If You Think This is About Extreme Frugality, You’re Missing The Point

A few months back, I joined in fnymagor an episode of a podcast called the Disciplined Investor. The host Andrew Horowitz and I were chatting about money, raising children, stock market crashes and so on, and then this question popped out of the void and really surprised me:


So, there must be something you really miss. What’s the thing that it hurt most to give up, to live the way you do so you could retire early?

What happens when your son wants to go to Disneyland, and you have to turn to him and say, ‘Sorry, that’s just not in the budget this year’?”


For some reason, the question stirred up so much stern enthusiasm in me that I had to loosen my collar to let some of the steam shoot out. There were so many wrong but telling assumptions behind it. It was asked from such a well-meaning but self-defeating position.  I quietly took a deep breath and did my best to explain that this is exactly where the path of the Sucka Consumer divides from that of the Mustachian.

More recently, this lifestyle you and I share showed up in New York Magazine, which brought us a good amount of new attention. The writer Annie Lowrey seemed to get the idea pretty well, describing Mustachianism as a thing people (even rich people) aspire to by choice, rather than a wacky  thing that some extremely warped people are doing because that’s all they can afford. Economist Ezra Klein mused on Twitter that frugality might now be becoming a status competition that replaces clueless consumption. I sure hope so.

Unfortunately, the article was capped with a flashy but  misleading headline*:  Meet The Blogger Who Wants You To Spend Like You’re Poor.

 Another version of the same article was given the label This Tightwad is Trending“.

Those were probably calculated phrases, because the goal of any headline is to capture attention and draw in readers. The problem is that too many of those readers still aren’t getting it. You end up with comments like,


“Fiscal responsibility is one thing but I haven’t time for cheap people. I am financially careful but I refuse to deprive myself of the few luxuries I prefer to indulge. People like Mustache take it to another level.”

“So the point of living like you are poor is to have enough money to retire in your 30’s and live like you’re poor… perpetually? No thank you.”


So let’s break it down real quick so brand new Mustachians will know what this shit is about, while the old timers can stand in the back and sing along.

This is not about being cheap, minimalist, or extreme.

It’s about using logic and science to design a Slightly Less Ridiculous Than Average Lifestyle in order to live more happily.

The Mustache family does not lead an “extremely frugal” lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, holy shit, we are a multimillionaire family living in an expensive house with a stream of luxury goods, services and food shooting at us from all directions.

Not only do we bathe daily in this spectacular river of affluence, but we even walk casually away from it a few times a year in order to ride in Jet Aircraft which allow us to sample other unnecessary parts of the world. The total bill for this nuclear explosion of consumption is an outrageous $25,000 per year, which would be closer to $40,000 if you accounted for mortgage interest or rent on a comparable house. The life we lead in this rich part of a rich country is extreme, but at the other end of the scale than that suggested by the critics.

The only unusual part by American standards is that we could afford to spend many times more, and yet somehow we choose not to do it. This is a lifestyle of choice, not a sacrifice we make just because we don’t want to have to go back to the office. And therein lies the reason this blog is of any use to anyone:

 Learning to separate “happiness” from  “spending money” is the quickest and most reliable way to a better life.

The side-effect of this is that your life will become much less expensive and you will therefore become much wealthier very quickly.

But it’s not about the money, and as long as you think it is about the money, you’re still fucked.

 So I explained to the man in the interview that if we wanted to go to Disneyland, we would go to Disneyland. Hell, we would live inside the park or perhaps one of the Disney-owned cruise ships if we saw fit. We just happen to find that tourist traps like Disney are a pretty pale and distant second place compared to the fine places that Mother Nature has built for us.

We don’t use our bikes for transportation and hauling instead of our cars, even in the dark and even in the middle of winter because it saves us a few dollars of fuel. We do it because it’s an awesome way to connect with your own town, stay in proper condition, adapt naturally to your own climate, and live like a real human instead of a sanitized, flabby car clown.

I don’t swim and and paddle kayaks and canoes all summer because I lack the funds to buy a twin-engine motorboat. I do it because when it comes to recreational pastimes, muscle wins over motor every fucking time.

I’m not expecting my son to earn his own living early in life and pay for his own higher education because I’m a tightass or because it would break the bank to fund a Harvard doctorate. I set out this challenge because pampering your kids only encourages a dependence on Pampers, while giving them the advantage of working for their own rewards is the best possible gift. I will give him unlimited time, guidance, and access to knowledge, and teach him how to amass an embarrassingly large fortune in a short amount of time. It will then be his choice how to put this knowledge to work.

We spend most of our time at home, a place which I built from the ground up with the valuable helping hands of a few friends. We do our own cooking and cleaning and of course maintenance. Entertaining, creating things, stories and music and hosting a neverending stream of fun guests. Even my gym, workshop, and office are right here in the same spot.

None of this is done because this is a cheap way to live, but because it’s a rich and efficient way to get in touch with all the things that make a human happy. We could go out and get faint approximations of these same services by driving around constantly to various cities and manage to spend more, but why the hell would we do this?

Oddly enough, it hasn’t always been this way. At age 21, I had a fairly materialistic life planned for myself: perhaps a 4500 square foot luxury home in the best neighborhood and a reasonably flashy car like an Acura NSX. Maybe a vacation house or two later on, once I made CEO.

But over the years, this has changed. Even after retirement, our costs have continued to drop even as our income has increased. The choices are no longer based on saving money, but rather on doing our best to live a good life. This was a pleasant surprise to me, but it seems to be an incomprehensible incongruity to the average consumer.

I told the man that my family’s lifestyle was not designed from the top down, starting with a restrictive budget and chopping off important activities based on their cost. Instead, it is a work in progress where we learn as much as possible about the entire planet and the various lifeforms therein, and do whatever we feel is most worthwhile given our limited time aboard this fine ship. Nothing is off-limits based on cost, because making money is fairly easy at this point. We do whatever we want, go wherever we want, and buy anything and everything we feel is worthwhile.

And as for that New York Magazine headline, no, I don’t want you to Spend Like You’re Poor. To me, that would imply car loans, processed food, hair salons, restaurants, lawn care companies, housekeepers and all the things that people get when they follow the standard script of a people who are starved for free time and chasing material comforts as a replacement for happiness.

I want you to spend like you are the richest person in the world, a person who has so much happiness and balance in your life that you can’t imagine anything you could buy that would make you any happier.


* Annie has since confirmed to me that writers for most magazines don’t get final say on their own headlines. I think you need to fix that, NY Magazine. If you’re going to hire people to write for you, why go in and subsequently mess with their shit? These are artists, and you get a better product if you don’t run in with a can of spray paint to make little adjustments after they finish their creation. Otherwise you’ll find an empty desk waiting for you as soon as they reach financial independence themselves.


 Further Reading: New people might enjoy this list of frequently complained questions, which I wrote a couple years back after a similar media incident. Glad you’re here!

  • Mr. Frugal Toque November 24, 2014, 10:02 am

    There’s one thing I wish I could have gotten through when they interviewed me about you.
    While I managed to get in the line about it being better to take your kids on a hike or to a park, as opposed to an expensive “Fun Place(TM)”, the impression that Mustachianism is about enforced poverty was still there.
    I wish they’d kept the idea of separating money from happiness, but that probably didn’t make a good headline.

  • Lyn in CA November 24, 2014, 10:08 am

    Awesome post. The idea of setting and achieving goals for savings, for cutting expenses…those are all ways to increase your self-esteem and life satisfaction. Plus, along the way, you are forced to look at what really matters to you.

    I just projected my income/expenses for 2014. I am on track to save 30% of my income this year (not including dividends which are magically reinvested at 100%). It was fun for me to see how much money I was able to squirrel away, and to look at each expense category and decide whether it was worth it to increase or decrease for 2015. Because I get to choose!

    I also get a huge satisfaction out of doing small home repairs by myself. Changing a lock, fixing the faucet handle, repairing the garage door…all of these victories empower me.

    And the best thing….I am at the stage where I can retire at any time!!

  • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 10:36 am

    I guess I either am confused or do not entirely agree with part of this. It is about the money to an extent. Granted I am new to this, but I have gone out of my way to spend significantly less on apartment, bus to work (reimbursed by employer), less on food, looking to move from Verizon to Republic wireless, and random 1-time spending habits are going down as well. Of course there is the important detail about my time becoming mine after I retire, the happiness factor is simply not true for me however. Not a single decision I have made has made a happiness increase that I am aware of. I LOVED the apartment I moved out of, but I am saving over $200/month in driving, utilities, rent. I enjoyed my previous eating habits but they were stupid (I cut more than $2,000 in food costs as a single guy from last year to this year and next year will be better still). It is great to see my net value slowly growing over time, but not a single decision I have made has led to an increase in happiness by the action itself. I am not suffering from these choices, but your are plainly stating you only do this for the happiness whereas I am only doing this for financial reasons without any happiness. My end goal is early retirement, happiness is really not being increased by this right now though. Would you suggest that this is due to me making the wrong choices right now, a total obliviousness on my being happier, or something else?

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 24, 2014, 11:07 am

      That is an interesting dilemma. Right now you’re like a marathon trainer who gets up at 5am to run, but doesn’t really enjoy it. You’re just focused on being prepared for the race. My suggestion is to read a book or two about human happiness from a psychological sense, and what really makes us happy.

      For example, friends are a huge part of that, so sharing a place with friends is often a better way to save on rent than getting a cheap place for yourself (from ages 19 through 24 I lived in a series of nice places in just this situation and averaged only about $400/month in rent, and those were great years).

      Getting outside makes you happy, whereas sitting in a crowded bus generally does not. For this reason, I always encourage people to get to work via human power (walking or cycling) instead of JUST focusing on eliminating the car aspect of the commute.

      Hard effort and even struggle both lead to happiness, even though at the moment of impact some of these things can be serious bummers.

      And finally, learning new stuff, skills and bettering yourself make you happier. So prioritize things that leave you a better person (reading good books or taking free courses in interesting areas for entertainment, for example), rather than just thinking about the cost (for example, getting free cable TV and watching that for entertainment).

      • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 3:05 pm

        First off I admit that I am more than a little surprised not to have gotten an answer, but to have gotten a lengthy answer so quickly. I very much appreciate this, thank you!

        I have read several books on the topic of happiness. Just earlier this month I returned “A Guide to the Good Life” to the library along with several other Stoicism books. I have also read more books than I care to remember on Buddhism and meditation in general, psychology books on the subject, and a number of self-help books which all sounded similar to your post on the optimism gun. So far the only thing which I have found in any of those was that while the concept of not worrying sounds great, any actual progress towards that goal has not happened.

        Your comment on living with friends is honestly probably part of my problem with the previous point on happiness: I hate dealing with 95% of the people I meet. I could write pages worth of complaining, but the fact of the matter is there are only a handful of people I would even consider moving in with and I suspect within a few months that they and I would be at odds. With that in mind when I moved into the cheaper apartment I am now 2 blocks away from a friend, so that should help.

        I recall the post you made where if you had to summarize your entire philosophy it would be to buy a bike and your listed reasons within that posting. While I do agree that the exercise and being out and about may help (ducks out of punching range) I currently do not own a bike. I walk or take the bus almost everywhere and drive once a week to visit my dad who lives a good 15 miles away for lunch.

        Learning new stuff is hardly difficult for me. I am an electrical engineer so learning is a requirement. Although I seriously hate my field and have been trying for quite some time (read much more than a year off and on) to find employment elsewhere. I am currently considering moving into software/programming… But besides that I am always learning new things such as card counting for blackjack, investing, built a few computers, kung fu, blah blah blah. Does everything I learn help me somehow? I think so: card counting helped me get a little better at socializing with random people, kung fu was great fun and exercise, investing is why I started to learn about personal finance in the first place.

        • Sir Salty November 24, 2014, 8:12 pm

          On the reading side, I would suggest Toxic Success by Paul Pearsall. He makes some very good points about contentedness. And most importantly to me, his solution isn’t a new action list for your life. It’s just to pay attention to the good life you have, rather than continually waiting to be content once you reach some goal. Keep working hard, learning, and growing…just appreciate life along the way.

          • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 9:02 pm

            I may look into your suggestions, but you may have misunderstood what I meant. “A guide to the good life” is not a to-do list, it is 100% about appreciating what you have now. It is a book about stoicism which uses techniques such as negative visualization (which MMM has written about) where you imagine life without certain things, such as your car is stolen, your are blind, bank accounts hacked… Then you imagine how life would be, how you would continue living each day and eventually be at least as happy as you are right now. Then you realize that your car is NOT stolen, you are not blind, your accounts are safe and secure. SURPRISE, if you could imagine being happy without those “things” suddenly now that you still have those things you are even more happy. I also read “meditations” by Marcus Aurelias (a Roman emperor) who wrote about his personal stoicism, along with several other such books.

            So, I suspect that your suggestion is simply to read more of what I have already read quite a bit of already. With that being said, I will try to remember to look into that particular book.

            • Sir Salty November 25, 2014, 7:34 am

              This recommendation is not stoicism. I know MMM and others here like that belief system, but its not really up my alley. I think stoicism falls a little short under some (important) circumstances. But if it works for some – then good for them.

              I do agree with MMM that being content should come from somewhere besides your relationship with money & stuff – they should be independent. That is the freeing side of this blog. People find this satisfaction in as many different ways as there are religions / philosophies. Stoicism is one of these paths.

              This reading recommendation also just happens to be a book I read recently that made an impact on me, so I thought I’d pass along. Another good one is Thoreau’s Walden (self sufficiency & back to nature as finding basic happiness then build from there).

        • Ishmael November 25, 2014, 8:48 am

          I’ve enjoyed “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt. The book is a really interesting read, with one main takeaway that might be applicable.

          People have a natural ‘happiness range’, and the external things that affect happiness adjust it within that range. I myself come from a family that has a lot of ‘worriers’ in it, so I’ve seen this first hand.

          His research has found that there are two ways to ‘reset’ this happiness range scale – one is Prozac, but the more useful one is meditation. Might be something to investigate.

          I also understand what you mean about people. Many people just tire me out, but there are a few people whose company I really enjoy, and that makes me really appreciate them. They make all the difference in the world. I’m pretty sure that there are not many people in the world I could stand to live with, but luckily my wife is one of them!

          • cn1ght November 25, 2014, 5:00 pm

            I have tried meditating. I spent more than a year reading about meditating and meditating. A year is not exactly a long time, but I can tell you that the reason I stopped when I did was that I was becoming significantly less and less happy as I continued meditating. I have tried a few times since then (I am leaving out details about what “less happy” means on purpose) but have made no progress. That is part of why I keep trying to learn about stoicism as the basic idea is that meditating allows you to remove yourself from “Stuff” as you meditate whereas stoicism is supposed to let you remove yourself from “Stuff” during daily life…. kind of.

        • skunkfunk November 25, 2014, 2:33 pm

          • cn1ght November 25, 2014, 4:30 pm

            Haha, yea I know I know. I mean, seriously though, I walk to most things. Really poor example, but I have been craving pizza for weeks now. There is a bus which could have taken me the slightly more than 1 more each way, instead I walked to pick up the pizza from the grocery store and I walked back. The other excuse is that within a 2 year period of time I had 4 bikes stolen from me and I gave up buying bikes after that 4th… With that having been said, I did check out the recommended site for purchasing a new bike and I looked at a few bikes. I then decided it made a lot more sense to buy a bike off of craigs list. I am in the process of talking myself into looking at craigs list… I also plan on buying a couch from there at some point.

        • misterfancypantz November 25, 2014, 3:38 pm

          I’m somewhat contrary on the giving things up to make you happy concept… I take a different stance on the concept than MMM and from your description you seem like you are more like my personality type, however the difference between us is I am already FI and can afford my luxuries so I can choose not to give things up. You are giving them up strictly for financial benefit.

          I drive a fancy car, not because it will make me happy, and if money ever became an issue I would lose the car in a heartbeat, but since I can afford the luxury of a fancy car I would be unhappy to drive a piece of shit for no reason what so ever.

          I live in a big house, something that most of you would probably consider a McMansion, I would sell it no problem if there was a need, but I happen to like the space it provides and I am very happy living here, I would get no satisfaction in downsizing so there is no benefit to me to do so.

          I realize that these possessions are simply that, things… I can eliminate them and be happy just the same but there is no upside to doing so just because…

          In your case you are seeing savings that are making a difference so until you reach your goals you have to sacrifice your luxuries… Once you can afford things you can add them back realizing they aren’t what made you happy in the first place… And you might find you are like MMM and you don’t really want some of those things and others you do…

          I mentioned a car (a hybrid) and house (all my entertainment is having people over) as those things are important to me, but I still bring my lunch with me to work everyday and never buy latte’s etc…

          So give up now to get to FI and then you can get “things” if you can afford them and they either make you happy or not having them will make you unhappy

          • cn1ght November 25, 2014, 4:34 pm

            Congrats on reaching FI!

            Okay, maybe it is just a matter of not everyone shares the same personality traits as MMM then… I also strongly suspect that a large part of the difference is that he became significantly more athletic/physically oriented due to his lifestyle decisions and that is why he is happy, it has nothing to do with the lack of stuff per se. So I take the bus to work, he would ride a bike. I live in an apartment, he cuts his own lawn. Things like that where we both cut costs (bus is reimbursed by employer and apartment is in many ways cheaper than a house) but his method of cost cutting (cutting his own lawn) gives him the adrenaline boost or whatever.

    • Mother Frugal November 24, 2014, 11:54 am

      Cnight, I guess the real question you need to ask yourself is: are you LESS happy due to the changes you’ve made? You mention that your happiness hasn’t increased, but not necessarily that you are unhappy. At least you say that you’re not suffering.

      If your expenses have gone down and you’re happiness level has not, I’d say you’re living a more efficient lifestyle. Sounds very mustachian to me!

      If you’re downright miserable, then by all means evaluate whether you can affordably make some changes that will increase your happiness. If you can’t afford those changes at the moment, just realize that your situation is very likely to be temporary as your net value grows.

      I’d recommend you read Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robin, if you haven’t read it already (MMM recommended, I believe). It gets into this issue at more depth. Good luck!

      • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 3:15 pm

        I would say that the things I miss about equal the things I have gained. For starters I always preferred to walk everywhere so that has no difference. I do miss eating more expensive foods: for a time I was eating fish, steak, or other expensive foods almost daily, now I cannot recall the last time I had steak. Moving closer to work is something I wanted to have done originally, I did not as I just wanted to get out of my old location and did not see anything nearer work. With that being said I REALLY miss my old place, it was just amazing to me… simply too expensive however. I am in the process of changing from Verizon to Republic Wireless, so I cannot comment on that yet.

        I mean, here’s something I maybe should have made clear: I never had bad debt, I was spending less than I was earning before, it is just I am cutting corners for a lot of things. Corner cutting example, I really REALLY wanted pizza for the last few weeks after I get off from work and keep putting it off as I am rationally telling myself that I have food at home. Little things like that pizza have cut more than $2,000 from my food budget this year. I also currently have clothes hanging in my apartment to not pay the $1.25 to use the dryer which has saved me $5 this month.

        I am not miserable from any of these things, however not driving as much, cooking more regular food frequently, considering whether or not a purchase will actually make me happy or just give me a little spurt of “YAY SHINY!” has done nothing to make me happier.

        • SteveCW November 24, 2014, 5:53 pm

          If you are in your 20’s I think you are meant to be a little, unhappy, frustrated and unsatisfied : )

          In all honesty I don’t think the point of this blog is simply to say that the life style it proposes will immediately make you happier. If you have an unsatisfying job that can put a huge crimp on your happiness even if everything else is perfect.

          Another source of happiness is your social crowd. Maybe its time to add some new social groups or take away some that are draining you.

          But I don’t think anyone here would say going 100% mustashian will make you happier over night. It could actually just add a bunch of stress to an already meh existence.

          I have found it much more satisfying to make small changes and adjust. Each one freeing me from more financial shackles that I thought I was stuck with. That ends up being really satisfying because I can see money being freed up to do more productive things which gives me greater hope for my future.

          Just some of my thoughts being someone who is still in their late 20’s coming off crazy spending habits, $100 dollar bottles of scotch, $1,000 dollar eating out monthly. It was all fun but I could have spent less and enjoyed the company I had just as much…

          • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 6:15 pm

            Haha, of course I do not expect following any philosophy to be a “WOW I AM SHITTING RAINBOWS” over night haha. I started reading and thinking about money not equaling happiness and being able to control my own financial future about a year ago. There were other sites and sources I was using, I only found MMM a month or 2 ago. So the changes I described above (less on groceries, eating out less, less random purchases) started let’s say 8 months ago. I only moved into the cheaper apartment mid September this year which allowed me to cut driving and take the bus to work, slashed my utility bills, and rent went way down. I am in the process of starting to look for things like a bike and a couch on craig’s list. I just saw an email notification that my phone from republic wireless has shipped. So, I am still very much in the process of changing my lifestyle.

            That being said, with the changes I have already made I would have expected (based on this “not extreme frugality” and other posts) that I should already have gained some amount of happiness in my life. Instead the only benefit I really see is that I am stronger financially.

    • EcoCatLady November 24, 2014, 12:10 pm

      It seems to me that this must be pretty difficult for people who are content with their “normal” lives to begin with. For me, that was never the case. I didn’t have the stomach for playing all those societal games, especially where employment was concerned – so anything that got me one step closer to freedom made me happy simply because I was one step closer. And I seldom felt like I was “missing out” because most of the things that money can buy never made me happy to begin with.

      But I also think that if you’re just starting out on this journey, you’re at the most difficult part. I mean, the way I see it, the standard equation in our society is that we trade our time for money – we then spend this money on things to make us feel better about sacrificing all of our time in said pursuit. So, when you’re at the early stage of the game, you sorta end up in a place where you have yet to realize the freedom of additional time, yet you can no longer “buy some happiness” to ameliorate your suffering.

      All I can say is that it gets easier and better the longer you do it – and remember, this is YOUR choice. It’s your money and your life. You’re the only one who can decide if the luxury apartment now is worth xyz number of years tied to employment or not.

      • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 3:20 pm

        This is a topic I really am trying to avoid as I get emotional on it too fast, but just to set the record straight NO, I was not happy nor content prior to discovering this type of lifestyle. Going out with friends for beers is something I actually dread. A few months ago a friend had a gathering at his house, I left after 15 minutes as I was having an outright miserable time being at a party, and this was a laid back party, no loud music just people standing/sitting, talking, eating chicken wings, trying new beers.

        I do think you are hitting a nail or two on the head when you explain why this is a difficult time. My time is still not my own, yet I cannot indulge the way “normal” people do and have not come to terms with wanting to not indulge in the first place.

        • LennStar November 27, 2014, 10:17 am

          raptitude.com <- read that, if you havent don it.

          Then. a tiny litle quiz:
          There are 2 types of people. The first recreate when beeing with lots of people. The second have to recreate FROM people.
          Which type are you?
          Sound you are – like me – the second type.

          Think about it, analyse yourself.
          If you are second one – then stop going to parties and other "many people" events. They will never make you happy and you tend to meet people there that are type 1.
          That is not to say that you cant be friends with them, but you cant be close friends with more then a tiny number of them.
          Try to find friends who are of the same type. Take a hobby as a hook. With the internet, there *is* some type of forum or similar with likeminded people.

          I think your "problem" is that you are concentrated too much on money. Thats OK in the "first year", without doubt. You make lots of changes and that needs a lot of mental work, if you can see/feel it or not. Changing habits IS hard work.

          But if you have done all the big $ saving things you may take your eyes more on the happiness side.
          Take a sheet of paper, devide into 2 sides.
          Left side: write down what you do
          right side: write down what you LIKE to do. And I dont mean just like because you are used to. I mean LIKE.

          (Most people say they like watching TV. What they really like in many cases is relax. Shut the mind off. Shutting the mind off is awesomely hard. But they try it because they want – or have to – relax, release the stress from work.
          But you could also do a walk through nice streets or whatever is nice in your area.
          Make a promise to do this every day the next week, whatever the weather (you are excused for serious hailstorm and wind where you have to lean more then 20° to walk, but nothing else)
          Because starting is hard. Building a habit even harder. After a week, look closely on your experience. It is likely you will find that in that week you had more pleasure from walking then from TV. )

          Eliminate as much as possible from the left that doesnt stand on the right.
          Think about the things on the right side. WHAT in each activity brings you fun?
          Look at it and find similar thing. If you like to walk, try running or biking. If you ever thought "that would be nice", try it. You cant lose anything by trying.
          If you like children and playing football, see if you can be a trainer. Whatever.

          If you still focus heavily on money, than perhaps money chasing is what makes you happy? OK, then try to challenge yourself: Make good meals with the minimum amount of money. Find the best bank. Whatever. Seek the fun. If you have fun by what you are doing, you pay yourself well.

          • cn1ght November 27, 2014, 10:40 am

            I am not 100% sure I understand the quiz, but I think I do. You are asking if I am introverted or extroverted, in which case I am introverted.

            The problem is that the tiny 5% of people I enjoy dealing with are all party people. So hobbies where I deal with non-party people: chess, magic the gathering, programming, engineers. I have been playing chess since I was 5 years old, I have met a LOT of people through chess. Of every chess player I have ever met the only ones whom I enjoyed dealing with were people who would also go out to parties, they were not people like me who had bad times at parties. Of course there are billions of people out there and I have barely met any of them, so maybe I would prefer the non-party people. However I have not yet met anyone who is like me who dislikes parties and is also someone I enjoy dealing with.

            After not quite a year I am still in the process of cutting costs. I currently have 2 phones (3 really) sitting next to me. One is Verizon the other is Republic Wireless. I am in the process of testing the Republic Wireless phone and depending on how that works for the next few weeks I will then disconnect my Verizon account. I do not yet own a bike because I only drive once a week, I walk to everything except work which I take the bus to. There is a list of other things I need to work on still. With having been said, a list of things I currently do is easy to make. A list of things I “like” to do is hard. Take walking for example. A couple of years ago I decided to start running. I could not even run 1/2 a mile at first. I ended up being able to run 6 miles without stop before the end. I got bored around 4 miles, I only continued and added 2 more miles (which took weeks) as it was some way to waste time. I have always done a lot of walking, lately I have been walking maybe 4 times a week, 2 miles each way. I do not really get happiness or anything out of walking, it is something I do because I am bored. I recently rented Star Trek season 3 from the library, I am watching the episodes because I have nothing else to do. Do not get me wrong, I LOVE Data in the series, but watching the show does not make me happy. Final comment, I do not own a TV. I own a computer with a monitor and I also own a projector. However, the projector I use maybe once a week or less and I cannot remember the last time I watched television.

            In terms of money bringing me happiness, I doubt it. I do currently enjoy finding ways to make money: dividend paying stocks, finding new ways to cut costs, putting together spreadsheets… But I am finding that the spreadsheets (which were originally great fun) are becoming boring and simply a waste to waste time. Dividend paying stocks are great, but I have no actual interest in valuing these companies accurately. Cutting costs is already simply just something to do, not fun. With me I find new hobbies, get excited about them for a few months, then get bored and move on to something new. With that in mind I also get very annoyed with how difficult people make learning things. Stocks: it took me MONTHS to discover why owning stock had any actual value: dividends. Without dividends the stock market is a pyramid scheme or something like beanie babies. It took months for someone to actually explain that dividends are WHY stocks have actual value… Same with diet and exercise, there are thousands of things you can do on either and only a handful have actual science and reasons for working which take a long time to find (it is much more complicated than calories in vs calories out). So the only thing I know of which actually brings me temporary happiness (new hobbies) is also a major source of annoyance!

    • ItsAllTheSameOnlyDifferent November 24, 2014, 12:15 pm

      I fundamentally believe that if you are focused just on the money part / early retirement…whatever that means to you then happiness will elude you. It should be more about the journey than the destination.

      I use to go wilderness camping once a year with some friends for a week or so. What I learned from this experience is all you NEED in life is:
      1. Food
      2. Shelter
      3. A few good friends

      As MMM suggests you are early in your trek. You will be successful if you focus on making the trek fun and exciting…

      Good luck

    • Edward November 24, 2014, 2:35 pm

      It’s very strange to read this as my experience has been 100% in the opposite direction. I can’t think of a single facet of my life that has gotten worse and an unexpected two dozen (plus) things have gotten way better. I was always a minimalist, but now I’m a happy minimalist with much more money in the bank. Fewer bills, fewer alcohol hangovers, less greasy restaurant/junk food, more rolled oats, more closet/cupboard space, more outdoor exercise, learned how to paint/tile/grout, less miserable time in the shopping malls, more time hanging out with family and friends.

      • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 3:24 pm

        Just to clarify something, my life has not gotten worse. Some things I miss and some things I appreciate more. When you look at this objectively I am about where I started in terms of happiness. Had this only been a few weeks that would be “well, duh” kind of comment. I started looking into this a little over a year ago and have been making the changes since then.

        • Mike November 24, 2014, 3:59 pm

          I’m firmly in the same camp as cn1ght. The only incremental happiness I’ve gained since flexing my frugality muscle is the uptick in my investments. This, for me, is 100% about the money and retiring early. I wasn’t unhappy “before”, and I’m not unhappy now, but I can’t say living frugally has been some kind of epiphany. In fact, my spending pendulum has been swinging back the other direction recently because I realize that bringing my lunch instead of eating out at work (for example) won’t change my FIRE date by any meaningful amount.

          That said, I have learned a ton from this blog and the forums, so I’m really glad I found it. I just don’t think hardcore (or even moderate) frugality has made me feel better in and of itself.

    • Big Guy Money November 24, 2014, 7:37 pm


      What makes you tick? What do you enjoy? I ask because from reading through, it seems like your apartment was one of the few things that seemed to bring you joy. No two of us are wired the same. Something that I might find value in may not hold value for you, and that’s OK. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. You say that you’ve always lived below your means – I’d say that if that apartment brought you happiness, go for it.

      My weakness (as MMM likes to put it) is different from yours, and even the great MMM has self-professed weaknesses (I believe I remember him referring to himself as a ‘house slut’ once upon a time). You don’t have to forego what provides value to you just to fit into someone else’s box.

      • cn1ght November 24, 2014, 8:58 pm

        I do not really have a good answer to your question.

        I have spent a lot of time and effort (and money) into trying to figure out what makes me happy. Attempts include things such as running 6 miles, losing weight, kung fu, swing dance. I have also tried meditation, stoicism, reading psychology books, vitamins. In addition I have tried learning new skills/hobbies such as card counting (blackjack), watching Star Trek (up to season 3 now), learning about investing, built a few computers, watching movies on my projector. In the last category I have tried hanging out with people such as going to random bars alone and just meeting new people along with going out with existing friends, I have tried not going out at all, I have seen multiple psychologists, and I even tried to get onto medication at one point.

        Long story short: I have yet to find something which consistently makes me happy or which I enjoy. Sure when I finally managed a full 1 mile jog it was great, when I lost a few dozen pounds I was proud, when I watch movies I thoroughly enjoy my projector. But all of my experiences are essentially a hedonistic lifestyle, I enjoy it the first time then each time after I enjoy it much less. When I was running 6 miles I got bored, when I more than doubled the amount of weights I could lift I got bored, when I got below my college weight I was bored… You could take away my possessions one at a time or my accomplishments one at a time and I would of course be sad but none of it means a heck of a lot to me. Hanging out with friends is great when I have not done so in awhile, but the reality is that I both crave and fear dealing with people so I end up getting anxious before the meetup then wanting to leave A.S.A.P.

        The only thing I can really think of which I am striving for at this point is to not need to do things. Needing to show up to work each day, needing to drive half an hour to see my family for holidays, needing to worry about paying my bills, needing to deal with people in general… Sort of pathetic sounding, I know, but it is the only “thing” I can think of.

        • Big Guy Money November 24, 2014, 9:40 pm

          So what was it about your apartment that you loved? Your apartment was the only thing in your several comments that you really glowed about. I’m interested in why that’s the case.

          Heck, if you can’t identify what brings you happiness and contentment, then early retirement doesn’t sound that much fun. Way more time on your hands to not enjoy. I’m not at all trying to be snarky, just observant.

          Also, I do get what you’re saying with social interactions. There are very few people in this world that I truly enjoy being around consistently. I’ve found though that the more I put myself out there and reveal my ‘real’ self, imperfections and all, the more I seem to develop meaningful relationships.

          • cn1ght November 25, 2014, 4:45 pm

            The apartment was the first time living without my parents in the same building. It was gorgeous inside with vaulted ceiling, sliding door to a small balcony, huge (over 900 sqr ft which I admit is much too large for me but I love space). I was within walking distance to Costco (goes back to not having a bike yet). Had a great park trail nearby (I now walk over a mile to get to a much smaller and less pleasant trail). Quiet area (I am making this sound worse than it is, but there is a fire station 2 blocks away so I hear them almost nightly). The carpet was so great that a friend told me HE would miss that despite only having been to my place a few times. So overall a mixture of the “Stuff” inside the apartment (sliding door, new appliances, etc), the location, the emotional attachment to first non parent home.

            I do admit that when it comes right down to it I can think of an extensive list of things to do (read books, practice chess…) but nothing really comes to mind as to plans which bring happiness.

            Not sure how to best word this, but the lack of meaningful relationships has little to do with revealing myself. This really gets onto a tangent which I am bets served by trying to avoid… Suffice to say that it has nothing to do with other people wanting to deal with me and it is entirely due to I have anxiety problems (I am really severely leaving out details and it is best if we try to leave it at that).

        • Kevin B. November 25, 2014, 7:55 am

          Hey cn1ght,

          It sounds like you have tried a lot of stuff and thought a lot about this so I won’t add too much here, but have you ever tried volunteering? Science studies show that helping others makes you feel better about yourself, and personally speaking it always helps me feel good about myself.

          My favorite memory is actually a serving trip (like a church mission trip but not trying to convert anyone) to Cambodia where we went to a small village and built a school. It was crazy hot, the work was back breaking, and we slept on tile floors under mosquito nets, but I still think about that trip all the time and am planning to do something similar next year. Anyways, I wish you the best in your journey!

          • cn1ght November 25, 2014, 4:50 pm

            Yes I have. At the high school I went to (I went to a high school which was significantly more difficult than getting my engineering degree) all students are required to do some amount of community service. I ended up helping tutor students at a nearby grade school. I have also (loosely defined as volunteer) spent a large chunk of time on reddit.com within the investment sub trying to help other people understand investing and making suggestions for improving their expected returns. I also have taught a lot of people how to play/improve at chess, I did some teaching of course work at college. None of this is really life altering, but I would expect the combination of this plus some other stuff to give me an idea at least.

            The summary is that I hated most of the above. I mean I feel badly for people who make bad investment decisions, students who need help in their studies, people starving (no experience with this)… But when it comes to dealing with those people I just…. GAAAH!!! RUN AWAY! That is the only way I can think of to describe it.

        • Edward November 25, 2014, 11:21 am

          I don’t think you’re alone. Many people don’t know what makes them happy . They think if they only have/do such-and-such they’ll finally be happy. But it’s probably not as easy as that. I found happiness through strange moments of revelation over the years–moments of awe which have permanently stuck with me. I think it’s great and amazing that you’re searching and trying new things. Most people don’t even get that far before giving up.

        • SED November 25, 2014, 3:06 pm

          I relate to what you are saying Cn1ght. I am completely debt free now (thanks in part to this website) and a few years from being able to retire. I am pleased that I’m living more “efficiently” – same happiness purchased with less money. But like you, I have not noticed a net increase in my overall happiness due to the lifestyle changes made.

          I also meditate, and have been letting myself be as aware as possible of my baseline emotional state without judgment. I’ve carried around a lot of ideas about how I should be happy, or happier; more like how I perceive other people to be. For me, it has been helpful to practice letting go of wanting to be anything other than what I am in a given moment. So letting go of wanting to be “happy”, along with my concepts of what “happiness” is supposed to look like, be it – big house, nice cars, lots of stuff – or – small house, bike, not so much stuff. I’m just starting to understand that it has been the constant wanting to be happy or happier – the very “pursuit of happiness”! – that, somewhat paradoxically, has been at the root of my own unhappiness.

          • cn1ght November 25, 2014, 4:54 pm

            From my personal experience with meditations: meditating does nothing to increase happiness. The best you can do with meditating is to eliminate suffering and displeasure. I am not sure why some people (like MMM) end up becoming living bursts of endorphins when you remove the unhappiness and some people (perhaps like you) do not and simply end up content at best.

            Congrats on almost reaching FI!

            • Evan Lynch November 26, 2014, 8:03 pm

              I’ve been meditating off an on now for about five years now. And I’ve had a very different experience than cnight has as far as meditation’s benefits.

              Technically, I’d agree that it doesn’t increase happiness – at least not directly. But I can tell you what it has done for me: it’s increased my emotional flexibility, which, if you stick with meditating long enough, will increase your happiness, or at least your contentedness. By “emotional flexibility”, I mean that I don’t get irritated / annoyed / angry as easily as I used to before I started meditating. I’m not sure that it’s even possible to eliminate suffering or displeasure – I’d be rather surprised if it is, personally.

              Another benefit that I’ve received from meditating is that overall, I’m much calmer than I used to be. Things that may have pissed me off in the past might, at worse, irritate me now. Thing that used to irritate me don’t even bother me in the slightest bit now.

              But there are a lot of different kinds of meditation. Some people might find some kinds of meditation useful, some people might find them useless. So it’s possible that you didn’t get much benefit from meditation simply because you weren’t using a meditation (or set of meditations) that were useful for me. There are a couple meditations that I use that work very, very well for me. Others I’ve tried didn’t do anything at all for me.

          • Johan November 25, 2014, 9:43 pm

            Hmm. This reminds me of a quote from Mr. Frankl:

            ““Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”

            Also, I like David Caine’s take on happiness:

          • Ken L November 26, 2014, 2:14 pm

            Well put, well put, deep thoughts, thanks for sharing!

        • EcoCatLady November 26, 2014, 1:13 am

          I can totally relate to the idea of not wanting to be required to do things… for me, it kinda doesn’t matter what the thing is either – if I’m required to do it, I just don’t wanna! I’m sure some of this comes from my childhood & family “issues” but the thing I most wanted to get away from through living a simpler life was the sense that my life was not my own. I always felt as if I was owned by other people – my job, my family, the mortgage company etc.

          Funny thing happened when I finally reached financial independence though – much of that feeling did not actually go away. Took me a long time to accept that I was the one bringing that into my life. I was the one giving away my personal power. I was the one putting everyone else, and all of my “obligations” ahead of myself.

          Not quite sure what my point is here, but I think that when it comes to personal freedom, finances are just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Not advising you to punt on financial independence, BTW – just saying that you don’t have to wait until you no longer have to be employed to start working on the other parts of the freedom equation.

          • cn1ght November 26, 2014, 11:17 am

            While I can understand that the feeling of not being in control is something which must be fixed “from within”, I am not sure there is a lot more I can do on that front right now.

            Simple example comes to mind, I strongly dislike my work as an electrical engineer. To ignore a ton of details the short thing which happened is that I knew what I wanted to do my last year at college, I told the manager this during the interview, and he point blank lied about the company doing what it is I want to do. After more than 3 years of working at company I have spent 2.5 years sending out my resume to find employment elsewhere along with headhunters blah blah blah. Would I be any happier if I were doing what it is I wanted to do out of college? I honestly have no idea, but I know that I am miserable doing what this company does. Could I make myself enjoy the work more? Tried that for most of the past 2 years with zero success. Pretty much the only route I have at this point (to my knowledge) is to go back to school or get some sort of expensive training to get into the field I originally wanted but no longer qualify for since I now have more than 3 years exp doing what I do and nobody would hire me to do what a recent grad can do just as well.

            There are things like that where I am not as stuck as someone with credit card debt, but I do not have the flexibility to just walk away. There are a lot of things like that where yes I can technically physically walk away (which in terms of my job would leave me with great happiness), but the reality of the matter is that it is significantly in my best interest to not do so. Maybe I do not completely understand what it is which changed for you when you realized this, but form the vantage point I have the things which I have little/no choice in are things in which I have little to no choice in haha.

            • anonymouse November 29, 2014, 6:10 pm

              I’ve realized that what makes me happy, and I think it will make you happy too, is feeling like you have options. And, if you work on the Mustachianism, I think a good first goal is not FI but just accumulating a stash of FU money, and then saying FU to the workplace that is pretty clearly making you miserable and just walking out. Because you have options: you have your education, and you’ll have your stash of money to tide you over until you can find another job, preferably at a place where they don’t lie to you just to get you to work there. You might feel like it’s impossible at this point (and this probably doesn’t help your overall happiness), but it’s not. There are always option.

        • LennStar November 27, 2014, 10:22 am

          Oh, I thought your postings were over. So you have already tried a lot.

          But I cant see anything “building” in it, except computers, something I like, but it is not “building” like in creating, you just put the best parts together.
          Ever tried painting, sculptoring, doing woodwork or just cleaning out junk from parks and woods? Anything where you can take a step back and say to yoursefl “That is somehting that I have build/moved”

          And just a little question: When have you last sit down to look at a flower or a blade of grass or a leaf on a tree? I mean REALLY looked at?
          A leaf is such an amazing thing to look at, if you really look.
          Be a child here. Look at the world like a child, as if you have never seen it before. Look at the tree in front of your window. have you ever really looked at it? have you followed it with your eyes, going slowly from the trunk to the leaf? Have you ever concentrated on a single branch and its intricate ways to bend, to split etc.?
          You dont have to sit down to meditate, just really look at a tree or a leaf. Dont think. Dont think about not thinking, just look.
          Its amazing every time.

          • cn1ght November 27, 2014, 10:52 am

            I am trying to not let suggestions or helpful comments go unanswered. Yes, I have put a significant amount of time into myself.

            Not a lot recently. I used to play with Legos as a kid haha. Generally speaking I put pieces together not from scratch: my job as an engineer is to find pieces to build an industrial facility, I built my bed from the materials, I built the computers, I did wiring for my sound system, modified my hammock to line dry cloths, put together the desk for computer station at home. I have tried painting or drawing a few times and hated it, I have no experience with sculpting or woodwork. Because I live in an apartment I would have to do any woodwork outside of the apartment (classes would be expensive) such as buying a saw and dragging it to the wood haha. I have a coworker who was doing work on his house, I asked him multiple times if I could help him with it as I wanted to learn how to do wiring for a house or tile work and he wold get free labor after teaching me. He never got back to me and I got tired of asking him.

            A years ago I was getting pretty deep into meditation and I found myself staring at a single blade of grass or a single leaf for a dozen or so minutes just looking at it. More recently I do normally take a scenic route during my walks just to look at the trees, but recently not on a single leaf/blade of grass. In terms of the tree in front my my window, when I was considering my current apartment the leasing agent stood me up the first time and was about 15 minutes late when we were supposed to sign the lease. I just sat on the bench looking at the tree, the leaves moving in the wind, how a branch would jump as a squirrel moved in it, saw a leaf or 2 fall to the ground, a couple of nuts which the squirrel dropped.

            Yes, I am aware that the point of meditating is not to think about not thinking, it is all about just letting thoughts be uncontrolled and eventually they just sort of go away as your mind slowly relaxes.

            • JP November 27, 2014, 7:33 pm

              With your skills and high intelligence it seems that you could become an independent consultant. You hate your job. That makes you unhappy. Leave your current job but first build your professional network. Don’t be afraid. I guess, my point is do not feel afraid of making changes because everything will be fine! You live in the United Sates!

            • cn1ght November 28, 2014, 12:30 pm

              I have no easy way to gain clients. My company has 2 clients and they have non-compete contracts which I had to sign. There is absolutely nobody for me to be able to gain as a client within the work I do.

              Yes, I know U.S.A. is still one of the best countries for economic freedom. I just suck at finding the freedom paths I guess hah.

            • outsidethebox November 27, 2014, 9:20 pm

              One thing that has not been suggested, unsurprisingly, is for you to try a psychedelic experience. There are compelling studies that have been done on cultural differences between societies whose mind-altering drug of choice is alcohol, compared to societies whose drug of choice is some form of psychedelic (such as most tribes in Africa, South America, and Polynesia). In my experience, taking a substance such as DMT or ayahuasca can be a deeply transformational experience if prepared for and undertaken with supervision and guidance. It sounds to me like you have more difficulty than average in finding happiness in areas of life where many of us do, and this might help you learn more about yourself and discover a deeper meaning for your own life.

              Of course, I understand that this is not likely to be a popular suggestion, but I encourage you to do your own research on these topics and see if this kind of experience could add value to your life. For futher reading, you might want to check out DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Dr. Rick Strassman.

              Good luck in your search for happiness!

            • cn1ght November 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

              Mind altering drugs scare me greatly. I rarely drink as I have gotten drunk a few times and it is not something I want to do. I have never tried marijuana even. Something akin to what you are suggesting could potentially be useful for me, however it is not going to happen by my free will at this point in time.

            • Mike November 28, 2014, 11:52 am

              I recommend you read “The Road Less Travelled” by Scott M. Peck. This book will try to answer the gnawing questions of your life.

    • Buggy November 27, 2014, 10:06 pm

      Hi cnight,

      I actually read through your comments to see this, but I thought I would add my ideas in this, since no one has pointed this out. I know that Mustachianism is a lot about your own badassity, and what not, but I feel this might be an important point because sometimes there are some things that we cannot necessarily fix on our own.

      You’ve mentioned in a few comments here about some of your feelings when you were with other people, and I’m wondering if you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, maybe generalized anxiety or more specifically with the times mentioned, social anxiety disorder. I’m relatively new to mustachianism myself, so I’m not really familiar exactly how the community here feels about mental illness. This is just a suggestion, but I highly recommend getting tested and examined by a mental health professional. Anxiety is a real problem and has real health consequences, and it’s not something that if severe enough, a person can’t just mind over matter away. However, with therapy, it is completely manageable.

      This is kind of how I always pictured it. So you know let’s say you injured your body and to compensate, you developed some movement patterns that allow you to cope, but ultimately causes you worse long term damage. To really fix it, sometimes it takes a doctor and then physical therapy to properly reteach you and give you tools to realign yourself so you can live healthily and pain free. Of course it’s going to be unpleasant, hard, and maybe painful, but in the end it’ll hopefully will give you the ability to live a much happier life with less suffering from that specific cause.

      Anxiety and psychological therapy I think are very similar to it. Anxiety has causal roots can sometimes be too complicated to untangle, but it could be from things as extreme as trauma and abuse to small scale neglect to just certain thought patterns that are from your parents and those around you. Either way, a person who struggles with anxiety or anxious thoughts have physiological reactions that drain their productivity and their sense of self esteem and their happiness.

      Anyway, I wanted to ask about this and bring this up because I related very much to what you said before, and to tell you a little about myself, I am a person who suffered (and still struggles) with depressive and anxious thoughts to the point where I did have major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I would try new things and when I mastered them at a certain level, I would feel proud and then I would grow bored with them and then ultimately unhappy at myself because it seemed to work before and now it just doesn’t. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and it could just be you’re a person who likes novelty (which I am too still to a certain extent), but it really really bothered me. Like you, I read all the psychological books and try to give myself all the psychological techniques and ideas and philosophies and nothing really worked. I thought that if I just worked on my behavior, I would suddenly feel better. It worked for all those people around me. It just didn’t work for me, and I felt like a total failure that things that are supposed to work didn’t. I tried it alot: having a healthy diet, exercising, losing weight, meditation, positive thinking, positive self-talk, etc, and I still just felt this soul sucking emptiness and unhappiness and restlessness.

      It wasn’t until I went to go see a doctor because I had just gotten my own insurance, and when they had a questionaire about it, they mentioned that it might be a good idea to visit the psych center, which I was kind of open to, because I think in the back of my I thought it might be an issue, but didn’t want to admit it, but I thought hey, why not get it confirmed that I’m fine. Coming out of it, I came away with an ADHD diagnosis (which I wasn’t okay with when I first got it, but now I’ve kind of accepted it because understanding my brain has given me more power to be proactive and ultimately the courage to do what I do now which is tutor, mentor, and empower students with learning disabilities and ADHD), major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Treatment was medication (still have a love hate relationship with it, but boy it helps me be functional and productive on all levels of my life) and therapy. Therapy for me was actually the most important thing that came out of the whole mix.

      I think in some ways I got really really lucky. I got a therapist that I really clicked with that provided a really trusting and nurturing atmosphere who seemed to listen well. I had attempted the therapy before in college where I also came away with a major depressive disorder diagnosis there, but had no luck finding a good therapist during that time before resolving this was something that I just had to figure out myself (which as you can see, was completely unsuccessful). With his help, he helped show me that while I was doing a pretty good job modifying my behavior, what the true source of my suffering was my COGNITIONS, or basically just the very basic way we perceive information and apply it , were distorted, negative and harmful. These were patterns I was not even aware of, but now that I am, I can see that I learned them from my parents for sure because I see those exact same destructive thinking in them. Only with working with my therapist were we able to confront my cognitive distortions, and kind of realign them to much more healthy thinking. I don’t know if I could have done that on my own. Sometimes, I think the very first step to badassity sometimes is to admit that maybe sometimes we have a problem that we cannot deal with on our own, and it is okay to seek help. If we have to move a boulder that is outside our strength and abilities to move, it’s okay to ask a friend to help us move it. If we are ill, it is okay for us to go to a doctor help us become well again. I think we can apply it to mental health.

      Sorry about that long monologue. I just felt it was very important to talk about it because I think it is very important to talk about stuff like this because of the stigma associated to it, and it is a big part of my struggle. Thanks to therapy and my recovery, I am able to actually be happy and resilient in a real and secure way that I had never experienced before. It allowed me to have deeper and stronger friendships and become my own strong badass that I am now. I hope that if any of this rings true with you, that you get some comfort that you aren’t alone.

      • cn1ght November 28, 2014, 12:43 pm

        You read through all of that stuff I typed out? Impressive.

        So this is not a topic I want to really get into, but I have seen multiple therapists. Loooong story short yes I need professional help, yes I have gone to multiple professionals, I wasted more than $2,000 on this, and the answer was “you seem fine to me”. This was the answer from 4 different mental health professionals. They are fucking wrong, but that is a tangent… Point being, yes I probably do have some sort of clinical issues, yes I have gone out of my way and wasted more time and money than it was worth as I was told I do not need help.

        Depression was the underlying cause I was seeking treatment for, so you and I seem to share at least that. About the reading of books, I suspect that is part of the problem I now face. I spent more than 10 years of my life reading ways to become happy, most of which boil down to “pretend that you are happy, act like you are happy, and you will be happy.” Well, I got so good at acting and pretending that now the idiot mental healthcare professionals ignore my true words and they focus on my lying smiling face and get fooled.

        I will not disagree that the underlying cause may very well be that the way in which I perceive and deal with daily input is negative, this is probably correct. However as you know, going out of my way to try and fix that does not do shit and since I cannot get anyone to take me seriously I am pretty much out of luck.

        Now that you have been going through therapy are you still on the same dose of medication, are they trying to slowly ween you off of it, have they not changed it since they found the correct dosage?

        • Buggy November 28, 2014, 10:48 pm

          First off, I want to say that I am sorry that you’ve had to struggle so much for your mental health with no result. I can understand why you would be turned off by it. I was extremely fortunate and grateful that when I went through the many therapists, I was doing in it my college’s mental health center so I got basically 10 free sessions (and I managed to use them all up on different therapists because they just didn’t “click”).

          The one thing that might be able to help you to find a better therapist, which is something I didn’t know until I found my therapist, that maybe it might be a good idea to see if you can find a therapist who specializes in humanistic psychological approaches. I think I didn’t click with the first ones before because they were very pathological/medical approach types, and humanistic psychology tends to take a more holistic view of your mental health pushing toward the highest self-actualization and creative potential. I feel like behaviorism and psychoanalysis are way more common which is how people like us can slip through the cracks, since those are ones that focus on are unhealthy things in your personality that you express in your behavior, rather than looking you do do right and then bring more of it out to help you really maximize your potential and human experience. I’ll be honest, I have no idea how you can find such professionals since I basically stumbled ass backwards into mine, but when I did a quick search in my area, I found one or two who kind of describe helping individuals in that type of manner, but I think you really have to do a bit of footwork to find them, which I am sorry again that you’ll have to put that kind of effort in again.

          As for my medication situation, actually, it is for the ADHD symptoms, which is why I feel sometimes iffy about. Since ADHD is linked to neurochemistry and brain structure, I will probably always be on this medication. I have mixed feelings about it mostly because on some level, now that I understand my brain and started to do things more in line with some of the strengths that it brings, I feel like I’m not held back by it. I feel like it actually can bring some strengths that doesn’t come as naturally to neurotypical people. However, my medication does help me function with the society that we have now that I have to live with, so I don’t know. Like I feel definitely that I feel less overstimulated in social environments so I don’t burn out as quickly and also focus on what I want to since it helps mitigate the effect that I feel I have no barriers to outside world (like I feel like I hear every sound, see every movement, and feel all the energy around me and my brain can’t ignore it). But to need it permanently? I don’t know. It’s a double edged sword.

          I’m highly against anti-depressants for me because the one time I was on SSRIs, I experience suicide ideations (where I didn’t feel suicidal, but something in my head started telling me it sounded like a good idea to get hit by a car). My psychiatrist told me that usually anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication (unless it’s a chemistry problem) usually are like the equivalent to like how some people use pain medication to palliate the pain they experience so they can get through the therapy that ultimately will make them better. If you have a severe case, it’s to help you get through therapy, but therapy is like the main way to recover from most depressive and anxiety and personality disorders. That was how he ended up convincing me that the ADHD meds were worth trying.

          Anyway, thank you for taking time to consider my point of view. I’m sorry for kind of making you bring out all this, so I do sincerely appreciate you commiserating with me. I really do think you have done a great job with trying to figure out how to help yourself and I’m really sorry that the professional help has been useless because right now the thing that is the most common methods are not what would be helpful to people like us. I really do hope that you’ll find someone who will look past what veneer of functioning and see the struggling you experience everyday.

          • cn1ght November 30, 2014, 10:52 am

            “Humanistic Psychology” is written down on a paper in front of me, although I admit I simply do not have the willpower to waste on that at this point in time.

            In terms of ADHD, I have never been diagnosed with this, however a close friend has been. He was on medication for this through high school and college, however at some point he decided to stop taking it. According to him he functions better without it now that he has come to terms with what having ADHD means and he actually gains use out of it in his workplace as an engineer. This is in no way saying that you should stop taking it, I think it would be foolish to stop taking prescribed medication due to what some random person online says, I am simply pointing out that I can kind of understand what you mean when you say that there are some strengths from it and that you may not be held back by it.

            The reason I am trying to not get into this topic too deeply deals with what happened when you started taking SSRIs. I try heavily to avoid that particular discussion as it never provides me any help and only diverts the topic to that particular discussion so I never get an answer on my original question.

            Final comment, the last time I was trying to find professional help I went through the list of people who are covered by my insurance. If I were to make an appoint it would be 6 months in the future IF they have any openings at all, which most of the listed did not. That is why I stopped after only 4 different professionals. Having said that, I do have your suggestion written down, but it would be misguided to think that I am going to get any help in the near future.

    • Scott November 29, 2014, 8:37 pm

      You know what? I agree with you. In fact, if anything I would say that other than the financial implications, I am experiencing a net *decrease* in happiness. However, this is mainly down to one thing– driving. I love cars, and I love driving, but MMM makes me feel like shit whenever I indulge. I biked to work for nearly two months– 26 miles round trip– and as much as I tried to get into it, I just couldn’t. I much, *much* prefer zipping along the nice tree-lined road to work, music blasting, carving my way through all the twists and turns of the back road I take. For me, that’s a much more pleasant experience than having to get up a half hour earlier and ride my bike in the freezing cold in the dark. I do still ride to school, as that’s only a mile away (and the reason I don’t move closer to work), but frankly I enjoy driving too much to give it up. I’ll get myself a more efficient car (I admit, 17 MPG on 93 octane is shit) but beyond that, vehicle costs will simply be added to my FI “number” I suppose.

      • cn1ght November 30, 2014, 11:03 am

        I am not the best person to be debating this with you, for example I only placed an order for a bike on Friday and do not yet have one.

        So, I used to ride my bike all the time. I loved riding my bike as a kid. I would sometimes just jump on my bike and ride around town for an hour or 2 without any destination. I then had my bike stolen. My family bought another one. That was stolen. I had 4 bikes stolen within 2 years. With the exception of my sister leaving my bike out without my knowledge the stolen bikes were always locked to something… So I went bikeless for years. I turned to walking. My area I could cover was much reduced, but walking is in many ways easier than biking in that no helmet is needed, no locks, just start walking when you want to move.

        When I had an errand or chore and I was biking, it felt like a chore. While I loved biking in general, when I was biking to school or anything else it was never all that pleasant for me. Even more so in rainy, cold, or unpleasant weather. However, with driving it is also not pleasant to drive in rainy, snowy, dark weather. Looking back at biking for errands versus driving for errands (or even walking currently for groceries 2 miles away) I fully admit that it is normally unpleasant to be car-less in unpleasant weather, however for me driving in that type of weather never helps me. That biggest difference? When I get back from the errand having walked (or previously biked) I feel a sense of personal accomplishment. When I get back from driving it feels like I just spent that time doing chores, not really a sense of accomplishment though.

        The other comment: have you considered a motorized bike? Either a scooter or electric bike (which MMM made a post about some time ago). Yes, you still need to deal with the cold and dark (however the cold you should become used to). Music is easy to transport. With the motorized bike you may still need to leave a little more early than driving, but it should be much closer to your normal driving time I would expect.

  • MoneyCat November 24, 2014, 10:39 am

    Great blog post. As I have been progressing on my journey, I have realized that a lot of Mustachianism is the stuff I did as a kid. I used to love riding my bicycle everywhere, hanging out at the library after school, doing things outdoors, etc. I didn’t feel deprived because I did these things. I did them because they are fun. I don’t know where this idea came from that as adults we need to live in homes that look like Pottery Barn catalogs and we need to purchase expensive electronic gizmos every six months or we’re unworthy to breathe the air. It’s so silly.

    And the part about Disneyland makes so much sense. I get so much more out of a nice hiking trip in the Poconos than I get out of going to any tourist trap.

  • derek November 24, 2014, 11:11 am

    So sorry to hear no Disney Vacation for you and yours. The issue is not one of lack of understanding but of a value system that is not shared. You cannot change that.
    I love the site and the approach articulated here. I remember feeling this way many years ago and wondering why no one else apparently did.
    this sites has helped me retire happily in the next couple of months. Not at 35 but at 55. It would have been worse. It will be for many millions of people.
    So that is impact, in the event you are looking for that.
    Try not to be smug. Even at 55 the question of ” how the fuck did YOU do that?” is inferred. Then of course the conversation swings back to their latest all inclusive vacation….

  • Diedra B November 24, 2014, 11:31 am

    I’m sorry you even had to dignify that question with a response. Some people just don’t listen/read.

  • Michael Parrott November 24, 2014, 11:40 am

    If you ever wanted to find a distilled source of car clowns/other people MMM likes to use as examples just read the comments of that NYMag article. Haters gonna hate hate hate …

  • Ajay November 24, 2014, 11:48 am

    Well written MMM. I guess people also get it wrong when they think it is about “early retirement”. That might have the connotation of being a sack bag for the rest of your life. They need to understand that it is about gaining financial freedom, and/or earning back time (the most valuable resource of them all)…so that you no long feel compelled to work for the sake of money, but have the choice to do whatever pleases you. And if being the CEO of a company is the thing that makes you the happiest, go do that. At least, you wouldn’t be doing it for money then. And if kayaking in sun with your kid is what you want to do, you got it! No guilt…because you “earned” it.

  • Rebecca November 24, 2014, 11:55 am

    I just listened to the podcast. You were a very gracious guest, but I was frustrated and dumbfounded. Usually interviewers have researched their guests, but he seemed to know only that you retired young and live on $25,000. He didn’t listen to your answers, went on ad-nauseum about his diet, made ridiculous comments (You are like a Quaker because you ride a bike. LOL) and just came across to me as condescending, arrogant, and Fox News-like. I’ll bet you took a shower after that interview. Yuck.

  • Mr. SSC November 24, 2014, 12:11 pm

    I avoided even talking about FIRE with my wife because I didn’t want to give up our current lifestyle to live like we were grad students again, just to not go to work. It wasn’t until she showed that we wouldn’t change our current lifestyle because we don’t wantonly consume just because we can. Much like your article, we could choose to consume WAY more goods than we do, but we choose to not hand over our money for the latest tech gadget, new car every 2 years, or any other type status symbols.
    Instead, we chose to transition from full time employees to stay at home parents in 5 years, when we are 42. Plus, we get to not skip a beat from our current lifestyle! It’s definitely not about the money, and I agree money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s amazing how choosing to be frugal by choice can so easily get misconstrued as “cheap”.
    Good post MMM!

  • Ryan November 24, 2014, 12:50 pm

    Minor point: Ezra Klein is a journalist, not an economist (the distinction matters to us economists).

    • Nancy November 30, 2014, 9:28 am


  • DLL November 24, 2014, 1:19 pm

    ” Sanitized Flabby car clown” must go in the MMM Phrase Hall of Fame. Perfect example of the philosopy. Reading it made me happy and it was free!

  • SisterX November 24, 2014, 1:32 pm

    For so many people, money = life, no matter whether the money side is earning or spending. Any other way of living is just baffling and incomprehensible. All those motivational sayings and posters about living life to the fullest must make them think, “Yeah! I need to earn more so I can buy stuff and experiences so that I’m truly living!”
    I don’t get it. At all. It’s unutterably depressing and I feel like I’m in an Orwellian novel every time I mentally step outside of my own bubble enough to realize that that’s how most people live their lives.

  • Ken L November 24, 2014, 1:41 pm

    Just last week I started bike commuting to work. I was so proud of myself, being all Mustachian, and bragging to all my co-workers. Last Friday I had to drive to work because a part on my bike broke. I secretly thought to myself, “Oh I really do like this car commute much better. It’s not cold, I don’t have to change in and out of clothes, I don’t have to peddle.” Let’s be honest driving everywhere in a car is much easier lifestyle. “But I guess I will put up with this bike commuting thing, to get debt free and rich, ok.”

    Then this posting came out, and this weekend this statement really hit me hard.

    “None of this is done because this is a cheap way to live, but because it’s a rich and efficient way to get in touch with all the things that make a human happy.”

    This whole time I’ve living the MMM lifestyle and all the awhile saying to myself, “When I get financially independent (FI) then I will be able to live the way I want too.” “I will get the hell out of dodge, ditch this rat race job, and live the dream.” I’m begrudgingly living this lifestyle, all in the hope of being “free” in the future one day. But I’m starting to see that being Mustachian isn’t really about the future and all its so called glories, it’s about the now.

    Mustachianism starts the moment we decided to take the first step on this amazing journey, not when we are FI. It’s not defined by how much in debt we are, or how much money we have saved. It’s defined by a shift in our mindset, and how we live today. I’m so thankful, that MMM and this community exists not for the sole purpose of getting us rich, but for the purpose of getting us all to a place of true peace and happiness.

    • mike November 25, 2014, 6:39 pm

      Reminds me of the time I found “religion” as a young man. Since God heals those who believe, but you must profess it also, I threw away my glasses and told everyone God healed me. Around a month later I gave in and started wearing my glasses again.

  • Leigh November 24, 2014, 1:41 pm

    Who are you? My gosh I would follow your advice to a T if I didn’t already have the same philosophies and practices. What comes as a surprise or better yet a sigh of relief is that you have so many followers, that is wonderful for you and them.
    I’ve always been one for pleasure delay. If I want something I make myself wait; either to save the money for the item, to find it on sale, to find the absolutely most perfect version of that thing or to see if time was stronger than my desires. This process has always lead me to the conclusion that it wasn’t the “thing” that I actually wanted but this need to fill that sense of boredom and/or insecurity we all encounter. That boredom and/or insecurities are easily filled, albeit temporarily, with stuff/consumables.
    I love your bike riding advocacy and I did just that for 11 years. I cannot ride where I now live, the roads are very narrow, treacherous, mountainous with no sidewalks, shoulders or anything but a shear drop off a long cliff and it snows half of the year. Driving a sensible car here is scary enough.
    I tried to take your ‘save $100 a week’ challenge but unfortunately I couldn’t make any further cuts as all of your suggestions are already in place. So, in the spirit of having each one of my dollars work for me I put $1000 towards the principle on my mortgage, rented out my house, moved in with my boyfriend, planted some perennials, invested in a local maple syrup business and am planning on leaving my job in 6 months time.
    Thanks for the inspiration dude.

  • Frugal Paragon November 24, 2014, 1:46 pm

    At this stage, it would be a financial hardship for Mr. FP and me to own a second car. So we don’t, even though by contemporary American standards, we “need” one. But my values have shifted such that I almost never find it a hardship to take my bike. In fact, I just installed a studded tire so I can bike in the snow… because it made me sad to have to take the car! I was so happy to get back on my bike; on a beautiful sunny morning hovering around freezing, I feel sorry for all the suckas hunting for parallel parking spaces at my kid’s school while we cruise right up to the door.

  • Erica November 24, 2014, 1:50 pm

    One point that you made that I am finding very true is that your expenses are going down with time. Some months I feel like my spending has been out of control, and then I look at my spending at the end of the month and still find it lower than last year. We gradually learn to be happier without spending money. I don’t think that the path to early retirement it about deprivation at all. I still spend money on the things that I truly value. I have just found a lot of other things that I don’t value spending my money on.

  • TrixieLou November 24, 2014, 2:39 pm

    “But hard does not mean depressed, just as easy does not mean content. In fact hard lives such as those of our ancestors and our “primitive” contemporaries seem to keep the human emotional set point better adjusted”
    from Andrew Weil’s book, “Spontaneous Happiness”.

    This seems to be the underlying philosophy of this blog and one I am gradually embracing more and more, with the help of encouraging face punches from the likes of Mr. MMM. Corporate interests spend a lot of time and money selling the fallacy that more stuff results in increased happiness. So those new to the concept misunderstand that not spending mindlessly on shit you don’t need must make you feel poor and unhappy.

  • Tim November 24, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Your blog just gets better and better!!!

    My coworkers shit themselves when they find out I biked into work that day and it was 30 degrees that morning or the wind was blowing 25 knots… What can I say I like a challenge and because I can!!

    This section is gold!!!

    “We don’t use our bikes for transportation and hauling instead of our cars, even in the dark and even in the middle of winter because it saves us a few dollars of fuel. We do it because it’s an awesome way to connect with your own town, stay in proper condition, adapt naturally to your own climate, and live like a real human instead of a sanitized, flabby car clown.

    I don’t swim and and paddle kayaks and canoes all summer because I lack the funds to buy a twin-engine motorboat. I do it because when it comes to recreational pastimes, muscle wins over motor every fucking time.”

    Have a great holiday with your family!!!!


  • CentimentalFreedom November 24, 2014, 3:31 pm

    Okay. I have been treating this ENTIRELY WRONG.

    I’ve been trying to become debt free and never really get there because I was so focused on the wrong point. I still remember when I first started biking to work (after reading this blog), I did it because it was more convenient to buy a car AND mostly because it saved on gas. Now I do it because it’s fun.

    So I’m going to start with changing my mentality and hope that there’s ripple effect financially as a result of that. Thank you, this article really opened my eyes.

  • Aussie Jeff November 24, 2014, 3:50 pm

    Well put, MMM!

    As a humorous aside, I recently took a flight for work from Sydney to the US. On the domestic leg I happened upon a copy of ‘SkyMall’.
    As far as useless spending goes, this must surely take the cake!

    • Kathy Abell November 28, 2014, 11:36 pm

      My favorite thing about flying coach is browsing through the SkyMall catalogue. It makes me laugh so much. “Are you kidding me? Who would buy this overpriced stuff???” LOL

  • Lian November 24, 2014, 3:51 pm

    It’s a shame that ‘frugal’ has such negative connotations for people – it’s improved my life. I initially embraced frugality because I didn’t want to be trapped anymore by debt and fear of losing a job – or face an old age living on SS alone. My income is modest and my assets relatively small, so frugal living will always be a financial necessity for me, but it is not a negative thing. I’ve learned a lot and changed my life in ways I didn’t expect. Because I had to put so much thought into how I spent my money, I finally realized that my favorite things to do actually cost very little, if any money. I realized I had so much stuff that the things I had gone into debt for became a burden to get rid of, and I learned to love simple living. I learned to question the way I spent my time and money, and became very critical about what I valued. The whole process feels like enlightenment, not sacrifice. My life has the luxuries that are important to me – except for time, but that will come. I will never be a millionaire, but I don’t need to be to have a rich life.

  • Marcia November 24, 2014, 4:07 pm

    Sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself away from the money part though. Simply because I’m an engineer, and I like numbers – it’s very easy for me to things into monetary terms. “Biking to work, at 0.50 a mile, saves $4 a day.”

    From the outside looking in, that’s what people see.

    But as time goes on, I get it. I live in an affluent city and have affluent friends. Double-engineering PhDs, doctors married to teachers, nurses married to doctors, PAs married to business owners, engineers married to scientists. And yet, our area has a lot of poor too – 75% of the children in our school are on free or reduced price lunch. As parents, we do a lot of fundraising to make up for budget shortfalls in the schools.

    I see what my friends do, and think about it often. 3 concerts in one week. Several date nights a month. Travel – skiing in Utah or Tahoe, trips overseas for vacation or to visit family (I’m not going to bust people on the family visits), weekend away to a spa, new clothing, trips to Disney, fancy cars, many meals out. They will make a donation to the school, and then gripe about the parents who don’t.

    Sometimes I feel weird. And I try to point out to friends that mention that I’m “budget conscious” that I have certain priorities. While my friends are happy to “shop for a cause” by eating meals out or buying expensive shoes so that the school can get 10 or 20% of that – I just write a check. (I mean, why eat out at $50 a family so the school can raise $10. Shouldn’t I just cook at home for $8 and give the school $10?) One area I try not to skimp on is my health – that means supplements when necessary and healthy food – and recently that’s meant a move towards paleo (which is more expensive than my old beans and rice days).

    But when I think about it – REALLY think about it, I’m happier now than I’ve been in a long time. We took a trip to Disneyland this year (see, I don’t think it’s evil!) It was fun, the kids loved it and I enjoyed it too. But I won’t be making it a regular thing. I think we all had MORE fun camping by the ocean, and it cost 1/10 the price. I’ve relaxed a lot at work (decided to stop trying to climb the ladder), and that change in outlook reduced my stress a TON. I’ve lost 23 pounds this year.

    It may SEEM like a pain, and deprivation, when I’ve spent 4 hours cooking on a Sunday in prep for the week, and haven’t even started dinner. And when I have to THEN pack lunches, and then do dishes, and all I want to do is sit down! But MAN, when I dig in to the delicious salads that I eat for lunch and the great meals we have for dinner, it’s worth it. Because I’m NOT dragging my kids to a drive-through at the end of a long day. I get to snuggle with them on the couch, chat about the day, and have dinner ready in 15 minutes.

    • KF November 29, 2014, 5:03 pm

      Oh man, that “shopping for a cause” thing has always bugged me, even in my much more spendthrift days…

  • Aussie Jeff November 24, 2014, 4:14 pm

    Well put, MMM!

    As a humorous aside, I recently took a flight for work from Sydney to the US. On the domestic leg I happened upon a copy of ‘SkyMall’.
    As far as useless spending goes, this must surely take the cake! I’m taking a copy with me back to Oz to show my friends.

  • Heather November 24, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Beautifully put, MMM. This will be the first article I’ll be recommending to the Mustache-curious from now on.

  • Dr. JB November 24, 2014, 4:45 pm

    I’ve always attributed 80% of my job/school satisfaction on my ability to incorporate a bicycle commute, expunging any stress twice/day. This is me winning.

    On another note, I’m curious how some FIRE-types out here reconcile leaving an occupation with overt positive social impact to “pursue whatever makes you happy.” I’m sure it can be done.

    • spartana November 24, 2014, 11:02 pm

      We reconcile it by continuing to be involved with things near and dear to our heart – things that were often work related before we FIRE’d.

      I was first in the Coast Guard then worked as an environmental compliance officer dealing with industrial waste polluters. Both very demanding jobs that didn’t leave me time for anything else. Once I quit I still am involved with various aspects of both fields, although in a non-paying less direct way, yet still have tons of free time to pursue all the other things in life that make me happy. Just because you leave your job early, doesn’t mean you can’t continue to do things that have a overt positive social impact. Often times you have the time to be even more involved and make an even greater contribution once you are no longer tied to a job and all the job-related crap that goes along with paid employment..

  • JT November 24, 2014, 5:16 pm

    Blogs and print media are for-profit endeavors that make the bulk of their income via ad sales, which are directly related to eyeballs. They don’t give a shit about coming up with the most accurate headline, when traffic and not accuracy is the key consideration.

    I know you know this, so it’s a waste of even two sentences of a blog post complaining about it, unless you just want to abandon capitalism as an economy (which I’m actually pretty in favor of, if only I can come up with a viable replacement).

  • Matt November 24, 2014, 6:02 pm

    Good points given to people who equate happiness with material things. They are the people who want to keep up with the Jones. i prefer to be the Jones and if they ever felt the overwhelming freedom of financial freedom they would understand it. It’s a shame but most Americans will never feel that freedom and maybe not everyone can get to financial freedom or we wouldn’t be able to have that freedom.

  • BowenH November 24, 2014, 7:48 pm

    Great post MMM. I got frustrated at the end of the NY Mag article because the author completely negates everything at the last moment with Keynes’ Paradox of Thrift (which I believe you’ve already covered in another blog post, “What if Everyone Became Frugal?”). But I don’t think you’ve gone far enough with simplifying Mustachianism to the masses, since it’s obviously still being misunderstood. From my experience, you can boil it all down to one, tiny sentence.

    Don’t Buy Shit You Don’t Need.

    As other commenters and MMM have mentioned, you don’t Need a 7-passenger SUV. You don’t Need a massive house (complete with a massive mortgage). You don’t Need a $5 late every day. You don’t Need to buy takeout every night. In fact, you find that once you get rid of those things, your life becomes immeasurably better (or perhaps you can measure it with how much money you save). People don’t realize it’s not about being rich or poor either. As a recent college graduate, I got a yearlong internship in California paying less than a thousand dollars a month (if you know California at all, you’ll realize that in some places that barely covers rent). I was able to get by without asking my parents for help or applying for food stamps, simply because I Didn’t Buy Shit I Didn’t Need. Everyone knows it’s the little things in life that matter. Everyone knows that family is more important than buying crap. But we (the American public) sure as hell aren’t acting like we know that. So just Stop Buying Shit You Don’t Need and actually take time for the little things.

    Hope that helps your messaging MMM! Keep fighting the good fight.

  • David Paxton November 24, 2014, 8:02 pm

    WOW!! I am new to MMM and I am blown away with what I am reading so far. It will take time, but I plan on mastering the wisdom that is being shared.

    The subject matter is somewhat new to me, but it excites me to see how making some changes in my spending/saving would totally change my life. It will not be easy as I am a victim of a well oiled Madison Avenue Marketing Machine and I have been “brain washed” into believing I need all the latest greatest things.

    I am beginning to realize what I want is not “things” but time. We can always get more money/things but no matter how much money I have, I can never buy back lost time.

    Thanks and I look forward to mastering the wisdom on this site,


  • Jason November 24, 2014, 8:18 pm

    I know I am adding to the chorus, but let everyone here who reads the blog write and shout a huge AMEN! I try to communicate this to others and I was doing it at a conference this weekend and it is amazing how other people look at me like I am some kind of neanderthal. And these are people who have PH.D.s!!! Just have to convince them one person at a time, which is why I blog and why I turn others to this blog!

  • Sir Salty November 24, 2014, 8:27 pm

    MMM, very good review of your principles.

    One caution I would say: as philosophical & good of a writer as you are, I think it would be worth differentiating between happiness and contentedness. I would say being content is akin to being satisfied or at peace. Happiness, to me, is a more fleeting/temporary feeling that can change pretty easily with outward circumstances. And if happiness is someone’s goal, then he/she can skew easily into hedonism or at least be unfulfilled. Being content is a much more powerful state, and it seems that is more what you are referring to in this post.

    For instance, when something bad happens to a loved one, we won’t be happy, but we can still be content/at peace.

    • HenryDavid November 25, 2014, 5:32 am

      “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
      Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Jim McG November 24, 2014, 10:47 pm

    Disneyland are just playing at it. I’m just back from Dubai, where someone has tried to build a Disneyland country! Unbelievable wealth, ostentation and bling. You just can’t help thinking that this is where capitalism leads us, where the best thing to do with your accumulated cash is build a massive phallus in the middle of your city to show the world just how big yours is. And then you drive out of town to see the poor people who’ve built it for you. Where are the schools, hospitals, decent housing that you could have built instead? I find the Keynes paradox interesting, but money can be spent to make other people’s lives so much better, and this makes your own life richer, if not wealthier. Of course, in America, this might be branded as socialism and would never get off the ground. It seems to me, however, that Dubai has taken the American Dream to its next conclusion.

  • Zoltan November 25, 2014, 1:37 am

    MMM, it’s not worth trying to persuade the masses who completely misunderstand your message. Anyone who reads some of your posts here will clearly understand what you’re trying to say. If the only thing that they derive is that here’s a guy who want them to live like the poor….no comment.

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 25, 2014, 10:03 am

      Zoltan, I have a graph of this website’s traffic from April 2011 to today that I would offer as counterevidence to your proposition that this mission is futile.

      It’s all about percentages, experimentation and persistence. We have logic and human nature on our side, and with those it is pretty easy to convince a certain percentage of people, who may then convince their friends, and eventually there are enough to consider “The Masses”. So far only 8.6 million individual people and 106 million page views, but exponential growth might stay on our side :-)

      • Zoltan November 25, 2014, 11:36 am

        Don’t get me wrong, your mission is far from futile, it is unbelieveably successful. I wish I could have read your posts 15 years ago…I could be FI by now. You mentioned that you had to “let the steam out”, I meant that you do not need to get annoyed by people who do not get the message. Thousand and thousands will only by reading your posts.

        • Le Barbu November 28, 2014, 8:02 am

          Unfortunately, I think there is probably a limit (10-25%) of the population with the will/capacity to get the ideas around here. Let me explain…

          Many of my CW, friends, family members struggle BIG time (money-wise, time-wise and health-wise). Since I was born Mustachian, I only know it for 1 year now. Most of the time, I try to help giving my knowledge, opinion, tips etc but I feel like I’m a “ghost” ! They get eye-glazed, laugh, argue, high blood pressure, name it. Why ?

          Compared to these folks, I feel like I am Warren Buffet, Dalai Lama and Vince Diesel all at once ! Fuck, I’m still a wimp compared to my own goals!

          Even my dad, one of the most Stoïc & DIY I know, almost get an heart-stroke when I told him he was just falling in the trap buying a brand new Lincoln MKZ. He replied he dreamed about that kind of car since he was 19 and now he can afford to pay in cash. Man, he lived/worked 50 years “like a poor” to buy that 50K$ fine piece of technology that will be sitting in the driveway and depreciate to zero over the next 12 years. On the TOP of that, I learned that money was pulled from tax sheltered account while still having plenty in a taxable one, deep sigh…

      • Edward November 25, 2014, 11:39 am

        That’s right. If Copernicus and Galileo thought it wasn’t worth convincing people the earth orbited the sun instead of vice-versa where would we be? Keep spreading the message to awaken wilfully deaf ears. At least you can’t be tried for heresy. ….I think?

        • skunkfunk November 26, 2014, 1:29 pm

          Probably right where we are. The “accepted” view changed mostly because a bunch of old farts that wouldn’t accept it died off, as I recall (firsthand obviously.)

  • Gerard November 25, 2014, 6:50 am

    I think I have a slightly different take on this. I actually enjoy finding ways to save money. It scratches the same itch as playing games or doing research. I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself by spending a few hours finding a cheaper plane ticket rather than blowing up aliens, or by seeking out weird foods that are cheap or free. Sure, the changes I’ve made (for financial or other reasons) usually end up bringing me happiness or satisfaction or something. But part of that satisfaction, if I’m honest with myself, comes from being able to think, “Wow, this is just as good as that more expensive thing I used to do!”
    The other day I was talking about some change I’d made, and a friend of a friend said, “I hope this doesn’t sound insulting, but did you first try that because it was cheaper?” Well, yes, of course I did! And how could I possibly be insulted by somebody mentioning that I like to spend less money?

    • Frugal Bazooka November 25, 2014, 2:03 pm

      I too play this save money game – I call it “beat the man”
      The man can be retail man, advertising man or my favorite “sales-man”
      They all have the same agenda / to take my money. My agenda is to beat them by getting what I need, from them, but not what they tell me I want and not at the price they want.
      Beating capitalism by using capitalism makes me happy.

    • Lee November 25, 2014, 4:39 pm

      I agree. I am quite clear about the things that make me happy — playing pick-up hockey and spending time with animals . So, I make these items a priority in my budget. the costs of these activities/experiences is worth every penny to my present self and will not necessarily be something that my future self will do, or do as much. That being said, when I do need to buy something, I get a lot of satisfaction out of getting the best price or the best value. Thanks to the Internet, this usually does not take much time and saves a lot of money. A few years ago, this might not have occurred to me. If I needed something, I would have just gone to the nearest store that sold it and compared that to maybe one other store. Now, I search Amazon, Craigslist, thrift stores, etc. Sometimes I have to wait a bit until I see a truly good deal on the item that I am researching. When I finally score it for a good price, I appreciate it that much more!

    • LennStar November 27, 2014, 10:40 am

      I do like that, too. Thats just Highscore-charging.
      Its like the old games, die often, die early, no saves. You just have to do it one more time then you fail, and then YOU KILLED THE BOSS!

      You just have to watch out for not losing yourself in the game.

      For example, I probably didnt use up hours but days to get excactly the computer parts that were best for the rig I wanted and where I get them the cheapest.
      I may have saved 50$ in the first 4 hours. And maybe 20$ in the next 24.
      Or I have paid 150$ more because I wanted excactly that – who nows?
      But for me it was a fun week and I wont doing it again for several years.

      The problem starts when you look at parts AFTER you have bought them. Thats the point where it gets bad.
      Because with computer parts its the same as with women: The moment you decide on one model, a better one gets in the market.
      (no, that was not sexist: it was geekist ;) )

      • Frugal bazooka November 28, 2014, 10:23 am


  • Rachel Ruhlen November 25, 2014, 7:41 am

    What headline would you write?

  • Alex November 25, 2014, 8:19 am

    MMM, with your closing words you have now removed all doubt that you are, in fact, a covert spiritual teacher.

    Throughout history there has always been a thread of thought which holds that God needs nothing because God is “all in all.” Hence creation is not a program with some predetermined end (such as imbues the capitalist mindset), but rather a sort of dramatic form of play. To be like God, who is not good, but goodness-itself, is then to participate in God’s life. This was (and in some circles, still is) done by ascetic practices of renunciation. For it is POSSESSIVENESS that keeps people from living in God’s abundance. To live possessively is to be confused about the nature of reality and about one’s own nature. It’s to live a lie.

    To live like you are “the richest person in the world” is to live like a saint. There’s always been very few with the capacity for it. Thanks again, brother. Well said as always.

  • Jennifer Roberts November 25, 2014, 8:42 am

    I walk my son to school because we live right around the corner and it just seems stupid not to. Plus, I enjoy it. Even people who know where we live think it’s remarkable that we walk. It’s crazy! On my way home from dropoff this morning, I was thinking how nice it is having purposeful lifestyle choices dictating the things I spend my money on, rather than trying to keep up with trends and impress people. Without that kind of framework, there is an overwhelming number of choices, and it’s easy to get lost. Then this post popped up in my FB feed, and it was very timely.

    I’m not 100% “there” yet–so much of my frugality is out of sheer necessity, and there are some things I would still love to waste money on if I could. But I created the necessity because of one huge lifestyle choice that I believe in: being a stay at home mom. As the years have gone by (coming up on seven) I find that I increasingly prefer frugality even when I could do more. Sometimes it’s a little unsettling realizing just how much I have changed, but it’s good.

  • heather November 25, 2014, 8:46 am

    I listened to that interview recently. I thought that guy was being rude and condescending. Maybe he wasnt? Either way, you have good people skills that I envy.

  • Free to Pursue November 25, 2014, 8:51 am

    This way of thinking is the difference between freedom and bondage. As long as we think happiness is about stuff as opposed to thinking about and planning how we want to spend your days, we’re screwed.

    The richness of your life depends on its building blocks: how we spend our days.

    I ask myself each day whether I’m satisfied with how I invested my precious time. If not, I make changes. Time spent in traffic, shopping, working on things that don’t help me feel fulfilled are a waste. Time well spent: learning, sharing, staying healthy & strong, investing in meaningful relationships, trying new things, dreaming up new ideas & working on something meaningful to me. These are valuable activities and they pay dividends for years to come, kind of like my investments…

    Thanks for another great post.

  • Vawt November 25, 2014, 9:17 am

    Crazy headlines always leave me disappointed with the content because it never lines up or agrees with what was written. I did chuckle at ‘This Tightwad is Trending’ though.

    It seems to me that frugal living might be a new status, but its really an old one just relabeled. I think the main thing about MMM that appeals to people is that its about making the conscious decisions around consumption, not following a script of either frugal or not frugal. You can still choose the things that you value the most like travel, a hobby, etc and just build your budget around it. I have built my early retirement plan around this concept and MMM was a big influence in that!

  • UKMatt November 25, 2014, 9:27 am

    What excellent comment and reaffirmaton of the spirit of MMM.

    Surely this is all about choice – and the privilege of having both the financial means and the strength of will to make choices according to our own beliefs, regardless of what others around us may think or express.

    Capitalism gives us lots of choices on what we can spend our money on, but unfortunately it has also brought about a set of influences and cultural norms which mean our choices are not always as rational as we are led to believe . (see the BBC series ‘The Men Who Made us Spend” by Jack Peretti) . Standing up to that pressure is made a lot easier if you have sorted out in your own head why you want to follow this approach to life – it helps you justify it to yourself when you feel your strength wavering – as for what others think – screw ’em all.

    I find the criticism which suggests that ‘if we all chose this way of life then the world economy would just stop and we’d ruit it for everyone’ to be a bit of a joke. Capitalism is after all a pretty successful and inherently adaptible system, and it will look after itself. It may go through the odd convulsion, but personally I’d favour the readers of this blog to make it through a major economic convulsion in better shape than those who choose blindly to follow the herd, and derive their self esteem from consumption.

    cn1ght – please go and have a steak, or better still buy some and cook it at home with family or friends. If you haven’t had one for months, you will appreciate it all the more for that.

  • Joyful Stoic November 25, 2014, 9:59 am

    Great post.

    Another thing to consider is sometimes something that appears as the spend choice is not necessarily the most expensive. We all know about buying fewer quality items rather than quantity on the cheap.

    I’ve heard on frugality blogs and forums derogatory terms hurled at vacation homes. Done right, this can absolutely be done in a way to maximize value.

    For example, my husband and I have always known we want to eventually live in a warmer climate. We can’t move now due to family and the businesses we own. We always thought it was going to be a purchase made down the road.

    The housing crash moved the timeline up by about a decade. And it has resulted in the best performing “investment” we’ve made. Our secret was buying in a normal neighborhood, not a fancy resort or retiree one. The resulting benefits went beyond this. For 95k we bought a luxurious home in a neighborhood with a friendly mix of full time residents, some Canadian retirees, and others like us.

    The home has doubled in value in the last couple years. Unlike hotels or paying for other vacation accommodations, our investment has grown in value. I’ve put all my purchases (including any business purchase I can) on Southwest miles cards. As a result, the trips here are mostly free in the sense of not decreasing our net worth. We are discovering many free and low cost activities nearby and we get to recharge our batteries in the warm sun.

  • Kate in NY November 25, 2014, 10:01 am

    I loved this post and I’m enjoying the comments – always a sign of a particularly compelling thread. The truth is, I am obsessed with reading about fruality a la MMM – “I want you to spend like you are the richest person in the world, a person who has so much happiness and balance in your life that you can’t imagine anything you could buy that would make you any happier” – – – and yet – I will admit that I remain somewhat “wanty” in my actual life. There are things I can think of to buy that would probably make me pretty happy! I feel a self-sufficient contentment when I go to my pantry and fix a delicious meal from scratch without going to the store – but I also love going out to dinner with my family, luxuriating in their company while other people serve me tasty food and then clean it up. I feel energized and peaceful when my husband and I take our dogs on a long hike – but I also enjoy it when we spend a Sunday afternoon browsing at a bookstore, cappuccino in hand, and I buy (!) a book I’ve had my eye on. For me, frugality is a muscle that I have to consciously flex every single day. It does not come naturally to me – because of the way I was raised, or my genetic makeup – I have no idea. But the more I flex it, the stronger it grows, and the more I reap the benefits – not necessarily financially, though there is that, too but – I can’t believe I am going to write this – spiritually. I think I will always get a happy little high from a new pair of expensive shoes (it’s true) or an afternoon out shopping with my daughters – trip to Starbucks included. But those highs are fewer and farther between for me these days, and there is a whole lot of joy I get from the non-materialistic aspects of my life – my relationships, nature, self-reliance. If that is what it means to be frugal, then I’m going to keep at it.

    • Lyn in Ca November 25, 2014, 11:34 am

      Kate in NY –
      I was once the woman bookstore-browsing with coffee in hand, and buying that new book.
      Now I sit on my little patio (if the weather is nice) with my at-home brewed coffee, reading a stack of books from the library. When a book I’ve had my eye on is published, I reserve it from the library and eagerly await when my turn comes.
      So the truth is, the lifestyle is pretty much the same. The joy is the same, with the little extra thrill of finding it for less.

      • Kate in NY November 25, 2014, 11:45 am

        Agreed, Lyn in CA – and 9 times out of 10, I’m getting that book from the library and reading it while drinking my at-home brewed coffee – but when I do buy that 10th book (because the library isn’t carrying that particular obscure frugal/homesteading/economics tome) then I really, really savor it! Back in the pre MMM days, when I ordered all my books new from Amazon, I rarely got that kind of satisfaction. That’s the other little secret about living more frugally – the luxuries, whatever they may be, are particularly
        enjoyable because of their infrequency.

      • PawPrint November 25, 2014, 3:55 pm

        I’ve been doing that for quite a while, too. I scan Amazon and book reviews to see what’s new, then go online to reserve it at the library. We did, however, start allowing ourselves to buy one paperback a month at a local bookstore. We hate seeing the independent bookstores going out of business so purchasing one book a month makes us feel like we’re supporting them. I don’t feel that way about the local dress store, shoe store, or any other kind of store, really, but bookstores to me are special.

  • KeninNZ November 25, 2014, 10:19 am

    I listened to the Econ talk podcast and I thought this guy just doesn’t get it. I’m with you MR MM. I’m no multi $$$ but live a life of abundant riches, working out early in the piece that what I like spending $ on most of all is time. Consequently since the birth of my daughter a dozen years ago I’ve been able to spend so much time sharing her journey to adulthood.

  • Diane Baca November 25, 2014, 12:48 pm

    I get you MMM, I think most of us here get you. Some people will never get it because the hedonic treadmill of consumption is firmly implanted in their pampered backside. You remind me of another Badass…Bob Brinker. I love his message about Critical Mass and how there are no alarm clocks in the land of Critical Mass. No longer working for the man, we are free to do as we wish. If that includes paid work, so be it. But it’s because we want to, not because we have to. Carry on your good message. It is starting to sink in.

  • Craig From Az November 25, 2014, 1:15 pm

    I find it amazing that so many people are apparently savvy enough to choose the mustachian lifestyle even in their younger years. It took me 20 years of working my ass off to make (and spend!) as much money as I could to realize what a poor lifestyle choice I was making. I still suspect if I hadn’t gone through that process I would be jealous of the lifestyle of the “rich” folks when I saw them on TV. Kudos to all who can make this choice based on intelligence instead of experience!

  • Eric November 25, 2014, 1:20 pm

    I’ve seen MMM throw out the $40k equivalent several times: “The total bill for this nuclear explosion of consumption is an outrageous $25,000 per year, which would be closer to $40,000 if you accounted for mortgage interest or rent on a comparable house.”

    I think it’s easier for a lot of people who are new to this concept to make the lifestyle comparison against their own *salary*, as opposed to expenses. I did some back-of-the-envelope math and if anything I think MMM could be significantly underselling his lifestyle.

    The (very rough) number I come up with is $58k.

    Consider a more typical three-person family living in America in a house with a mortgage, only someone who is working full time…

    Mortgage: $320k (80% of a $400k house, which I believe is what MMM said his is worth). That’s about $24.5k in payments.
    Deductions: $14k (the standard would be $12.4k in 2014, but the mortgage principal would bump that up a bit)
    Exemptions: $11,850 (2014 rates for three people)
    Income tax: $3915
    FICA tax: $4437

    To end up with $25k in post-tax, post-mortgage expenses you’d need to earn around $58k. If you also assume this typical family has a car payment (which MMM doesn’t) and is hopefully saving something for retirement (which MMM isn’t) then you’d easily get over $60k as an equivalent salary.

    The real kicker is the fact that MMM doesn’t have to go to a job, worry about losing his job or advancing his career, make house or car payments, pay off credit cards, save for retirement or big expenses, squeeze in time to play with the family, etc. All of this put together makes the “living in luxury” claim more apparent in my mind.

  • Deserat November 25, 2014, 4:59 pm

    They did the same to “The Tightwad Gazette” author Amy Dacsyzn (sp?). She laughed them off and lived her life the same – i.e. living well is the best revenge….who cares what they think anyhow.

  • FWIW November 25, 2014, 7:08 pm

    Not especially relevant but Annie Lowrey and Ezra Klein are spouses.

    And, in my opinion, both fine writers.

    Great post, MMM.


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