487 comments

Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage?

octoThe following is an actual conversation from my email. Abridged a bit for sanity and privacy.

An Enraged Reader Writes:

Subject: Please Stop

Dear Mutilator of My Monies,

Please stop writing. My husband is enthralled. I am watching all of my dreams of a mommyhood filled with Tahoes, lattes, endless monogramming, and a pottery barn dream house go up in smoke. I am tired of hearing about your stupid blog. My husband actually used the phrase “the power of positive thinking” in conversation yesterday…like it was his original thought!!! Vomit.

I stopped by my husband’s office to visit him yesterday. I walked into the lobby there were patients waiting, so this is good. I walk through to the back, more patients waiting in chairs, so this is good. I walk back to his office. There he is! “Hey Ba – ” What is he doing??! He was reading your stupid blog!!! (I was secretly pleased that he was doing this at work during his time and not in the evenings during our time.) I now watch movies by myself. He lays beside me with one eye on the screen and one eye on his computer. He wakes up at 0500 bc he “can’t sleep” and reads the blog. Wahhhh You’re ruining my life.

I thought I was the most wonderful spouse on the planet because we recently paid off 6 years of student loans. And now here we are planning to scrape by for the next 50 years. I do not want to talk about money every hour of every day for the rest of my life. I don’t want to buy already crapped in cloth diapers for my baby on Ebay!

Please think about female spouses. There has to be a limit to the money talk, and the money supervision, and gearing our whole lives around counting dollars. We already live in one of the cheapest apts in town. We sleep in a double bed that was bequeathed to me at age 8. Our “couch” is a blow up bed. A broken blow up bed. WE ARE TOO CHEAP TO REPLACE OUR BROKEN BLOW UP BED COUCH. I dream sometimes about just coming home from work and stabbing it with a kitchen knife and watching it deflate.We live in a stifling, muggy, suburban town that takes 20 min to get to work. I am NOT riding a bike. I do drive a Prius which is as far as I go. No need to punch me in the face.

There has to be a balance. Your theory is flawed bc it is based on men. Families are comprised of men and women. The number one reason a man is able to save adequately is having a wife who saves adequately. How does a modern, style conscious, professional woman thrive with a male-infused idealism of mustachianism? The two cannot coexist. Women and men have different opinions about what is valuable. I value Starbucks as a treat. However, my husband and I literally drive away from the drive through to the same tune every time “This is RIDICULOUS! I can’t believe people pay this much for coffee!”

Don’t be mad. Just consider that a blog for men is only 50% of the fight. Maybe your wife wears a mustache like you, but this is rare. Very rare. Where is the other 50% for normal people?

I was both interested and amused by this submission from a non-reader. While there were definitely some misinterpretations and complainypants in there (especially with that incorrect attitude about biking), I also thought I sensed some light-hearted humor. So I wrote back:

Mr. Money Mustache Replies,

Dear Enraged Reader,

I sense a mix of sarcasm and real problems in there. Obviously no sane person would mourn the loss of a GMC Tahoe, but an inflatable sofa could be a valid source of long-term concern. Can you tell me more?

You can turn the tables on your husband and have him read ‘Frugal vs. Cheap’ to you. My lifestyle has always been pretty luxurious, after all. (I’m on a train to California drinking wine as I type this on my fancy phone).

On the other hand, you might want to explore your feelings towards challenge. I mean, who is so soft that they prefer a gasoline-powered throne to a muscle-powered bike? And is this weakness something to cherish and cultivate, or to overcome so we can live a more fully human life? We should talk more. I think there is a happy middle ground.

 

Enraged Reader Replies,

Hmm. Well, first to address the Tahoe issue which seems to be the most concerning to you. I drive a Prius. I drive a Prius with 4 hubcabs.

Correction, I drive a Prius with 4 broken, cracked, bent, hubcaps. Actually, I believe I still have a piece of one of them stuck in my side door pocket. Why? I seem to have a blind spot for curbs and large rocks next to curbs. I can’t seem to miss them. I have friends that have the same problem and also want SUVs. SUVS allow you to ignore conventional road side barriers as well as get elusive parking spots other sedans cannot get. The reverse can also be true I suppose. I like the thought of being up high, and I like knowing that I would be safe in the event of a wreck. I just recently discovered that people in SUVs can see TWO cars ahead of them. My whole life, I thought that we were all on an equal playing field, but we’re not. The SUVs know what’s going on before I do. They’re all in the fast lane, while I’m stuck in the slow lane!! I also like the thought of just being able to throw my whole life inside a Tahoe without having to tetris-pack my belongings. For example. “We need to go borrow a latter to paint the living room? Sure! Let’s pick it up in the Tahoe!” Or, “Let’s go by some large bushes or small trees at Lowes, and we can put them in my Tahoe!” Or “I don’t have time to pack- just grab everything and throw it in my Tahoe!” Or, “Girl trip to the beach? Everyone pile in my Tahoe!” When we have little kiddos, I want to be able to keep everything they could possible need in there – diapers, small stroller, jogging stroller, baby toys, extra wipes, etc with extra room for groceries. Sounds great, right?!!!

Also, I fear that the comment, “who is so soft that they prefer a gasoline-powered throne to a muscle-powered bike?” has quite missed its mark. I like “soft.” Remember, I am a woman? I put conditioner in my hair so that it’s softer, I shave my legs, so they’re softer, I put lotion on my arms, so that they’re softer. I even smudge my eyeliner a bit to give it a softer look. “Soft” is a feminine thing to be desired and in no way is it a turn off. Sooo YES! I am SOFT! And if a Tahoe makes me softer, bring it on!!! Also, I’ve never had muscles in my life and am totally ok with it.

Also I feel like you may not have tried to transport yourself by bike through a large suburban town. That means it’s 10 minutes by car to the grocery store, 20 minutes to work by car, 20 minutes to church, 15 minutes to our friends’ house, and 10 minutes to the canal in your car, where most bicycle enthusiasts then unload their bikes from their cars and then go biking along the river. What would be your solution to biking in a sprawling suburbanopolis?

And I guess it’s not just the blow up couch that drives me crazy. It’s the cumulative effect of a cheap life where we scrutinize every penny and are reticent to indulge in simple life enhancing pleasures. We are poor. Not financially, but outwardly, we are poor. My husband has an orthodontic practice, I work full time as a nurse practitioner, and yet we live like going out to eat at a restaurant with waiters will bankrupt us.

We were listening to a podcast last weekend, and you said that some people have a predisposition to the MMM lifestyle. I would like to introduce you to my husband. Watching him research different financial strategies has been like watching one of those toddler toys where you have to match each different shaped block to the appropriate shaped hole in the container and push it through. Mr. C is an MMM block. He didn’t know it until he tried to fit into several different financial holes without really fitting all the way around, and then finally found the MMM shaped hole and slid right in. He wants to retire early and take up hobbies, and travel, and be at home. He wants me to jump on the band wagon. That’s great. Except for the fact that I’m tired of self-induced poverty. My understanding of the MMM lifestyle is that you work hard to be poor while your young so that you can be poor without working when you’re old.

Being poor is okay if that’s what you’re called to or that’s what you’re life situation is. I would be okay being poor if I could stay home and have babies or was doing overseas missions or something. But I work hard Monday-Friday, and I can’t even enjoy a bottle of coke once a week! It is not a lifestyle that I want forever. And my husband would have to loosen up with the little things before I could throw my block into the MMM shaped hole. Something has to give.

 

 

park_cityAs you can see, quite a battle has formed between the three of us, and it scares me a little, since it’s a battle in a much younger couple with a much newer marriage than my own. Are these folks doomed?

They may be. Some people just develop drastically different perspectives, which may not be compatible. For example, my own wife would take strong offense at the idea that women are supposed to be soft. I would personally spend my time shooting holes in those amazing misconceptions about cars, bikes, and SUVs and the concept of “scraping by”.

At the same time, it sounds like the husband depicted in these letters could also use some tips on Selling the Dream of Frugality, as well as the difference between Frugal and Cheap. And if you are battling over monthly spending allowances while simultaneously feeling the desire for $100 golden sandals, something is bound to give.

But by gaining a broader perspective, there may still be hope. Every time I get a chance to meet with readers, I see couples who have arrived from both sides of the gender gap. About half the time, it is the girl who was frugal, and wrangled in the dude. Sometimes (as in this case) the man is the instigator. In my favorite stories, a high-income person, couple, or family spontaneously sees the light and chops a $200,000 lifestyle down by 75% or more, then shows up to report how much happier their lives have become. Doctors and successful financial advisors sell their golf course McMansions and move into the neighborhood next to their practice, and start walking to work and setting priorities straight in life at last.

Successful frugality must come from an alignment of philosophies, not an ever-stricter regime of bean-counting. So in Part Two of this article, I’ll share another story of a different confrontation between partners – one which led to much greater agreement and better results.  Until then, we can all chill out and realize that even the worst of financial disagreements is still a tiny detail in the grand scheme of our excellent lives.

Update: A Word about Internet Troll Speculation

A few dozen comments into our morning here, I can see quite a few speculations about the true intent of this email. Some think our author is a “troll”, which is someone who writes something artificial and inflammatory just for the sake of getting a reaction.

While I can’t prove it because I don’t know these folks personally, I would strongly disagree. Trolls are common on Reddit, but rare in the Mustachian community, because we are a smaller group with a more focused mission. Plus, this was a series of personal emails where the author had no idea it would get published.

More significantly though, is the fact that I hear about battles exactly like this one every single day. The perspective of the typical non-Mustachian consumer really is exactly as you read it here: frugality is deprivation, SUVs are valid road-going vehicles and little luxury purchases make you happy. When you try to spring a low-spending lifestyle on a person with this perspective, this is exactly what happens, and this is why we see effects like 90% of cars in the US being bought on credit. People are buying depreciating mechanized sofas that cost more money than their entire net worth. By the million. Every single month.

This shit is for real, and that is why I believe the sentiments here are genuine. The question remains, then: how can you completely turn this perspective on its head and end up with a person that actually enjoys frugality?

 

  • Ruz July 17, 2014, 10:45 am

    My first thought is that the emails are from someone having fun with MMM. They are a little too overboard/extreme.

    I have always thought of MMM lifestyle as more of a trade-off. Taking control of your money and lifestyle rather than letting it control you. I have 5 kids and live in a small town where there are some basic facilities, but if I need to go into the city or travel anywhere – then I need a larger vehicle. So, choices have to be made: own larger vehicle, borrow, don’t go, don’t take family, etc.

    I like sushi – and I live 3000 miles from the ocean… So, I make simple things at home, wait for groupons before ever going out… Choices… (Or real MMM-ians might say “wimp”! :-) )

    If this is a real series of letters, then the couple has some serious issues where they will need to make choices.

    Reply
  • Jessica w July 17, 2014, 10:48 am

    My husband and I are both frugal,but sometimes I still prefer to have “rewards” or spend money on stuff that my husband would see as worthless. So, what helped us the most was to write down our priorities first and foremost and to compare them. Then one of the things we did was budget and cut some areas so that yes, I get $100 a month toward eating out because I like date nights and not having to cook all the time,but because of that we cut back in other areas. So we still live on less than 30% of our income,and we can still do a lot of luxurious/fun things. One of the other things we budgeted for was allowances. yes, we are adults with allowances, but my portion is mine. If I want to blow it on an iced coffee my husband could care less because he can save all of his portion up for techy devices, and we are still on track with our overall goal of being frugal. This could help with the arguments because then you are still being frugal,but also able to do some of the things that you want to do or spend money on. Could we cut it even closer in our spending? Yes, but we wanted a little bit more balance. I love the MMM life style, and I feel like just the freedom from debt, not being dependent on each paycheck,etc. means a better less stressful life.

    Reply
    • amanda kuhl July 25, 2014, 5:56 am

      I agree with the allowance. My husband and I have always had our spending money. He loves to eat a hot lunch from the work caf and buy books on amazon. I brown bag and go to the library but love mani/pedis. Other than our separate spending, the budget is heavy on savings and paying down the mortgage which is our only debt.

      Reply
  • Edward July 17, 2014, 10:48 am

    General relationship unhappiness always focusses itself toward a single issue. It’s the “my life would be perfect if only…” disease. When people are having a rough time the back of the mind picks an issue, assigns some blame to the other person, creates an injustice, inflates the idea, then and runs with it. I’m sure that husband could loosen the purse strings and something else would come up. “New house is fantastic, but we really need a pool and he won’t get one!” “Everything would be great, but his snoring is making me completely miserable!” “I want to move closer to my relatives, but he won’t move his practice.” “He doesn’t do his share of the housework and taking care of the kids.” People of both genders can do this ad infinitum. As one issue is possibly resolved another will immediately slide in to take its place. You can’t be happy because you aren’t happy in the entire relationship.
    BTW, who correctly writes “reticent” yet doesn’t know how to spell “ladder”?

    Reply
    • Judith July 18, 2014, 5:07 pm

      Bingo! I would bet they had troubles before MMM blog became a problem. I am also wondering if the wife has a family full of consumers and also little self esteem, so that she has troubles standing up to their expectations and peer pressure, or even being open minded to the MMM “lifestyle” (ugh hate that word).

      Reply
  • Scooze July 17, 2014, 10:53 am

    I think this sounds like a case of one spouse imposing his views on the other without getting actual buy-in. He could have tried to do this through a collaborative angle, but instead chose to just make the rules and insist she live by them. This method does NOT lead to a good outcome – it makes the bullied spouse shut down and feel defensive. And for the wife’s part, either she isn’t adequately expressing her views to her husband or he isn’t listening. So I call this a marital problem.

    Reply
  • Juli July 17, 2014, 10:53 am

    I want to know how he gets her to follow his money leading when she seems to be so against it. In our marriage, I am the frugal one and the hubby spends way too much on cable tv, eating out, and all those other “fun” things. I can fuss about it all day long, but he just spends it anyway. I’m curious, what is actually stopping her from buying a couch on her own? Does he literally lock away every bit of cash, credit/debit card, or whatever so that she truly does not have $1 to go buy a Coke? I would absolutely force my husband to follow my mustachian desires if I could figure out a way to do it!

    Reply
    • Ed July 20, 2014, 2:03 pm

      I was thinking the same thing…..

      Reply
      • joy July 20, 2014, 4:48 pm

        Juli,

        I think it is a matter of respect for the marriage. Marriage is a partnership. Both should agree to reach a mutual decision on what purchases will be made. That said, I feel she knows he would consent to buy her anything. Yet, her heart knows he isn’t on board with the purchase. Therefore, she doesn’t buy. This is how it works in my marriage too. Both of us wait on each other.

        Reply
        • Juli July 23, 2014, 2:49 pm

          You ask your husband for permission to spend $1 on a Coke? That seems very odd to me. Respect has to go both ways. If one spouse is frugal and the other is spendy, why does the frugal one have to “respect” the spendy one, but the spendy one can do whatever they want? And it seems like she does not know that he will buy her anything. The article sounded to me like she had asked and he shut her down. How is that being respectful to her?

          Reply
  • The Money Monk July 17, 2014, 10:57 am

    I think there is an easy solution to this woman’s problems, and it is one that I currently employ.

    Just keep your finances separate! If she doesn’t mind working longer to enjoy luxuries, then she shouldn’t have a problem continuing to work after he has retired!

    Split the housing, utilities, etc. Pretty much everything else can be bought as individuals: Transportation, food, clothing, etc.

    If she is a nurse she makes plenty of money to do this. And it will free him up to be as extreme as he wants

    Reply
    • Rachel July 17, 2014, 1:31 pm

      That is what my husband and I do. I am working on my mustache, but his is crazy. A while back he decided he wanted to eat on $4 a day, and was subsisting mostly on dry beans at every meal, etc. I am not doing that. But because we have separate money, he was free to do so and he could see the money results easily. And if I went out to lunch with coworkers and blew 3 days of food money ($12), it didn’t affect him. (He did stop after a few months though.)

      Reply
      • Catherine Marie July 18, 2014, 11:05 am

        Same here: all finances separate so that I can save as much as I want, and hubby can buy beer and guitar strings without having to hear my nagging about it. I’ll retire early and he’ll keep working. It’s not ideal but we are who we are and we’re both happy with our choices.

        Reply
    • Katherine July 17, 2014, 8:30 pm

      Even if they don’t totally separate finances, they should have a set amount of “I can spend it on what I want and you can’t complain” money built into the budget each month. My husband and I do that and it’s cut down on the nitpicky fights about money. You need consensus on the big issues but the small ones, it’s not worth it. He can go out to lunch and I can buy a hydrangea, and it’s not a marital crisis.

      Reply
      • Ed July 20, 2014, 2:06 pm

        Definitely one way to go, the wife and I are trying an “allowance” system where we get to spend $xx per month on whatever we want. Problem is, she keeps going over $xx *2.

        Reply
      • Ms. Must-Stash July 21, 2014, 3:42 pm

        Bingo! Mad Money or Walking Around Money is, in my opinion, a great transition strategy into full-blown Mustachianism. I am naturally more frugal than my husband, and he can get sad if he feels deprived, so we decided that he gets $100/month to spend as he likes with no crap from me. We still save ~50% of our incomes, we are gradually strengthening our muscles through a variety of other life improvements, and this makes him happy, so everyone wins!

        FYI, here’s something I think the community will like – I was recently introduced to a great online source for consignment clothes, called ThredUp. You can sell your nice clothes to them (they send you a bag, you fill it with clothes, and send it back with free shipping) to earn $$, and can also get some great deals on really nice second hand clothes. I detest shopping and rarely do it but on the occasion that I do need to pick something up, I’ve found this to be a great option. (And no, I don’t work for them or know anyone who does.)

        Reply
  • Jack Daniels July 17, 2014, 11:03 am

    Many commenters have it dead on right about the stupid SUVs all over the place. I guess nowadays it’s the CUVs, which are still incredibly stupid and ugly (stink bug body style I call it), but I’d much rather have those on the road than a hulking truck framed 6000lb gas pig. And at least the bumpers line up slightly better.. In reality tho, the government regulations are to blame for the SUV/CUV. The CAFE regulations (originally designed to.. you guessed it.. REDUCE FUEL CONSUMPTION) allow less strict requirements for “light trucks”, and the bigger the “light truck”, the… (wait for it..) LESS EFFICIENT THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BE. How stupid. Anyway, CAFE directly led to the death of the station wagon and to the creation of the SUV since a wagon is considered a “passenger car” and therefore is given tougher standards to meet. Take the Honda Crosstour for example.. What is it? An Accord jacked up 2 inches and blamo, now it’s a “light truck” which means Honda can stick the old engine in there and get away with not meeting the CAFE requirements on it (Along with a higher center of gravity, worse handling and needlessly higher fuel consumption.) So this is the perfect example of the government regulations doing exactly the OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY INTENDED. And drive a Tahoe so you can feel safe? Really? So screw everyone else on the road while your overweight terrible handling POOR BRAKING DISTANCE tank kills someone else who is smarter than you? This doesn’t bode well for the gene pool. By the way, you hit a curb or a guard rail in a sedan, then you STAY ON THE ROAD most of the time at least… Yea you might have a bent rim, but at least you didn’t TRIP THE THING UP AND FLIP OVER 17 TIMES KILLING YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY AND COUNTLESS OTHERS IN YOUR PATH. And by the way, those silly bling 23 inch rims and tires cost way more to fix than those on a car. It’s this mentality: crash first, and deal with the consequences later..-that’s the issue with America, and it shows not only with our gluttonous vehicle choice, but especially in our spending habits. Why not do what another very intelligent person said on these comments? Get a used Volvo which is way safer than any Tahoe, and it can do a WAY BETTER JOB OF AVOIDING THE ACCIDENT TO BEGIN WITH. If you can’t stop hitting curbs, then stop texting, or turn in your drivers license, because you shouldn’t be on the road.

    Reply
    • Jack Daniels July 17, 2014, 11:33 am

      (Editor not working on Chrome.. so have to make a new comment..)
      And you speak of balance.. Going from a Prius to a Tahoe is about as balanced as a seesaw with the fat kid on the other end. Sorry, I just had to.

      Reply
      • 9 O'Clock Shadow July 17, 2014, 2:41 pm

        JD you just blew up the AM radio with that comment! Only thing missing at the end was the hissing sound of a cigarette being put out in someone’s overpriced latte!

        Reply
  • Ricky July 17, 2014, 11:08 am

    Ok… she’s definitely not trolling. Because what she says makes sense and then it doesn’t. She knows she needs certain things in life to be comfortable and make the journey tolerable, but she is looking at how to do those things the wrong way. Then again, the only blatantly obvious MMM sin she is committing is even thinking about a Tahoe. Going out to eat occasionally or having a coke isn’t blasphemous to the MMM lifestyle…

    20 min by car would be like 1.5 hours by bike if not more. I couldn’t agree with her more about the biking comment. MMM, you’re spoiled by living in a VERY bikeable area. 90% of America isn’t like Boulder. It just isn’t SAFE for most of America. Sure, she could move, but it sounds like she’s already planted pretty strong roots where she’s at.

    This is more of a personal problem she has with her SO than a problem with the MMM philosophy itself. It’s clear. I agree that she needs a purpose and a mutual understanding with her SO more than a punch in the face. There isn’t much else to comment on really.

    Reply
    • Matth July 17, 2014, 12:51 pm

      I strongly disagree with the comment that it just isn’t safe to bike commute. I grew up in one of the absolute worst places in the country for suburban sprawl and knew a number of people who safely rode bikes on a daily basis (at least during the spring-fall). It’s all about being seen and obeying traffic laws, especially not doing stupid stuff like riding the wrong way on sidewalks and blowing busy stop signs.

      Also, 20 minutes by car is a meaningless statement on its own. There are two possibilities that I see, though could be more:

      – She lives in a very spread out, nearly rural area, where she’s averaging upwards of 45 mph. In that case, yes, a bike would take forever, and they should consider moving. I know a place like this. The towns are about 15k people, separated by 7-10 miles, and it’s common for people to commute from one town to another* and consider it the same “area”, even though they’re driving through the open countryside.

      – She lives in a denser suburb, and she’s only averaging about 10 mph, in which case there’s a good chance a bike would take no longer and possibly even be faster. I know places like this, too; I even live in one.

      – The third possibility, which I’ll discount since she described her area as suburban, is that she lives in a true city . In this case, 20 minutes by car almost definitely is faster by bike, at least during the majority of the day.

      *It’s also possible to live one’s life entirely within one of the smaller towns, and use a bike. This is called not being stupid.

      Reply
      • Ricky July 17, 2014, 1:06 pm

        Ok, so you just said yourself that in 2/3 of the scenarios you listed are pro car. Yes it is possible that half of that twenty minutes is sitting in poor traffic, I’m not throwing that out the window.

        I’ll just give you my own scenario. I live 15 minutes from anywhere by car, in the mountains. There are so many curves and illegal immigrants and rednecks that there is NO way I’d risk being seen by anyone around one of the 50 curves on my way to work. I just wouldn’t. Someone has already died trying it. And he was a probably like 1/10,000 people that bike as a local here for commuting. It’s just not feasible where I live. This leads me to believe it’s just not feasible where a lot of other people live. Oh and Google Maps says it would take 1 hr 21 minutes for me to get to work by bike.

        My example is extreme, but relevant.

        I never really said it isn’t safe in general to commute by bike. But I did say it isn’t for most of America. Then again, I was referring to most of America geographically, not population wise. Most of America do live in big cities, yes. NYC, San Francisco, and DC, and you might include Portland though its not a big city, are the only three big cities on the way to elite status as a biking city. The rest are in the dust by miles. I’d still argue that its not safe for most Americans, geographically or statistically.

        Sadly, there are fewer bike friendly cities than there are bike-hatin’ cities. As a society, however, we are embracing the bike so that is a good thing and can only mean good things in the future like more separate bike lanes and bike lanes in general.

        Anyway, maybe I’m completely wrong on the whole subject. I just don’t feel its nearly as safe as somewhere like, say, Copenhagen or Amsterdam. That’s because it isn’t.

        Full disclosure: I own and ride my hybrid bike regularly. I love biking and eventually want to move to an urban enough area where biking is both safe and practical, therefore feasible. I desperately want to be able to commute by bike. I see myself moving in the not so distant future so that I can pursue a more lucrative career and ditch the car.

        Reply
        • Matth July 17, 2014, 2:57 pm

          I don’t know how you got “pro-car” out of my comments. There’s pro-moving-to-a-different-locale, anti-commuting-between-towns, and pro-bike. But no pro-car.

          Also, your picture of America’s biking situation is much grimmer than the reality. There are significantly more than 3 cities on their way to elite status; Chicago and Minneapolis are the largest near me. Most of the population lives in ideal areas for biking when looking at density. As I said in my initial response, I grew up in a nightmare of suburbia, as bad as any in the country. But people still biked regularly, and their numbers were on the increase when I moved away three years ago.

          It’s true that bicycling isn’t as safe, statistically speaking, in the US as it is in Europe. However, there’s little risk to biking in either country, especially when following the rules of the road and making oneself visible. You can do the research on the safety in the US, but….

          MMM already did: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06/13/bicycling-the-safest-form-of-transportation/

          His conclusions are backed up in countless studies, blog posts, and essays written over the years.

          I’m not saying that bicycle commuting is right for you, and it certainly sounds like you live in a logistically poor place. But you’re in the minority, not the 90% as you say (and as I think most people assume).

          Reply
        • Seth July 29, 2014, 9:38 am

          I understand what you mean about few biker friendly cities. I live outside of town and the road into town has no shoulders and the speed limit is 60 mph. Few bikers use it because several have been severely injured by motorists. In town it is slightly better. Our city (Billings, MT) has slowly been expanding its limited bike path system, and has even added bike lanes to some streets though most of the city seems to be designed with the assumption that everyone will drive. Motorists seem to have the same sentiment. Any time the city council proposes expanding cycling opportunities, anti-bicyclists come our of the woodwork to complain. The other day I witnessed a 300 lb tub of guts screaming at a woman on a bike to “get off the *** road!” I used to live in Missoula, MT which was the opposite. I biked to school and work everyday.

          Reply
      • Eldred July 17, 2014, 1:28 pm

        Or she lives in one suburb of a large city, and works in another suburb of that city. So longer distances, but not necessarily open countryside. My job is 20 minutes away by freeway for 90% of it, but if I leave too late the freeway is clogged. So it’s 30-40 minutes by surface streets. I’ll have to really pay attention to the time and mileage of the freeway compared to the surface streets. Now I’m curious… :-)

        Reply
      • Green Girl July 17, 2014, 1:32 pm

        I agree that for most people biking is not as dangerous as they think. Driving is actually the most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis and it is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in children and teenagers. And let’s not forget the danger of inactivity. I rode my bike to a meeting with a colleague and I told him that I sold my car. He gave me a lecture on how dangerous bike commuting can be, right after he told me that he and his wife both have diabetes. People just think about the idea of a horrible accident, but forget about the slow death from the diseases of a modern American lifestyle.

        Reply
  • Barbara July 17, 2014, 11:10 am

    Hey y’all. I don’t think the writer is a troll. I think she’s a man. I think this guy is trying to change their lives and having difficulty convincing his wife to get on the frugality bus, so he wrote a letter from “her” point of view. Maybe their marriage counselor is getting them to try to see the situation from each other’s point of view, and this is his sarcastic version of that.

    In my first marriage, I was the frugal woman married to the spendy man. I should have known that the marriage was doomed when he told me he didn’t have a savings account.

    What I’d say to both of them is, how committed are you to being married? There’s no right and wrong here. They obviously make a lot of money, and have been able to live in such a way that they’ve retired a lot of debt in a short time. There is a vast middle ground between sitting on a blow up couch and a pottery barn fantasy house. As someone who hates to spend money, I can tell you that finding the middle ground (not feeling poor) can make your life happier without impeding saving toward FI. Driving lessons instead of an SUV. A new sofa from the clearance floor or Overstock.com. Dinner out or a coffee drink every once in awhile if that’s a treat that floats your boat. If I were writing to her, I’d suggest she ask family members for gift cards to Starbucks and beauty salons for occasions so she can continue to do what gives her pleasure.

    But I think he’s the writer. So to him I say lighten up a little. It is life enhancing to live in a nice place. There are ways to have nice things that don’t cost a lot of money. And if a $3 latte once in awhile makes your wife happy, let it go. Divorce is a whole lot more expensive. And it sucks for a long time.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque July 17, 2014, 11:35 am

      The phrase “pottery barn fantasy house” sent a chill down my spine, and not in the good way.
      I look into the time vortex and see a long tunnel, full of clutter, extending to the end of time.
      The horror.
      I must look away.

      Reply
      • Jenni July 18, 2014, 10:01 am

        If the guy is the writer he has done himself no favors. He must be even worse IRL.

        Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque July 18, 2014, 12:07 pm

          Although that idea has a bit of allure.
          How much fun would it be to write a letter, as if I were Mrs. Toque, complaining about me?
          It’s enough, however, that these are real complaints that are, generally, made by real people about the Mustachian lifestyle. So they’re still worth addressing.

          Reply
  • Even Steven July 17, 2014, 11:10 am

    I think the problems she has is mostly just no give and take, especially in the beginning of a change of lifestyle. Something as simple as you can have that Tahoe, all you have to do is sell the Prius, find one that’s only 10% of your household income, pay cash, and create enough side income to cover the gas/insurance/repairs. As a husband with a spouse who likes to spend money, but also enjoys saving it, there is some give and take, I find it more important that we are on the same path, something will break down otherwise.

    Reply
  • JCP July 17, 2014, 11:11 am

    OMG!!!! I could have written this myself. I love this post and my husband feared I may have written it myself. I have three kids and self sacrifice NON STOP! I do not want to be eating Costco rice for the rest of my life so I can have my hubby wandering around retired early a good 7 years after I needed him home to actually help me with the kids! NO THANKS. Find a job you love and live a good life whilst spending wisely- THE END!

    Reply
  • chacha1 July 17, 2014, 11:16 am

    I read this exchange as being sincere. I think the writer is sincerely troubled about the state of her marriage, and sincerely tired of pinching pennies when she is not seeing any rewards – immediate or future – that are congruent with what SHE wants. If I can get all subtextual for a minute, I might even speculate that she is worried that her husband may decide kids are just too expensive – and she clearly wants to have kids.

    I also think she exaggerated or overstated some things for effect, but that doesn’t mean her underlying issues are invalid. There is no reason to take offense because someone wants different things from you, unless they are trying to take something away from you in order to get what they want. I appreciate that MMM is trying to get to the bottom of it in a constructive way (without getting all “oh poor baby” with it, because that would not be MMM).

    Enraged Reader needs a mediator, I think, in the household money conflict. It is pretty hard to argue that two qualified medical professionals should “need” to live in a crappy apartment, with an old Aerobed for a couch, and fight over buying a cup of Starbucks. The husband is not finding a way to communicate how he thinks the MMM message can work for them. He is just, from the sound of it, trying to impose the message. She is trying to get with the program but the language isn’t working for her. That doesn’t make her wrong.

    Reply
  • MooseOutFront July 17, 2014, 11:26 am

    This part:
    “My understanding of the MMM lifestyle is that you work hard to be poor while your young so that you can be poor without working when you’re old.”

    Made me laugh. I have to approach this whole MMM thing very carefully with my wife to prevent her from ending up with this same exact ultimate conclusion. While it’s true that the math behind early retirement works by sustaining the low level of spending, people that haven’t seen the light overestimate the joy that spending gives them. In the above referenced example, the husband I think has clearly done of a poor job of communicating and implementing this plan. You can’t go full mustachian without your spouse on board. And if you make as much as they do it’s OK to ease in a little more gently than he has.

    Reply
  • partgypsy July 17, 2014, 11:27 am

    My view is that although some of the comments may be a bit tongue in cheek, she is not a troll. Maybe you all have been spending too much time on this forum but a lot of her comments (about the car etc) are rationalizations I have heard from other people why they don’t ride bike, drive an SUV, etc. She is actually a very funny writer, and comes off not as stupid. They need to be on the road to retirement together he has obviously not gotten buy in yet. I wouldn’t call myself mustachian but just trying to do better, and hubby and I haven’t been able to make much progress because we disagree in what it is important to spend money on, and he doesn’t like talking about money or long term plans. So it’s hard to have a vision of the future for us both to invest in.

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque July 17, 2014, 11:27 am

    I have to agree with a number of commenters here: the idea that woman are naturally spendy is false.
    Admittedly, the advertising industry is behind this: it’s in their best interests to convince women that they are natural consumers and that there is a such a thing at “retail therapy” for spending your way out of a mental depression.
    Not that men don’t spend money, we’ve just been socialized to be vulnerable to different tricks.
    For myself, Mrs. Toque was far more frugal than I was. Maybe that’s cultural (I’ll see your sexism and raise you some racism? No, thanks.) and maybe that’s personal, but she was ahead of me on that curve.
    On the other hand, you really don’t need to live in poverty to be Mustachian. You can have nice things. They just have be thoughtfully purchased, notably improve your happiness, and cost way, way less than what you make.

    Reply
    • Heather July 17, 2014, 12:21 pm

      I totally agree with your statement about retail therapy. I really do think it is a marketing strategy to make us think it will solve our emotional problems. The shopper’s high usually is followed by the crashing withdrawal of buyer’s remorse.

      Reply
    • mary w July 20, 2014, 4:13 pm

      I think that in general men and women splurge on different things. Women as a group spend more on clothes, grooming and household decorating items. Men tend to spend more on cars, technology and dates . IME spending on alcohol, tobacco, entertainment, and gambling variety tremendous among people of similar income but doesn’t seem influenced by gender.

      That doesn’t mean that every woman cares about clothing and doesn’t care about cars. It’s just a broad generalization. However, having different splurges can lead to conflict. I’ve had 4 cars in the last 40 years while DH has had 4 in this century which seems totally wasteful to me. However, he didn’t bitch about the cost of my clothing when I worked so I kept/keep my mouth closed.

      Reply
  • jessica July 17, 2014, 11:34 am

    Looks like you need to start A Reddit spinoff MMM/nosleep in the forum. Perhaps As A Community We Can Offer Some therapy.

    Reply
  • Darren July 17, 2014, 11:36 am

    Idea: Sell the Prius, buy a used Yaris, and with all the new money, buy a decent couch and bed (then invest the rest for a down payment on a house). Compromise and your marriage will be much better. Oh, and Mr. Orthodontist should not let his patients sit and wait for him to surf the internet. Put your customers first if you want a successful business. Finally, maybe your husband doesn’t want to be gluing painful contraptions to adolescent mouths for the rest of his life, maybe he wants to retire in 10 years. Talk about your dreams together.

    Reply
  • Frugal Paragon July 17, 2014, 11:44 am

    Why on God’s green earth is she still sitting on a broken inflatable couch? I wonder if she is holding out for something really fancy that her husband won’t go for, as opposed to something nice from a home consignment store or something.

    They do seem mismatched. Husband is not selling the lifestyle–he’s cheap, not Mustachian, to judge by the broken couch. He needs to show her how she can have the things that are MOST important to her and enjoy new things, too, instead of it just feeling like one long deprivation. They’re each dug in in their corners.

    Reply
  • Denise July 17, 2014, 11:47 am

    I am a female ‘stachian. I found MMM by reading Early Retirement Extreme, the book and blog. I’m the financial planner in our family. Even though my husband has never read either blog, nor does he care too, he is largely in agreement with the savings/life style strategies I’ve employed in our lives. I pour over financial planning books and blogs while the furthest my husband ever got was to listen to me summarize “Your Money or Your Life.” I think there’s a lot to be said about finding your comfort level so you don’t feel totally deprived. Some people are okay with beans and rice everyday, some aren’t. There are so many places to cut from in the normal American budget that everyone can find places to cut. You don’t need to do stuff like live with a blow up couch. You can find a great couch for $50 on craigslist that will make you feel like you’re living large instead of coming home to a sad couch you want to stab with a knife. A large part of the plan is to be ingenious. Not just do without, but how can we get what we want without paying the “normal” price. That takes some creativity and that’s more where the fun of it is. The early part of marriage is a huge learning curve regardless. You’ve got to learn where to give or else you’ll end up with the biggest expense of all: divorce.

    Reply
    • Niusha July 20, 2014, 11:26 am

      Denise, your comment made me smile. It’s exactly the same way in our home. I’m the financial planner, I found MMM through Early Retirement Extreme, I read a lot of financial/investment books and blogs while the most my husband does is listen to me summarize, but he is too in agreement-mostly- with financial strategies I come up with.

      Reply
  • Dr Bill July 17, 2014, 11:56 am

    Dear Enraged:
    First, a huge congrats on getting the student loans (for both of you, I assume) paid and over. I conclude you saw the enormous advantages of eliminating them rapidly, that person with a debt has made a claim on future earnings that cannot be guaranteed. Ever. Never, no never.

    One of MMM’s techniques, and I’ve used it with my wife to great effect, is to cost out the expenses of a desired item over 10 years. With cars, it takes a bit of work. You should lay out a few scenarios from brand-new to 8 years old with 50K miles. You’ll spend as much as your student loans. Do you REALLY want to do that? On an asset that loses value over time?

    Most important, alluded to by others, define what financial independence (FI) means to you. MMM defines it in terms of time to spend on more valuable priorities that would otherwise have to take a back seat to work. If those priorities (such as kids) have a limited window of opportunity, then lack of FI often means opportunities lost, not just deferred. TO avoid these self examinations (though to be honest it should be on a nice sofa) is to accept the consequences of current choices and priorities, unexamined though they would be. Has the hub given his five year goal and ten year goal? With kids, these are necessary. Is he getting his butt out of the office to spend time with the kids and you?

    I’ll keep it this short in hopes you’ll read it. Knucklehead needs to reevaluate his as well, because cheapness is as damaging as extravagance. You are a sufferer of the consequences of his unexamined choices as well.

    Reply
  • Jim July 17, 2014, 12:04 pm

    It sounds like the angry reader and her husband make ample money to try a strategy I’ve incorporated. That is to set a very high savings rate, and don’t worry too much beyond that rate of savings. My wife and I have been priveleged to earn far more than average, in a relatively inexpensive part of the country (Cleveland OH) so the way I incorporate the Mustachian ideals is to make sure that 40% of our take home salaries are invested (in Vanguard Index funds of course). We own 3 homes (two rentals) and our stash is growing quite nicely despite having one SUV (and one car) which are not yet paid for. I agree with the reader lady, it’s nice to see over the cars in front of you. If you have a plan, and that plan has you retiring when you want, age 50 for me, then I feel the rest of the spending is discretionary. Some people want to race to retirement, I’m perfectly content walking there.

    Reply
  • SisterX July 17, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Yeah, I’m offended by the idea that this is a blog by, for, and about “manly things”. In my marriage, I’m the one who discovered the site and reads it. My husband is frugal, but I only pass along the posts I think he’ll read, which isn’t all that many. Other than that, it’s useful to us as a base of “how do WE feel about this idea?” It’s been said to death that the husband is approaching this the wrong way, so I won’t add my thoughts on that.
    As for the car, I have a baby and a small dog and a Subaru Something Something Sport. Not the full Outback, but a smaller hatchback. We’ve had NO trouble transporting everything we could possibly need, including the diapers which had been (gasp!) crapped in by other babies first. And that’s without even using the roof rack yet! So, point her our way and I can extoll the virtues of a small car and kids, not to mention used baby items and the complete and utter lack of a need for most strollers. (If you take me up on that offer, send me a message over the forum. The email I list here is my junk email address. The forum one will actually get to me.)

    Reply
  • Emmie O July 17, 2014, 12:10 pm

    Wow.

    I’m a single Mom and live a very frugal life, partly by choice, and partly by necessity. I live near Houston, so bikes are out of the question for the summer months, but I bought a house 2 miles from work and that was one of the smartest decisions that I’ve made in a long time. I’ve been in the house for 5 years and I’m already halfway through my mortgage. I hope to have it paid off in the next couple of years.

    I chose my house for it’s location and for the huge back yard. I am gradually putting in an edible landscape and I am saving tons of money on the grocery bills. I didn’t do it to be cheap, I just love to garden.

    I make my own clothes, and I also do that because I enjoy it. I’ve been inspired by some wonderful refashioning blogs and I now have an obscene amount of clothes, which always receive compliments. I have so many that I constantly recycle them back to the thrift store where I bought them in the first place.

    OK, so that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s confirmation that money and things don’t buy happiness, and attitude is everything. I hope this gal can see that for herself one of these days. As for me, I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I had all the money in the world. Now THAT is freedom!

    Reply
    • Green Girl July 17, 2014, 12:39 pm

      Hi Emmie, I agree with just about everything you wrote. I don’t make my own clothes, but I do buy almost everything from a thrift store and I also get tons of compliments on my clothes. I also bought a condo in a downtown area so that I don’t need a car. I live in Arkansas and I bike and walk several miles ever day, all summer long. I do sweat, but I have tips and tricks to make it work, even for business meetings.

      Reply
    • Green Girl July 17, 2014, 12:40 pm

      Hi Emmie, I agree with just about everything you wrote. I don’t make my own clothes, but I do buy almost everything from a thrift store and I also get tons of compliments on my clothes. I also bought a condo in a downtown area so that I don’t need a car. I live in Arkansas and I bike and walk several miles ever day, all summer long. I do sweat, but I have tips and tricks to make it work, even for business meetings.

      Reply
    • Becky July 18, 2014, 10:51 am

      I just wanted to say that I was really inspired by your comment. I was raised by a single frugal mom, – however instead of the the happy and fulfilled vibe that comes across in your comment, we were constantly reminded that we lived the way we did because “she was single and we were poor”. As a result, I’ve always been incredibly frugal and while I’m grateful for that, I’ve come at it from a place of fear, not a “position of strength”. You are teaching your child(ren) great lessons about attitude! Only now (I’m in my late 30’s) am I finally starting to realize that I may not die a bag-lady on the streets. I, too, wouldn’t change much about my frugal lifestyle – I also have a number of frugal hobbies I truly enjoy. What I would change is the attitude of constant fear and worry that were always (and sometimes still are) behind my frugal habits.

      Reply
      • rob July 19, 2014, 2:02 pm

        funny my wife grew up,very poor and it created the opposite, spend money now before it disappears. Took about 20 years to turn that around and finally now in our 30th year of marriage we finally got it right. only regret was not learning about this sooner

        Reply
    • Sarah July 20, 2014, 5:38 pm

      Not sure if this is too off topic but I would love to hear more about resources for refashioning/sewing your own clothes! I recently bought a second-hand sewing machine and am not really sure where to begin…would you consider starting a thread in the MMM forum?

      Reply
      • Sarah July 21, 2014, 2:35 am

        Hello fellow Sarah! Try checking out the Refashionista (first result on google search). She has refashioned hundreds of thrift store finds and talks a lot about the financial and ethical advantages of refashioning. She’s incredibly tiny, so many of her refasions have to be switched around a little if a medium doesn’t fit you like a tent, but there’s some great inspiration there.

        Reply
  • EL July 17, 2014, 12:22 pm

    If you take it all into account she is complaining because she can’t agree with her husband. It has to be that she wants to keep up with the joneses, and because of debt she can’t. I can’t fathom how a dentist and a nurse practioner can’t buy a mattress or a couch. Umm something is off with this budget. A tahoe to store toys, this is just too funny. I laughed the whole time reading her emails.

    Reply
  • NoraTheGradStudent July 17, 2014, 12:23 pm

    I have to agree with previous comments that this particular email exchange sounds like it might be a troll, but I think it still speaks to the way a lot of the uninitiated can feel about mustachianism. I think there’s room here for a really useful discussion.

    I think it’s a mistake to start your conversations with your partner about mustachianism with what they can’t have, what should be cut back. I think successfully incorporating these ideals into your partnership has to start from a place of “What makes our lives feel rich? What do we do that makes us happy? What keeps us from doing more of that?”

    If you’re already unhappy and you don’t think you have answers to those questions, it’s going to feel pretty upsetting that your partner also wants to deny you your quick fixes. It might be a little different for people with a lot of debt. “What makes my life more fulfilling? Uh, not being under a mountain of debt…” That seems like a fairly common way people arrive at mustachianism.

    If you’re already doing well financially, and you don’t already see some ways in which your life would be richer if you spent less, it can all sound like a pointless exercise in self-denial. And if you’re already not very happy in your life and still believe the story you’ve been fed about how it’s the McMansion, the fancy car, the material status symbols, and the cushy luxuries that are going to allow your future life to be fulfilling, it could be downright scary and depressing to have your partner inform you that you won’t have any of these things. Being denied the picture of the future that you’ve always equated with fulfillment, told that it’s wasteful and a lie, and (at least as far as what’s described in the emails) getting no support in creating a new picture of the future, might make someone cling irrationally to that old picture.

    We all have our own Tahoes. I’m usually a couple steps behind my partner in the mustachian lifestyle. I feel the need to say, not because I am a woman, but because we were raised to think about money differently and because it took me a little longer to stop seeing all my impulse/quickfix/lazy purchases as bottles of coke and start seeing them as Tahoes. It’s a process. I’m still working on letting go of some of the Tahoes. (Damn you Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Froyo!) Others, like the trips to the salon to get fancy highlights, I can’t imagine how I ever justified them to myself.

    Reply
  • Livesimplecolorado July 17, 2014, 12:29 pm

    I thought the email was hilarious, and I do agree with MMM that there is a fine line between frugality and cheapness and it is easy to cross over that line and suck the joy out of every purchase and every financial choice you make.

    I grew up with parents that crossed the boundary of frugal into cheap and it really did make me crazy. We are talking depression era mindset, everything is recycled and repurposed. A paper towel is used, dried and reused again and again. A paper plate can be reused too if you just ate a bagel on it. Food never got thrown out despite the fact that it smelled bad. Moldy bread, well you just cut the mold off and eat the good parts right? I saw my parents struggle because of poor financial choices, cutting back on things but never really getting ahead. They never seemed to enjoy life and money was a constant source of argument. Then when my father passed away it really dawned on me how little he got out of all of those monetary sacrifices.

    There has to be balance in life.

    So when this person writes about her hubby, it sounds like he has crossed that boundary big time. I am frugal but if i want to buy an over priced Starbucks once in a blue moon, or meet a friend for a drink after work, then so what? Life is about balance and choices, if you want to have financial freedom and perhaps are willing to postpone that out for a few years because you want to take a vacation here and there, that is your choice.

    Poor, poverty, is a mindset. Sacrifice is a choice too, we give things up so that we can enjoy a greater reward later on but if you go through life with that mindset then no matter what, you will never feel like you have “good enough” and you will never learn to appreciate what you have, savor the occasional Starbucks and by all means upgrade the blow up couch (craigslist?).

    Reply
  • Jerry July 17, 2014, 12:32 pm

    What if your spouse doesn’t mind cutting the small things in life like regular shopping trips, lattes, eating out regularly, etc. but insist on the big ticket items like a big house, Ivy League educations for the children, an SUV, etc?

    Reply
  • Dina July 17, 2014, 12:33 pm

    I’m frugal, I’m a woman, its complete bullshit that there’s anything inherently anti-woman or pro-man in what MMM writes, blah blah blah etc

    That said — if this woman is for real (obviously, that’s a big IF), I’m sympathetic to the fact that her husband doesn’t seem to be considering her or discussing things and consulting her as a true partner would. Regardless of whose outlook and preferences I personally side with more, it’s not acceptable for one partner to be disregarding the other, and I sincerely hope these two can have some better communication, compromise, and get on the same path

    Reply
  • Britt July 17, 2014, 12:34 pm

    Is this for real? People really think like this? But……this does not compute……

    Yet another female here, giving a shout out to all the awesome frugal ladies at MMM! I was the one to get a bike for commuting and inspire my husband to do the same, I was the one to suggest we NOT get a replacement when our only car was totaled last fall (I should have thanked the other driver for t-boning me and inspiring this), and I’m proud to be getting stronger and less c0mplainy-pants every day. Ladies rock!

    Reply
  • 13. July 17, 2014, 12:36 pm

    >how can you completely turn this perspective on its head and end up with a person that actually enjoys frugality?
    The reality is there is no choice but to accept less and smarter consumption. We need to move on. Jacob linked to a documentary last night that illustrates the point “There’s No Tomorrow” (http://youtu.be/VOMWzjrRiBg). Might as well adapt sooner than later so you can enjoy all the amazing benefits as a result: determination, fulfillment, knowledge, self sufficiency, freedom.. and you’ll find “Re-happiness”. Get over yourself Princess (and Princes out there). You share the Earth. No whining. Be the best you can be. You know whether or not you are giving your best. You can do it. We’re going to have to lead the charge to a smarter future. We can’t afford to quibble about what we used to have access to when it never should have been available to begin with (but became only out of our weakness). We need your humor & writing skills along the way. Let’s go!

    Reply
  • Ted Hu July 17, 2014, 12:41 pm

    I think MMM lifestyle is not a pragmatic one for most people. Most people are impoverished not just in money saved but also bandwidth available. A dr and nurse practitioner have the luxury of time to assess money saving lifestyle (or procrastinate). Many more don’t have that luxury.

    In other words, I think MMM is not up to speed on the latest in behavioral economics and is oft subject to confirmation bias that he is missing the opportunity to help a much broader swatch of people than he is currently.

    Consider this for starters. NYT: No Money, No Time: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/no-clocking-out/

    Rather than assert dogmatically how ultra-slim financially people can get, a more real world approach would be a multi-tiered one that focuses on a pareto optimized (80/20) approach. As an economist, that is what I do. What are the big rocks that account for most of the expenses at the margin that when accrued over time make up the most significant costs.

    Otherwise, it is a machine gun misfire of tips and tricks that amount to a mishmash of knowledge that works for some and not for others, depending on their available bandwidth to process and refine their financial and personal lives.

    And to the writer’s point, utility is subjective and incomparable. Common sense aside, the great economist Paul Samuelson established that long ago.

    We drive two SUVs and look for ways to batch our trips. We have a kid and live in a pretty walkable suburb but just don’t have 30 minutes to spare everyday walking given those 30 minutes present a high oppty cost to us. However, we do walk more on the weekends. Those are marginal savings given the costs.

    Higher yield bigger rock savings is buying a rather expensive sous vide on costco.com so we could cook a lot more at home within the time and taste and cost constraints cutting our eating out costs by ⅔. Or paying off both our SUVs so we eliminate a grand a month in expenses with a 10 year warranty on both with plans to drive those into the ground.

    The key is to optimize and maximize one’s *relative* gains in savings, not assert an absolute baseline that is predicated on geography, bandwidth-availability, to lifestyle differences.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque July 18, 2014, 3:11 pm

      You’re discussing pareto optimization for the masses, and you’re driving a pair of SUVs in a family of three people? A first order approximation yields that roughly 0% of the population benefits from that.
      I don’t know how long you’ve been hanging around here, but there isn’t a “machine gun” of tips and tricks. There’s a basic lifestyle change.
      Why don’t you have time to bike to work? Is it because you’re living too far from work? Why do you drive not one, but TWO SUVs? Are you and your spouse both construction workers or US Forestry agents who must climb rocky terrain to get to your outposts every day? If so, could you commute together in just one SUV?
      And you don’t *pay off* an SUV. Even paid off, they continue to take a toll on both your finances (insurance, gas, maintenance) and the environment (gas refining and pollution). You *sell* SUVs and get smaller cars.
      These aren’t “machine gunfire” tricks.
      This is a way of life embracing the realization that happiness isn’t born of luxury.
      No one here is telling you that you must take on every piece of advice MMM doles out. (although I can’t imagine a two SUV family getting approval from anyone).
      What we’re telling you is to look around and realize those land-tanks are costing a lot and aren’t contributing in any way to your happiness.

      Reply
      • Ted Hu July 18, 2014, 4:10 pm

        Frugal Torque –

        The reason we got SUVs was safety for our child.

        We had a string of misfortunes over the years. A series of car accidents where the other SUVs got the better end of the bargain. To our child’s congenital heart defect and unexpectedly required surgery at birth, after almost dying at a local Seattle hospital, if not for our negotiating with the insurance company a private jet flight out to Stanford which saved his life, all the while fighting the horde of medical professionals from nearly killing him. Instead they only handicapped him developmentally, which we are currently recovering from.

        And that is the cliff notes version.

        So despite being a progressively liberal and pragmatic economic decision maker, we decided to buy an SUV. We’ve had too many 1 in 100,000 shit happen to our family.

        At the margin, we bought 2 cheap Korean SUVs with 10 year warranties to boot. Within our safety valuation, we decided to tradeoff accordingly, getting 2 instead of one sparkly BMV equivalent. My wife buses to work daily taking all of 10 minutes, with a bus arriving every 10 minutes daily. Our 2nd SUV lays dormant used when we have errands, therapy, hospital visits and need to juggle the complexities of our life and the time compression that oftentimes occurs. We don’t get to bike to visit the doctor in Seattle from eastside Bellevue, or the 3 separate therapy sessions that occur in a given day. We use one SUV 90% of the time, with 1 SUV as backup for 10% of the time when life’s unexpected shizzle calls for it.

        That is in part what our FI affords us. A continuum of choices that minimize big rock costs all the while optimizing what we value most. We don’t get to live in special bubbles and brag about it online snarking presumptuously on everybody else’s supposedly stupidity.

        Only those who naively live in cloistered bubbled worlds with a string of good luck get to come across so smug. It is also asinine and ludicrous to those of us who experience even a modicum of a “shit happens” world, aka the real world outside of beautiful rural CO and its ilk.

        Returning back to my point again, life is complicated. People who assert absolutist positions all the while trying to cater to an ever expanding audience should realize the world is a complex place requiring a whole continuum of evolutionary adaptations, financial and otherwise.

        In the rarefied world where one don’t mind biking with your kid in tow never been in close calls even once living away from dense population centers, more power to you. There are those of us who while FI value different things that may often balk a “movement” like this, and frankly find the holier than thou assertions insulting and naive.

        Great you get to live your life in an ultra optimized fashion. That is very well a first world problem with social investments to buttress your every move. Try doing the same in Somalia.

        These are machine gunfired tricks simply because they are of one frame fitting specific scenarios unique to MMM’s economic geography. He tries to make exceptions to fit special cases outside its boundaries but the fact remains. There is a silent majority who need a more broadly adaptable and structured framework that focus on big rocks on down categorized by the main facets of life, transport, school, food, entertainment, home improvements, dare I say design patterns for pragmatic frugality. These ah shucks why don’t the world grok the obvious posts only work for those who live in similar bubbles.

        Like I said, to me, relative 2nd and 3rd order improvements are what’s key. And in my case, I am a macro long investor who gets double digit returns living off our accumulated wealth, and as such have the goal in 2-3 years to buy a Tesla Model X while selling off our two SUVs in the process.

        And like the writer, I sympathize with her valuing the occasional well brewed drink at say the local Coffee Bean. I also brew my own ice tea 80% of the time. The key is to set your goals achievable and raise the bar incrementally. Not declare some dogmatic high bar tuned to one frequency and lambast the world for not getting your version of the truth.

        And before the predictable retort asserting ours is the edge case, I will just say you simply haven’t lived long enough, nor met a sufficient diversity of people and lives other than those like yourself. That is the libertarian-streaked achilles heel, imho, a heavy dose of confirmation bias, with brain wiring making it rather difficult to process big rocks instead focusing on small rock optimizations presuming the world is mechanistic almost Newtonian.

        And despite being techies, somehow skipped college just so, never having studied the Copenhagen Interpretation or quantum mechanics nor had any rendezvous with its big cousins Shit Happens and Murphy’s Law.

        Reply
        • Leslie July 18, 2014, 4:41 pm

          Raising the bar incrementally has been our road to FI and it is fun looking back at all the changes that made it possible. We are grateful we were able to do it given the pressure to buy into the hyper consumer mindset.

          Reply
        • Janie July 19, 2014, 3:37 pm

          Mr. Ted Hu –
          Thank you for so eloquently pointing out the constraints under which many live. Often these aren’t just behavioral or economic, but health, family responsibilities, and yes — the inevitable “shit happens.”

          FI is a continuum, and hopefully we can progress along it and loosen constraints which are in our control. Unfortunately, there are some things that are not. In addition, I think there is a whole slew of circumstances that may be somewhat controllable or changeable but also take time to adjust. For instance, it does little to scream at the person who lives in an isolated geographic area to “get a job closer to home” so they can ride a bike when such jobs are in short supply. Or when the nearest jobs with living wages and benefits are a minimum of 20 miles away. When people harangue on one another about such things on this site I think it’s presumptuous and — at times — sanctimonious.

          I’m okay with presenting the far end of the continuum as MMM does. It’s good to be challenged and to think about how to loosen the shackles and make better choices for our time, health, and money. But failure to achieve this “ideal” should not be demonized.

          Reply
      • Ted Hu July 18, 2014, 4:56 pm

        And for the vast majority who aren’t FI like us, this article again keeps it real, with the latest real-world behavioral economic research.

        NYT: No Money, No Time: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/no-clocking-out/

        In a nutshell:
        “When we think of poverty, we tend to think about money in isolation: How much does she earn? Is that above or below the poverty line? But the financial part of the equation may not be the single most important factor. “The biggest mistake we make about scarcity,” Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist at Harvard who is a co-author of the book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much,” tells me, “is we view it as a physical phenomenon. It’s not.”

        “There are three types of poverty,” he says. “There’s money poverty, there’s time poverty, and there’s bandwidth poverty.” The first is the type we typically associate with the word. The second occurs when the time debt of the sort I incurred starts to pile up.

        And the third is the type of attention shortage that is fed by the other two: If I’m focused on the immediate deadline, I don’t have the cognitive resources to spend on mundane tasks or later deadlines. If I’m short on money, I can’t stop thinking about today’s expenses — never mind those in the future. In both cases, I end up making decisions that leave me worse off because I lack the ability to focus properly on anything other than what’s staring me in the face right now, at this exact moment.”

        Reply
        • Monica July 18, 2014, 6:47 pm

          Ted,

          You seem angry. Was it you who left diatribes on a past post filled with tons of sophisticated economic theoretical parlance? Perhaps that was someone else.

          At any rate, what I appreciate about MMM’s writing is that he shares his very specific worldview to the, well …. world. That takes moxy. What’s really great about it is that he is specific, authentic, and cuts a clear path to both FI and conscious, efficient living. In doing so, he opens up his life to all of us readers to pick apart, examine, argue, criticize, rant against, but best of all, challenge ourselves to improve…

          In the comments you wrote, I dare say, that you also appear to have a very specific worldview … I’m sure given the opportunity, you also would draw ire, criticism and diatribes on the limitations of your own particular world view should you share it similarly with the world. (Btw, you appear to wave a proletarian flag for those who are not yet FI like yourself, but comments re: being in line for the Tesla to the nth degree X model make your “I’m sticking up for the common man/woman who isn’t as FI as ‘us'” come across as somewhat disingenuous.)

          I’m not yet FI, but close. I don’t live in a bubble. I’ve been through a lot of deeply, heart-rendingly, tragic events myself. But, I do, in fact, find the MMM approach very pragmatic. This blog is a text book illustration of pragmatism. He often offers up a problem then approaches it in a logical and practical way and then, gasp, shows us how he solved it. Happily, the blog is not one that preaches economic theory (else, I’d never read it); rather, it illustrates one family’s application of efficient living. If this is not the meaning of pragmatism, what is? I value ideas that are new to me which assist me in becoming ever more empowered in all areas of my life. To that end, this blog is deeply appreciated.

          I guess what I don’t understand, and am very curious about, is that if you disagree with MMM’s perspective to the degree that it draws vitriol, why continue to be an avid reader? You clearly have a lot to say, and a lot to share, perhaps you should start your own blog? Perhaps you can provide, as you said, a more broadly adaptable and structured framework…

          Reply
          • Ted Hu July 18, 2014, 10:07 pm

            Is annoyed and mildly offended angry? who knows. who cares. Life’s short.

            I respond in line with a basic rule I abide by, and that is I happily take the kinda’ crap I throw out. I expect the same from a self-proclaimed bad-ass as MMM.

            Since as somebody else noted earlier more genteelly, if only MM would change his tone just a smudge, he would actually reach out to women better without having to change the substance of what he’s trying to convey.

            My critique was almost as simple – and the very reason you hold him so dear – he offers real world advice that you find concrete and valuable. More power to you; you all share the same frequency and life experiences.

            However, the premise and philosophy that he bases his advice on is patently flawed and not backed by data nor by life experiences like mine which don’t fit into such well buttoned optimizable scenarios where a bike is the solution to all transport, for ex.

            Delving further, so what of those people that must retain their cars? Are they heathens, untouchables? I hope not. And thus an actual challenge rolled into my seemingly fiery critique. Focus on what is achievable for people other than yourselves, stop making it an ironman contest of which your rules driving this so called movement admit a few but deny the vast majority of the world that are bandwidth impoverished, requiring much more incremental tips and tricks; again, see NYT article. It’s a great thoughtful non-vitriolic piece, I promise.

            None of what I said amount to vitriol imho. It is throwing the same level of machismo-infused certitude and principled assertions from the other side of the rubicon back, just a small attempt to break the bubble that is this movement – introducing more diversity of thought and counterfactuals that don’t seem to make it into this realm of the intertubes.

            Personally, in real life, my approach is far more Socratic. I like the back and forth looking at complexity from as many different angles as affordable. But like I said, I am also a pragmatist happy to throw back machismo that people lard my way.

            While you may dismiss economics, and rightly so I might add given the recent mess, I studied and grew up with it, and have since used it as a foundation to grow a series of mental models that span beyond arithmetically driven personal finance optimizations that is the basis of this blog. I use it to invest my money – spending as much time MMM does on his blog, on growing my wealth with moderate risk, yielding double digit rates investing as a macro long-term investor.

            My goal is to minimize costs and maximize returns, making my money work harder for me while I make every penny count.

            Dare I say, that is the big gap in MMM land.

            Btw, a mental model looks like this –
            http://www.gurufocus.com/news/236642/charlie-munger-lattice-work-of-mental-models-math-economics-accounting–engineering

            MMM touches on it fleetingly – inversion, 80/20, diminishing marginal returns, scale economies, confirmation bias, and so forth – but really does it severe injustice when he does so.

            I digress.

            By doing nothing on the front of how to grow wealth because one shuns macroeconomics out of prejudice or otherwise, denies a whole series of tools that are superior to just advising people to throw their money into an “all market fund” that, for example, for most of the 2000s was flatline, is a very flat earthed view of the world which essentially leaves your money flying in the wind to a very generic personal finance dogma that does not stand up to theory or data.

            Doing nothing is also doing something I often say. By doing nothing except park money is a low fee mutual fund is a bit lopsided – spending so much time on cost minimization but nary a day on wealth maximization is not how millionaires next door do it. http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stanley-millionaire.html

            The Millionaire Next Door uses Mr. Willis as an example. He is a six-figure, very successful executive for Walmart. He has been employed there for 10 years, during which the company has been explosively growing. Stock prices have shot up in this 10-year period of time. During this enormous growth period, Mr. Willis bought zero shares of the company he worked for, although he had firsthand knowledge of its success. A characteristic that determines if the individual is a UAW (under accumulator of wealth) is their belief about investing. A UAW will usually state the following about investing: “it’s hopeless,” or “I never have the time needed to make it pay off,” or “we have never made so much… but the more we earn, the less we seem to accumulate.” Other remarks might include, “Our careers take up all of our time,” or “I don’t have 20 hours a week to fool around with my money”. An UAW does not spend a considerable amount of time evaluating their investment strategies. On average, they’ll invest only 4.6 hours a month evaluating their investment portfolios. This is about 83% less than the amount of time a PAW (prodigious accumulator of wealth) allocates to financial planning. Minimal time dedicated to financial planning is a leading indicator of a UAW. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Millionaire_Next_Door#Investing_strategies

            Anyway, I get that MMM provides a useful guide or crutch for those who want to do it the hands-on way to FI without dealing with the vagaries of abstract markets and economics. However by proposing that people spend minimal time managing and growing their wealth and focus maximum time minimizing cost is a one-sided view of FI. Sure, a hammer can build a house, but sometimes you need to use that weird torque wrench too.

            By advising people to do pretty much nothing anchored on a few sites’ monte carlo analysis all the while dismissing such basics like multi-cap diversification strategies that would yield a few valuable points more in return in an increasingly low inflation/ deflationary world, with growth scarce, commoditized and globalized, is an unfortunate blind spot of this movement. It relies on the future (of no world wars to boost growth, globalization-based) being the same as the past (several world wars to catapult growth, US manufacturing based) is a faulty premise to build a movement on.

            Why do I keep reading MMM? Same reason I keep reading Dear Prudence on Slate. It offers sometimes entertaining and useful tactical tips and tricks to make your life better here and now by reducing waste.

            With all due respect, however, it does little to help me grow my wealth and maximize ROI, making my money work harder for me, rather than just me working harder for me.
            I’m fine with the latter but find my financial life pretty incomplete without the former. To borrow a bit, if diving whole hog 110% what some have called monastic MMM lifestyle would yield me superior ROI, I would do it. It’s just the economist in me refuses to participate in activities that yield increasingly diminishing marginal returns.

            Because in the long run, a genius economist once noted, we are all dead.

            Reply
            • Ted Hu July 18, 2014, 10:57 pm

              I do want to reply specifically to your Tesla observation of mine.

              I am not waving a flag of any sort for the common man. I am amplifying a bit of the real world that I inhabit that seems to be missing here. And I do so occasionally and moderately.

              I comment on pieces where I can make a stark contrast that can help compel people to think for themselves respecting the spirit of this blog and its commenters, many of whom I’ve read and learned mightily from. And because I have learned and benefited, I feel it is incumbent on me to help make it better by offering albeit biting critiques that make it more realistic and applicable for people like myself.

              Anyway, FI affords choice. Given my priories and values, I walk whenever possible on the weekends when things aren’t so hectic. And plan to buy a Tesla Model X in the process. Or Model 3, if it also has a insanely great safety design like the S.

              I did not arrive at my SUV or Tesla choices lightly. I did plenty of time doing oppty cost analysis figuring out what would work for my family. And I am rather unhappy that I am stuck in a mid size SUV, with an Apple logo and I like Obamacare stickers in the back windshield no less.

              Relative to where I was and requirements I had, that is the best decision I could arrive at, and from this point forward can only optimize it at the margin. More walking. More electric cars. Not as good as bikes per se, but then bikes suck when you have a busy albeit FI-life caring for your kid with special heart and mental needs.

              My Tesla point reinforced my critique. There are many ways of skinning a cat. Yes a bike is great, and when we move back to LA this summer I plan to bike with my fam along the Strand more (I’d never bike my kid in LA like I did when I grew up there; that would just be nuts) and at the various parks and beaches, a lot more than we ever did in rain infested Seattle.

              People want more choices that evolve with and for them. That is what FI is about. Incremental choices that are achievable for them which can later blossom to ironman frugality.

              I leave with this food for thought. How Mini Habits Can Change Your Life
              http://www.developgoodhabits.com/mini-habits-intro/

              Yes MMM offers mini-habit suggestions. It’s just predicated on the fact that you crossed the Atlantic already. Time to make a bridge, ladder, whatever back to the old world and reach the rest – then a real movement can blossom that doesn’t require all or nothing acrobatics that is too costly in a money-, bandwidth- and time- impoverished real world.

              Reply
            • JoeJustDoIt July 21, 2014, 9:12 am

              Mr. Hu,

              I read the “poverty of time” and “PAW” articles that you linked and they seem to only reinforce Mr. Money Mustache’s methods.

              I would think that Mr Mustache’s methods would give someone the breathing room to make more careful and considerate financial decisions – he’s done the analysis and given you the methodology to accomplish it – no need to spend time thinking – just do it. Mr Time Poverty Dude has now killed a bunch of money-sucking enemies and can now sit down and regroup. Mr. time Poverty Dude surely missed some things using the machine gun approach but I’m sure he hit more than he missed.

              And the PAW article says this: “How can someone be considered wealthy if, for example, he is worth only $460,000? After all, he’s not a millionaire. Charles Bobbins is a forty-one-year-old fireman. His wife is a secretary. They have a combined annual income of $55,000. According to our research findings, Mr. Bobbins should have a net worth of approximately $225,500. But he is worth much more than others in his income/age category. Mr. and Mrs. Bobbins have been able to accumulate an above-average amount of net worth. Thus, they apparently know how to live on a fireman’s and secretary’s income and still save and invest a good bit. They likely have a low-consumption lifestyle. And given this lifestyle, Mr. Bobbins could sustain himself and his family for ten years without working. Within their income and age categories, the Bobbinses are wealthy. ”

              The PAW article is basically saying that by living a low consumption life style and accumulating more money than you spend – and having more than your average net worth – you are are wealthy. Mr. Money Mustache shows us how to do that. This isn’t an investment blog but a lifestyle blog to achieving frugality.

              If I may quote Mr. Money Mustache (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/22/getting-rich-from-zero-to-hero-in-one-blog-post/): “If you can get 25 times your annual spending saved up and working for you, that is enough to live off – forever. Don’t worry about the details – just do the saving for now, and watch as your lifestyle transforms and your worries about safety melt away. This blog is not so much a financial nuts-and-bolts blog as it is a story about lifestyle and attitude transformation. And believe it or not, your attitude determines your lifetime wealth much more than your knowledge of financial nuts and bolts.”

              Reply
              • Ted Hu July 21, 2014, 4:16 pm

                Joe – the devil’s in the details.

                The Millionaire next door is a balanced view of FI because it does emphasize minimizing costs as well as emphasize spending considerable amount of time on investment strategy, which MMM does not.

                Already noted earlier, PAWs spend 83% more time than UAWs on strategizing wealth accumulation, beyond sock it away in a low-cost market fund is “good enough” as long as it’s not a savings account.

                And the Millionaire next door is basically a series of case studies outlining incremental approaches of people from all walks of life scraping and saving and strategically accumulating wealth, pragmatically.

                It does not outline a singular biblical truth to financial minimalism. As their scholarly research shows, people and their lives are complex and varied.

                Millionaires next door drive cars. They just don’t drive imports nor luxury cars. Their cars are decade old on average since they don’t buy new cars on a given refresh cycle.

                With MMM microeconomics 101, when he espouses biking everywhere, he fails to practically acknowledge it is not a generalizable case and for too many incurs significant oppty costs. And to suggest that everybody can do so all the time is impractical to boot. Everybody else is a self-selecting case study of complaints to be rectified rather than helping to build pragmatic inclusive bridges to FI, as MND strives to do.

                I believe attitude without critical thinking and open mindedness to fact-based decisionmaking is pretty much an anything goes faith business – how movements often arise – you are making yourself feel better with no measurable reality or framework to help you discern big from small rocks.

                For example, rather than spend 99% of my time focusing on minimizing costs and socking away all my money into the most popular low-cost Vanguard all market fund, it is probably more prudent to rebalance that to at least 80%/20%, where 20% is spent on developing an ongoing multi-cap diversification strategy that will sustainably yield 2-4% of above market returns.

                That couple points advantage compounded over a decade or two is what makes a millionaire next door.

                So while I respect MMM’s many accomplishments, he could improve at the margin by building bridges that focus on the big 80/20 rocks that will help everyday people the most ASAP. Otherwise it is a long laundry wish list of stuff most people don’t have time to crack the nut on, much less start in their own lives.

            • Brian Romanchuk July 22, 2014, 6:53 am

              I just want to comment on your idea about maximising investment returns. It may be an interesting way of keeping oneself occupied, but it would not be the best use of time for most people.

              Although one can always get lucky on a leveraged bet, realistically, smart macro investing is going to enhance your returns by a couple percent (at most) relative to passive investing.

              Unless you have a portfolio that is in the millions, that’s only a net benefit of a few thousand dollars a year. Meanwhile, doing something like getting rid of a second SUV would provide much more benefit.

              And the assumption that average people are going to somehow magically outperform professionals who spend their entire days obsessing about investment returns looks dubious. That was my full time job, and I see no evidence that this is a skill that someone could reasonably pick up by expending a few hours a week.

              Reply
              • Ted Hu July 22, 2014, 10:07 pm

                Ideally, prudent personal finance is so that one doesn’t waste a decade thinking all is well when it’s not.

                Two basic activities people should at least try to master. Rebalancing their portfolio. And invest across multiple asset classes.

                Passive multi-asset diversification isn’t stock picking. Nor are you choosing the minority ¼ of active fund managers that will actually beat the market.

                It’s making sure you’re invested in low-cost large-, mid- and small cap proportionally along with some global. And at the minimum keep your asset classes balanced equiproportionally or based on your age.

                If one just stayed with the whole market strategy throughout the 2000s, they would have yielded zero returns net inflation.
                I learned this the hard way. Spent 11 years at MSFT, overbought the stock, put a big chunk in a popular “all market” fund. The same as putting in a basic savings account – but would have saved on fees.

                Only half way in did I diversify aggressively. Put more than half my assets in more aggressive low-cost large-, mid- and small cap funds. Then the financial crisis happened. By then, I’d diversified accordingly.

                Pictures speak louder than words. https://www.google.com/finance?chdnp=1&chdd=1&chds=1&chdv=1&chvs=maximized&chdeh=1&chfdeh=0&chdet=1406089270575&chddm=1446700&cmpto=MUTF:FSCRX;NYSEARCA:VTI;MUTF:FSMVX;MUTF:VTSMX;NASDAQ:MSFT&cmptdms=0;0;0;0;0&q=MUTF:VISGX&&ei=PS_PU5CtC-KsiQKfnoCQDA

                Quality time spent quarterly rebalancing asset classes is a must; make sure you identify a well researched shortlist of low-cost solidly (Morningstar) rated funds representing multi-classes and invest accordingly.

                Everybody has their possible tale of two cities like mine. Make sure you’re using the right one. Don’t waste a decade investing your hard earned income presuming you must be a millionaire for it to matter.

                If one thinks of themselves as the fed chairman/woman of their investments, however meager – and instead of interest rates, it’s rebalancing asset classes quarterly and bigger rebalance yearly – and diligently invest in multiple assets classes accordingly, you get real results.

                Maintaining 11% average annual returns across more aggressive low-cost small-, mid- and large cap funds like I had quarter after quarter, by investing initially, say, $5,500 a year, subsequently maxing out just your Roth $5,500 yearly for 14 years (2000-2014) yields $189,229.47 vs. $60,500 principal.

                If you had just invested in an all-market fund like Vanguard’s all markets (VTSMX or VTI), whose annual return averaged ~5%, you’re left with $118,682.10. The $70,547 difference is 116% of principal. Most people reading MMM probably strive to set aside more than $5,500 annually.

                The more you do, the harder your money works for you, if properly diversified and rebalanced.

                The power of compounding even a few more points, over time, yield big rock results. Pretty basic indeed. It’s your money. And retirement time. Sooner vs later.

              • Ted Hu July 22, 2014, 10:42 pm

                Alternatively, consider this http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/11/investing/small-cap-stocks/. Like I said, there’s many a ways to skin a cat.

                Don’t hate on small-cap stocks By Matt Egan @mattmegan5 June 11, 2014: 10:27 AM ET

                Small-cap stocks wouldn’t stand a chance in a popularity contest against sexier names like Facebook (FB, Tech30) and Google (GOOGL, Tech30).

                This slice of the U.S. equity market lives in the shadows of large cap stocks even though it has a strong track record, especially over long time horizons.

                The lack of love for small-cap stocks — or even knowledge about them — means many investors aren’t getting enough exposure to this key asset class.

                “Investors are nowhere near as allocated into small-cap stocks as they should be,” said Mark Matson, founder and CEO of Matson Money, which manages $5.3 billion in assets.

                “There is an amazing bias towards large, blue-chip stocks. It’s human nature. We tend to be more comfortable with things we’re familiar with.”

                Small-cap stocks carry market valuations ranging from just $300 million up to around $3 billion. While many companies aren’t household names, some more recognizable ones include Callaway Golf (ELY), OpenTable (OPEN) and Winnebago (WGO).
                Asset managers typically divide small-cap stocks into two sub categories: Growth, which are less proven and more risky; and
                value stocks, which are a bit more expensive but less volatile.

                Small but mighty: Investors may be surprised to learn just how well these tiny stocks have fared during the current bull run. According to Morningstar, small cap growth or value stocks have been the top performing asset class in four out of the past five years.

                Consider last year: Small-cap growth stocks surged 43%, a lot higher than the S&P 500, which was up nearly 30% or the Dow, which was 26.5% higher. That was the best performance for a major asset class since 2003 when small growth stocks shot up almost 49%.

                “If you look back over any long period of time, you see small cap stocks leading the way in terms of returns. These are smaller companies that are more in startup mode as opposed to mature, blue-chip companies,” said Phil Hart, portfolio manager for the JPMorgan Small Cap Value Fund, which typically invests at least 80% of its assets in small-cap stocks.

                One intriguing element of small-cap stocks is that their benchmark, the Russell 2000, is reconstructed each year at the end of June.

                That means companies that have become larger and more expensive — sometimes around 20% of the index — will be removed.

                “The asset class is recharged and rejuvenated every year. Growth can continue for a long time because it’s not the same stocks,” said Lawrence Creatura, who manages a pair of small cap value funds at Federated Investors.

                Since August 2000, the Russell 2000 Value Index has surged 198%, easily besting the S&P 500’s paltry 37% advance over that span. The Russell 2000 Growth Index’s has returned 82%.

                How much should you put in your portfolio? Matson estimates the average investor tends to have just 2% to 3% of their assets in small-cap names.

                Often financial advisors don’t recommend these stocks because they do tend to fall more during downturns and that can spook mom and pop investors. They are more volatile than larger companies.

                So far this year, small-cap stocks have been on a roller coaster. The Russell 2000 fell into bear market territory (down 20% from a previous high) during the Spring Sell-off when investors dumped tech stocks and other riskier assets. The index has since bounced back and is flat for the year.

                Market veterans differ over the magic number that people should have in their portfolio. The answer depends on an individual’s appetite for risk and their age.

                It would be “reasonable” for a younger investor who has a much longer time horizon to invest to have 20% to 30% of their assets in small-cap value stocks, Creatura says.

                Proponents of small-cap stocks urge investors to seek broad exposure to the sector through mutual and exchange-traded funds. Picking and choosing individual names can be very difficult and even dangerous for retail investors.

                “It’s like a scalpel. In the hands of a surgeon, it’s great. In the hands of an amateur, it’s going to cause you some pain,” said Matson.

        • Janie July 19, 2014, 6:47 pm

          Ted Hu,
          Thanks for the link. The author of this research was the focus of a piece on NPR last week, in which I took great interest. I’m sure it is still available as a podcast.

          What the piece illuminated for me was that there is a psychological dimension to economic decision-making and that we all have constraints on our bandwidth. How can we ever truly be in someone else’s head?

          Reply
          • Clint July 22, 2014, 7:51 pm

            Good God, Ted, please stop junking up this blog with your pompous thought diarrhea. There’s a great place to post for anyone so adamantly opposed to this lifestyle. You can find it just about anywhere else. This isn’t for everybody. But most readers are here to learn from like minds. Challenge is welcome if it brings out the best solutions, but I think you just like to argue … and like the sound of your own voice.

            Reply
            • Ted Hu July 22, 2014, 8:35 pm

              Chill the hell out Clint, like I said earlier, life’s short. Learn the 1st amendment and how to use the page down key.

              Reply
              • Leslie July 23, 2014, 9:31 am

                Ted,
                I like your ideas but they seem more relevant to an investing blog. Ideally, one would have a balanced portfolio and a frugal lifestyle for early, or in my case later, retirement. FYI: ignoring standard financial planner advice helped us a lot. They said it was crazy to pay off our house, but I disagreed. Best decision I ever made as we saved a ton in interest payments.

              • Ted Hu July 23, 2014, 2:40 pm

                Leslie – my critique is two fold. If the goal of this site is presumably FI as it often claims than basic investing advice is par for the course. On margin it’s a lot better use of time. And to focus on 80/20 rules more than 20/80 ones.

                In any event I’ve hit diminishing marginal returns commenting. To each their own. MMM’s advice is pretty neat tho I take it only in part of my more pragmatic FI life.

  • George July 17, 2014, 1:00 pm

    I want the MMM answer to his own question…
    “The question remains, then: how can you completely turn this perspective on its head and end up with a person that actually enjoys frugality?”

    I realize there is the Selling the Dream of Frugality article (parts 1 and 2). Is this an opportunity for a part 3?…or a what do to if your spouse is completely anti-mustachian?

    Reply
  • Kristina July 17, 2014, 1:04 pm

    I feel like this women was me writing 4 years ago or my teen daughter now.

    Here is my advice as my husband revels in frugality and I try my best for him.

    First set a budget, you agree on together. Put house items like a sofa in, save for them, pay for them, limit what you spend each year to stay in budget. We have a 50 % savings rate but you will be surprised how much $ you have when you aren’t paying rent because your house is paid off. My husband would say yay we can save more, I say we have an agreed 50% savings rate if you want to make it more we decide that together. So yes you have 100 a month or whatever you decide to frit away. Then if you go to Starbucks and he starts to chatter you can say it’s in our agreed budget. Second think bigger, I’m with you I love Starbucks! However it’s better value to save your pennies skip it for a while and buy yourself your own espresso machine then you can make lattes and cappuccinos to your hearts delight! My friends relish my even better than Starbucks coffee. Even my frugal husband saw the sensibility in a well caffeinated wife made cheaper by a little asset investment.

    As for the car I have two pieces of advice. I after a lifetime of 100k mile plus cars and all the dents and bumps that come with them, after I paid off my student loans I bought myself a fancy 4 year old BMW SUV. Sounds great right? Not, I’ve never hated a car more! Because after I felt comfy and cool, a few months later I was just paying off a car that did what all my previous cars did drive me places. Only I paid car payments, higher insurance rates, higher oil change rates, more expensive tires. As for all that kid gear, one day you will feel like it is smothering you, one day you will think remember the days when I could leave my house with just my purse. My advice don’t lose them! One purse, one diaper, wipes, one bottle of water, one piece of fruit. Your kid never needs more than that. Strollers, pain in the a** devices! Carry them in a pack and you will get your pre baby body back! Let them walk it’s healthy.
    Secondly you don’t like your Prius I get it, I really do. Our teen didn’t like the car she drives, so I challenge you to do for yourself what we made her do. Ride the bus everywhere you go for one month. Week one you might want to cry, week two you will look at cyclists with envy, week three you will want to quit and be used to it, by the time you are done that Prius will feel like what it truly is a throne.

    So basically agree to a budget together, set an agreed savings rate, operate from there. Savings compound in ways you can’t imagine. Imagine if your parents had saved and you didn’t have student loans what would you have done with all that money for the last 6 years?! Dream bigger don’t think a life without the little pleasures think a life where you are free to create them for yourself because you have time. Trust me you can make better coffee than Starbucks. If you paid your student loans off in 6 years you are amazing! Now stop letting other people make money off of you.

    Reply
  • MarciaB July 17, 2014, 1:11 pm

    I’m a Prius-driving, non-biking female who loves the Mustachian philosophy (and is more frugal than my sweetheart).

    My question for her is why, since she has a good full-time living, she feels like her husband is controlling her spending and oppressing her with his ideas about money? They might do well to have a little more separation of finances, maybe some version of his/hers/ours (3 buckets) so that she has a greater sense of control.

    I found this screamingly funny.

    Reply
  • Trisha July 17, 2014, 1:19 pm

    As a female and someone who grew a full mustache so many years ago MMM was just a twinkle in his parents eye I feel qualified to comment on this woman’s post. I understand where she is coming from and I think it is important to realize the missing component might be lack of communication between the spouses. Those of us who have reached FI understand it to be a balancing act, between spouses, cheap vs thrifty, wants and needs etc. and know how important a game plan is. It sounds as tho this couple have never had those discussions. The MMM lifestyle does not rely on living on inflatable furniture and feelings of deprivation. By his own words MMM lives a life of luxury as do we. But we would never have gotten there on 1 salary with 2 kids, pets, college etc. if we had no defined goals as a couple. BTW, I love Starbucks or Peet’s here in N. CAlifornia and have never denied myself.

    Reply
    • Lonestarstateworkerbee July 19, 2014, 1:29 pm

      Great observations Patricia. What park of Northern Ca do you live in? We love the Bay Area but that kind of mustache would take us too long to grow. We are in Tx right now and looking to move once we finish building our nest egg. Are you in a more affordable place and still loving it?

      Reply
      • Trisha July 20, 2014, 3:52 pm

        Actually we are in the Bay Area, but we made the decision to stay in our starter home, bought right after college. Not moving into a mc mansion as our friends all did in the 80’s is what saved us and allowed us to reach FI at a relative young age. Now that we are empty nesters, we are able to age in place. It’s been a win-win. Good luck on your journey.

        Reply
  • vt girl July 17, 2014, 1:46 pm

    Hey MMM,

    I’m a relatively new reader of your blog since early 2014 and appreciate many of the values you espouse. I do have a question, though. You advise people to invest in a low-cost index fund like Vanguard. Except many of those companies are quite non-MMM, so every time you buy shares, you’re saying, hey, keep on destroying the planet. Don’t forget my dividend!

    I love investing in the market but can’t bring myself to buy shares in big oil (home of the car clowns), big pharm, Walmart and any company that does animal testing (you’d be amazed at how many still do). Now, those are my values and I’m not expecting others to follow. However, I’m curious to know how your investments in Vanguard broad market index funds aligns with your MMM values?

    Thanks! Look forward to your response.

    Reply
  • dc July 17, 2014, 1:49 pm

    “I seem to have a blind spot for curbs and large rocks next to curbs.”

    So you’re a horrible driver and your solution is to go and get a BIGGER instrument of death so that you can drive over me in my Honda del Sol?

    Started out with empathy over the sofa–everyone should be comfortable in their own house, and comfortable enough to entertain on occasion–but we need LESS Tahoe and SUVs, not more. Motherhood is not an excuse for a super-pollutant, dangerous gas guzzler.

    Reply
  • Joggernot July 17, 2014, 1:51 pm

    Troll or not a troll, great blog posting.

    Reply
  • Mr. Risky Startup July 17, 2014, 2:19 pm

    My wife started late, but ended up more frugal (dare I say extreme)… When we splurge these days, it is all me :(

    Reply
  • RapmasterD July 17, 2014, 2:25 pm

    I am highly offended by the criticism of inflatable sofas in the original post. Unless you have pins and needles protruding from your arse, WTF is wrong with an inflatable sofa? I am outraged.

    Reply
  • nicoleandmaggie July 17, 2014, 2:36 pm

    I love the title on this post so much.

    Reply
  • Dr. Doom July 17, 2014, 2:37 pm

    So this fine lady dumps on her husband when he talks about the power of positive thinking but two seconds later decides that sending an email to the great and powerful MMM will get him to stop writing and/or shut down his website?

    DH clearly isn’t the only one drinking optimism juice.

    No doubt frugality can be pretty big wedge issue in a relationship. My observation is that some people are capable of coming around, and others simply are not, for a variety of reasons.

    Really fun post, btw, MMM – I think this is your most engaging in some time. I’ve personally felt for a while that the lifestyle and relationship aspects of FIRE are more interesting than the nuts and bolts of finance and RE, which can be easily communicated in a single page or two. Would love to see more of this kind of entry.

    Reply
  • Scott July 17, 2014, 2:45 pm

    I would have thought my wife had wrote this except she drives a big ass Toyota Land Cruiser;)

    Reply
    • Cb July 18, 2014, 4:45 am

      Maybe that was the edited detail. :)

      Reply
  • CTY July 17, 2014, 2:45 pm

    Troll or no troll–Drama Queen for sure. Sounds like what they need is a his & hers bank accounts. They should divide the housing bills and each pay their share. Each should spend/save their leftover share as they see fit. Also, if I were him I would legally protect my assets from her. She seems angry enough to head straight for a divorce if she thinks he has a pile of money she could get her hands on.

    Reply
  • WageSlave July 17, 2014, 3:02 pm

    Some of what she says resonates with what I’ve experienced in my marriage (though to a significantly lesser degree).

    I think this boils down to lifestyle, which falls somewhere on a continuum. On one end you have people like MMM and Jacob/ERE, and on the other end are the debt-fueled extreme consumers. Where on that continuum does one have to fall to be “approved” by MMM? The impression I get is that basic personal finance (no debt, 6+ month emergency fund, save at least 15% of pay) isn’t “good enough”.

    I do believe that MMM and the “true believers” are genuinely happy… with their biking everywhere (including running errands with the kids), taking infrequent cold “navy” showers, never dining out (Dairy Queen is “terrifying”), never watching TV, wearing no makeup or jewelry, cutting their own hair, sharing internet with their neighbors, drinking no alcohol (or only homemade hooch), wearing only hand-me-down/thrift store clothes (and mattresses), using cloth diapers, strategically living next door to work, foregoing paper towels (or anything disposable for that matter), wearing layers in their house in winter, giving up air conditioning in the summer, fixing all their own roof/electrical/plumbing/structural problems, using a decade-old subcompact for the entire family, precisely measuring caloric requirements to buy exactly (and only) the food they need, never buying books, not watching the news/reading periodicals, never hiring a babysitter or using daycare, using no professional services for taxes/cleaning/housework, not using private school, living in no more than 250 square feet/person, renting out their home when on vacation, no gym membership, no “expensive” hobbies like golf or bowling or video games, the kids don’t get to be involved in any activity non-free that all their friends are doing…

    I honestly didn’t mean that in a sarcastic way, and I do truly admire people who can do all that and be happy. It’s a high standard to shoot for, and I do believe we’d all be better off (humanity in general) if we took a more “zen” approach to life and reduced the strain on the earth. But I didn’t exaggerate—all those qualities I’ve seen mentioned by this community, many by MMM himself.

    But how did you react to all that? Did you say, “Yeah, all that stuff is badass! There’s some good stuff in there I never thought of!” If so, then you’re probably “MMM approved”. But if you’re a typical wealthy country citizen, you might summarize all that by saying, “OK, so nothing that could possibly be construed as convenience or luxury… yeah, I don’t want to live like that.” That’s sort of how it was with my wife (a SAHM). I kept pushing to reduce our lifestyle, and the discussions always ended with her saying, “OK, *I* will go back to work if we can’t afford to ever eat out or can’t run the AC or can’t call a serviceman if the furnace breaks or can’t drive anywhere or let our kids do stuff with their friends.”

    Having reflected on this a bit before hitting “Submit”, I realize that while I believe I kept the hyperbole in check, there’s still some spin at work here. The opposite side of this spin would be MMM’s “My Deprived Life” post from June, 2012. In the end, it’s a matter of perspective. Some people will look at the above and think efficiency, while others think deprivation. I feel like I can relate to both sides of the coin. From a Spock-like purely rational perspective, the MMM way makes sense; but you have to acknowledge that there’s a certain “gravity” to the herd mentality of what everyone else is doing. That gravity is to some people inescapable (happily parked right in the middle of the pack), whereas I think some people are predisposed to ignore it (gratefully breaking away from the pack). I guess I try to walk the fence, being at the edge of the herd (hopefully I’ll see the cliff before it’s too late), but also keeping an eye on the break-aways (maybe they’ll eventually have their own gravity). (Kind of like the “50% Mustachian” comment above.)

    Reply
    • mginwa July 17, 2014, 3:48 pm

      I love your comment and totally agree. It’s tough to be 100% efficient or even want to be–and it’s an ongoing internal struggle for many people that is much tougher than it is for MMM.

      I don’t know if the lady writing is a troll or not (or a lady or not) but I recognize the bind she is in, and I know how it feels. It sounds like they have been desperately trying to get out of student loan debt, putting off every possible purchase, and now that they are out of it, she is EXHAUSTED of deprivation. Paying off his medical and her nursing school is a TON of debt. And hauling ass to get out of it quickly isn’t choosing frugality the way a deliberate Mustachian might–it’s terrifying. I don’t think she needs an SUV. I think she really needs to talk to her husband about moving to a different part of town where the commute isn’t so horrendous and the drive so scary, even if the house is more expensive. It sounds like they need a better balance, and maybe she needs to feel more in control. Big Debt can make you feel very out of control, and now that it’s gone, a few months of Starbucks and a decent couch might actually make her feel a lot better about life and more able to commit to their next set of goals.

      I am a female person, I’ve been digging myself out of big student loan debt, and I also wear designer clothes. And makeup and jewelry. Appearance is very important for the kind of career I have. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money in total, but it DOES have to be deliberate and cautious and low-volume when you’re trying to get to financial independence. Getting there doesn’t have to be all about deprivation, but about mindful choices.

      One more thing–fabulous isn’t always expensive. Screw Starbucks. Go to a real independent coffee shop and get something mind-blowing for the same price. Get out of the suburbs and enjoy the real best of what the world has to offer. It’s so much more than Starbucks and SUVs.

      Reply
    • Kassandra July 17, 2014, 5:12 pm

      Well said! Is this my husband????? If so, hey, Hi!

      Reply
    • Ricky July 17, 2014, 6:16 pm

      To be fair, MMM also falls somewhere between extremes as he doesn’t necessarily go all of the time without heating and air and his life isn’t nearly as extreme as anything Jacob ever pointed out.

      I agree with you that even 90% of MMM readers can’t get to that level of conviction, let alone readers of ERE.

      For instance, I consider myself very frugal and have a huge savings rate but still eat out basically when I want to and buy clothes occasionally. I also have bought way too many technology related items in the past few years. There’s just some conveniences and luxuries I don’t see any economic or emotional gain by giving up like some things MMM says are inessential. I’m not saying they are inessential, I just can’t see how I”ll be any worse off economically or better off emotionally to warrant some of the changes.

      I’ve always been a very conscientious person financially and pretty much already knew and practiced most of the things MMM and other financial blogs talk about before I even discovered the blogosphere. Thus, his ideas don’t have as much impact on me since I already naturally gravitated away from things every other American spends money. I’ve ALWAYS valued saving over spending, yet I do it in a way that I can still enjoy life the way that works for me.

      Reply
    • Farmstache July 17, 2014, 6:43 pm

      I’ll say I really liked your list. The thing is, though, that nobody needs to read that and think every single item is awesome. If you do, bonus points in badassity! If you don’t, then do what you can.

      Now if you read that list and think that all of those items are impossible to reach, I’d say you’re more inside the herd than out, but it’s okay, I’m not here to withdraw anyone’s mustachian membership. The important change of mindset is to stop thinking these things are impossible. If you manage to *reduce* your eating out, and then slowly change your mindset to realize eating out every week is not as important as you thought it was for your happiness (not to say you must never eat out again!), that’s the meaningful step. As long as someone sits back and say all in that list is impossible, they are probably still sitting in the complainypants chair.

      I also understand that list is probably overwhelming and scary for someone who just got here, so I’d never start by telling someone to do all that. The tiny first steps would be delay gratification, start saving 10% then 15% then 20% then tackle the big guys. You can do it like a diet: instead of removing fast food, you add healthy food. Instead of cutting cable, start doing game nights, start reading at night, set up a conversation time for the family watch a movie on netflix. Eventually cable will be just one of the most boring activities for you to do at night. If you think biking to work is crazy, start adding weekend rides to gain confidence, learn the best ways. Go have a picknick with your bike. Maybe you’ll start biking to work, maybe you won’t, but you’ve now gained a cool new hobby and extra years to live due to the health benefits. For makeup, we have a huge forum topic about this, and many lady staches still use them – they just don’t spend as much on it as they used to. Same for jewellery. Same for haircut.

      Each one of those items have the badass level and the stubble level. If you try them all at once you’ll be overwhelmed, but a couple at a time is no problem for most open minded people.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache July 18, 2014, 5:41 am

      WageSlave, I love your thoughtful and well-expressed comment. But I’m still a little dismayed that anyone here could possibly consider my family’s lifestyle extreme or frugal in any way. Although we consume at a SLIGHTLY less ridiculous than average (for the US) level, it is still a lifestyle of ridiculous luxury and overconsumption. In reality, we should be setting Jacob/ERE as more of the standard model for consumption.

      I think some of this gets lost if you make the decisions without taking science and ecology into mind (or with no knowledge of it whatsoever). Many folks assume “it’s my money, I’m free to spend it” and feel no remorse over the environmental consequences of one purchase versus another. Once you learn the true nature of what we’ve done to our planet so far, you realize it is a bad idea and we need to cut back at least 75% on average to even come close to being reasonable for the current population.

      This perspective makes me happy, because it adds an extra layer of reward to burning away less stuff – the feeling of doing the right thing. Interestingly, although the simpler lifestyle is more satisfying in itself, but I needed the environmental perspective to nudge me into trying it.

      I’m still trying to write an environmental post or two here that doesn’t come off as a big bummer and just scare people off. No success so far, which is why we talk more about lifestyle and money.

      Reply
      • lmn July 18, 2014, 11:58 am

        MMM, I hope you write those environmental posts. The world needs to hear it, even if it’s terrifying.

        Reply
      • Angela July 18, 2014, 12:42 pm

        I’m right there with you Mr. MM. I often find myself making choices because they are environmentally responsible and not necessarily because they are financially better.

        It’s the reason I choose to cloth diaper my seven month old son. Yes, it’s a little more work, but it’s better for our planet and our future. I live in Houston, Texas, SUV and Truck Capital of the world, so it seems like it’s me against the world. I do the best I can with the knowledge and resources that I have available, that’s all we can do.

        Reply
      • WageSlave July 20, 2014, 2:40 pm

        MMM, would I be out of line if I suggested the “ulterior motive” of this blog is actually to make everyone a lot more green? You are “selling” green living through the promise of early retirement? I realize the two are more often than not complimentary: ecology is the ying and frugality/efficiency/early retirement is the yang. In my personal experience, there are of course environmentally ignorant folks; but also a lot of naysayers. There are plenty in active disbelief of the environmental science; any suggestion of “green” living results in an immediate dismissal of the messenger as a treehugging hippie communist.

        I asked above, what does it take to be “MMM approved”. If I may be so boldly presumptuous, I suggest that it’s meeting two criteria: (1) financial prudence that will enable one’s retirement goals, AND (2) getting one’s carbon footprint down to the global sustainable standard.

        So, an unsolicited suggestion on your environmental posts: rather than try and scare or depress us with the facts, turn it into a game. Give us an easy to use “scorecard” for measuring our own environmental impact and the minimum standard we need to shoot for (i.e. what is globally sustainable). You could use the scorecard you come up with as the basis for an additional annual post: “Exposed! The MMM Family’s 20XX *Carbon* Footprint!”

        Reply
    • Terese July 18, 2014, 1:20 pm

      This is a great comment. I can totally relate. I (a female) used to be 100% on board with MMM and was very much into sacrificing small things now for the much greater reward later. I even got my husband on board, and we were on the same page, and loving it. We’re in our late 20s, planning how to have kids without even a slight kink in our plan for financial independence.

      Lately, however, I did a complete 180 away from mustachianism. MMM was ruining our marriage. Even though I had planted in my husband’s mind that we should do this stuff, he had taken it even further than I ever wanted. All the time, we were talking about money. All the time, I was asking for things and he was saying no. All the time, we’d get an idea of something fun to do, looking it up online and ultimately decide to stay home because it didn’t “pay off”. His voice started resounding in my mind “we’re frugal on everything except for the things that really matter.” And then it hit me why I couldn’t live this way anymore — it felt like (even if it wasn’t the reality) my husband was saying that we couldn’t spend money on ourselves because that’s not one of the few things that “matters.” It felt like our temporal happiness didn’t matter. It felt like having a date night didn’t matter because it cost money.

      I think some people have a personality type that doesn’t just want to be badass all the time. Personally, I want to feel loved and cherished and worthy of pampering sometimes; I don’t think that makes me less badass. I suspect that the author of these e-mails is not feeling her husband’s love for her because he’s spending his time and energy worrying about money, not about making her feel like the beautiful wife I’m sure she is.

      My husband and I are both engineers. We don’t have any debt besides our mortgage. Neither of us has to dress up for work, and neither of us has expensive taste. I don’t wear makeup, I don’t really even do my hair. We don’t have internet or smart phones. We mostly just vacation to visit family. Our lives are pretty simple compared to the people that we all say are over the top. So, when we are out at Chipotle, and I want to get guacamole on my burrito for an extra buck, and my husband tells me “it’s not worth it” — then yes, I get defensive. I wanted my life back, I wanted my freedom back, so I put the kibosh on obsessively living our lives as though we’re poor when we’re not.

      I just said to my husband earlier this week, in fact, that I’d rather just work at Whole Foods 20 hours per week and actually be poor than work our asses off for over 60 hours per week and then pretend like we’re poor. Sorry if that makes me “soft”.

      Reply
      • Edith Esquivel July 18, 2014, 2:30 pm

        I don’t think there’s a single thing in this world that is good without moderation. Not even water, or spinach, or guacamole :) Unfortunately, for competitive or driven people, the MMM philosophy (or a pedometer, or Candy Crush) might turn into a nasty aggressive competition against the clock, the world and themselves.

        I love MMM’s blog, the first time I read him, my most expensive and absurd habit popped into my mind immediatly, and as I got rid of it, I recovered one month’s salary a year in a blink. As I read my eyes were open. If my husband had tried to force me to stop wasting my money on a housekeeper, he would have been right in the topic but wrong in his approach, and… sleeping on the couch. Because imposing our views and desires is really harsh and bad for marriage, friendships, and cat-training. When I talk to my husband about money, I seldom talk about money really, but instead about the philosophy of life that must rule it all. If there’s a practical matter, for instance, he wants to buy a new laptop, I remind him of the environmental damage of changing laptops every year, I try to negotiate, recommend waiting a bit more to purchase and, if he is not convinced, I let him be. If I don’t like to be controlled, why should I control him? He’s free, I’m free, we do things out of conviction, not coercion. He is, in most respects, pretty sensible and the will, strength and conscience to downsize is a gradual process different for each person. Badass is for everyone, but there are different kinds, different stages, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

        You see, money problems are never about money. Your problem is not with the MMM philosophy but with your husband’s approach to it and to you. Frugality is about maximizing happiness, not about suffering. Your heart has to be okay with the change of lifestyle, it can’t be outwardly or inwardly imposed.

        You tell your husband that if he can’t find balance on this, he might not find it in any other important aspect of his life. He might get it.

        Reply
      • Janie July 18, 2014, 3:06 pm

        So much of what you say here resonates with me. I’ve only been reading on MMM a couple of months and in particular have found some great advice on how to structure my investments and withdrawals for early retirement. Our only debt is our mortgage, my husband and I have healthy incomes and a decent portfolio, but we don’t strictly live by the MMM code. You really have to take what works and discard the rest and ignore when people are quick to jump to conclusions like, “YOU SHOULD BE RETIRED NOW!!” (Actually, I was just on the forum to talk about pizza recipes but you dug into my previous posts and drew a conclusion based on very limited information.) Much of what’s discussed here doesn’t work for me. We all have constraints in where we live, the number of other people we’re responsible for, our skills, our time, our significant others, our ages, and competing priorities. If what we learn here helps us loosen those constraints, great.

        I once heard a writer say, “there’s nothing so annoying as a ‘recently converted’ anything” and with any ideology — MMM, veganism, politics — we all run the risk of going too far. You can’t control other people or make things happen, despite how much you might want to. Influence? Yes. Educate? Yes. Make them do something AND not resent you for it? Not likely.

        I’m all for dealing with the big issues that hold people back and challenging the conventional wisdom — with their finances, their health, their emotions, and their relationships. But sometimes enjoying the guacamole for a buck, or seeing that movie in a movie theater on the hottest day of the summer (matinee prices, though!) or taking a train trip across Europe that you’ve saved for are totally worth it. I’ve blown less money on football tickets or weekend trips and regretted it. But then I’ve spent several thousand to go to Europe — an experience I remember fondly and think about often. The former — even though I spent less money — bugs me more than the latter. Because with the latter I had a life-altering experience. The former? Not so much. So it’s not always about the money for me. And experiences do matter to me.

        Reply
  • Tom July 17, 2014, 3:15 pm

    Well, mark that down as the first time I’ve ever heard the argument that SUVs can fit into “elusive” parking spots better than sedans….

    Reply
    • Mrs. Terrien July 17, 2014, 10:53 pm

      LOL; I know!!! I got such a great laugh out of that comment.

      VERY rarely do I ever leave comments on blogs, but I could not resist this time. I am a woman and take great offense to this other woman “speaking” on our behalf. She should get a swift punch in the face for that!! I am naturally frugal at heart and, if anything, my husband would be the one to ask MMM to stop writing this blog! (Thank goodness we just paid off a large chunk of debt and he laughed his way from the bank, thanking me for showing him the light).

      P.S. I am also very “soft” :) You know, coconut oil can work wonders. I also make my own lattes at home. WITHOUT AN ESPRESSO MACHINE (GASP!) Put some milk in a pan on very low heat. WHISK whisk whisk as it heats and get it nice and frothy. Put in a dash of cardamom, a dash of cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg if it suits your (obvious need for) fancy. Then pour it into a mug adding some of your husband’s leftover coffee on top. Voila. This even beats the lattes I made as a barista at an independently owned coffee house I worked at for many years in my earlier days.

      Also, in case you’re wondering, I’m not old either. I’m 28 and am currently staying at home to raise my new baby and our income is only about 48k/yr. So stop complaining and JUMP ON THE WAGON

      Reply
      • Eastern_European July 19, 2014, 6:41 am

        …our income is ONLY 48k/yr :)

        I read an article last week about Burkina Faso. A woman with 4 kids works 6 days a week, walks everyday about 10 miles and makes 25 USD / month. She says its very difficult, but with 40 USD/month her life would be solved. Articles like these, stories of hardship in our world can help us to be grateful. We were born on the lucky side…

        I know, prices are different… Still, shouldn’t we think the word ONLY over again?
        Believe me, you are RICH! With capital letters :)

        PS: With similar prices than US, majority of families in Hungary live from 12-16k/year. Really no offense, just trying to put that sum into new perspective :)

        Reply
        • marciaB July 30, 2014, 11:56 am

          I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso (mid-1980s) and saw women like the one you described every day.

          I think the living stipend I was paid was about $75/month, and it was so much money I couldn’t spend it all. It was the first time I ever felt truly wealthy, which really puts “rich” and “enough” in perspective. That experience completely changed the way I think about money/wealth/fortune and happiness, and it still resonates with me today.

          Reply
          • Eastern_European July 30, 2014, 2:05 pm

            Exactly! Wow, that was a life changing EXPERIENCE I bet.
            Its a shame that about 90% of US citizens “do not get the chance” to travel out from the States. I think the media, advertisement and movie culture distorts their reality. Thats why many of these people live on antipsychotics.
            MMM is the old America. MMM is happiness. Back to the roots approach.

            I am not religious. Still think we should be grateful for living in this age of possibilities (and wasteful hedonism). The information is free. Happiness in the developed countries is a matter of choice (mindset). In the poorer countries people feel better because of their mindset (e.g. Thai, Cambodians, etc).

            Reply
  • Riles July 17, 2014, 3:22 pm

    Was anyone else expecting a Mrs Money Mustache response? No offense to the great article by MMM, but this was a perfect opportunity for her.

    Reply
    • CL July 17, 2014, 4:53 pm

      Mrs. MM could totally do a follow up! There are many lady things, but the original writer could do with a peek at some of Mrs. MM’s materials on the site.

      Reply
      • midwest girlstache July 18, 2014, 8:37 am

        I support that motion . . .where is Mrs. MM? Let’s hear it! :)

        Reply
  • Joy July 17, 2014, 3:35 pm

    Wow, what a fun read. :)
    I get it. They were both on the same page BEFORE he found MMM. They drove around town gazing at all the fancy McMansions, talked of SUV’s , trips to Pottery Barn, fancy restaurants, exotic vacations, etc….. The future was is site! The student loans paid off, money piling up for the down payment of their dreams…. all the hard work of school/debt behind them. The sun was shining and then….. fade to black…MMM….Wahhhh!?

    Reply
  • slugline July 17, 2014, 3:43 pm

    There are enough cheap (or even free) couches floating around out there that I have to believe the emailer is fake, or they are saving up for a ritzy living room set.

    Reply
  • jestjack July 17, 2014, 3:50 pm

    I’m thinking this is a “troll”….Having put two daughters thru braces that were anything but cheap. Our orthodontist gave us “a payment book”…no discount for cash. So I’m thinking a Doc really doesn’t act this way….BUT for crying out loud….an inflatable matress for a couch…what the *&%##! Come on…. a sofa at Goodwill is like $40 and the money goes to a good cause. I’m thinking one of the goals of MMM is to not feel deprived….this gal sounds as though she feels deprived ….big time!

    Reply

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