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.


  • Stan November 16, 2015, 2:07 pm

    I had to laugh about the cell phone use. I’ve never understood the need to be connected all the time by phone or Facebook. Friends often express how much they dislike that I do not carry my cell phone with me all day long. I have joked they would have me wear my phone in the shower for their convenience….LOL. Cell phones are a wonderful convenience, but there really is a freedom when not being connected all the time.

    The city I live in has an ordinance banning hand held cell phone use while driving. Recent TV commercials are aiming at the hands free devices now. I’m thankful for this, as I’ve witnessed some pretty scary driving while people were talking on the phone. In fact, even people walking and talking have occasionally walked into traffic. Who knows, maybe that will be banned next.

  • sockgal November 16, 2015, 2:13 pm

    Wow! What a great article. Thanks for reminding me of all the time I constantly waste on my phone, computer and TV. There is always one more Netflix show to watch (or Amazon now), one more article to read, Facebook page to scroll, status to update, email to check, what I call research to complete, actual work to do on my website, ect… I research so many things: home remodeling projects, news stories, education stories, Ted Talks, jobs on indeed, Zillow home listings, Redfin home listings and careers. I am currently unemployed, with the exception of working on my ecommerce website which is in it’s final phase of life and caring for my teen children. I have a teaching degree, but do to the current state of teaching as a profession, I am constantly confused on whether to pursue that profession. So I spend time on AtoZteacherstuff researching the profession and reading blogs on how much teachers hate their jobs. I have so much information roaming through my brain, I almost cannot make any decision. I am stuck in the mud! I have INFORMATION OVERLOAD! I almost need an intervention to detangle my life from the screens. My kids need to disengage from the internet also. Thanks again MMM. I am turning my computer off now. Then the TV. Maybe my phone. I need to get out of the Matrix and learn to live in reality.

    • Rob I'm Not a Ludite November 16, 2015, 11:10 pm

      Yeah can totally relate my psychologist called it Monkey Brain, always bouncing from one tree to another. People like us are very good at thinking outside of the box, the downside as you mentioned is you drive yourself mad trying to keep on top of everything!!!!

  • Derek November 16, 2015, 3:03 pm

    Did Carrie and I sheepishly park our travel trailer right in front of your house?

    Depends who you ask I suppose. haha.

  • Paul November 16, 2015, 4:58 pm

    I like this article a lot. It’s so easy to waste time and I am definitely guilty of it. It’s mostly reading stuff for me. Not that learning is bad, but if you always learn and never do, there’s not much point.

    Nothing against your site obviously, but I actually deleted my MMM forum account as a control because I wasted too much time here. I still check for the articles though! I also still don’t have a smart phone for this reason.

  • Prudence Debtfree November 16, 2015, 5:42 pm

    I love the bit about music’s time-machine effect. I’m particularly struck by the phenomenon when the piece catches me off-guard – and my 17-year-old self overtakes me before I’m even aware of the song that’s playing.

  • Toppers November 16, 2015, 7:37 pm

    Hooray – finally, a blog that makes me feel smug instead of hopelessly inadequate!

    I am the subject of much mirth here in Little Old England for refusing to have a mobile telephone (spawn of the devil). Might I ask your readers to throw their telephones in the bin? Life still works without them, honestly. It just means that you don’t always have to be connected. You can be with the people you are with. To how many genuine emergencies are you summoned by your Little Lord and Master (LLM)? Or is it just that everything feels like an emergency because everyone expects you to always be available NOW?

    When you wish to work/communicate/read MMM you can go to the room in which you choose to keep your computer and still do everything you currently do on your LLM. But it keeps it out of the rest of your life. You decide when you wish to be involved in such activity, not your LLM.

    Is that enough smugness for one post?


  • FRA Guy November 16, 2015, 8:14 pm

    Ha! I’ve been thinking about picking the same fight with my wife about her cell phone and Facebook usage. Except mine is bad, too, and I’m not sure I’d want to go head to head in that competition. But I did download the Rescue time app for the phone, and hope to use that start reclaiming some stupidly spent time. Perhaps that’s why I finally sat down tonight and polished off some writing that had been sitting undone for too long…

    Speaking of writing and too long, don’t worry about not writing for us as much as you did. You’ve got important things to attend to, namely the education of your son. Choosing to homeschool is no joke, and you get mad props from me for undertaking that challenge. Take care of your family, MMM – we’ll be here when you have a moment. And if you decide to use that reclaimed time for your family instead of us – we’ll understand.

  • Thtee Wolf Moon November 16, 2015, 10:24 pm

    I notice a lack of any replies from MMM in the comment section – I’m guessing the effort to “focus” on the “flow” and avoiding the electronics is working! Also, wanted to piggyback on the others who said great meeting you Pete on Fri at Wibby’s – great bunch of folks and good music certainly helped the “festivities”!

  • Doc Carnassus November 16, 2015, 11:22 pm

    I’m amused when MMM posts about similar issues that I’m currently contemplating. I posted an article right before this one about how most suffer difficulties with time management, and how important it is to retire earlier rather than later so you can spend more time chasing happiness over paychecks. I even referenced the “live on $25k per year” post as I constantly hear excuses how “impossible” it would be to support a family on that.

    I too find myself often sucked into Reddit, Twitter, and other feeds then complain I don’t have enough time to write. What I do now is turn off my ringer, close e-mail and IM programs, kick on some background tunes, open a single browser window, and write. It’s all about eliminating distractions. World be damned!

    • chris November 17, 2015, 4:49 pm

      The supposed impossibility of living on 25k per year always makes me smile…in TRIUMPH. We have lived happily on between 20k and 60k for over 15 years, while raising three sons. It has been more like 25k for the past two years. It takes specific lifestyle choices, of course, but it is doable. We are completely debt-free, chose a modest house in a low tax area that is convenient to everything we need. Our boys wear thrift store stuff, most of it appeared new when I bought it. We have cheap phones, no cable, a careful grocery budget (groceries are the only thing I budget for because feeding 3 growing boys can easily mean serious money and you have to be mindful), high deductibles, large cash savings (three boys and high health insurance deductibles = likelihoid of hitting the deductibles goes up A LOT.) and secondhand furniture. We also have our own business and our low spending means we have more freedom to spend time as a family and not stress about money. My husband is semi-retired, in fact, only working more than 25 hours a week in the summer and early fall. The rest of the year he works about 10-15 half days per month. It is worth it. We manage only about 10-15% of our income into our index funds, but we have been investing since we were teenagers…we will be fine.
      What is possible depends more on what you choose to do than anything else. Our many setbacks and difficult life situations only made us more determined.

      • Doc Carnassus November 18, 2015, 1:12 am

        Congrats! You guys are certainly living the dream. High deductible health insurance is risky, and most people I know with young children have them on the Cadillac plan out of fear. Reality is that if you have a nice nest egg to fall back on you will save a ton in the long run. Insurance companies are in business because they profit on fear. Now, with skyrocketing premiums we all can’t be so lucky. Mine went up 12% last year, and another 8% this year. Not a lot any of us can do about that except grin and bear it.

        Kudos on raising those frugal little warriors of yours on second hand clothing. Most kids nowadays only accept designer everything. Also that’s great that you pay attention to your tax burden. The true secret to wealth is paying as little tax as possible. Sometimes that means buying in a different town (or state), and avoiding the McMansion Syndrome.

  • Teresa November 17, 2015, 5:44 am

    I have no cell phone. I get a lot done. We grow most of our food. We eat fish from our pond and have plenty of deer meat in the freezer. Our home, 50 acres of land and vehicles are paid for. We live on about $15,000 a year. We have a sizable retirement fund and do a lot of volunteer work. All of this didn’t just happen. We planned, and most important, followed our plan from the time we got married. My husband could still be working, but we decided years ago that we were happier with more time doing what we liked to do and less time having more things. I have a land line and if someone wants to get in touch with me, they leave a message. I may or may not call them back. I don’t understand why people are on their phones all the time. We recently took a few days and drove the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped a couple of days and had a picnic at beautiful overlooks. Sat and just really soaked in the views. Most people would jump out of their cars, take a quick picture or short video, then jump back in the car and leave. I doubt any of them saw anything other than through their phones. A few people asked us if we wanted them to take our picture. When we told them we didn’t have a phone or a camera they seemed shocked.
    i just don’t understand the having to be connected to a device 24/7. I’d rather be sitting on a stump in the woods, as they say.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque November 17, 2015, 5:57 am

    What. The. Actual. Hell.
    I just found out I can disable the beeping on my microwave.
    Custom Set -> Sounds(1) -> Sound Off (2)
    Who put that feature in there anyway? Did the engineers sit around a drawing room table somewhere and say, “Hey. We’ve created a new electronic, which is exciting! Let us cause it to make high pitched Sounds of the Future to announce to all its advanced nature!”

    • Iain November 17, 2015, 2:22 pm

      Best engineering-chat I’ve read. From now, I’ll be hearing it every time my non-programmable microwave announces its advanced nature. Thanks!

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 17, 2015, 3:30 pm

      The strangest part is that only about 5% of microwave models on the market today seem to have this option. Since getting punished with beeping every time I cook something is not even an option, I was limited to those few choices* when I finally upgraded my stained 16-year-old white model recently (although it has just moved over to office duty).

      I ended up with a Samsung MG11H2020CT, since a few people asked:


      * The other option is to buy the unit of your choice (great ones on Craigslist) and disconnect the beeper from the circuit board.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque November 17, 2015, 6:54 pm

        Not having known of the possibility, I just lucked out with this model.
        The disturbing part is that the microwave has had a “Custom Set” button for the entire 13 years we’ve owned it and I never pushed the button.
        13 years. I’m an engineer. I own a button I’ve never pushed.
        Even now, I don’t what the options are after “Sounds(1)”.
        But if the button hadn’t been there, I’d have popped that baby open right quick.

        • MatthewInMichigan August 17, 2018, 8:43 am

          way effing late to the party but hell, mine has that option too! It’s actually a button that says……Sound! Off now, ah the joy of no annoying beep, beep, beep

  • 13 months in ecuador November 17, 2015, 6:15 am

    I hear you about the flow and putting a stop to the binge. I put a stop to the constant media consumption a couple of years ago. I cut internet from my house, cut the cable, and cut internet from my phone.. When i need to check something or write to someone i hop on over to a local cafe or do it from work. I have never been happier. Life has been less cluttered with stuff, and has given me and my family more time to pursue things that we enjoy. i would encourage others to take that extreme step towards an extreme lifestyle of badassatiy. 13monthsecuador.blogspot.com

    • sockgal November 17, 2015, 8:58 am

      Do you have teens? I find that sometimes I need to communicate with them with texting. What if they need a ride home at the end of the day or band has practice late? I end up having my phone with me always. I have a daughter who is a Freshman in college. She texts at least once a day. Sometimes she texts all day long when she is feeling unsure of herself or needs someone to talk to. She is pretty socially awkward and hasn’t made many friends. Anyway, I know those are excuses, but as parents, it is so hard to disconnect from the online community and from our phones. I get school updates, newsletters, scheduling information, teacher communication, ect…. all online. How do you turn off the technology and unplug in this current environment?

  • lee November 17, 2015, 6:37 am

    My microwave types messages to the cook , when you switch it on it says “welcome and please set time”. It is supposed to be left plugged in all the time so that it can have the current time displayed . Guess what it still works if you ignore this and just use it as a microwave , then switch off at the plug, at the end. Amazing.
    It still says your food is ready at the end of the cooking time and “enjoy your food” but I can live with that, I just switch the thing off . No problem.

  • Coastal-Guy November 17, 2015, 7:22 am

    First time poster here…

    For Canadian readers to save $$$ buy a data only tablet plan for your smartphone ($20 for a Gig on average) I use Virgin Mobile…get the tablet Sim card insert it in you cell and add the apn of your carrier

    In Canada download. Fongo it gives you a free voip phone number with free long distance. and texting is $2 per mo

    Average billl for data plan and phone service is $22 instead of $60+

    I enjoy the blog …great advice here as well thanks for that

    Also a McMaster Alumni too circa 1996.. so go Marauders!

  • Talltexan November 17, 2015, 8:57 am

    I’ve seen parenting blogs advocate for having a “phone zone” which is the only place in the house that phones (or “screens” if you have other tablet-type devices) are allowed. Note this parent: http://www.yourmodernfamily.com/no-screen-time-until-free-printable/ who installed a mechanism that nudges children toward creation and away from the screens.

  • Greg November 17, 2015, 9:15 am

    If you’ve read this far in the comments section then you may have missed the point of the article :)

  • Angela November 17, 2015, 10:41 am

    Is there a rescue time app or similar for iPhone?

  • Rebecca November 17, 2015, 1:42 pm

    Having read your post and this one:
    on the Danish concept of hygge, I’m struck by the similarities. Coziness, tea, candles, friends and valuing experiences over things are all part of the reason that Danes are considered the happiest people on the planet. I’m trying to learn from their example.

  • Miranda November 17, 2015, 3:14 pm

    I moved a few months ago and decided not to get Internet at home. I also don’t have a data plan, so I pay for what I use. That means I am very chosy about my usage. It’s been great! I was always reading news or research, so it was “good ” stuff, but still. I feel so much better now.

  • Elisabeth November 18, 2015, 6:33 am

    In the cover photo of you and your wife, is that a wood burning fireplace insert? Looks cozy!

  • DJStrong November 18, 2015, 7:50 am

    MMM when you publish that book I will take three copies, one for me and my two brothers.

    Love the bit on the phone, I have been leaving it aside after work and just playing with my two year-old daughter for hours and we are having a blast.

  • JoeO November 18, 2015, 9:21 am

    MMM, you wrote: * 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.

    That reminds me I’ve been meaning to pass along this tip.

    Whenever I buy a car, I have someone at the dealership disable the horn honk that happens when the doors are being locked and unlocked. I have them leave the headlight flash operational. I do this before taking possession of the car.

    That way I don’t annoy people around me when I’m locking the car. Personally I hate being jolted out of my reverie by someone locking or unlocking their car.

    Just one way to make the world a little quieter and more peaceful.

  • LindsayP November 18, 2015, 9:58 am

    “When moderation proves too tempting, it’s best to go cold turkey.” For people with poor self-control, myself included, this has proven the most effective.

  • Your neighbor Christina November 18, 2015, 10:03 am

    YES! Yes, I see the usefulness of a smart phone, BUT I so love the mental peace of living without. I don’t know that I have the discipline to not waste away my life on it. As a result, I’m still running as a candidate for last person in the US to get a smart phone. My only distraction when I’m working on a project is the occasional call on the landline, a neighbor stopping over to talk, or that darn mother nature convincing me to lie back and watch the clouds pass when I’m on my roof intending to clean the gutters on a beautiful afternoon. Thinking of a way to build the mustachian community in Longmont, I was actually thinking a reverse 911 sort of call to my landline would be a better way to get a hold of me on a whim, assuming I’m home. :)

    As for disco balls, a past boyfriend and I set a goal to kiss under every disco ball in the whole wide world. I highly recommend it as a way to keep your eye out for festivity and bring that spirit of festivity with you wherever you go.

  • FrugalTravelGal November 18, 2015, 11:23 am

    I am SO guilty of wasting time on the internet – whether it’s on my laptop, iPad, or iPhone. As I type this on my laptop, both the iPad and iPhone are next to me! Oh for the days when the cell phone was for emergencies only, with 5 included minutes of talk time per month, and it stayed in the glove box of my car!

  • Markola November 18, 2015, 6:50 pm

    Thanks for turning me on to Mord Fustang. Yes, I apparently live in a cave, which is enjoying a massive drop.

  • Greg November 18, 2015, 7:12 pm

    But, but, what if I am spending almost an hour a day reading your posts from the beginning, on my phone and/or iPad? all while enduring the hour plus commute each day on the bus to the current day job? Is this not productive? Plus, the handheld internet connected device is super handy to be keeping up on the communications for the odd freelance design job while juggling the day job (and that pesky commute).
    Otherwise, yes, I am sure that I spend far too much time “just checking”….

  • Michelle November 19, 2015, 7:54 am

    Enjoyed the post! I absolutely find the life improvement aspect equally useful. Interesting that this is often aligned anyway with financial/savings tips – simplify, slow down and enjoy, think about the impact of your actions, etc.
    I found the blog over a year ago and it’s been very helpful as a nudge to clean up my act in a few areas. I’ve long had some good habits touted on the blog (using reel mower for the lawn, hanging out the laundry to dry!) but MMM has inspired me to up my savings rate, swap out my car, and ride my bike for some short trips.
    I also had/ have some credit card debt but now I have a plan to get that wiped out and have been sticking to it.
    Keep it up Mr. MM, your perspective is much appreciated!

  • Ulla Lauridsen November 20, 2015, 3:24 am

    I absolutely want the book you are talking about. I’m reading through the blog, but I would love a thoughtful summation to peruse screen-free. Please make it universal, as I’m sure you have an international audience. Too many details about american prices, tax laws etc. would make it less useful.
    You are so right about phones and screentime. It is addictive and a huge waste of time. In fact, I’m doing a life make-over from now on – having just tackled another addiction – to rid my life of online crap and crappy news sites. I just know they make me unhappy, either wanting things or presenting me with problems I can’t solve. Yes, I need to know about Islamic State, but I do not need to know every detail.

  • Jonathan November 20, 2015, 8:02 am

    I’m curious about this 20 minute workout you speak of. Care to reference?

  • Ladyplenty November 21, 2015, 10:09 am

    Can all of us with enough food to eat, shelter from the heat or cold, and clothes on our backs (perhaps a closet full of them) agree that we should be the happiest and most joyful people on the planet? I just watched a documentary on PBS called “India’s Daughter”, and it was a serious face-punch for me. It made me resolve to just enjoy this precious life of mine, with all its luxuries (running water!), conveniences and excesses. I walk around the grocery store in our fairly upscale neighborhood and see a bunch of grumpy faces and cart-racing, murderous rampage-style, and I wonder what anyone in our highly privileged situation would have to be grouchy about. I think it would truly change the world if people who had much would balance out some of the world’s misery by radiating joy, purely and simply, as described in this well-written post.

  • Florida Mike November 22, 2015, 7:51 am

    So maybe I have just been stubborn but I am a 46 year old male with a good management job but I hate a cell phone. Yes, I have one but have not downloaded one app and talk on it less than two hours each MONTH! I very occasionally check email on it but thats just because its for work.
    Folks give me a hard time as I hardly ever carry it and when I do I hardly answer it. But guess what, I don’t miss it at all!
    Thanks for a great reminder of trying to free ourselves from electronic leashes. It makes me feel better when all others give me a hard time for being “such an old man” about my phone.

  • Ron November 22, 2015, 11:49 am

    I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to live like I lived in college! Everything I owned would fit into the backseat of an inexpensive car that I maintained myself. I would walk/ride my bike to campus and all over town. Besides rent, my biggest expense was my bar tab which was worth it because all my friends were into live music and hanging out.

    Fast forward to 2008 – Bam! What a wake up call. My spouse and I had two rentals, an expense home of our own, and about 500k in total debt when all of a sudden her position was cut back to part time. We had no emergency fund and few options besides sell, sell, sell. After a lot of hard work and better decision making, we became debt free last month….it took that long to unwind our mistakes. Now we’ve got a 700 sq foot paid off home one block from a beach. Our overall expenses are down to about 25k/year and we’ve got one toy, a small paid off sailboat. When my current project is finished we’ll be taking 12 months off to enjoy life considering that our vanguard account is well funded. Thanks MMM for helping us make a turn-around….no more debt, no more stuff, and no more stupid human behavior. I’m back to living like a college student and happy as can be….

    • Mark November 23, 2015, 6:28 am

      Ron, really like that idea of living like a college student. I ask people all the time to tell what the best time of their life was. Guess what most people say college. I have know that all the long. Got a payed off house in a great college town and will enjoy it to the max with no projects or papers hanging over my head. There is so much to do and most things are either free or cheap. Those retirees that spend all their time and money building that trophy house have no idea about living.

  • rosewatereliot2 November 24, 2015, 6:42 am

    Pete, I respectfully direct this question to you and to other folks in the FI community who have reached their goals: I realize that you have essentially won the game and earned the right to live a completely self-directed life by de-coupling your happiness from employment. And that’s awesome, and I can see why you would want to visit foreign countries, eat delicious food, and unwind with video games and George RR Martin. But, do you ever think most of what you’re doing is basically nonsense and a complete waste of your talent? (I am not talking about spending time with family; that is unquestionably worthwhile)

    If really smart, nice, progressive engineers like you, Jeremy at Go Curry, Brandon at Mad Fi, and Dr. Doom won’t save the planet, or fix broken systems, who the heck will? I am not talking about just being another cog in a corporate machine. I am talking about using your talent and experience and thoughtfulness to make the world a better place. Indeed, because you don’t need the money, you are free to speak truth to power and develop solutions that work — not just those that satisfy corporate or bureaucratic nonsense. And besides, wouldn’t that also be more fun?

    Or… do you consider this blog to be your contribution to a better world? Helping people learn strategies so they can pay fewer taxes, retire sooner, and find happiness w/out eating too many of the world’s resources. You probably think I’m trolling, but I’m not… simply asking a contrarian question. Big fan of your blog which has personally helped me a lot… just seeing if this was all you had planned going forward. Thanks!

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 24, 2015, 8:12 am

      Yeah I get that question pretty often. The quick answer is that for many of us, early retirement is not about giving up productive work – it’s about having the freedom to do your BEST work. For me that the Dad project (currently in year 10 of 18), plus starting assorted small companies and this blog.

      Anyone who would choose to do nothing with all that freedom, probably wouldn’t accomplish much if they stayed in the cubicle another 30 years either.

      Here’s a longer answer I wrote for the Vox website: http://www.vox.com/2015/7/27/9023415/mr-money-mustache-retirement

      • rosewatereliot2 November 24, 2015, 9:26 am

        Wow, what a wonderful and comprehensive answer. It’s clear you’ve thought more about the answer than I have about the original question. Adding the Vox piece to my MMM Favorites.

        Agree with you about the magic and power and exhilaration of creating new things.


  • akangela November 25, 2015, 11:23 am

    I am over 50 and thought regular phones with answering machines were the greatest because they were not portable and you could turn them off. I feel that technology has not improved quality of life so much as put higher demands on our time and created the need to do things we did not need to do pre computers. I have a love hate relationship with the word “productivity” I feel productivity is a double edged sword that chases me all day at work and that I am able to redefine on my own time ( my idea of productivity includes things like turning off the phone asap and preparing a nice meal with my husband). Productivity in my job demands I stay hooked to the phone at all times and respond to calls, texts and emails almost instantly or my boss has a cow..lol. I like the idea of using the tracking app bc even though I try not to I find myself falling into the Web hole . I am probably using much more than I think. It makes me sad to walk into social venues now and see people staring at screens instead of engaging in real face to face conversations. I just stumbled onto this blog and like the ideas being put forth here , thanks for the great ideas on how to live life more meaningfully and how to finance it.

  • 2 wheel $ machine December 4, 2015, 12:38 pm

    3 more investments with a guaranteed return!

    I would consider my smart phone to be one because: 1) people can send me messages and I don’t have to waste time hearing them blather on. 2) no need for a computer outside of work 3) don’t have to buy a digital camera / video recorder. 4) no need to watch the news on TV. 5) don’t really have need for the TV at all. OK I’m sure everyone could come up with hundreds of time saving / money saving uses for a smart phone.

    Next investment: an old pair of Levis. Once you can’t wear them anymore cut one pant leg into a 1′ by 2″ piece and use it as a razor strop. I buy one set of fancy razors (4) from that big razor company the starts with a ‘g’ and use them for a whole year. I used to spend $20 a month now its $20 a year.

    Last one: chain oil for my bike. Cost $6. Return 4 mph increase in speed. I could quantify this by putting a dollar figure on reduced commuting time based on my salary or I could ride at my old slower speed and save energy and thus food cost.

  • Sohcrates February 16, 2016, 6:18 am

    Haha!!! This article may be the most awesome yet in a website of awesome articles!!
    We travel full time, and when rented out our house and hit the road 11 months ago, we gave up our old school dumb phones for iphones because “we would need it to find cool places and stay connected with friends”
    We both slowly got more and more addicted to them until one day we realized that our morning ritual was wake up in the hotel, pick up our phone and spend anywhere from the first hour to three(ughhhh) on those stupid things. The very device that was supposed to help us find cool stuff to see, was absolutely keeping us from seeing cool stuff!!! We found that unfolding our bicycles, riding to the closest library and looking at the community bulliten board, or askimg a librarian(!!) has been a much more healthy and successful way to go about it. We have cancelled our ugly 100 a month cell phone bill and life is getting good again. Down with tv! Down with the internet!! Hooray for Money Mustache!!! When we make it to your town, we are riding to your library and would love it if you guys joined us :)

  • Sohcrates February 16, 2016, 6:27 am

    Also- I lived in an old suburban for 5 years as a kid(2 while going to college, and 3 while working professionally) and would take long travel stints. Being “connected” with family and friends was a phone call from time to time and I’ve found that it was a much better way. I could get lost in the new place and experience and suck it all in. Now, being so much more connected to back home, traveling has lost much of the feeling of striking out and going on a grand adventure. In fact sometimes it feels like we have never left. We are about to cut off many forms of communication as an experiment and see what happens. I am also toying with the idea of an extended amount of time with no photographs , as I feel that whole process also kills being in the moment and just adds one more layer of “burden” to think about. Experiments are good – thanks again for the inspiration!

  • Three Pipe Problem February 24, 2016, 9:22 am

    Did you that burning candles is about as carninogenic as second hand smoke from a smoker in the same room?

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 25, 2016, 8:53 am

      Thanks 3PP. The EPA says Paraffin wax (petroleum) is much worse than Soy or Beeswax, so I use unscented natural styles (actually the wife and boy like to make their own from soy wax so we’ve been using those this year).

      I added a note to the article about this.

  • Francoise March 2, 2016, 1:21 pm

    Time management is huge for a quality life, and yet it’s not anything we’re taught deliberately. I had my own epiphany when a family member became sick and needed a lot of help. I had to winnow out every time suck possible. Even though I was dealing with an intense emotional situation, I realized over time my qualify of life, and my peace of mind, were increasing as pared my days down to a conscious, meaningful schedule. I’ll never be a by-the-clock person; I love spontaneity in my days, but I’ve learned to pay much closer attention to how what I’m doing affects the time and energy I’ll have available for other things. For example, on Sunday mornings I could easily spend two hours reading the NYTimes online and posting comments. I loved the intellectual enrichment. And the ego boost of a couple hundred “likes” or being an “editors pick”. But over time, it didn’t really add up to anything, and I was blowing off too much of my free time in front of the computer. Time is better spent doing real things with or for real people in my life.

  • Expat AJ February 8, 2018, 10:27 am

    Mord Fustang is great for anything high energy. For a while, his music was my pump up music before soccer games.

    You should also check out Jean Elan, especially the track Killer.

  • Grin and Barrett August 17, 2018, 5:49 am

    Get no apps, pay less, and downgrade your life to a “dumb” flip phone. Hubby and I both did that and we LOVE the results for our ‘stash, our lives, and our time. We kept an iPad but don’t use it nearly as often as the old smart phones.

    • MatthewInMichigan August 17, 2018, 6:55 am

      That’s a great thought, I’ve been toying with the idea as well. I have a smart phone but my carrier allows me to not have data but just unlimited talk/text at a much cheaper rate. I will try to actually call people when I want to talk to them, you know like in the old days and just use data when on wifi. Who knows, if this works out I may just downgrade phone to a flipper as well!


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