Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage? (Part 2)

Scene from a recent sunset, where I paddled out on the lake and wrote down a few things.

In our last episode, we reviewed a particularly spirited example of the classic battle over frugality, cheapness, and the freedom to spend one’s own money the way one sees fit. Some version of this same clash is surely occuring a thousand times over in every city of the world on a continual basis, for it lies at the root at human nature itself. This is why I find it so interesting.

For example, while some couples end up at war and never get anywhere, others find that frugality brings peace. Check out this quote from an email someone sent me the very next day in response to that last article:

“My wife absolutely loves Mustachianism too, even though she has never read your stories or visited your website. She just loves the man I’ve begun to transform into (biking to work, fixing things in the house, carpentry, no more TV, long walks, etc.)”


Another woman shared her story of sudden Mustachianism-induced change the same day:

“Since then, we have sold the SUV and bought a used compact car, paid off all of our debts, sold the house and gotten another (1000 sq ft total!) in the city, close to transit and work, and live on 30% of what we used to. I have lost 30 lbs in the process, hubby lost 40 lbs, happier and feeling so much more accomplished. (…) I’m not planning on retiring soon as I’ve made my priority working one day per week for now until my daughter gets into school, but with the changes I will have my home paid for in 5 years and will be retirement ready by 48. This is truly a 180 degree change from before.”


We could write a whole encyclopedia about personality types, feelings, and relationship dynamics before we even got to the start of what is going on here, then move on to take an expensive series of counseling sessions. But to take a massive shortcut and just go right to the answer, I believe that the biggest cause of fights like this is in our different responses to authority.

Through a combination of genetically-inherited temperament and socially programmed character, we all end up at different places on the obedience scale. Some kids actually listen to their parents and do things like eating whatever is put in front of them at dinnertime, whereas my own son will gladly enter a battle to the death before accepting verbal commands to do something he feels is irrational or unfair.

I could write this off as childish, but unfortunately I am the same way*. If a person or society  imposes a rule on me, it had better have some identifiable logical reason behind it. Otherwise, I find myself digging in and willing to fight against it – quite enthusiastically to the death if required. Watching the response of Gimli (that Invincible Dwarf with the Giant Beard in Lord of the Rings) when the prospect of battle comes up, I feel an eerie kinship with the diminutive badass.

So let’s suppose you are the frugal one in your relationship, and your spouse is prone to wasteful spending. Hey, I’m on your side too – most of the shit we spend our money on is rubbish and you end up richer and much happier if you just simply stop buying it. But how do you spread this obvious logic to your spouse?

Well, for starters, you don’t do it by watching over his or her spending and then nagging every time you see something you don’t like. While this is your natural temptation, and it does work for those who happen to have obedient spouses, it will backfire miserably for the other 75% of us. This is because you are trying to impose authority on someone who does not like to be bossed around. Note that in the success stories above, each side was fueled by the positive results of frugality rather than just obediently following the instructions of a spouse.

So instead of nitpicking the symptoms (individual spending decisions), you need to address the root cause: Your Goals in Life.

Your first task is making sure you both are working towards the same common “Why?”

This step may take minutes, or it may take years.

There are plenty of good Whys out there, but they can be elusive at first. My own Why is simply “to live the best life possible”, from which stems a desire for health, personal growth, free time to explore my interests and even more free time to raise my son. I found that none of these could be optimized with a full-time job getting in the way, so my very first task was eliminating dependence on that job.

When you add in the environmental side of things and the fact that to waste natural resources is quite simply to be an asshole to all other humans and other living beings on the planet, the choice for me became even clearer.

Some people might get stuck with irreconcilable differences at that very first step. A vegan might find it unacceptable for moral reasons to live with an omnivore like myself, for example. And I’m personally stubborn enough that I couldn’t live with someone who insisted on a full-sized SUV for personal transport. Better to just sidestep such lifelong conflicts instead of spending a lifetime fighting them. But if you’re already locked in with a wife and kids, it is time to be more patient and creative because honoring your responsibilities comes above serving your own personal ideology**.

Once you can agree on your definition of The Best Life Possible, it often helps to start by Painting the 10-Year Picture.

For example, one brilliant reader named Andy wrote in and shared a story of his own success at flipping the frugality switch. His approach in a nutshell was, “If we keep doing what we are doing now, here’s where we will be in 10 years. But if we do it this other way (sell the expensive car, pay off our debts, live a different way), we will be over $200,000 further ahead, which will make our lives much better.”

He conveyed this message by giving a slightly silly Powerpoint presentation to his own wife. And the results were so good, he sent in the slides to share with you:

Make Our Money Sing: A Money Mustachian Adventure

Most people cannot see the connection between lattes, sandals, V-8 engines, and a million dollars. But it’s really there – changing relatively simple spending habits will indeed make the difference between Broke and Millionaire over a reasonably short time period. A slideshow like that one makes the math clear.

Other people might be more impressed by emotional appeals rather than monetary ones. The fact that you start living more happily immediately when you spend more time outdoors, for example. The relationship between debt, stress, and death. The idea of retiring in your 30s or 40s instead of after you get your discounted senior citizen bus pass. Or the incredible benefit of not having to worry much about money and careers when you’re busy with the bigger job of raising your kids.

All of these things are the direct result of living a frugal lifestyle, which is in turn just a slight change to a few dozen little daily life habits. These little changes are ridiculously effective, and also ridiculously easy, which is why I find it ridiculous that almost everyone is broke in this country except those with such ridiculously high incomes that they can’t manage to spend it all.

But the enforcement over those little decisions needs to come from within each person, rather than from an outside authority or an angry budget. You can make yourself save, and Mr. Money Mustache can make you save because you’re reading this freely and then independently deciding whether or not to implement it. But your husband or wife can not make you save. At best, they can only inspire you to want to save.

On the other side of the coin, the Frugality Enforcers among us may need to sit back and do their own math. If you are already saving over 50% of take-home pay, for example, the odd indulgence will not derail your dreams of early retirement. And if your income is really high, you can indulge almost constantly – you just have to be a bit strategic and avoid the biggest money pits like luxury cars, long commutes, and yachts. My own frugality is hampered by my taste for luxurious housing and food, for example. But by approaching these luxury add-ons as part of a generally calculated and frugal lifestyle, the bank is not broken and the family’s spending still ends up around $2000 per month.

In fact, I find that allowing yourself to be imperfect enhances the experience of being human. Beer and wine are bad for me, but I still get drunk occasionally. I know that luxury is just another weakness, but I still indulge in it occasionally. The key to all this is to acknowledge that you are doing something unnecessary and slightly wimpy, laugh at yourself, and then do it anyway with full gusto. Then you’re free to get back to your normal disciplined self in regular life.

Strategy for Frugality Without Deprivation:

Start with your regular life. Start introducing challenges for yourself which build your Frugality Muscle. Embrace the successes and laugh at the inevitable failures. Note how quickly this becomes fun and makes life worth living. Now throw in the odd unnecessary luxury and laugh again at how large and decadent your life is. You could do this all day. What were all those other people whining about who said this would be hard?


*And have been since birth according to Mom. This is why I cut my own son some slack for his stubbornness, and attempt to use rational logic rather than fist-backed discipline to do my half of the family’s management.

**Which sounds a bit Unyielding and Old Testament, but the science on happiness seems to back this up: being honorable and consciously choosing to serve others leads to a happier life, because you’re constantly challenged and reassured that you are doing the right thing. Making selfish choices is like having that third piece of cake: thrilling initially, but quickly followed by a much longer period of unhappiness and repercussions.


  • Marcia July 31, 2014, 1:11 pm

    I LOVED the power point file.

    So, yeah, my husband and I are both stubborn. We both can follow directions and authority, with differing tolerance for BS. We both want to know “why”, but eventually, if my boss insists he wants it done a certain way, I will give in.

    This has not necessarily boded well for me, because often I am right. And I am told I should have fought harder (so, telling you that my way is better three times was not enough, should I do 5? If I really believe in something, I’ve learned to just do it anyway.)

    My husband is MUCH more likely to fight harder.

    Likewise our kids are stubborn. Our oldest is 8, and he will eventually give in, much like me. Our 2-year old is showing signs of being more like his father. But it’s still early. On the food thing, he’s much less likely to give in.

    When it comes to lifestyle changes…we’ve always been frugal and our mustachianism has waxed and waned from time to time. When it comes to things like giving up cable, he had to percolate on it for two years before he agreed. Likewise, we are currently percolating on getting rid of our land line. We both work full time and with the kids, I see that we are “hiring out” a lot more than we used to. I worry that it will become that thing that we do (or don’t do), but maybe it’s just temporary. I see my husband working much longer hours than he did a few years ago – bringing work home, traveling more, working nights and weekends, taking very little vacation. I cannot browbeat him into taking more time off, I just need him to realize that he needs it.

  • BobToday July 31, 2014, 2:10 pm

    Lol about the powerpoint presentation.
    I almost regret that I already have convinced my girlfriend into mustachianism.
    Now I have to search for another reason to make her a powerpoint presentation.

  • First Time Commenter July 31, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Does anyone have tips on how to gently explore the idea of investing with your SO, and also allaying their fears about living on piles of saved income?

    I’m one of those frugal-from-birth types (call it rebellion against my parents if you wish), my husband has not always been this way but I managed to turn him most of the way around through being a positive example (yay!). When we were both earning a steady income we spent one income and banked the rest, so have built up a pretty nice stash without really trying. We have two years of expenses saved, assuming spending at our current frugal level (expenses around $1500-$1700/month including rent, I’ve crunched the numbers, it can’t go lower than this). We’re currently in a SINK situation since we changed cities and he hasn’t found a job yet, so our savings is only like 15%-20%, but that will improve.

    My thought is, we should do something with this money besides keeping it in the credit union. Low-risk investing, making plans to save up for a house (I guess it could be a down payment, but I would want to put *at least* 50% down and that isn’t possible in this city with what we have). But he is TERRIFIED of investing and losing everything. I will be the first to admit that I know very little about investing, but I also know we can do better.

    He’s also terrified of either one of us not having a full-time job even though we’re STILL saving even on a single income and I desperately want to transition into part-time work or freelancing. (Side note: it is nearly impossible to get a part-time job as an adult apparently. I told all my temp agencies flat-out “I’m not taking a temp-to-hire unless it’s PT” and they kept saying there are no PT jobs and “how will you support yourself on PT?” Which is why I’m currently working as a full-time temp, argh.) He refuses to just live on the money for awhile, and I’m worried that even when the stash grows (which it definitely will if we both wind up having to take full time jobs) there will still be a lot of resistance to not having a job, because, “what if the worst happens?” And I’m sorry, but retiring or going freelance at sixty isn’t good enough for me. I need to do it within the next five years. For me, working until I’m sixty IS the worst thing that can happen!

    It’s just frustrating because I feel like our lifestyles are almost totally in sync (even if I’m still a bit more frugal than him), but he just has these fears that I don’t know how to handle. He also says that working “isn’t that bad” which makes me feel like a whiny baby. I just don’t see why I have to delay or cancel my dreams because of his fears. /rant

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 31, 2014, 2:44 pm

      That’s a perfect question, because the next article will be about investing in the current financial environment.

      If you’re saving steadily but then just letting the money sit in a credit union as inflation drains it away, you are missing out on the whole benefit of saving. I think of uninvested cash as a bit of an Emergency, with a similar nagging feeling to that of Debt.

      • First Time Commenter July 31, 2014, 3:27 pm

        Awesome, looking forward to reading it! The problem is, he wants NO risk when it comes to investing. Not even the hint of risk, which locks out a lot of options. :(

        • JP August 2, 2014, 6:42 am

          “The problem is, he wants NO risk when it comes to investing.”

          This desire is proof that he does not understand inflation. Money kept in cash has a guaranteed VERY HIGH risk of inflation and long-term loss of value.

          If he believes in math (which is a thing I think everyone should believe in, but then as a person with two degrees in the stuff I’m obviously a convert, and I would say that, wouldn’t I), then THE INTELLIGENT ASSET ALLOCATOR by William Bernstein is an excellent introduction to investing. But he would need to be the kind of person who once took and enjoyed a statistics class, to make that the book for him. If he just believes in math and either never took any statistics classes or had a really hard time with statistics, something gentler on the graphs and models would be better.

          • Horatio August 14, 2014, 1:43 pm

            The article:


            Might be worthwhile, I saved that in my favorites bar for when I forget or get afraid of the market. Also, the links at the bottom to jcollinsh’s articles are great as well. Everything is laid out in a nice simple way.

            I had to convince my wife to invest (and even now, she wants to see it grow (daily, not yearly)…

            Also, you could mention that the only truely risk-free asset is Inflation protected treasuries. Assuming you go for the “anything that would make those be worthless would probably have destroyed us all anyways and so knowing how to farm might be a good second hobby” idea :D

      • JToday August 4, 2014, 4:35 pm

        I’m looking forward to this next article. I find myself in a somewhat similar situation to “FirstTimeCommenter.” My wife and I are relatively young (27), and have been working out of school in “grown-up” jobs for roughly four years. (Me for four, my wife for less than that as she decided to stop working to be with our 2-year old daughter at home.) Outside of contributions to my 401k, we were stashing cash like it was going out of style. At first, this was motivated by wanting to save up for a downpayment on a house, and saving up for the contingent plan of potentially attending graduate school.

        We have now bought the house (six months ago), and the idea of graduate school has been largely put on the back burner due to some larger-life realizations that there is joy to be found in something other than work, and that our income is already more than adequate to accomplish our financial goals. The deferred income for a couple years in grad school would take over 10 years to pay off by my count.

        Anyway, now that the dust has settled on the home purchase, we are realizing an embarrassing amount of cash sitting around. From the perspective of “fear” that FirstTimeCommenter reports in her husband, I am very comfortable with putting in a chunk of money to index funds every month (dollar cost averaging). I am much less comfortable with taking a large chunk of cash (approximately 2-3 years of expenses) and dumping it all in at once. Hearing about record highs in the market makes me pretty nervous about that.

        Maybe I’m trying to time the market. Maybe I’m just scared. Either way, I’m interested in this next article.

        • Horatio August 14, 2014, 1:45 pm

          You could use it to pay off anything left on your house… That is a guaranteed riskless gain of whatever interest rate you have on your mortgage.

          Of course, if you have no mortgage, EVEN BETTER and I WISH I WAS YOU. :D

        • JB September 5, 2014, 1:04 pm

          That has always been my issue with fast cars. Where can you really drive them fast without getting a ticket. I tell my wife to be thankful I don’t like boats or watches. Those can be saving killers. Maybe the 1.2M house could have been a $3M dollar house and they scaled back. :) We have a 2,400 sq ft house and I wonder when we will move to scale back a bit. We have no kids with a 4 bd room house. one bedroom is an office, one a guest room and one a guest room/office. Taxes will probably be $7,000 a year when we retire.

    • tallgirl1204 July 31, 2014, 3:30 pm

      So, I don’t know your whole situation, only what you’ve written here, but I wanted to throw out some ideas about your working-part-time vs. full time. First, I don’t see how old you are– but you say you don’t want to work until your sixty, and that you “have to” stop working full-time in the next five years. If, like me, you’re 55, there isn’t any middle ground. However, if you’re 30, it seems to me that you could say “hey, I’ll keep working full-time FOR NOW, and we will re-visit this after you get a full-time job, and again, at least once a year. My goal is to stop working full-time in less than five years– preferably, two years.”

      And then your husband has some work to do– he feels afraid of what would happen if at least one of you doesn’t have a full time job, so he needs to nail one down. Once he has that job, his fears may soften. Many people (I’m one of them, and I’m female) have a lot of their confidence and security bound up in having a job. It sounds like his is shaky right now.

      Lastly, your own goals seem at odds with each other. Having two years’ income saved up really isn’t all that much, when you’re talking about wanting to set aside a 50% down payment for a house– and especially because you want to quit working full time. Seems like you two could stand to sit down and write out your goals:

      — buy a house– save xxxx$ for a 50% downpayment
      — 1 spouse works part-time freelance
      — create a “stash” of $xxxxx
      — freelance work brings in $xxxx
      — ???

      So much of how this plays out depends on how old you are right now. If you are 55, with no house and two years’ savings, I am sorry to say you working until you’re 60 and maybe beyond (it’s not all bad; that’s what I’m doing). If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you have a lot of opportunity to work together to make a great future. Good luck!

      • First Time Commenter July 31, 2014, 4:29 pm

        Yeah, that comment was a little scattered. Let me try to unscatter it a bit:

        I’m 32, he’s a little older. Child-free by choice. No debt of any kind, car-free, etc. The “gotta stop working FT in five years” was mostly hyperbole, but also… not? I just really, really HATE working forty hours a week, especially when it feels like everything I save just goes into the “money chute” of our credit union account and I never see it again. My self-worth is tied up in my real career of fiction writing (and I have had some success in this field), and I’ve never met a day job I’ve more than tolerated. The few times I have had the pleasure of working three or four days a week, it vastly improved my mental and physical health. I would like to take it easy and pour more of myself into my real work instead of this cubicle crap.

        That’s where we differ. He doesn’t love working but he tolerates it better than me. Right now he’s freelancing but it’s not going too well, and my ability to make freelance money is probably higher than his (I have other talents besides the writing). FWIW, he has said that once he finds a FT job that I can go freelance for awhile, but I think I’d feel guilty about that. I find it hard to believe that somebody couldn’t hate FT work with the heat of a thousand suns, but he swears it’s not a sacrifice for him. I will probably take him up on it, however, if/when he gets a job.

        I don’t feel homeownership is a necessity, I’m more saying “well, I can’t invest this stack of money like I want to, so we might as well sink it into a house and avoid inflation.” He doesn’t think inflation is a big deal. I know two years’ expenses isn’t a ton of money but it’s not a negligible amount either. I more worry because, what if we save five years’ expenses? Ten years? Is he still going to act like that’s only an “emergency fund” and not want to tap it or invest it? He said that we need to have a million dollars in the bank (not invested, in the BANK) before we can retire but based on reading MMM I know that’s not true.

        There’s also a bit of a cultural constraint here because he thinks investing is for “rich people.” Neither of us grew up rich, but my family was more well-off than his (though not frugal AT ALL). I know that’s what drove his original spending behavior and I have to tread lightly when talking about anything involving money. He’s a nice guy, I swear! There’s just this HUGE money hang-up, especially when it comes to investments.

        • JPresby August 2, 2014, 6:57 am

          Does he write too? If so, you might be able to explain the long term value of stocks in terms of building up your back list and getting more and more royalties from that long tail of sales.

          Could you split your savings money? If you could invest “your” portion of the savings in, say, a Vanguard low fee index fund and invest “his” portion in a savings account, after a year you could show a side by side comparison.

          Could you at least get the savings account money into CDs? Certificates of Deposit (CDs) are FDIC-insured up to $250k and available through pretty much every bank and credit union. The rates of return are super low, but they may be a half percentage point or more better than your savings account rate of return. http://www.bankrate.com/

        • quiviran August 2, 2014, 8:35 am

          To get past the fear:

          Read “The Coffeehouse Investor” by Bill Schultheis
          Get a Vanguard account
          Take MMMs suggestions on the VPGFX, VPGDX and VPDFX funds. You’re young, so go for the higher return funds, let the dividends reinvest.

          Using this general strategy, your money should be pretty safe. If you should “lose it all”, it would be part of a larger, national problem that would render bank accounts pretty unsure also. That’s a different world altogether.

        • chacha1 August 7, 2014, 1:10 pm

          Thanks for that clarification, because I saw the bit about the partner who is NOT working full time telling the partner who IS working full time that “working isn’t so bad” and I got all growly.

    • Tom July 31, 2014, 4:43 pm

      Start investing a small amount. Plenty of brokerages have no transaction fee index funds with low initial investments. Revisit it after a period of time and show him that your funds didn’t drop to 0 in that time, and ramp up from there. Preferably, you’ll have a decent year and can show him how your thousand dollars invested out performed x dollars in the savings account, and go from there.

      • insourcelife August 1, 2014, 7:54 am

        I think that a good way to dip your toes in investing without taking on too much risk is through bonds. We have about a year worth of expenses saved up and while some cash is always liquid I put the rest in a tax exempt bond fund. It has been paying at over 3% for several years now with monthly dividends deposited like clockwork – much better than any savings account. I feel great at tax time too since ALL interest is tax free (federal AND state), while I’d get taxed on any savings account interest. If I need this money I can sell today and have cash in my savings account tomorrow – liquid enough for us. Sure, there is a chance that the principal value might go down but it’s still less risky than something like a stock index fund and the percentage decline would be much less. Dividends earned would probably make up for most of the loss anyway. I think it’s a good place to stash your emergency cash, especially for someone apprehensive about investing.

        • JPresby August 2, 2014, 7:05 am

          That’s a great suggestion. I know of a couple who invested in bonds and no stocks and built up a healthy retirement savings for themselves. Emotionally they had more confidence in bonds because they chose a broad selection of municipal to federal savings bonds and were investing in “government” instead of in companies.

          Bonds could be a gentle first step into long-term healthy savings.

      • JB September 5, 2014, 1:06 pm

        Bonds are not great right now. You can do a boring S&P Index fund. Just set it up to buy automatically each month. Or twice a month.

    • Vickie August 1, 2014, 6:44 am

      I feel your pain. I, too, have a fearful spouse. He is not afraid of investing in real estate since he can personally control many of the variables. However, he is fearful of me quitting my full-time job with benefits. He is worried that even if we have enough income to pay our living expenses and buy health insurance, the future is too uncertain and maybe the cost would go up (for the insurance) and we would not be able to afford it later on. How do I fulfill my dream of early retirement when over 1 million in assets and annual expenses of approx. $24,000 plus whatever insurance would cost is “too risky” for him to contemplate? I have reached the point that I plan to retire in 2 years (when my daughter is finished with college). If he can’t handle it, then he can find a new wife. I hate to do something without being in agreement with my spouse, and he is great about frugality but this seems to be something he just cannot get past. Any suggestions?

      • Mike August 1, 2014, 10:47 pm

        Sure, just explain to him that in the case of the worst happening, you could always go back into the workforce as a last resort.

        So, with that as a fallback, what’s there to be fearful about?

      • JPresby August 2, 2014, 7:21 am

        That’s a hard one. I feel for you and sincerely hope you can work out a compromise as a couple. (Divorce would likely destroy your savings on top of the horrid emotional trauma. So I really, really hope that is not in your future.)

        Perhaps there’s a certain amount of extra that would be comfortable for him… Like if you had enough to pay double the current premium amount or something like that?

        When you reach age 65, medicare becomes an option for your healthcare. He might not realize that safety net exists. And if either of you becomes disabled, medicare can apply before 65.

  • Esther July 31, 2014, 8:28 pm

    MMM, I love that you related this post to people’s different responses to authority. It perfectly aligns with Gretchen Rubin’s writing on The Four Tendencies, i.e. four different responses to internal and external rules. Upholders obey internal and external rules, Rebels are automatically inclined to reject both, Obligers follow external expectations but not their own internal rules, and Questioners question everything and only follow what makes sense to them.


    I think you are a Questioner. I’m a Questioner too (though I lean towards Obliger tendencies). Being a Questioner means your posts are refreshing and challenging for me. It can help so much to realise that people – sometimes our life partners – have different tendencies to us.

  • Karla July 31, 2014, 11:38 pm

    This is my first time commenting. I have been steadily devouring previous posts since I discouvered your blog a couple of months ago. I have a seven year old and a nine year old. My nine year old daughter has very good saving tendencies while money seems to “burn a hole in the pocket” of my seven year old son. My husband and I have opened an investing account in each of their names, and we have made a rule that they must put aside 10% of their money (gifts from family), in this account and the rest is there to spend (although not reckelessly – with some guidence). I have been wondering if you have any suggestions for instillng good saving and wise spending habits in children. Our family already does many “mustachian” things.

    • Emma July 20, 2015, 5:38 pm

      OK, so this is an old comment now, but I can tell you what my parents did for me, and my two brothers?
      From the age of 11 upwards, we had a monthly allowance paid into our bank account. It was from the child benefit that is a government ‘benefit’ in the UK. It was about £30 a month (In a country and at a time when £20k was the median income, before taxes). From this, we had to buy all our own clothes, our own transport, meals out, cinema trips, any additional food we wanted. My parents would pay for a good pair of school shoes and our uniform for school. Let me tell you, you appreciate thrift stores FAST when the money you have would cover one top and maybe a skirt or necklace in a high street store, but 10 tops AND two pairs of good jeans in a thrift store.
      This monthly amount was paid completely divorced of chores. Chores were an expected part of family life.

      They would also give us a set amount each week (about £20) for buses and cafeteria food. It was enough to buy a biggish meal with dessert (fruit & yoghurt, mostly) and a drink and get both buses home. If we didn’t spend it all (by walking part of the way or having a lighter lunch, drinking water instead of juice etc) that money was also ours. It was possible to save £5 a week quite easily. Occasionally I managed £10.

      If we wanted more than that, we had to get a job. Delivering papers/working in a shop/ babysitting etc.

      They also set aside some money when we were very young in an accounts that was locked up until we were adults. They made one deposit when we were young and just left it. Then explained how compound interest worked when we got to 15/16 using this info as source/evidential material.

      They ‘imposed’ a 50-50 rule on birthday and christmas money (Spending vs saving). (By which I mean they strongly suggested it). I love the idea of investing 10% of it (Although, I don’t think I could invest as little as £10, which would have been a typical amount I would have had, applying the 10% rule to my younger days).

  • Zoe August 1, 2014, 5:55 am

    Today my husband and I are celebrating our 1st Wedding Anniversary. If I hadn’t discovered MMM sometime back in May, I would probably have bought him some meaningless trinket that he would have enjoyed for five minutes and then forgotten about. Instead, I took the time to make him a meaningful (and free) gift that made him all emotional. Tonight, instead of the expensive restaurant outing we would normally have gone for, he is cooking dinner for me, and I am much more excited!
    He used to be the frugal one of the two (although I had “taught” him to spend more money over the years, something which I now regret) and so he’s delighted that I’ve joined the fold. I never thought I would be the one making changes, but I think we’ll both be much happier (and richer) for it.

  • Dollarbill49 August 1, 2014, 9:27 am

    Great post MMM. You should write more often from the middle of a lake!

  • Netrun August 1, 2014, 10:21 am

    While I am a big fan of the site and agree with most here that the thoughtful message you have posted here is a good one, I do have a small reservation. Posts like this one seem to pull you towards focusing on the cash aspect of living frugaly and cutting things out whereas I find that I am most inspired by your posts where you set out to do something YOURSELF and revel in the heartache it takes to accomplish as well as the success. For me, this embodies the new take you bring to the early retirement blogging community – the enjoyment level of doing things yourself, the pride you feel in the things you learned to do the wrong way until you found a better way, AND the money you saved or avoided spending. That’s a trifecta that I find incredibly addicting.

  • EL August 1, 2014, 10:33 am

    That is funny how part one was negative and funny, part two is positive and motivating. After reading both I find the second post gives a better explanation that the wife in the first post must read. Nobody can be forced to change to frugality, it has to come from within or else you will find things hidden in places all over the house. Secretly stashing products all over the house is financial infidelity, and I wonder why most people can’t see that. I agree with everything you said about having different personalities, but one thing that is constant is honesty is always the best policy. Getting on the same page will give the best results, and here’s to hoping all wives and husbands will see that one day.

  • mikepm711 August 1, 2014, 11:01 am

    I have to say reading the past two posts makes me feel better about my situation. I first read about MMM in the interview he did for the Washington Post. I was instantly hooked and showed it to my wife, saying we could quit working in 7 years. However she dismissed it, saying it wasn’t realistic and didn’t apply to us. Since then I have read all the posts from the beginning and have tried to adopt many of the ideas here to cut costs and increase savings. I found the my wife has agreed with most of them, without knowing where the ideas came from. I make random suggestions as if they were my own ideas, she likes some and not others. Instead of aiming for early retirement, we are saving to be able to both work part-time and to be in a secure position if I were to lose my full-time job. She is already working part-time. Overall, I think we’re heading in the right direction.

  • Cruz is growing a mustache August 1, 2014, 2:00 pm

    Jr. Mustache here beginning his journey and reading through all the posts. I think the sequel to this series should be “How MMM is Saving my Marriage”. I bet you could gather many stories from you readers on how applying the principles you share has resulted in a more fulfilling life/marriage.

  • Green Girl August 1, 2014, 3:36 pm

    I’m so glad you brought up the environmental impact. Sometimes it is hard to get people to care about the environment, but it is important that they see the personal benefits such as living an MMM lifestyle with the ultimate in freedom and health! Nice ‘office’ picture by the way. I love it. :)

  • CincyCat August 1, 2014, 4:44 pm

    MMM, I can’t thank you enough for this follow up! Especially this part, “Well, for starters, you don’t do it by watching over his or her spending and then nagging every time you see something you don’t like.” This, this, this, x100%. Also loved the part about realizing that the obligations one agreed to when entering into a committed relationship: namely, to treat loved ones with respect, outweigh dogged devotion to ideology (reading between the lines). It’s far better to live the life & walk the talk than to lecture, nag, criticize and (when that fails) take away any say-so with the purse strings.

  • Frugal Abroad August 1, 2014, 8:41 pm

    What do you do if your significant other talks the talk of frugality, but doesn’t walk the walk? My honey is also an MMM reader and fully agrees with all of the ideas. He loves to talk about minimalism and alternative lifestyles… But it’s all talk. We both discovered MMM at the same time, and after one month of reading I went from breaking even each month to saving around 50% of my income each month. Before, I always just thought my income was too low to be able to save, but MMM opened my eyes to all of the waste in my life. My honey on the other hand.. reads the blog, reads other similar blogs, shares them on facebook, talks about it with me and with friends… We have talked about our goals, and our goals are aligned… But with him it’s all talk. I haven’t seen him take any action or make any actual lifestyle changes. He spends tons of money eating out, buying drinks at bars, making impulse buys on Amazon. And it’s really hard for me not to “nitpick the symptoms” because I’m scared. I’ve agreed to spend my life with this person who shares the same goals and dreams as me, but it seems that he’s making zero effort to actually work toward those goals or dreams or to become more frugal.

    • Mike August 1, 2014, 10:58 pm

      Try to talk your husband into the “ALLOWANCE” system. Meaning: He gets an agreed upon allowance each month that he can spend as he likes and you say nothing about it. Once that allowance is gone, he MUST stop frivolous spending for the month.

      Also, an off-setting amount of money from his pay will be put into an Mustachian account towards the goal of FIRE. That’s over and above him maxing out a 401k or whatever else is available to him.

      • JB September 5, 2014, 1:16 pm

        Allowances are for 10 year olds. Be adults and agree on a spending plan.

    • First Time Commenter August 2, 2014, 4:01 pm

      This might sound a little condescending toward the partner but… be a good example. When I moved into my husband’s house, all of my belongings fit into an SUV (not mine). He always thought that was a little strange especially for a woman (yeah, sexism, but also kind of true?) but I was only 26. As the years went on, he realized that I wasn’t changing my lifestyle, wasn’t buying an incredible amount of stuff even when my income was higher, and didn’t seem to care about things like dinners out or jewelry or any of that. I sometimes got a little mad about the amount of things he bought (he’s a nerd, well we both are, but he collects things like comics and “collectibles” whereas I am perfectly happy with getting my SF books from the library), but I tried not to show it. I definitely tried not to show it because at the time he was making 2x as much as me and our finances were still separate. He’d try to buy me things and was offended when I said I didn’t want normal girlfriend/fiancee gifts until he woke up and realized that it wasn’t because I was rejecting HIM, I was just rejecting the idea of owning STUFF. Somewhere in this we exchanged our bank account information and he was honestly gobsmacked that I’d managed to save over $16k over three years of working an entry level job when he had several thousands in debt and no savings. After that, I noticed his spending lessen, even though our finances were still separate and I never asked him for specifics. He paid off the debt in months. (I offered to do it for him before we got married but he wouldn’t let me.)

      Then… we moved. And he had so much stuff that we had to get the largest truck available and we still had to make two trips at the cost of several hundred dollars extra. After that, he had a real come to Jesus moment and decided to start shedding his stuff and putting things into savings. When we moved across the country a few years after that, we were able to fit everything we owned into the second-smallest moving truck and it was way smoother than the previous move even though it was almost ten times the distance.

      We still have more “stuff” than we need but it’s reduced by at least 75% of what it was. And I think it’s because he saw the example of someone who was perfectly happy to own a “mere” SUV of belongings, who didn’t care about presents or dinners out, and spent only what she needed to survive. If it were up to me we’d live in a yurt or something, but this is a good compromise. Sexism again, but I think a lot of men, especially men in their first professional jobs, are in “peacock” mode where they feel they have to impress their partners and live up to the whole American Dream bullshit. So when you as the partner don’t act impressed with that, just keep doing your own thing, it eventually sinks in. Not right away, but eventually. I will say that we didn’t combine finances until he was debt-free and the spending was 90% under control.

      Also, start planning things out. We’re not tempted into the convenience of eating meals out because we plan our meals, so we know exactly what we’re eating every day of the week, and know exactly what to buy at the store. If you’re going out to eat with him, stop doing that. Keep a nice supply of cheap beer/wine at home. I think most people when given the choice would rather eat a meal at home with their partner than eat out with friends.

      • marciaB August 6, 2014, 9:31 am

        “…peacock mode…” Fantastic!

  • Marcus August 1, 2014, 9:56 pm

    Wait, what? Where’s the “Next post” button? Does this mean I’ve finally caught up? No more 12-post binge reading sessions? No more “read through all 200 comments”? Huh. I guess I’ll go punch myself in the face and open a Vanguard account.

    • Lorin August 1, 2014, 11:52 pm

      Time to join the forums!

      • The Roamer August 5, 2014, 12:16 pm

        Lorin or anyone really. Can you give me more feedback onthe forums. I’ve ventured over there a handful of times and for the most part find it overwhelming to read and navigate. Any advice on how to make it the most useful?

  • Jason August 1, 2014, 11:32 pm

    I love your comment about being responsible if you have a wife and kids. I’m pretty sure I overshot the mark here when I started diving into frugality, and probably didn’t take the time to work through the things that my wife genuinely values spending money on. We’ve always communicated really well though, and I think we’re finally back on the same page having really talked through what’s important to us as a family. It really does come down to aligning your values with your spending, and not forgetting how to have fun along the way – and I’m so glad you reinforced this.

  • Barbara August 2, 2014, 7:35 am

    Hey there. Great article. I’ve been thinking about this because I think there’s another aspect of our personalities to consider in the negotiations towards frugality. And that is our sense of being OK with ourselves.

    My parents are very frugal (bordering on cheap). While I didn’t always enjoy wearing homemade clothes or being yelled at about leaving lights on (and I have a really strong rebellious streak which got me smacked around quite a bit–this was the 60’s), I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that my parents put all 4 of us through college, and I remind my siblings that the best present they have given us is their own financial independence. (My parents are in their 80’s now and comfortable. We’ll never have to take care of them.) I was always kind of a nerd, so I didn’t know much about clothes or shoes or cars till I became an adult, and I was perfectly content to read library books and walk or ride my bike to my friends’ houses.

    Not so my siblings. But it’s not rebellion. The lack of material things when we were growing up (my parents’ cheapness) created a hole in their souls. They NEED the expensive clothes, fancy handbags, brand new cars. They’ve chosen their homes based on what the outside world would think about their neighborhood. They lease their cars. Two of my siblings have been on the verge of bankruptcy. The worse their situation gets (and it has gotten bad–hair on fire bad), the more they feel they “deserve” a nice car, a fancy dinner out, a designer bag, etc. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), they are all married to people who share their values. But they live in fear of the next big thing.

    Recently my youngest sibling (with whom I’ve shared this blog–she seemed open to it) decided that she’d like to do some planning toward retirement. (If they’re lucky and plan well, we’re talking at 65ish, but still, they weren’t anywhere near on that road.) They downsized their house, and have made some other adjustments to their lifestyle to help them put more money away. I’m really proud of her and my brother in law. And I think seeing us retired comfortably in our 50’s (we’re not mustachian by any stretch, just pretty frugal and good at saving) has been a good influence I think.

    With the people we love, change can come frustratingly slow. All we can do is live well, set a good example, and love them.

  • Scott Lunt August 2, 2014, 7:36 am

    Andy (or anyone who knows), how did you do those nifty pie charts and graphs? I’m working on the same exact presentation for my wife. Thanks!

    • CincyCat August 2, 2014, 8:47 pm

      In Microsoft PowerPoint, there is a nifty little gadget called “Smart Art”. This will allow you to add graphics that show lists, process, relationships, etc. Also, if you look in the “Click here to add text” area, you’ll see a little icon with a bar chart in it. That’s a chart builder widget. All you do is put in your data points & labels, and it puts a chart into your presentation automatically.

  • Will_edit_for_food August 2, 2014, 5:47 pm


    I’ve been reading your blog for a month, and already I find it invaluable. That said, I don’t agree that the problem with the married couple in part 1 is a problem with “authority.” To me, their conflict lies elsewhere.

    The article didn’t specify what the husband said to the wife. But if he didn’t explain that they need to save thus-and-such dollars as part of a plan for an early retirement–but a portion of their earnings can go for play or unanticipated necessities like a sofa–then he’s missing the point of frugality.

    As you said, “my own son will gladly enter a battle to the death before accepting verbal commands to do something he feels is irrational or unfair.” That’s because most people don’t enjoy doing things we feel are irrational or unfair.

    However, if my parent/husband/boss/friend explains the reasons why I can’t buy a new sofa is because we’re saving money for early retirement/great vacation/PlayStation 4, that would go a long way toward earning my good will. It seems that the husband has not described his motivation and plan clearly to his wife.

    I consider this problem a failure of communication, not a response to authority. Luckily, this problem is easily solved with one good sit-down–or better yet, an _awesome_ slideshow.

  • Alfredo from Mexico August 4, 2014, 11:12 am

    And since education of the children is very important, it can be a source of conflict. But my wife and I are thinking about the Ivy League Syndrome and are deffending against it. And here is a link that MMM will like.


    • JB September 5, 2014, 1:11 pm

      There are very few reasons to send a kid to an Ivy college if your local college has the same programming. Accounting and Engineering are pretty universal. Unless they are a genius, most colleges will be just fine.

  • uniFI August 4, 2014, 11:53 am

    ‘Making selfish choices is like having that third piece of cake: thrilling initially, but quickly followed by a much longer period of unhappiness and repercussions.

    Years ago I named this the Little Debbie Effect. It is a universal truth!

    My Grandmother liked to give me a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls as a treat, even as a college student. Ironically, she was a make it from scratch Grandma, but still. So I’m driving back to school on a 2 hr road trip. I get hungry. The Swiss Cake rolls are whispering to me from the passenger seat. I eat a pack. Then another. Full feeding frenzy ensues and a third pack goes down. Then I feel like crap and wish I’d never touched them.

    There you have it. The Little Debbie Effect!

    • JB September 5, 2014, 1:10 pm

      That is why you put them in the trunk. :)

  • Zax August 4, 2014, 11:59 am

    I’m doing pretty good at ~40% savings. But gah i just can’t give up the cable/internet! I read like a fiend too but i do enjoy decent TV shows (with the occasional trash show thrown in). The misses would kill me if i got rid of it :)

    I know this costs me an arm and a leg but i can’t seem to channel my inner MMM for this bad boy.

    • Lee August 12, 2014, 4:42 pm

      You should just try it for a few months. Last year my husband and I decided to give up internet at home (and since we don’t even have a tv, that was how we watched shows too) in order to get rid of some debt quicker. I was shocked how little I missed it. And I re-kindled my love of reading. We turned it back on after several months (at a cheaper rate!) and I occasionally think about doing it again. Anyway, the point is you don’t have to commit to cutting it out forever. Choose a shorter time that you can agree to do as a trial and you may surprise yourselves.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy August 4, 2014, 4:48 pm

    I am fortunate my wife is on the same page as I am and that was a big deal for us to retire early. I know many whose partner have a spending weaknesses and it derails their chance to jump out of the Rat Race. I do indulge some with spending in support of my hobbies but its all part of my retirement budget and if I need to cut back I can. Once you make it to retirement it is fun to be able cut loose once in a while from total frugal mathematical financial logic and just enjoy the experience. It is an adventure. Cheers!

  • Parker August 6, 2014, 11:08 am

    That’s an awesome slide presentation. I loved the high 5 bear! I have ran my own version of this presentation in my head since the end of last year. And in my version, I will have no mortgage by 47 years old (currently 39), and have about $115K in my Roth IRA (+whatever I get from my Federal savings plan and pension). The best thing is having paid off my debts last month, I feel so unburdened!

  • EmmaS August 8, 2014, 10:24 am

    Just curious: What’s wrong with sandals?

  • BK August 9, 2014, 1:25 am

    MMM – I’ve read just about every article you’ve written, but I think this one tops the list for me (and I’m not even married!)

    In one article, you hit on how to figure out your life purpose, one of the most meaningful questions to ask a potential/current spouse, how to continually be happy forever, and how to handle the inevitable luxurious/waste of modern life. And of course a small dose of “stop spending money on stupid shit” that we all need regularly.

    Really brilliant; one I’ll be saving a referring back to. Cheers, thank you!

  • andrew August 12, 2014, 12:38 pm

    It’s been a while since I’ve read the blog, I’ve been so immersed in the forums; to everyone else that has just started, this is the cycle:
    1. read MMM and lose your freaking mind
    2. change everything
    3. read forums
    4. changer everythinger evener morer
    5. slide backwards
    6. escape forums and read articles to edify
    7. profit

  • Mike August 19, 2014, 10:56 am

    I was always frugal before I found the site, but when I found it, I got more vocal about my lifestyle and goals and my wife just wasn’t having any of it. She couldn’t deal with it and we are separated. At least I know how to live well on my half of our assets once we’re divorced!

  • IslandGirl August 21, 2014, 9:09 am

    Actually, the MMM blog has helped in that it became the third party needed to explain all the things I have been telling my husband since we met. There are aspects in which he goes a little overboard in his new-found frugality, but at least we are heading in the generally same direction, financially.

  • Sarah December 16, 2014, 2:23 am

    I was such a savage, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, champagne,espresso and macaron loving junkie, it literally makes me physically ill to think about it! My husband was careful and I think I may have shaved a couple of years off of his live due to unnecessary stress bought on by my purchases.
    Now because of this awesome blog and my unwaivering addiction to it, I have become the super badass frugal one. To the point that I look at my husband as a total and utterly wasteful money spender and his flagrant abuse of our precious money is stressing me out! I really would like to punch him in the face ;o) Oh how the tables have turned. God I love being frugal….who’d a thunk it! x

  • RecoveringCarClown July 9, 2015, 8:28 pm

    I was finally able to convince my wife to read a MMM article, that was part one which she was able to laugh a bit at herself. So I bring her to part two and the slideshow is broke, aaahhh! Please fix it and help me keep the momentum I have spent at least 8 months trying to start!

    She owns an SUV (although smaller and very old), but does shop at thrift stores, but we spend too much on other stuff. I have to make an admission of guilt because we have six vehicles (holy shit brother!) but I do fix them up and sell them, although have not sold any lately. I vow to fix and sell two this year!

  • Raegan March 2, 2017, 8:37 am

    I hate this notion that women should be ‘soft’. It isn’t 1920 anymore and women aren’t housewives. I think it is a balance for women now between tough and soft (i.e., riding my bicycle in a dress [they’re called tights, thank you fashion]). There a lot of other comments here that I agree with (okay I’ll admit it, I haven’t really read through all of them), including MMM and I don’t need to repeat those sentiments.

  • Dagenham Dave March 9, 2017, 10:25 pm

    Great post. I can’t seem to get the slideshow to work. Does anyone have a link to this elsewhere on the web? TIA

  • Steve P. June 1, 2018, 5:56 pm

    Loved this, “Making selfish choices is like having that third piece of cake: thrilling initially, but quickly followed by a much longer period of unhappiness and repercussions.”

  • NoClaude July 31, 2018, 2:10 am

    All this time trying to catch up on the blog and wondering if there was some help to be had for Mustachians with an anti-Mustachian spouse… good to know I”m not the only one with this little problem.

    My husband isn’t anti-Mustachian really, because I chose to initiate the family-mustachifying procedure without talking to him about it first. But if I HAD talked about it, he certainly would be against it. He likes to call himself a skeptic, in fact I think he’s just scared of changes, especially sudden (i.e. happening in less than a million years) changes, especially changes he hasn’t come up with himself, especially if the change isn’t described in all specifications and all ramifications for the next 20 years in a peer-reviewed study. You get the idea. I used to get very upset about this attitude – I mean, try to get ANYTHING done with somebody like this – but now we have kids and I realize one of them is exactly the same. I see it more as an inherited genetic trait now and I’m more tolerant about it – while of course trying to give my child the tools to keep it in check.

    Anyway, with all due respect and understanding for my lovely husband, I also have to get on with my life and sure it would be nicest if we could retire early together, but the next nicest thing is that I retire early and he still goes to work, if he likes his hamster-wheel routine so much, my goodness who am I to take it away from him? He doesn’t want to talk finances because to him it’s all a psychological scam mixed with lots of bureaucracy, FINE, as long as he lets me do the family finances, I’m fine with it. He thinks it’s impossible to live on one salary (his) only? Fine, fine, he doesn’t need to know we’ve been socking away 80% of my salary in the last year. At some point he may or may not notice that we have paid off the house about 15 years earlier than we were originally planning to (I guess he will notice because I’ll quit my job then ;) ).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s best of course – and easier, too – if both spouses are on board with the early retirement project, but if that’s not the case… you get started on your own! Find a fair setup that will not make you bitter when you realize your spouse has splurged, and then… keep quiet and go go go. Frugality will spread through family activities anyway – it will spread fastest if you don’t lecture a reluctant spouse about it.

    (I do however miss having somebody to talk to about these things. All the lovely spreadsheets and nobody to show them to, waaa!)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 1, 2018, 9:17 am

      Beautiful comment, NoClaude! I’m sure many people can relate to this type of spouse.

      • MatthewInMichigan August 1, 2018, 11:32 am

        Haha! I’m one that can relate. Already married, children, then I discover MMM. It’s nice to hear I’m not alone. I totally get the whole not having anyone to talk to about this stuff….my wife doesn’t share my enthusiasm for it. Thankfully there’s the forum….. :-)

        • Grin and Barrett August 12, 2018, 6:45 am

          Find what motivates your wife and show her THAT. I’m an engineer with a love for finance and spreadsheets. Hubby is also an engineer but with a love for moving parts and personal relationships. A spreadsheet and budget fell on deaf ears. A promise of more time with our five kids in less than ten years – BINGO. We went from saving 8% to 55% in ONE MONTH.

    • Spencer August 1, 2018, 2:24 pm

      Nobody to show them to?! You may be in luck, as there’s an entire forum of folks who’d be interested in your spreadsheets!

  • Grin and Barrett August 12, 2018, 6:41 am

    Have you looked into managing personal styles as a way to influence the others in your life? Check out the enneagram and the Meyers-Briggs. They can be invaluable in helping understand yourself first, and what motivates you, as well as how to best communicate with partners and family members (or colleagues) based on their personalities. It can make a world of difference in getting you both to the same end goal!


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