. M180 September 29, 2013, 10:48 pm

      I know the additional $240/mo, plus the money we would save on interest, would be better put to use on debt. What can I say? We suck! :P We are improving at a drastic rate though, and I am happy with our progress, though I freely admit we have a *long* way to go! I’m still taking in the fact that we’ve gone from getting WAY worse every single month, to just a little bit better.

      (I would also like to take a moment to say HI!!! I always love reading your comments!)

      • Chris September 30, 2013, 7:51 pm

        Getting out from under your payday loan would be the highest priority imo. I would totally skip the 0% dental loan if it is the typical 24 months interest free deal. Pay it and your school loan later.
        I think cutting spending and finding ways to generate income even if oonly picking up cans for scrap when going for an evening walk will all help.

    • Victor September 30, 2013, 1:47 am

      I think this might be a good time to get some feedback on an idea.

      Everyone is saying that debt is an emergency, and you should put down all your effort and money in paying it back (because it is costing you due to interest). But what about a situation when you are planning on taking on a debt. The easiest example is when you are saving for a down payment on your house. Isn’t this future debt an even bigger priority?

      Not paying $X on your debt costs you p*$X, where p is the interest. Failing to save $X towards your down payment forces you take on a loan that is ROI*$X larger, where ROI is the return of investment on your savings for your down payment. So failing to save towards your down payment actually costs more then failing to pay back your debt, because p*ROI*$X > p*$X.

      From this it follows that you are under more pressure to save (i.e. not spend) the further away in the future the planned loan is (longer time equals greater ROI in aboslute $$$). Still you never hear:

      “Are you planning to buy a house partially financed with a mortgage five years from now? DEBT EMERGENCY, NO EATING OUT WHILE PLANNING TO BUY A HOUSE!”.

      I know I’m not waiting for myself to actually take the mortgage before starting to pay it off aggressively.

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 30, 2013, 8:01 am

        Definitely! I buckled down pretty heavily when saving for that first down payment too (living with 3 roommates even while making an $80,000 salary in 1999 dollars, etc.)

  • 2300 September 29, 2013, 7:47 pm

    Yep, I suck too…although quite a bit less since reading this site I’d consider it a M180:

    I already was doing fairly well (Maxing out 401k, Roth, and mortgage = only debt), BUT SINCE I STARTED READING THIS BLOG I CUT ~$12,000 worth of stupid expenses in the last ~6 months (Thanks MMM and community!!!).

    –$720: Car INS (switch State farm to Geico, drop comprehensive/collision on 10+ year old 105,000 mile car).
    –$340: House INS (Gieco affiliate change)
    –$275 Life Ins (plenty already through work)
    –$750 Wife’s Cell with data plan she didn’t use…
    –$2,800 Eating Out savings…cooking healthier and cheaper
    –$2,000 Lunches savings… Leftovers again healthier and cheaper
    –$300 Gym (it’s apparently possible to work our in your house or outside)
    –$1,000 NBA tickets…TV/friends houses also has these games
    –$600 Gas…not driving nearly as much
    –$1,400 Amazon addiction…buying things I often don’t use didn’t bring happiness.
    –$950 Sounds for computer to write that great symphony I never have time to do…still a dream, but no need to keep spending $ on this hobby just work with what I have already!
    –$600 Wife’s clothes shopping habit…owns plenty now if need something thrift stores does it.
    –$180 Land Line phone…why still had I don’t know.

    ~$12,000 of annual expenses gone…or ~$300,000 more $$$ by the time I retire. On the down side I’m not going to get my maximum CC rewards this year for the 1st time ever…which isn’t really a bad thing.

    That said I still suck and have more work to done financially and to live in the moment more as I’m self declared to be “the most ambitious lazy person on the face of the earth.”

    NOTE: Wife coincidentally retired ~3 months after I started reading the blog beating me to the early retirement…that means I’ll have to work longer, but she’s taking care of everything around the house so nights and weekends are 100% free for enjoyment and her volunteering certainly helps with the feeling of happiness a lot more than buying all of the crap listed above….

    • Blaze September 30, 2013, 6:28 am

      Great progress on cutting the crap and nonessentials!

      My one concern though is cutting your private life insurance because you “have enough at work”. Based on personal experience, we learned the hard way that insurance at work should be considered a bonus, not your whole plan.

      My husband and I both had life insurance through our work during our first couple of decades. We both had the automatic 1x salary, plus we both signed up for additional coverage $150K each. This worked fine for a long time. Then life went a bit off the rails. He was laid off after 25yrs with the same company since graduation. At 21yrs of age they didn’t require any medical info to approve him for extra coverage, we quickly learned at this new job that now in his late 40s he no longer qualified for the additional coverage, just the 1x salary. So now we have to purchase our own additional coverage to make up the short fall. If we’d arranged the private coverage when he was 21 and had a spotless medical history, and never given it up, our monthly premiums would be a tiny fraction of what they are now that he started at close to 50. Then to top it off, I was also laid off 3 yrs ago and no longer qualify for anything beyond the basic 1x salary at my new job. Add more pay it yourself life insurance please….

      People are rarely healthier/lower risk as they age. Get private coverage when you are young and healthy and don’t let it go until you no longer need it (ie financially independent and spouse could survive without the insurance should you die).

      We’re 3 yrs from mortgage payoff and still have a 12yr old at home, and plan to retire in 7yrs. At that point we’ll consider reducing or even dropping our coverage, but in the meantime I hate seeing that money go out every month knowing it should have been a smaller amount if we hadn’t relied on employer life insurance instead of DIY. The odds of you getting a job as a new healthy new grad and keeping it until until you are financially independent are slim at best (even if you only plan to be in the workforce for a reduced mustachian length of time). Just food for thought.

  • Brooklyn Money September 29, 2013, 8:13 pm

    First, thank you to you and your husband for sacrificing so much for all of us.

    Second, congrats on taking such huge steps in your journey! Really impressive.

    My only humble contribution is in regards to the smoking. I feel I have achieved a lot in my life — a Masters degree, owning my own home as a single woman, etc. but the thing I am most proud of is quitting smoking. Because it was the most difficult. It took me 2 years of trying and failing. Over and over again. I would just offer that advice to your husband. He should get up every day and quit. And then he will fail and smoke again, but it doesn’t matter because the beauty is he can just quit again! Also, i marked an “x” on my calendar for every non-smoking day. It really sucks to ruin a streak of nice Xs.

    • Ms. M180 September 29, 2013, 10:50 pm

      Ooh, yes, the compulsive reward system! I used that to quit being so frigging lazy around the house; every day the house was reasonably tidy at bedtime, I got to X that day off. It led to many half-asleep cleaning frenzies. I hadn’t thought to try the same technique with smoking though, thank you!

      • mariarose September 30, 2013, 10:17 am

        And I had not thought to do that with cleaning! Thanks.

  • MoneyAhoy September 30, 2013, 5:15 am

    That’s a great reader case study. What I like about it even more than usual is that she’s still working to work more of the spending out – you really get the feel from her story that she has tremendous momentum built!


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