You’ll Never Believe How Much the MMM Family Spent This Year…

Hiking near home, fall 2014

Hiking near home, fall 2014

Here we go again!

As we do once every year, Mrs. MM and I have spent the day nervously tallying the sinful blizzard of excessive spending that we have been committing over the past twelve months.

If you aren’t familiar with my budgeting style, it is “I Don’t Have a Budget“. Since we know there’s no chance of running out of money at this point, we make spending decisions based on our values rather than splitting up a fixed stream of income into categories every month.

While this is a hazardous approach for beginners*, it works very well once you have trained yourself with my alternative point-of-purchase approach. In short, whenever you feel like buying something, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will buying this really improve my overall lifetime happiness?
  • Is there another, more efficient way to meet this same need?
  • Can the same benefit be had if I delay the purchase?

While I still follow these rules because they have become a habit, the application can be sloppy at times due to the fact that we are still just ordinary flawed humans.

Highlights of 2014 in the Mustache Household


First day of framing the new roof, January 2014

Even retired life seems to be full of change and adventure, and this suits me just fine. This year our boy grew up another notch, and we found his need for creative freedom really started to clash with the formal structure of school. This led us to full-time homeschooling. That required much more time from both of us parents, curtailing some of our other activities but also teaching all three of us a lot more about life and learning. Although the transition amounted to a couple months of emotional face punches, it was worthwhile as such punches generally are in retrospect.

We Moved

2014 will also go down in history as the year of the new house. Although we actually bought the place in late 2013, I started the project in earnest by tearing off the roof last January, framed and welded and sheathed the new structure through February and March, then stepped inside to do the electrical, plumbing, insulation and other trades before outsourcing the drywall. We moved in to the barebones residence in June and I’ve been working since then on more carpentry and details. All in all, we’ve spent about $80,000 on the complete rebuild so far, which I have kept separate from the regular spending budget. This is because the net spending on the new house (after selling the old one) is still a large negative number.

Details of the new house project, where the money went, and before and after pictures will get their own separate post. It is taking a while because work progress has slowed dramatically due to the aforementioned homeschooling

Business and Pleasure Endeavors

The 9-year-old Little MM seems to be following in his father’s path – finding machines, space and science fiction, and creating electronic music (under the stage name Killbone7) to be more interesting than any organized activity we try to coax him into. Luckily he has a growing club of other junior nerds that have banded together for these activities, so he will have company when he starts the next Microsoft or Google from our garage in another six years or so.

This detail is relevant in a spending article because although stuff like this is amazingly educational, it costs the parents very little. We would fully support him if he were into more expensive things like sports leagues, and I do remind him that that is a better way to meet girls once he gets to high school.

Mrs. Money Mustache took the lead on homeschooling, burning through stacks of books and websites and distilling it down once she realized the practice is incredibly unregulated here in the US. As long as you can get your kid to pass a very basic test at the end of each year, you can do whatever you like. We are using this as an opportunity to speed up the educational pace considerably and do fun stuff instead of boring stuff. She also started a secret crafting business on Etsy which I won’t dare mention here lest she lose all her free time to an increase in sales.

And of course old MMM continued to build stuff out of wood and occasionally type some shit into the computer, juggling the demands and opportunities of the Internet against the pleasure of real world physical work. I indulged in a couple of these opportunities for some blog-related travel including Ecuador II and Camp Mustache, both of which will happen again in 2015.

But enough of this blathering on, for it is time for the final number. In the wealthy and spendy year of 2014, the MMM family managed to blow the following incredible of money on ourselves:

$25, 330

And here is where it all went:

Mortgage Interest00
Property Taxes2,5172,120New house has $1000/year cheaper taxes. This figure pro-rated based on months lived in each
Food and Dining7,7397,109
   Groceries   6,984   6,593
   Wine/Beer   466   322
   Restaurants, Coffee Shop   288   194
   Doctor Visits   425   484Includes some personal therapy surrounding our boy's school issues.
   Health Insurance   2,855   3,272$273 / month
   Dentist   366   512Mostly for kid dentist preventative work
   Pharmacy   143   n/a
Auto and Transport2,231490
   Gasoline   1,022   71Excellent!
   Insurance   330   347
   Registration & Testing   294   72
   Express Tolls   80   
   Service & Parts   422   n/a
   Public Transportation   81   n/a
Cell Phone300300
Internet Access360360
   Home Renovations   383   19
   Home Insurance   392   410
   Landscaping/Plants   85   n/a
School Tuition00
   Shoes & Clothing   606   492
   Sporting Goods   566   76
   Shopping Misc   965   654
   Books   46   61mostly used books
   Other   440   815Netflix, kids activities, homeschooling school supplies, local plays, apps, CC annual fee, cash withdrawals, foreign transaction fees
Travel1,9345,057Wow!! $1908 for xmas trip to Canada, $382 passport renewals, $216 flight home from SFO, $552 vrbo in San Fran, $880 safety pirate trip, $245 train travel, $727 flights for summer trip to Canada, $51 Super Shuttle, $96 Mrs. MM 40th Birthday Trip
   Subtracting Tuition, Donations   24,567   24,175
   Subtracting travel, crossfit   21,983   18,788
   Subtracting organic/luxury food   19,678   16,442Assuming a 33% increase on groceries due to organic + meat.
   Subtracting home renovation expense19,29516,423This is what our "no frills" living cost would be, unless we moved to a smaller house (Note: Misc category could be cut down a lot as well)

What the heck is going on here? With completely reckless spending and all of life’s variation, we are still within $150 (0.6%) of the previous year’s spending. There were a few notable things, however:

Groceries were still Ridiculous:

The place our sloppy nonbudgeting manifests itself most strongly is in groceries: high-end local organic stuff from the deli counter, ridiculous little triangles of cheese from the gourmet section, dark 85% chocolate chunks with my espresso, coconut and almond breakfast every morning, and an overflowing salad bowl alongside the dinner every night. And some sort of entertaining almost every week, where we actually prepare and give away large quantities of this fancy food to friends and visitors. It is hard not to feel rich and spendy when this is part of your life.

Driving Performance was Good:

Somehow, we went the whole year on only two tanks of gas for the car. In the past, I have talked up our impressive driving avoidance skills and called everyone else Car Clowns because we don’t use the car for local errands.. but then hypocritically embarked on long cross-country trips that burned hundreds of dollars of gas.  This year it seems I actually walked the talk, and the car was fired up mostly for shuttling people to the airport and to occasional hikes in the nearby foothills. I’ve even started biking for my occasional nights out in Boulder, thanks to the added speed of my Electric Bike. It also helps that the car is a Scion xA, a 5-passenger hatchback that easily exceeds 40MPG. Not on the budget is one tank of gas for my construction minivan – because it was used only for my construction business this year (except a few short trips carrying materials for the house).

Travel Spending was Way Up: 

The flip side of less driving is sometimes more spending on other forms of travel. In spring, we took an adventure on the Amtrak sleeper train to San Francisco and went North to explore the amazing coast and Redwood forests. And we closed out the year with a set of three overpriced plane tickets ($600 each!) to Canada to visit family for the holidays, something we haven’t done in winter for many years (usually we just spend every summer in Canada). Plus a great train ride to get the three of us from Toronto to Ottawa for phase two of this trip. This trip is an example of spending I would have avoided if money were tight, but it was nice to be able to afford it.

On the positive side, our out-of-pocket spending for this travel was really much lower than shown in this budget, because much of it was paid for with points from various rewards credit cards. But I decided to list the sticker price in the annual spending just to keep reporting simpler. In other words, we thought of the credit cards rewards as a form of income rather than a reduction in spending.

Health Insurance Held Steady:

We use a basic plan from Golden Rule that costs about $275 per month for the family. If this pre-ACA healthcare plan eventually expires, we’ll switch to a Bronze level plan under the new health insurance setup that will  offer more coverage in exchange for more money. You can read more about that in this 2013 post on our health insurance situation. None of us had any health issues besides checkups this year.

So that’s it for 2014. Although these updates are starting to look awfully consistent from a numbers perspective, I still find it quite revealing how powerful habits can be in dictating your spending, regardless of income.

And as I go through each year knowing that I’ll have to justify each expenditure to YOU the reader at the end of it all, I find my own life being guided gently away from the temptation to stray into bullshit spending as well.

Luckily for you, you will get exactly the same benefit this year. Because I’ll be right there watching over your shoulder every time you take out your wallet in 2015.


Quick answers to questions that seem to be coming up:

Why is your car insurance so cheap? Living in a city of only 90,000 people, age 40, cheap car with liability insurance only, nothing on driving record. I still use Geico insurance.

Why is your mobile phone bill so low? Republic Wireless – $25/month unlimited everything including data, or $10/month unlimited voice+text. Hint: Get the $150 Motorola G unless you are a serious techie – it is almost as good as the higher end $300 and $400 phones they offer.


* If you are going to train your fiscal discipline muscle with some budgeting, I am still a fan of YNAB software (You Need A Budget), which you can try out for free for a month to see if it fits your own style. Disclosure: I am a friend of the founder Jesse Mecham and think he tells excellent stories.

  • Isi January 16, 2015, 10:05 am

    This is excellent. Well done MMM.

    I believe you may have covered this in another post, but the Mrs. doesn’t indulge in any services whatsoever? Hair, nails, waxing, massages, anything at all? Just wondering.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 1:29 pm

      I know that haircuts happen occasionally, but I think she just kept it growing this year. Her hair is very long at the moment.

      Update: I was totally wrong on this: Mrs. MM learned to cut her own hair two years ago and has enjoyed doing it since!

      And we are fancy enough to own our own set of nailclippers, so you’ll never see a bill for nails on the MMM budget :-)

      • Paul January 17, 2015, 4:20 pm

        Where did you find such an awesome wife? You are lucky to have someone 110% on board with what you are doing. All the ones I meet live at the beauty shop and spend CRAZY money on hair, nails, and toes…

        You got a good one.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 18, 2015, 11:53 am

          I think we should look at this as normal and critical in choosing a partner. Just as a wise woman should avoid hooking up with a man who sits on the couch all weekend watching TV or gambles away his whole paycheck at the casino, a man should avoid a woman with seriously unproductive habits like compulsive paid pampering.

          Women and men like this are out there – at the library, or on the bike path, working as engineers or scientists or doctors, and if we’re lucky, reading this blog. The problem is that you might not find them in high concentrations at the usual markets like flashy clubs downtown.

          • Jazz Brown January 18, 2015, 11:15 pm

            Amazing, two tanks of fuel for the whole year… That is absolutely astounding. Yeah its key to have someone with the same values and goals. Many people find a partner they hope will magically change after they get married and are disappointed when this is not the case. I think the recent great recession has made more people more likely to be frugal. Which ultimately is a good thing.

          • Sara January 20, 2015, 4:49 am

            Kind of funny. I am always hoping to find a man that lives the mustachian dream. But it seems likes most of the men that I meet are over-pampered and overly self-indulgent with their atv and boats and man caves and all. I prefer a simple and free life but finding it difficult to find a partner. And no, I am not an engineer! But I do seem to have the logical thought process pretty much down!

            • Peter March 16, 2015, 9:43 pm

              Where do you live Sara? : )

            • John March 30, 2015, 5:54 am

              We need a MMM dating section ASAp ! Grow the community!

            • Michelle A October 1, 2015, 5:51 pm

              John, that’s what I was just thinking ;-)

          • Squeakywheel January 21, 2015, 11:58 am

            Amen to this. Yes, it sometimes seems like the whole world is coloring their hair/waxing/getting their nails done, but I have found a great group of friends (and a great husband) who support me in my decision to present myself as I really am.

    • Marcia January 16, 2015, 2:14 pm

      That’s a very good point!

      I spend about $60 a year on two haircuts (but I just watched a video from a friend, a woman who owned a barber shop for 20 years, on how to cut your own mid-length hair, so guess h ow I’m cutting my own hair next??)

      But, at the ripe old age of 44, 4 years older than Mrs. MM, I have never had my nails done, waxing, etc. I’ve had exactly one facial (given to me as a gift from a boss, who didn’t realize that they aren’t my kind of thing). I’ve also had one massage.

      • catherine January 20, 2015, 10:03 am

        I had my nails done professionally once in my 20s. It was a pretty “meh” experience, and the polish was chipped within a couple of days. I also cut my own hair, it’s surprisingly easy! I did have to figure out a few personal adjustments to the tutorials I found online, but now a haircut takes about 10-15 minutes and can happen whenever it suits my schedule. Money aside, the thing that really gets me about these kinds of services they are just such a suck of TIME! If I get a haircut, I have to schedule it, the salon is only open during a fairly specific set of times, and between getting there, getting my hair cut and styled, and going home again, it’s two hours of prime Friday afternoon or Saturday morning personal productivity time GONE. In contrast, I can cut my own hair in 10-15 minutes on Sunday evening, which is generally sort of a low productivity/mindless housekeeping time period for me.

        • KruidigMeisje January 23, 2015, 4:32 am

          My birthday present a few years ago from BF, was that he took a massage course. So I do indulge in massages since then. But the mustachian way.

    • Heather June 19, 2015, 11:14 am

      I had been indulging in pedicures, but now do my own at home. It’s soooo much cheaper (the materials last me a long time) and is so rewarding to have some me time and not spend the money on having it done in a nail salon.

  • Jeffrey C January 16, 2015, 10:08 am

    Fascinating as always. The groceries really doesn’t seem like any big deal for a family of three, particularly given the low amount for restaurants.

    • Michelle January 16, 2015, 11:48 am

      I agree with Jeffrey. It sounds like the food spending is something where you are spending for high-quality because you enjoy it, so I think you did well.

      What I am shocked by is how low your gas spending was for the year. That is AMAZING!

    • Evan January 16, 2015, 1:36 pm

      Very cool to see where most of the “splurge” spending is going- groceries and travel. Nothing beats a great meal with friends or enjoying new experiences in various locales. MMM nails it again.

  • MikeG. January 16, 2015, 10:09 am

    Not a fan of budgeting either. Whenever I allowed myself X amount of money per month for variable budget categories, it always got spent… and often I couldn’t remember for what. Now I spend what I need when I need it, knowing my larger goals will always keep me in check, as they have now for the past 19 years of early retirement.

    • Angela January 19, 2015, 11:28 am

      Yep, my husband and I do not budget either, we just aim to not spend any money. It works much better that way!

    • RetiredToWin Alex April 3, 2015, 11:53 am

      When I got serious about reaching earlier retirement, I drove my basic living expenses down from $26,000 to $15,000 a year — without an actual budget. Instead I followed (and still follow) the concept of budget optimization. I target an expense line (for example, my previous $60 monthly cable bill) and “optimize” that spending so that I get the same benefit (all the movies I could want to watch) for much less money ($9 a month for Netflix and a $40 long-range antenna).

      Over a 3-year period, I “rinsed and repeated” that procedure until I had, as I said, reduced my basic living expenses run rate by 42%. And, amazingly, the process doesn’t have to stop. I’ve set a goal for 2015 of reducing my expenses down another 10%… and I am already well on my way.

      • Jason March 11, 2016, 10:21 pm

        Truly amazing to be living on 15k a year. I have dived into this mustachianism wholeheartedly trying to streamline and take all the fat from my budget. I will admit that I was one year ago an extremely overweight mustachian wannabee and I’m much closer to my ideal weight now but still have a long way to go. Living in the San Francisco Bay area is just not a place where these numbers are attainable. The only problem that I have with this post is it falsely advertises the true cost of Pete’s living expenses. In the list there is only actual expenses but for most of us who either rent or haven’t paid off the house there is the biggest expense of all ……housing. MMM should list the opportunity cost of the uninvestable equity in his home or the amount of money he would pay if he were to rent his house in its current condition. I don’t know what that might be in Longmont but say $2000 times 12 months equals $24,000 a year . His family’s true cost of living is $24,000+ $25,330=A whopping true cost of $49,330. Now thats a more realistic number for all of us who dont own a home:)

  • Juanita January 16, 2015, 10:09 am

    I can’t wait to read this! Going to pour over it this weekend and look at my own.

    However, in first few lines already,… really please don’t be misleading. You DO have a budget because you have already figured out that your “values” lifestyle is living within your means and is sustainable as long as there are no major changes. You will be fine as long as you don’t start tripling the price of everything you do. Just a headsup on appearances from this side of the computer monitor. Otherwise i’m very excited to read this and thank you so much for your blog!

    • Fiby January 16, 2015, 10:54 am

      He means he doesn’t have a budget in the traditional sense of the term. When most people think of a budget, they say okay I can spend $X on groceries, $Y on “fun things”, etc. per month. And then, before making a purchase, they check to see if they haven’t gone over budget.

      MMM doesn’t have such explicit “limits” on spending. He just spends according to his values. And I take this approach too – partly because while a traditional budget is great for beginners, as he says, once you’ve gotten into the swing of things the budget becomes annoying, actually. You can fall into the trap of oh I actually have $100 left over in my budget this month, this means I can spend it!

      tl;dr – an explicit budget is good for people who want to reduce their current spending because it is excessive. But for people who have built up some of their frugality muscles, it can actually hurt you, as you can fall into the trap of spending an amount equal to your budget just because you can.

      • JMK January 17, 2015, 12:51 pm

        Exactly. This is why years ago I stopped putting anything in the spending plan that wasn’t an essential. I figured if I put $X per week in there for entertainment or clothes or whatever then I’d feel like I was preapproved to spend that without really pausing to think, do I really need this? Now I only plan for the committed items like mortgage, taxes, insurance, and the recurring (but cut to the bone items) like utilities, gas, groceries. That way anything else has to be added to the spreadsheet and it’s a bit of a game now to see how long we can go without adding anything that wasn’t part of the original spending plan. Because we cover the basics with just over half our combined income the rest normally goes to retirement savings, extra mortgage payments and our one splurge, the annual family trip. If we do decide to go wild and go to a restaurant, or somebody needs new snow boots, we go ahead and do it and as a result there is just slightly less excess that week to transfer to the normal places we would send it. We put so little value in stuff like restaurants, trendy clothing and any channel that can’t be pulled of the airwaves free that it would just kill us at this point to add those as “normal” expenses.

        I think everyone here can agree we all prioritize differently and that’s just fine, but the common denominator is that we’ve all gone through the process of actually evaluating what holds value for us and what is totally worthless to us. I often see people spending on things that hold zero value to me and I have to remind myself that they aren’t necessarily spending foolishly and that perhaps it’s the only non-essential luxury they’re chosen to hold on to.

      • Juanita Martinez January 17, 2015, 7:11 pm

        I agree with you about that trap. I do keep a budget because if I don’t i will spend more than I earn. I am still learning how to resist that trap. Sometimes I don’t look at my progress for 2 weeks straight and find that overpsend in one category is making up for underspend in another and then I can resist that trap.

    • David January 16, 2015, 12:39 pm

      I don’t see this as misleading at all. Rather, I think there are different definitions of budget, and you’ve picked one that MMM clearly isn’t referring to when he talks about a budget. What MMM refers to as a budget is like the Merriam-Webster definition:

      : an amount of money available for spending that is based on a plan for how it will be spent
      : a plan used to decide the amount of money that can be spent and how it will be spent

      If you ask Google for a definition of budget, you’ll get something broad like this:

      “an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.”

      This definition is so broad that everyone reading this probably has something that meets it, but it’s definitely not what MMM is talking about. The argument against budgeting (Merriam-Webster style) is that it introduces overhead, typically leads to funny-money concepts like “play money” working their way in, and isn’t really necessary once your income and expenses have some breathing room between them and you have some cash on hand.

    • Janie January 17, 2015, 11:56 am

      Totally disagree that this appears misleading. In fact, there were major changes (more than double last year’s travel spending). Maybe it would be a good idea to actually read it first.

  • Robin January 16, 2015, 10:13 am

    This may seem like an odd question, but how do you guys decide which charities to give to and how much to give? I feel like that’s something I need to be doing more of myself.
    Also, how is the homeschooling going? Are you all finding it to be much more beneficial than the traditional route? I always hear that you spend far less time teaching/learning since there are not as many distractions around at home. I have a three year old and have been mulling over the idea. (I know it may not be exactly finance related, but figured you might feel the need to offer some insight.) :)

    • Alyssa January 16, 2015, 3:18 pm

      I’ve taught a few classes on fundraising for small nonprofits and on how to choose good charities to donate to. One of the best things about the Internet is that you can use tools like Guidestar.org to vet local charities, and to explore the differently-sized local and national charities that may interest you. I actually wrote a post about this on my own blog here: https://renaissancerunnergirl.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/putting-the-fun-in-fundraising/

      Hope that’s helpful!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 6:02 pm

      The charity question is a good one, because I haven’t figured it out yet. So far, it has been spur of the moment things that are a pretty obvious opportunity to do some good. And the blog business does its own separate donation which was a much larger number this year, but still not nearly enough.

      I hope to give all the surplus I earn over my lifetime away (so far I’m about $1M behind on that goal), but I’m giving myself permission to do it without being rushed. Sometimes investments today yield even bigger results for tomorrow. The only real rule is I can’t spend it on myself or leave a huge estate!

      • Robin January 16, 2015, 7:21 pm

        I was blown away when I read that. Seriously inspiring and so many awesome causes you could help with that kind of money. Cheers to that goal, MMM.

      • LennStar January 17, 2015, 12:49 am

        If you dont know where to put money (I just had to write that for funs sake ^^) you could sit down and write down your values and your wishes for mankind.
        Then look which organisation works with these values/on these wishes and look if they work effectively.

      • Dan January 17, 2015, 4:32 am

        These guys are all about getting your money’s worth when donating to charity – evaluating some of the most effective charities:


      • Kandice January 17, 2015, 11:40 am

        You may want to consider a donor advised fund (DAF) for your giving. I just wrote an article about it for Forbes Magazine. You can donate to the DAF sponsor (which is a charity in and of itself) now, take a current tax deduction, but still maintain the right to designate the beneficiary at a later date. In the meantime the assets are invested and grow until you decide. The DAF facilitates the transfer of the funds but you still choose how much, to whom (so long as they are qualified charities) and when.

        The DAF can also accept non-cash donations (for example, shares of stock, partnership units or LLC ownership interests). It’s tax advantageous to donate property with locked in appreciation – you get to deduct the FMV of the asset on the date transferred to the DAF and the charity gets a larger donation (the DAF gets the assets at FMV on the date of transfer with a stepped up tax basis. When they ultimately sell the underlying asset, they don’t have to pay tax on the appreciation). This is better than you selling the asset, taking the tax hit on the appreciation, then donating what’s left.

        For the article I interviewed someone at Fidelity Charitable, but other sponsors are out there. http://kandicebridges.com/uploads/3/0/7/6/3076278/donor_advised_funds.pdf

      • CincyCat January 17, 2015, 5:43 pm

        ^^^ What she said! I work in the Development Office at an area non-profit, and we have several donor-advised funds who contribute to our cause. It’s great to be able to rely on the income.

      • Stacey January 19, 2015, 1:18 pm

        After today’s announcement on the President’s new tax plan (I found it on Bloomberg), your plan to give it away is a sound one.

      • win February 4, 2015, 11:20 am

        Article about techies homeschooling their kids.


      • win February 4, 2015, 11:29 am

        Movie about homeschooling. I know nothing about the movie,
        but it sounds interesting.


      • Luke March 28, 2016, 1:27 am

        Sorry for the late response–I was about to get on your case for only giving away $100 a month–good thing I saw this response first! I’m glad you are intentionally planning how to be more financially charitable as I think there can be huge satisfaction in being generous with your money. I’m curious to know what you think about the delayed impact your method of giving has. Before I started reading your work I gave away a lot more, but now that early retirement is an option I’ve scaled it back. Determining the ratio of going to myself vs giving to others is still probably the biggest issue that I struggle with in planning my savings.

      • Joe C April 12, 2017, 5:10 pm

        MMM check out the work of Will MacAskill for how to pick a charity and his 80,000 hours work
        awesome stuff by the way, love the blog

  • Joe January 16, 2015, 10:16 am

    I’m curious how you break out Beer/Wine from the rest of groceries? Do you save and review receipts? Do you use an app to enter things as you buy them?

    • Rob January 16, 2015, 10:39 am

      Depends on where you are and local laws, obviously, but some places you’re either forced to or incentivised to buy alcohol and food separately. For example, where I live (MD), 99% of grocery stores don’t sell alcohol (and the ones that do don’t sell liquor, and generally have extremely marginal selection), so alcohol perforce winds up as separate purchases.

    • Yuriy January 16, 2015, 10:42 am

      I don’t know what the situation is in CO, but in Massachusetts most grocery stores do not (and cannot) sell alcohol, so this is easy because it’s always on a separate transaction from a separate store.

      • Brandon Curtis January 16, 2015, 10:59 am

        via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_laws_of_the_United_States

        “Spirituous, vinous & malt liquor available in liquor stores and liquor-licensed drug stores only.
        Liquor stores closed on Christmas Day. Sunday sales restriction lifted on July 1, 2008. Liquor stores and liquor-licensed drug stores may have only one location, while 3.2% beer may be sold in gas stations, supermarkets, and convenience stores. Appropriately licensed businesses may also sell 3.2% beer for both on and off-premise consumption. A small number of grocery stores are licensed as drug stores and sell full strength beer, wine, and spirits. As an example, a chain grocery store that has pharmacy services at most or all locations may elect a single location in the chain as the licensed establishment to sell beer, wine, and spirits.”

        Them’s some strange laws.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 6:06 pm

          Yeah, but we have recreational marijuana stores. That WAY more than makes up for not having beer in the Safeway :-)

          • smbysw January 21, 2015, 9:23 am

            So where does that show up in the budget?

      • EMML January 16, 2015, 11:17 am

        In Michigan, stores need a license to sell beer/ wine and a liquor license to sell liquor, but most large to medium-sized grocery stores do have these licenses.

      • B January 16, 2015, 11:33 am

        Mass does not represent the norm.

      • Tyler January 16, 2015, 12:01 pm

        Thats exactly how it is in CO.

    • danb January 17, 2015, 8:23 am

      Joe, not sure if this is what you meant in your question, but there are tools to help you split transactions.

      For example,

      My wife buys groceries + pet food. She circles the pet food items for me on the receipt, and places it on my desk. Whenever I see a new (non pending) transaction show up in “mint.com” I make sure it’s categorized properly. So say we spent $100.00 but $25 was pet food. Mint allows you to Split the transaction. I would tag $75 as Groceries, and $25 as pet food.


      Hope this helps!

  • Mr. Frugalwoods January 16, 2015, 10:19 am

    There are plenty of families who would consider ~500 / mo on groceries to be very cheap! We manage to keep it under that, but I don’t think we eat the same amount of meat that ya’ll do. It adds up!

    That home insurance number is amazing! We have a high deductible and we shop around, but we’re still 3x that. I wonder if there’s something special about CO home insurance that makes it more awesome that MA?

    Thanks for continuing to prove that it’s possible to live on a reasonable amount of spending and have a great time doing it! The happiness is such an important component, maybe more so than the actual numbers.

    • EcoCatLady January 17, 2015, 2:15 am

      I’m wondering the same thing ’cause I’m in Colorado and pay over twice that amount for insurance on a 900 square foot house in a not so great neighborhood. What’s the secret?

      • kyle January 17, 2015, 6:02 pm

        The not so great neighborhood is probably your problem.

        • Nancy January 17, 2015, 10:37 pm

          I have the same question about insurance. I am also in CO, good neighborhood, and pay 2.5 times that much. I have shopped around, and find I can get cheaper homeowners insurance (but nothing like the price he quoted). When I consider auto & home together though, the higher homeowners / lower auto gives me the lower total cost. I’ve not achieved either FI or the low mileage MMM has. I’m interested to know who you’re buying insurance from, just to see if it could bring my costs down.

          • EcoCatLady January 18, 2015, 11:24 am

            Nancy, somewhere in this string of comments MMM posted a link to a post he wrote on insurance back in 2011. In that post he says he gets the highest deductible possible – I think it said 10K on the homeowner’s plan! That might explain it. But since I’ve lived through 2 major hailstorms in the 20 years I’ve owned the house – both of which took out the roof, the siding, and numerous doors & windows, I think I’ve definitely come out ahead. Hmmm… maybe that’s why my premiums are high.

            MMM also said he has Geico for auto – which is what I have, but I pay about $43/month – and I only drove 700 miles last year! I think I’m gonna do some shopping around on that one.

  • EL January 16, 2015, 10:23 am

    This is impressive and sort of a trend for you family now after all the years posting the annual budget. Separating personal from business expenses is vital, and I know many people who do not do the task correctly. Even though you spent 80 grand renovating the house, I’m sure it will appreciate even more than that with additional equity. Good for resale purposes, but I think you kind of enjoy living next to a park. (I would as well-HAHA)

  • Steve Adcock January 16, 2015, 10:23 am

    Looks to be pretty normal for the head Mustachian among us. Well done on getting your gasoline costs so damn low. How does it feel knowing that your neighbor probably spends $25k in 6 months, while you spend it in a year? :)

  • Nicholas January 16, 2015, 10:26 am

    What is your utilities breakdown (electric, gas, water)?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 1:26 pm

      Oh yeah, I meant to add that: Out of the roughly $134/month we forked out, it averages out like this:

      Actual electric use: $24
      Fixed line charge from electric company: $10
      Actual Natural gas use: $35
      Fixed monthly charges from gas company: $15
      Water (mostly fixed charges): $20
      Trash and recycling and misc city fees like flood rebuilding: $30

      • Carolyn S January 17, 2015, 12:51 pm

        Okay, I’m new to your blog, so you may have already talked about this in a post I haven’t read yet. But I have to ask – how are your utilities so low? I live in Lakewood and pay more for my electric and gas, and quite a bit more for water. What I’m wondering about is if it’s a case of you being very efficient in your utilities use, or more that the cost is lower where you live. Or both, perhaps?
        Thanks for the post! This make me want to go over my spending for the year and figure out where the money went.

      • Jon January 20, 2015, 1:57 pm

        Isn’t that $15 fixed charge for gas annoying?
        I’ve considered going heat pump heating and hot water, and dropping gas all together.
        With a good heat pump system, the electricity usage should be near the gas price for the same amount of heating. And no gas…

        Gas for cooking is pretty inefficient too… like 70% of the heat goes around the pot would be my guess…

  • Catherine Jean Rose January 16, 2015, 10:27 am

    Great annual expense report — as usual.

    Wondering how you got vehicle registration so low? My mom lives in Fort Collins and hers is much higher for one car. I think you have two or three? Here in WI we pay $75/vehicle regardless of it’s make/model/year.

    At any rate, very inspiring…helps keep me on point w/my own sometimes face-punch worthy spending. Killing the mortgage makes a HUGE difference in an annual budget. Your report really makes me want to downsize.

    • mary w January 16, 2015, 2:26 pm

      Not sure about Colorado, but maybe it’s like California. In California vehicle registration is largely based on the value of the car. Old/cheap cars = low registration.

      • Three Wolf Moon January 17, 2015, 9:22 am

        It is based on car value in CO. With MMM’s vehicle fleet, not surprised the costs are relatively low.

        • Mcduffy February 28, 2015, 5:34 pm

          Did MMM change the fleet? Or maybe the Coloradoans could confirm any state policy changes?
          How does registration and testing cost change 75% in one year?

          Also, (looking at repair costs and other categories), any difference between “0” cost and “n/a”?

  • Joy January 16, 2015, 10:30 am

    Thank you for the update.
    I’ve been a little sloppy with my spending. Yet, overall we saved 56.2% this year.
    Our giving this year was 15.7%
    We are on track with our FI goals.
    Thanks again!

  • Scott January 16, 2015, 10:34 am

    I’m just curious if you don’t mind. What state or general locality to live in that you can have such low costs on some of this stuff? Thanks

    • Brandon Curtis January 16, 2015, 10:53 am

      Longmont, Colorado! Cost-of-living calculators seems to agree that living in Longmont is slightly more expensive (~10%) than the national average:


      • Scott January 16, 2015, 11:43 am

        Well, it’s gotta be lower than Walnut Creek CA where I live!

        • Brandon Curtis January 16, 2015, 3:56 pm

          Those same calculators say that Walnut Creek is around DOUBLE the national average. I’m in Berkeley, so I know how it is :)

        • Diane C February 2, 2015, 12:56 pm

          Hey Scott,
          Fellow “Creeker” here! Glad to know I have company here at MMM. Given that we don’t get snow, it’s surprising how high our rates are. As anywhere, a lot depends on the energy efficiency and size of your dwelling plus the number of people who live inside.

  • flyingcircle January 16, 2015, 10:40 am

    You’ve inspired me to go through my expenses last year and do the same thing. I’m kind of afraid to see what it might reveal, but also extremely curious at the same time.

    Good job on the car!

    I know that my wife and I also seem to spend a lot on groceries, but if that means eating vegetables over noodles and grains, I’ll take it.

  • Brandon Curtis January 16, 2015, 10:42 am

    VERY interested to hear more about this homeschooling endeavor! My own experience with public education was pretty lackluster, and I’ve always told myself that I want my Hypothetical Future Offspring to be educated in an environment that promotes creativity and exploration instead of smothering it. The only homeschoolers I knew growing up were fringe religious nutjobs trying to shield their kids from the secular world, so I’d love to hear about the process from someone with similar goals that I can actually relate to.

    With the recent explosion in online learning tools like Khan Academy, EdX, Coursera, Crash Course… it seems like the ideal time to be trying this!

    • Cheri January 16, 2015, 1:22 pm

      Hey Brandon, had to smile at your comment. You would probably consider me a religious nut job. :). We homeschooled our 3 sons through high school. You might consider them religious nut jobs too, but they embrace Mustachian principles (surprisingly, many of which are found in the book of Proverbs.. I once counted about 100 verses relating to finances there).

      The boys have grown into fine young men, responsible, helpful, caring and fun.

      You are right about home schooling…it promotes creativity and exploration; for nut jobs and ‘normal’ people.

      • Dr Bill January 16, 2015, 2:44 pm

        Dr Bill
        Booyah, Cheri! Whack that incautious comment from Brandon back down his throat! And so charitably done! And Happy New Year to both of you!

      • Brandon Curtis January 16, 2015, 3:53 pm

        The existence of ‘normal people’ has yet to be proven ;)

        My (poorly-articulated) point was that I’ve only seen homeschooling used as part of a religiously-motivated program of restricting their children’s access to alternative perspectives in the classroom, in print, and online… with predictably disastrous outcomes. This saddens me, because I believe homeschooling could offer many advantages if it was done with educational ideals in mind.

        Homeschooling falls into the category of high-effort activities (like rebuilding your own house) that could be more feasible for the early retirement crowd, so I really hope that MMM takes a shot at discussing it. I can imagine that making the switch to homeschooling is a huge challenge with the potential for a lot of self-doubt at the beginning, but a series of posts that chronicle the process could be really cool. I bet readers would have lots of suggestions for learning resources too!

        If little MMM expresses interest in some kitchen chemistry or environmental biology or DIY electronics and programming, I know a guy who’d be happy to help :)

        • rebecca January 16, 2015, 9:19 pm

          A good book to begin with Brandon, is “Family Matters: Why homeschooling makes sense.” by David Guterson — who was a public high school teacher (now novelist) while his wife homeschooled the kids. It’s a very balanced look at the pros and cons of homeschooling (though obviously comes down in support of it.)

          FYI we are atheist/agnostic, and our local homeschool group has Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, and more in it.

          Homeschooling is the best way, in my opinion to expose kids to the vastness and diversity of the world — rather than shut-up in a classroom where they spend 12 years with more or less the same 30 or so kids of the same age as they are.

        • MooseOutFront January 16, 2015, 9:41 pm

          No need to explain yourself Brandon. Religious nutjobs dominate the homeschooling scene here in TX and I too would be interested to hear MMM’s perspective on the matter. Secular free thinkers homeschooling is a new thing from my perspective but I am interested in looking into it.

          • Trifele January 18, 2015, 8:11 am

            I think you are right Moose — that the big increase in secular homeschoolers is a recent phenomenon . . . In our town (12,000 people, upper Midwest) I would say that the homeschooling families here split roughly 50-50 religious and non-religious now. I am sure that was not the case 20 or even 10 years ago. Before we started homeschooling last year (for purely academic/utilitarian reasons) I thought we might be lonely outliers, but that is not the case. There are four (!) homeschool co-ops in our town, and one of them is purely secular. (Of the remaining three, two are ‘mildly’ religious, and one is what I would call extremely religious.) Through the secular co-op we’ve connected with other like-minded families, many of whom I would describe as Mustachian. It’s been delightful.

            There does not seem to be much objective data out there about people’s motivations for homeschooling, but I think we can all agree that something very interesting is happening nationwide.

    • Trifele January 16, 2015, 3:11 pm

      People of all sorts are homeschooling, Brandon! We recently took our kids out of public school and started homeschooling. What shocks me the most is what an easy transition it was. It felt totally natural and absolutely right. We live in an unregulated state, so you have absolute freedom to study what you want, how you want, and at the pace you want. Our kids are using that freedom to dive into subjects (history, foreign languages, sciences) and higher challenge levels that just aren’t available in our school district. We use a combination of free online materials and good old fashioned books.

      After we began homeschooling, we learned that our state allows homeschooled kids to take up to two classes at a time at the public school. So this year our kids are enrolled at the public school for gym and music classes. We do all academic subjects in homeschool. The part time option gives you lots of flexibility and the best of both worlds.

      I hope there is a homeschooling post in the works, MMM? :)

    • PowerMustache January 16, 2015, 4:41 pm

      Hi Brandon, I was homeschooled for non-religious reasons. My parents took a hybrid approach. I was homeschooled in the very early years, then attended a small ‘private school’ that was really just 5-10 homeschooling famies that pooled resources and hired a teacher. I went to public school full time for one year of elementary school, then half time in middle school, and back to full time in high school. This worked well for me and I plan to probably do something similar with my Hypothetical Future Offspring. Feel free to ask more questions/send me a message if you want to know anything else about my experience with it.

    • CAtoTX January 16, 2015, 6:32 pm

      Brandon, we weren’t really “fringe religious nutjobs” but I home schooled my daughter from 7th through high school and my son from 1-8. My daughter was doing work well beyond what was offered in public school and the local junior high (7th and 8th) couldn’t offer her much advanced stuff. So I taught her algebra, trig, and calculus along with the other high school courses.

      Subsequently, while I taught her at home, she also started part-time at community college at age 14 and, at 15, her first job was math tutor for the school’s math center. She graduated with honors from there at 17. She graduated from a 4-year college at 19. She was on the rowing team for both schools. She’s now a 3rd-year veterinary student and still at the top of her class.

      My son went to a Catholic high school after his years at home, and graduated with amazing grades and some AP exam credits. He also scored amazing scholarship offers from universities. He’s now a freshman in Portland, OR and brought home his first semester grades – all As and A-s. He’s an engineering major & computer science minor.

      Home schooling seemed to work well in our family. :p

    • RyoZenZuZex January 17, 2015, 7:23 am

      You are correct, now IS the time to be trying this. It’s more popular than ever, which means there’s ALL SORTS of resources, not just online but in your local community.

      First, a disclaimer: I was homeschooled, and homeschool my children. Further, my limited exposure to socialist schooling was quite traumatic.

      I want the world to be a better place, and I believe that part of that is encouraging people to keep their children away from the government schools. Whatever means you choose to do that is better than letting them stay there. So read about homeschool, or even watch videos about it if that’s your thing. I believe the truth you find will persuade you better than I, with my arrogance and bias, ever could.

      If you think you can’t, shouldn’t, or can’t afford to homeschool, you are wrong. Unless you’re molesting or abusing your children and want them at home so you can do more of that, your children will be better off homeschooled. Yes, really. Yes, even if you yourself are illiterate, ignorant, and have a sub-normal intelligence. Yes, really. The only real requirement is that you love your children and want them to learn to do those things even if you can’t (yet.) It’s not surprising that you don’t believe this, but I assure you that it is nonetheless true.

      It doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. Go read about “unschooling” and read the book “better late than early” Now take a deep breath and relax, it’s going to be OK no matter how badly you screw things up. I live in CO, and here, like many state, it’s required that your children pass a test to make sure they’re “keeping up.” This is utter and complete nonsense! Kids learn when they learn. Some of the smartest most learned people ever didn’t learn to read until they where twelve or so, and there’s actually good reason for that – encouraging interest, curiosity, and creating a life-long dedicated learner is FAR more important that cramming in useless crap at a young age!

      I might note here that I learned to read at about six, my youngest brother didn’t learn to read until he WAS twelve. And by “learned to read” I mean “was tacking full-length novels because we wanted to.” Partly that’s because he’s a different person, mostly it’s because he’s left handed, but was born without a left hand. As has been well shown, being forced to use the off hand significantly delays all sorts of things.

      The point is, don’t worry, be happy. Love your children, and do the best for them that you can. Get that covered, they’ll be alright.

      There’s LOTS of variety in the homeschool scene. The stereotypical “religious nutjob” who’s goal is to *completely* shield their children from anything having to do with sex, drugs, or rock’n’roll certainly exist. And I agree with the “predictably” bit about the disastrous results. I’ve found such people to be fairly rare, and although a lot of homeschoolers are at least partially religiously motivated, most take a more balanced approach. They just acknowledge (on some level) that the “no religion allowed” teaching of the socialist schools is de facto teaching secular humanism, moral relativism, etc.

      (Final note: “What about the social?!?!” Exactly! Best reason to homeschool there is! Better relations with peers and adults, less swearing, porn, and drugs. Less bullying (both given and recieved) More laughter, joy, and baking together. And double that nowadays, due to more sexting and more homeschoolers. Back when I was a kid, we drove 1hr to meet with a group of other homeschoolers. Now? I bet you won’t have to drive 5 miles! And that mostly matters for older children anyway.)

      • Lynne January 19, 2015, 8:00 am

        I believe it can work out well if you do it well. I was homeschooled and it would be a really hard sell convincing me to do it with my Hypothetical Future Offspring, but my family was pretty dysfunctional, so I admit I’m biased against it.

        The thing is…you can’t tell people “don’t do this if your family is severely dysfunctional” because chances are they don’t believe it is. If you’d asked my parents, they would have said – would still say – they were doing a good job. Really good at lying to themselves, and pretty good at making other people believe them too.

        But like I said, I believe homeschooling can work out well. It just really really didn’t in my experience, and I guess I am a little cynical about some people’s ability to self-assess whether they can do a good job of it. Not all people. Maybe just the ones who’d fail a Dunning-Kruger test. :)

    • Leora Amdur January 17, 2015, 2:25 pm

      YOu might be interested in this site on home schooling

    • Jared January 17, 2015, 7:20 pm

      Mrs. MM has a blog of her own that gives more of the details on the homeschooling. I

      • Gunhild January 26, 2015, 6:14 am

        Oh, I would LOVE to read that one. Got a URL?

        • Linda February 1, 2015, 2:13 pm

          URL for Mrs MM: http://www.mrsmoneymustache.com/education-on-my-mind/

          I too would love to hear more about how you (MMM) chose a curriculum and the balance between spending money for said curriculum and not knowing how to do it on your own.

          • Mr. Money Mustache February 3, 2015, 5:02 pm

            Oh, I didn’t even know that school curricula were available for sale. We’re just following Khan Academy for math, reading books on various subjects, and doing some programming using Scratch and Vex IQ robots. There is way more fun stuff to learn than there are hours in the day to learn it.

            • Dawn February 11, 2015, 12:09 am

              I was blessed to be able to homeschool my older two for several years. I found the trick is the library and buying used and then reselling for the next course. Love Khan Academy! I almost always resold texts and workbooks for what I bought them for! Netflix was terrific for educational videos. It was very hard to find secular learning materials in the beginning but nowadays it seems there are too many choices! My oldest graduated through North Atlantic Regional High(homeschool legal diploma of Maine, we live in MA). Highly recommend them for the diploma! My second oldest took her last courses through night school for a local public high diploma. Both attended community college for high school credits. Saves money toward a college degree. Your ‘budget’ for last year is inspiring!

    • Kaye January 26, 2015, 4:56 pm

      The home-schooling thing is the first thing that has given me an uneasy feeling about Mr. MM and I’m now disappointed in the number of commenters who are on-board. There is no way in heck that you can teach your kid appropriately in english, social sciences, AND math / science (unless perhaps you are already an educator and then I still doubt it, because you are not going to be able to keep up with a college-prep high-school curriculum). This doesn’t even take into account socialization and learning HOW TO DEAL WITH OTHER PEOPLE and authority figures other than your own family members (do you let them pass when they don’t turn something in on time? How does that work when they get a “real” job someday?)

      When people withdraw their kids from public schools, the schools get less money (less heads) and that means even worse schools. So you are all feeding into that problem. YES, I am a long-time educator and this stuff gets me riled up. A good education should be public AND free and we are losing that in this country. I haven’t even begun here, but I needed to vent. I feel as strongly about this as MMM does about (not using) his car. OK, flail away at me now because I don’t feel exactly the same as the MM family! /soapbox

      • Eldred January 27, 2015, 10:40 pm

        I’m not a ‘fan’ of home schooling. I’ve wondered about the social effect of kids not being with other kids, but if there are others in the neighborhood to play with, that shouldn’t be that big of a deal. And since I’ve never done it, I don’t know how you can teach a kid a subject that you don’t know yourself. But my question to you would be this: If the school system sucks and the parents are dissatisfied, what should they do? Leave their kid there to flounder? Not every family can afford to send their kids to private school. They might not be able to move to a ‘better’ school district either. And I’m sure that home schooling is much less expensive than private school or a higher rated district, right?

      • Cheri January 28, 2015, 6:56 am

        Hi Kaye,

        I, too, am an educator and I hear your concerns. My children began attending the school district where I taught first grade.

        Our experience was, sadly, very disappointing. I kept trying to work with the faculty and administration to resolve problems to no avail. So, we pulled the boys out.

        We educated our 3 sons all the way through high school. When I was less than confident in my abilities (hello, trigonometry!), I called in outside help.

        Our sons are 35, 32, and 26. All three went to college on scholarships. All three are gainfully employed. All three work with the public. Son 1, is a successful realtor, helping folks make some of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. Sons 2 and 3 are both pastors; constantly working with folks during times of joy and sorrow. Births, deaths and everything in between.

        All three love their jobs.

        We have no regrets about homeschooling.

      • Trifele February 4, 2015, 6:37 am

        Hi Kaye –I hear what you are saying, and we shared your exact concerns about homeschooling. We never considered homeschooling until our second grader began to go steeply downhill. We tried very, very hard to work with his teacher, principal, and school district, but they were not able to help. There are no private schools within a 20 mile radius of our town, so we had no other option. Our choices were to let him wither there, watching his love of learning die, or pull him out and teach him ourselves. We chose option 2. His twelve year old sister followed shortly thereafter, once she saw what homeschooling is like.

        To address your points/concerns — my husband is a teacher and I am a professional, but you would not need those qualifications to homeschool. Any adult who cares could do it. There are free online and library resources , thousands of materials for purchase, and the whole world around us. Honestly, the WORLD is the teacher, and the parent is the facilitator, in my opinion. (Once kids are freed to be self-directed learners they take on responsibility for their own learning — and take off like rockets).

        We choose to follow a fairly structured curriculum of subjects that absolutely will prepare our kids for college and careers. I guarantee you they are learning far more than they were in public school. If/when we hit a subject we cannot teach, and the kids can’t self-teach it using resources, we will hire a tutor.

        Final comment on the academic quality of homeschooling — my husband is a college professor and gets formerly homeschooled students in his freshman classes from time to time. He says they are markedly better prepared, more mature, and harder workers than the kids from public schools. He said that before we ever started homeschooling. I am sadly forced to conclude that in some ways, current public schools are actually hurting our kids.

        As for socialization while homeschooling — it is just not a problem. We live in town with lots of neighborhood kids and belong to a large homeschool coop that regularly schedules events, field trips, potlucks, play dates, etc. Plus, our kids are doing the part time option where they take two elective classes at the public school — they get to see their friends and classmates every day.

        Your third concern is one I share. I do feel guilty for “bailing out” on the public school. I agree that all our kids should be entitled to a quality free education. And I agree we are losing that. I have no answer, except to say that we were not willing to sacrifice our child for the ideal.

        Long response, I know, but I also have come to feel as strongly about this as MMM feels about not using his car. :)

      • MicrobeMama February 4, 2015, 12:27 pm

        Kaye, I think others have intelligently answered your concerns about the ability of non-professionals to successfully oversee the education of their own children. Let us also remember that for every case of a home-schooled individual who seemed to grow up with a deficit in the breadth of their education, there are masses of statistical data sets about educational deficits in individuals who have completed other forms of education.
        My concern is your objection to removing “heads” from the count because the schools then get less money. (Not even to discuss the unproven assumption that more money makes better quality education). Using that argument as to why we all should hand over our children is like using the slippery slope argument that none of us should curtail our consumerism because if we ALL did that our economy would get worse! Not an acceptable motivator in the MMM world.
        Full disclosure: I home schooled my son from birth to age 10, not because I was a nutcase (although living by a strong faith), but because he was incredibly sensitive and creative and I feared the violent, redneck, largely welfare funded, school district we lived in would “beat that out of him” (My sister’s recommendation). When we moved to a different area, and I was juggling work and college with single parenting, he was entered in school at a 4th grade level. He suffered terribly from the bullying and meanness he had to deal with, but the teachers and principal were very supportive. I am glad to say that now, at age 35, he is a wonderfully supportive husband, father, and son. I am proud of the man he has become. Oh yeah, and a hard working, highly creative e-commerce engineer who makes 6 figures…without having a college degree. I personally think those early years of personal and intellectual freedom helped him become the man he is today. Just part of the anecdotal data, of course!

      • BurquenaAbroad February 12, 2015, 3:16 am

        Hi Kaye,

        I am a 20-something, and my dad home schooled me in all subjects(yes, even math!) after a horrible six months of first grade. At age 12, I took a comprehensive exam when I was considering going to public school; I scored above high school level in every category. I got a full academic scholarship to a good university, got a bachelors with all the ribbons, and now am working and adventuring around the world. So I present myself as a useful data point against your silly hyperbole that “there is no way in heck” a parent could adequately educate their kids and prepare them for life.

        I agree with you that America would benefit greatly from education being public and free. But your vent against home schooling is just a lot of hot air. People leave public schools because the system is broken, not the other way around.

      • Luke March 28, 2016, 1:16 am

        Hi Kaye,
        I know I’m late to the party but I couldn’t NOT respond. I think you either don’t have much exposure to homeschoolers or the ones you know aren’t representative of the population. My mom homeschooled myself and my three younger siblings for more than merely the educational benefits. Everyone who doesn’t understand homeschooling always decries the “socialization”–but do you really want to teach your kid how fit in to their peer group in school or the peer group they will spend the rest of their adult life in? When the four of us applied to colleges we found that they all favored homeschool applicants *based on a history of success* and that list of schools included large public schools, small liberal arts colleges, and military academies. My brother and I are military aviators, my sister is an MD, and the other sister is knocking out some professional experience before returning to school for an exclusive masters program in the field she enjoys. Oh and we have friends too!

  • Stephen January 16, 2015, 10:42 am

    Good stuff this year! The budget looks quite similar to our personal one. The eye catcher is certainly the gas but also the eating out is super strong as well. We will end up doing very little travel this year but we plan on doing lots of travel in 2016. Also, I’m sure many other readers are curious, do you find it any more challenging to maintain consistency in spending as the income or balance sheet cranks up? I know you have long been FI but I’d be curious to know if the temptations or challenges have evolved. The updates are certainly motivational for many of the readers as well.

    • mike January 16, 2015, 11:22 am

      Stephen, that’s a great question. I would think in a few years, MMM gets to silly money level (as far as net worth). Our family is about to increase $100K/year, it’ll be interesting to see how we deal with it.

    • johnny January 16, 2015, 7:23 pm

      I’ve been tracking my outflows pretty religiously since 2009. In that span of time my income has more than doubled and I also now have a 3 year old, yet my yearly expenditures have remained totally flat. I do track what I spend month to month and my wife and I will correct a little if we splurge too much in the previous month but we don’t stick to a budget in our day to day life very similar to what MMM describes. It’s eerie how even with big fluctuations month to month we’ve ended up spending almost the same amount every year!

      It doesn’t take any effort for us not to increase spending, it’s just our habit to behave this way. We’re very happy with our current standard of living and really the only major improvement for me would be to not be obligated to hold down my 9-5. Since our saving habits are getting me closer and closer to that freedom, the increase in balance sheets actually reinforces our behavior!

    • Jeffrey C January 18, 2015, 11:46 am

      Such an interesting question as you can probably think of how to argue both sides. If your spending is tied to your values though, it seems to follow that making a lot more money wouldn’t necessarily see a corresponding increase in spending.

      In my own case (self-employed 20 years now) my core spending has remained pretty constant. In higher income years, I simply socked more away or made significant investments in home improvements I could enjoy. Maybe a bit more on travel and the arts (part of my values). Never tempted to go buy a new car, etc., just because I could pretty easily.

  • Mike January 16, 2015, 10:49 am

    Hi MMM,

    I am glad to hear your family is homeschooling. We have been homeschooling since the beginning with the oldest being 12 and a 9,7 and 5 year olds. We are extremely happy and pleased that we do. You were homeschooling before you were offically homeschooling. Thanks for the financial advice!

  • Fragile Robot January 16, 2015, 10:56 am

    Kick-ass badassity as usual MM family!
    It occurred to me that it would be interesting to see your “gasoline” line item include the cost of jet fuel from any flights, you could then subtract the amount from “travel”. This would be to get a better sense of what you were burning fossil-fuel-wise for travel in total and how that compares from year to year. Not sure of how best to calculate this though.

  • Rick January 16, 2015, 10:58 am

    Are your (now legal under state law?) marijuana expenditures included in the budget?

    • Peter January 18, 2015, 10:55 am

      I imagine this comes under ‘coffee shops’!

  • Eldred January 16, 2015, 10:59 am

    Ok, that’s impressive by ANY yardstick! My biggest expenses are of course mortgage and car expense. You don’t have the first, and BARELY have the second. My auto gas budget ALONE is $300-400 per month. At least that’s dropped from $600+ a few years ago when my commute was 63 miles one-way…whew!
    I have a long way to go on dropping expenses, though. :-(

  • EMML January 16, 2015, 10:59 am

    Were you able to find a good deal on Amtrak tickets? I was looking at going on a sleeper train from Chicago to el Paso, and the cost was over $2000 for 2 adults and 2 small children. I’m familiar with finding good deals on flights, but have never dealt with Amtrak. (The trip is not going to happen at $2000.)

    • ZeroGBuff January 16, 2015, 11:29 am

      The reason Amtrak sleeper train tickets cost so much is that those are considered first class and include all meals in the on-board restaurant. So you would need to look up first class plane tickets to get a fair comparison. Amtrak also offers coach tickets, which are more likely to have deals. I have only ever traveled coach, and it’s a bit like sleeping in an armchair in your living room. It’s not for everyone, but I don’t mind it much for a night or two. But then, I travel alone, and only you know whether your family would be up for that or not. Bringing a small pillow and a sheet helps a lot. Packing shelf-stable meals and snacks saves on costs too.

      For coach travel, Amtrak is roughly comparable to flying, but you need to compare apples to apples.

      • Andres January 16, 2015, 1:11 pm

        Get an Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card. The points build up quickly, and the sleeper car is covered. We’ve done a couple of trips between CA and WA using points (ie, “free” for us). Since I hate flying, doing this instead of racking up airline points makes perfect sense.

        It’s also worth pointing out that with the sleeper car, meals in the dining car are included.

        • Jules January 17, 2015, 12:17 pm

          The Amtrak Guest Rewards card is great. We do most of our long distance travel with Amtrak and love the experience. A family bedroom is great if you have small children. When they get a bit cranky or it’s time for a nap, your kid (and the other passengers) have some quiet space away from all the distractions. My kids love the experience of a relaxed train ride and meeting all sorts of new people. Plus you get to see some beautiful scenery that gets missed on a plane or on the highway.

          We were able to take a cross country trip from Chicago to LA, LA to Seattle, Seattle to Chicago all on points. We had a family bedroom the entire time. It would have cost about $5,000 out of pocket.

    • Marcia January 16, 2015, 2:36 pm

      I think it really depends on the route and when you travel.

      For example, we took a 24 hour train ride a few years ago with 3 of us, and it was $400 (That’s California to NM). And back. That’s $400 total, and at Christmas.

      A sleeper car (wasn’t much more than that – maybe $200). I checked the same route right now for sometime in June, and it’s $333 for coach and $867 for two sleeper cars.

      Now, it’s hard to tell how much he paid here – $247? Or is that the Canada train trip? It’s not totally clear.

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 5:31 pm

        I think our San Francisco train tickets on the California Zephyr totaled close to $1000 one-way. Way more expensive than flying, but it was a good one time experience.

    • Kyle January 17, 2015, 6:10 pm

      If you get a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, that should get you enough Amtrak points to do the trip in the sleeper car for free. It’ll get you 40,000 points, here is their award chart: https://www.amtrakguestrewards.com/redeem

    • jennifer ann walsh January 20, 2015, 7:51 pm

      Amtrak tickets are priced in ‘buckets’. The first buckets are the cheapest, after one bucket is sold out the rates go up. This site is great for finding the best deal: http://amsnag.net or just keep trying different dates on Amtrak’s site until you find the best one. Sometimes the difference between traveling on a Wed vs a Tue can be vast. CHI to ELP should be a little over $1k one way for the Family Bedroom (which is the best choice for your group size) $1112 to be exact, less if you have AAA or other discount. Plus remember that includes all your meals for the entire 2-day trip for all 4 of you. It’s a fun experience riding the train!

      • EMML January 21, 2015, 2:13 pm

        Thanks to everyone here for your input/advice! It should help us tremendously getting this trip to happen for a price that we can stomach. (If other factors align, that is.). It definitely seems like the best choice for traveling with my 2 year old.

  • Juli January 16, 2015, 10:59 am

    What is the $880 safety pirate trip? Sounds like fun!

    • Kenny January 16, 2015, 11:24 am

      I believe it’s the name of his group of friends he does snowboarding trips with. He wrote about one such trip early in the blog, 2012?

      Some of my ski buddies like to have “safety meetings” in the woods off beside the trails. Not sure if that has anything to do with how they got their name, ha ha.

  • Mike January 16, 2015, 11:16 am

    MMM, you’re da man! Thanks again for the yearly summary. When I read comments about you outside your blog, the #1 comment is “He doesn’t really live on only that much, he’s not telling the truth”.

    I’ve just got to say thank you for sharing throughout the years, you’ve been a huge inspiration.

    On the grocery budget: Imagine if you became a vegan and grew your own food. Your food budget would be under $1000/year.

    BTW, you’re gas budget to car insurance is a 1 to 5 ratio. Just doesn’t seem fair you have to pay such a high insurance rate in relation to miles driven.

  • Kelly January 16, 2015, 11:18 am

    Not sure how you do the restaurants – feel like we spend more than that in a month… sometimes on a really good wine dinner! Guess I know what’s blowing the budget!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 1:19 pm

      There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t have any other use for the money.

      On the other hand, if you still have a mortgage and/or need to work for a living, and would rather be free from that obligation, I’d definitely get into the home cooking!

      We would probably spend more on restaurants in my family if little MM actually enjoyed going to them. But at this stage it would be a big fight each time, for no benefit so we happily soak up the more natural lifestyle.

      • Jimbo January 16, 2015, 1:36 pm

        Date nights? Is there any babysitting in your spending? I don’t recall ever seeiong it.

      • Kelly January 16, 2015, 2:29 pm

        I know you’re right MMM. It is definitely the crutch in not getting our house paid down sooner. Great thoughts, as always!

      • Marcia January 16, 2015, 2:38 pm

        Yes!! My almost 9 year old HATES “fancy restaurants” and refuses to go. (Doesn’t mind fast food though, which I of course don’t care for. Still husband takes the boys out for lunch on the weekend more often than I realized.)

        And of course worse than him is trying to eat out with a toddler. No thanks!

  • FI Pilgrim January 16, 2015, 11:20 am

    Yeah! Love YNAB! After using Quicken for my budget for 10 years and constantly slipping, I tried YNAB a few years ago and haven’t looked back. Wonderful software.

  • Jay January 16, 2015, 11:21 am

    We sometimes spend as much in a month on eating out as you do the entire year ($190+). And yet, our entire annual food spending (groceries + alcohol + eating out & coffee) for 2 (instead of 3) comes in at almost half your spending ($3600-4000) in the uber expensive Bay Area. We rarely buy organic and not much meat (except for Trader Joe’s sausages and bacon), though we always eat meat when eating out. We still consider our home-cooked food pretty fancy, though we don’t do much home entertaining. Buying organic and meat (especially organic meat) really does add up, huh?

    Can’t do an apples-to-apples utilities comparison because my apartment is tiny and has correspondingly tiny utility bills (sub-$20 8 months of the year). You beat me handily on gas spending though, and I don’t even have the excuse of needing to drive to work. The car is pretty much weekend “fun use” only.

  • Gumby Breton January 16, 2015, 11:23 am

    I wonder what the dollar value is of free frills MMM gets through the site. Like what was the value of all his Uber rides and free cell phones? Are those included in these numbers? Maybe it’s small, but would be good to be transparent there.

  • Jace January 16, 2015, 11:26 am

    Have you guys looked at Longmont’s Apex homeschooling enrichment program. I have friends in it who have loved it!

  • Kyle Moore January 16, 2015, 11:29 am

    Impressive stuff. I’d love to see a post on how your insurance costs are so low. I know you have one on health insurance, but your car and home insurance are 1/3 of mine here in Minnesota!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 1:14 pm

      • Peter January 20, 2015, 3:38 pm

        Nice! I looked into my home insurance deductible and found I could increase it, decreasing my annual cost by $250. I didn’t pay close attention when I set it up a year ago….

        I’d need to file more than 1 claim every 6 years in order for me to lose out on this deal. Ha!

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 21, 2015, 9:21 am

          And it might be even better than that – they often raise your premium if you make a claim or two, so the benefit of being able to make claims is even lower.

          • McDuffy February 26, 2015, 10:24 am

            Have you ever looked at partial-year car insurance?
            Are you able to write off any insurance (or otherwise) on the construction mini-van?

  • Al January 16, 2015, 11:30 am

    I looked forward to your spending reports eagerly every year. I would be really interested to read about how you guys do homeschooling, especially how you do it efficiently and economically.

  • Chelsea January 16, 2015, 11:31 am

    Hi MMM!

    One of your newest readers here. I just wanted to drop a quick line and say thank you so much for taking the time to create and maintain this blog (which I binge read like a bad Neflix show). As a young woman in the professional world, I always avoided thinking too hard about the future because it caused me so much anxiety. Now that I’m on a MMM plan to save 66% of my income this year, I can’t shut up! I’m slowly converting all of my friends to my new and improved ways as well. So from the bottom of my heart- THANK YOU!

  • Eddy Adams January 16, 2015, 11:32 am

    Impressive as always. If it wasn’t for my crazy rent for a Capitol Hill apartment in Seattle, I think my expenses would be similar to those. I just can’t downgrade my living space…It’s a small place, but with nice fixtures and amenities. A gym and all that. But thankfully it’s just a four-minute walk to work! That alone is worth thousands.

  • Daniel January 16, 2015, 11:32 am

    $300 for cellphone!? Is that for 2 phones, or just one? Does the Mrs. not have a phone?

    Was looking forward to this post, and so was my wifey. We truly enjoy reading your blog, and talk about this kind of stuff *all the time*! Sure be nice to meet y’all now that we are in Denver — even if it would kill my “gas* money for the year! LOL!


  • KES January 16, 2015, 11:33 am

    Nice! So the MMM family spent about $8443 / person. My family of 5 spent $45606, or about $9121 / person. Looks like we have some more work to do this year!

    • Dr Bill January 16, 2015, 2:56 pm

      KES, that’s a nice way to make the comparison, on a per-person basis.

    • Brandon Curtis January 16, 2015, 4:50 pm

      I’m curious how much of the expenses can be attributed to little MMM. The mainstream media loves to publish articles about how it costs zillions of dollars to raise a kid, but obviously that doesn’t HAVE to be the case.

      • Spaarwalvis January 18, 2015, 7:17 am

        Yes, this! Having a kid (now two kids) is so far costing us less than not having a kid, counting the tax credit. Less eating out, free tickets for the first two years. Don’t bother with designer diapers (or any disposables), breast feed if at all possible (formula is the biggest ripoff ever – cost about as much as groceries for an adult!), and baby clothes just appear, so very little need to shop. Of course, college is still many years in front of us . . .

        • Jeremy January 18, 2015, 8:03 am

          We are expecting our first child in April, and have already mentally set aside ~$25k for college. This should cover everything in 19 years

          It’s surprising how little you need to save when you do it in the year of conception

        • Tarynkay January 22, 2015, 11:05 pm

          All of these things (diapers, formula, baby clothes, etc) are low hanging fruit. Yes, it is great to use cloth diapers and breastfeed. And no, you don’t need to buy baby clothes or gear because everyone you know who is already parenting will happily pass down their old stuff and also the doting grandparents will buy a ridiculous amount of baby gifts. You COULD spend a lot on all of that, but you could also spend a lot on pedicures. None of that is why having children is expensive. The expensive part of having a child in America is 1) childcare and 2) health care 3) education if you choose to pay for it.

          Most people have to either hire out childcare or have one partner leave or reduce paying work when a baby comes along. I quit my job when we brought our son home three years ago. I was happy to do so and happy to have done so, but we are out my entire salary plus benefits and any salary increases I might have earned during that time. Don’t get me wrong- I am really glad that we made these decisions. Our son is amazing and being able to stay home with him is amazing. What it is not is inexpensive.

          Had I decided to continue working full time, we would have needed childcare, which is also very expensive. However, paying even $1500 a month for the childcare that would have worked with our schedules and that we would have been comfortable leaving a baby in would still have been a lot cheaper than me quitting work.

          We added our son to my husband’s high deductible insurance at work. Doing so cost us another $100 a month. Adding me would have made it $400/month (with no copays, nothing covered till you reach the $7K deductible). Thankfully, I am very healthy so we got private very high deductible insurance for me for another $100/a month. This means that we pay out of pocket for things like the dentist for him ($300 a visit) and the eye doctor (another $300 a visit). He has been remarkably healthy, but we would also have to pay out of pocket up to the deductible if he needed any other medical care.

          He is only three. He already eats as much as I do. I expected to save a lot of money when we didn’t have to spend $20/week on formula anymore, but he easily makes it up in regular food. We do not buy fancy kid food. I know that his expenses will increase as time goes on. Friends will school aged children can tell you all about how even free public school isn’t really free. Having kids is not cheap! Even for cheap people, it’s not cheap.

  • Mr. FI January 16, 2015, 11:35 am

    Pretty amazing spending. We’re still forming our new spending habits, and it does become easier. I appreciate the addition of your health insurance. We currently go through my wife’s company for health insurance for a deductible of $3200 and for pretty damn good coverage, we only pay $82/mo. Plus, my company gives me a $110/mo credit for not being covered under their insurance. So we actually net money on our health insurance.

    Losing that will be a bummer when we eventually retire/move companies.

    Also my family home schooled me and my 3 siblings at various times in our life. Partially for religious reasons, but also because they felt it was superior to public school. Ironically, my dad’s been a public high school math teacher his whole life. The benefits were that we read a ton. We always tested very high whenever we were enrolled in public school/SATs/ACTs.

    The down side is your social skills can suffer a bit, but it sounds like that’s not a problem for little MM.

  • Kim January 16, 2015, 11:36 am

    One thing jumped out at me, the annual credit card fee. You can call every year before the fee posts and tell them you want to cancel your card because you don’t want to pay the annual fee, and they will always waive it! :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 1:13 pm

      I do that for most cards, but our Travelocity Amex doesn’t seem to play that game. But the fee is only $29/year and it still works out in our favor to keep it.

    • Patrick January 18, 2015, 11:10 am

      But itsn’t that dishonest? $25 for your integrity? Doesn’t seem worth it – why not just skip them altogether next year?

      • Dr Bill February 4, 2015, 8:08 am

        Interesting that you make this an issue of integrity. Some people infer that negotiating with a card issuer to waive a fee to keep a customer’s business has a tinge of ethical compromise. Card issuers offer about a page of contractual language declaring either party can cancel a card for any reason, including if the issuer is changing interest rates, annual fees, or Just Because. If there is no intent to deceive, the card issuer can’t deny use for cause. They can deny use Just Because.

        Your objection reminds me of a situation addressed by Saul the apostle (okay, Paul) when two people have two levels of conscience–he counseled that the one with a freer conscience should not ridicule the one with the stricter conscience, and the one with a stricter conscience should not judge the one with a freer conscience, so long as the deed is lawful. (In his time, it was about non-Jewish Christians eating meat offered to idols (Greek or Roman gods) and how a non-Jewish Christian observes or does not observe the Sabbath, if the person treats “every day as equally holy”) He goes on from there, but his first point is that we need to tolerate matters of conscience. Liberals have a hard time with that, and so do conservatives–for EXACTLY the same reason mentioned above.

        I trust that you would never think it appropriate to negotiate from a changed position of strength in any matter. As for me, I avoid more than one free card to avoid deeper debt. But that’s my conscience at work for me, to keep me from harm. If the law would protect debit cards as well as credit cards, I’d cut the credit card completely, today. For now, I just pay off the credit card a couple times per month to simulate cash. I wouldn’t dream of exploiting the 25-day rule to my benefit. Okay, that’s snarky. I really do it so that the debt doesn’t get away from me.

        Anyway, enjoy today! There’s only one of those.

    • Casey B January 19, 2015, 1:08 pm

      Didn’t know about this, I will absolutely do this.

  • Brian January 16, 2015, 11:39 am

    Lots to aspire to in this post.

    I’m going to take your spending, fill in my own spending for 2014, and go over it, point by point, with the MRS.

    I’m in awe that you made it through the year on 2 gas fill ups. Well done! Thanks for inspiring us all!

  • Frugal Paragon January 16, 2015, 11:41 am

    Would love to hear more about how homeschooling is going for you guys! Our tots are still preschoolers but we do wonder if their school years would be happier and less stressful for all of us if they didn’t actually, you know, go to school.

    Random tip: I also love chunks of dark chocolate and have found the least expensive way to enjoy them to be buying Ghirardelli brand chocolate chips! Plus, they are tiny, so only 5 calories in one (or 10 in 2, which I find is the least amount that can be satisfying).

  • Michael January 16, 2015, 11:44 am

    I’ve followed you for over a year and your $25K without budgeting still amazes me…thanks for the inspiration!

  • Bud January 16, 2015, 11:46 am

    Your several paragraphs prefacing the budget remind me of the “year in review” letters that we write to include in our Christmas cards, and hope to receive back from our family and friends. I chuckled thinking what it would be like if we also included our yearly budgets in those letters!

    Impressive budget, as always. How did you get around on that Northern California trip — did you rent a car? It does seem that you have been able (lucky?) to avoid the once-a-year budget buster that seems to crop up for so many of us — like a new car, burst hot water heater, emergency appendectomy, etc.

    Whenever I am engaged in some internet argument with someone to the tune of “people can’t possibly be expected to live off of X amount of money per year,” I link them to your budget (with the caveat that they will have to add on rent/mortgage). It can be done!

  • jd January 16, 2015, 11:56 am

    Some of those budget items sure hurt. We have a small house and our insurance is much higher. And our medical insurance through work – in 2015 it will cost me $7280 a year to cover the two of us, not counting co-pays and deductibles, and that is our only option, other than the Bronze plan, which would cost us $520 more that my work plan, plus the deductibles and co-pays are higher than my work plan. Heads up to all, the older you get, the higher your health and life insurance is, and if you are unlucky enough to have a health condition (Type I “Juvenile” diabetes), heaven help you.
    I am inspired by the other items in the budget to lower my own expenses. I’m slowly getting the spouse on board, but it’s a challenge. However, I refuse to buy junky food! We are getting better and better at stretching that expensive organic stuff and farm-raised meat and poultry, and there isn’t a packaged mix or boxed meal in the house, only ingredients. So, does the MMM family have a system to avoid wasting that good food? I’m becoming the leftovers queen myself — they are sometimes better than the first time around. What do you do at the MMM house?

  • Yankuba January 16, 2015, 12:03 pm

    No line item for gifts/presents? We spend well over $1000 on gifts/presents for others.

  • Tara January 16, 2015, 12:06 pm

    My annual budget is similar in total, but distributed differently (my housing costs are higher, but I have no medical insurance costs or car). Thanks for sharing that, I enjoy reading it every year and see how my budget compares to yours!

  • Nick January 16, 2015, 12:13 pm

    $71 on gas… I had you beat in 2013 there, but your $71 on gas makes my $304 in 2014 seems outrageous.


    • Bill January 16, 2015, 10:08 pm

      I love this blog and live in much the same way as MMM (house paid off, no debts, index funds, etc.), but I have to question the $71 in gas. Is it possible that gas was spent on trips around town as part of the home remodeling / rebuilding project and therefore isn’t reflected in this breakdown? I know home projects involve picking up large items, like wood and cement, and I can imagine those trips to Home Depot could have been combined with other trips and then counted against the home remodeling costs. Just a quibble, but if the car really only used $71 of gas in a year, that is amazing.

      • Mr Frugal Chicago January 18, 2015, 10:45 am

        He actually said it did not include anything related to the house. Which is kind of creative accounting, but it does make sense.

  • GordonsGecko January 16, 2015, 12:13 pm

    Awesome to see how far $25k can go. Inspiring!

  • LennStar January 16, 2015, 12:14 pm

    “While this is a hazardous approach for beginners*”

    Not really. I started my life with this and just didnt change to consumer sucka.
    I am trying to make it more concious, though.

  • Kayla January 16, 2015, 12:16 pm

    Wow! That’s impressive. I knew it was going to be a low number but that was crazy low for 3 people. Amazing! I thought I was doing good on 1.5 tanks of gas/month for a total of about 18/year.

  • Dee January 16, 2015, 12:22 pm

    Strong work! We buy organic food too and it can really get spendy. When we went organic we cut our meat consumption down to just a couple times a month to make up for the cost. We eat lots of quinoa these days. Anyway, thanks for being an inspiration! Every time I read posts like this it inspires me to find even more ways to be frugal in my own life.

    • Dr. Bill January 16, 2015, 3:12 pm

      Dee, On a visit to Santa Fe from our house in the southern mtns, the missus and I went into a Spanish – not Mexican – specialty store, and she’d been bugging me to buy quinoa, so I took the opportunity. Great tasting, but the cost differential with standard short grain brown rice was AMAZING! SO, we enjoy smaller portions less often, and use the rice for more routine meals. $16/two pounds for quinoa vs $2/pound rice.

      • Diane C February 2, 2015, 1:16 pm

        Costco sells organic quinoa. About once a week I make 2 dry cups of it using vegetable broth for more flavor. I stir in chopped up veggies and sprinkle Feta on top. A cheap and nutritious one dish meal that keeps random veggies from going to waste.

  • Eric January 16, 2015, 12:24 pm

    Your spending levels, while probably dull to you, are endlessly impressive to me. The restaurants number is particularly amazing–we spend twice that each month. I appreciate these posts each year–it’s very motivating to see how things can be done if you’re smart about spending.

    Thank You.

  • Jon January 16, 2015, 12:29 pm

    Your spending is impressive. Net of my own home remodeling spending I was at $31K last year (family of 2). Did you exclude income taxes because you don’t have to pay any, or for some other reason?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 1:08 pm

      Yeah, I don’t count income taxes as part of spending because they’re a side effect of income rather than lifestyle choices. If I had income only sufficient to cover this level of spending, taxes would be right around zero anyway: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/04/the-lovely-low-taxes-of-early-retirement/

      Counting income taxes would make the budget pretty meaningless, since we pay much more in taxes than we do on living expenses at the moment!

      Similarly, I don’t count business expenses like blog-only travel or supplies in my personal budget, because that wouldn’t get spent if I wasn’t doing the business, and the business covers those expenses through its own income.

      • EcoCatLady January 17, 2015, 2:22 am

        “If I had income only sufficient to cover this level of spending, taxes would be right around zero anyway” — well, not exactly if you’re self employed! Federal and state income taxes would be negligible, but there’s no getting out of self employment tax (Social Security.) Not griping about paying it, but since I just added up my spending for the year (thanks for the inspiration) I am keenly aware of the fact that it was the single biggest expense!

        • Jimbo January 17, 2015, 8:01 am

          Not as FIRE’d. His income would come mostly from investment, not from self-employment, and with his deductions, tax would be near 0 as he says.

        • Jeremy January 17, 2015, 8:26 am

          As a comparison, we are also retired, and last year we had AGI of over $90k and paid $0 in tax.

          If MMM wasn’t blogging and was living off his stache from the working days, his tax would be $0 or close to it

          • Tim January 18, 2015, 1:46 am

            Can you elaborate? How exactly with an AGI of $90,000 are you able to pay $0 in income tax? Unless you’re referring to additional taxes owed above standard withholding? If not, the IRS would likely want to have a little discussion with you… That’s illegal.

        • EcoCatLady January 18, 2015, 11:28 am

          Well, I suppose that depends on how you define FIRE. I consider myself to be retired, but my income comes mostly from passive streams – but it still counts as self employment income.

          But it brings up an interesting question. Isn’t there some deal that if you don’t contribute to social security for xyz number of years you lose eligibility to get benefits? Or do I have that wrong?

          • Jeffrey C January 18, 2015, 11:56 am

            I don’t get that sense from this language on my most recent social security statement:

            “To qualify for benefits, you earn “credits” through your work — up to four each year. This year, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,200 of wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $4,800, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. Most people need 40 credits, earned over their working lifetime, to receive retirement benefits. For disability and survivors benefits, young people need fewer credits to be eligible.”

            • Jeremy January 18, 2015, 5:05 pm

              Once you have your 40 credits, SS has poor ROI for the individual

              I used the SS calc, and estimated that if we worked another 25 years, our SS payment would increase by $617/month. That’s less than $25/mo for each year worked. No thanks

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