Three Investments with an Instant Guaranteed Return

I generally keep this place pretty well disguised as an Early Retirement Financial Blog, but secretly it is a Life Improvement Blog. The glitzy monetary veneer allows me to get lots of media attention and scoop in readers, because everybody wants to read about money, and everybody wants more of it. “Meet the man who retired at 30!”, “Millionaires when most peers are still in debt!”, and so on.

Eventually these new readers find out that we live on only 25 grand a year, and they immediately become concerned. “That’s way too hardcore. I could never live like that. We spend more than that on youth hockey alone.” They would prefer that I go back to the part about having more money.

But when you actually show up at Mr. Money Mustache’s house, after sheepishly hiding your SUV around the corner and apologizing for your non-compliant lifestyle, you notice that the poverty-stricken ramen noodle lifestyle you expected is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the scene feels decidedly fancy. How can fanciness and frugality both exist at the same time?

It’s really simple, and best summed up with just a few more key F-words:

Focus, Festivity and Flow

Let’s first illustrate them with a few quick stories, and then come back to explain why they work (and how they help us amass millions of dollars, of course) at the end.



Here in the MMM household, every dinner is a candlelight dinner. But I don’t stop there: every lunch is a candlelight lunch, and even every breakfast is a candlelight breakfast.

Candles as a personal finance tip. Crazy? You are correct – crazy awesome. The very fact that we can afford great food and have a peaceful place to sit down and eat it is cause for celebration. Instead of becoming accustomed to this incredible luxury, I prefer to pause life and focus on it several times every day. Quietly and deliciously, in the presence of a silent, glowing flame.

Gathered together with family and friends is always the best way, but if there’s nobody around and I’m dining alone, it is still a celebration worthy of candles*. Fire has been a symbol of human gatherings since before we had a name for it, so of course I’m going to carry and pass on this tradition.


Yes, we use a disco ball at all times as well.

Yes, we use a disco ball at all times as well.

Just as gathering around a fire is a part of our shared heritage, so is Music. The right music has magical effects: have you ever rediscovered a song that was the foundation of a heart-wrenching high school romance, or an intense trip to another country with new friends, or even a particularly intense period of studying during your undergrad degree? The sounds of the song can pierce directly into your soul and bring old feelings flooding back as if you were instantly seventeen years old again.

This happens because music is wired more directly into our emotional systems than sights or language. It’s an animal response more like smells and pheromones, and it can influence your mood completely and positively even if you don’t notice it happening**.

Before even knowing about this long romance between my own species and music, I have always craved it. Nowadays, I make a point of putting some good stuff on the stereo at appropriate times (the festive times) throughout the day. It’s easy to forget, but it is definitely worth remembering.

High Energy Electronica like Mord Fustang if there’s a crowd of boys running around shooting Nerf darts at each other. Happy, groovy music like Medeski Martin and Wood when we’re cooking and the house is full of socializing adults, maybe sliding a little down the Chillax scale to Morcheeba when it’s time to eat that dinner around the aforementioned candles.



The deepest satisfaction in life and the widest smile as your head hits the pillow each night comes not from optimizing your consumption, but from the act of purposeful creation. The problem is, the craving for consumption is always there on your shoulder, telling you to eat just one more brownie, or research just one more thing on Amazon, or flick your thumb down just one more time on the endless Facebook feed to find out what He said earlier that made Her say that this afternoon.

Even Reddit or Slashdot or (gasp) the Mr. Money Mustache Forum are geysers of consumption temptation. You can get valuable information from these sources if you consult them when you actually need that information, but you can’t get more happiness by consuming more of them than necessary.

To fix the problem, you need to very consciously stop the binge. You need to not even bake the brownies in the first place, or uninstall the apps, or violently sweep your Life Table of the debris that is getting in the way of you doing the much more satisfying activity of actually creating something you care about.

This article is the perfect example. As you may know, I’ve been battling with time management issues since we started homeschooling about a year ago. Suddenly the golden daily six-hour chunk of time that had allowed me to write up the over 450 articles on this blog, and rebuild a few houses on the side, even while being a full-time-dad was gone. The impact on on my productivity is documented well when you scroll through the months on the list of all posts.

The free time was not fully gone, of course – nobody is going to pull out the sympathy violin for a pair of financially independent 41-year-olds with no jobs, no pets and one gloriously curious and healthy boy. But my old default system was no longer working.  Almost every time I felt the desire to sit down and write something, I’d be busy or interrupted or it would be bedtime already. I had a bad case of Excusitis, the failure disease.

Then one unhappy evening my wife and I were having a pointless argument over which one of us had spent more time using their phone when they were supposed to be helping out with family life. We both decided to install the “RescueTime” app to track our own phone use, then attempt to be reasonable about that use over the next month. I was appalled by the results:


I was spending an AVERAGE of Two Hours and Fifty Five Minutes a DAY staring at my PHONE? Almost one fifth of my waking hours?

Some of my top goals in life include staying in shape as well as writing this blog and an associated book on the subject. You can get an excellent weight training workout done in about 20 minutes, and an entire blog article (out of my 200+ partially written article ideas) takes only 4-6 hours to iron out and publish. This means I could easily finish an article and/or book segment every week AND get plenty of time in the home gym with only the time wasted EVERY THREE DAYS on the phone. That blew my mind.

I had already won a small battle with that infernal brain-scrambler earlier this year, when I stopped bringing it into the bedroom and banned the Twitter app. And yet still we have this three-hour-a-day problem. Time to make a bigger change: the zero telephone day.

What would happen if I left the thing off for an entire day? Would those three hours magically pop back into my life? Could I take the deprivation? What if I applied this rule permanently, any time I am at home and thus have better things to do than looking at a phone?

If you are reading this, the experiment has been a success. When moderation proves too tempting, it’s best to go cold turkey. I have found that completely banning the phone from my pocket during time at home creates a shockingly powerful quiet and has me doing all sorts of useful things when I would have usually just settled down on the couch for “a little reading break.”

Creating space in life for the flow of creation is the third investment that is guaranteed to bring you a wealthier life.

So Why Does This all Work?
(and how does it all relate to millions of dollars?)

Regardless of your income, spending, or wealth, you still have exactly 24 hours available to spend each day. You can get up early, work late, run around to constant activities and employ a staff to help you spend your surplus money more effectively. But none of these things are likely to bring you any more happiness – because the trap of constantly being busy displaces many of the happiest possible things you can do with your time – focus, festivities and flow.

So instead, I just put certain core things first:

  • Eight hours of sleep every night with no alarm clocks accounts for a good chunk of it. Proper sleep brings both health and happiness.
  • Great, full, meals of good clean-burning food with people I care about takes time as well. But it’s equally important to health and wellness, so why would I sacrifice this for an inferior option?
  • By the time you add in at least a couple of hours being active outside, time to reinvest in strength and a resilient body, time to create (sometimes referred to as ‘work’) and flow, time to visit other people, and time to be festive and celebrate the joy of being alive, it’s almost bedtime again.

And there you go: an entire life of happiness before I even get a chance to set foot in a shopping mall or sign up for any cruise ship voyages!

Believe me, if I still feel any shortage after all of this that can be corrected with even more activities or even more purchases, I’ll be the first one out there buying stuff with some of this surplus money. But until then, I’ll keep living the good life, even if it is “too frugal” for some of my fellow high-income peers to understand. Lower spending, higher wealth and most of all higher happiness.

* I like soy or beeswax candles instead of standard paraffin candles, which are made of petroleum and release more car-style pollutants. Especially if burning them in a smaller room and/or in winter with closed windows. Mrs. and little MM make their own candles from a reusable kit they bought on Amazon because it’s fun and they become very handy, classy gifts for people.

** For the same reason I’m equally excited about keeping anti-music out of my life whenever practical. The absence of TV in my house, muscle-powered rakes and lawnmowers instead of gas ones, and even my microwave oven that was specifically selected because you can disable the goddamned beep completely, are all deliberate choices because we want to keep the mental stage set for good times whenever people gather to enjoy them.


  • Mark Ferguson November 15, 2015, 4:27 pm

    My phone is a huge time suck. I do my best to put it away when at home as much as possible. It makes life so much better. When I have my phone I feel I need to look at it just to look at it.

    On a side note it was great meeting you Pete! I think a few mustachians may have seen the Lambo searching for a parking spot, but it was probabaly better I parker four blocks away!

    • Jim Wang November 15, 2015, 5:36 pm

      And most of the time, checking it yields NOTHING! I don’t really need to check social media or email or anything like that, I just feel compelled to. I’ve been doing this thing where I only schedule meetings on Tuesday and Thursdays, help “theme” my days, I should do that with my phone.

      • The Usurper November 15, 2015, 9:18 pm

        Its not just the phone; its the internet in general. Ever since starting a blog I found myself constantly checking the stats, but like you said, it yields nothing. I now alternate between checking my blog one day (only once), and emails on the alternative.

        I should become more badass and implement a day where I check neither. Or have a weekly internet sabbath instead.

        • Keith Schroeder November 16, 2015, 1:33 pm

          Mark, most of us have a time-suck in our lives; for me it’s news feeds and email. Learning to put it away is key. I always remind myself: everything in moderation. (I agree with you, Mark, MMM and his family are awesome people!!!)

          Jim, you make an important point. Email falls into the same category.

          Usurper: OMG! how fast does that become an addiction! I am anal about the management of my accounting practice. Checking stats to every corporate property I own is something I need to curtail.

      • Senad November 19, 2015, 2:55 am

        It is called a skinner box:

        It is very addictive to have random positive results for an action. That mechanism is used by gambling / slot machines and a lot of video games!

        Being aware of it can help deal with it, although it is still very easy to fall for it! ;)

    • Kurt November 16, 2015, 6:31 am

      I heard on a television show (a great reliable source I know) that the average person looks (wakes it up) at their phone some 87 times a day!

  • Eliza November 15, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Agreed. How you spend your time is so much more important than just spending money. I find whenever I spend my time doing stuff that I feel is worthwhile and sometimes even ‘hard’ I feel so much better about myself than when I do more passive activities. I call it the ‘beautiful life’ and generally it costs nothing.

  • Elizabeth Johnson November 15, 2015, 4:34 pm

    What? What is this beepless microwave of which you speak? Must acquire– after selling the old one and other under-used kitchen flotsam first, of course.

    (MMM Belated Reply: The one I got is called the Samsung MGH11H2020CT. I’ve had it a year now and it is still doing well. You can find it on Amazon with the link http://amzn.to/2gQZXX2 – but check around for pricing as I’ve seen it jump up and down on Amazon (I paid about $150).

    • Siobhan November 15, 2015, 7:02 pm

      My goodness, yes! I never knew such a wonderful thing existed!! Please tell!

    • Lauren November 16, 2015, 11:47 am

      I’m confused, why have a beep-less microwave? Maybe it’s because I haven’t owned one in a while but I don’t know what this is.

      • Justin November 16, 2015, 12:41 pm

        Seriously? Haven’t you’ve ever put a cranky toddler to bed and exhaustedly popped your coffee in the microwave to re-heat it for the third time because you haven’t had a moment to sit down and enjoy it, only to have the stupid fascist appliance beep loudly and repeatedly enough to wake the aforementioned toddler? Or maybe that’s just me.

        • Ms. Must-Stash November 19, 2015, 12:53 pm

          We’re finally watching our movie.
          Popcorn’s in the microwave. Beep.
          Oh shit. Goddamn it. You’ve gotta be kidding.
          Come on, go the fuck back to sleep.

        • Eldred February 4, 2016, 8:19 am

          Nope, I’ve never had to worry about that. I don’t have kids, but the bedrooms are far enough from the kitchen that you wouldn’t hear the beep with the door closed *anyway*…

      • Joe November 16, 2015, 3:30 pm

        Does this come in a over-the-range model?

    • Gene Pavlovsky November 16, 2015, 10:21 pm

      My family had a microwave which beeped lightly and the tone wasn’t annoying, then it broke and they bought some Samsung one. The beep was so piercing and bothering! Usually I don’t need any reminders from my microwave, so the obvious choice was to unscrew a few screws, take off the microwave’s cover, find out where the buzzer is, and disconnect it’s connector (in my case, cut the wires). I guess that would void the warranty, but I never heard anybody complain about microwave failing within the warranty limits, our last one worked for almost 10 years before failing.

      • Lucas November 18, 2015, 5:54 pm

        If you have a Whirlpool model, trying pressing and holding the “2” button down. It’ll beep after about 5 seconds, and then NO MORE BEEPS. Seriously. I’ve done it on all my built-ins.
        You’ll have to re-do it if you lose power.

        • Katie December 1, 2015, 8:50 pm

          Hooray for you!! I totally agree with Justin about the cranky toddlers. I have a Maytag which is a sister brand. I read what you wrote about holding the 2 button and immediately got up to try it, and holy wow, it worked! Thank you!! Hopefully no more interrupted snack breaks due to beeping and the waking up of babies!

        • Jacqueline July 7, 2016, 6:31 pm

          Thank you! I love you! I hated having to hover over the microwave to grab open the door before those four piercing beeps alerted everyone in the house that I was up in the morning.

    • John November 19, 2015, 8:37 am

      what is this microwave device you speak of?

      many talk of being ‘tv-less’ here but what about microwave-less? we haven’t had a microwave since ~1995…

      toaster oven and tea kettle, yes. microwave, no.

      • Laura November 19, 2015, 10:09 am

        a microwave is an incredible device. for example, say i want to eat a bowl of soup from the large pot of carrot/butternut quash puree soup i made. i just ladle my serving into a bowl, and 3 minutes later i’m eating steaming hot soup.

        my alternative otherwise, short of cooking everything fresh, would be to bust out a small pan, heat a serving, pour into bowl, wash pan (waste water, etc) then maybe 15 min later finally eat.

        an incredible invention, the microwave – huh?

        • John November 19, 2015, 12:46 pm

          ha ha… 15 minutes later??

          give it a try… you might like soup that is heated evenly (stove advantage: you can stir while heating). or have they modified the wavelength of microwaves to evenly heat a bowl of soup?

          i’ll give you the one dirty bowl advantage (though that bowl better not be plastic).

          • Erica December 12, 2016, 12:25 am

            The key to evenly heated food in the microwave is the power setting. If you cook at 50% then the actual microwaves are being deployed 50% of the time, and the remaining time the food is heating itself with Thermodynamics.

    • JoeSolar November 22, 2015, 2:15 pm

      Yes, what microwaves allow you to turn off the beeps?
      That would probably be a number 1 article!

  • Steve November 15, 2015, 4:44 pm

    I honestly believe cell phones to be one of the most influential deteriorators of our society. People in general spend way the hell too much time on those stupid little things. There are MANY who would put your 2-some hours a day to shame, unfortunately.

    I tried a similar experiment of switching over to the absolute cheapest Android phone that Verizon supports, which lowered my monthly bill AND still retains the ability to make phone calls, text and install time-wasting social media apps. I’m also “forgetting” my phone more than ever these days, so I very rarely actually have it on me any more.

    I am probably down to 30 minutes, max, actually paying attention to the phone – and it’s absolutely, positively lovely!

    • The Usurper November 15, 2015, 9:15 pm

      I’ve got to agree with you there Steve. Picture the collective hours wasted per day staring at screens, it would have to be several thousand lifetimes for sure!

      I’ve removed all social media apps and email from my phone, and I turn it off every single night. But I still believe I waste far too much time on it.

    • Caterina B November 24, 2015, 12:34 pm

      Yup, and I don’t even have a cell phone. There is no cell service where I live. Hubby has recently acquired
      a “smart” phone and it certainly is smarter than me. I can’t stand to try to use it. He can only use it when we ‘”go to town” about once a week. It would not be worth it if not for MMM advice and getting the phone from
      Republic. Thanks, MMM!
      Now I have to quit surfing the net and watching stupid Direct TV. If only.

    • Donna December 7, 2015, 2:26 am

      I also agree with Steve. Not only are we losing hours of time over our life time, but we have lost “the human touch” in our daily lives and society. Face – to – face conversations take second place to text messages and social media apps.

      Even young children have a cell phone and learn to text at the same time they are learning to tie a bow. A friend tells me that 95% of consumers will be texting and/or carrying on a cell phone conversation while going through a check out line and the associate is asking you a direct question. How many beautiful things would we see or great new people would we meet in a day, week or month just by curbing our technology use?

    • brunt December 18, 2015, 7:22 pm

      I have the cheapest of cheapo cell phone plans. Ancient non-smart phones. I check my phones exactly zero minutes per day. I turn them on as I leave the house, and turn them off when I return. I only touch them to turn them on or off, recharge them, or to make a call. And my plan has 125 minutes per year of which about 100 roll over into the next year. But at $50 per year, it’s a pretty good deal.

      I am a techie and appreciate gadgets, but I have absolutely no need to be fed a constant feed of non-important trivia throughout the day.

  • College Stubble November 15, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Another classic MMM article! So glad to hear that the article-creation-speed is a a result of time spent with family rather than one of my greatest fears (MMM no longer wanting to share his vast brain-wealth). On a personal note, RescueTime must have a run on my own phone. If the great MMM found such fire-hose of wasted time in his life, I’m afraid of what will be found in my own!

  • Dan November 15, 2015, 5:09 pm

    3 hours per day? What’s wrong with you? :)

    Jk. — nice to hear about your struggles in addition to your successes

  • Michelle November 15, 2015, 5:25 pm

    We’re traveling full-time in our RV and have come across a few days where there’s been no internet or wifi. Sadly, on those days I will still look at my phone like crazy. I guess hoping that internet will just magically appear. I am too hooked but I’m glad I realized it!

  • Jim Wang November 15, 2015, 5:35 pm

    Rescue Time is shocking… I spend a lot more time on things than I’d care to admit. Like the adage goes, that which gets measured, gets improved.

  • Thias November 15, 2015, 5:44 pm

    This is all a great example of just enjoying and being present in the moment you are currently in. I know that I often fall for always looking to the future and now enjoying the present. This is a great reminder to enjoy the world around you and don’t waste it looking at a small screen in front of you.

    On a side note – RescueTime has been very beneficial in helping me catch time spent on things that don’t move me forward. I go in spurts of using it but it might be time to do a re-evaluation on my time with it.

  • Gwen November 15, 2015, 5:52 pm

    The last few days of the Chautauqua really made me aware of constantly connected I was. Since then, I’ve been doing better about putting the phone down and focusing more on other things. Thanks for the reminder!

    …she says as she saw this post on twitter when she should be making dinner and feeding the cat…

  • Bennett Gardner November 15, 2015, 6:45 pm

    This post is fantastic. Really enjoyable to read, and really important in that it reminds us WHY we want to be Mustachian (or modified Mustachian, in my case, though I’m improving slowly). I think MMM would be a great candidate to occasionally produce a digest of recent studies in social and personal psychology that can help us live better lives.

    Where do you obtain your musical entertainment? Do you subscribe to Spotify, like some of your wasteful readers, like maybe me? (It’s even worse than that – I also subscribe to iTunes Music. I’m trying to decide which to ditch but I like them both for different reasons… and now I’ve paid both fees for 2 months. Painful to admit. I still bank over half my take-home… but still).

    • Joe November 16, 2015, 11:06 am

      Since I’ve discovered Pandora, the only music I’ve purchased over the last couple of years has been for gift giving. As the older folks used to say, “best thing since sliced bread.” Love Pandora!

    • Dave November 18, 2015, 1:33 am

      I am very anti committing to any monthly bills, as MMM would preach. However, I love music, and I pay for Spotify Premium. I think it is one of the greatest things to come out of the internet. It keeps me off the TV, sets the right mood for whatever is going on around the house – brilliant application. All for only $144/yr. Money well spent.

      I think Apple Music sucks though.

  • Chad Carson November 15, 2015, 7:22 pm

    Wow! This article was a wake-up call. Thank you, MMM, I needed it.

    I will be installing and using Rescue Time this week, but I don’t need it to know what a distracting time-suck my phone use is lately. It’s like a subconscious twitch – if there are 5 minutes when I’m not busy – check the phone, check the phone, check the phone.

    Writing articles, being a present and engaged dad, and doing exercise/activity are also priorities for me. My plan is to first of all block off time each morning for creativity with no phone, no email, and no internet. Then, when I’m with the kids, the phone is not even in the pocket or nearby.

    By the way, I love groovin to some Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Nice choice!

    • Dave November 18, 2015, 1:35 am

      Agree on all counts. Phone time not a priority…and I’ve just started measuring mine.

      Also love MMW. Actually Met John Medeski about 20 years ago before a gig at the Flood Zone in Richmond, VA. Super nice guy.

  • bigstack November 15, 2015, 7:58 pm

    ever go out in public and just watch all the people staring at their phones? no matter where you are at people whip them out and are zoned out for the next few minutes at least.

    I met my parents for dinner a few weeks ago, and the number of families at a restaurant not talking to each other but staring at phones blew my mind.

    I have gotten in the habit of leaving my phone in the car when i do go places to meet friends and family.

    • Zac November 16, 2015, 1:41 pm

      I don’t go out to eat much anymore, but when I do I like to put the phone face-up on the table. If I’m with people I haven’t eaten at a restaurant with before I quickly explain to them why:

      Right now, this meal is our time to enjoy together (there is truly no other reason to hire people to cook and serve us food) so if anyone calls, texts or otherwise makes my phone light up we’ll be having a public conversation or ignoring the call/text. This is a fun mini-game and keeps me honest and focused on why we’re eating together in the first place. I also usually then stare directly at one or both of my sisters until they put their phone(s) down too ;)

      In the past, there have been some pretty comedic moments created by my little game… but that’s probably more due to dining with creative, funny people than having a poor, unfortunate telemarketer call at just the right (wrong?) time.

      Either way, I don’t spend much time looking at my phone throughout the day and I still think my average 30-60 minutes/weekday (almost never on the weekend) is kind of insane. There’s too much to focus on, too much festivity to enjoy, too much flow to go with and too much life to live with to waste time as an iZombie.


    • Bee November 16, 2015, 4:54 pm

      It’s so tragic isn’t it. I find that the best conversation with family and friends is over meals or drinks. I leave my phone in my handbag when I go out, always on silent.

  • Plotting for Jailbreak November 15, 2015, 8:32 pm

    Science Magazine recently published a report demonstrating that often people would rather be doing anything—even self-destructive things—rather than passing time quietly. Including electrocuting themselves. (See here: http://plottingforjailbreak.com/un-silencing-human-mind/). The smartphone makes it so incredibly easy to give into that compulsive urge for “activity” that we are easily trained to become anxious in moments of quiet. Effort spent to separate oneself from the phone is an excellent investment.

  • Norm November 15, 2015, 9:02 pm

    Wow. I’m shocked to learn I have at least one thing up on Mr. Money Mustache: Phone usage! I still have a dumb phone which can’t do anything other than make calls and texts, and even texting is a pain. so I don’t do that very much. It’s nice not being able to have the internet, email, GPS, etc with me at all times, and I like to keep it that way. We’ve survived long enough without having the 24/7 wiring.

    I like the candle idea. We light them up at night during the dark winter to keep the house feeling cozy. In terms of music, I’m trying to get away from podcasts and back into more music, as the tilt has gone more and more to podcasts in recent years.

    • RubeRad November 16, 2015, 1:00 pm

      I’m with you there. For a number of years I was proud that my calling/texting-only tracfone cost only $10 from 7/11, and I can’t keep up with the minutes that keep accumulating because I had to buy more every 90 days to keep the phone alive! But then the phone developed a charging problem (cable or port), and the screen was all scratched up, so I decided to xfer to a new flip phone (also tracfone), and was astonished to find that the cost to purchase that phone from *mart was (drumroll) FOUR dollars and 84 cents. And I’ve added the ability to take pictures (and text them to people). I don’t know if I ever will.

      • Norm November 16, 2015, 4:31 pm

        I buy a year’s worth of service for $100 every year and have that same problem: More minutes than I’ll ever use. My wife will upgrading to a new phone, so I might be inheriting her phone (an almost smartphone), which means trading up from a 2004 model to a 2012 model!

        • jestjack November 17, 2015, 7:10 pm

          I too am a fan of the “cheapo” cell phone. My service cost $20 every 90 days and my phone is a cast off from my wife as well. Pretty sure my phone is from 2002-3…it’s a 8610 Audiovox cell phone . I recently repaired this phone with a phone that was part of “a lot” of 9 purchased for $8 on Ebay. In addition to the “repair phone” I was able to get three other working phones out f the purchase. Exorbitant cell phone bills just don’t make sense to me….

  • Jason November 15, 2015, 9:43 pm

    What a great idea, to have a symbol like a candle to focus you on being grateful for your meals.

    Amazing how these things are mostly just changes in perspectives, rather than dramatic lifestyle changes. That feeling of needing to check your phone, vs recognising it as a time waster and barrier to doing greater things with your day, is just one great example. I’ve taken small strides in this area, deleting certain email accounts and apps from my phone, but I still notice a huge impact from those very small changes. So much more potential though!

  • Andrew W November 15, 2015, 9:48 pm

    This post reminds me of how so many people go on some major travel excursion only to spend the majority of their time peering through the lens of a camera.

    I have a friend who lost his phone… about four months ago… and has still yet to replace it. He’s enjoying his newfound freedom.

    For me, I’ve been feeling this same overwhelming urge to use my phone less. Something as simple as turning off the notification light pulse frees up a bit more time in my day.

    Looking at life through our phones is akin to the tourist “experiencing” his destination through a camera.

    Time to cut out the middleman between you and life.

    Thanks for the reminder, MMM.

  • Rian November 15, 2015, 11:38 pm

    I love the idea of using candles! May I ask what type of candles you use?

    Waaaaaaay too much time is spent on my phone. I intend to buy a simple phone that I won’t want to spend my day staring at as soon as my current contract is up.

    • Ben November 15, 2015, 11:46 pm

      You might try making your own. It’s inexpensive, a lot of fun (with kids or without), and you get even more of a glow inside when you light ’em up…

      • MarciaB November 18, 2015, 7:57 am

        Candles are super cheap and abundant at thrift stores. Never pay “real money” for them!

        • EarningAndLearning June 27, 2017, 1:41 pm

          Good tip! I love burning chunky candles and tea lites every evening, but the cost of candles is getting to me now that I am following the Way of the Mustachian. I was considering making my own but will check out thrift stores first!

  • Paul November 16, 2015, 12:32 am

    Ironic the way I’m reading this late at night after about a half hour of fooling around on Facebook. But still, one of your best posts.

  • Kathy Abell November 16, 2015, 1:10 am

    One of the nicest things about retirement: SLEEP. Usually a full 8 hours; sometimes a splurge of 9 hours. Sometimes I stay up too late before having to get up really early the next morning, but hey, I figure I can always just sleep in the next day. ;)

    The other nice thing: having much more time available to spend with friends and family now that my time is my own. :)

  • Fredrik von Oberhausen November 16, 2015, 1:42 am

    Bring out that old Ericsson, Nokia or Blackberry that should have been sold but is still in a box somewhere.

    The one that was excellent to call with, had snake on it as only distraction and a battery time that lasted for weeks. Weeks!

    Bring it out and start using it again for everyday life and use the smartphone/iphone when travelling because then I must admit I find them of use.

    • Kristine-CA November 18, 2015, 6:45 pm

      I miss the Nokia days so much! Such great audio compared to the smart phones of today. I have had a cell phone since 1998. Back then there was nothing to to do on it except call, receive calls and listen to messages. My kids knew how to use Snake on it but I never learned. I had an employer who paid for the phone service in order to have access to me at all times. Should have knows then where we were all heading. Even so, there was no point bringing your phone into the store or the restaurant unless you were expecting a call. I love the map apps and cameras on my smart phones, but other than that I’d say let’s go back!

  • Frugal in DC November 16, 2015, 4:42 am

    Great post! Glad I’ve never bothered with social media.

    • ickabug November 16, 2015, 12:19 pm

      I appreciate the irony of your comment… ;)

      • Frugal in DC November 16, 2015, 1:14 pm

        Huh? I follow MMM via a RSS reader.

  • Kyle November 16, 2015, 6:10 am

    The zero telephone day is inevitable when you still carry an old flip phone. No access to online content. Texting is difficult. This is all on purpose of course. Even the bagboy at the local grocer was laughing at my “old” phone. But it serves a purpose more valuable than communicating. It helps to reinforce the concept of time management and productivity.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque November 16, 2015, 12:01 pm

      Indeed. Receiving text messages on my flip phone is akin to getting a message from the Distant Future.
      “Looke at this Machine and it’s new fangled Device!” I spake unto my Wife.
      But I still waste a lot of time. Gr.

  • Pat November 16, 2015, 6:21 am

    I have a smart phone. Great for phone calls, texting, taking pictures, tuning an instrument (lots of tuning aps). I do not have a data plan. That means no internet, no email, no social media (which I don’t do anyway, they are impersonal time swamps). Wonderful. The only downside to no data is not having GIS when I need it, but I find paper maps still work.

    • Pyrroc November 17, 2015, 8:31 am

      For completely offline maps on both iOS & Android check out MAPS.ME. You can pre-download maps for anywhere in the world (with or without routing capability). It’s open source and uses OpenStreetMap (OSM) for the actual maps. They compile the OSM data into downloadable map modules periodically.

      • Shay November 17, 2015, 9:43 pm

        HERE maps works wonderfully too!

      • Insourcelife November 18, 2015, 1:14 pm

        I used MAPS.ME in Costa Rica recently and it worked very well. Actually much better than the maps from Garmin, which only seem to have the major roads i.e. worthless. MAPS.ME has a great interface and their routing combined with Google Maps and some common sense saved us several times!

  • Patrick November 16, 2015, 6:39 am

    All the talk about smartphones makes me think about fasting. Fasting is somethign that’s out of vogue but should come back (even if you’re not religious). It’s more than just denying oneself food. It’s stepping away from comforts that become mechanical and addictive.

    Fasting from phone screens, texting, endless Facebook scrolling, the internet, TV, or even all electronics is a good practice to make you more contemplative and focus on those realities that really matter. Missing a killer status, a hilarious video, or responding late to a text will not kill you. In fact, you may be better for it!

    • Eric November 19, 2015, 6:27 pm

      We call that a ‘tech sabbath.’ The first day I did it, I read half a book, took a long nap, and went for a 5 mile walk just out of boredom. I usually listen to music or podcasts when walking, so that was weird be without it…

      I figure I’ll do this once my wife and I have kids as well. I’ve heard of families doing that and spending hours just reading, playing board games, etc.

  • Dustin November 16, 2015, 6:45 am

    Is there a good rescue time equivalent for iOS?

    • Ravi November 16, 2015, 12:39 pm

      I’ve used Moment as a time-tracking app for OS. You have to pay $5 for the full functional version of it. It’s okay. A little too easy to turn off and ignore – my addiction to screentime may be worse than yours though.

  • Kyle November 16, 2015, 7:02 am

    I like the idea of setting time away from phones, and computers, TV, and electronics in general.
    Occasionally I’ll forget my phone at home for a day, and instead of running back home for it, I just enjoy a nice quiet day without it and think about how no one had cell phones until rather recently, or internet for that matter, and maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing.

  • Greyson J November 16, 2015, 7:42 am

    Great read!!! Couldn’t agree more with the time wasted on the phone. Gives me even more motivation to put the phone down and work on other things around the house, with family, on new blog, etc. Keep the articles coming MMM.

  • Robyn November 16, 2015, 7:48 am

    I went on a “media fast” at the beginning of this year. I basically decided that from the time I arrived home from work until I went to bed, I would not watch TV, play video games, or browse the internet. I turned my phone completely off and plugged it up to the charger in my bedroom as soon as I got home and only monitored time by clock/watch. It was AMAZING how much time I had as a difference! I was able to do chores, cook dinner, prepare lunch for the next day, exercise and meditate, play with the dog, chat with my fiance, and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. I felt more successful and energetic, and didn’t miss the electronics one bit. I’m not sure how I got sucked back in to wasting all of that time again, but this is just the wake-up call I needed to re-start my “fast”. Thanks, MMM!

  • Matt November 16, 2015, 8:19 am

    Yeah, phone over-use is a major opportunity for improvement for me too. Thanks for the post, it helped motivate me to at least remove the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone’s homepage and start do push ups, chin-ups, and squats in the morning instead of endlessly checking Twitter before going into work.

  • Giovina November 16, 2015, 8:57 am

    I just downloaded rescue time because I do find myself pointlessly looking at my phone for way too long. Maybe this will be a good wake up call and I’ll shock myself into cutting back. On another note, thank you so much for having this blog MMM, I learned so much and I am constantly trying to tweak my lifestyle to be more mustachian. On Friday I paid off the last of my student loan, less than one year after the first payment came due. Over the past year, I’ve paid 38% of my net income towards my loans and now that rate will be all savings from here on out. I will retire early, and this blog gave me the inspiration to work towards that goal!

  • Alfredo November 16, 2015, 9:36 am

    You said starting at my phone, buy I think you mean “staring”… Best regards from Mexico and keep the grat work…

    • JN2 November 16, 2015, 10:58 am

      You said grat work, but I think you meant great work. Best regards from Italy :)

      • Gradual Millionaire November 16, 2015, 2:41 pm

        You said “Best regards,” but I think you meant “Taste the irony.”

  • Ricky November 16, 2015, 9:53 am

    Spot on – except I’ll add one thing: good sleep, good meals with good people, and thoughtful creation all within the environment that you want to be in. Where you live and what you live in is important.

    And of course, if you can do all this and do it without mandatory “creation” aka work, then that’s when you’ve truly made it.

  • Peter November 16, 2015, 10:17 am

    I have two differing thoughts on this article. In one way I feel this is a good model for everyone to slow down with life and appreciate the truly great things. Family, friends, good conversation, and the abundance of food. This lesson can be applied to anyone and everyone.

    On the other hand…

    I feel this is on par with professional athletes posting videos of their workouts. It’s impressive and awe inspiring, but it fails to capture the journey and dedication that was required to get there.**

    What were meals like while you were in the accumulation phase?

    **I concede that the blog does capture such a journey. It suppose it depends on whether the article is viewed singularly or as a chapter within the blog.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque November 16, 2015, 11:52 am

      As far back as I can remember, when he was merely scratching his head in wonder at the behaviour of his immediate friends rather than lecture the world on the Internet, his meals were still pretty fancy.
      While I learned most of my highly deluxe cooking from the incredibly talented Mrs. Toque, I knew MMM before that and he’s the one who got me off Pizza Pockets and sandwiches.

      • Mrs. Money Mustache November 18, 2015, 3:13 pm

        Haha! Thanks for the memories Mr. Toque!

        Yes, I can vouch for MMM as well. I’ve known him since he was 19 and he has always had a unique way of making every moment just a little more fun. I’ve never met anyone else like him. :)

  • Michael King St.Clair November 16, 2015, 10:35 am

    T.F.Zed. (TFZ for Americans). It stands for Trinket Free Zone. Make your house trinket free for family and friends. When hosting a party keep a nice bowl near the door where guests turn off their devices, place them in a bowl, and enjoy the moment. It really does work and your guests will enjoy participating in life, truly connecting with live humans, and, enjoying the party. Neighbours we know have followed our lead to successful results. We live in a small village in British Columbia, Canada, so connecting with people and life comes pretty easy for us. We also light candles at all meals and have for donkey’s years. Bags of candles are the first thing to look for at a church jumble sale. Even if the colours don’t match, we care not. It is the light, the warmth, and the magic that matter.

  • JN2 November 16, 2015, 10:53 am

    Two more F-words to add to your list:
    – Flowers (just one white rose transforms my living room)
    – Fragrance

    In short, be as sensual as you can!

  • Ginger November 16, 2015, 10:58 am

    This is my favorite MMM post yet. This is truly, truly, truly what I want my life to be all about. I’ve been feeling it really strongly lately; thanks for putting it into words.

  • Frugality Runs in the Family November 16, 2015, 11:12 am

    The old Puritans had a fascinating take on using time. They understood time as being under a curse (the religious doctrine behind this is outside the scope of this blog) such that if time were not used well, it certainly would be wasted: wasting time is the default option. So they spoke of “redeeming time,” and it’s something you have to deliberately set out to do. A quite mustachian concept, no?

    • Missy B November 22, 2015, 6:46 pm

      Thanks so much for this comment. I thought it was intriguing, and googled ‘puritans redeeming time’, and found this:

      “Third, time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance. We know that it is very short, but we know not how short. We know not how little of it remains, whether a year, or several years, or only a month, a week, or a day. We are every day uncertain whether that day will not be the last, or whether we are to have the whole day. There is nothing that experience doth more verify than this.”

  • Dustin Stout November 16, 2015, 11:26 am

    For any card players out there, Bridge is like the Rolls Royce of card games (I know, I know — your’e thinking “old people play that game”). It’s a GREAT hobby/mind game/”sport” to take up when retired, as it requires a huge investment of time to become proficient at. Too many benefits of the game to list here, but let’s just say it’s the favorite game of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates as well as many other financial gurus. It’s basically a passport to enter the world of other successful people (albeit old ones). Personally, i cant imagine a better retirement hobby to get into, I plan to increase my playing tenfold when i retire. Check out this article below:


    • Dustin Stout November 16, 2015, 11:28 am

      Just to add a famous quote from Buffet himself:

      A bridge devotee, Warren Buffett has famously declared, “I wouldn’t mind going to jail if I had three cellmates who played bridge.”

  • Marcia November 16, 2015, 11:28 am

    First, that photo in the email with the fire and the wine…so relaxing. I felt myself relax at that picture.

    Now I want a disco ball.

    I love music also. I don’t have a CD player in the house anymore. But I used to come home (years ago) and put on Paul Simon. Seriously, still to this day, the first few strains of “Mother and Child Reunion” relaxes me like nothing else.

    The phone is a huge time suck.

    I make time each weekend to meet with friends at a park for a potluck. This time of year, it’s brunch. I spend time in the morning to cook something or chop fruit for a fruit salad. We sit around a picnic table and chat, while the kids run wild on the playground. (This weekend, it started raining on our walk up the street to the park, so we detoured to one of the family’s houses).

    I love the fact that this is a lifestyle blog too. Sometimes it seems like there’s no time – to cook, workout, whatever. Then I remind myself that I live in freaking So Cal. I don’t need to hop in the car and go take a class in the gym. If the kids are sprawled all over the living room floor with the electronics kit and legos, then I can do a few pushups, squats and crunches in the bedroom (instead of my preferred workout dvd) and put on some shoes. There’s a park right at the end of the street with a mile or so of trails with great ocean views.

  • Even Steven November 16, 2015, 11:29 am

    I would like to think my phone habits have changed with the RW $10 plan and not having my phone vibrate every time I receive an email, but the recent switch in the middle of September has me worried I might have looked at my phone a few too many times.

    I’m definitely installing the app on my wife’s phone, maybe that changes her constant phone use, sounds like we can have another competition……and maybe I switch back to the $10 plan, the $25 plan is ruining me! LOL

  • Han November 16, 2015, 11:36 am

    Anyone know of an app similar to RescueTime that’s available for the iPhone? I did some Googling and wasn’t able to find anything that looked nearly as good. I need an app like this! Thanks for a great post, MMM.

    • Fuzz November 18, 2015, 10:33 am

      Same. I looked and couldn’t find anything either.

  • Marcia November 16, 2015, 11:38 am

    I also wanted to add on the time thing – I own the book “The Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing. One of the things that always spoke to me was their idea of time and “bread work”. Their idea was that 1/3 of your awake hours should be “bread work” – earning money or keeping the farm going, in their case. Also home maintenance, etc. One-third intellectual or personal time – reading, music, etc., and one third social/ community work.

    Full time jobs make that breakdown very difficult, but I think it’s important to find time in your life for all three.

  • Tawcan November 16, 2015, 12:30 pm

    The candlelight dinner idea is brilliant, I think the Mrs will be OK with this romantic idea.

    Agree that phone is a big time waster. Seems that we’re becoming more and more connected with our phones than other humans. Every time the phone beeps from a notification, we immediately check our phones. Recently my wife and I turned off 99% of all the notifications on our smartphones and uninstalled all social media apps. No more email notifications, no more facebook updates. We now can manage when we want to check our emails instead having our phones telling us when to check. It has simplified our lives a lot.

  • Edward November 16, 2015, 1:17 pm

    When the Facebook app told me earlier this year basically, “Your phone’s too old dumbass, get a new one and a fucking life!,” I chose life. You don’t want my luddite status updates? Hehe… Guess who doesn’t care?

  • Keith Schroeder November 16, 2015, 1:23 pm

    There is one point MMM seldom talks about but plays large role in his philosophy: taxes. Since taxes can devour 50% or more of your hard-earned income, tax by default are the largest expense of your life.Controlling tax expenses are a large part of building and retaining wealth

    If MMM rarely speaks about taxes how can his philosophy be so tax efficient? Simple: the conservative/frugal lifestyle is by design tax efficient. Example: the average American coughs up a $10,000 hairball per year on car expense. If you cut that expense in half you now keep $5000 of your money. Your taxes don’t go up because you didn’t spend the money! Your taxes go up because you DID spend the money! With an extra $5000 burning a hole in your pocket you can increase your retirement savings which should generate a tax break. Even if your retirement deductions are already maxed out you can invest in a nice index fund which is taxed at a lower rate (in the U.S.).

    MMM gives us yet another three ways to generate guaranteed rates of return; I look for similar opportunities every day n my life. Each example given is tax-free money deposited to the First National Bank of Wallet, my favorite bank in the world.

    It should be noted Mr & Mrs MMM walk the talk. I have been in their home and can tell your first hand they live what they preach; you can have a lot on $25k per year. The “pointless argument” mentioned is not an indication the lifestyle causes marital disharmony. I only imagine the “disagreement” was nothing more than a discussion. Sue and I have similar discussions; Sue is usually right. The MMM lifestyle leads to more family happiness!!!

    There is no doubt in my mind the MMM family lives on $25K per year; my family (a family of 4) spend ~$30,000 per year, but then again I sometimes think I’m related to the Rockefeller’s. . If you are on the fence about the lifestyle consider trying a few ideas and expanding as time goes on. What is the worst that can happen? You can always go back to your old ways and spend all the savings and profits. Of course you have to be happy with living paycheck to paycheck and accept forced labor until the day you die. Don’t know about you, but the choice is easy for me.

  • Hernan November 16, 2015, 1:48 pm

    I still have a dumbphone from T-Mobile. The store that sold me this phone had to special order it because they no longer carried this model. Social media is a waste of time. I rather read or spend some time with my kid. I can also spend time in solitude enjoying a lovely day. A phone is a distraction from real living.

  • Rob I'm Not a Ludite November 16, 2015, 1:49 pm

    To be honest I don’t get this anti TV phone internet thingy around here. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

    It’s been crazy at my wife’s job so by Friday she was absolutely exhausted (trust me I get the retirement thing) so we cancelled all our weekend plans and decided to simply veg for the weekend. Friday we went to bed 2 hours early and watched an eposide of The Amazing Race and The Good Wife (note I’m aware of the blue light issue)

    Saturday morning woke up around 8 watched another an hour of TV got up stretched and then biked down to Micky Ds (about 15k round trip) for breakfast. When we got home we backed some Christmas cookies and then put our feet up and spent the rest of the day watching TV and playing on our ipads.

    Sunday we got up again around 8 watched an hour of TV than got up did our exercises, after that we whipped up a batch of hamburgers for the freezer (note how in gods name can anyone eat store bought patties!!!) and put our feet up and watched TV for the rest of the day. We probably watched 5 movies over the course of a very relaxing weekend. While not a typical weekend it is typical of how we spend our free time.

    At the same time as both my wife and I being older have slowed down alot, not near as busy or involved as we used to be preferring to spend our free time with friends (no family as we live abroad) or just relaxing at home.

    Note as I spend many hours on line I vigorously practice a low information diet but that’s for another post

  • Ron November 16, 2015, 2:00 pm

    Come on man, quit holding back. How do you really feel about beeping microwaves?

    • Kathy Abell November 19, 2015, 1:44 am

      I can NOT STAND beeping microwaves! I HATE being nagged by machines. When I was still living at home, if my Dad happened to be sitting at the kitchen counter when the microwave completed its cooking assignment and started beeping, he would imitate that infernal beep. That drove me CRAZY!!!! He was even MORE annoying than the beeping microwave’s beep. LOL. Of course it would be nice to hear my Dad’s annoying beeps now … he passed away in 1993. Certainly gave me something cute (?) to remember him by. ;)

  • freecandle November 16, 2015, 2:04 pm

    I chose a more radical path when I ditched my smartphone two years ago. I now use an old samsung with phone functionality only. No internet, no camera. Very basic. I call it my freedom phone. Added bonus. I charge it once per week on average.


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