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?

 

  • Jeff August 4, 2014, 1:59 pm

    I’m surprised MMM didn’t offer her a used minivan in place of an SUV. To be fair, a prius is not the best choice for someone making runs to Home Depot and taking lots of people on trips to the beach, but an SUV is a silly idea for nearly anyone. We wrestled with the SUV/crossover/minivan/wagon decision when we had our first child. The wife had pretty much ruled out the minivan because it wasn’t cool, but then her dad sold us his old (still very nice) minivan at a price we couldn’t turn down. Now it’s our preferred vehicle (of 2), and we couldn’t imagine having anything else. The plan is to eventually get rid of the car and just have a minivan.

    Reply
  • Doug August 14, 2014, 8:36 pm

    I’ve never been married and probably never will, but my impression is if you are considering marriage, you and your potential partner should be having serious discussions about what you really want out of life. A good place to start is this book: http://www.amazon.com/1001-Questions-Ask-Before-Married/dp/0071438033/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408069774&sr=1-1&keywords=1001+questions+to+ask+before+you+get+married. It seems a lot of people marry because they believe it’s what you are supposed to do, regardless of whether you are well matched or not.

    Reply
  • Mike August 19, 2014, 11:00 am

    This sounds so much like my soon to be ex-wife. When she opens up and lets you in to the train of thought that is going on upstairs it scares me for that couple. She’s in the slow lane and they’re in the fast lane? To where, Starbucks? Who gives a flip?

    Reply
  • Simpleissofter August 25, 2014, 10:15 am

    Dear MMM,

    I want to thank you for this blog. You have become a huge part in saving my relationship and articulating things in a way that my loving counterpart can understand (or accept! Since it did not come from me….ha). I love my friend in life and love very much and this blog has changed the way he is viewing my own life changes with money and consumption, particularly with TV and overspending on little things that we do not need. I was an overspender for a very long time and recently went through a big change. I got rid of my cable and as much of the things that I could after starting my own practice. It’s very isolating when you go through that change alone! I am so happy that my love and I have been able to find common ground on this! He has been a big part of my life for all of my life, so I wanted him to join me on this part of my journey, and now we are doing it together! I am grateful that you have put this out there and even more so that he was able to find it and then show me! I still have a lot to learn and value any more education on this lifestyle that I can get. I disagree with enraged reader. I am a woman and I hit this stride before my male counterpart did. Simple is softer. It’s made our interactions much smoother and more enjoyable. Even our interactions with our children has improved (for both of us!). We still have a long way to go as we both have discovered that change is very hard. We are saturated with media influence wherever we go. It is a challenge to stay focused and ignore that which pushes into our day to day lives. Thank you. Thank you and thank you again. There is hope for us yet! :)

    Reply
  • Andrea August 27, 2014, 12:13 pm

    The advice posted here won’t work for everyone. It is still good advice, though. So what if you can’t bike to work? Take the advice in the spirit that it’s written. Reduce your transportation costs. Think about inventive ways you can use your car less. If you work at a law firm with a strictly conservative dress code (as I do), buy your clothes on sale. Institute a rule (much like MMM’s grocery rules) where if you see a formal wear sale where costs are at or below a certain threshold, stock up! Talbot’s is having a season close out sale where you can get $100 slacks for $17! You can cope with a restrictive dress code if the high paying job is worth it to you. Maybe you love your work, maybe you like the money, it doesn’t matter. Take the advice. You don’t have to follow it to the letter.

    Reply
  • Lee Bailey August 28, 2014, 2:10 pm

    Hilarious exchange. As a moderate, I can see both sides in this debate. I do think some ‘little luxuries’ do make you happy and are worth it. Occasionally meeting a friend for a $4 coffee while you chat and enjoy the atmosphere is perfectly fine. Stopping before work to get a $4 latte when you have it for free in the office 30 minutes later is probably a waste. One minor point about the vehicles bought on credit stat: I think smart wealthy people also buy vehicles on credit when interest rates are low. My net worth is several hundred thousand, but for any new purchase, if the APR is <4%, I will buy on credit, because I make at minimum 10% nominally in the stock market. Choosing to pay cash for such a purchase means at least 6% lost in opportunity cost.

    Reply
  • Juanita September 2, 2014, 8:56 am

    Wow that’s a lot of comments! I’m still adding mine. Assuming this is not a troll, my advice to the woman is to divorce her husband because he deserves a better woman. Her single letter to Mmm is packed so full of reasons where do I start. They are frugal because they just paid off a huge debt. He is smart to be cautious. You don’t go from apartment to Tahoe in 60 seconds. Never mind that I am a bike rider and pluck my mustache and am over-soft especially in the tricept area, I have NEVER been in a relationship where my partner controlled my Starbucks/nailpolish/itunes/insertguiltypleasure habits because I always had my own account and my own big bills. I also had shared purchases and shared debts like a new car, rent, until and food, but I always had my own pot of money to buy what I want. Why can’t she just buy a couch? She does work! Then its her couch! I fear her personal budget doesn’t exist because her entire paycheck goes into a shared checking account because why? Till broke do we part? The romantic foreplay of mingling dollars?? Divorce will never happen therefore all safety nets are gone?. Once you have control over your emotions can you have control over your money. Dear woman wife, this is not the 1880s. I strongly urge you make a choice. You are either in or you are out, of this marriage that is, and blaming a stranger for having a blog on the internet written from his personal point of view (whose else would it be) is not going to save your marriage. This is the only advice you deserve on this blog but you need much more. For that you must go to other blogs about communicating with your husband, the basics of. Next pls visit a blog about how to financially recover from a divorce with/without a Tahoe payment. It’s important.

    Reply
  • jessica September 3, 2014, 12:16 am

    The comments onthis thread, which show up in my email, are making my stomach turn. There are some pretty judgey readers spewing some vile language in reference to divorce and blame. Its been nauseating for some time now. I should say worse than the profiled couples behavior.

    Unsubscribing.

    Reply
  • Jessica September 30, 2014, 10:52 am

    Am I the only one who laughed out loud at the absurdity of the complaints? This has to be a joke. Who says things like that? I mostly enjoyed the paragraph about the need and desire for and SUV. I almost cried it was so funny. I couldn’t possibly be offended by such ridiculousness. Her poor husband . . .

    Reply
  • Cristina October 7, 2014, 6:48 am

    For the record, I’m a woman and I am dragging my husband into this. I recently realized that I spend tons of money and I have no idea on what. I don’t have fancy clothes or a fancy car… I rarely ever step foot into a salon. It almost led to a panic attack. The reality of all of this scared the crap out of me. I am arming myself with this blog and tons of patience to change my lifestyle and hopefully that of my children.

    Reply
  • larsjaeger November 14, 2014, 4:27 am

    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 every day,only regret was not learning about this sooner

    Reply
  • Steve Adcock November 21, 2014, 8:03 pm

    I am damn lucky to be married to a woman who could be Mrs. Money Mustache herself – she is right here along side me in our quest to retire as soon as we can. We no longer buy crap that we don’t need and devote her entire salary into savings. It is truly amazing what can be done when both spouses are on the same page. The thought of complete financial independence and no longer being tied down by a job should tempt almost anyone to give this lifestyle a try.

    Reply
  • J Erekson January 26, 2015, 9:05 am

    Since I started reading MMM over a year ago, I’ve been chipping away at the lifestyle changes one at a time (just this month I regained $55/mo by switching from t-mo to ting, and $40/mo by paying my mortgage and rental mortgage using serve and arrival+ card). However, I have not yet been able to move closer to my work or change my commute of 22 miles each way (gratefully because of some online work, I do not have to commute every day). I used to bristle every time I saw someone driving around my neighborhood in a Hummer or Tahoe, but now I stop myself and think–if that person works within a couple miles of home, school, and grocery store they might be doing better on gas than I am in my 42mpg Honda Civic HX. I think this is an interesting area for compromise, given that one can find a Tahoe for a screaming good price on almost any used lot in town. Yes, I agree with so many of the comments above–If you can’t get a few Prius hubcaps or even new wheels for a great deal on Craigslist, then you don’t know how to shop. But for someone looking for compromise, putting very low monthly miles on an evil SUV seems like a trade I might be willing to entertain if it made people in my house happier.

    Reply
  • Stubble-Stache March 23, 2015, 6:36 am

    i think the real problem lies in the fact that we, the stachians, are looking to just change their views, the consumer heavy’s views, about wanting x y and z but we aren’t asking why they want x,y, and z and how we can show them they can get the same or better satisfaction from a much cheaper source! i.e. coffees ever-day, you can brew your own at home!

    Reply
  • Harry May 9, 2015, 9:34 am

    I’m new to MMM so late to this blog. I am now more comfortable in my chosen way of life/spending and my resulting attractiveness to the ladies. Good to know there are others out there.

    Reply
  • Erica December 7, 2016, 8:20 pm

    For an alternative perspective, Mr. MM actually created my pending marriage.

    I’ve always been frugal, but that was more about stretching a budget and making my money go farther now than actually applying a little bit of common sense and badassity to go further. I love DIY.

    My partner on the other hand loves to save money. He prefers a simple life and hard work. A lot of things are pretty straightforward for him – he just uses stuff until it can’t be used anymore. Then he generally replaces with something of quality to ensure a long life time. He didn’t have a car, just a bike and he rented a room and kept his bills at less than $400 a month.

    Then one day I was introduced to him at work. I was getting a promotion, and he was the Senior Technician I’d be working with on projects. He smiled at me and I fell for him like a bad love song.

    Many many moons later, we got a great apartment near work, he adopted my 2 year old daughter and we are expecting our first child together. We strategically located ourselves near work, downtown and near several grocery stores. We’ve managed to have combined expenses down considerably allowing me to stay home when #2 arrives. We are going to officially go car free after I’m cleared to bike again (cesarean), and we’re car light.

    Because of your attitude and similarities with my personality your blog gets me super excited about all of this. I see it all in a new light, and I am motivated to keep us going. I even figured out we’d be better off buying a condo soon instead of continuing to rent because buying condos is very cheap in this area. I never would have considered this previously, as I figured it was ALWAYS best to just buy a house and stay there.

    My drive and excitement about FI coupled with my partner’s natural love of saving has turned us into a great power couple and is allowing us to live the life of our dreams.

    Reply
  • Rob March 5, 2017, 12:06 pm

    I believe from first hand experience that these comments are either heartfelt or certainly represent a multitude of views. I am going through the same kind of resistance from my wife – I at least have some pointers with the Selling the Frugal lifestyle – compromise is key. I am new, hence replying to a 2+year old post – still useful though

    Reply
  • Simplesam May 11, 2018, 9:12 am

    Wow. Being a woman myself, I find it completely ridiculous that she thinks that women – ALL women?! – have the goal of being spendthrifts. How absurd! And she thinks that Mustachianism is only for men just because she doesn’t dig it but her husband does?? I might grant her that the term “Mustachianism” does have a bit of an exclusively masculine tone since women cannot by and large grow mustaches and lots of guys can. But honestly, I was embarrassed for her and resented her pooling me (and everyone else who is female) into this tsunami of wastefulness that she assumes that all women want. Sheesh!

    Reply

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